A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

4.7 245
by Adam Makos
     
 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES AND INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

December, 1943: A badly damaged American bomber struggles to fly over wartime Germany. At the controls is twenty-one-year-old Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown. Half his crew lay wounded or dead on this, their first mission. Suddenly, a Messerschmitt fighter pulls up on the bomber’s tail. The

Overview

THE NEW YORK TIMES AND INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

December, 1943: A badly damaged American bomber struggles to fly over wartime Germany. At the controls is twenty-one-year-old Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown. Half his crew lay wounded or dead on this, their first mission. Suddenly, a Messerschmitt fighter pulls up on the bomber’s tail. The pilot is German ace Franz Stigler—and he can destroy the young American crew with the squeeze of a trigger... 

What happened next would defy imagination and later be called “the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II.”

The U.S. 8th Air Force would later classify what happened between them as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention for fear of facing a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search the world for each other, a last mission that could change their lives forever.

INCLUDES PHOTOS

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A remarkable story . . . worth retelling and celebrating.”—USA Today

“Beautifully told.”—CNN

“A riveting story of humanity and mercy set against the ghastly backdrop of war”—Publishers Weekly

“Oh, it’s a good one!”—Fox News

“Deeply felt by its author and deeply affecting to read.”—The Times, London

“A truly awe inspiring story of wartime chivalry”—Daily Mail

“Incredible.”—New York Post

“Inspiring.”—Kirkus

“From the horrors of the most savage war in history emerges this beautiful story of a brotherhood between enemies. Simply told, splendid, and well worth the read.”—Joe Galloway, co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young 

“This book grips you like a movie. It’s part Top Gun, part Valkyrie, and more.”—Marcus Brotherton, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Tough as They Come

“It is often said that ‘war is hell’—and it is—however, this story reveals how the human spirit can shine in the darkest hours.”—Colonel Charles McGee, Tuskegee Airman, WWII

“A Higher Call exemplifies beautifully the brotherhood of warriors and will forever change how you look at World War II.”—Eric Blehm, author of the New York Times bestseller, Fearless

“Can good men be found on both sides of a bad war? The author asks the question and delivers the answer. A powerful, haunting read.”—Chuck Tatum, author of Red Blood, Black Sand

Publishers Weekly
Military historian and aviation enthusiast Makos, along with WWII biographer Alexander (In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers), delivers a top-notch narrative of the unlikely encounter between one of Germany’s leading fighter aces, Franz Stigler, and the rookie crew of an American bomber in the frigid skies of Germany in December 1943—upon engaging the already damaged American plane, Stigler had mercy on his enemies and escorted them to safety. Building on the events of that encounter, Makos crafts a multifaceted story, relating the career of Stigler from his first taste of combat in North Africa to his final assignment flying jet fighters in the waning battles of the war in Europe. He also follows American Lt. Charlie Brown and his crew through training and to the successful completion of their combat tour in April 1944. Based on thousands of hours of interviews and an evident knowledge of his subject, Makos details the frantic life of the German fighter pilots living on the edge, and the American bomber crews, far from home, fighting to survive. The book is a riveting story of humanity and mercy set against the ghastly backdrop of war. Agent: Greg Johnson, Wordserve Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Mitchell Zuckoff’s Frozen in Time might prompt a desire to learn more about aerial combat and the life of WWII fighter pilots. For those readers, suggest this highly narrative account of German and American fighter pilots and the incredible moment when a sworn enemy did the seemingly unthinkable during war. Franz Stigler was a German fighter ace who was proven, skilled, and deadly. Charlie Brown was a novice pilot, flying a plane with disabled guns and extensive structural damage—a sitting duck. What occurred when the two encountered one another is the stuff of legend. Tracing the biographies of both men, including detailed accounts of Stigler’s career and Charlie’s training, Makos and Alexander create a vivid account of the lives of pilots during the war and recreate with riveting power their combat missions.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
An inspiring dual biography of two World War II airmen against the background of the European air war. In 1943, a severely damaged B-17, returning from a mission over Germany, was intercepted by a Messerschmitt fighter. Instead of finishing off the crippled bomber, the German pilot guided it toward the Channel and sent it on its way to England. Both pilots were still living 60 years later when Makos, editor of the military journal Valor, discovered the story. That single encounter was too short for a book, but Makos and military writer Alexander (Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers, 2005) bring together the stories of the pilots. Franz Stigler was a deeply religious Catholic who loved flying. Already a commercial pilot, he was drafted into the Luftwaffe at the beginning of the war. He served grueling tours in Africa, Italy and Germany, becoming a fighter ace and flying the first jet while watching most of his comrades die as massive bomber formations devastated his nation. Charlie Brown was a West Virginia farm boy who moved from the peacetime National Guard to the Army to the controls of a B-17. Many of his friends died, as well. Serious military buffs may wrinkle their noses at the energetically nonpartisan tone--all the Luftwaffe pilots hated the Nazis; the American airmen were quirky but brave--and there is too much invented dialogue. Despite excesses of enthusiasm, massive research and extensive interviews combine in a vividly detailed account of German fighter operations in Western Europe and the training and blooding of an American bomber crew.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425255735
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
28,025
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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From the Publisher

