Read Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany by Donald L. Miller Online


Delivering a Band of Brothers in the skies Miller deftly mixes the strategic with the personal offering revealing and unforgettable stories about Americas bomber boys who fought in the air war against the Nazis 20 photos Maps 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 narratiDelivering a Band of Brothers in the skies Miller deftly mixes the strategic with the personal offering revealing and unforgettable stories about Americas bomber boys who fought in the air war against the Nazis 20 photos Maps 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...

Title : Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
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ISBN : 9780743235457
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 688 Pages
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Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany Reviews

  • Bou
    2019-04-30 11:58

    Update May 2017: this book is currently turned in an HBO series, produced by Spielberg and Hanks.This is an extensive read regarding the guys that were in the 8th air force and helped liberate Europe, including my country. I was awed by their adventures, stories and experiences that they had to endure in order to defeat the German Reich, particular the Luftwaffe.Donald L. Miller writes about a lot of things, the personal lives of the pilots, bombers and gunners, their relationship with the English people, their trips to Londen and the life in a German prison camp for example. All stories are accompanied by the personal tales of English and German people during the bomber campaign. An extra plus was for me the story about the way the Allies were treated in Switzerland (horribly) which I didn't know.The end of the book was a little bit emotional for me, it tells about Operation Chowhound (or Manna) which saved my grandparents lives during the German occupation. It reminded me that if it wasn't for these brave young men, I wouldn't been able to read this book.Thanks to all brave young men for liberating my country, and thank you mr. Miller for writing this beautiful book.

  • A.L. Sowards
    2019-05-06 18:13

    This book did an impressive job of covering the air war in Europe, focusing on the US Eighth Air Force, based in England. The parts I most enjoyed were the experiences of the bomber crews, but he also covered strategic air theory going into the war, the debates and decisions of those higher up, American/British relationships, and the view from the German side. Miller showed the ugly side of war—the results of fire-bombing, the intense mental strain the men were under, mistreatment of POWs and internees, and the huge cost of the air campaign. The statistic that most stood out to me was that the Eighth Air Force endured more fatalities than the entire US Marine Corp during the war. Miller also devoted time to questions of precision-bombing (well, trying to be precise) vs carpet bombing and the morality of bombing non-combatants. Along with the ugly side of war and the hard questions, he also showed amazing examples of cooperation between crew-members, endurance during difficult circumstances, and tremendous bravery as the men still flying got into their planes again and again and again.One of the questions raised is “was it worth it?” Early Air Corp leaders thought they could bomb Germany into submission, without an invasion. That theory was proved wrong, but I think it is fairly clear that the air war contributed significantly to the war’s end. It inhibited Germany’s ability to wage war, diverted German manpower and resources that would have otherwise been used elsewhere, and it’s doubtful D-day could have been pulled off if the Allies hadn’t achieved air superiority by June 1944.Miller bounced around a bit—chronologically and up and down the command chain. For the most part, he did a good job with this, but there were a few times when I thought it was a little jarring. But even with that, this was the most comprehensive WWII ETO air war book I’ve ever read (not that I’ve read a ton on the subject, but this wasn’t my first air war book). If it’s a subject you’re interested in, this book is well worth picking up.

