Five amazing occasions when enemies in war worked together

Five bewildering occasions when both sides of war worked together

Photo story:  (1) B-17 Flying Fortress bomber (2) 2nd Lt. Charles Brown (3) Notre Dame Class ring (4) Prisoners of war were forced into the 128 km long Bataan Death March in 1942 (5) Russian and German troops worked side by side to eliminate the non human threat in WWI  (6) Castle Itter in Austria (7) M4 Sherman tanks (8) Aco Nenadic (2nd from left), Hasan Jusovic (2nd from right) (9) Skull of a victim of the July’95 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia (10) Exhumations in Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1996

War is collateral damage. It takes lives away, destroys families and brings nothing but misery to humanity. Nevertheless, there always have been some extraordinary people who have shown strong moral values and even worked together with opponents of war in a way that would leave us bewildered:

(5) Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler’s aerial friendship: It occurred on 20th December 1943, when American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilot 2nd Lt. Charles Brown was carrying out a successful bombing of Nazi territory Bremen. His B-57 named ‘Ye Olde Pub’ was not loved by a dozen German fighters. Attacked for over 10 minutes, the B-57 was severely damaged and most of the crews were wounded. Tail gunner had been killed and Charlie suffered a right shoulder wound.  German fighter ace credited with taking down several enemy fighters in aerial combat, Franz Stigler quickly took off in his Messerschmitt Bf-109 in pursuit of retaliation for his brother August who was killed earlier in the WWII by US air force. Brown abandoned all hopes of escaping the inevitable end looming outside his aircraft window.

But Franz Stigler could not make the kill shot as he maneuvered his Bf-109. He later said that he remembered words of his commanding officer Oberst Gustav Rodel’s instructions during battle in Africa that they were pilots first and if he ever heard any of them shooting someone in a parachute he would shoot the pilot. Stigler said that the damaged B-57 crews were like ‘they were in a parachute’ and that he ‘couldn’t shoot them down’. Stigler lived by the warrior code of honor. He tried to get Brown land at a German airfield but Brown refused and flew on. Stigler then flew in formation with the B-57, fooling the German anti aircraft crew below into assuming it as their own captured B-57. Stigler escorted them until they reached the North Sea and departed with a salute. Brown had been living in US and Stigler moved to Canada in 1953. After almost forty years, in 1990 the two pilots met miraculously and became close friends. They remained friends until both of them died in 2008.

(4) Japanese officer who returns his football hero a treasured possession: Professional American football player Mario Tonelli was a sergent in the US Army’s 200th Coast Artillery during WWII. He along with 60,000- 80,000 Filipino and American soldiers found themselves on the losing side of the Battle of Bataan in 1942, which represented a very intense point of Japanese invasion of the Philippines. The prisoners of war were forced into the 128 km long Bataan Death March during which they were starved, physically abused and some murdered. Before they could reach destination, nearly 2,500-10,000 Filipino and 100-650 American prisoners of war died. A Japanese soldier spotted Tonelli’s Notre Dame Class ring during the march. Notre Dame Class ring is a tradition of ‘University of Notre Dame’, the ring represents success. Tonelli refused to give it up as the ring typified his good times including that of a 70 yard run against University of Southern California. To save his life, a friend convinced him to give it up.

But Tonelli was surprised when an English speaking Japanese officer who studied at the USC returned the ring. He was on the football field during Tonelli’s inspirational run and knew what the ring meant to Tonelli. Later Tonelli hid the ring in soap dish buried underneath his barracks. He survived the death march and was rescued after three years of hell.

(3) Russians and Germans form truce to hunt Wolves together during WWI: During the winter of 1916-17 the Russian and German units were fighting in the Kaunas and Vilnius region of Lithuania and the Minsk region of Belarus. Starving wolves had gathered there in huge numbers and started attacking the troops. The soldiers used all possible ways to withstand the animal attacks by using grenades, poison and machine guns but the hungry wolves kept attacking humans. The Russian and German troops had to form a temporary ceasefire agreement to fight off the beasts and worked side by side to eliminate the non human threat. This proves that an extraterrestrial invasion might be the only thing that could unite humanity!

(2) A German troop helped the the Americans liberate French prisoners in the battle for Castle Itter : During the last days of WWII in Europe, five days after the death of Hitler the battle for Castle Itter was fought. Lieutenant John C. “Jack” Lee Jr. was leading the US 23rd Tank Battalion of 12th Armored Division to take over the Castle Itter in Austria and rescue some prominent French prisoners. Lee’s troop came across a group of German Wehrmacht soldiers on the way to the castle. Lieutenant Lee was preparing to eliminate them but surprisingly not only the German unit led by Major Josef Gangle surrendered to the Americans but also stepped forward to assist them to free the French prisoners. And Lee pressed forward with fourteen US soldiers, two M4 Sherman tanks, a Volkswagen Kubelwagen, a truck and ten German soldiers.

When they reached the castle, the French prisoners welcomed the rescue party at first but soon were disappointed due to its small size. Soon afterwards, the 17th Waffen SS Panzer Grenadier Division, one of the most efficient German outfits, began the attack on the castle to re-capture it. The Wehrmacht troop fired upon fellow Germans along with the Americans. Even the French prisoners fought alongside the US-German allied troops despite Lee ordered them to hide. Most of Lee’s men were out of ammunition when the American 142nd Infantry Regiment joined in and defeated the SchutzStaffel. Lee received Distinguished Service Cross and was made captain. Gangle and several of his men died during the battle. He was honored as an Austrian national hero. A road was also named after him in Worgl, Tyrol.

(1) A reverse of Anne Frank pulled on Aco Nenadic by Hasan Jusovic during the Yugoslav wars: One of the most brutal series of wars of the 20th century were fought in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In 1991, following Slovenian and Croatian breakaway from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina also declared a referendum for independence on February 29th 1992. Bosnia and Herzegovina was inhabited by 44% Muslim Bosniaks, 31% Orthodox Serbs and 17% Catholic Croats. Bosnian war was the territorial battle between local Bosniaks, Croats backed by Zagreb and Serbs backed by Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and Serbia. The unofficial figure of death toll of the conflict was 329,000. Research and Documentation Center and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia places the casualty figures at around 100,000, of which 66% were Bosniaks. The war saw systematic mass rape & ethnic cleansing mostly led by Serbian army and to a lesser extent Croat forces.

On 2nd May, 1992, Serbian army backed by JNA tried to confiscate Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital. On the next day the Serb convoy was attacked and they were defeated by Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH). Dozens of Serbs died and others were forced to march to a temporary prison. Aco Nenadic, a 19 year old Serb was among the prisoners. While being escorted a Bosnian soldier whispered to him that he would keep him alive. Aco Nenadic discovered that it was his old friend Hasan Jusovic. Both Aco and Hasan used to serve the Yugoslav army together, but at the beginning of the war when Hasan planned to escape and fight for his fellow Bosnian countrymen, Aco helped him escape.

After reaching the prison Hasan convinced his commandant to release the Serbian soldier to him. Aco stayed for the next month with Hasan’s family pretending to be a Muslim. He later managed to escape to Serbia. 17 years later, Aco reunited with his friend Hasan. The world knew about people like Hermine Santruschitz also known as Miep Gies, the Dutch lady who sheltered Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis and tried to save them till the end. But this incident of Hasan hiding Aco would be like a Jewish family hiding a German soldier amidst the World War II.

The reports

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE