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!
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.
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
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.
on December 19, 2012
I was first made aware of A Higher Call through Valor Studios (a Makos Family endeavor) depicting the incident involving Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler in a beautiful World War II portrait created by artist John D. Shaw. The story behind the portrait captivated me, and I wanted to know more about it. My thoughts at the time were, "Someone should write a book about this!" Well, thanks to Adam Makos and Larry Alexander, we now know the whole story. And a fascinating story it is!
Like many Americans, I was brought up to believe that all German soldiers were Nazis, and that all German soldiers had a roll in the concentration camps. As I grew older, and read more about World War II, I realized that this was simply not the case, especially in regards to the typical German soldier (except in certain cases, i.e. the SS, etc.). Mr. Makos makes this point very clearly in the Intro to the book, a point which I think makes a great Intro into the book. I believe this will resonate with many readers.
I finished the book as quickly as I could (as time would allow). I simply had a hard time putting it down! The book is engagingly written, and transitions well from chapter to chapter. I especially enjoyed the background material regarding the Luftwaffe and the famous, but short-lived JV-44. Mr. Makos covered every anticipated question I had regarding the incident behind A Higher Call, and I cannot praise the book enough!
The reader will be richly rewarded for reading the book to the end! Hollywood could not create a script with more drama and pathos as this true story contains. It simply has to be read to be believed!
BUY THIS BOOK...YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!
on December 21, 2012
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, to safety. And, neither pilot ever forgot their encounter with the enemy. 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 has a happy ending.
on December 29, 2012
I'm a big fan of stories about WWII and military aviation. Most entertain and inspire with tales of dogfights and close encounters with the dangers inherent in combat and struggles to stay airborne or make it home with severely damaged aircraft. 'A Higher Call' includes all of that; but, it is the human side of the story that makes it different. By the time we get to the actual encounter between Charlie and Franz we are fully invested in both of their personal stories and rooting for both of them. You would think the story would end at that point; but, the real story is how Franz and Charlie found each other years later. This is a great read; and gives new meaning to the word "Honor".
on December 28, 2012
For years the reason for War has haunted me. Only a child when the 2nd World War came to us in the United States, I wondered why, who, what would lead a country into a World War? For years I searched for answers,then I stumbled on a review of this book which gripped my throat! Yes, the story gripped my throat, I choked up...here was a true story of human thoughts and emotions better than our best writers can conjure up. The German side and the American side is laid out before our eyes, as the crippled bomber with a severely injured crewman tries to fly across "The Wall". Heaven had to be instrumental to allow this severely damaged plane to keep flying. As the wounded plane approaches the heavily fortified coast of Germany to begin its dash back to England, a German fighter appears and rides it's wing. An incredible act of human kindness and bravery, it still brings tears to my eyes as I write this. I learned of scenes I could never imagine , that we flew missions with as many as 500 and then 1000 bombers, with a team of defensive fighters met by 400 fighters as we approached Germany! Wow, I had no idea...there is so much to this story, I could not put the book down, my eyes where fighting me as sleep finally overcame my excitement. Guaranteed the read of the year, it has to be a movie! I learned most of all that not everyone wanted war, and that a country had spun out of control, leading everyone to disaster!
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.
on December 28, 2012
I heard about A Higher Call on NPR the other day so I decided to give it a go because I loved Unbroken and stories of good people preserving when the world seems against them. I never expected what I stumbled into. This book is the next Unbroken. It's the next epic WWII story.
The stars of A Higher Call aren't the airplanes. They're the heroes who happen to fly these remarkable machines. There's a hero for everyone: obviously Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler! Every review has covered them but what about Ecky Eckenrode? Nobody talks about him.
He's Charlie's little, quiet tail gunner who went around asking his buddies before the big mission to see if they'd give him their standard-issue candy bars. The next day was the bomb group's Christmas party for the English children of the neighboring village and he wanted to give them chocolate as presents. You love Ecky, I did at least.
What about Marjorie Ketcham, the WASP pilot who falls in love with Charlie and him with her? She's described in this book so beautifully you can sense her 40s charm and elegance.
How about Marseille, the 22 year old ace who is a playboy and jokester/trouble maker who welcome Franz into his dent in the African dessert and pours him a glass of cognac then teaches Franz that they only must answer to God and their comrades, another reason to live and fight with honor?
This book has something special: deep characters and deep drama. It all adds up to the kind of book you will read 2 or 3 times. Then you'll go see the movie which will follow in a year or two (It must!). Weakness wise I'd say the worst thing about A Higher Call is that eventually you get to the last page, a feeling you dread as the pages become lesser and lesser. I loved this book. I'm going to read it again. However, first things first, I had to write this review!