Brown, Charles Lester, Lt Col

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Last Rank
Lieutenant Colonel
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
M 2120-Administrative Officer
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1955-1959, 8051, Tactical Air Command (TAC)/HQ Tactical Air Command
Service Years
1939 - 1965
Lieutenant Colonel

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
West Virginia
West Virginia
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SSgt Robert Bruce McClelland to remember Brown, Charles Lester, Lt Col USAF(Ret).

If you knew or served with this Airman and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Contact Info
Home Town
Weston, West Virginia
Last Address
Miami, Florida

Date of Passing
Nov 24, 2008
Location of Interment
Woodland Park Cemetery - Miami, Florida
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Joint Chiefs of Staff US European Command Air Force Office of Special Investigations WW II Honorable Discharge Pin

Air Force Retired

 Unofficial Badges 

Cold War Medal

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
He was later awarded the Air Force Cross for actions performed in WWII.

His AF Cross citation reads:
Awarded for actions during World War II
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Second Lieutenant Charles L. Brown for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States as a B-17 Pilot of the 527th Bombardment Squadron, 379th Bombardment Group (Heavy), EIGHTH Air Force, in action over Germany, 20 December 1943. On this date while attacking a heavily defended target over occupied Germany, Lieutenant Brown's aircraft sustained severe flak damage, including destruction of the Plexiglas nose, wing damage, and major damage to the number two and four engines. Lieutenant Brown provided invaluable instructions to the copilot and crew requiring the number two engine to be shut down. He then expertly managed to keep the number four engine producing partial power. This action enabled his crew to complete the improbable bombing run and bomb delivery on this important strategic target. Immediately upon leaving the target, severe multiple engine damage prevented maintaining their position in formation. During this extreme duress, the demonstrated airmanship displayed by Lieutenant Brown could only be described as crucially pivotal to the aircraft's survival and displayed by only more seasoned and experienced aviators during the War. His violent, evasive tactics to counter the multiple enemy efforts to destroy their airplane directly contributed to his crew and his aircraft's survival. Alone and outnumbered, the aircraft was mercilessly attacked by the enemy in which crew difficulties were compounded when discovered only three defensive guns were operational, the others frozen in the -75 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. The result of this brief, but devastating aerial battle was one crew member dead; another critically wounded that would require amputation of his leg; serious damage of the third engine; the complete destruction of the aircraft's left elevator and stabilizer; the inoperability of the bomber's oxygen and communications systems; and the complete shredding of the rudder by enemy fire that produced a death roll of the plane as it spiraled helplessly out of control causing the entire crew to temporarily lose consciousness. Miraculously, prior to ground impact, Lieutenant Brown and the copilot regained consciousness and managed to regain full flight control by pulling the heavily damaged aircraft out of its nose-dive. Although managing to recover this aircraft from certain doom, the crew's plight was further complicated when a lone German fighter witnessed the maneuver, now attempted to force the crippled aircraft to land. Displaying coolness, courage and airmanship of more senior pilots, he boldly rejected the enemy fighter's attempts at a forced landing and directed the struggling aircraft to the North Sea. While attempting this improbable, treacherous return to home station, Lieutenant Brown's command and control was instrumental to the remaining crew's survival. While in the cockpit, he provided the essential engine control, fuel management, and piloting skills necessary to the cockpit team during their hazardous, yet miraculous return of the aircraft's perilous crossing of the North Sea back to home station in England. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Lieutenant Brown reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Army Air Corps.

General Orders: Department of the Air Force, Special Order G-094

Action Date: December 20, 1943

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Company: 527th Bombardment Squadron

Regiment: 379th Bombardment Group (H)

Division: 8th Air Force

Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called 'Ye Old Pub' and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton. After flying the B-17 over an enemy airfield, a German pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he 'had never seen a plane in such a bad state'. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere. Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane. Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to, and slightly over, the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe. When Franz landed he told the CO that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told all at their briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it. More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions. They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who are alive now - all because Franz never fired his guns that day. [CURRENT PHOTO caption] (L-R) German Ace Franz Stigler, artist Ernie Boyett, and B-17 pilot Charlie Brown. When asked why he didn't shoot them down, Stigler later said, "I didn't have the heart to finish those brave men. I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do that. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute." Both men died in 2008. This is a true story
Other Comments:
Best story follows:
Book about him and Franz Stigler:
"A Higher Call", by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander, Berkley Caliber/Penguin group,  2012.
Video: (others adjacent to this one)

Source: JG 27 ACE FRANZ STIGLER Franz Stigler started flying gliders at age 12 and soloed in a bi-plane in 1933. He joined Lufthansa, becoming an airline captain, before joining the Luftwaffe in 1940. There, he became an instructor pilot, with one of his students being Gerhard Barkhorn, who would later become the second highest scoring Ace in history with over 300 victories. Franz transferred to Bf 109 fighter aircraft upon learning of the loss of his brother August, who died piloting a bomber shot down over the English Channel. Franz flew combat in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Western Europe. He served as a Squadron Commander of three squadrons (Numbers 6, 8, and 12, of JG 27) and twice a Wing Commander, all flying Bf 109 fighters. Franz formed EJG-1, possibly the first ever pre-jet training squadron before being hand picked as the Technical Officer of Gen. Adolph Galland's elite JV 44, Squadron of Experts, flying the Me-262 jet. Franz was credited with 28 confirmed victories and over thirty probables. He flew 487 combat missions, was wounded four times, and was shot down seventeen times, four by enemy fighters, four by ground fire, and nine times by gunners on American bombers. He bailed out six times and rode his damaged aircraft down eleven times. He emigrated to Canada in 1953 and became a successful businessman. In addition to his many Luftwaffe decorations, Franz was presented with the Order of the Star of Peace by the Federation of Combattant Allies En Europe for his act of compassion on December 20, 1943. He is believed to be the only Luftwaffe pilot to be so recognized. Franz was also made an honorary member of the 379th Bomb Group Association. Our friend, Franz, died in 2008 at the age of 93.
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Aviator (Command)

 Unit Assignments
US Army (USA)Aviation Cadet Flight School8th Air Force379th Bombardment Group, Heavy
527th Bombardment Squadron, HeavyUS Army Reserve (USAR)US Air ForceAir Force Reserve Command
Tactical Air Command (TAC)/HQ Tactical Air Command
  1939-1942, US Army (USA)
  1942-1943, M 0273, Aviation Cadet Flight School
  1943-1945, M 1091, 8th Air Force
  1943-1945, M 1091, 379th Bombardment Group, Heavy
  1943-1945, M 1091, 527th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy
  1945-1946, US Army Reserve (USAR)
  1946-1947, US Air Force
  1947-1949, Air Force Reserve Command
  1955-1959, 8051, Tactical Air Command (TAC)/HQ Tactical Air Command
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1945 World War II5
  1943-1944 European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Air Offensive, Europe Campaign (1942-44)
  1944-1944 European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)
 Colleges Attended 
West Virginia Wesleyan CollegeGeorge Washington UniversityArmed Forces Staff College
  1947-1949, West Virginia Wesleyan College
  1954-1955, George Washington University
  1959-1960, Armed Forces Staff College
 My Aircraft/Missiles
B-17 Flying Fortress  
  1945-1945, B-17 Flying Fortress1
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