In 2014, we got the trailer for the now defunct miniseries The Mighty Eighth. Following up Band of Brothers and The Pacific, it promised to show America's bombing campaign in Europe through the lens of a combat photographer. The trailer was promising, but the show never came to fruition. Now, in 2023, we have our first look at Masters of the Air from Apple TV+ and it puts the 2014 trailer to shame.
Masters of the Air focuses on the Eighth Air Force's 100th Bomb Group. Just four decades after the Wright brothers first took flight, these American airmen powered hundreds of bomb-laden B-17 Flying Fortresses over 20,000 feet into the air to strike targets hundreds of miles away. This new type of warfare was unprecedented and has not been seen since. While allied ground troops assembled and trained in England for the invasion of Europe, bomber crews brought the war to Hitler's doorstep, coming face-to-face with ferocious German flak and vicious Luftwaffe fighters.
Whereas the British RAF bombed at night, caring little about what they hit so long as it was German, the U.S. Army Air Forces carried out precision daylight bombing raids. This aimed to validate the offensive bombing concepts created and championed by pioneering military aviators like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell and Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold. It's difficult to imagine now, but there was a time when heavy bombers like the B-17 were viewed purely as coastal defense weapons. Equipped with the precise Norden bombsight, American bomber crews were tasked with hitting specific industrial and military targets to weaken Germany and set the stage for the invasion.
In this teaser, we get a glimpse at the duality of WWII aerial combat. Yes, airmen flew from their airfields where they had luxuries like clean sheets, running water, hot food, and even a bar and dance hall to return to...if they returned. The reality was that daylight bombing raids were practically suicide runs for these men. Without long-range fighter escorts, American bomber formations were easy prey for German pilots, despite the numerous machine guns bristling from their B-17s. Moreover, radar-guided flak was not a threat that Army planners foresaw in the years leading up to WWII. As a result, bomber crews faced a special type of hell in the sky.
For airmen who were shot down but lucky enough to make it safely to the ground, their troubles were just getting started. Germans were less than sympathetic to flyers who rained ordnance on them from above and evading back to England required cool and cunning. Of course, many downed airmen ended up in Stalag Lufts, Luftwaffe-run POW camps, where they faced a host of other challenges. From the ground to the sky, Masters of the Air looks to be an exciting WWII miniseries that brings a new perspective of the war to the screen. The first two episodes premiere January 26, 2024 on Apple TV+ and the following seven episodes release weekly on Fridays until March 15.