World War I And Ii: The Knight Legacy

2013 words - 9 pages

When one recalls the history of the first and second world wars, that person’s first thoughts probably revolve around all of the blood shed and death that came as a result. It is most likely very rare to find a person whose first thoughts are of the ways in which those fighting in the war acted merciful, or for a better word, chivalrous. This is in fact just how many fighter pilots acted during this time. There are many stories of mercy being shown by the fighter pilots of the sky, like a knight, these pilots acted on a code of honor and many people are not aware of this happening. The public perception of air combat is different than the reality of it. Through many first hand accounts of ...view middle of the document...

The fighter pilots steed is his aircraft. Both were at an advantage in their positions and it is believed that it is for this reason that they felt a need to follow a code of conduct. Granducci and Lindgren pointed out that any man mounted on a horse might be considered a horseman but not every mounted man is a knight and in the same way any man who can fly a plane is a pilot but not every man that flies a plane is a fighter pilot. To be a fighter pilot, like the knight, requires the correct equipment, training, the right skills, and most importantly the right attitude. Granducci and Lindgren say that the French fighter pilots of World War I would have considered it “Elán” or a style of energy and enthusiasm. This is also the same attitude that the British pilots involved in the Battle of Britain would call “Tally-Ho” (a huntsman’s cry to the hounds on sighting a fox) when sighting the large German formations and attack while heavily outnumbered. The fighter pilot lives by the same code of conduct that is descended from the knights’ code of chivalry (Barber, Richard). The ideals of chivalric combat and the conduct of a “gentleman” in war are recognizable in many examples from World War I and World War II.
One example of a chivalrous act by a fighter pilot came a few days before Christmas in 1943 when the allied bombing campaign was going at full force in Germany. Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown and his crew had set out on their first mission to hit an aircraft factory in northern Germany. As they approached Bremen, German anti-craft batteries opened fire on the formation, which resulted in the loss of one engine and damage to another for Brown and his crew. They were no longer able to keep up with their formation and fell behind, which left them unprotected in from enemy fire. Sam Ferrigno uses an example in his article of a small group of quick, agile cowboys chasing a herd of buffalo. They are both dangerous to one another, but if one buffalo leaves the safety of the group, there is not much hope for its survival. Once the crew had fallen behind, they found themselves in contact with fifteen German fighters, which left the crew’s tail gunman dead and four others injured including Brown. Brown told interviewers years later that they were able to fly the plane about one thousand feet above elevation. They flew over a German airfield where Lieutenant Franz Stigler, a Luftwaffe fighter pilot, saw the plane limp by. Stigler told interviewers in 1991 that he was aghast at the amount of damage the plane had sustained. Stigler quickly got to his plane and managed to get within twenty feet of Brown’s plane. He tried to contact Brown with hand signals, his message was to land the plane in Germany and surrender or fly to Sweden because there was no way Brown and his crew would make it back to England. Brown refused to land his plane in Germany, but Stigler stuck to the side of his plane keeping other attackers off until they reached the North Sea. When...

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