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Showing 1-10 of 3,592 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 4,195 reviews
on December 14, 2012
I loved this book.

I thought I knew the premise of the story before downloading it, but by the end of the first few chapters I realized this was so much more then the brief first encounter of the main characters. It's a story of two young men, on opposites sides of the war, sharing the same experiences- fighting to keep sane and survive the horrors of WWII.

You are introduced to Franz (the German pilot) first and then Charlie's story (the American pilot) is intertwined later on. There is no way to read Franz's portion without being in awe of what he survived-multiple bail outs, crashes, and over 480 missions. Being introduced to Franz first makes his run-in with Charlie's plane all the more remarkable - here was this battle-hardened pilot who showed unbelievable compassion, knowing if he were caught it would mean his own life.

The authors do a fantastic job of seamlessly moving between the characters and you get so attached to them that I found myself hesitating when turning the pages because I wanted the ones I liked to live a bit longer. I finished it hours ago, but I know I'm going to reread my favorite chapters before bed tonight!
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on July 13, 2015
I am an avid reader and a picky one at that. If I start reading a book and in does not grab me within 5-10 minutes I will put it down. However this book punched me dead in the face within a few pages. I had just finished the book unbroken and was keen on finding another great WW2 book. So I searched around and came across A higher Call and bam I was in love. This is one of the greatest books I have ever read. My girlfriend who has no interest in war stories was hooked as well when she would see me get all emotional as I was reading the book next to her. She would ask me narrate to her what I was reading and she wanted to hear more and more. This book is not just the story of two war veterans, its the story of good people like most of us are being thrown into a situation where your duty to your country requires killing and somehow in the face of that finding the compassion and courage to do good. I always saw the war from the eyes of the allies, but this book showed me the war from the eyes of the enemy, but a good and honorable enemy. An enemy who himself hated the Nazis and felt the Nazis where the enemy not the Americans or English. The book shows you that not all the Germans in the war were evil bastards. The way Franz cried for a bear who lost his life because of the evils of the Germans and the death of this bear hurt Franz as much as the loss of his own blood brother tells you the compassion and moral standing of the great man. Not only was he a great man but he served in a airforce filled with great men. Men who would shoot Americans and English out of the sky but would worry if the SS troopers would find them and throw the downed pilots into concentration camps. Men who would put their own lives at risk to protect and rescue these downed pilots out of honor because they may have been the enemy but they were aeronautical brothers. This book changed my whole view on those who served in the German military. Before I read this book i would never have saluted a German WW2 veteran, but now so long as they were not sworn Nazis I will gladly salute a German Air force veteran. This book is a must read.
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on December 21, 2012
A Higher Call is mostly the story of Franz Stigler, an ace WWII German fighter pilot who came upon a heavily damaged and helpless American B-17 bomber struggling to return to England. Stigler could have easily shot down the bomber and it's crew, but instead he escorted them past an anti-aircraft battery and flew along side them for a while out over the North Sea. Stigler knew he would be court-martialed if anyone found out what he had done. For years he wondered if the bomber had made it home safely and he wondered, "Was it worth it?". It took 46 years for Stigler to find out that the bomber did return home safely and to finally meet the American bomber pilot, Charlie Brown.

Author Adam Makos provides all the descriptions of battle, dog-fighting and heroism you would expect in a book of this nature but he really focuses on the human side, on the losses. Character after character are introduced only to die. The story of one young German flier is heartbreaking. In the last days of the war he told Stigler that he was going to return home, surrender and that he hoped to study engineering. Stigler asked if he wanted to take just one flight in an Me-262, the world's first operational jet fighter. The boy said yes. Since American bombing had stopped two days before, Stigler thought it would be a safe, quick flight, but the jet's engines cut out and the plane went down. Stigler raced to the crash sight and was able to arrive in time for the boy to ask Stigler to say goodbye to his mother and sister for him. The boy died in Stigler's arms. So many wasted lives.

While the description of Stigler escorting the bomber to safety is moving, the scene that meant the most to me was at a veterans reunion where Charlie Brown introduced Stigler to two of the crewmen who had been onboard the bomber that Stigler spared. As the four men hugged and cried they were joined by the descendants of the American fliers -- people who owed their lives to the act of generosity and kindness shown by Franz Stigler. Stigler and Brown remained close friends until their deaths, both in 2008.

