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Four days before Christmas 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 in 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-2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17-and the German-2nd 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 1,000 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 8th Air Force would later classify as "top secret." It was an act that Franz could never mention or else face a firing squad. It was the encounter that would haunt both Charlie and Franz for forty years until, as old men, they would search for one another, a last mission that could change their lives forever.   

About The Author


Adam Makos is a journalist, historian, and editor of the military magazine, Valor. In his fifteen years of work in the military field, Makos has interviewed countless veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and present-day wars. He has flown a B-17 bomber, a T-38 fighter with the Air Force, and was one of the few journalists privileged to examine Air Force One with its pilots. In pursuit of a story, Makos met Presidents, had tea with Prince Charles, and toured the DMZ border in Korea with American troops. The high point of his work occurred in 2008, when Makos traveled to Iraq to accompany the 101st Airborne and Army Special Forces on their hunt for Al Qaeda terrorists.  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/columnist for the Intelligencer Journal newspaper in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for more than thirteen years and has won numerous state-level awards for excellence in journalism.

Reviews 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. 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.

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.


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.

 

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