"A top-notch narrative of the unlikely encounter between one of Germany’s leading fighter aces, Franz Stigler, and the rookie crew of an American bomber in the frigid skies of Germany in December 1943...Based on thousands of hours of interviews and an evident knowledge of his subject, Makos details the frantic life of the German fighter pilots living on the edge, and the American bomber crews, far from home, fighting to survive...A riveting story of humanity and mercy set against the ghastly backdrop of war."—Publishers Weekly

“This book grips you like a movie. It's part Top Gun, part Valkyrie, and more!”—Marcus Brotherton, author of the New York Times bestseller, We Who Are Alive and Remain

“It is often said that ‘war is hell’—and it is—however, this story reveals how the human spirit can shine in the darkest hours. A Higher Call is an eye-opener.”—Colonel Charles McGee, Tuskegee Airman, WWII
 
“‘Can good men be found on both sides of a bad war?’ The author asks the question and delivers the answer. A powerful, haunting read.”—Chuck Tatum, author of Red Blood, Black Sand
 
A Higher Call exemplifies beautifully the brotherhood of warriors, and will forever change how you look at World War II.”—Eric Blehm, author of the New York Times bestseller, Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown
 
“From the horrors of the most savage war in history emerges this beautiful story of a brotherhood between enemies. Simply told, splendid, and well worth the read.”—Joe Galloway, coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller, We Were Soldiers, Once…and Young

Meet the Author

Adam Makos is the author of the New York Times and international bestseller A Higher Call. In his work as a journalist, Adam has interviewed countless veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and present-day wars. In pursuit of a story, he has flown a WWII bomber, accompanied a Special Forces raid in Iraq, and organized an expedition to North Korea in search of an MIA American serviceman. His book, A Higher Call, is studied in the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, the J.A.G. Legal Center and School, and appears on reading list of the U.S. Air Force. Adam lives in Denver, Colorado.

Larry Alexander is the author of the New York Times bestselling biography Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers. He is also the author of Shadows in the Jungle: The Alamo Scouts Behind Japanese Lines in World War II and In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers: A Return to Easy Company’s Battlefields with Sgt. Forrest Guth. Alexander has been a journalist and columnist for the Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for nearly twenty years and has won numerous state-level awards for excellence in journalism.

