Two Heroes in "A Higher Calling"

Discussion in 'Hero and Jerk of the Day' started by xcel, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    70 years ago just four days before Christmas 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-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 in 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—2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a former farm boy from West Virginia who came to captain a B-17—and the German—2nd 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 1,000 bombers each with eleven guns, waiting for his attack.

    Ultimately, Charlie and Franz would stare across the frozen skies at one another. What happened between them, the American 8th Air Force would later classify as “top secret.” It was an act that Franz could never mention or else face 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.


    70 years ago, one of World War II's most incredible moments took place...

    As German fighter ace Franz Stigler approached the badly damaged American B-17 he took his finger off the trigger. “My God, how are you still flying?” Franz thought.

    Inside the bomber’s cockpit, the 21-year-old rookie American pilot, Charlie Brown, was thinking the same thing.

    An air battle had shredded his B-17. When Charlie leaned forward to check an engine on his right wing, a sight made his heart skip. There, three feet from his wingtip flew a gray German Bf-109 fighter. Charlie closed his eyes then opened them but the German was still there.

    "He’s going to destroy us," Charlie concluded. But instead, Franz Stigler did something incredible—he nodded to Charlie.

    In the presence of his enemy, Franz had changed. He had only become a fighter pilot to avenge his brother, a pilot killed early in the war. But there, alongside the defenseless B-17, Franz decided to break the cycle of violence, to spare the bomber and more—to escort it out of Germany.

    It was a gesture that Charlie Brown would never forget. In his old age, he would search the world for Franz and in 1990 they would reunite, not as former enemies but as brothers separated for 46 years.

    Their story is now told in the international bestselling book, “A Higher Call.”

    Now, on the 70th Anniversary of "the encounter," we honor Charlie Brown and his guardian angel on December 20, 1943, his enemy, Franz Stigler.


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