In Masters of the Air, Apple TV+ takes viewers on a harrowing journey through the fire-filled skies over Europe during World War II. The docuseries, based on museum Trustee Emeritus, Dr. Donald Miller’s book Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, brings to the screen the story of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, the US Army Air Forces unit that played a critical role in the air campaign against Nazi Germany.

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman, the producers of the acclaimed WWII miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific, are teaming up once again to bring audiences a new series about the brave airmen of the 100th Bomb Group. The Mighty Eighth will take viewers on a journey through the highs and lows of WWII as these men risked their lives during some of the most dangerous missions of the war. This series promises to be another powerful exploration of the brotherhood forged by courage, loss, and triumph that is so often seen in times of war. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project.

The museum, the book, and the production

Trustee Emeritus, Dr. Donald Miller, extensively researched for his book at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force and the series promises to be a gripping tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Eighth Air Force. As one of the key players in the air campaign against Nazi Germany, the legacy of the Eighth Air Force is an important part of American history, and the museum is proud to be a part of bringing their story to life on the screen.

The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force also served as a historical resource for the production of Masters of the Air. Dating to 2013, several Eighth veterans were interviewed at the museum for the production; Chief Curator and Director of the Roger A. Freeman Research Center, Dr. Vivian Rogers-Price, consulted on the production; objects from the museum’s permanent collection were used; and the many moving parts (e.g., turrets, flaps and bomb bay doors) of the museum’s fully restored B-17, City of Savannah, were recorded to guarantee authentic, period sounds.


The Story of America’s Bomber Boys

During World War II, bomber crews faced a unique set of challenges as they fought at 25,000 feet in thin, freezing air. They battled new kinds of assaults on both their bodies and minds, experiencing deadly but intermittent air combat. While they enjoyed some comforts, such as clean sheets and local pubs, they had a much greater chance of dying than ground soldiers. In fact, in 1943, an American bomber crewman had only a one-in-five chance of surviving their tour of duty, which consisted of twenty-five missions. Ultimately, the Eighth Air Force lost more men in the war than the entire U.S. Marine Corps.

During World War II, the bomber crews were considered an elite group of warriors. Unfortunately, African-Americans were not allowed to serve in the Eighth Air Force except in a support capacity. Famous actors like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable were part of this group, and the air war was documented by Oscar-winning director William Wyler and 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, and it was a war within a war. This battle was fought inside the German homeland until Allied soldiers crossed into Germany in the final months of the war.

Masters of the Air is a story, as well, 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.