A Higher Call

By Tally One Assistant Editor P. Wilhelm

“A Higher Call” – Copyright John Shaw

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  But to most aviators – weekenders, corporate, military, or commercial – true aviation art is most beautiful when it not only shows the beautiful aviation machines we love, but when there is a true and beautiful story to go along with the painting.  Such it is with “A Higher Call” by John Shaw.

Encountering a mortally-wounded B-17 limping back to England, Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler anticipated an easy kill and another opportunity to avenge his brother’s death at the opening of WWII. As he approached the virtually helpless American plane, however, he saw the faces of the dead and wounded crewmen. Then, Stigler’s eyes met those of pilot Charles Brown. Despite the potentially severe consequences of letting an enemy plane escape, Stigler felt that he had to answer a higher call of honor: mercy.

Expecting the worst at any moment, Brown marveled as the enemy Bf-109 stuck with him to the North Sea. His adversary then saluted and veered away, allowing the astonished Brown to journey safely home. With this encounter engraved into the minds of both pilots for decades after the war’s end, the two men remarkably located one another in 1990. In the years that followed, their friendship developed to the point where Stigler considered Brown to be as precious as the brother he had lost.

The popularity of this painting/print has been astounding.  Currently, the artist John Shaw has a list of over 300 people waiting for a copy of “A Higher Call” and they do not anticipate being able to fill many, if any of them.  But sometimes the popularity of an aviation art print has a way of coming back to life.  If you’re interested in trying the secondary market for a copy of this piece of art, you may send a request through their contact page and they will do their best to find one for you.  If you’re interested in reading more about this inspirational WWII encounter, the book is widely available; “A Higher Call”, by Adam Makos & Larry Alexander.

Tally One recently caught up with Mr. Shaw who informed us he is almost finished with another painting to round out the series.  He told us:

“I’m currently working on the third of three paintings which tell the story of this encounter…kind of working backwards, as “A Higher Call” depicts the moment in which Stigler salutes Brown & crew after providing a safe escort to the German coastline. The second (which you may have seen as well) is “In the Presence of My Enemy”, showing the moment where Brown first notices Stigler flying alongside, on his wing, fearing the worst. The new one will be finished in a few weeks, and depicts Stigler and some ground crew next to his 109, staring in amazement as “Ye Olde Pub” limps overhead, just before he takes off to intercept.”    

We are very much looking forward to the third and final installment of this series!  If you would like to follow the artist, please visit his website at: http://libertystudios.us/

If you own one of Mr. Shaw’s works and would like to tell us how you came to own such a rare work, please drop us a comment or shoot us an email at admin@TallyOne.com.

If there is a piece of aviation art you think is worthy of spotlighting, please let us know!