  • Mike
    2019-04-24 09:53

    How do we compare this new arena of warfare, especially in 1943, to other battles? In 1943, an Eighth Air Force crewman had an 80% chance of dying, being wounded, captured or going missing before completing 25 missions. The bombers always got through, never stopped by the German defenders. This book tells the story of the Eighth Air Force in WWII magnificently. 5 Battle Stars all the way!If you want to understand the air war in WWII over Europe, this single volume will give you much of what you need. So many aspects of the war are covered, many areas I had little or no knowledge of. Mr. Miller keeps it interesting, never a dull moment. He begins with a concise explanation of the theories of this new dimension in warfare. Guilio Douhet and BGen Billy Mitchell are the famous proponents of airpower as a decisive new weapon, both men believed a sustained strategic campaign against the civilian infrastructure and population would mean a quicker victory and fewer casualties overall. Mr. Miller covers this theoretical grounding of airpower theory quickly and moves along to the important Air Corps Tactical School in Alabama. Here is where the theory of strategic bombing became dogma, where the foundation was laid for the “daylight precision bombing” campaign that would be so bloody. Mitchell and Douhet theories:(view spoiler)[ For the first time in the history of modern armed conflict, civilians were singled out as deliberate military targets, not only because they were valuable producers, but also because they were easy to intimidate. Both Douhet and Mitchell were convinced that civilians lacked the fortitude to stand up to vertical warfare waged with high explosives, incendiaries, and poisonous gases, that generation’s equivalent, in terror-generating capacity, of atomic warfare. The evidence they had before them was the mass panic and terror in London and Cologne caused by World War I bombing attacks, air strikes far smaller than either of them envisioned in future wars. The new wars will be decided swiftly, Douhet argued, precisely because “the decisive blows will be directed at civilians, that element of the countries at war least able to sustain them.”Modern industrial states, they theorized, were highly vulnerable to air attack because their economies formed a delicate, interconnected fabric or web. A relentless precision bombing campaign needed to hit only those industries that made products, or supplied services, essential to almost all other industries. Destroy an enemy’s “choke points”—its steel, electric power, ball bearing, oil, and railroad industries—and its entire war economy would collapse, making continued military resistance untenable. (hide spoiler)]Miller confronts the morality of the bombing campaign directly. The men knew what they were doing:Perhaps some of the men remembered the warning that their first commander, Col. Darr H. “Pappy” Alkire, had given them back in the States, right after they completed flight training and received their wings. “Don’t get the notion that your job is going to be glorious or glamorous. You’ve got dirty work to do, and you might as well face the facts. You’re going to be baby-killers and women-killers.”Before the Americans started, the British had already tried daylight bombing with disastrous results. Churchill realizes the RAF can’t continue daylight bombing raids so he has to go at night. But technology did not allow precision at night (yet). The moral question about killing civilians is not a factor for the leaders of the RAF, “Bomber” Harris, or the USAAF, Ira Eaker. Throughout the book, Miller shows us what the men thought about killing from four miles high.“Berlin from the air was a huge, dark city,” recalled B-17 gunner Tommy LaMore, the descendant of a Cherokee family that had survived the Trail of Tears. “This was Hitler’s town. The big bad boys lived in this neighborhood....Go ahead, send the Luftwaffe up, go ahead, shoot at us with everything you’ve got, but here we are, blowing up your houses in front of your master-race eyeballs. I cheered when the bombs left the racks. ‘Hold on to your sauerkraut, Adolf!’ I yelled.”(view spoiler)[Even so, Harris was convinced that the American experiment (daylight precision bombing) would fail and that Eaker would eventually be forced to retrain his crews, reequip his bombers, and join the RAF in its night raids. “God knows, I hope you can do it,” he told Eaker, “but I don’t think you can. Come join us at night. Together we’ll lick them.” In his memoirs, James Parton recounts a famous story about Harris to illuminate a moral divide between the two commanders. Driving his Bentley at breakneck speed on one of his regular runs between London and High Wycombe, Harris was stopped by a motor policeman, who politely reprimanded him. “You might have killed someone, sir.” “Young man,” Harris snapped, “I kill thousands of people every night!” Far from being squeamish about killing civilians, “he relished it,” writes Parton. That may have been so, but the implication is misleading. Ira Eaker never opposed Harris’s raids out of concern for people under the bombs. “I don’t believe there was any moral consideration among military men [in World War II],” he remarked after the war. “When I watched bombs falling and hitting houses and churches I had a distaste for the whole business, but they were shooting at us.” If the atomic bomb had been available in 1942, and he had had authorization to use it, he would have dropped it on Germany with no reservations, he said. Eaker’s objections to area bombing were founded entirely upon military considerations—it was not the most efficient way of finishing off the enemy. Yet he did believe that area bombing, in conjunction with American precision bombing, would put Germany under intolerable, round-the-clock pressure, hastening its demise. He saw Harris’s operations as complementary to his own and considered him a partner, not a rival.(hide spoiler)]There are many interesting areas in Miller’s history. He describes the quiet East Anglia countryside and what happens when the engineers flood the area, tearing up meadows, houses, hedges, etc to build the airstrips, bomb dumps and airbase facilities that will be needed. He also gives you a peek into the lives of the inhabitants of England and how their lives changed. Another area covered is how the USAAF black construction battalions were treated, racial incidents and how the English accepted the black Americans into their communities.Mostly the book deals with the bomb groups and their daily experience. Here is how the officers and the enlisted men found out they were scheduled to fly:(view spoiler)[There was no such thing as a typical mission. Every mission was unique, a singular experience, but there was a recognizable pattern in all of them. For the flight crews, a mission usually began with the sound of a jeep stopping outside their Nissen huts around 4:00 A.M. “A courtly staff sergeant wou1d come in and go to the officers’ bunks who were scheduled to fly,” recalled co-pilot Bernard Jacobs of the 384th Bomb Group, stationed at Grafton Underwood. “The enlisted men were billeted in another area. We would feign sleep until he stopped at our bunk and gave a tug on the arm. He would then say, ‘Good morning, sir. You and your [crew] will be flying number 6 in the low squadron, low group today. Breakfast at 4:30, briefing at5:15; takeoff at 6:15.’” The sergeant gunners were awakened with less propriety. “Drop your cocks and grab your socks, boys, you’re flying today,” an orderly would bellow, banging the heel of his hand on the hut’s low, corrugated steel roof. (hide spoiler)]Throughout the book you will meet Heroes:(view spoiler)[No one who survived considered himself a hero. To draw attention to oneself was another violation of the unwritten crewmen’s code. It was hard to spot the real heroes. Men who carried out unimaginable acts of courage in the air would scream with fear in their sleep, or when awake, complain incessantly about the “chickenshit” Army, or announce to their friends, in beer-soaked conversations, that the only reason they flew and fought was to get a “ticket home.” Technical Sergeant Arizona T. Harris, a ranch hand from the desert