Local News

Computer Gamers, Veterans Hit Internet With Virtual World War II Simulation

Posted June 23, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— WarBirds, an Internet computer game, is an international phenomenon. This weekend, players from around the world gathered in the Triangle to meet and dogfight.

At the event, several hundred computer gamers battled each other in a ballroom full of networked computers, showing their skill as they fly famous World War II fighters and bombers.

Dean Mahoney came all the way from Japan to take part in the festivities.

"It cost a little bit of money to get here, but just to fly with these guys, talk to them, all different, various backgrounds, it's just a great time," Mahoney says.

Besides the virtual gamers, there were people at the event who actually flew during World War II.

Charlie Brown flew B-17s over Europe. Franz Stigler flew German fighters. Their fates met over Germany in December, 1943.

Brown's B-17 had been shot up, and most of his crew were incapacitated. Starving for oxygen, Brown looked out the window, and there was Stigler's Messerschmidt.

"He started motioning for me and I didn't understand his hand signals," Brown says.

"I figured out because of the lack of oxygen that he was still stunned," Stigler says.

Brown refused to surrender and turned toward Sweden.

"So when I turned toward England, the man gave us a wave, salute, rolled and left." Brown says. "He had a choice. When my mind didn't react to the surrender thing, he could either have killed us or let us go. It was his pure decision to let us go."

Brown and Stigler finally met 10 years ago and now call each other 'brother.' They do not play WarBirds, but they feel interest in their war is important.

"As we fade from the scene we need young folks like this to carry on and to keep history going," Brown says.

Between them, Brown and Stigler flew 532 combat missions. This weekend's event was sponsored by Morrisville-based iEntertainment Network, producer of the game.