|Birth name||Ludwig Franz Stigler|
|Born||21 August 1915|
|Died||22 March 2008 (aged 92)|
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
|Allegiance||Germany (to 1945)|
|Years of service||1940–1945|
|Rank||Oberleutnant (first lieutenant)|
|Unit||JG 27, and JV 44|
|Commands held||12./JG 27, 8./JG 27, 11./JG 27, III./JG 27|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||German Cross in Gold, Iron Cross 1st Class, Iron Cross 2nd Class|
He is best known for his role in a December 1943 incident in which he spared the crew of a severely damaged B-17 bomber. He escorted the plane to safety over enemy lines. The story was kept secret for many years, but in 1990 the two pilots finally reunited and were close friends until their deaths in 2008. Stigler died in Canada, where he moved after the war.
Early life edit
Military service edit
In the Luftwaffe, Stigler became an instructor pilot. One of his students was Gerhard Barkhorn, who went on to down over 300 planes in combat. Stigler himself flew 487 combat missions, downing 28 planes while himself being shot down 17 times (he bailed out six times and landed in a damaged plane 11 times). His brother, August, who was also a pilot, was killed in the crash of a Junkers Ju 88 in August 1940.
As a member of Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27) in North Africa as well as Europe, and of the Jagdverband (JV) 44 jet fighter squadron, the aircraft Stigler flew in combat were the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Messerschmitt Me 262.
In North Africa, Stigler flew in the Schwarm made up of Oberleutnant Ferdinand Vögl, the commander of 4. Staffel, Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert, Oberfeldwebel Erwin Sawallisch and Stigler. At the time, most of the aerial victories claimed by II. Gruppe were allegedly achieved by pilots of 4. Staffel, of which 63 out 66 claims were attributed to these four pilots alone. In comparison, the claims filed by Vögl, Bendert, Sawallisch and Stigler far exceeded the number of aerial victories claimed by other units of JG 27 and raised significant doubt within the Luftwaffe. This Schwarm of JG 27 was prevented from flying together after 59-kill ace Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt reported that he saw them shooting into the dunes of the desert during a mission in which they claimed 12 aerial victories.
On 13 January 1944, Stigler was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 12. Staffel of JG 27. He succeeded Oberleutnant Werner Küffner who had been killed in action the day before. The Staffel was subordinated to IV. Gruppe of JG 27 under the command of Hauptmann Otto Meyer. On 13 May, Stigler was transferred and command of 12. Staffel was then given to Oberleutnant Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert. Stigler was then appointed Staffelkapitän of 8. Staffel of JG 27. He succeeded Oberleutnant Kurt Hammel who was transferred. On 15 August, 8. Staffel was renamed to 11. Staffel. When on 1 October, the Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III. Gruppe of JG 27, Major Ernst Düllberg, was transferred, Stigler temporarily assumed command of the Gruppe. On 27 October, Stigler was transferred to Ergänzungs-Jagdgeschwader 1. Command of 11. Staffel was then passed to Oberleutnant Karl Kohl while command of the Gruppe went to Oberleutnant Peter Werfft.
B-17 incident edit
On 20 December 1943, Stigler met a B-17 bomber nicknamed Ye Olde Pub and its American pilot Charles "Charlie" Brown for the first time. Stigler had shot down two B-17s earlier that day and he soon caught up to a wounded B-17 flown by Brown. Lining up to finish the bomber and shoot it down, he noticed the tail gunner never moved the guns. Upon further inspection of the airplane, he saw through large holes in the fuselage a frantic crew trying to save the lives of their fellow airmen, and decided not to fire.
Stigler is quoted as saying "and for me it would have been the same as shooting at a parachute", in reference to a statement by his commander and mentor Gustav Rödel; "If I hear of one of you shooting a man in a parachute, I'll shoot you myself!". Stigler motioned to Brown to land his airplane in neutral Sweden because of the extensive damage. However, Brown didn't understand and decided to keep flying towards England. Stigler escorted the B-17 and its crew to the North Sea coast, protecting it from German anti-aircraft gunners (who recognized the silhouette of his BF-109 and held fire). Once they were over water, Stigler saluted Brown, then left to return to base.