town of Tempe, Arizona, hated almost everything about Air Force life, but he was a different man in the plane. Harris was a crew engineer and top turret gunner on a Flying Fortress and knew his aircraft better than anyone except its ground crew chief. When Sons of Fury taxied down the runway, the boys standing on the perimeter could easily spot it. A red head and a strong arm would poke out of the window next to the pilot. It was Harris giving the windshield one last wipe. “Them specks on the windshield get to look like Me 109s” in the air, he’d say. Harris met his end on the way back from St Nazaire on January 3, 1943. Sgt. P. D. Small, a tail gunner in another of the 306th’s bombers, observed Harris’s final minutes. Small saw four white parachutes snap open just before “Sons of Fury” hit the water. The gunners who remained on the ship must have gone to the radio room, the safest place to be in a crash. But two guns were still blazing, Harris’s twin .50s. Then “Sons of Fury” made a perfect belly landing in the freezing waters of the Bay of Biscay. As sheets of white water rolled over the wings and the plane began to drop out of sight, the top turret guns were still spitting flame “as fast as the feeding arms would pull the shells into the guns.” Arizona Harris was trying to protect the pilot and co-pilot, who were in the water and under fire from Fw 190s, “the steel gray sea boiling under the rain of bullets.” Harris must have felt the winter water fill his turret and climb to where it began to cut off his breath, yet he kept firing until the sea swallowed the hot muzzles of his guns. (hide spoiler)]Jimmy Stewart stands ever higher in my eyes, a true American hero. No Hollywood actor of today could ever approach the stature of Maj Stewart:(view spoiler)[One of the Eighth’s finest squadron commanders was Maj James Maitland Stewart, a Princeton honors graduate known to all as Jimmy Stewart, the Hollywood movie idol. After being drafted in 1940 at age thirty-two, the rail-thin, six-foot-four son of an Indiana, Pennsylvania, hardware store merchant had tried to get into the Army Air Force but failed to meet the weight requirement for his height, 148 pounds, by five pounds. Desperately wanting to serve (he later called the draft “the only lottery I ever won”), he appealed the decision, over the heated protests of Louis B. Mayer, his dictatorial boss at MGM. After convincing an Air Force enlistment officer to give him a new test and “this time forget to weigh me,” entered military service as a private, signing his enlistment papers just days after winning an Oscar for his role as a reporter in The Philadelphia Story. “It may sound corny,” he later explained his decision, “but what’s wrong with wanting to fight for your country. Why are people so reluctant to use the word patriotism?”In November 1943 he arrived in England as a squadron commander with the 445th Bomb Group, a Liberator outfit stationed in Tibenham, just outside Norwich, in what was known to the men as B-24 Country. Three months later, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for holding his formation together under intense enemy pressure on the first day of Big Week. It was one of the twenty combat missions he would fly, not losing a single man to enemy fire or met breakdown. Watching him around base, the men of his 703rd Squadron could not believe how closely his real behavior matched his screen persona—getting things accomplished without dramatics and, in his small-town manner, calling the men “fellas,” urging them to write their “folks,” and peppering his speech, as he did in the movies, with “doggone’s” and’ gee whizze’s.”… Around the men he was “about as unemotional as you can get” Kriedler recalled, but the fliers respected his cool, measured leadership and quiet authenticity. Without any fanfare, “he skipped all the milk runs,” said John Harold “Robbie” Robinson, one of his squadron gunners, and the author of a powerful book about his wartime experiences. “High command didn’t like that.” (hide spoiler)]Life in the UK definitely changed with the massive influx of well paid airmen and GI’s on the prowl:(view spoiler)[Seeing an opportunity here, Americans on the make treated their English dates like duchesses. “They opened doors for us, were ever so polite, and gave us their complete attention,” remembered a British woman, whereas our men would leave us alone at a table to shoot darts with their mates.” British males responded with humor “Heard about the new utility knickers? One Yank and they’re off.”(hide spoiler)]Life in the Stalags for airmen shot down and captured is covered in some detail. Not only in German camps but also what happened to the bomber crews who landed in Switzerland.(view spoiler)[The Luftwaffe food was so bad that some new prisoners refused to eat it. A freshly arrived kriegie, a cocky captain wearing his officer’s hat at a “jaunty angle,” was assigned to Lou Loevsky’s combine. On his first evening in camp he stared at a foul-looking piece of meat and growled, “What the fuck is that?” Told it was sausage made from the blood of slaughtered animals, he pushed his portion aside and announced, “I’d sooner eat shit.” The following day he returned to the table, his stomach growling, pointed at the blutwurst, and said, “Please pass the shit.” (hide spoiler)]The book is packed with solid information, always presented in fascinating ways, about the course of the war. The Bomber Mafia over-promised and under-delivered at almost every step, destroying their credibility. Only late in the war, with fighters that could escort the bombers, did the air forces start to achieve success. Going after the transportation systems and oil production proved to be the most effective targeting. Terror bombing, straight from Douhet’s theories proved ineffective. Hitler tried it in the Blitz, then the RAF tried it, the Germans tried again with the V-1 and V-2, and even the Americans resorted to it in early 1945. It never worked.(view spoiler)[Morale bombing failed to achieve both its aims. In a police state that prized industriousness and obedience, discouraged workers remained, on the whole, productive workers, if only out of fear or habit. And dissidence, when it appeared, became little more than powerless rage. What did the air barons who advocated morale bombing think the German people would do if and when their morale collapsed? Clearly, they had no idea. Germans of conscience, as well as those who came to their senses toward the end and admitted the futility of continuing the war, living in a society in which complaining people were hanged from lampposts by Nazi vigilantes for the crime of “defeatism.” As one worker said, “Rather than let them string me up I’ll be glad to believe in victory.”(hide spoiler)]At the end, the forces the Allies had were staggering to contemplate. And so were the losses:Once the Anglo-American air forces reached full strength—a total of 28,000 combat aircraft—they were democracy’s terrible swift sword. Gathering in their immensity over the North Sea and the southern Alps, these air armadas released over two million tons of bombs on the Reich. The cost in lives lost was appalling. The Eighth Air Force, the largest aerial striking force in the war, sustained between 26,000 and 28,000 fatalities, roughly one-tenth of the Americans killed in World War II. Taking the lower number, this was 12.3 percent of the 210,000 Eighth Air Force crewmen who flew in combat. Of all branches of the American armed forces, only submarine crews in the Pacific had a higher fatality rate: almost 23 percent. In addition, an estimated 28,000 Eighth Air Force crewmembers were shot out of the sky and became prisoners of war. If they and the estimated 18,000 men who were wounded are added to the casualty list, the number of those lost in operations, not including untold numbers of psychological casualties, is at least 72,000, over 34 percent of those who experienced combat. This is the highest casualty rate in the American armed forces in World War II.” I have left out so many topics, “Big Week”, D-Day, “Black Week”, the advent of the jet, the new science of aerospace medicine, etc. You will find it all in this excellent history of the Mighty Eighth. Highest recommendation.

  • Marc
    2019-05-05 14:52

    After sitting on my shelf for a few years, I finally decided to read this. Having read many books on the 8th AF over the years, I was hoping this wouldn't be a rehashing of what I'd previously read. I'm happy to say it wasn't.The book concentrates solely on the bombers of the 8th AF, with very little attention paid to the fighters or the other American air forces in Europe, although they all do get a little bit of a mention here and there. Some units, such as the 100th BG, get a bit more ink than others, but that's to be expected--not every group can get the same amount of coverage. There is a great amount of personal recollections in the book, and not just from pilots but from aircrew and groundcrew as well.Designed to be a force of daylight, high-altitude precision bombers, the 8th went through some very painful growing pains. High losses and the unlikely odds of actually completing a combat tour of 25 missions lead to questions of morale, leadership and the very concept of daylight precision bombing. All of these topics are discussed in detail, and although hindsight is 20/20, I feel the author did a good job of presenting things fairly and showing the historical context of the situations. There are really good chapters on the POW experience and the issue of 8th AF bombers landing in neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland.A comparison of the British bombing campaign and leadership with that of the Americans is a common thread throughout the book. Both sides wished to defeat the Germans, but had very different ideas about how to do it. The British preferred to bomb by night and they put a fair amount of pressure upon the Americans to join them, but the Americans stuck to daylight bombing and in the end received vindication of their efforts.The book concludes with an examination of tactics and results, especially those found by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey conducted after the war and from interviews conducted with several high-ranking Germans such as Erhard Milch, Albert Speer, Herman Goering and Adolf Galland.A very enjoyable book which gives a good overall picture of the war fought by the bombers of the 8th AF, along with a fair amount of detail. Definitely worth adding to any aviation or World War II library.

  • Mark
    2019-05-21 13:08

    I read the subtitle of this book and assumed it was a collection of war stories from 8th Air Force crewmen. I'm not a huge fan of oral history but decided to give it a shot anyway. Wow was I pleasantly surprised. It is much, much more than an oral history. MASTERS OF THE AIR examines the entire experience of the 8th AF from POWs to its portrayal in movies and books to race relations to the effect of the American air bases on the social fabric of the English countryside to the whole question of the viability of strategic bombardment. Miller is incredibly well read on a vast amount of literature relating to the air campaign over Europe and draws on many of these sources to produce a rich first-rate history. There is something in MASTERS for any fan of history. I particularly enjoyed his handling of the sticky question of whether strategic bombing was a success. From the point of view of the pre-war bomber barons the answer is "no". Heavy bombers alone were not able to defeat Germany. But the more important question is whether the damage they did inflict was worth the effort put forth and the answer to that is a resounding "yes". Miller does a fine job though of making clear that the strategic bombing was not the sole mission of the 8th. Throughout late 1943 and early 1944 the main mission of the 8th was too break the Luftwaffe fighter force by hitting targets the Jagdwaffe would be force to defend and then shooting down the German fighters. Destruction of the Luftwaffe was a pre-requisite for Operation Overlord and the 8th was the only force able to carry it out. German fighter routinely avoided combat with Allied fighters- it took attacks on key targets by bombers to bring them out where American escorts could get them. Coincidently this campaign against German airpower also paved the way for later campaigns against oil and transportation targets in Germany. This is where strategic bombing came into it's own. It was never able to win the war alone but it severely curtailed German production efforts in the last months of the war and shortened the war by months.I'm only touching the surface of what MASTERS offers. If you have any interest in the air war over Europe or the 8th Air Force I strongly recommend this book. It is sure to be the standard history of the 8th.