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A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 245 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've lived in Germany for over a decade - both as an active duty US Air Force troop, an avionics tech on the F-15, and as the son of a career AF medic & Irish mother. I've walked German fields w/ a metal detector and unearthed pieces of history (greyhound emblems of the 116th Pzrs, dogtags, panzerfausts, etc). I've trimmed the overgrown grass of the grey, bleak headstones of fallen German soldiers, mere boys whose ages often were only 14 when they fell. I've walked through the crisp short grass of the American cemetary, less than a mile away from there, where Patton's perfect white cross stands at the front of orderly, neat rows of similar markers. I've read book after book after book about WW II. I've digested every tale, every analysis, from Stalingrad to the Ruhr Pocket...von Manstein to Montgomery. I was pretty sure I was well versed in WW II. I purchased this book, not only for the uniqueness of its composition (missives which offer the German soldier's point of view are rare - one which offers both American and German views, especially of the same battle, are rarer still...I feel like I've discovered a gem, if I find either) but also because it promised a genuine story of men at war who amid the hatred, propaganda and death, managed to retain their humanity and compassion. And these types of tales are so often left undocumented...this, I wanted to read. Within the first 100 pages I'd already been taught historical statistical facts I'd previously been unaware of, despite my previous voracity for consuming history books and certainty that I'd not be reading this to learn any militarily relevant information. I was intrigued. I turned the pages hungrily, the story giving me a mental version of tunnel-vision, I became immersed. Everything around me disappeared - sound muted, I was enraptured as the tale played out in my mind...far more capturing than any film. I swelled with pride, I cringed in shame, I smiled, I wiped the tear distorting my vision from my eye...so that I could keep reading more. And then came the inevitable time when I flicked my finger from right to left over the screen, and I'd turned the last page. And I slumped in my chair and exhaled. I felt as though I'd lost a cherished friend when I realised there was no more to read. A friend that had quietly and subtly taught me at the same time that he entertained me. And then he was no more. A truly good book. An excellent read for both the historian as well as the humanitarian. A great reminder that, even though governments may go inexplicably astray, very often there are those people whose moral compass never wavers. Their stories are sadly under-represented in the annals of human misadventures - I hope this paves the road for the exodus of similar stories to come forth from the shadows.
GusLloyd More than 1 year ago
Every once in a while I come across a book that is so engrossing that I can’t put it down. This was one such book. I literally finished it off in a day. Makos does an incredible job of weaving together two story lines, one from the American perspective in the form of pilot Charlie Brown, and one from the German perspective in the form of Franz Stiegler. When these two story lines meet in the air on December 20th, you are left with perhaps one of the most incredible encounters in the history of war. But “A Higher Call” doesn’t stop there. Makos then takes us throughout another two years of war and beyond, where you get to see how that encounter impacted both pilots and irreversibly changed their lives. Perhaps the greatest thing about this book is the way it shows the full tragedy of war. Most war books show it from one side, but seeing it from both sides, in the eyes of these two men, impacted me in a way that no book ever has. Read “A Higher Call.” It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read in years, if not ever. Just be warned, you may need a box of tissues handy for the ending. I’m not too proud to admit I did!
Mike_Hooper More than 1 year ago
I heard about A Higher Call on NPR the other day so I decided to give it a go because I loved Unbroken and stories of good people preserving when the world seems against them. I never expected what I stumbled into. This book is the next Unbroken. It’s the next epic WWII story. The stars of A Higher Call aren’t the airplanes. They’re the heroes who happen to fly these remarkable machines. There’s a hero for everyone: obviously Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler! Every review has covered them but what about Ecky Eckenrode? Nobody talks about him. He’s Charlie’s little, quiet tail gunner who went around asking his buddies before the big mission to see if they’d give him their standard-issue candy bars. The next day was the bomb group’s Christmas party for the English children of the neighboring village and he wanted to give them chocolate as presents. You love Ecky, I did at least. What about Marjorie Ketcham, the WASP pilot who falls in love with Charlie and him with her? She’s described in this book so beautifully you can sense her 40s charm and elegance. How about Marseille, the 22 year old ace who is a playboy and jokester/trouble maker who welcome Franz into his dent in the African dessert and pours him a glass of cognac then teaches Franz that they only must answer to God and their comrades, another reason to live and fight with honor? This book has something special: deep characters and deep drama. It all adds up to the kind of book you will read 2 or 3 times. Then you’ll go see the movie which will follow in a year or two (It must!). Weakness wise I’d say the worst thing about A Higher Call is that eventually you get to the last page, a feeling you dread as the pages become lesser and lesser. I loved this book. I’m going to read it again. However, first things first, I had to write this review!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book, a true World War II story, about two enemy pilots, told by a knowledgeable and talented author, Adam Makos. My aunt got me this book for Christmas, (thanks, Aunt Jean), but I couldn’t wait for Christmas to read it. And, once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. I loved it, and highly recommend it, and hope that somebody in Hollywood makes this into a movie. It would be a blockbuster!!!
