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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 December 15, 2012
First, I need to let all readers know that I worked on this book, supplying Adam with some of my research and interview materials. When I reviewed the manuscript, he had already created a solid work. The book is completely factual, all parties and events mentioned are depicted as they were, and I knew and interviewed all the persons mentioned with exception to Charlie Brown.

Franz was an excellent pilot, a great man, a humanist, who hated the war and despised the Nazi Party, but loved flying. His Catholic background and his having been exposed to the honorable men he flew with, such as Ludwig Franzisket, Gustav Rodel, Werner Schroer, Johannes Steinhoff, Eduard Neumann, Emil Clade, Friedrich Korner, Adolf Galland, and especially Hans-Joachim Marseille reinforced that sense of chivalry, and code of honor among these airmen that is often overlooked in the post war propaganda and the maelstrom of uneducated bias.

I suggest that this book, which is ironically in competetion with The Star of Africa, written by my wife and I, be read in public schools and by the average American. Even if you are not an aviation or history enthusiast, the human element and drama should be enough to justify your time. What the readers will also learn is that Franz, despite his humanist streak, was not that unusual among the men of the Luftwaffe. His experiences with JG-27 in North Africa, and the exposure he had to the previously mentioned men, especially Marseille, and the impressions left upon him, helped mold his attitude.

I highly recommend this book, and I hope that this work receives all of the positive recognition that it deserves. Franz and Charlie were not unique men, but they were both very fortunate to have crossed paths. Their post war friendship, much like that of Col. Joe Peterburs who shot down Oberleutnant Walter Schuck in his Me-262, is something special. This book points this fact out. Once the guns fall silent, the professional warriors set aside their differences. That is what Edu Neuman called the ingredient "that separates us from the animals." Highly recommended as a History and Military Book Club selection.
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on December 20, 2012
A Higher Call by Adam Makos: Review by Tom Gauthier
How often do you have trouble reading the last page of an action packed war story because of the blur of tears? First time for me, as I finished Adam Makos new book A Higher Call.
After eight years of painstaking research, Makos has produced a singular piece of work: the true and incredible story of two pilots who locked eyes--and I feel locked souls--across a span of deadly sky over Nazi Germany in 1943, changing the fortunes and the futures of all who were there.
Adam Makos provides us a close-up of the American experience, before during and after this incident. But he also, and in marvelously rich detail, gives us a rare look into the machinations of the Luftwaffe, again, before the war and through to the very end.
.... Engines failed, damage was extensive to flight surfaces, yet under the strong hands of their young pilot, Charlie Brown, the ship remained precariously in the air. Back in the plane's fuselage the crew was bravely caring for each other--some with grievous wounds. As they approached the European coastline, Charlie knew that any moment the coastal flak guns would open up and finish them off.
Suddenly, from behind and below them a FW-109 climbed up from the treetops and began its attack run on the helpless Pub. With all guns frozen the crew could only watch with the resignation of pending death. At the controls of the 109, Franz Stigler, an experienced ace saw the target that would raise his "kill" count. But he didn't kill. I will not herein tell you what transpired in the minds of the American airman or the German pilot. It is something you must read for yourself and let it sink in to your soul, as I did.

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler survived the war. There was no official mention of Stigler's saving Ye Olde Pub in American records. In Germany, he could say nothing and hope no one recognized his plane from the ground--or it would be a firing squad for him.
The story of their meeting decades later and the ability to share the personal feelings of all who were touched by the incident near Christmas 1943 over Germany. Here's where I began to tear up.
Adam Makos has brought us an action packed adventure story. But he has done it through the eyes, souls, fears, and personal travails of both the Germans and the Americans. Yes it's a war story, but more than that it's a warriors' story--humanized but not trivialized like we've never seen before. Vicious and deadly battle could not snuff chivalry and a higher call. It's is so good to be reminded of this through a real life story.
A Higher Call is a must read.

Dr. Tom Gauthier, MBA, Psy.D.
International Award Winning Novelist
Co-host of Military Author Radio
Military Writers' Society of America
U.S. Air Force Veteran
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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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