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Will the ‘warrior’s code’ survive the war on terror?

B-17 and fighter

Photo: John D. Shaw and Valor Studios

During World War II, a German fighter pilot chose not to shoot down a crippled American B-17 and instead escorted it to safety outside of German air space. The two pilots found each other after the war and became good friends. It’s a true story of the warrior’s code in action, told by CNN writer John Blake as he explains how and why enemy soldiers sometimes end up helping the men they were sworn to kill. It’s a great read. And it left me wondering if this last bit of human goodness and decency in war will be snuffed out in an era of suicide bombers and drones.


  1. Good question PT. I’m so very cynical when it comes to our “modern” world, that I have a hard time believing anything decent can survive it. But if those guys can come through the era of kamikazes, holocaust, and atom bombs, and then still become friends, I’d like to think that some of us can make it through this with a little dignity as well. Of course, making myself believe that is a whole other matter…

    BTW, I got to this post by way of your homepage, which I went to when commenting on your daylight savings time reblog gave me an error. I still haven’t gotten an email notification for this post!

  2. This “warrior’s code” post has been going through my head for 5 days now. What happened in December 1943 is, in my experience, exceedingly rare. in fact, my first reaction was that it was some kind of prank story, but the subsequent reunion would seem to make that unlikely, that and the CNN source. The German pilot’s behavior was, simply put, treason. He betrayed his country, something that would be unthinkable to me. Is that just because of my military training? No, I don’t think so. There has to be more to this than the feel-good humanity implied.

    War is the ultimate recourse when all discourse has been exhausted and when war is declared, survival is the issue, survival of culture and life itself. The story does leave me wondering whether the German pilot’s decision was affected by some knowledge and judgement of the cruel, inhumane and dictatorial nature of the Nazi government? That I could understand, but there’s no hint of such motivation in the story. If it were true, then that would put him in the same category as the officers who attempted to assassinate Hitler, something I could condone. The only other reason I can think of, still left mysterious, might be religious compunction, but I discount that – men who think that way don’t become fighter pilots.

    • No doubt it is rare. Otherwise armies wouldn’t have the discipline and cohesiveness to fight. But I also don’t doubt it’s true, that innate human compassion will occasionally triumph over military training, that a man tired of war and killing and perhaps never in completely sympathy with his leaders (as you suggest) will in isolated cases give in to his best side and not pull the trigger. In most people, I think, the peaceful, compassionate side is the normal, natural state; the killing is a newly trained behavior that can break down — and is expected to after the war ends.

      Admittedly I speak from what is probably a very naive, idealized view of the world. I’ve never been in combat, or personally known anyone who has been and put more credence in the views of someone like you who has been in the military.

"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power." ~ Voltaire

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