The riveting history of the American Eighth Air Force in World War Two, the story of the young men who flew the bombers that helped bring Nazi Germany to its knees, brilliantly told by historian Donald Miller and soon to be a major HBO series.
Masters of the Air is the deeply personal story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. With the narrative power of fiction, Donald Miller takes you on a harrowing ride through the fire-filled skies over Berlin, Hanover, and Dresden and describes the terrible cost of bombing for the German people.
Fighting at 25,000 feet in thin, freezing air that no warriors had ever encountered before, bomber crews battled new kinds of assaults on body and mind. Air combat was deadly but intermittent: periods of inactivity and anxiety were followed by short bursts of fire and fear. Unlike infantrymen, bomber boys slept on clean sheets, drank beer in local pubs, and danced to the swing music of Glenn Miller’s Air Force band, which toured US air bases in England. But they had a much greater chance of dying than ground soldiers.
The bomber crews were an elite group of warriors who were a microcosm of America—white America, anyway. The actor Jimmy Stewart was a bomber boy, and so was the “King of Hollywood,” Clark Gable. And the air war was filmed by Oscar-winning director William Wyler and covered by reporters like Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite, all of whom flew combat missions with the men. The Anglo-American bombing campaign against Nazi Germany was the longest military campaign of World War II, a war within a war. Until Allied soldiers crossed into Germany in the final months of the war, it was the only battle fought inside the German homeland.
Masters of the Air is a story of life in wartime England and in the German prison camps, where tens of thousands of airmen spent part of the war. It ends with a vivid description of the grisly hunger marches captured airmen were forced to make near the end of the war through the country their bombs destroyed.
Drawn from recent interviews, oral histories, and American, British, German, and other archives, Masters of the Air is an authoritative, deeply moving account of the world’s first and only bomber war.
Historian Miller (D-Days in the Pacific) chronicles the story of the U.S. Eighth Air Force in this sprawling, authoritative narrative of the "largest aerial striking force in the war." The Eighth arrived in England in 1942 to engage in "a new kind of warfare": unescorted "high-altitude strategic bombing." In addition to destroying Germany's war-making capacity, the Eighth hoped to validate its "extravagant claim that air power alone would bring down the Reich" and to win autonomy for the air force. As Miller demonstrates, the "hubris of the bomber barons" was misplaced, and the "record of the Eighth Air Force is mixed." Not only did victory require boots on the ground but the air war became a bloody "war of attrition." The Eighth suffered 26,000 combat deaths, a 12.3% fatality rate topped only by submarine crews. Drawing on exhaustive research in oral histories, diaries and government documents, Miller evenhandedly recounts the Eighth's successes and failures, emphasizing the stoic heroism of the crews who flew the missions. That diverse lot included celebrities like the actors Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable and anonymous fliers like 21-year-old Lt. Chuck Yeager. This eloquent tribute to America's bomber boys should prove popular among fans of military history.