It took 46 years for Stigler to get an answer to the question that had haunted him for so long. Yes, it was worth it.
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on March 20, 2017
This is a fascinating story and a great anti-war book. I grew up being taught in schools that the United States were the good people in the Second World War. This story, as the American Charles Brown pointed out, revolves around a pilot that was born in Germany instead of someplace else. He was performing his duties in the war just as his American counterpart. Throughout the book, the majority of the story revolves around the character, the honor, the dedication to country of Frank Stigler, the German pilot of the book. Stigler has the incredible compassion to not shoot down an American B-17 returning to England severely damaged after the crew's first bombing sortie. Stigler had lost a brother in the war and could not bring himself to destroy a limping, barely flying B-17 with obviously wounded airmen on board. Stigler's actions, if made known to superiors, would result in a firing squad. The majority of this book is a marvelous behind the scenes look at how Franz Stigler existed in a very desperate country losing the war. It is a scary look at the mismanagement of resources and waste of human lives in Germany during the war. The fact that these two fliers were able to survive the war and reunite years later as extremely close friends is the best happy ending possible. For a book about the best sides of human decency and tremendous character, read this book. Those with knowledge of World War II history, will enjoy the training, tactics, and hazards of flying out of England in heavy bombers as well as the other side flying in ME 109's attempting to stop the destruction of Germany. Sad that thousands of young men, doing the duty fate cast on them, died in service to their respective counties.
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on April 3, 2017
This is the story of Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown, two World War II pilots. Franz was a German fighter pilot. Charlie was an American bomber pilot. Their planes met in an air battle in December 1943, but due to very unusual circumstances, they ended their encounter without having shot each other from the sky. Author Adam Makos researched this remarkable story for over eight years before he published it. I was very impressed with his list of sources at the end of his book.

Although Mr. Makos tells the story of both men, most of the book concentrates on Stigler, describing his youth, his desire to be a pilot, his incredible skills and bravery, his attempt to deal with the horrors of war, and ultimately, his disillusionment with Germany's path in the war. Neither Stigler nor his family were members of the Nazi Party, but as a military man, Stigler followed orders and did what he thought necessary to protect his homeland from British and American bombing raids. After the war ended, he found himself scorned by fellow Germans, who had been misled by German wartime propaganda to believe that their own pilots were not trying hard enough to beat The Allies.

The human interest factor about the December battle and the two enemies' attempts to find each other over 40 years after the war ended is fascinating and poignant, especially as it would become a reunion of two people who never knew each other's names.

Aircraft fans should be quite interested in the very thorough description of the various WWII era planes. I found myself skimming over those parts to concentrate on the human interactions and the stark realities of war.

This is an enlightening nonfiction read. Prepare yourself for some very disheartening, gruesome descriptions of the personal consequences and sacrifices made by the pilots.
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on December 3, 2014
I just finished this at 1 AM and vowed to write an immediate review. See, I don't stay up til 1 AM for ANYTHING.

This book is essentially a narrative of two men in a difficult world, just living day-to-day until it is over. Both start from the point of view that as military fliers, they were initially somewhat removed from the daily death and destruction that is wrought of their jobs because they didn't see the faces of those who died from their missions. This distance, though, quickly disappeared as the human toll of their missions became more glaring.

Can any of you imagine that you'd be forced into a job where it is kill-or-be-killed on a daily basis? That is what war does and in this case, the people of Germany had no real choice in the matter. Using hate and bigotry, a vicious political minority set the country on a path of destruction that they never deserved. They were deliberately kept ignorant and fearful by the propaganda machine that knows that an ignorant and frightened populace is more easily controlled. (And remember, this is an important point today in this country.) The German people were every bit as victimized as those of other countries invaded by their dictator. And this dictator brought about great hardship and death and destruction to the country the German citizens loved. This simple fact comes forth, over and over again in this story and should be a lesson to all who prejudge others.

This book is well written and meticulously detailed to show the daily life of Hanz Stiegler as he struggled with his place in this mess. Of course, Charlie Smith and his crew's experience and struggles are also well detailed, but I think many Americans have at least a passing knowledge of the American experience in all of this. The German experience? Not so much.

