A gift never forgotten

Lieutenant-Colonel Melvin Dunn, now 91, flew with the 525th Squadron as a navigator during the Second World War and was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal in 2012. He is the stepson of the late Carl Peters Sr. and attended Orpington School near Fosston.

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William Dunn, then.

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William Dunn, now.

Recently he was contacted by Valor Studios, a printer of military art, and asked to join other veterans in autographing a lithograph titled “In the Presence of My Enemy.” The image of two enemy fighter planes side-by-side in the air is used in the book A Higher Call, which contains the following account of an act of true Christmas spirit.

“The Second World War was soon to end. The American air force 525th squadron with B-17 bombers was still flying missions over Germany. Some of the planes had suffered heavy gunfire and shrapnel damage. One of the pilots, rookie Charlie Brown, had lost both his tail gunner and his turret gunner along with some of his crew. The engines were barely working, and Brown did not think they would make it back to base across the English channel. It was Dec. 20, 1943.

Franz Stigler, a German ace pilot, had taken off from a German air base to intercept any threat. Approaching the B17, he had never seen one so badly damaged and still flying.

The American pilot and crew were thinking the same thing. Anti-aircraft fire from the Germans had shredded the plane’s body and it was full of bullet holes.

As Brown leaned forward to check the engines, he saw something that made his heart skip. There, a few feet from his wing tip, flew a German BF-109 fighter with Stigler at the controls. This is the end, Brown thought; he is going to destroy us.

Instead, Stigler nodded and waved to Brown. The German pilot had decided to spare this plane and its crew by escorting it out of German air space, and proceeded to do just that.

It was a gesture that Charlie Brown never forgot. As the years went by, he tried to find Franz Stigler. In 1990 they finally met, not as former enemies but as brothers separated for 46 years.”

Submitted by Carl Peters

Wadena News


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