Eighty years ago today, an incident occurred in the skies over northern Germany that captured my imagination.
December 20, 1943, Huntingdonshire, England. ‘Ye Olde Pub,’ a 24-ton B-17F Superfortress lifted off from RAF Kimbolton. The bomber – carrying ten United States Army Air Force crew under West Virginian Commander 2nd Lieutenant Charles Brown – was part of the Allied Forces' assault on Nazi shipyards in Bremen, Germany. Luftwaffe pilots retaliated. Brown’s B-17 suffered severe damage and became separated from its squadron. With one engine down, another failing and its tail shot to pieces, the B-17 lost altitude and skimmed the German countryside, struggling to make it back to England.
Meanwhile, at Jever Air Base in Lower Saxony, former Bavarian flight instructor and Luftwaffe ace, oberleutnant Ludwig Franz Stigler, stopped to refuel his bf109E Messerschmitt fighter. When Stigler heard ‘Ye Old Pub’ lumbering overhead, he leaped into action and took to the air to give pursuit.
What followed was one of the most remarkable encounters in World War Two aviation history. For decades, the meeting of Brown and Stigler’s aircraft remained classified, deemed anti-war propaganda. But as the human story emerged, the encounter became the subject of conjecture, news reports, artwork, and books.
Round Trip (linked below) is my five-minute audio drama based on these events. Eighty years ago today.
(flight time 5:00)