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Old 21st January 2013, 02:42
jaepton jaepton is offline
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Franz Stigler:What is the truth??

I saw some exchanges on facebook concerning the new book out on Stigler and Brown and I am curious has to were the truth lies before I buy the book. Did Stigler fakes claims and was he the actual German pilot involved? I tend to distrust people with a monetary stakes in things so I bring my question here. Here is a quote from fb from the authors of the book.

""Prior to the release of “A Higher Call,” the only information available on the Experte Schwarm was all taken from one source – “Fighters Over The Desert” written by Christopher Shores and Hans Ring and published in 1969.
When Shores and Ring wrote their book in the 60s, they had access to a very limited part of the RAF records, a portion of which weren’t even usable. Shores and Ring’s primary source on the Experte Schwarm was Edu Neumann, who was not directly involved in the incident since it was investigated and resolved by Gustav Rodel, the commanding offer of Vogel, Bendert, Stigler, and Swallisch.
“A Higher Call” is the first source since “Fighters Over The Desert” to include new information on the Experte Schwarm, gleamed from daily RAF squadron operation records (much more accurate than the monthly summaries previously used in “Fighters Over The Desert”), interviews with Stigler and Rodel, and close examination of Luftwaffe records that were either not available to Shores and Ring, or were misinterpreted at the time.
The result of this new information is a clear picture, for the first time ever, of just what the Experte Schwarm incident was about, how it was uncovered, who the perpetrators were, and how it was resolved. All of this information compiles an entire chapter in “A Higher Call,” that sets the record straight once and for all.
Franz’s involvement in the Experte Schwarm has caused some uniformed aviation enthusiasts to imply that he made up his encounter with Charlie Brown. That is simply absurd. “A Higher Call” includes all the facts and evidence that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Franz Stigler was indeed the pilot who escorted the B-17 “Ye Olde Pub” out of Germany on December 20, 1943."'

Historian Peter Randall posted this:

When you have any cloud hanging over a possibility, you can only look at the balance of probabilities. So, weighing things up as we know them, it is beyond doubt the Stigler originally falsified claims. Whether or not he bacame a changed man is of course open to conjecture. The details concerning the damaged B-17 have been known for quite some time and it would be very easy for Stigler to put hiself into any narative and fit the known facts.
Going back to the balance of probabilities and the law of averages, you just have to wonder at what the odds are of Stigler actually having that encounter amongst all the other 109 pilots, including those that did not survive. I tend to put things like this into the same category as the well known Bob Johnson story of the 190 shooting the crap out of him, saluting, then leaving him alone. It's part of the 56th legend, enhanced in print by Martin Caidin and very credible until you read Gerry Johnson's account of the action where he shot a 190 off of Bob's tail whilst a second one hightailed it.
Add to this the well known trait of WW2 fighter vets who very often tell you what they think you want to hear, and you have a situatiuon that very likely will never be fully known. Bottom line, I think Caveat Emptor summs up the situation very well as you can either buy the story or not buy it as you think fit. Bit long winded I'm afraid but such things do need some careful consideration.
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Old 21st January 2013, 03:29
harrison987 harrison987 is offline
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Re: Franz Stigler:What is the truth??

Peter Randall is an ARSE.

I used to live close to Franz and visited him many times.

He never told anyone but his wife about the tale, and no one else knew about this until the mid-1980's.

Brown had an advert in a pilot's magazine, asking that if the "unknown pilot" was still alive, if he would come forward. Brown did not mention the name of his B-17...just basic details of the incident in the advert.

What details he did give, made Stigler know 100% that it was the B-17 he let go. When he saw the ad, he yelled to his wife, "That's the plane, that's the plane!!".

Stigler then called Brown, and in the conversation, to PROVE that they were talking about the same incident, Brown said, "to make sure we are speaking of the same incident, I will know 100% it was you, if you can tell me the name of my B-17."

Stigler replied with, "Ye Old Pub"...

How the hell would he know that if it was all some made up story? OH!! let me guess...Charlie Brown was in on it to??

Both pilots knew every detail about what happened, and neither pilot said anything contradictory to the other...

I have heard the story sitting down with Stigler, one on one, and knew him personally. He and I had spoken on many ocassions...

Doubt Peter Randall did...
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Old 21st January 2013, 23:00
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Re: Franz Stigler:What is the truth??

