A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry In the War Torn Skies of World War II

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A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in War-Torn Skies of World War II
Novel
Original Novel Cover (Low Resolution)
Author
Illustrator
GenreHistorical Novel, Biography
PublisherDutton Caliber
Publication date
6th May 2014
Media typePrint (Hardback, Paperback), CD/Audio book
Pages392
ISBN978-0-4252-5573-5 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in War-Torn Skies of World War II, is a novel written by American historian and journalist Adam Makos and American lawyer and law professor Lawrence A. Alexander. It was published in 2014 by Penguin Group and has been translated into multiple languages[1]. It has also appeared on New York Times best seller’s list [1] and was ranked no. 3 on the Sunday Times best sellers list [1]. The historical novel narrates the missions of American Lieutenant Charlie Brown and German Lieutenant Franz Stigler during WW2. This led to their sole encounter over the Atlantic, "one of the most remarkable stories in the history of warfare " [2]. Forty-six years later [2], they are driven to rediscover each other. A Higher Call provides an invaluable lesson on leadership and care for one’s subordinates [3]. However, the inherent lessons of comradeship and mercy transcend global boundaries.[4]

Background[edit]

See Also: Nazi Germany

See Also: Events preceding World War II in Europe

Setting:[edit]

Social:[edit]

The dictator reign of the Nazi Party enforced harsh rules to ensure compliance and loyalty. All political parties were eradicated and 'common rights' such as freedom in speech and media were heavily monitored.[5]. They also opposed the Catholic Church who hated Hitler and the Gestapo (Secret police) [6]. However, airforce pilots preferred to live by the honour code laid out by WW1 pilots, where a good leader was not measured by victories, but treatment of subordinates.[3] Yet they were blamed for Germany's loss, as they 'did not keep the bombs from falling'[7]. During the war, it was a common fear to be arrested and placed in a POW camp. Most citizens were not aware of its full brutality. Alternatively, the Allies' use of the WASPs, dramatically increased their numbers [8]. However they did not receive the same employment rights, and were considered civil service employees[8]

Legal:[edit]

Throughout the novel, there are references to POW camps, Geneva Convention and targeting of cities and civilians. [3] After WW1, the creation of the Treaty of Versailles led to the dissolution of the air force and disarmament of the army and navy [9]. Germany had to surrender overseas colonies, and pay 132 billion Deutsche Marks (US$400 billion) [10]. Germany fell into deep economic depression, allowing Hitler to rise into power [11]. This succession was successful through strict rules that regulated all facets of life, and using the Schutzstaffel and Gestapo to evoke constant fear.[11]

Military:[edit]

Novel author Adam Makos in a talk with DPRK

Stigler's plane was a Messerschmitt 109 which could fly 400 miles an hour[12]. Brown flew a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, which had maximum bomb loading [12]. In 1935, Hitler defied the Treaty of Versailles and re-established the Luftwaffe (German Airforce) by training new pilots and funding national airline. [10]Throughout the war, the Allies employed many military tactics: the British would launch a strong initial attack, and upon German retreat, would encounter Americans that had cut them from the back[13]. They would also mimic bomb explosions at night, forcing Germans to frantically awake and retreat as a form of psychological warfare.[14]

Novel Construction:[edit]

In his interview, Makos states his first encounter came from working in a self-made aviation company, which allowed him to access veteran stories.[1]. He reached out to Brown who told him he wouldn't be interviewed until Stigler was. However, critics state Makos' personal bias came from pre-conceived notions that all Germans were 'the enemy' [4]. Makos himself had claimed that Germans were "universally evil and beyond redemption"[15]. However, his historical background and experience in WW2 accounts [3] would prove effective with Alexander's biography background, to understand personal experiences within historical context [16]. Makos also extended his interviews to other veterans like “Doc, ” Brown's navigator[17]. He toured bombers bases in England with B-17 pilots, and bunkers in Germany and Austria to convey a realistic story. He also received assistance from German Bundesarchivs, National Archives of England, and U.S. Air Force Agencies in finding documents [17]

Plot Synopsis [18][edit]

The novel opens in Straubing Germany in 1946, with Franz Stigler looking for work post war. It then shifts the reader to Stigler's childhood, revealing his early passion for flying gliders. In 1935, after Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles, Stigler is called into service as a pilot instructor. One pilot he trained was his brother August. However, when August died in a plane crash, he became a fighter pilot. His first post was in a desert in Derna, Libya. When flying his first 'free mission', he learnt from his commander Lieutenant Roedel, that "you fight by rules to keep your humanity". However Roedel was replaced with Voegl, when his plane was hit with shrapnel and crashed. As resources became scarce, men became desperate to score 30 victories ('the magic 30' allowed a pilot to receive the Knight's Cross and return home). Stigler recalled when Voegl had to divide 3 planes among 16 men. One of them went to Stigler, which unwillingly made him part of the 'Voegl Flight'. Over the next few weeks, Voegl and his partner Bendert would claim many victories, which squadron diaries revealed to be untrue. It created dissension with other pilots who accused them of cheating. In August 1942, after they aided the 2nd squadron, Voegl decided to give his rookies target practice by playing 'shoot the shadow' on their way home. However, upon landing, they were reported by the same pilot for engaging in 'mock dogfights'. He believed the Voegl's Flight emptied their ammunition daily and claimed false victories. However, when Roedel returned a month later, he allowed Stigler to return home.The story reopens two months later when Stigler returned and relocated to Squadron 6 in Siscily. His character was tested in April 1943, when Stigler and his partner were interrogated by General Galland on their raid strategy. However Stigler interrupted Galland's admonishment, and argued a frontal attack would be more effective than their current 'tail approach'. Surprisingly, Galland agreed, and they developed a bond sharing similar backstories. From August 1943, Stigler fell back into comfortable routine until his mission in December 20th.

