[BOOKS] ✸ Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany By Donald L. Miller – Ralphslaurensoutlet.co.uk

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 i 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 enduredfatalities 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 The losses of men and aircraft and the destruction of cities is incredible Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing but some of the tactical decisions made are troubling. 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 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 spoilerFor 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 highBerlin 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 yelledview 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 rivalhide 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 thathide 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 offhide 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 shithide 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 littlethan 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 victoryhide 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 III 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 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 bitink tha 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 bitink 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 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 PeopleFighting At , 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 US Air Bases In England But They Had A Much Greater Chance Of Dying Than Ground Soldiers In , 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 Men In The War Than The US Marine CorpsThe 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 HomelandStrategic 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 DestroyedDrawn From 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muchthan 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 t 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, muchthan 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 theimportant 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 Masters of the Air is an well deserved classic of military history, focusing on the Eighth Air Force, the United States strategic bomber arm that was the first American unit to bring the war to Nazi Germany, and which pioneered the tactics and techniques of strategic bombing.By all reason, the strategic air campaign should not have worked Army Air Corps doctrine in the late 30s was built around three major pillars the heavily armed B 17 Flying Fortress was self escorting and could fend off h Masters of the Air is an well deserved classic of military history, focusing on the Eighth Air Force, the United States strategic bomber arm that was the first American unit to bring the war to Nazi Germany, and which pioneered the tactics and techniques of strategic bombing.By all reason, the strategic air campaign should not have worked Army Air Corps doctrine in the late 30s was built around three major pillars the heavily armed B 17 Flying Fortress was self escorting and could fend off hostile fighters the gyroscopic Norden bombsite could hit pinpoint targets with accuracy and precision attacks on vital centers of industry could cripple an enemy military without the need for battles of attrition All three of these assumptions would be proven wrong in the skies over German, with deadly consequences for the men who had been trained and equipped on them The cloudless skies of test ranges over the American southwest were nothing like the weather over England and Germany Men froze in the stratospheric slipstream, and bombers were lost in rapidly changing weather conditions Flak and fighters ripped through the B 17 and B 24s, inflicting proportional casualties as high as any duty in the war, matched only by submarine crews Nazi industry proved surprisingly resilient Yet even if every specific of pre war doctrine was wrong, the bombers succeeded in their most important tasks Defense against bombers escorted by P 51s in the months leading up to Overlord deciminated the Luftwaffe, and the landings were unopposed from the air The transport and oil campaigns feel short of paralyzing the Nazi war machine, but delay and friction impeded the panzers, and gave the Normandy beachhead time to stabilize and expand And the thousands of heavy guns shooting at the sky, and not T 34s on the steppes, had some helpful effect on the Eastern Front.Miller was inspired to write this book in part by his friendship with Lt Col Robert Rosie Rosenthal of the Bloody 100th Bombardment Wing, and this book shines in depicting the human side of the Eighth It was a whole new kind of warfare Crews would take off in English fog, endure hours of torment over Europe, return, and potentially be in London with a pretty girl by evening War at the limits of technology was intensely dangerous The first teams, dispatched in 1943, had a one in five chance of completing the required 25 missions Frostbite, flak, and fighters were the three terrors of this aerial front Showcase raids, like Schweinfurt Regensburg and Ploesti, caused terrible losses for temporary results The courage that it took to fly straight and level, holding formation through the worst, was like something out of Napoleonic warfare, standing in ranks to take fire Bomber crews were teams as tightly knit as any on Earth Along with the flying, there are stories about leaves around England, the traditions of the bases, and the devotion of the men to each other.But the mission was murder Thousands of the bomber boys died in combat, and manywere grievously wounded, or held captive in Nazi POW camps this book does not neglect the POW perspective And point military targets soon shifted to area targets like railyards and factories in German cities, and in the last months of the war morale bombings to break the will of the German people, a campaign of terror through mass civilian death Miller tries to draw a distinction between the goals of the Eight Air Force and the RAF s city busting campaigns under Bomber Harris, but I m not sure the Brits deserve that characterization Area bombing against civilians is a war crime, and we can recognize that without the slide into the fallacy that there s no difference between the air campaign and the Holocaust In the end, strategic bombing failed in its goal of shorter, cleaner wars Attrition moved from the trenches to the skies But the men who flew those missions were a rare breed There are damn few of them left Both my grandfathers served in WW2, one in the Pacific, and one was never deployed I m a member of the Commemorative Air Force, which keeps a B 17, Sentimental Journey, flying This book has deepened my appreciation of airpower, the mission, and especially the men 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 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 lotare 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 , 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 evenfascinating 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 muchtechnical 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 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 doneto cover the air war in the PTO but this is the American Psyche war in Europe was known because of the general knowledge of America 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 doneto 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 Part of the title of this book bomber boys seems a little strange to me It is in a way flippant and dismissive of the men who flew the bombers in Europe in World War II On the other hand the eight or 10 men on each crew were in many cases very young And they apparently had a camaraderie that men in the army on the ground did not have as commonly.This is a long book 25 hours in the audible format It covers the story of the bombers in Europe from the beginning of the war until the end It i Part of the title of this book bomber boys seems a little strange to me It is in a way flippant and dismissive of the men who flew the bombers in Europe in World War II On the other hand the eight or 10 men on each crew were in many cases very young And they apparently had a camaraderie that men in the army on the ground did not have as commonly.This is a long book 25 hours in the audible format It covers the story of the bombers in Europe from the beginning of the war until the end It is hard to imagine that we will have her have and air war like we had in World War II again Are that we will ever have a land war like that again Almost all the planes in World War II were propeller driven planes with jets only making a relatively small entrance in the German Air Force at the end of the war.The book takes on all the controversial World War II bombing issues in a relatively straightforward way both looking at what people thought at the time, how the views changed with experience and aretrospective review after the war While clearly leaning in the direction of favoring the United States point of view, the author seemed willing to make some difficult judgment calls based on his own research and knowledge He is willing to acknowledge propaganda when he sees it and to realize that vital information was sometimes publicly misrepresented at the time Civilian bomb casualties is a major issue and it is dealt with with apparent reasonable thoroughness and integrity This is not clearly a pro or anti war book There is much recognition that war is a messy and complicated situation with not much being obvious other than it would be better to avoid them if possible Hitler and the Nazi s are not given many excuses in this book for their actions It was fascinating for me to read about some of the events involving the neutral countries of Switzerland and Sweden Switzerland particularly remained a major trading partner with the Nazi regime and held a considerable number of American pilots who were forced down in Switzerland in very poor conditions.My evaluation of the book is that it made a serious effort to analyze the experience of those involved with the bombing aspect of the war It was an extraordinarily major part of that event and there were definitely different ideas about how to carry it out and those ideas changed with the experience of the war The men in the airplanes we re firefrequently killed rather than wounded When the plane was destroyed or went down it most often impacted everyone on the plane Flying conditions were relatively primitive by today s standards Even when everything went very well End it often did not go very well This book is fairly explicit in its descriptions of the lives of the bomber boys Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany


About the Author: Donald L. Miller

Dr Miller is the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History at Lafayette College and an expert on World War II, among other topics in American history Three of his eight books are on WWII D Days in the Pacific 2005 , the story of the American re conquest of the Pacific from Imperial Japan Masters of the Air America s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany 2006 and The Story of World War II 2001 , all published by Simon Schuster.


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