I don't think a personal attack is in order here! I knew Franz and Hiya quite well, stayed with them more than once in Surrey, we talked up a storm and I even flew with him in his ME-108 (Nord) C-GRIT. I'm not doubting something happened with the B-17F but putting Franz in the exact time and piece of airspace is iffy at best. The JG27 "Schawrm of Liars" doesn't help in lending credibility. There's lots of fishing stories out there and many make it into print like Bruce Carr's evader story and Roland Sperry Flying Tiger fake aka Capt Incredible. Here's one with a website and that made it into a feature article in Flight Journal magazine.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 04:11
VtwinVince VtwinVince is offline
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Re: Franz Stigler:What is the truth??

I also knew Franz and Hiya well, as a matter of fact my uncle was 'Abschussoffizier' at JG 27 when the scandal took place. As for the B-17 story, I heard it from Franz and Charlie over dinner years ago, and it is clear that they did have a combat. As for Franz 'letting him go', I find this quite unlikely, given that the civilian population was getting massacred by carpet bombing, and a Luftwaffe fighter pilot's duty was to shoot them down, regardless of the circumstances, not to mention that the Luftwaffe high command would have taken a dim view of this sort of thing, had they found out. Perhaps Franz was out of ammo? In any event, there were vested interests in this story from many quarters, and a lot of mileage was gained from it, which automatically makes me suspicious. One thing is certain, Franz was a very brave man, as evidenced by the bullet hole in the middle of his forehead, courtesy of a .50 round.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 04:41
ValorStudios ValorStudios is offline
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Re: Franz Stigler:What is the truth??

I'm a proud member of this forum and have some facts to share about Franz Stigler. I spent a couple of years researching Franz for the book, “A Higher Call,” so I know what I'm talking about.

Franz is one of the most fascinating pilots of WWII, known for sparing a damaged American B-17 and saving the lives of its 9 mine crew. Yet some say this never happened and worse—that Franz Stigler is a liar. They've debated it since 1990 when Franz and Charlie first reunited and publicly told their story. What grounds do these people have to doubt this story for 22 years and running?

Facts? Nope. Data? Nope. Just their opinions. Did they do what historians are supposed to do---due diligence--work---research? Nope.

They have no evidence, yet they persist in debating an issue that has already been proven by a USAF Lt. Col with 30 years of service in military intelligence...

Want some proof, not opinions? Here you go.

To start, German victory records confirm that Franz Stigler's squadron was operating over Bremen on Dec 20, 1943. This is the same day that Charlie Brown bombed Bremen and claimed to have a German pilot fly alongside his wing. The records are online, anyone can see them. You'll see that Franz's squadron leader Willi Kientsch downed a B-24 that day over Bremen. So Franz's squadron was there. Not on the Eastern Front. Not over Italy. Over Bremen.

So Franz Stigler was in the neighborhood. But was he was the one?

The trail of proof begins BEFORE Franz and Charlie reunited in 1990. In 1985, Franz attended the 50th anniversary of the B-17 party by invitation of Boeing. There he met old 8th AF pilots and asked if anyone had heard of what he did, of a German pilot who escorted a B-17 out of Germany. None did, although it gave them a laugh. A camera crew from King TV Seattle found Franz that day and filmed him. Guess what? He discussed Charlie's B-17. Look up the film if you need proof. I did.

But that’s just the start.

To determine if Franz was "the one," or not, historians should have asked the man who was there, the only living person who looked eyeball to eyeball with the German pilot and later staked his reputation on the confirmation that Franz was the one---Lt Col. Charlie Brown. He was alive up until 2008. Why didn’t they ask him instead of slandering the dead?

Charlie Brown made a career in the USAF in military intelligence as an investigator. He served even into the Vietnam War doing covert work there. His decades in military intelligence bred an inherent skepticism in his manner of doing business. FIVE years after Franz appeared on King TV and attended the Boeing reunion seeking Charlie, Charlie began searching for Franz.

Charlie placed an ad in a German pilot's newsletter looking for the German pilot who flew along his bomber's wing and he held a fact back as a secret test. (All of this is described in "A Higher Call.") He wrote in his "looking for" ad that the German pilot encountered his bomber over northern Germany, near Bremen. Charlie gave the date and mentioned that the German flew alongside of him, presumably "out of ammunition." That's it. Charlie said if the German pilot read this and knew the details, to contact him.