  • Gerry
    2019-05-16 15:12

    I would strongly recommend reading this book only after one has read "A Few Good Captains" by Dewitt S. Copp. It certainly dove tails the development of the USAAF into the USAF and shows the many struggles of pilots of all sorts of Aircraft during WW II and their attempt at surviving especially the early days of the war in the ETO. I wished it would have done more to cover the air war in the PTO but this is the American Psyche - war in Europe was known because of the general knowledge of Americans and geographical locations on the globe. "Battle of Britain" or the "Battle of New Britain"? Which would you be most likely to recall from history? Herein lay the fundamental issues. Still this book is fascinating.

  • Robert Pinksten
    2019-04-25 15:59

    The most in depth and descriptive book on the Air War in Europe I've ever encountered. It is mind boggling the amount of research that must have been done in writing this book. Loved it

  • Marcus
    2019-05-10 10:13

    I must admit that I'm having a bit of difficulty in finding the 'right label' for this book, mainly because its author tries in my opinion to cover in it at least three topics, all sharing the common denominator, but nonetheless quite separate from each other. The common denominator is of course the story of 8th Airforce and its bombing campaign against German Reich between 1942 and 1945. Lion share of this book is dedicated to a narrative of 'the human story' of this grand air formation and men who served in it. Author does an excellent job with a narrative that allows the reader to get detailed insight into the personal experience of serving with 8th Airforce. How did one deal with the enormous stresses and paradoxes of flying a mission over Berlin during the day and going to bed in a soft bed in the evening? How did U.S. servicemen interact with their British hosts? What did the experience of being a German POW feel like? These questions and a whole lot more are answered with help of author's skillful narrative and frequent usage of personal recollections of men who 'were there'. The scope of 'Masters of the air' is however bigger that than just the 'human experience' of 8th Airforce's military personel. Intermingled with the personal stories of U.S. servicemen, British civilians and sometimes also pilots and civilians on the German side are two other equally important and fascinating stories. The first tells the story of conceptual and practical development of heavy bomber as strategic weapon during World War 2. Starting point for 8th Airforce was founded on a lot of seriously flawed pre-war preconceptions and theories. Over the course of the war, based on practical experience bought at terrifying cost, it transformed itself into a horrifyingly effective and destructive military machine. The author slowly walks the reader through this metamorphosis with help of recurring 'tangents' spread throughout the book. Another set of 'tangents' is dedicated to a discussion regarding the effectivness and consequences of U.S. bombing campaign of Germany from military, economical and moral perspective. In those sections of the book, the analysis goes in depth into such issues as most effective allocation of resources, identification and exploitation of strategic 'softspots' and other, in my opinion quite complex, topics related to military strategy. Perhaps the most difficult and troublesome aspect of U.S. bombing campaign against Germany - its morality or rather lack thereof - is also discussed at length.Author's input regarding these rather heavy topics is by no means superficial. On the contrary, his analysis is at times among the most detailed and well-argumented I've encountered during my couple of decades of study of history of Second World War. What's more, the author takes a rather controversial stand regarding certain issues which are hotly disputed among historians and analysts even today, which in my opinion makes his contribution even more fascinating and interesting.My major problem with this book is that I'm not entirely convinced that intermixing the 'human story' aspect of this book and the two much more 'technical' and specialized topics was a very good idea. I admit that the author not only makes this rather odd mix work, but actually manages to make the three main topics of this book complement each other. But I also believe that this choice makes 'Masters of the air' quite demanding on reader's prior knowledge of the subject of this book. For a military history buff like me this book is a treat. For a casual reader it may be a bit hard to absorb and appreciate.

  • Mandy Perret
    2019-04-30 12:58

    It was very extensive but I enjoyed the commentary and fighter words. The anecdotal aspects were interesting. I learned more about war fighters than I ever thought I would.

  • Clyde
    2019-04-30 14:10

    This long book is the definitive single-volume history of the American air war in Europe. The air war was brutal. An American bomber crewman in 1943 had only a one in five chance of surviving to the end of his tour of duty. The bomber command suffered more casualties in WW2 than the Marine Corps.The book is centered on the 8th Air Force, but ranges far and wide covering the USA's daylight bombing campaign, the British night bombing campaign, fighter development and deployment, internal politics both civilian and military, the "bomber barons", the experience of civilians on the receiving end, German defensive tactics, the experience of prisoners of war, the development of air medicine, and much much more.All in all, this is an impressive book. It is well written and well researched, it does not shy away from the ugly side of the war, it brings out a wealth of new information, and it illuminates some relatively unknown aspects of the war. Recommended.

  • John Nellis
    2019-04-30 16:58

    This book is one of the best I've read; on the American bombing campaign in Europe. This book contains almost anything you would want to know about the campaign. It has first person accounts; profiles on the planes; men; and equipment. It has sections on the beginnings of air medicine; and the psychological aspects of what the crews went through. From the supply services to the building of airfields. It's all here. The book is easy to read and keeps you interested throughout. I could go on; and on; but that would make my review to long. If you are interested in the air war over Europe; particularly from the American side this book is one of the best on the subject.