Stigler never spoke of the incident as he could have been court-martialed and executed. Stigler moved to Canada in 1953 and became a successful businessman. Brown told his commanding officers, who chose to keep the incident secret. Years later, in 1990, Brown searched for the German pilot who let them live that day, and eventually the two pilots, along with the Pub crew, met face to face, half a century later.
Between 1990 and 2008, Brown and Stigler became close friends and remained so until their deaths within several months of each other in 2008.[Note 1]
Summary of career edit
Aerial victory claims edit
Mathews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for 26 aerial victory claims, plus one further unconfirmed claim. All of his aerial victories were claimed over the Western Allies on the Western Front or in North Africa and include five four-engined heavy bombers.
|Chronicle of aerial victories|
This and the – (dash) indicates unconfirmed aerial victory claims for which Stigler did not receive credit.
This along with the * (asterisk) indicates an Herausschuss (separation shot)—a severely damaged heavy bomber forced to separate from his combat box which was counted as an aerial victory.
This and the ? (question mark) indicates information discrepancies listed by Prien, Balke, Stemmer, Rodeike, Bock, Mathews and Foreman.
|– Claims with II. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 27 –|
In North Africa — February – 6 December 1942
|1||31 May 1942||06:23||P-40||southwest of Fort Acroma||4./JG 27||10||10 August 1942||08:33||Hurricane||north-northeast of Deir el-Muhafid||4./JG 27|
|2||26 June 1942||18:57||P-40||south of Mersa Matruh||4./JG 27||11||11 August 1942||10:13||Hurricane||south of El Hamman||4./JG 27|
|3||10 July 1942||10:40||Spitfire||north of El Alamein||4./JG 27||12||12 August 1942||06:44?[Note 2]||Hurricane||south-southeast of El Alamein||4./JG 27|
|4||17 July 1942||13:24||P-40||south of El Alamein||4./JG 27||13||12 August 1942||06:53||Hurricane||south of Alam-el-Kadim||4./JG 27|
|5||23 July 1942||18:15||Spitfire||east of El Alamein||4./JG 27||14||12 August 1942||07:03||P-40||southwest of Alam el Halfa||4./JG 27|
|6||6 August 1942||12:04||P-40||east of Deir-el-Abiad||4./JG 27||15||16 August 1942||08:28||P-40||south of Alam-el-Kadim||4./JG 27|
|7||7 August 1942||09:14||Hurricane||southeast of Alam-el-Kadim||4./JG 27||16||16 August 1942||08:38||Hurricane||south-southwest of El Hamman||4./JG 27|
|8||7 August 1942||09:20||Hurricane||east-northeast of Alam-el-Kadim||4./JG 27||17||22 August 1942||07:31||Spitfire||south-southwest of Alam Uzeiligh||4./JG 27|
|9||10 August 1942||08:32||P-40||north of Deir el-Muhafid||4./JG 27|
|– Claims with II. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 27 –|
Sicily, Tunisia and Italy — February – July 1943
|18||16 April 1943||17:03||P-38||70 km (43 mi) west Marettimo||6./JG 27||19||17 July 1943||08:25||Spitfire||northwest of Augusta||6./JG 27|
|– Claims with II. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 27 –|
Defense of the Reich — September – November 1943
|20||6 September 1943||11:00||B-17||10 km (6.2 mi) south of Bad Urach||6./JG 27||21||29 November 1943||15:25?[Note 3]||B-17||15 km (9.3 mi) southwest of Wilhelmshaven
3 km (1.9 mi) northwest of Harpstedt
|29 November 1943||15:04||B-17*||3 km (1.9 mi) southwest of Wilhelmshaven||6./JG 27|
|– Claims with IV. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 27 –|
Defense of the Reich — 13 January – 12 May 1944
|22||19 March 1944||13:46||B-24||south of Marburg an der Drau||12./JG 27||24||3 April 1944||10:55||P-38||2 km (1.2 mi) west of Dunavecse||12./JG 27|
|23||19 March 1944||14:14||B-24||northwest of Cirkulane
south of Marburg
|24 April 1944||
|– Claims with III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 27 –|
In defense of the Normandy Invasion — June – August 1944
|25||16 August 1944||17:06||Spitfire||2 km (1.2 mi) northeast of Orphin||11./JG 27|
- "World War Two Veteran Pilots Meet for the First Time Since the War – 379th BG and JG 27 Veteran Encounter". portraitofwar.com. December 9, 2012. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
- "Oberleutnant Ludwig Franz Stigler". warthunder.com. 12 January 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2022.
- Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1997, p. 150.
- Ring & Shores 1969, p. 304.
- Prien et al. 2010, p. 216.
- Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1995, p. 454.
- Prien et al. 2019, pp. 315, 319.
- Based on "A Higher Call" by John D. Shaw, quoted in http://www.valorstudios.com/Franz-Stigler-Charlie-Brown.htm Archived 2019-08-17 at the Wayback Machine
- Mathews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1270–1271.
- Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1997, pp. 557–559.
- Prien et al. 2004, p. 264.
- Prien et al. 2004, p. 271.
- Prien et al. 2004, p. 268.
- Prien et al. 2004, p. 272.
- Mathews & Foreman 2015, p. 1270.
- Prien et al. 2004, p. 269.
- Prien et al. 2004, p. 273.
- Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1997, pp. 561–562.
- Prien et al. 2010, p. 210.
- Prien et al. 2010, p. 212.
- Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1997, p. 563.
- Prien et al. 2009, p. 199.
- Mathews & Foreman 2015, p. 1271.
- Prien et al. 2009, p. 200.
- Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1995, p. 468.
- Prien et al. 2019, p. 348.
- Prien et al. 2019, p. 349.
- Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1995, p. 350.
- Prien et al. 2019, p. 324.
- Patzwall 2008, p. 200.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 460.
- Mathews, Andrew Johannes; Foreman, John (2015). Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims — Volume 4 S–Z. Walton on Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 978-1-906592-21-9.
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
- Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Goblet for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3.
- Prien, Jochen; Rodeike, Peter; Stemmer, Gerhard (1995). Messerschmitt Bf 109 im Einsatz bei der III. und IV./Jagdgeschwader 27, 1938 – 1945 [Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Action with the III. and IV./Jagdgeschwader 27, 1938 – 1945] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-30-4.
- Prien, Jochen; Rodeike, Peter; Stemmer, Gerhard (1997). Messerschmitt Bf 109 im Einsatz bei II./Jagdgeschwader 27, 1940 – 1945 [Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Action with I./Jagdgeschwader 27, 1940 – 1945] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-42-7.
- Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2004). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 8/I—Einsatz im Mittelmeerraum—November 1941 bis December 1942 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 8/I—Action in the Mediterranean Theater—November 1941 to December 1942] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-74-8.
- Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2009). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 10/III—Reichsverteidigung—1.1. bis 31.12.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 10/III—Defense of the Reich—1 January to 31 December 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-89-2.
- Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2010). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 11/I—Einsatz im Mittelmeerraum—1.1. bis 31.12.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 11/I—Action in the Mediterranean Theater—1 January to 31 December 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-95-3.
- Prien, Jochen; Balke, Ulf; Stemmer, Gerhard; Bock, Winfried (2019). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 13/V—Einsatz im Reichsverteidigung und im Westen—1.1. bis 31.12.1944 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 13/V—Action in the Defense of the Reich and in the West—1 January to 31 December 1944] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-942943-21-5.
- Ring, Hans; Shores, Christopher (1969). Fighters over the desert: the air battles in the Western Desert, June 1940 to December 1942. London, UK: Neville Spearman. ISBN 978-0-85435-060-5.