Four days before Christmas in 1943, a badly damaged American
bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a twenty-one-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 with 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—Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a
former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17—and the German—Second
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 one thousand bombers, each with eleven guns, waiting for his
Ultimately, Charlie and Franz would stare across the
frozen skies at one another. What happened between them, the American Eighth
Air Force would later classify as top secret. It was an act that Franz could
never mention without facing 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.
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