  • J. Bryce
    2019-05-08 11:52

    Easily one of the best things I've read on the "Mighty Eighth Air Force" in WWII -- but like The Monuments Men, I don't see how they (Spielberg, Hanks, and HBO) are going to make a miniseries out of it. Despite the inherent drama, there ain't much traditional plot -- but maybe that's why I'm not a screenwriter!This will fascinate those interested in WWII history. There are anecdotes and personal histories galore, statistical analysis, strategic discussions and lots of parts where things get blown up.

  • Frank
    2019-05-10 09:46

    A wonderful analysis, with some good isolated analysis, as written in many cases, through the eyes of those who had served in the European Theater of the Air Corps. Miller, portrays not only the dangers day to day of these brave souls, as the death rate and burnout was staggering in this branch of the service, but also the devastation that was brought to the ground by these same men.You don't have to be a student of WWII to enjoy this book, as it is very accessible for all.

  • Craig Fiebig
    2019-05-05 10:43

    Fantastic discussion of the ETO air war. Interweaves the experiences of combatants at all ranks and their shifting roles and feelings through and (modestly) after the war. The author also reviews the analysis and dispels the after-action 'spin' that arose from the Strategic Bombing Survey. An excellent historical work.

  • Greg
    2019-04-27 11:50

    WWII, in Europe, so the birth of modern aerial warfare. Essentially, the Eighth Air Force ushered in the age of large scale strategic bombing, developing, testing, revising and debating the effectiveness and morality of air campaigns as it proceeded. It is unquestionable that the men who fought in the bomber and fighter aircraft were, as a group, unquestionably brave and valorous. This story also deserves to be told not only in memory to these brave airmen, but so that the issues with which they were confronted can be debated further as aeronautical technology continues to develop. Precision bombing was a promise, but not a capability. Modern air warfare may be more precise, but it is not absolutely precise. The moral questions that ultimately follow these facts are difficult.In the earlier formulations of air strategy, the question of the morality comes into play strikingly in the writings of Billy Mitchell vs. that of the Italian Gen. Giulio Douhet. Douhet’s book, “The Command of the Air” established him worldwide in the field of air strategy. Independently, they arrived at the idea of total, fast warfare based from the sky. “Douhet insisted that future wars would be short, total, and ‘violent to a superlative degree.” Later, Douhet writes, ‘It is not enough to shoot down all birds in flight if you want to wipe out the species; there remain the eggs and the nests.’ Destroying the eggs and the nests was strategic bombing, the only type of bombing Douhet favored…Douhet, a passionate fascists, put the case fore total warfare in more implacable terms than Mitchell ever would. There was no place for morality in the new warfare; it would be swift slaughter without mercy or sentimentality. ‘The limitations applied to the so-called inhuman and atrocious means of war are nothing but international demagogic hypocrisies….War,’ he wrote, ‘has to be regarded unemotionally as a science, regardless of how terrible a science.’ As a modern historian has written, ‘One senses [in Douhet’s work], the final and frightening abandonment by the soldier of any sense of responsibility for the political and social consequences of his military acts.” (34) This fact, essentially, characterizes the strategic approach taken by many air force officers. Despite occasional objections by Churchill and Doolittle and others, ultimately a war of terror was in fact waged by the Allied air force. It is still debated to this day whether it was necessary, and if necessary, whether it was right. Miller very ably describes why the decisions to firebomb cities such as Dresden, or to level civilian non-military targets in Berlin, were taken.He also describes tales of incredible bravery. The escape network for downed pilots is fascinating to learn about. Under penalty of death, many French, Belgian, and Dutch partisans assisted pilots back to safety. This activity was extraordinarily dangerous. “A British intelligence agent estimated that for every downed flier who was evacuated, one French, Belgian, or Dutch helper was shot or died under torture.” One of the most successful was the Comet Line, run by hundreds of Belgian volunteers “under the leadership of a petite twenty-five-year-old commercial artist named Andree de Jongh. Her code name was ‘Dedee.” When captured, her father took over, and then someone else. “The Comet Line aided approximately 700 of the 5,000 to 6,000 downed Allied airmen-3,000 of them Americans-who eventually made it back to England.” (101) Such heroism and grace under fire by ordinary people is quite remarkable.Predictably, Miller includes many individual feats of valor. Describing the P-51 Mustangs that were introduced to better assist and defend the bombers on their runs, Miller recounts the story of Maj. James H. Howard, “the son of medical missionaries in China. After three years as a Navy carrier pilot in the late 1930s, he had returned to China-where he was born-to join Claire Chennault’s American volunteer group, the ‘Flying Tigers.’ In eighteen months of lfying, mostly over Burma, he had destroyed six Japanese planes and was shot down once. When the Flying Tigers were absorbed by the United States Army Air Forces in 1942, Howard accepted a commission as a major. He had arrived in England in the first week of November with the 354th Fighter Group, the first AAF unit in the European Theater equipped with Mustangs. For over half an hour, Howard climbed and dove continuously, scattering German planes as they bore in on the bombers. In the course of his one-man blitz [the other 49 planes had been scatter by clouds leaving Howard the lone Mustang in support], three of his four machine guns jammed, but Howard continued to press home his attack with one gun, making diving, rolling passes through the Luftwaffe formations until he ran low on fuel. The 401st Bomb Group, the focus of the German attack, did not lose a single ship. When Howard landed back in England, there was only one bullet hole in his Mustang. It was one of the greatest feats of combat flying in the war and it earned him the Medal of Honor, the only one awarded to a fighter pilot in the European Theater.” (252) Unbelievable.One cannot forget that the contribution of the Eighth Air Force made D-Day possible. “In the