Franz Stigler
Print Size: 32" x 22.5"
All prints are sold unframed
A Higher Call
December 20, 1943
by John D. Shaw
A Valor Studios project in development for the past five years!
Encountering a mortally-wounded B-17 limping back to England, Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler anticipated an easy kill and another opportunity to avenge his brother’s death at the opening of WWII. As he approached the virtually helpless American plane, however, he saw the faces of the dead and wounded crewmen. Then, Stigler’s eyes met those of pilot Charles Brown. Despite the potentially severe consequences of letting an enemy plane escape, Stigler felt that he had to answer a higher call of honor . . . mercy.

Expecting the worst at any moment, Brown marveled as the enemy Bf-109 stuck with him to the North Sea. His adversary then saluted and veered away, allowing the astonished Brown to journey safely home. With this encounter engraved into the minds of both pilots for decades after the war’s end, the two men remarkably located one another in 1990. In the years that followed, their friendship developed to the point where Stigler considered Brown to be as precious as the brother he had lost.
Franz Stigler Bf 109
BONUS John D. Shaw print: "Return of the Pub"
Included with PP and AP editions!
Pilot Charles Brown wrestles his B-17 "Ye Olde Pub" back to England after the extremely harrowing mission. Following a bombing run over Bremen, Germany, Brown's plane was attacked, sustaining extensive damage and casualties. As Brown fought to keep his plane in the air, P-47s who had also participated in the raid over Bremen, encountered "The Pub," marveled at the damaged bomber, and helped escort her to a safe landing at Seething Air Base, England.
379th B-17

Contact us for re-sale availability

Only 400 limited edition prints, each signed by JG 27 ace Franz Stigler, 379th BG B-17 pilot Charlie Brown, and artist John D. Shaw.

Also includes: Photos of Franz & Charlie to frame with your print!

Our exclusive 10-page article with the full story behind "A Higher Call"

Color COA with "History Behind the Art"

(all prints are sold
unframed & unmatted)

Contact us for re-sale availability

Only 150 limited edition prints, each autographed by JG 27 ace Franz Stigler, B-17 pilot Charlie Brown, and artist John D. Shaw.

Also includes: B&W "Return of the Pub" print signed by "Ye Olde Pub" navigator Al Sadok and a B-17 pilot who flew combat over Europe!

A metal skin relic from a B-17 that flew
combat over Germany!

Photos of Franz & Charlie to frame with your print!

Our exclusive 10-page article with the
full story behind "A Higher Call"

Color COA with "History Behind the Art"

JG 27 Bf-109
(all prints are sold
unframed & unmatted)
(all prints are sold
unframed & unmatted)
B-17 Ye Olde Pub

Contact us for re-sale availability

Only 125 limited edition prints, each autographed by Bf-109 ace Franz Stigler, B-17 pilot Charlie Brown, and artist John D. Shaw.

Also includes: B&W "Return of the Pub" companion print signed by "Ye Olde Pub" navigator Al Sadok and two B-17 pilots who flew combat over Europe!

A metal skin relic from a B-17 that
flew combat over Germany!

Photos of Franz & Charlie to frame with your print!

Our exclusive 10-page article with the full story
behind "A Higher Call"

Color COA with "History Behind the Art" stories

(click to enlarge - all prints are sold
unframed & unmatted)
(all prints are sold
unframed & unmatted)

Contact us for re-sale availability

Only 100 limited edition prints, each signed by artist John D. Shaw

Includes a color COA with "History Behind the Art" stories

A 50 print Valor Studios canvas edition (artist only signed) may be made available in the future.
ranz 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.

