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)
This was a fascinating recounting of the actions of a German ace pilot and his seemingly inexplicable actions in assisting a disabled American B-17 bomber piloted by a 21-year-old farmboy to return to England after a bombing run.
Meticulously researched, this true story weaves the lives of the "average men" doing their jobs in the time of war, men who are fighting for their families and their country and who recognized that the man in the other plane is a human being and one could respect the courage of the other.
Don't miss this if you are a fan of World War II History.
WB from Athens
I cannot find the words to describe how much I loved this story. Just finished it yesterday and still in awe of the men and their actions. I happened upon this story after reading a CNN article describing the basis of the book, then decided to check it out in Audible. Although not my typical read, I gave it a try and am so very thankful I did!
Going into the story, you know the high points and premise, but you do not know the back story and all that transpired prior to that fateful day. You get to live in each man's life as they first began their careers in the military, seeing and feeling what they experienced. As the days and months go by you learn about the core of each man and a basis for honor and duty that transcends simple words on a page. All leads up to the moment when they first met, completely unaware of the destiny awaiting them.
I cannot recommend this book more! The story is well researched and put together, with consideration and respect for all that lived it. The narrator was exceptional and brought the book to life. As I said in the beginning - I'm in awe of these gentlemen. After the book, please also look up the additional content on the author's site but I recommend you do this after finishing the book. Get to know Franz and Charlie as they were as young men, then watch videos of them after meeting for the first as old men (technically their second meeting). You will cry and the tears are out of respect, joy, and honor.
I have to admit that when I heard the introduction to this book, I was about ready to turn it off. The author's story of how he came to write it and, especially, his belief at the time the base story came to light that all German's were Nazi's in WWII left me wondering whether this could be a good listen. However, I soon forgot any misgivings and found myself immersed in the story, especially Franz's side.
The brief central story is compelling, but it's the background stories that are the most interesting. I have read other books about the air war over Europe, but learned from this book a great deal about how the air war evolved from the pilot's point of view.
I won't give out any spoilers, but this is a very interesting book that is well worth your time. I gave the "story" a 5, not because of it's prose, but because of the information it contains. The writing is fine (basically it's reporting) and the pace of the book and organization are spot on. There is an element that is overplayed in the writing, but it's not so over the top to detract from your enjoyment (I'll leave it to you to figure out what I am talking about).
Thank you Adam Makos for writing this book! From a young age, I saw WWII Germans as the really bad guys. As I grow older, I still struggle with these feelings about the citizens of Nazi Germany, which causes a lack of empathy about their loss and suffering.
The author of this book felt the same way when he started his correspondence with a United States WWII pilot, Charlie Brown, the Captain of a B17 bomber. Charlie had an exceptional story from his time flying the B17 bomber over Germany. The caveat was that before Charlie would tell his story, he wanted the author to first speak with Franz Stigler, a Bavarian fighter pilot for Germany during WWII, now living in Canada.
The story that is told in this book is just breathtaking, heartbreaking, and utterly compelling. I was absorbed in every second of this book, finishing it in one sitting and wanting more!
The pilots fighting for Germany were not allowed to be affiliated with a political party. Though I'm sure many were National Socialists (Nazis), there were many who despised the changes brought by the Nazi Regime. The story of Franz Stigler is fascinating and important; it demonstrates the humanity of the "enemy". The strange relationship between Charlie and Franz is so touching and beautiful.
Best book of the year! Don't hesitate to buy this one!!
Loved the true stories and adventures in this book and learned a lot about the US and German WWII Airforces; it reminded me a bit of "Unbroken: A WWII Story...". The narrator was PERFECT too! Recommended it to all my friends :-).
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
This book does a great job of bringing together the lives of two men who were supposed to be enemies. It's a really good look at humanity at its finest - particularly when the men are in a brutal situation. It also provides an inside look on WWII pilots and programs that's really interesting.
The fact-written-as-fiction aspect makes it similar to "Unbroken" - though this book lacks the edge-of-your-seat suspense. I'd recommend this book to someone who loves WWII history and consumes a ton of books a year. If you only have time to listen to a few books, there are others in this genre that I think are more rewarding.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
I have rarely encountered a book with sections so disparate in quality. At first the book is dispassionate; a mere assemblage of biographical anecdotes with all the insight and passion of a High School research paper. Then something happens. The people to whom we have been introduced—and who seem like so many stick figures for all the humanity that had been associated with their early exploits—come vibrantly to life. When the air war heats up for these pilots, the writers suddenly gain empathy for them and the scenes in the air take of the feeling of grand drama. The book continues in this fashion, flip-flopping between lackluster factual accounts and gripping high drama; sometimes it is brilliant and engaging then it degenerates into a description of the sad state of Germany under the Nazi regime. Later it again will become immediate, personal and exciting, and even rises into moments of insight and poignancy. One constant theme of the book is the sense of honor that inhabits the pilots on both sides of the conflict embodied in the statement, “A man must only answer to God and our comrades.”
Robertson Dean is wonderful in this non-fiction account. When the account requires drama Dean pulls out his repertoire of character voices and can hold the tension during the battle scenes masterfully.
I purchased this book quite a few months ago and just never got around to listening to it until this past week. Once I started listening to it I just couldn't put it down. The story is incredibly compelling and the narration is spot on with easy transitions to a very understandable German accent and back to lend character to the people in this book.
This book is not your typical WWII story. Too often those stories turn the Germans into two dimensional caricatures of real people and hide the internal conflicts that they too went through during the war.
This story does not glorify warfare. It does not glorify killing or death. It does not glorify either the Allied cause or the German cause. It simply tells the story of real people on both sides of a war. You will feel heartache for the losses of both the American bomber crew and the German pilots. You will find yourself cheering for the bomber crew to make it home, and for the German pilots to find a way to survive to the end of the war.
Sitting here today writing this I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that I picked up this audiobook and listened to it. This book is going to be a favorite of mine time and again in the future.
If this were fiction, I'd have to say it was a little implausible. Being a true story, It's amazing. I think it's amazing that the incident occurred in the first place, and secondly that they were able to resolve it so many years later as they did.
It was interesting to see two opposing sides but not necessarily two opposing conclusions.
I think the story of these men shows there are good, noble people all over the world and that there are more than two sides to every story.
A worthwhile listen.
Yes, and I am not normally a war stories fan- that would be my husband. But this story, or both stories, put a human face on so many aspects of this war that I got all caught up in the story- and it's a true story on top of everything else, too!
Not to spoil it, but when he walked past the Nazis at the end of the war and everyone pretended to be blind to each other. Or maybe when you listened to him go through what we'd now call PTSD episodes and just have to live with it. Or maybe the absolute joy he found in flying....
All of them.
Not a war story fan? Get it anyways, it's a terrific story.
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