five-month battle for the air supremacy that made the invasion possible, the American Air Forces in Europe lost over 2,600 heavy bombers and 980 fighter planes and suffered 18,400 casualties, including 10,000 combat deaths, over half as many men as the Eighth lost in all of 1942 and 1943. These airmen deserve an equal place in the national memory with the approximately 6,000 American soldiers killed, wounded, or missing in action in the amphibious and airborne assault on D-Day.” (294) Essentially, the destruction of the Luftwaffe was essential to the success of the D-Day landing. Without it, it is an impossibility. The air force achieved this with extreme loss of life and casualties – it was an incredibly staggering sacrifice.Miller devotes significant attention to what he calls the Fatal Trap, which discusses the bombing of oil producing capabilities, coupled with infrastructure destruction. The Germans were caught in a vicious cycle from which they could not escape. “Knoke and his comrades were fighting not just the Allied air forces, but the world’s only industrial and oil superpower, the United States of America, a nation that produced more oil than all the other countries on earth combined. From Pearl Harbor until the end of the war, the Allied nations consumed almost seven billion barrels of oil. More than six billion of that came from America, along with 90 percent of the world’s 100-octane gasoline. ‘This is a war of engines and octanes,’ Josef Stalin offered a toast at a banquet in Churchill’s honor. ‘I drink to the American auto industry and the American oil industry.’ With the fuel shortage ‘unbearable,’ in Adolf Galland’s words, the German air force was caught in a fatal trap. Forced to defend the oil plants that supplied its fuel, it lacked the fuel to defend them adequately.” (329)I was shocked to learn about the actions of some neutral parties – particularly the Swiss. Regarding prisoners of war, Miller talks about downed airmen and the absolutely abhorrent treatment they received at the hands of the Swiss. It is a story that I was unfamiliar with, but is brutally recounted in the memoirs of Dan Culler on page 343. Similar, it is atrocious to recount how German fathers invited Americans into their homes to sleep with their daughters to keep them from the depravities of the advancing Soviet army. These anecdotes highlight the ugliness in human nature that can be exposed in the collapse of society and war.There are other moments of brilliance in this work of history. My favorite is Charles MacDonald’s great quote regarding the surprise American’s experienced despite intelligence of a buildup prior to the Battle of the Bulge. “The American commanders ‘looked in a mirror and [saw] there only the reflection of their own intentions.” (371) Miller also does a great job of discussing the wartime economy of Germany, and relates the modern revision to the conclusions drawn originally by John Kenneth Galbraith. Overy, Murray, and Abelshouser “see one, not two, wartime Germanys, a nation that had begun preparing in the mid-1930s for a global war of racial conquest and that ‘followed a path of ever-strengthening mobilization’ into the 1940s. Beginning as early as 1939, there were severe cutbacks in consumer production and steadily rising rates of military spending, which rose nearly 400 percent just before Speer’s ascendancy…Germany could not rearm in depth…because it suffered from a shortage of almost every strategic raw material essential for war making except coal…The tremendous expansion in production that Speer oversaw from 1942 to mid-1944 ‘did not depend to any great extent on the supposed slack within the prewar economy…Rather, it occurred because the Germans were able to exploit ruthlessly the resources of the occupied an neutral contries within their sphere of control.” (467)Ultimately, this is a wonderful work of history. Anyone interested in WWII, or military history, would enjoy the mix of large scale strategy, and the insights into the individuals, that made up this exceptionally important fighting force, without which, it is easy to assume D-Day would not have been possible.

  • Gary Foss
    2019-05-13 10:00

    This is a solid overview of the bombing campaign in Europe. Occasionally, Miller dives into what I'd have to call "soft" language to describe the historical figures he's covering. The general is "lantern-jawed" or "tough as nails" and one airman or another might be characterized in ways that are probably more appropriate for a novel or less specialized historical subject, but if that prose reads as a bit lavish from time to time, it is in the service of connecting readers to the humanity of these people rather than the cold, hard historical facts alone.There are some particularly interesting factoids and situations that Miller covers which have been given little attention over the years. The dubious "neutrality" of the Swiss, for instance, gets some long overdue attention, in particular when it comes to prisoners (nominally not POWs since Switzerland was not a combatant) and the horrifying prison camp at Wauwilermoos. Miller also engages in a lot of exploration of the morality and ethics of strategic versus "precision" bombing, which was, given the technology of the time, very often at the time a distinction without a difference. He also assesses the overall value of the bomber campaign in a lengthy overview that might not be of interest to the casual history reader. Personally, I found those chapters to be the most interesting of the book, but if you're looking for more of an anecdotal history full of ripping good war stories then those sections might not appeal to you. There certainly are such war stories, mind you. In fact, I'd suggest they are at the center of his text; the book just isn't entirely devoted to them.Miller my turn hyperbolic from time to time when describing his subject. Historians can and will debate the actual value of the bombing campaign, and he would be remiss if he didn't cover that subject. No reader of history on such a subject can really go without developing his/er own opinion, and this book won't settle that debate by any means. However, Miller at the very least lays out the arguments neatly. He has his own take on a few of them, and he expresses his opinion adroitly, so even where his language might become more opinion than objective assessment, it is presented in such a way that reasonable people can still agree to disagree.So, overall, I give this one a thumb's up (five stars on GR seems an apt comparison) for both casual readers of history and those who like more in-depth work. It may not suit either entirely, but it serves well for both.

