|Adam Makos grew up fascinated by his grandfather's World War II stories as a crewman on a B-17 bomber. As he matured, his airplane hobbies turned into a vocation as reflected in the magazine he established with friends dedicated to "preserving the sacrifices of America's veterans."
They spent their free time in school interviewing WWII veterans, and after college worked for their magazine full-time. Makos had heard stories of a US bomber pilot Charlie Brown and when finally located, he contacted him for an interview. Although Brown"s bomber had been "shot to pieces" Makos had heard there was a twist to the story. Brown told him that he would consent to an interview but that prior to that, Makos had to talk with Franz Stigler a German pilot who "is the real hero."
Trying to overcome his antipathy for German pilots, he traveled to Vancouver to interview Stigler. This was the beginning of four years of interviews with Charlie and Franz and four years of research.
The extraordinary true story begins in 1927 in southern Germany with the story of Franz Stigler, a young boy passionate about flying. Franz's career is traced through commercial flying - flight instructorship - and the German Air Force, including the battles fought in Egypt and Sicily -up to mid-August of 1943.
The author then abruptly switches to the life of Charlie Brown, a West Virginia native who, although only twenty years old, was a second lieutenant and a new pilot. He traces Brown"s career and that of his bomber"s crew to their duty station in England in 1943. The focus of the book takes place several months later on December 20, 1943.
On that date Charlie and crew were part of a massive bombing strike aimed at Bremen, Germany. Before arriving there, his B-17 plane was badly damaged by attacking German fighters, separated from the squadron, and barely able to fly as they were trying to limp home to England. At their weakest, they encountered a Bf German Fighter. What transpired on that day, and how the story ultimately played out, to quote the author "may well be one of the most remarkable stories in the history of warfare."
The story is a well written, compelling read although it is one told by a single voice, with the singular purpose of describing an historical event set within a dramatic and graphically gruesome period of time.
In addition to spoon feeding the reader with documented historical facts peppered with personalities we have all come to know, the author has accomplished the feat of humanizing men who were sworn enemies, although not of their own choosing. Even so - to quote the author: "It's a story I never wanted to tell."