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‘Masters of the Air’ Part Two: Lead them through

Following interrogation, there's another mission to fly. In episode two of Masters of the Air, we get to know the boys better and see the complexities of war.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
(Apple TV+)

The second episode of Masters of the Air picks up right where the previous episode left off. In interrogation, the crews are recounting their mission. Meanwhile, the wounded are being treated in triage. Aside from bullets and shrapnel, the freezing temperatures and high altitude of the bomber, war claimed their own casualties. Additionally, the 100th Bomb Group’s commander burst an ulcer on landing. Following this baptism by fire, the men look to their leaders to see them through.

Interrogation in MOTA/Apple TV+

Meeting with the group’s new commanding officer, Bucky finds that Colonel Neil “Chick” Harding is a different leader than Col. Huglin was. Not only does he not mind Bucky being drunk, but Chick grants Bucky’s wish and returns him to CO of the 418th Bomb Squadron. Unfortunately, this forces Major John “Jack” Kidd into the position of air exec. Thanks to some lobbying by Buck, Bucky was back in the action with the boys. To reference Band of Brothers, it’s like Maj. Winters getting to return as Easy Company’s CO after serving as 2nd Battalion’s XO. Aside from being a skilled pilot, Bucky was also a good leader. As depicted in the episode, he personally wrote letters to the families of the men who went down under his command.

Additionally, the animosity between RAF and USAAF service members was also real. Despite being allies, many British airmen viewed their American counterparts with animosity. The invading Yanks were generally larger, wore nicer uniforms, and got paid more than them. Coupled with American swagger straight out of a Hollywood movie that English women flocked to, it’s not surprising that fights between Brits and Americans were not uncommon. Emerging victorious from his fight with an RAF officer, Lt. Curtis “Curt” Biddick proves that Brits can’t hit their target at night; from 1940 to 1941, one in three bombers that reportedly reached their target got within five miles of it.

Masters of the Air/AppleTV+

As the show’s narrator, it was sure we would see more of Lt. Harry Crosby. Filling in for Bubbles who has fallen ill, Crosby has to lead the group and the entire wing. Unfortunately, Crosby’s air sickness persists on the mission to bomb the U-boat base at Trondheim, Norway. Despite this, and with a visual cue from the German smokescreen, he navigates the wing to the target. From the IP (Initial Point) to the target, a nominal distance of 40 miles, the bombardier actually had lateral control of the bomber. Using the Norden bombsight and the plane’s autopilot, he accounted for variables like altitude and airspeed to deliver the payload with a high degree of accuracy. After releasing the bombs, control was returned to the pilot.

Masters of the Air/AppleTV+

As command pilot, Bucky’s decision to slow the wing down and stick with Biddick’s damaged B-17 saved the crew’s life. Without the protection of the other bombers, they would have been easy prey for the two German Ju-88 heavy fighters. This allows Biddick to make a successful but hairy emergency landing in Scotland. Back at Thorpe Abbotts, Bucky makes Crosby’s replacement of Bubbles permanent and decrees that Crosby needs a nickname; Bing would be too lazy and Crosby can’t sing. Not that Bucky’s vocals are any better, though that doesn’t stop him from taking the mic when the band plays his favorite tune, “Blue Skies.” Chick’s face sums up everyone’s reactions nicely.

Bucky singing; AppleTV+

Despite Bucky’s singing, the mood in the dance hall is positive enough for Douglass to break the ice with female Red Cross workers. This highlights the duality of the combat experienced by the Bomber Boys during WWII. In the sky, they were trapped in their planes; forced to endure murderous flak barrages and shredding streams of machine gun and cannon fire. There were no medics aboard the bombers and crewmen could only do so much to help their wounded friends until they got down on the ground…if they got to the ground safely. So, when they did return from a mission, airmen lived it up and partied hard. It was a tough type of war to fight, but luckily the 100th had men like Bucky, Buck and Chick to lead them through.