I would hope that this book will be read by many more, but more importantly, that many will take lessons from it and step back to review their own lives and prejudices and how they're influenced by propaganda, within the framework of their new 'education'.
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on April 28, 2017
This is an excellent story. At first I was a little put off by the focus on Stigler and all of his missions but as I continued reading I saw that the comprehensive history (of both Stigler and Brown) was necessary to adequately set the stage for everything that followed. The more I read the more entranced I became. I love how it all came together in a wonderful culmination of events at the book's conclusion. It interested me so much I made a point of looking up the videos (which, by the way, if you do this without reading the book first, you'll be cheating yourself of truly understanding the story and its significance.) I love the history, the appreciation I gain for our service men and women and the ultimate humanity (albeit, sadly, along with cruelty and tragedy) that rests in hearts on both sides of war. I appreciate the author's TEMPERED use of offensive language. Descriptions of events pertinent to servicemen and war are well-balanced between accuracy and excessive explicitness. Some people refrain from reading books about WWII because they're afraid of becoming depressed. Not so with this story. Read it and be inspired.
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World War 2 was a vicious, nasty war. In some cases, no quarter. Whether American, Japanese, German, Russian. You surrendered? Don't depend on surviving. This book is about the other end of the spectrum--an unusual act of mercy and magnanimity by a German fighter pilot against a crippled and nearly helpless American B-17 bomber. That story itself would seem to require considerable narrative.

However, the actual encounter between the German pilot, Franz Stigler, and the American plane, piloted by Charlie Brown, takes only a few pages to retell (pages 198-209).

What makes this especially powerful is the discussion of Stigler's career up to that point, in December of 1943, in which he had been a very effective German ace--but also suffering the loss of family and friends and fellow pilots. This could have made a person callous and looking for vengeance. So, even though Stigler's story and, to a lesser extent, the Americans' story takes up the first 200 pages, it seems necessary to the book's narrative, to set the stage for the extraordinary encounter, in which the German pilot gives the Americans a chance to survive.

For the next 140 pages, the story of Stigler's and the Americans' role in the war continued, giving depth to the characters, until the war ended for all of the actors from the drama in December, 1943.

Then, the story of their lives--Brown's and Stigler's--after war's end. Then, the improbably story of their meeting long after war's end and in their later years.

A truly uplifting story of one small index of humanity in a war featuring much inhumanity.
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on July 12, 2017
This is an amazing book, particularly because the author swore he would never write a book that romanticized any German war effort. But what he found during his research changed his mind and will give the reader a new appreciation for soldiers of any nation that are ordered to fight a war they do not agree with. Of particular note is the fact that the German Air Force deliberately remained separate from the Nazi Party and no pilots in the German Air Force were Nazis. In fact, many of the German pilots in this books went on to illustrious careers in the re-formed German Air Force as part of NATO.

One episode in the book makes this point crystal clear. A German pilot and commander, Col. Hannes Trautloft, hears rumors that American pilots are being held prisoner in the Buchenwald concentration camp by the SS. This was in direct conflict with German Air Force rules that pilots were to be held at P.O.W. camps overseen by the Luftwaffe and operated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. While ostensibly examining bomb damage at a nearby factory, Col. Trautloft went to Buchenwald and, once the prisoners had identified themselves to him, forced the SS to release all 168 airmen to his custody for transfer to a proper P.O.W. camp. These airmen were days away from being executed. This episode is corroborated in the History Channel movie "Shot from the Sky" (highly recommended watching) chronicling the plight of pilot Roy Allen and the crew of his B-17. In fact, I had just watched the movie a few weeks before reading this book and was stunned by the coincidence.

Our recent history is littered with conflicts that the American government and the American people were at odds over (Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, etc.). I don't want to get political in this review, but aside from the story of one man's compassion towards another, there is a deeper story here of men fighting for their country and not a party or ideology. Please read ASAP!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon September 9, 2015
Makos gets at what it was like to be a member of a WWII US Army Air Corps B17 bomber crew member in "A Higher Call".

The highlighted story is about a badly damaged B17 and its crew on its first mission. When it tried to make it back to England a German fighter pilot swooped down on it and soon realized that it was badly if not mortally crippled. Instead of shooting it down the fighter escorted the bomber over the heavily defended coast thus sparing the bomber from having to run a gauntlet of deadly flack. Why did he do it? Why not just shoot down he bomber and claim another air victory? This is the focus of this book.

Of course the book is about much more than this one encounter, it's about war, horror, battle, death, life, duty, and honor.

While not as compelling a tale as his more recent book "Devotion" Makos does a fine job of capturing what it may have been like to be a German fighter pilot and what it was like to be a bomber pilot.

The telling seemed less focused, er, a bit more diffuse than in "Devotion" and I had to wait and wonder when he was going to get to the main tale. Then once I got there it seemed somewhat like a marginal note than a center piece. That was OK, it played an important role in the big picture.

All in all this was a good read, but not a great one.

4 solid stars
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