Castellid More than 1 year ago
A compelling war story, that just so happens to be true. A fascinating tale of two enemy World War II pilots – an American rookie, and a German ace, who were brought together by fate, for ten frightening minutes, in the skies over Germany, five days before Christmas. The American, Charlie Brown, was desperately trying to keep his battered plane aloft, and trying to save his crew. The German, Franz Stigler, could have easily shot them down, and finished them off. But, his own personal beliefs, and love of humanity is what saved those Americans that fateful day. Franz became Charlie’s guardian angel – he shielded the crippled American plane, and led the Americans out of harm's way, back to safety. And neither pilot ever forgot their encounter. Charlie always remembered that German pilot who saved his life that day, and always wished he could express his heartfelt gratitude. And, Franz always wondered whatever happened to that brave, young, American pilot, whose life he had saved that day. Buy this book!! It’s a great read – an expertly crafted tale of courage, compassion, honor and integrity. And, it had a happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
2 day read - phenominal book. couldnt put it down. definitely recommend to any history buff's. especially for christmas gifts. cant wait to see the movie.
Jerry_Bransford More than 1 year ago
I just completed reading Adam Makos' A Higher Call and I can only say I was absolutely stunned after finishing its final page. I sat quietely for several minutes, staring at the book and flipping through it looking at its pictures again, trying to come to grips with what I had just read. It is a more emotional book than I imagined it would be. Adam has written a stunning, eye-opening, and breathtaking story of the lives of WWII pilots from both sides of the European Theater, and I dare say his is probably the most complete and best accounting I have ever read, especially from the German fighter pilot's side...it is absolutely brilliant. And as one who has been reading WWII and fighter pilot books for 30+ years, it stands head and shoulders above all the others in my opinion. Adam's coverage of the German fighter pilot's side was the most complete coverage I have ever read and it provided new insight into a side of things I never thought I'd be able to read. And American B-17 bomber pilot Charley Brown's insistance that Adam focus on German figher pilot Franz Stigler's side as the real story turned it from an interesting story to a poignant personal story of how things really were. Thank God that Charley Brown knew where the real story was and pushed for it to be told from that point of view. That turned the book from just a very good book into an amazing read. I believe this book has movie potential, it has a story quality seldom seen and I believe it deserves wide dissemination. I am thankful I found and responded to A Higher Call's back-page advertisement in The Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine. Adam Makos came out with Hell of a first book, he has a real talent and I look forward to future books by him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Higher Call is a WWII aviation book written by knowledgable aviation historian Adam Makos about a very unique and true happening in the war torn skies over Germany. I was very familiar with this incident, thinking I knew most of what occured. . .boy was I wrong! Adam filled in many minute details (which I also crave!) and brought the entire combat histories of pilots Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown to life! Adam personally interviewed each pilot at length to legitimize this amazing story. An easy read that will keep you on the edge of your seat - and even the casual WWII onlooker will read this book with a heightened interest! One of the truly great books on the Luftwaffe/8th Air Force, and one you definitely should read! Mike Crosman
TBryant0 More than 1 year ago
I picked up A Higher Call just before Christmas and liked it so much I went back for another copy to give to my 84 year old Dad as a gift. This book is compelling in so many ways. Not only is it an amazing story of the encounter of two enemies on opposite sides of the Great War, the book goes deeper and shows the human side of war and those who were called to fight. Adam Makos has done an excellent job of turning facts into a compelling story that catches the reader early on and never lets go. I can't say this often, but, I couldn't put this book down and when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about when I could get back to it. My father enjoyed the book as well and we called each other several times to discuss the characters and the story. I highly recommend this book - not just to WWII war and history buffs - but to anyone who loves aviation, adventure and a well-written story.
TXTad More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story about humanity and decency where there seems to be none. I simply couldn't put it down. Not only does it tell the story of the two aviators and their encounter, but it also gives unique perspectives on several other important aviators of WWII. The author succeeds in making the reader feel like they knew these brave men personally.
hemetgolfer More than 1 year ago
