A Higher Call
Every time I sell a model of a Me262, I recall an incident that happened when the Hub was still on Broad Street.
Scott Scalfani built the Tamiya 1/48 262 pictured here and had it on display it at the shop. One day an elderly gentleman saw it, pointed to it and said in German-accented English: “I flew that plane in the war.”
I’m thinking – yeah, right.
Fast forward 15 years when I read a book titled ‘A Higher Call’ by Adam Makos. It was the story of Captain Charlie Brown on his first mission as captain of the B17 ‘Ye Olde Pub’ on December 20, 1943. The ‘Pub’ took heavy damage over Bremen. German flak guns turned his B17 into a metal skeleton flying on one engine. A Me109 pilot flew up to intercept it, needing one more ‘victory’ to be awarded the Knight’s Cross.
The German pilot, Franz Stigler, saw that the B17 was ‘dead’ and decided that shooting it would be in the same category as shooting airmen who bailed out of a crashing plane. When he was flying in North Africa his commanding officer, Gustav Rödel, told him that if he ever saw or heard of him shooting at a man in a parachute, he would shoot Stigler. Stigler later commented, “To me, it was just like they were in a parachute. I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.”
He flew alongside the B17 trying to get it to land, first in Germany than in Sweden, but Charlie Brown refused. Stigler than flew side by side with the American plane so the German flak guns wouldn’t shoot it down. He escorted it out to sea and the ‘Pub’ barely made it back to England.
Stigler knew he could be shot for letting the bomber get away, so he landed at a different airfield than the one he took off from. Later, he became a Me262 flight instructor and when he heard that Adolf Galland was forming a unit of 262s to be used as fighters instead of bombers, he asked to join. He was told that if he could get a 262 he was more than welcome to join JV44, which was a squadron of aces who volunteered for the unit. So he stole one from the factory.
There is a photo section in the book showing reunions that Brown and Stigler attended together since they found each other in 1980. And there he was in the photos – the elderly gent who visited Hub Hobby Shop – just as I remembered him.
The markings of the model at the Hub were White 3; Stigler’s plane’s marking was White 3. When he said that he flew THAT plane in the war, he meant that the Hub had HIS plane on display. The book ‘A Higher Call’ has been optioned for a movie.