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A one-on-one interview with the author of the book A Higher Call.
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Model Aviation had the opportunity to talk with Adam Makos about his book, A Higher Call. The book is described as an incredible true story of combat and chivalry in the war-torn skies of World War II. Here is our conversation with Adam.

MA: In your introduction to A Higher Call, you mention that your grandfathers were veterans. Did you ever consider joining the military?

Adam: You bet. One of my grandfathers flew aboard air-sea rescue B-17s and the other was a Marine—they were my heroes and I considered following in their footsteps. My boyhood dream was to fly F-15s or Cobra helicopters.

Then in high school I discovered a passion—to record veterans’ stories before they’re lost to history. So, I became a journalist and have interviewed hundreds of vets, from Dick Winters to the forgotten hero next door. Of all the stories, none captivated me like that of Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown.

Adam Makos, photo by Peter Semanoff.

MA: How did you come to learn about the story of Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler that is the focus of the book?

Adam: During our interviews, WWII veterans would ask, “Do you know the story of the German fighter pilot who let the American B-17 escape?” I didn’t, but became curious. So I tracked down the American B-17 pilot, Charlie Brown. When I called him, Charlie threw me for a loop. He said I couldn’t interview him until I first talked with his “older brother,” the German fighter pilot, Franz Stigler.

Charlie called Franz his older brother and meant it. “In this story,” Charlie told me, “I’m just a character—Franz Stigler is the real hero.”The next week I was on a plane to meet and interview Franz. I knew what Franz had done but I had to figure out why he had done it? How did he become the kind of man who would spare his enemy? And what happened to him afterward?

MA: You mention in the introduction that you previously had no interest in hearing or sharing the stories of German and Japanese veterans. How has the story of A Higher Call and your experience with Franz Stigler changed your viewpoint?

Adam: I became very close with the veterans I interviewed and their stories. The reality that so many of our boys never came home—young men who should have been at baseball games and Boy Scout campouts and dances, not dying in a world war—it tore me up. I blamed the enemy for this. But the old WWII airmen felt differently.

The old American pilots who had fought against the German pilots seldom harbored hatred. They believed the majority of German pilots fought by a code of honor. After the war, some American vets even went back to the places where they had crashed to reunite with the German pilots who had shot them down.

When I met my first “enemy” pilot, Franz, I saw what our veterans had told me—the enemy could be good men, too. If Franz had been born in America or Canada or England he would have been a hero of WWII. But he wasn’t. In a way, he was a victim—born at the wrong time, on the wrong side.

MA: Could you tell us a little about Valor Studios and its mission?

Adam: Valor Studios is dedicated to teaming up with WWII veterans to take the people of today, back in time. We create paintings of WWII, windows into the past. We film veterans on their return to battlefields so viewers can virtually travel with them. And we write books like A HIGHER CALL, a 390 page time machine to give readers a glimpse of the past.

MA: You have spent more than half of your life documenting and sharing veterans’ stories. Looking back over that time, what would you say you are most proud of?

Adam: I’ve worked on A HIGHER CALL for a long time, since 2004, so I’m most proud to see how excited people are to read the book. The publisher had to double the print run. And this Youtube video that we made is telling. When Franz and Charlie reunited in 1990, a veteran named Joe Jackson filmed their emotional visit. We posted that footage on Youtube and it has 80,000 views in three weeks and is gaining 20,000 new viewers a week!

YouTube video by ValorArtStudios featuring Franz Stigler and Charlie Brown's first meeting.

In a way, A HIGHER CALL has become the hot item this Christmas, not thanks to me. Charlie and Franz lived it, I just wrote it. Now we need to keep their legacy alive. Their message is powerful, that enemies can be brothers. I'm proud to say, “Please give this book a try, give it as a Christmas present to a loved one or to yourself!” Charlie and Franz were great men and we must not let their memory fade. Our world needs stories like this, now, more than ever.

A Higher Call book jacket.


I am an avid reader of WWII history. I love to read of the bravery and of the sacrifice of all who helped others at this tragic time. I pray that I may be the brave person, myself. I became a nurse and feel I have at least done some good for others. This book needs to be made into a movie. It is excellent. I am so glad that the pilots got to meet each other. There is still good in the world.

This book needs to be widely read to show that not all Germans are Nazis. It needs to be translated into German.

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