Four days before Christmas in 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail - a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber 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.
This is the true story of the two pilots whose lives collided in the skies that day - the American - Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17 - and the German - Second Lieutenant Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria who sought to avoid fighting in World War II.
A Higher Call follows both Charlie and Franz’s harrowing missions. Charlie would face takeoffs in English fog over the flaming wreckage of his buddies’ planes, flak bursts so close they would light his cockpit, and packs of enemy fighters that would circle his plane like sharks. Franz would face sandstorms in the desert, a crash alone at sea, and the spectacle of one thousand bombers, each with eleven guns, waiting for his attack.
Ultimately, Charlie and Franz would stare across the frozen skies at one another. What happened between them, the American Eighth Air Force would later classify as top secret. It was an act that Franz could never mention without facing a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for 40 years until, as old men, they would search for one another, a last mission that could change their lives forever.
©2012 Adam Makos (P)2013 Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
“This book grips you like a movie. It’s part Top Gun, part Valkyrie, and more!”(Marcus Brotherton, New York Times best-selling author
“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.” (Col. 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)
author, women's aviation
The ending brought tears -- good ones.
Battle sequence and last flight of Ye Old Pub riveting.
Franz's story truly heroic.
Narrator gets 5 stars as well.
Truly loved this book.
One of the best testaments of the greatest generation! This book is well written, well read and well dramatized with different voice intonation for each character. The author has portrayed the character of the men in a honest and poignant manner. It is an emotionally charged book, one that is hard to put down. I will definitely listen to this again!
This was a very enjoyable book. The majority of the book is about the German ace and all of his experiences in WWII. Excellent writing and narrating kept me thoroughly engaged. If you're a military history buff, this is a must read.
Yes, One of the best written and told stories of the war.
Nothing comes close
All the German fighter pilots
Absolutely fantastic true story and it could not have be narrated any better than by Robertson Dean
This was such an incredible story, it's hard to know just what to say, but that adjective hardly begins to cover it. Makos' research and detail in recounting the events of the lives of the two pilots during the war was so in depth, you would think he had been there, watching over their shoulders the whole time. And it isn't just about the one fateful day when their paths crossed in the air over Germany... It was a full biography of both men and their careers as pilots, everything that lead to them being who they were that day, and their lives after.
It was a sad story in that they were at war and terrible things and death surrounded all of them, but it was uplifting too because they survived it and not only that, they did so with bravery and integrity, answering that "higher call" despite the horrors and hatred all around. And how incredible, that not only did they both survive, but that they found each other decades later...
Makos' words and storytelling were powerful and masterful, adding to the already intense emotions evoked by the story. I ran the gambit of emotions with them, from laughing at a pilot's glib remark, sharing terror in crisis and in suspense with the bomber crew as they fought to fly home, and cried at tragedies and the loss of good men, and also joined in the tears at the reunion of Franz and Charlie.
The narration by Dean was well matched to the tone of the book - he was documentary-like in his narration at times, but kept you feeling connected with the men and action, and adapted adequate character voices for dialogue. He took the authors words to the next level, putting you there in the scene, in the cockpit and the foxhole, praying and wondering when the war would finally end.
Certainly an unforgettable tale, and those images of the wounded Pub and other moments will not soon leave my mind.
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