An inspiring dual biography of two World War II airmen against the background of the European air war.
In 1943, a severely damaged B-17, returning from a mission over Germany, was intercepted by a Messerschmitt fighter. Instead of finishing off the crippled bomber, the German pilot guided it toward the Channel and sent it on its way to England. Both pilots were still living 60 years later when Makos, editor of the military journal Valor, discovered the story. That single encounter was too short for a book, but Makos and military writer Alexander (Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers, 2005) bring together the stories of the pilots. Franz Stigler was a deeply religious Catholic who loved flying. Already a commercial pilot, he was drafted into the Luftwaffe at the beginning of the war. He served grueling tours in Africa, Italy and Germany, becoming a fighter ace and flying the first jet while watching most of his comrades die as massive bomber formations devastated his nation. Charlie Brown was a West Virginia farm boy who moved from the peacetime National Guard to the Army to the controls of a B-17. Many of his friends died, as well. Serious military buffs may wrinkle their noses at the energetically nonpartisan tone—all the Luftwaffe pilots hated the Nazis; the American airmen were quirky but brave—and there is too much invented dialogue.
Despite excesses of enthusiasm, massive research and extensive interviews combine in a vividly detailed account of German fighter operations in Western Europe and the training and blooding of an American bomber crew.