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Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys…

Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against… (2006)

by Donald L. Miller

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Book describes just what the title says...from training to bombing missions to POW status and everything in between. It's well researched and well written with personal vignettes that are illuminating and illustrative. It's mostly about 8AF and 15AF (the other European numbered air force) gets short shrift in the deal. Probably, the book would have been too long. I enjoyed learning more about that time in history. ( )
  buffalogr | Mar 29, 2014 |
I had a mixed reaction to this book. Although I love historical first-person narrative as well as "straight history," I am not crazy about the combination of the two. When Miller does straight history, he is usually pretty good. When he suddenly takes the "mole's eye view" to recount an important historical event from the perspective of just one person, the viewpoint swings too wildly from the telephoto lens to the microscope. I find it distracting rather than enriching of the text. ( )
  idealist_in_blue | Feb 5, 2012 |
I bought this book while in Missoula, Montana in between visits to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks last month. It’s a fat book about World War II. I seem to be reading lots of books about World War II recently. This one is particularly interesting because my father served in the Eighth Air Force, the history of which Masters of the Air Covers, and he named me after a B-17 “Flying Fortress.”

Masters of the Air is a readable account of the Eighth, which did daylight bombing runs over Germany from bases in England. It had a high casualty rate and today only a few of the thousands of B-17s that made up its fleet remain intact and flying.

Although the author does get into some details about strategy, mostly he tells stories – of the men who flew and the generals who strategized. My father’s stories about his service in World War II were always funny. The stories in Masters of the Air are mostly not funny.

What did I learn from Masters of the Air? That the Flying Fortresses were anything but fortresses. That, although the mighty Eighth Air Force did eventually play a key role in winning World War II in Europe, in the early days, generals engaged in flawed thinking. That for air crews, highly trained as they were, it was mostly on-the-job training. That in order to win the war, the Eighth Air Force engaged in what can only be called “terror bombing.”

Masters of the Air is an incredible history: well researched and written in a style accessible to readers who don’t know much about World War II history or military strategy. Of its 671 pages, almost 150 are devoted to back notes (a format I prefer over footnotes), bibliography and index. ( )
  NewsieQ | Jul 25, 2011 |
Not bad but it was a little dry in my opinion. ( )
  historybuff17 | Sep 11, 2007 |
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London, October 9, 1943. Maj. John Egan's private war began at breakfast in a London hotel. (Prologue)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743235444, Hardcover)

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 readers 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 U.S. air bases in England. But they had a much greater chance of dying than ground soldiers. In 1943, an American bomber crewman stood only a one-in-five chance of surviving his tour of duty, twenty-five missions. The Eighth Air Force lost more men in the war than the U.S. Marine Corps.

The bomber crews were an elite group of warriors who were a microcosm of America -- white America, anyway. (African-Americans could not serve in the Eighth Air Force except in a support capacity.) 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.

Strategic bombing did not win the war, but the war could not have been won without it. American airpower destroyed the rail facilities and oil refineries that supplied the German war machine. The bombing campaign was a shared enterprise: the British flew under the cover of night while American bombers attacked by day, a technique that British commanders thought was suicidal.

Masters of the Air is a story, as well, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:42 -0400)

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Chronicle of the U.S. 8th Air Force's daylight bombing campaign over Europe during World War II, from its genesis to the end of the war.

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