Fine art print by Nicolas Trudgian of Stigler's 109 flying close to Brown's B-17

Then, in Chapter 11, the readers are redirected to a farm in West Virginia from the perspective of Lieutenant Charlie Brown. He was a Methodist with a rough and humble upbringing. After high school, Brown joined the army as a fighter pilot. In December 20 1943, Brown was placed as aircraft commander and given the 'purple heart corner', the most vulnerable spot for attack. Soon, Brown and his men encountered flak gunners. They blew holes in the aircraft's nose, wing and tail, which caused it to lose pressure and a bullet ripped through Charlie's shoulder. The men tried to map a route home along the Atlantic Wall, however realised it was “one of the most heavily defended flak zones”. In this moment, Stigler saw Brown's B-17 and went after it, only to realise their entire stabiliser had been blown away. He stopped in shock and wondered how the aircraft still flew. He noticed through the hole, crewmen caring for their wounded. Full of emotion, Stigler answered to "a higher call". He repositioned his 109 to cover the B-17 and took them through the Atlantic Wall. They thought he would turn them in however he saluted them and left. Miraculously, they are picked up by the 8th Air Force pilots. The crew completed their 28th and final mission on April 11th 1944. The entire time, Brown thought of Stigler and hoped he'd survive the war. Chapter 18 repositions the reader back to Stigler, who by March 1944 had witnessed the death of untrained pilots and decline in German morale. By early January 1945, Stigler heard open talk of treason. They blamed inept leadership and obsession over loyalty for Germany's downfall.

Luetzow called a meeting with Göring, later known as Fighter Pilots' Revolt. He argued for investment in 262 planes for Germany's survival. However, Göring refused, blaming their loss on cowardice. The meeting concluded with Göring threatening death sentences for 'mutiny'. Thus, Galland angrily told his girlfriend "tonight will be the night". Thinking he wished to kill himself, she told authorities. Galland then received a call from the Gestapo, claiming Hitler was furious with Göring. Göring became apologetic and offered him 262 planes and his own squadron. Stigler decided to join, however their resources were limited as Göring had forbidden outside help. Yet, as Germany's loss became inevitable, Galland told Stigler he planned to deliver their JV-44 squadron to the Americans. Stigler decided to leave, and waited out the war in Salzburg. On May 1, Germany surrendered and Stigler is subjected to endless interrogations. He finds post-war work in 1947, fixing sewing machines. He married Eva in 1948 and had a daughter named Jovita but they divorced in 1954. He then worked on the Avro in Canada for the Cold War. Brown retired in Florida with his wife and two daughters. However both men needed closure over their encounter. Brown placed an announcement in Jagerblatt, the official publication of German fighter pilots. The article was read by Stigler who excitedly replied. They met in Seattle on June 21 1990. Brown claimed later on “it was like meeting... a brother you haven’t seen in 40 years”. The reunion circulated in North American, American, Canadian TV stations. Stigler and Brown travelled across North America telling their story, that enemies were better off as friends. They both passed in 2008.

Main Characters [18][edit]

Lt Charlie Brown[edit]

Charlie Brown (left) & Franz Stigler (right)

Lieutenant Charlie Brown was raised as a farmer boy in West Virginia. He graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army Airforces in April 1943. He delivered fighters and bombers until he became a B-17 instructor pilot. In 1992, he received the “Distinguished West Virginia Award,” for his service and research, and a symbolic “Governor’s Medal” in 2001. His most prestigious honour was the Air Force Cross from USAF in February 2008 for his encounter with Stigler[12]. Brown died in November 2008 at 86 years.

Lt Franz Stigler[edit]

Lieutenant Franz Stigler was raised on a pasture in Southern Germany as Roman Catholic and anti-Nazi. At a young age, he was interested in flying gliders [12]. Stigler joined Lufthansa as an airline captain, before joining the Luftwaffe in 1940. He learns from squadron leader Gustav Roedel, "honour is everything" [19]. Stigler served as Commander of squadrons 6, 8, & 12, and twice a Wing Commander flying Bf 109 fighters[12]. He flew 487 combat missions. He received the “Order of the Star of Peace” for his actions on December 20, 1943[12]. Stigler died in March 2008 at 93 years.

Lieutenant Gustav Roedel[edit]

Roedel was a fighter ace and Stigler's first commander in Derna. He taught him key lessons of a fighter's ethics. Although he is persecuted by Göring after the Fighter Pilot's Mutiny, he rejoins Stigler when the JV-44 squadron is formed. They meet once again after the war. He re-entered military service in 1957 for the coming Cold War, but retired in 1971.