  • Nate
    2019-05-15 09:43

    Great book! A subject that I was somewhat familiar with was expanded beyond my expectations. The depth of detail about the missions completed and the effectiveness of strategic bombing in Europe was all encompassing and covered individual flyer stories, back-room negotiations at the highest levels, and insights from post-war German memoirs.The TLDR is that the fabled Norden bombsite may have been very accurate, but sending thousands of planes into a dynamic war situation did not lead to pinpoint precision even by the standards of the times and certainly not compared to modern capabilities. The air war was a key component of success in Europe, but getting there was far less effective than it could have been and many lives were lost in the early days with less than stellar results.The thing that surprised me the most after dispelling the myth of precision bombing was the amount of in-fighting that occurred between Army brass. The number of instances where missions were flown in order to establish the reputation of the Air Corps and certain individuals was astounding and probably shouldn't surprise me as it seems to come up over and over in true stories of war.I was turned on to this book as it's to be the basis for a new mini-series on HBO from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in the same vein as Band of Brothers and Pacific. The first two were excellent storytelling and film making and I can't wait to see what comes of this.

  • Don
    2019-04-23 11:05

    This is 5 star book because the ratings don't go to 6.There is no shortage of books on the air war fought over Europe in World War 2. Miller's book rises to the top of the stack based on the strength of his narrative gifts combined with his mastery of the subject. Even a casual reader with only limited interest in the subject will enjoy this book.I've read that HBO is going to do a mini-series a-la "Band of Brothers" based on this book. I am not sure how that will work -- there are no main characters that dominate the book like Dick Winters did in "Band of Brothers."Those in charge made more than their share of mistakes waging a type of war never tried before and never to be repeated. The airman who carried out their plans knowingly got into their planes with the knowledge that the odds were against them surviving to return home, yet few asked to be reassigned.I plan to read more books by this author.

  • Laura Raines
    2019-05-13 11:52

    I read this book over a longer period than usual, which seems fitting since these men fought the longest battle of WWII. Often the brutal detail was hard to read, other times you felt like you know the guys well enough to laugh or cry with them. I'm grateful to Donald Miller who so thoroughly searched out, gathered, read and digested a vast amount of material in order to make a compelling and complex story out of the Mighty Eighth. He's an historian who never loses sight of the individual lives he's writing about, yet covers the larger themes with honesty and clarity.

  • Tom
    2019-04-25 13:09

    Miller's exhaustive study of the US' heavy bomber war against Nazi Germany will fascinate the neophyte while also engrossing the devoted scholar. Though my father in law flew over 50 missions over Europe in WWII, I never truly understood the horrors he carried within for the rest of his life until Miller so brilliantly brought that reality to light for me. A fascinating piece of scholarship.

  • Stephen
    2019-05-04 13:48

    My grandfather was Crew Chief for the B26 Marauder 'Flak Bait' in World War II, so it was not only historical curiosity, but deep personal interest that drew me to this book. It was a good read and taught me much about the European air war, though sections on politics and bombing strategy dragged on at times.

  • David
    2019-05-09 09:56

    I appreciate that the author was able to describe a very gruesome campaign without being needlessly graphic, yet still we couldn't miss the horrific nature of the bombing campaign. I was particularly surprised by the treatment of American flyers by the Swiss. I had no idea it was so bad. I find this to be a good survey of an important topic.

  • Tim Freund
    2019-05-15 15:08

    Good readWell written does not ge bogged down in technical details you get a good idea of what happened to these men.

  • Shawn
    2019-05-06 13:51

    A little dry in parts but some great information and stories that I haven't been exposed to previously.

  • Frank
    2019-05-12 14:44

    All the heroes, they will live in eternity. Their deeds will echo forever.

  • John Breaux
    2019-04-28 17:53

    Very good.

  • Jerry Jordan
    2019-04-26 13:47

    Very thorough coverage of the air war in Europe during World War II. Full of historical incidents that I was not aware of,

  • Marc
    2019-05-14 14:50

    Remarkable work, comprehensive but well-paced and engaging.

  • Sameer Rana
    2019-04-26 15:06

    Great book about the greatest generation, the silent generation. Well written and researched. Now I can't wait for the HBO series about the 8th Army Air Force.

  • David Collier
    2019-05-05 14:59

    Great historical telling of the bomber boys.