a review by Edd Doerr
A Higher Call, by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander (Berkley Caliber, 2012, 392 pp, $26.98)
Many years ago there was a delightful French comedy called "Fan-Fan le Tulip" with Gerard Phillippe. It opens with scenes of 17th century military mayhem with the narrator gravely intoning, "War, the only sport of kings in which the common man is allowed to participate." Yes, war is hell, and it always involves ordinary people. So let me recommend this new book, a true story about two rather ordinary young guys caught up in war, an American B-17 pilot from West Virginia and a slightly older German Bf-109 pilot who meet in the skies over northern Germany on December 20, 1943, and again many years after the war.
I won't leak the details of this fascinating story -- that would spoil it for the reader -- but will say that it is history written not about generals and international politics and grand strategies but about the real experiences of individual guys on the ground, or in the skies, who do the actual shooting. It goes beyond old stereotypes to not often discussed realities.
In a way this story reminds me of the recent British/French/German film about the 1914 Christmas truce on the Western Front and the recent American film, "A Midnight Clear", about a small-scale American/German encounter (presumably fictional) exactly 40 years later in a forest in Belgium. Both films are eloquently anti-war. And the Makos book reminds me of a German 1950s era film, "Der Stern von Afrika" ("The Star of Africa") about German Afrika Korps Bf-109 ace Hans Marseille, who appears in this book, which backs the film that at the time I wrongly considered too Hollywoodish.