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The incredible story of the B-17 Ye Olde Pub


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    The incredible story of the B-17 Ye Olde Pub
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The incredible story of the B-17 Ye Olde Pub
The incredible story of the B-17 Ye Olde Pub
On December 20, 1943, the B-17 "Ye Olde Pub" (27th Bombardment Squadron, 379th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force) took off from its RAF base in Kimbolton on a mission to bomb the Focke-Wulf 190 manufacturing plants in Bremen.

The B-17 Flying fortress "Ye Olde Pub" begins its drop procedure at an altitude of 27,000 feet, but before it can drop its load, it is hit several times by anti-aircraft defense. Impacts on the plexiglass nose, engine no. 2, as well as engine no. 4, cause a drop in rpm and a loss of speed, increasingly isolating the aircraft from its formation.

Soon caught up by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 of the JG-11, the B-17 "Ye Olde Pub" endured many long minutes of attack from the fighters, who inflicted even more damage, notably on the n°3 engine, the oxygen distribution system, the control surfaces, etc.

As misfortune never comes alone, the only guns still able to respond to the attacks were the two rear machine guns and one front, i.e. 3 working machine guns out of 11!

The plane was in bad shape; moreover, Charlie Brown (the pilot) was wounded in the shoulder, Sergeant Yelesanko, wounded by FLAK shrapnel in the leg, Sergeant Hugh Eckenrode killed and Sergeant Dick Pechout wounded in the head...
At this point, there was little hope left for the bomber's crew. Charlie Brown, running out of oxygen, loses consciousness. The bomber threatens to crash to the ground at breakneck speed when Charlie Brown comes to and pulls desperately on the control stick.
The plane and its crew are saved, the fighters believing the bomber lost in a fatal fall have gone...

Meanwhile, Franz Stigler, German Ace, takes off at the controls of his Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 after refueling and quickly reaches the "Ye Olde Pub". He sees the heavy damage inflicted on the B-17 riddled on all sides. Stunned, he takes his finger off the trigger of his machine guns and stands at the bomber's right wing. He can even see the crew providing first aid to the wounded. That's when he remembers his instructor's words:"You are fighter pilots today, tomorrow, always. If I ever learn that one of you has attacked a parachute pilot, I'll kill him myself". He would later recount, "To me, it was as if they had been under their parachute, I couldn't shoot them."
Charlie Brown, suspicious, gives the order to aim at the hunter but not to shoot. Franz Stigler steps up to the cockpit to convince Charlie Brown to land at a German airfield to surrender. Certain that they wouldn't make it back to their base, he even tried to convince them to regain Sweden, then neutral in the conflict. But to no avail! Franz Stigler realized that the American crew was heading for England, and again came under fire from the FLAK, which would make short work of a slow, low-flying aircraft lacking oxygen. He's enraged: "Bunch of idiots!" he hurls at these stubborn Americans. He then decides on the improbable: to escort the B-17 to the North Sea. The convoy crossed German lines without a single shot being fired! The bomber made it back to base safely. Following the debriefing of the mission, the American hierarchy classified this event as "Top Secret", perhaps so as not to generate a feeling of compassion towards the enemy pilots. Conversely, and understandably, Franz Stigler kept this event secret from his Nazi hierarchy.

From 1986, 43 years after this incredible story and for four years Charlie Brown will try to find the German pilot who saved his life. In 1990, as a last resort, he published a classified ad in the "Jäger Blatt" newspaper, which was read by an astonished Franz Stigler! On June 21, 1990, the two men fell into each other's arms, in tears, and would remain friends until their deaths in 2008.

B-17 crew:
★ 2nd Lt Charlie Brown: captain.
★ 2nd Lt Spencer "Pinky" Luke: co-pilot.
★ 2nd Lt Al "Doc" Sadok: navigator.
★ 2nd Lt Robert "Andy" Andrews: bombardier.
★ Sgt Bertrand "Frenchy" Coulombe: upper turret gunner and flight engineer.
★ Sgt Dick Pechout: radio operator.
★ Sgt Hugh "Ecky" Eckenrode: tail gunner.
★ Sgt Lloyd Jennings: left lateral machine gunner.
★ Sgt Alex "Russian" Yelesanko: right lateral machine gunner.
★ Sgt Sam "Blackie" Blackford: belly gunner.

Note: the indication of the point on the map is informative only and in no way locates the actual position of this event.
The incredible story of the B-17 Ye Olde Pub
The incredible story of the B-17 Ye Olde Pub.

The incredible story of the B-17 Ye Olde Pub

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