Bill Hillman's Monthly Military Tribute
AS YOU WERE . . .
WAR YEARS ECLECTICA

May 2013 Edition

VIDEO

Mosquito Bombers


Acts of military chivalry through the ages

Two enemies discover a 'higher call' in battle
Five days before Christmas 1943, a helpless American bomber pilot locked eyes with a German fighter pilot over the frozen skies of Europe. The German pilot spared the life of the American, and both men would reunite and become friends 50 years later. Franz Stigler and Charles Brown started the war as enemies, but during a tense wartime encounter, both men discovered a higher call.
Source: "A Higher Call," by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander

Charles Brown was on his first combat mission during World War II when he met an enemy unlike any other.
Franz Stigler wondered for years what happened to the American pilot he encountered in combat.

Charles Brown, with his wife, Jackie (left), found peace after his reunion with Franz Stigler, with his wife, Hiya.
They met as enemies but Franz Stigler, on left, and Charles Brown, ended up as fishing buddies.
The Desert Fox takes pity on his prey
Few soldiers embodied the virtues of chivalry as did Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Rommel insisted his troops give prisoners the same treatment as German officers, and he refused orders to execute prisoners. During a battle in North Africa, a German officer held a gun to the head of a captured British colonel. The officer told the colonel to order a group of British troops to surrender, but the colonel refused. When Rommel overheard the threat, he ordered the German officer to holster his gun because his demand violated the rules of war. Rommel then shared water and tea with the British officer. Rommel didn't survive the war, but the colonel did. He later authored the first major biography of Rommel, "The Desert Fox."
Source: "The Warrior Ethos," by Steven Pressfield
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A German U-Boat commander's gallant decision
Few weapons challenge the concept of chivalry as do submarines. They rely on stealth and can prey upon defenseless ships. But Werner Hartenstein, a German U-Boat commander, was more than a submerged assassin. On September 12, 1942, his sub sank what he thought was a troop transport ship. But it was actually the RMS Laconia, filled with captured troops and civilians. When Hartenstein's sub surfaced, he saw thousands of civilians struggling for life in the water. He disregarded standing orders from Hitler to ignore survivors and directed his crew to organize a flotilla of rafts. He broadcast an appeal for more rescue ships on an international frequency and promised safe passage for any Allied ships. He was killed a year later when a U.S. plane destroyed his sub.
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The Christmas Truce of 1914
Some acts of chivalry are performed by a solitary soldier. Another act of chivalry seized an entire army. On December 24, 1914, British and German troops faced one other across a line of muddy trenches in France. At midnight, some German troops stopped shooting and started singing Christmas carols. Their enemies joined in. By morning, soldiers on both sides had climbed out of their trenches and were playing soccer and exchanging gifts and cigarettes. The truce ended when Christmas ended, and World War I would slog on for another four years. But the memory of the Christmas truce would live on in books and films.
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The Angel of Marye's Heights
The battle of Fredericksburg was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War. In December 1862, Confederate soldiers -- crouched behind a large stone wall atop Marye's Heights -- mowed down thousands of charging Union soldiers. By nightfall, the wounded lay on the frozen field moaning for water. Richard Kirkland, a Confederate sergeant from South Carolina, ignored his commander's warning and sprinted into the dangerous no man's land with canteens. At first, Union troops shot at him, then cheered as they realized his purpose. Kirkland became known as "The Angel of Marye's Heights." Kirkland, though, was killed a year later during the Battle of Chickamauga. His last words were: "Tell my Pa I died right."
Sources: "My Brother's Keeper," by Daniel Rolph; and the South Caroliniana Library. 
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An act of chivalry during a holy war
Clashes between Christian and Muslim armies during the Third Crusade were ferocious. But Saladin, the Muslim army commander, was a man whose respect for his greatest foe transcended religious differences. He was fighting against Richard "The Lionheart" when the English king was thrown off his horse. Impressed by Richard's courage as he continued to fight, Saladin ordered his brother to lead two horses to the king in the middle of battle. Saladin's message to Richard: "A man so great should not be on foot." Later, when Richard became ill, Saladin sent him peaches, pears and shaved ice to help him recover. Saladin's restraint was depicted in the 2005 movie, "Kingdom of Heaven."
Source: "Warriors of God" by James Reston Jr.

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