Perhaps one of the best reads this year is “A Higher Call.” This is not just a true story it is so remarkable and captivating, it is hard to take a break or put aside.
It doesn’t matter if you have interest in war, history or who did what to whom. This incredible recount of two opposing pilots during World War II touches the heart of every reader.
The two authors, Adam Makos and Larry Alexander, capture the times, feelings, commitment and actions, demonstrating that in the midst of battle, the heart of humanity can be expressed in strange ways.
The impeccable research, descriptions and detail put you in the pilot’s seat of both sides. They spring forth with colored detail unlocking the personalities of German air ace Franz Stigler and a 20-year-old Allied pilot named Charlie Brown. (Yes, his real name).
Brown was on his first ever combat mission doing a bombing run over France. His bomber was brutally riddled by German fighters and began losing altitude. Several of his crew members were killed and others injured. Parts of his plane were missing having been shot off by enemy fighters. Only a third of his stabilizer remained, making navigation nearly impossible. A gaping hole in the right side of his plane revealed survivors attending to the seriously wounded. Brown’s front gun turret had been shot our creating such drag on his flight that maintaining 200 MPH was difficult.
Brown realized his chances of returning to England and safety was slipping fast. He thought he could keep his bomber airborne, however he was approaching the French coast where German anti-aircraft batteries were heavily fortified and would surely finish him off.
What could he do? His altimeter read only 2000 feet. Surely this was the end.
As if he didn’t have enough problems trying to stay in the air, he wasn’t prepared for what he was about to experience.
Thousands of feet above him a German fighter, piloted by highly decorated air ace Franz Stigler, was doing clean up and looking for stray and wounded bombers. As he did a roll and dive, Stigler couldn’t believe what he saw far below him. There it was, an American bomber limping toward the coast that he could finish off.
Stigler dived, putting the bomber in his sights and then stopped himself. He could not believe what he saw. A four-engine bomber, with only three engines working, the stabilizer nearly gone, a gaping hole in the side and the entire plane riddled from prior attacks.
He flew alongside the bomber, signaled to Brown and flew in formation with him over the French coast at 2000 feet and out to the ocean. The many German guns remained silent.
Upon reaching a safe point off-shore, Stigler saluted the American pilot and returned to his base in France. Brown flew on for nearly three hours crossing to England with only 200 feet of altitude as he crossed land and put down at the nearest airport available.
Fifty years later, both Stigler and Brown met in person.
This is only one chapter in a riveting true story of courage and compassion.