In conjunction with the release of the highly-anticipated Apple TV+ series, Masters of the Air, VBC historian host Glenn Flickinger has created a 10-part livestream series Thursdays beginning January 18 at 7:00pm that will recap and provide history discussion around each episode. Each week, Glenn will cover the action and background of the series in conversation with show producers and creators, air war historians, and family members of the real-life characters depicted in the series.
Masters of the Air is a streaming television miniseries by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks based on the 2007 book Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany by Donald L. Miller about the 100th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force.
EPISODE 2: Panel of Historians Preview Masters of the Air
Glenn welcomes Steve Snyder, author of Shot Down and Colin Heaton, author of Above the Reich, Robert Ehlers, author of Targeting the Third Reich, and David and Margaret White, authors of Wings of War.
SHOT DOWN is set within the framework of World War II in Europe and recounts the dramatic experiences of each member of a ten man B-17 bomber crew after their plane, piloted by the author’s father, was knocked out of the sky by German fighters over the French/Belgian border on February 8,1944.
Some men died. Some were captured and became prisoners of war. Some men evaded capture and were missing in action for months before making it back to England. Their individual stories and those of the courageous Belgian people who risked their lives to help them are all different and are all remarkable.
Even before the dramatic battle in the air and the subsequent harrowing events on the ground, the story is informative, insightful, and captivating. Prior to the fateful event, the book covers the crew’s training, their journey to England, what life was like on base as well as in London and the English countryside, and the perils of flying combat missions over occupied Europe and Germany.
Through personal letters, oral and written accounts, declassified military documents, and interviews – all from people who took part in the events that happened over 70 years ago (even the German Luftwaffe pilot who shot down the Susan Ruth) – the stories come alive. Adding to the feeling of “being there”, are more than 200 time period photographs interspersed throughout the book.
To add background and context, many historical facts and anecdotes about and surrounding World War II are entwined throughout the book so that the reader has a feel for and understanding of what was occurring on a broader scale. SHOT DOWN is an account about brave individuals, featuring pilot Howard Snyder, set within the compelling events of the greatest conflict in world history
ABOVE THE REICH: Sensational eyewitness accounts from the most heroic and legendary American aviators of World War II, never before published as a book
They are voices lost to time. Beginning in the late 1970s, five veteran airmen sat for private interviews. Decades after the guns fell silent, they recounted in vivid detail the most dangerous missions that made the difference in the war. Ed Haydon dueled with the deadliest of German aces – and forced him to the ground. Robert Johnson racked up 27 kills in his P-47 Thunderbolt, but nearly lost his life when his plane was shot to ribbons and his guns jammed. Cigar-chomping Curtis LeMay was the Air Corps general who devised the bomber tactics that pummeled Germany’s war machine. Robin Olds was a West Point football hero who became one of the most dogged, aggressive fighter pilots in the European theater, relentlessly pursuing Germans in his P-38 Lightning. And Jimmy Doolittle became the most celebrated American airman of the war – maybe even of all time – after he led the audacious raid to bomb Tokyo. Today these heroes are long gone, but now, in this incredible volume, they tell their stories in their own words.
WINGS OF WAR: When the P-51 Mustang began tearing across European skies in early 1944, the Allies had been losing the air war for years. Staggering numbers of bomber crews, both British and American, had been shot down and killed thanks to the Luftwaffe’s superior fighter force. Not only did the air war appear grim, but any landing of troops in France was impossible while German fighters hunted overhead. But behind the scenes, a team of visionaries had begun to design a bold new type of airplane, one that could outrun and outmaneuver Germany’s best.
Wings of War is the incredible true story of the P-51 Mustang fighter and the unlikely crew of designers, engineers, test pilots, and army officers who brought it from the drafting table to the skies over World War II. This is hardly a straightforward tale of building an airplane—for years, the team was stymied by corruption within the defense industry and stonewalled by the Army Air Forces, who failed to understand the Mustang’s potential. But when squadrons of Mustangs were finally unleashed over Hitler’s empire, the Luftwaffe was decimated within months, clearing the skies for D-Day. A compelling, character-focused narrative replete with innovation, determination, and bravery, Wings of War is the never-before-told story of the airplane that truly changed the course of World War II.
TARGETING THE THIRD REICH: When large formations of Allied four-engine bombers finally flew over Europe, it marked the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. Their relentless hammering of Germany—totaling more than 1.4 million missions—took out oil refineries, industries, and transportation infrastructures vital to the Reich’s war effort. While other accounts have focused on operational details, this is the first book to reveal the crucial role of air intelligence in these dramatic campaigns.
Robert Ehlers reexamines these bombings through the lens of both air intelligence and operations, a dual approach that shows how the former was so vital to the latter’s success. Air intelligence was essential to both targeting and damage assessment, and by demonstrating its contributions to the Combined Bomber Offensive of 1943-1945, Ehlers provides a wealth of new insight into the war.
Ehlers describes the close ties that developed between the Royal Air Force’s “precision intelligence” arm and the U.S. Army Air Force’s “precision bombardment” forces, telling how the RAF’s photographic reconnaissance and signals intelligence steered both British and American bombers to the right targets at the right intervals with the right munitions. He shows that the greatest strength of this partnership was its ability to orchestrate all aspects of damage assessment within an effective organizational structure, so that by 1944 senior air commanders—like the RAF’s Arthur “Bomber” Harris and the AAF’s Carl “Tooey” Spaatz—could gauge the accuracy of bombing with a high degree of precision, analyze its effects on the German war effort, and determine its effectiveness in helping the Allies achieve strategic objectives.
Ehlers focuses on three key offensives in 1944—against French and Belgian rail supply lines delivering German troops and supplies to Normandy, against German oil refineries, and against railroads and waterways inside the Reich—that had a disastrous effect on the Nazi war effort. In the process, he underscores the degree to which bombers constituted part of a highly effective combined-arms force, giving Allied armies crucial advantages on the battlefield. Drawing on a huge collection of bomb-damage assessment photographs and a wealth of other archival sources, he shows that the success of these and other efforts can be traced directly to the success of air intelligence.
Providing a deeper and more accurate understanding of the bomber campaigns’ role in the Allied victory, Ehlers’s study testifies to the strategic importance of these efforts in that war and provides a tool for understanding the importance of intelligence operations in future conflicts.