WWII's Violence Didn't Prevent A German And English Pilot From Becoming Lifelong Friends

World War II defined the 1940s and an entire generation. Those who lived during this time and served in war efforts have been deemed the "Greatest Generation." The war encompassed all aspects of society from soldiers on the font lines to manufacturers in military supply factories and families at home rationing commodities like sugar, milk, and meat. Many on the home front even grew their own food to ease the burden on factories tasked with producing food. These stories of camaraderie at home and abroad exemplofy the best parts of humanity.

The National World War II Museum estimates that a total of 15 million soldiers died in battle during World War II. Luckily, many of those lost and those who survived have been accounted for and celebrated for their bravery. As the world moves further away from the 1940s, we all need to continue telling stories of the "Greatest Generation," including those of hope despite the insurmountable horrors of war. 

German and British soldiers both crashed in Norway

A slim silver lining of tragedy is its ability to bring people together on large and small scales. The same can be said for war. An incredible example of this occurred when British and German pilots crashed in a remote part of Norway in 1940. British pilots shot down a German aircraft, but then one of the British planes carrying Capt. R.T. Partridge and Lt. R.S. Bostock suffered an engine failure and came crashing down as well. They sought refuge in an abandoned cabin, but were soon met there by the Germans who they had helped shoot down: Sgt. Karl-Heinz Strunk, Capt. Horst Schopis, and mechanic Joseph Auchtor. Given that neither party had means of communication back to their crews, they decided to work together to survive despite being on opposing sides of the war effort (per Military.com).

The men shared breakfast together and searched for help, as explained by War History Online. None of the men succumbed to the elements of winter or starvation, but not all of them made it out of Norway alive. Those who did make it out suffered different fates.

Two of the soldiers reconected years later

A Norwegian skier on patrol killed Sgt. Karl-Heinz Strunk while he and Capt. R.T. Partridge searched for civilization. Capt. Horst Schopis and Joseph Auchtor were captured and remained prisoners of war until the war ended. Partridge and Lt. R.S. Bostock managed to find a British-occupied port and get back to the United Kingdom by boat. Bostock died later on in combat while Germans took Partridge as a prisoner of war (per History Collection).

Military.com explains how the story became one of friendship. After years of no contact, Partridge got in touch with Schopis. The two met in person multiple times throughout their lives, including in each other's hometowns of London and Munich. In 1974, they even visited Grotli, the Norwegian town in which they found shelter back in 1940. History Collection states that Partridge died in 1990. Schopis died in 2011 at 99 years old, but not before he was able to learn of the film being made about their experiences called "Into the White," which was released in 2012.