• Follow

Support the Amazing War Stories mission

  • Listen
New Series Live

The latest season of Amazing War Stories is now live. Using the latest 3D audio technology we tell inspiring true stories each taken from the museums we support

Listen Now

The Amazing War Stories Book Club Recommendation

As many of you know, Apple TV’s Masters of the Air is now out – it follows the exploits of the “Bloody Hundredth” Bomber Group, part of the Mighty Eighth American Army Airforce during the Second World War. The series is in the large part excellent, but if you wan the real low down, you must read the book on which it was based written by Donald L Miller. He’s a wonderful historian, and has written several books on the war, including another favourite of mine “The Story of World War 2”. Of course, being an American, Miller focuses mainly on his nation’s efforts in the war, but regardless of that, he writes compassionately and with a deep knowledge of the subject matter.

One element that really stands out in each of his books, (his other book on the Second World War is “D-Days in the Pacific”, which in turn was turned into HBO’s The Pacific) is his meticulous research. “Masters of the Air” is a rip roaring read and it captures the reality of flying with a Bomber Group perfectly. One of my favourite passages shows that even in the horror of war there are some incredibly funny moments – here it is:

On the morning of October 8, 1943, an hour of so before Johnny Egan stepped on the train that brought him to London on his first leave from Thorpe Abbotts, Buck Cleven took off for Bremen and didn’t return. Three Luftwaffe fighters flew out of the sun and tore into his Fortress, knocking out three engines, blowing holes in the tail and nose, sheering off a good part of the left wing, and setting the cockpit on fire. The situation hopeless, Cleven ordered the crew to jump. He was the last man out of the plane. When he jumped, the bomber was only about 2,000 feet from the ground. This was at 3:15 P.M., about the time Johnny Egan would have been checking into his London hotel. Hanging from his parachute, Cleven saw he was going to land near a small farmhouse “and faster than I wanted to.”

Swinging in his chute to avoid the house, he spun out of control and went flying through the open back door and into the kitchen, knocking over furniture and a small iron stove. The farmer’s wife and daughter began screaming hysterically, and in a flash, the farmer had a pitchfork pressed against Cleven’s chest. “In my pitiful high school German, I tried to convince him I was a good guy. He wasn’t buying it.” That night, some of the men in Cleven’s squadron who had survived the Bremen mission walked to a village pub and got extravagantly drunk. “None of them could believe he was gone,” said Sgt. Jack Sheridan, another member of Cleven’s squadron. If Cleven “the invincible” couldn’t make it, who could? But as Sheridan noted, “missing men don’t stop a war.”

Miller, Donald L.. Masters of the Air: How The Bomber Boys Broke Down the Nazi War Machine (pp. 9-10). Ebury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Please head over to our book shop to buy it – in our opinion it’s a must have book.

Buy Here
Return to the post Archive

Keep Reading