Top: Franz (arms crossed) relaxes with his squadron following a mission against heavy bombers.Top Right: Franz's wife Eva poses with his Bf-109. Middle Right: Franz & Charlie reenact their aerial meeting. Middle Left: Franz as a Luftwaffe pilot.
harlie Brown graduated as a US Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. in April 1943. He arrived in England in early November 1943 as a B-17 pilot/aircraft commander and was wounded twice in completing 29 bomber combat missions out of 31 attempts
(24 over Germany proper) with the famed 379th Bomb Group. He then delivered fighters and bombers, and flew transports from North Ireland to the United Kingdom until becoming a B-17 instructor pilot stateside. Itching to return to duty overseas, Charlie became a C-54/C-87 pilot and flew in the CBI theatre until the end of the war.

After retiring from the Air Force as a Lt. Colonel, Charlie accepted an appointment as a Senior Foreign Service Reserve Officer, serving for six years throughout Laos and Vietnam during the Vietnam War. After thirty years of government service he retired in 1972 and formed a combustion research company. In 1992 he was recognized by the Governor of West Virginia (Charlie’s home state) with the “Distinguished West Virginia Award,” both for his government service and research career. He was awarded a symbolic “Governor’s Medal” by Governor Jeb Bush on October, 2001.

Charlie’s most prestigious honor was belatedly bestowed by the USAF in February 2008, when he was awarded the Air Force Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor) for bringing his badly damaged B-17 home to England during his December 20, 1943 mission. Our friend, Charlie, died in November 2008 at the age of 86.

Top to Bottom: Charlie's B-17 "Carol Dawn," the plane he was assigned following the December 20th mission in "Ye Olde Pub." Franz and Charlie during a fishing trip. Charlie Brown during the war years. Charlie and the crew of "Carol Dawn" celebrate the completion of their tour. Charlie in 2004 with a photo of the "Ye Olde Pub" crew.

black and white print signers
NAVIGATOR of the B-17 "YE OLDE PUB" during the encounter with Franz Stigler
on the December 20, 1943 mission!
B-17 pilot with the 728 Bomb Squadron, 452nd Bomb Group
B-17 pilot with the 305th Bomb Squadron, "Bloody 100th" Bomb Group
Clockwise: B-17s in combat over Germany. "Ye Olde Pub" Navigator Al Sadok as he signs the "Return of the Pub" pencil prints showing his aircraft. "Bloody 100th" Bomb Group B-17 pilot John Archer. B-17 pilot Howard Kremser. Al Sadok during 1943.
he B-17G “Champagne Girl” was one of the first eleven natural metal finish B-17s assigned to the 323rd Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourn, England.

During the July 19, 1944 mission to destroy the Luftwaffe Lechfeld airfield, near Augsburg, Germany, the B-17 “Champagne Girl” was heavily damaged in a mid-air collision. The plane entered a spin, revolving five times, before the pilot recovered control. He flew the damaged aircraft to nearby Switzerland, where the entire crew bailed out and were safely interned for the duration of the war.

Our metal relics, taken from the tail section, were recovered by a friend of Valor Studios who specializes in aircraft wrecks throughout the Swiss Alps.

B-17 Ye Olde Pub crew
n Dec. 20, 1943, Lt. Charlie Brown’s life and the lives of his eight remaining crewmen hung by the thin cables that held together their B-17, “Ye Olde Pub.”

As the wounded bomber flew low over the costal towns of North Germany, she bore scars from an earlier battle at 27,000 feet, where flak and 15 German fighters had ravaged her.

The Pub’s crew was equally battered. Charlie had flak in his shoulder. A 20mm cannon killed his tail gunner. One waist gunner had a severed leg and another was shell shocked. The radio operator had a fragment in an eye. The ball turret gunner had frostbitten feet.

When their situation couldn’t seem to worsen, they passed over a German airfield where Lt. Franz Stigler smoked a cigarette as his fighter was re-armed. A squadron leader, Franz had shot down two B-17s that morning—one more and he would earn the Knight’s Cross.

Franz jumped into his fighter and gave pursuit. His rudder bore 25 victory marks from earlier combat. But, Franz was a reluctant warrior. He flew for Lufthansa then became a instructor when the war broke out. His students included Barkhorn (301 victories) and Franz’s older brother, August, who joined against their family’s wishes.