When Franz Stigler saw the ad he wrote to Charlie. That very letter has been scanned and published in "A Higher Call." All Franz said in the letter was that he was glad it was worth it and he hoped he and Charlie could someday meet. It was a simple letter. No "lets write a book or tour the world." Just the words, "I'm glad it was worth it." You can read the letter yourself, it's signed by Franz and it's in the book.

When Charlie got the letter he immediately called Franz. In their conversation, Charlie asked Franz to describe his bomber's battle damage. Franz described the damage in detail. This was proof #1 for Charlie.

Some “historians” say "Oh the damage to Charlie's bomber was well known by then, any impostor could have said that." Are you kidding? Charlie's story was obscure in 1990. He was not some celebrated hero. No one knew or cared about his B-17 “Ye Olde Pub.” He was just a veteran with a memory of an incredible event.

Next Charlie sprung the secret question on Franz. "Where did you salute us and fly away?" "Over the north sea," Franz said. That's when Charlie knew Franz was THE ONE. Charlie had never advertised that he and the German flew away from Germany, out over the coast and over the sea where they parted. He had just said the German encountered him "over northern Germany, near Bremen." Yet Franz knew this detail.

This was proof #2 to Charlie. Here are his words, from a letter that is printed in its original form in the book: "My conversation with you totally dispelled any doubt, when you mentioned going over the water (North Sea) with us. That has never been advertised in any of the letters seeking the 109 pilot."

Charlie then sought one last answer from Franz. He remembered that Franz was pointing and gesturing wildly during their flight together. Charlie asked him why?

"To get you to fly to Sweden, instead of trying to reach England," Franz said. "I had no idea," Charlie replied, "Otherwise I would have flown there and would still be speaking Swedish today!" This was proof #3 for Charlie.

Can we prove this "conversation" happened? Scientifically and empirically? Yes. The day after Franz and Charlie spoke, Charlie reiterated ALL of the above in a 4 page letter to Franz, a letter that appears word for word---not retyped---but scanned and printed, with Charlie's signature and all, in "A Higher Call."

The historians who persist on cutting down Franz need to buy the book and read these two letters of evidence. And if that doesn’t sell them, they need to go to YouTube and watch MOH recipient Joe Jackson's film of Charlie and Franz on the day of their reunion in 1990 when both men sat side by side and recounted their encounter for the camera.

And if this doesn't move them, they need to see Franz break down and nearly cry on camera when he says "I love you Charlie." It's free and on YouTube now.

After they see this, these detractors need to stop questioning the honor of these men. Because to persist in calling Franz Stigler a "liar" is to call Charlie Brown an "idiot." Charlie interrogated Franz for himself and for us and for the world. The facts declared: Franz Stigler was the one. Now let the dead rest in the honor they earned.

- Bryan Makos

Last edited by ValorStudios; 22nd January 2013 at 06:10. Reason: added a video link
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Old 22nd January 2013, 06:42
ValorStudios ValorStudios is offline
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New information on the Experte Schwarm

So much has been said about Franz Stigler's involvement in the Expert Flight (Experte Schwarm) and everyone cites the same source, a few paragraphs written in a book back in 1969.

Does anyone question the veracity of that book? Did anyone ask Franz for his take? Because now, in 2013, new research has show the truth is far different from the long accepted tale.

Those who doubt that Franz Stigler spared the B-17 of Charlie Brown often cite the same reason: “Franz couldn’t have done it because he got in trouble once as a young pilot in Africa, so he’s a liar and can’t be trusted.”

Their statements are based on the 1969 book, which has now been proven to contain many inaccuracies.

Here's the proof:

In his early days as a pilot in North Africa, Franz Stigler was the youngest member of a four pilot flight that wound up in hot water. The flight was named “The Expert Flight” or “Experte Schwarm.” It’s no secret, this is all discussed in “A Higher Call,” a book I helped research.

The Expert Flight was accused by pilots (from competing squadrons) of “over-claiming.” What happened to them? They were given a collective slap on the wrist and a warning to tighten up their claims. Their victories were kept intact and their careers went on.

