Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Morning, Coffee & a Book. "A Higher Call"

A Higher Call by Adam Makos
A war story from World War II about American B-17 pilot Charlie Brown and his crew and German Bf 109 Pilot Franz Stigler.

I heard about this book last year while I was Christmas Shopping.  I was in the Barnes and Noble in Merchant's Square shopping for presents and I overheard a gentleman trying to describe this book to one of the salespeople.  The story the gentleman was describing was interesting, a World War II American bomber, in German air space was badly hit and a German Fighter plane came to finish them off, and instead escorted them out of Germany.  Eventually the salesperson was able to track down the title and order the book and I thanked the gentleman for allowing me to butt into his conversation and I went home and Googled "A Higher Call."  There is the Amazon listing of course, and an article in CNN and so I decided to purchase the book for my brother, currently a pilot in the US Air Force.  When the package arrived Thalia, our puppy, tore it open and ripped the cover of the book.  So now it is my book and I finally got around to reading it.

I loved it.
I loved it so much that I declined a social function so that I could finish it.
I believe it is the author's first book and so there a few spots that are not as smooth as they might be.  But the amount of time that must have gone into capturing the pilots' stories, and verify dates, and tracking down facts... well a lot went into this book.

I loved it because the author allowed the men to be human, he didn't glorify them or their lives although did share fun stories that rounded them out as people.  I loved it because he included other people, a mention of an American WASP who Charlie met but didn't keep in touch with just to fill in what kind of guy Charlie was. A story about the boys having a little too much and get into trouble with local authorities.

I enjoyed the insight the book offered regarding Germany, the military being non political, the church taking a stand against the policies of Hitler, the spies within the armed forces forces placed to find those disloyal to the Nazi Party, from the perspective of a German who fought for his country but disagreed with his country's policies.  I think there may be many in armed forces around the world who can relate to that.

But what I most enjoyed was hearing Franz's story.  About flying in Algeria. About looking for enemy pilots and crews after he'd shot them down so he could get them to safety.  Franz makes it sound as though it was common practice among the German pilots to check to be sure enemies were in military hands once they were shot down. Once the fighting was over Germany the bombings against Germany were devastating, the civilians were angry and the pilots did not want them to take matters into their own hands.  In addition there was a difference between the military and the SS.  The pilots wanted to be sure any POWs were in the hands of the military and not the SS.  And then after the war was over, to hear how Franz was treated by his own countrymen.  Because the pilots were despised in Germany after the war and blamed for letting the bombers through.  But by then the planes were in poor shape, there were too few pilots, but of course the country needs someone to blame.  So finally, he left the country he fought for and moved to Canada.  And there, late in life, he was able to get in touch with the bomber pilot, Charlie Brown, that he escorted to safety.  Isn't that an amazing story?

And I would love for more people to read it.  I'd love for it to become a movie, because it is about staying human.  It is about honor.  It is about mercy.  It is a story about not becoming an animal amidst circumstances I cannot image.  It is a story that I feel is needed by our young people shooting zombies on their xboxes and completely missing the point.

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