When August was killed in the Battle of Britain, Franz became a fighter pilot to avenge his loss. On Dec. 20, 1943, when Franz chased down the wounded B-17F “Ye Olde Pub,” he experienced a transformation.

Above: The crew of "Ye Olde Pub." Kneeling L-R: Charlie Brown, Spencer Luke, Al Sadok, and Robert Andrews. Standing L-R: "Frenchy" Coulombe, Alex Yelesanko, Richard Pechout, Lloyd Jennings, Hugh Eckenrode, and Sam Blackford.
B-17F Ye Olde Pub
6. Franz recalled his exchange with Charlie across those cold, open lengths of sky: “I know he (Charlie) closed his eyes, he opened them again, and I was still there. They knew they were helpless.” Franz saw fear in Charlie’s face. Charlie explained, “Although the German pilot appeared relaxed, I was most uncomfortable and felt that at any time he would unleash some type of new German weapon to destroy us . . . I finally surmised that he was out of ammunition, but I was amazed at his curiosity and daring in flying that close to even a badly crippled enemy bomber.” In reality, Franz’s fighter was freshly armed to the teeth.

7. After several minutes with Franz flying on his wing, Charlie called his flight engineer, “Frenchy” Coulombe, into the cockpit to, “ . . . join Pinky and me in observing the audacious German pilot. Now, we had three wide-eyed American airmen in the cockpit . . . after a few more seconds, my nerves could stand it no longer and I asked Frenchy to get back in his turret and point his guns at the German pilot. When the fighter pilot saw the engineer’s head appear in the top turret, he saluted, rolled over, and was gone.” In realizing that his company was no longer welcome, Franz remembered thinking, “Well, I hope you make it. So, I waved off, saluted him, and flew back to the airport.”

8. A week earlier, pilot Charlie Brown flew his first mission with a veteran crew for indoctrination. The mission depicted in “A Higher Call,” was his second, but his crew’s first. Their aircraft, B-17F (42-3167), had been named “Ye Olde Pub” by her prior crew. She had patches from past bullet holes and a rough-running #4 engine. But, she knew the road to the Reich and back. On this day, she would earn the title, “Flying Fortress.”

9. Identified by the markings of a triangle surrounding the letter K, the 379th Bomb Group was one of the 12 heavy Bombardment Groups in the First Division of the U.S. 8th Air Force. The 379th would fly more missions than any other group, drop more bombs, bomb with the highest accuracy, and suffer the fewest losses. For these accomplishments, by the war's end, the 379th was known as the "Grand Slam Group" and arguably, the best in the business.

10. The Berlin Bear painted onto the forward cowling of Franz’s plane was the mascot of Franz’s squadron. To honor this, the Berlin Zoo gifted a bear cub named “Bobby” to the unit. The bear lived with Franz and would swim in the pool with the men of his squadron. In late 1944, as Fighter Wing 27 retreated deeper into Germany, Franz was ordered to “Get rid of the bear,” as there was no space to transport Bobby or food to spare. Franz could not bring himself to shoot his bear nor could his squadron mates. A neighboring unit had to do it for them.

11. Franz’s fighter carried his personal nose art that showed his wife’s name, Eva, next to an apple with a snake weaving through it. Franz’s rudder bore 25 victories marks, amassed prior to December 20, 1943. That day, in his encounter with “Ye Olde Pub,” Franz saw his brother's pleading eyes in faces of the B-17 crew and realized he had almost walked the same path as his brother's killer. During the next year and four months of fighting, Franz flew in the desperate defense of Germany. While he would shoot down further opposing aircraft, after December 20, he stopped adding victory marks to his rudder. Although bound by blood to defend his country, he never again celebrated his aerial triumphs. Franz had chosen to answer a higher call.