But what happened to them later, in 1969, seemed far worse. That’s when some historians heard of the story and wrote it up a book called “Fighters over the Desert” (FOTD). The FOTD authors blew the incident out of proportion and turned it into a “scandal.” Why? To make news? To sell books? I don’t think it was malicious. But I do know the FOTD authors based their claims on incomplete evidence.

While researching “A Higher Call,” I read nasty accusations on this forum, leveled at Franz Stigler because of his involvement in the Expert Flight. Every accusation had a commonality—it was based FOTD, a source whose accuracy has never been examined in depth.

I could write pages about the errors in FOTD as pertaining to the Expert Flight but for the sake of time, I’ll dissect just one day of battle—August 16, 1942.

On August 16, 1942, the FOTD authors say that the German ace Stahlschmidt and his wingman single-handedly were involved in "two combats" and battled 19 DAF fighters (11 Tomahawks of 5 SAAF and 8 Kittyhawks of 2 SAAF squadrons), shooting down two of them and damaging another three.

The FOTD authors then imply that after Stahlschmidt's battle, the Expert Flight took off, presumably to join the fight, but that they never actually entered combat. What proof did FOTD rely on to make this claim? They relied on the absence of proof, writing: "no details of any such heavy combat are to be found in British records."

But wait. This statement is false. There are details of combat in the British records. The details are there today, if you go to the British Archives (or just look below). Here's what our research turned up (all of this can also be found in: "A Higher Call"):

Stahlschmidt and his wingman did get into a dogfight with Desert Air Force (DAF) fighters and shot down one (suspected to be from 2 SAAF Squadron) at 9:15 (according to both FOTD and Wood's victory claim database). Shortly before that moment, likely after he first sighted the DAF fighters, he radioed for reinforcements which were scrambled at 9:12. Guess who took off? The Expert Flight. Stigler, Vogel, Bendert, Sawallisch, and a new pilot named Just.

When the Expert Flight arrived, they sighted 12 P-40s from 5 SAAF squadron. This is evident not only based on what Stigler told us, but backed up by the British records. Wait? I thought FOTD said there were “no details of any such heavy combat”?

Yet we found in the 5 SAAF Sortie Report that their squadron was jumped at approximately 9:30 by "6 plus Me 109F's." The Sortie Report went on to state that 5 SAAF lost one P-40 and had three damaged during the ensuing dogfight, all occurring at approximately 9:30.

This timing is particularly important since Stahlschmidt's final claim that day came at 9:15, proving that he was not responsible for shooting down or damaging any of the 5 SAAF aircraft. Who did? Franz Stigler and the Expert Flight.

Which pilots from the Expert Flight shot down or damaged aircraft that day will never be fully confirmed. However in talking with Franz Stigler (something the authors of FOTD never did) he firmly believed he downed two aircraft in the swirling air battles on August 16th. In fact, his first claim occurred at the same time 5 SAAF reported being jumped.

In addition to being wrong about the air battle on August 16, FOTD takes their claims further. In adherence with the view that the Expert Flight “invented” their account of combat that day, FOTD relates a story wherein Stahlschmidt claimed to have seen "the aircraft of II Gruppe [Expert Flight] shooting off their ammunition into the Desert sands in the course of a mock dogfight."

When we asked Franz about this he laughed and said "Of course we did, the new guy had some ammo left over so Vogel had him "shoot the shadow" as we often did to practice gunnery."

August 16th case closed.

Did Franz Stigler and the Expert Flight pilots over-claim during WWII? I’d bet most fighter pilots did in WWII. Even the great Stahlschmidt over-claimed on August 16th if you study the records. But did anyone make up victories that day or tales of combat as the Expert Flight is often accused of? The records say that all of those men entered life and death combat. And if FOTD's August 16th reporting is so wrong, you can imagine what the days of lesser significance look like.

The authors of FOTD held the legacy of brave men like Franz in their hands and in my opinion, were sloppy in the way they handled the Expert Flight. They didn’t interview Franz or his commander, Rodel, or the living members of the Expert Flight who were still around in 1969, or if they did, they didn't publish it since not a single interview with any of these pilots appears in the back of the book along with the others. They made serious implications without using complete records. When I asked one of the FOTD authors he confirmed that he never had full access to RAF records in the first place.

This leads me to believe this misinterpretation of history was unintentional. The FOTD author struck me as a nice fellow. But still, look what damage that book has done.

