Sixteen American fighters dove into that valley, guns trained on 25 German Panzers.

The tanks had been on the run since D-Day nearly two weeks earlier, rumbling across France in retreat. The attempted escape clearly was about to fail.

Except for one bone-chilling, repulsive, inhumane fact. The first clue Utah's Jack Tueller had that something was wrong were the strange colors he saw on top of the Panzer through his gunsight.

Red. Purple. Yellow. On a tank?

As his P-47 Thunderbolt roared closer, the source of the colors suddenly was appallingly apparent.

A French mother and what Tueller assumed were her three children were being held at gunpoint on top of the tank.

The same was true for every tank.

"The Germans knew the mindset of the American boy," Tueller said grimly this week during a speech in Provo.

The psychological ploy worked. All 16 fighter pilots climbed out of their dives without firing.

All 16 men seethed.

Then their radios squawked with a dreadful order: The women and children were expendable.

"I still remember," Tueller said. "Nobody'll ever know what it was like."


Last week was the 64th anniversary of D-Day, which makes next week the anniversary of the day Tueller fired on that tank — and the woman and her children.

Afterward, Tueller flew back to his base and pulled out of the plane the trumpet he took with him on more than 100 missions he flew in World War II and Korea.

His buddies reminded him of a sniper outside the camp. If you play the trumpet, they said, he'll single you out and you'll get shot.

But Tueller figured he didn't have a choice. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he wouldn't drink to let off steam like his buddies. He had to do something.

"I was so sick with the image of that innocent woman," he said.

He blew "Lili Marlene," a German soldier's love song popular on both sides during the war. Tueller played it hauntingly, heartbroken and lonely and longing for his wife and her safety after suffering through a crushing reminder that he was part of a war that was taking the lives of millions of innocents.

"It was an act of desperation," Tueller said.

A few days later, Tueller learned the Americans had taken some German prisoners, including the sniper. The man told Tueller he cried the night he heard the song.

"Music," Tueller said, "saved my life."


Retired Air Force Col. Jack Tueller still plays that song on the very same trumpet that flew missions with him out of England, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Belgium and Holland. He plays in the evenings in his Bountiful neighborhood, and couples tell him that after a rough day together, they walk a little closer when they hear him play, hold hands a little tighter.

Tueller saw other tragedies in a war of millions of them. He didn't think what happened to him was a big deal. Then he reconsidered.

"It was a big deal to me," he said, "because I proved the power of music."

And he's still at it.


Utah County Bureau Chief Tad Walch lives with his wife and five children in Provo, their home for the past 21 years. E-mail twalch@desnews.com.