1. Franz approached The Pub from 500 feet above and behind the bomber. He intended to attain the victory from the tail, the "classic way." Dipping to the same altitude as The Pub, and closing to within 200 feet, he noticed that the bomber's tail guns pointed downward and appeared inoperative. Like a dueling lawman, with his finger against the trigger, Franz waited for his opponent to reach for his gun. With the lifeless body of tail gunner Eckenrode behind the tail guns, their barrels hung earthward and still. Franz neared to within 20 feet of the tail, unnoticed. There, he saw Eckenrode, "…slumped over his gun, his blood streaming down its barrel."

2. Franz remembered, “The B-17 was like a sieve. There was blood everywhere. I could see the crew trying to help their wounded. Through the gaping hole in the fuselage, I could see crewmen working frantically to save a comrade whose leg was blown off. I thought to myself, ‘How can I shoot something like that?’ It would be like shooting a man in a parachute. When I was flying in North Africa, my Commander (Gustav Roedel, who had 98 victories) said, ‘You are a fighter pilot. If I ever hear of you shooting someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.’” Franz concluded that the Pub was, “. . . the most badly damaged plane I ever saw, still flying.”

3. The navigator of “Ye Olde Pub,” Al Sadok, remembered, “Finally, the enemy coast put itself behind us and the fighters quit coming in. Probably all out of ammunition, one rather brazen pilot in an Me-109 flew up…and nodded at our pilot.“ From vantage, pilot Charlie Brown remembered, “There, flying very close formation with his wingtip only about three feet from our wingtip was an Me-109! For a moment I thought that I had lost my mind and if I briefly closed my eyes it would disappear. I tried—he was still there! Upon his return to the cockpit, I pointed out our visitor to Pinky (co-pilot Pinky Luke). The German pilot nodded, but Pinky and I were in a state of shock and did not return the greeting.”

4. Earlier, on the bomb run, four shells from a flak battery bracketed the Pub. One shell blew off most of the Plexiglas nose dome, blasting the men with frigid, -50 degrees Celsius air from the open sky. An 88mm shell punched through the Pub’s right wing without exploding. Shrapnel from another shell hit the #2 engine, which lost oil pressure. Charlie and his copilot immediately shut #2 down and increased power to the remaining three engines. Then, engine #4 "ran away," as if the throttle controls had been severed. Charlie began shut-down procedures on #4 to bring it back to a usable power range and feathered the propellers of engine #2. Thus, The Pub became a straggler.

5. Franz motioned for Charlie to land in Germany, but Charlie did not react. Franz pointed eastward, trying to encourage Charlie into a turn toward neutral Sweden. However, Charlie's state of mind did not comprehend that Sweden was 30 minutes away, whereas England was two hours distant, across the frigid North Sea. Aware that the pilot was in shock and could not discern his motives, Franz chose to remain in a close escort position. Franz explained, "If I would have passed up the escort, then they would have to watch out. But if you're hanging there with this plane, even if another fighter would have come along, they wouldn't have shot; they wouldn't have interfered with you."

John D. Shaw
John D. Shaw has pursued his art and graphics career since 1985. Born in 1961, this native of Carson City, Nevada is a veteran of both the fine art and commercial art fields. As an illustrator, Shaw created artwork for clients such as Lucas Films Ltd., Kellogg's, and Major League Baseball.

Shaw's work took a new emphasis in 1993, when he began creating paintings with a historical theme. With special attention to the World War-II era, his

depictions of these aircraft, people, and their missions have become celebrated, worldwide.

Shaw’s artwork hangs in the collection of President Bush ’41, President Bush ’43, the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, and private collections worldwide. His art has adorned the covers of magazines like Private Pilot's Aviation Art Gallery, World War II, World War II History, Aviation History, and Valor Magazine.

With the November 2009 completion of "A Higher Call," we are proud to have commissioned five epic paintings with our good friend and talented artist John D. Shaw!

John Shaw as he works on his latest
painting, "A Higher Call"

Valor Studios and John D. Shaw wish to thank our dear departed friends Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler for their years of friendship and perpetual inspiration.

Left: Adam Makos, Publisher of Valor Studios, interviews Franz Stigler at his home to design the painting, "A Higher Call."