18 – Adam Makos: Best Selling Author of “A Higher Call”

Adam MakosAdam Makos is a journalist, historian, and author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller, A Higher Call.

In his fifteen years of work in the military field, Makos has interviewed countless veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and present-day wars. He has flown a B-17 bomber and a T-38 fighter with the Air Force, and was one of the few journalists to examine Air Force One with its pilots.

The high point of his work occurred in 2008, when Makos traveled to Iraq to accompany the 101st Airborne and Army Special Forces in their pursuit of Al Qaeda terrorists

I brought Adam on the show because of the tremendous true story he brings to us from his latest book A Higher Call and the ultimate leadership lesson in Moral Courage.

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—Higher Calland 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.

Highlights from this Podcast:

  • Military history is a great study of leadership and leadership principles; combat exposes the extremes of human nature.
  • Moral courage is the ultimate leadership test; are you capable of always doing the right thing – especially when no one is looking.
  • Studying the sacrifices of past generations puts your current situation in its proper perspective.
  • Our present world is so self-absorbed; are we capable of emulating risking everything for doing what is right?
  • Can we do “little things” to make the world better?