By Clint Cooper
Copyright 2014 Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.
For the German fighter pilot, a man who would fly 241 combat missions, the crippling of an American B-17 plane in World War II was just another day up in the office.
“I tried not to think about it,” Hans Müller told Chattanoogan Francis “Bud” Peacock last year.
Peacock’s father, also named Francis, was onboard the B-17 when it was shot down on Feb. 22, 1944. But the German ace, now a spry 92-year-old living in Heidelberg, Germany, also said he was thrilled to see all 10 parachutes from the flight crew — including one with the senior Peacock dangling beneath it — open successfully and descend.
“I said, ‘Thanks,’” a moved Peacock, 65, told Müller. The German reached over, patted him on the leg and said, “I’m a father. I know what you’re thinking.”
The two men — the pilot and the son of the navigator of the B-17 named Pot O’Gold — were put together in June by a history-loving Danish man who was captivated by the WWII incident that occurred near the Northwest Denmark town where he was raised.
Nikolaj Bojer, who was not alive when the parachutes came down and the plane crash landed in a field near Hoerdum, Denmark, nevertheless grew up hearing about the incident and the impact it made on the area. The region around Hoerdum, where Bojer lived, was not used to aerial combat during the war.
In 2008, he had connected the Pot O’Gold’s ball turret gunner, Lester Shrenk of Bloomington, Minn., with Danish residents eager to meet him. Then, after learning the German pilot was alive and not in one of the cemeteries on which Bojer had centered his online search, he reached out to Müller in 2012.
Bojer contacted Peacock, whose father died in 1983, and offered to arrange a visit to the area where his father landed and also to meet Müller. Peacock, owner of Benchmark Trust Corp. and a former owner of the Mainly Soup, Mountain Pizza and Bungalow restaurants, quickly accepted.