General Adolf Galland[edit]

Galland was a general during the war. He encountered Stigler once in which he grew to respect him. However, after the Fighter Pilot's Mutiny, he was exiled by Göring. His interactions with Stigler increased later on when commanding his JV-44 squadron. However he ultimately blames Göring for Germany's loss in the war.

General Hermann Göring[edit]

Göring was the leader of the German Air Force one of the most powerful leaders in Germany alongside Hitler. He is originally responsible for creating the Gestapo. He was often in disagreement with the airforce and blamed their cowardice for Germany's loss. He is responsible for the exile of the fighter pilots, and their reformation under the JV-44 squadron. He was sentenced to death, but committed suicide by cyanide beforehand.

Critical Reception[edit]

Praise:[edit]

USA Today claimed A Higher Call was "a remarkable story... worth retelling and celebrating"[20]. Publisher's Weekly released that it was “a riveting story of humanity and mercy set against the ghastly backdrop of war.” [21]Within published journals, Limos commends the novel's emphasis on uniting 'enemies' and summarises it as "a riveting story"[4]. McConnel reinforces the novel's relevance to historical readers today, through messages of resilience, ethical decision making and retaining one's honour and humanity [19]. Makos has also received praise as a "gifted storyteller" and commended on his vivd imagery, humour and suspenseful language in drawing in the reader and sharing a remarkable story.[3]

Critique:[edit]

Huddleston claims that Makos relies heavily on personal interviews with Stigler and Brown, and thus his sources are limited and biased towards the "imagination of self serving individuals"..[22] Thus, Makos is criticised as a historian, in not being skeptical and challenging inherent biases. Huddleston further argues that since the novel is predominantly written from Stigler's perspective, it discredits the Allies who ended the "rampages of the Third Reich"[22]. Major Steward echoes this and emphasises a lack of citing [3]. She also reviews that the use of asterisks and separating chapters by dates can be confusing and detract from the experience[3]

See Also[edit]

  • Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident
  • Franz Stigler
  • Nazi Germany
  • British Empire in World War II

External Links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Rathburn, Guy (2014). "Ideasphere: A Platform For Today's Voices". Beta PRX. Retrieved 2020-01-28. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alexander & Makos, Larry & Adam (2014). A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II. New York: Penguin Group. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-4252-5573-5. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Steward, Marcia Reyes (2014). "A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II". The Army Lawyer. 44: 20–23 – via Hien Online.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Limos, Justin (2014). "A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II". Air Force Comptroller. 47: 13 – via ProQuest.
  5. "Inside Nazi Germany". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. December 30, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. Conway, John. S (1997). The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-1945. Vancouver, Canada: Regent College Publishing. pp. 171, 173. ISBN 1553610318. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  7. Werrell, Kenneth. P (December 1986). "The Strategic Bombing of Germany in World War II: Costs and Accomplishments". The Journal of American History. 73 (3): 711, 712. doi:10.2307/1902984. JSTOR 1902984.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "American Women in World War II". HISTORY. March 5, 2010. Retrieved February 18, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. Baldwin & Förster, Faith & Stig (1998). The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 73, 84. ISBN 9780521621328. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Treaty of Versailles". HISTORY. October 29, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Alexander & Makos, Larry & Adam (2014). A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry In the War Torn Skies of World War II. New York: Penguin Group. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-4252-5573-5. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 "A Higher Call". Valor Studios. Retrieved 2020-01-30. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  13. Alexander & Makos, Larry & Adam (2014). A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in War-Torn Skies of World War II. New York: Penguin Group. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-4252-5573-5. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  14. Lerner & Crossman, Daniel & Richard H.S. (1949). Sykewar: Psychological Warfare Against Germany, D-Day to VE-Day. New York: George W. Stewart, Publisher Inc. p. 282. ISBN 978-0262620192. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  15. Alexander & Makos, Larry & Adam (2014). A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in War-Torn Skies of World War II. New York: Penguin Group. p. 2. ISBN 9780425255735. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  16. Huddleston, Richard (2014). "A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II". Air Power History. 62: 53–54 – via Gale Academic OneFile.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Alexander & Makos, Larry & Adam (2014). A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II. New York: Penguin Group. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-4252-5573-5. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  18. 18.0 18.1 Alexander & Makos, Larry & Adam (2014). A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II. 2012: Penguin Group. ISBN 9780425255735. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  19. 19.0 19.1 McConnell, Richard A. (2014). "A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II". Air Power History. 61: 55 – via ProQuest.
  20. Rennell, Tony (2013-07-20). "A stricken Allied bomber, the German ace sent to shoot it down and a truly awe inspiring story of wartime chivalry". Daily Mail Australia. Retrieved 2020-02-10. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  21. "NonFiction Reviews". Publisher's Weekly. 2012. Retrieved 2020-02-10. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  22. 22.0 22.1 Huddleston, Robert (2015). "A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II". Air Power History. 62: 53 – via ProQuest.


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