Saved by a Luftwaffe pilot

03:14, Jun 23 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Higher Call
By Adam Makos with Larry Alexander (Atlantic Books)

This is a true story of German honour and chivalry in the skies over Europe during World War II.

On December 20, 1943, a badly damaged American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown staggered across Germany after a bombing run to Bremen.

After taking countless hits from the cannons of German Messerschmidt ME- 109 fighter planes, the bomber, nicknamed Ye Olde Pub, had one dead engine, one running rough and one at half power. Its nose cone had been blown away, its machineguns were frozen and inoperable, the left horizontal tail stabiliser had been shot off to a three-foot stub and its fuselage had so many gaping holes in it that when Luftwaffe fighter ace Franz Stigler flew in to finish off the stricken bomber he could see the crew inside tending to the wounded.

As Ye Olde Pub slowly approached the heavily fortified German coastline with its impenetrable barrage of anti-aircraft guns, Stigler manoeuvred around his crippled enemy, studying its plight with grim fascination.

What he did next amounted to treason against the German war effort and could have led him to the firing squad. Ultimately, his actions saved the lives of the shell-shocked US air crew.

A Higher Call is a gripping story told largely from the German perspective by an American war historian who had grown up believing all Germans were the hated Nazis. This book dispels that myth and glorifies the code of honour and decency instilled into the Luftwaffe's elite fighter pilots by the gallant General Adolf Galland.

Makos reveals that even in the murderous cauldron of war, humanity can be found and enemies can become friends. A thrilling, moving read that will also satisfy purists with its detailed descriptions of combat flight.