Masters of the Air
America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
by Donald L. Miller
List Price: $35.00
Hardcover: 688 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: October, 2006
New in Print
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
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.
"Masters of the Air is a piece of history that accurately and
comprehensively tells the story of the Eighth Air Force going mano a mano
against a tough and determined foe. The incredible cost to both sides is
recounted in riveting detail. It left me shaken."
-- Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (Ret.) and coauthor of Cobra II: The Inside
Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
"Miller's work is always extraordinary but this large volume is especially
remarkable for its valuable recovery of details, like all the psychiactric ruin
of the many bomber boys assigned to kill German civilians. This is a rare
account of the American Eighth Air Force, and with so many readers hoodwinked
by fantasies of The Good War, it deserves wide acceptance and ultimate
enshrinement as a classic."
-- Paul Fussell, author of The Great War and Modern Memory
"When I learned that Don Miller had written a history of the air war against
Germany, I knew that readers would be transported as virtual eye witnesses to
this aerial battle field. His gripping reconstruction of what was happening in
the planes is matched by the best account yet of what the bombings were doing
to Germans on the ground. This book bears the Miller trademark: a strong
narrative supported by solid history."
-- Joseph E. Persico, author of Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day Eleventh Hour:
Armistice Day 1918
"Masters of the Air is a fresh new account of the incredible rise of the
American air force from young men learning their trade on the job in combat to
an irresistible force that swept the vaunted Luftwaffe from the skies. Author
Donald L. Miller knits together the big events of the bombing campaign with
illuminating individual human stories of the heroes who lived and died over
-- Walter J. Boyne, former director, National Air and Space Museum
"Over the first years of World War II, the only American casualties on European
soil were flyboys shot out of the sky. Long before Normandy, America's bomber
boys waged the Allies' longest WWII campaign and brought the war to Hitler. Now
we are fortunate that the incomparable Donald Miller has brought the memory of
these Masters of the Air back to us."
-- James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys
"Masters of the Air is masterful narrative history, the elegantly
interwoven story of the men and boys who first took the war to the heart of
Germany. Vivid and meticulous, judicious but not judgmental, Donald L. Miller
chronicles the air war over Europe in all its heroism and horror."
-- Geoffrey C. Ward, author of Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack