Is Masters of the Air based on a book?
As it happens, yes. The series adapts the 2007 Donald L. Miller book Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. It focused on the efforts of American bomber crews in World War II. While Hollywood loved to paint a rosy picture of the action (complete with stars like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable enlisting), the reality was far different.
The book told of the exploits of the bomber crews but also the bloody losses they endured as well as the harrowing experiences of the crews who were shot down and endured months or years in German prisoner-of-war camps, complete with "death marches." Thus, the boys in the air could endure losses even worse than the soldiers on the ground.
Miller conducted numerous interviews with the surviving crews and drew on historical documents to create this bestselling book and serves as a consultant on the series.
What was The Bloody Hundred?
The series puts the focus on the 100th Bomber Group, based out of Suffolk, England. On the one hand, it was one of the most experienced and honored bomber groups in the war, flying over 300 missions with two Distinguished Unit Citations.
However, the group soon earned the nickname "The Bloody Hundred" due to the horrible casualty rate they endured. In the summer and fall of 1943 alone, only four out of 38 co-pilots survived and the Group could lose over a dozen aircraft on a single mission. All told, before the war ended in April of 1945, the 100th lost 177 planes.
The 100th would be revived during the Cold War for reconnaissance missions, and as of 2023, the only surviving member is pilot John Luckadoo, who just celebrated his 101st birthday and is a consultant on the series.
Is this connected to other World War II series?
The series is being promoted as a "companion" to the HBO series Band of Brothers and The Pacific, which also focused on American soldiers in World War II. While the former looked at infantrymen in Europe and the latter in the Pacific realm, this puts the focus on the air. Miller had worked as a consultant on The Pacific to link the two series together further.
Who's behind Masters of the Air?
The big names of the producing team are Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The pair had worked together for the Oscar-winning 1998 hit Saving Private Ryan, drawing on both men's interest in World War II. That led to them joining together to help produce Band of Brothers and The Pacific.
HBO began plans to adapt Masters of the AIr way back in 2013. However, various complications from Spielberg and Hanks' schedules to finding the right producers delayed the project. There was also the high price tag, with reports that the final budget is close to $250 million. HBO finally confirmed in 2019 that they were no longer developing it with Apple TV+ stepping up.
Spielberg and Hanks are still executive producers, with John Shiban and John Orloff handling the writing/showrunning duties. Cary Joji Fukunaga, Dee Rees, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Tim Van Patten handle directing the episodes.
Where was Masters of the Air filmed?
The show was filmed in England, using locations such as Oxford, Dalton Barracks, and Bedford. With many of the small villages looking mostly unchanged since World War II, they could be used for scenes. Filming began in 2021 and was delayed a few times due to the Covid-19 pandemic before wrapping up production in 2022.
Who are the famous faces in Masters of the Air?
World War II buffs will recognize a few of the famous soldiers portrayed in the series. Anthony Boyle is Major Henry Crosby, who flew 32 missions and was honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Nikolai Kinski is Colonel Harold Hughlin, who earned his own accolades for a dangerous mission in 1944. Nate Mann plays Major Robert Rosenthal, one of World War II's most awarded pilots. Other notable pilots include Major Gale Cleven (Austin Butler), Major John Egan (Callum Turner) and Lt. Curtis Biddick (Barry Keoghan).
Notably, the show will also feature some of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black pilot squadron of World War II who protected the bomber crews. They include Wendell O. Pruitt (Francis Lovehall), Alexander Jefferson (Brandan Cook) and Lee "Buddy" Archer (Bradley Benton).
How many episodes are in Masters of the Air?
The series is set for nine episodes, with run times going from 50 minutes to over an hour. With the amazing cast bringing this incredible true story to life, Masters of the Air looks to be the first epic TV show of 2024 and one World War II buffs and drama fans alike can enjoy.
Masters of the Air premieres Friday, Jan, 26, on Apple TV+.