Masters of the Air

Masters of the Air

America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany

Book - 2007
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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.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Simon & Schuster, 2007, c2006
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster trade pbk. ed. --
ISBN: 9780743235457
Branch Call Number: 940.544973 Mil
Characteristics: 671 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm


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Apr 13, 2017

Definitive treatment of the mighty eighth

Jun 24, 2015

An excellent general history of the Eighth Air Force from its first mission to last. Not a mission by mission summary or a hymn to the B-17, but a good explanation of the abilities and goals, the achievements and failures of the Eighth as it developed.

Mar 06, 2015

As a WWII history buff, the highlight of my one and only trip to Europe was crossing the Dutch coast and asking myelf how could the boys - and that's what they really were - of the Eighth Air Force have done this raid after raid, knowing that they were likely flying toward their own death. Until late 1944, the odds were against an 8th Air Force crew member surviving their tour.

Donald L. Miller answers that question and many others in his absolutely superlative history of the American air war over Germany. (Not taking anything away from Miller's work is that suggestion that you also read Max Hasting's "Bomber Command" for a view of the very different English air war.)

Miller alternates between first person accounts of crew members and their missions, the leaders, the campaign objectives, assessments of the impact of the various phases of the air war and the enemy reaction. It may sound confusing, but because of Miller's extraordinary writing and the seamless organization of his meticulously researched material, it is not.

In fact, Miller does an exceptional job of conveying the fear of the crew, the blind faith of the leaders in the doctrine of aerial bombing, the grim realities that had to be faced all down the line as men realized that the unsupported bomber was not an impregnable "Flying Fortress". Miller weaves each part of the incredibly complex air war and its combatants together. From gunners to pilots to generals to the men who selected the targets and argued over strategy, Miller allows the multiple stories to develop and blossum and then moves on to another.

Miller is careful to distinguish the American campaign of "precision" bombing from the more candidly terror oriented British campaign of "area" bombing. The distinction became extremely thin and possibly non-existent in the final few months of the war.

Arguments still rage as to whether or not the bombing campaigns truly contributed to war against Germany. Miller is, fortunately, not judgmental. What he does stress is the incredible courage shown by American airmen in their campaign against Germany. While Miller does not recount the episode in this book, Herman Goering is reported to have told his interrogators that he could not believe that German fighters were unable to turn a single American bomber force from its intended target.

Miller's reach is essentially encyclopedic in this book. No aspect of the American air war over Europe is left untouched. The scholarship is simply staggering. Miller's alternation between stories of individual "bomber boys" and their selection, training, fighting, deaths, injuries, imprisonment when captured, rescues and finally the end of war interspersed with examination of the history of air warfare, the development of machines and weapons, strategy and tactics is exceptionally well done.

"Masters Of The Air" never becomes dry or pedantic. It is always intense and one cannot help but marvel at the courage, tenacity and genius of "America's bomber boys who fought the air war against Nazi Germany." A wonderful addition to the library of anyone with an interest in history.

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