There are people on this forum who now call Franz Stigler a "liar," "fraud," and a "fake who can't be trusted,” thanks to FOTD. To them, I say, look at the facts I just presented. There’s two sides to every story. But the records don't lie, when you care to look for them.

- Bryan Makos

Last edited by ValorStudios; 24th January 2013 at 05:11.
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Old 22nd January 2013, 07:48
G.R.Morrison G.R.Morrison is offline
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Re: ... the Experte Schwarm

Your long post on this subject made me fish out Prien's Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945, Teil 8/I Einsatz in Mittelmeerraum November 1941 bis Dezember 1942. For those that might own this one, I'll refer you pp184, 235-240 and 272.

Prien covers the disproportional claiming of "den sogenannten 'Expertenschwarm'". During the period in question (August 1942), I Gruppe reported 22 claims, the II Gruppe 78 (the 4. Staffel, 65 of these, with the lion's share of 63 to Vögl - 10, Bendert - 23, Sawallisch - 18, and Stigler - 12), and the III Gruppe only 3.

Prien also includes the times of the 16.August claims. Stahlschmidt of 2./JG 27 claimed two P-40s, at 08:15 and 08:25. The 4.Staffel pilots made twelve claims begin at 08:26 and finish at 08:40.

Three days later (19.Aug.), Erwin Sawallisch crashed fatally during a test flight over the sea. Certainly his career did not "go on."

After this Schwarm was broken up, the 4./JG 27 made only 13 claims during the remainder of their time in North Africa.

I try not to "close" cases in history, especially when considering how little documentation is available, or has yet come to light, and may never. I enjoy changing my mind about things I thought I already knew about. I also mistrust human memory, but I'm old. Not quite old-enough to have studied with Pierre Bayle, but almost.

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Old 22nd January 2013, 08:00
Nick Hector Nick Hector is offline
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Re: New information on the Experte Schwarm

Book plug anyone....?
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Old 22nd January 2013, 11:51
Russell Russell is offline
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Re: New information on the Experte Schwarm

One reason why Chris ,me Giovanni Frank Olynk and others are doing a re write of Fighters Over the Desert, is because a lot of data has become available since 1968. Back then no op sums intel sums, readily available combat reports, MRES data, casulaty reports and of course Ultra wasnt public knowledge. Nor was much info from the Italian side

In summary, we know pretty well who the 4 staffel schwarm was in combat with on all ocassions in August 42. The 5 SAAF combat on 16th August we are aware of. I do note claiming 4 P-40's and 8 Hurricanes in 15 minutes for the actual result of 1 P40 shot down and 3 damaged is overclaiming at a reasonable level...for Bryans information Hans Ring communicated with a extensive number of JG 27's pilots over the course of preparing the book. Indeed Gustave Rodel attended the launch in London, At the time he was still in the Air Force and flew over for the launch in a Starfighter, and after the launch flew back in it.

The other comments about Chris and Hans Ring are quite silly, and not worth commenting on. The losses of the SAAF are clearly mentioned for example in FOTD. What was not available then, was enough evidence to tie 5 SAAF in the 4 Staffel. For the 69 claims made by the experte schwarm in August my current evidence is they shot down or damged ten to 12 aircraft. Bryan could do a comparison, on the evidence available for Stahlschmidts claims, rather than just the 16th, and I am sure he will find that there are other double or over claims, but a lot of confirmed victims, based on the evidence at a far more substantive degree then by the expert schwarm. The experte schwarm are an enigma as all of the main players could and had shoot down aeroplanes. GRM summed them up "numbers" pretty well.

A small element of JG 27 did it again a year later, making highly dubious claims over Albania, Greece and the Greek Islands. There were in conbat on most occassions, but the claims made were simple so far over and above losses.

No one from Chris's team has made any comment on the subject of the recent book, as its outside of what we have studied and I cant because it has yet to get to Australia. By the way Bryan, as Chris told you he had acess to what he was allowed to see at the time. Forty years later things have changed

I am still willing to learn, I mean forty years of researching the Desert Air War on and off isnt enough.


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Old 22nd January 2013, 15:44
kaki3152 kaki3152 is offline
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Re: New information on the Experte Schwarm

...You must be talking about IV/JG-27 and the "amazing" scoring streak of Ofw. Heinrich Bartels.
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experte schwarm, fighters over the desert, franz stigler, schwarm of liars

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