Great story and really enthralling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based on other's reviews I read this book. Just a great view of the war from both sides and how each side saw the "enemy" and themselves. How just individual average people can become involved in something completly out of their control! Like other reviewers, I too shed a tear at the end. Will we ever learn from the past and not allow delusional leaders suck us in too? YES, read thid book.
Bookworm51LH More than 1 year ago
This is an exceptional book.  I read it on my husband's recommendation and I could not put it down! I've always had great respect for the Americans who fought in WW II, and I realize that many of their counterparts in Germany  are just as deserving,.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was impressed by the authors depiction of the humanity of the brave fliers during ww2. A wonderful book .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are many great stories which arise from combat and this is one of them. The German flying ace in this story eagerly flew his combat missions and shot down (and likely killed) his opposing enemies better than most pilots. But the day eventually came when he would see the fearful and worried faces of the stricken bomber crew before he trained his guns for the kill. That long look changed everything for the German ace and he was never the same. The ace managed to survive the war but his changed life led him on a mission to discover the details about the bomber crew. I enjoyed this book becuse it not only told the story of a fighter ace who served with the enemy but also how life is lived when the fighting is over, your side lost and the changes a man has to go through as a conscequence of battle.
PelotaRH More than 1 year ago
What I find very troubling about the book is that the two authors used the one encounter between the German Fritz Stigler and the American Charles Brown as simply a "hook" to allow Stigler to tell his obvious self-serving version of his wartime service in the German Luftwaffe, all of two-thirds of the book. If you accept Stigler, as the authors did, the morality of Luftwaffe fighter pilots was much higher than American pilots. This completely ignors the Luftwaffe as it served the goals of Adolf Hitler in World War II such as: Lugtwaffe pilots volunteered to serve the fascist Francisco Franco in Spain's 1936-1939 civil war and civilians did not escape their bullets and bombs. Luftwaffe pilots did strafe civilians when Nazis forces invaded Poland in 1939. And Luftwaffe pilots did strafe civilians fleeing German forces invading France in 1940. Luftwaffe pilots did kill prachuting enemy airmen when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. And German fighter pilots were vectored to destroy crippled British and American bombers struggling to return to base. How an "historian" could ignor this while presenting the Stigler version is beyond me. As the History blog noted, the book is as much a "novel" as a True story."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very intriguing story...4 Stars for me...Not a classic but a great little read, I would have loved to talk to both of them. But alas they are both gone now as are most of our grandparents generation. The changes in the world they witnessed... This was a very well written book that kept me interested the whole way thru. You need to be interested in history and aviation to really enjoy the whole story, which I am.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. An incredible story of honor, friendship, and the sad waste of war. This book shows mankind's capacity for good even while we are trying to destroy each other. Franz has an incredible life, his is a much bigger story than the ten minutes he and Charlie and his crew spent together over Germany. It's his life the book is really about. We have always been taught that the German people and Nazi's were one and the same, Franz proves this wrong. I thank the author for putting in the time necessary to tell the world this incredible story.
TerrriL More than 1 year ago
More the story of German ace Franz Stigler than American B-17 pilot Charlie Brown. Fascinating look at Franz's wartime experience. He didn't favor the Nazis, The Party, but his duty was to the Luftwaffe and Germany. The early German pilots believed in a code of honor; they sought to destroy machines, not kill men. When Franz came upon the horribly damaged B-17 slowly striving to get out of German airspace and back to England, he couldn't believe the tattered plane could stay in the air. He could see the dead tail gunner with the blood icicles on his guns. He saw the crewmen through the holes in the fuselage, tending each other's wounds. He saw the shock and fear in the pilots' eyes. It would be an easy kill, but not one he could have on his conscience for the rest of his life. Instead, he escorted them over the Atlantic Wall fortifications, keeping his countrymen from shooting them down. Germans and Nazis were not synonymous. A Higher Call celebrates the life of one of the honorable Germans caught up in a disastrous war not of his choosing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book for my husband. He said it is likely the best book he's read. Already recommended to friends and family who appreciate this type of book. Emotionally charged!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book very interesting and compelling. A true story which places focus on the tragedies and victories of WWII. Great read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book an amazing story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. It literally places you in the cockpit. Of all the books I have read, this is the most outstanding.To have known these men would have been such an honor..This is the personal story of two honorable men of a fast fading generation. It is the story of an incredible chance encounter which lasted a lifetime.