*EXCLUSIVE* Update on HBO’s ‘Masters of the Air’ WWII miniseries

UPDATE: Added reader photo below.

Anyone with photographs of loved ones from World War II, particularly the 8th Air Force, and would like them added to the above post, please email your pictures to reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com and provide any information/background on the photo. Thank you!


8th Air Force’s 93rd Bomb Wing (photo by mightyeighth.org)

This afternoon REEL BRIEF had the pleasure of talking with award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Donald L. Miller.  Continuing the companion piece to the successful World War II miniseries Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010), HBO Films will film a third, ten-part series based upon Miller’s bestselling 2007 book titled Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.  Executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who teamed up previously to produce Band of Brothers and The Pacific, as well as directed and starred in 1998’s epic war film Saving Private Ryan, will once again be the steady hands behind Miller’s book-to-film Masters of the Air air campaign thriller.  Miller has worked with Spielberg and Hanks previously, as both a historical consultant for The Pacific and co-producer and co-creator for Hanks’ He Has Seen War HBO documentary on World War II soldiers returning back to the United States.

Lafayette College Mac Cracken History Professor Donald Miller who is writing a new book of New York in the 1920's pictured at his office in Ramer History House 4583

Miller reports that this newest World War II miniseries from HBO Films will showcase the camaraderie inside the airplanes, similar to how Band of Brothers focused on personal stories of Easy Company on the ground.  Masters of the Air will tell the impressive military story of the 8th Air Force, or “The Mighty Eighth” as they were called more affectionately once their reputation of distinguished service spread across all of Europe.  Known for launching 2,000 bombers and another 1,000 fighter aircraft on a single mission, “The Mighty Eighth” had 17 recipients of the Medal of Honor, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses earned, along with another 850 Silver Stars awarded to their aircrews during WWII. This newest HBO 10-hour miniseries will focus on the air war, specifically the bombing campaign from high altitude over Nazi Germany, while featuring the personal stories of aircrews and leadership within 8th Air Force.

Having just returned from a trip to England in the past month, Miller unofficially scouted out possible filming locales at several airfields.  However, he reports that Hanks will have final say on the miniseries’ film locations throughout Europe.  Miller stressed that filming hasn’t begun at this time, but the start of production could commence very soon–since the script is just about ready to go final.  No formal air time has been announced by HBO….yet.  But with the script nearly complete and filming to begin quickly thereafter, Masters of the Air could arrive for HBO viewers in late 2016 or by early 2017.

More to come…

Masters of the Air

Master of the Air at Amazon.com


UPDATE: Since many readers (see the Comments section below) told us they had a family member who served during WWII, I asked if anyone would be interested in sending along old photographs of their loved ones for posting.  And here you go, from the Saffir family:

WWII Tribute

This photograph is from December 1944, at the Copacabana in New York City, of Staff Sergeant Robert Saffir after he returned to the United States at the completion of his flying tour of duty.  Sergeant Saffir was a member of the 448th Bomb Group, flew aboard 35 missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with clusters.  To the Saffir family, thank you for sharing this photo of a true American hero with our readers!

Anyone with photographs of loved ones from World War II, particularly the 8th Air Force, and would like them added to this thread, please email your pictures to reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com and provide any information/background on the photo. Thank you!

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  • […] June 14, 2015 UPDATE:  Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with award-winning and New York Times bestselling author and historian Donald L. Miller, whom the HBO Films’ 10-part miniseries “Masters of the Air” is based upon.  Miller provided me with the status of how the miniseries’ script and filming schedules are coming along.  You can read the entire article on my conversation with Mr. Miller at this link: *EXCLUSIVE* Update on HBO’s ‘Masters of the Air’ WWII miniseries. […]

    • George Roberts says:

      As a former airman who flew 31 missions in 1943-44 in the 8th USAAF, I can hardly wait, I know that hope springs eternal, but at 94 years of age I am the last living member of my original crew and optimism decreases with each passing day.

      • Olaf says:

        Mr. Roberts
        As a Dutchman I want to thank you and your brothers in arms for giving us the freedom we enjoy now.

      • Patrick says:

        Thank you for answering our nation’s call, Mr. Roberts!

        • Darby Kinni says:

          Thank you George for your heroism at a time when it was much needed. I would like to ask what BG you were in and squadron? As I said in my comments I am now the editor of the 407th squadron Newsletter and would like to know if you would like to share any stories with me? You can e-mail me if you wish.
          Thank you again for your service to our country!

          • George Roberts says:

            I was in the 306th Bomb Group, 367th Clay Pigeon Squadron. My first mission was October 8th to Bremen; 9th to Gdynia, Poland; 10th to Munster; and the 14th to Schweinfurt. At Schweinfurt we were the only crew in the squadron to reach to target and ten bombers in the group were shot down. Our plane, “Cavalier” was hit bad on the first mission, got her back for Schweinfurt and that was her last. I flew in several other planes until May of 1944 when we got a new G model and named her “Princess”. The crew chief wanted to name her Princess Elizabeth in recognition of her 16th birthday but some thought that would be a bad omen if she ever got shot down. Accordingly she was renamed “Rose of York” and I flew my last 15 missions on that plane. She was christened by Princess Elizabeth who is currently the Queen of England. I was on combat from the first week of October 43 through the second week of July 1944. We were fortunate to be the group leaders on D-Day. I think I am the last one of our original crew still living. Our original crew was split up early on so we could fly with experienced crewmen. On the first mission to Bremen our copilot, flying with another crew, was shot down and became a POW. Our pilot, who flew as our copilot for the first five missions, got his first assignment as pilot on November 13. On a mission to Bremen he encountered a thunderhead over England and the plane could not be controlled. He ordered the crew to bail out and then rode the plane down to steer it away from the little town of Princess Risborough. With a full load of bombs, It exploded on impact in a nearby field and he was killed instantly. For his efforts the town’s people erected a monument in his honor, My name was listed as one of the crewmen that bailed out, but It was an error as I did not fly that day. Our Bombardier and Navigator flew as replacements with another crew in January of 44 and both were killed. During my combat tour our waist gunner received three purple hearts and the pilot and radio operator each received one.

            This is not the best condensed answer to your query, but then you will understand this was over 70 years ago and this old man is now 94.

      • John Culleton says:

        Thank you George Roberts, my cousin was one of your comrades

      • Cody McKone says:

        George I am 23 years old. Ever since I was a young kid I have always taken an interest in the air war over Europe. Specifically I grew up fascinated by the B-17. I read a lot about the history of the air war now and have made a hobby building model B-17s. I serve in the Army and I would just like to say that I have the absolute most highest respect for you and all those other men who served in the bombers. I know you have heard it many times through your life, but thank you sir. Thank you for all you and your brothers went through.

        • Ilija Katic says:

          Same here Cody. Ever since I remember I have been fascinated by the air war over Europe during WW2. Look up the Bally Bomber. You’ll probably find it as interesting as I did.

      • Nikki Dykstra says:

        Hello, Mr. Roberts,

        I hope this comment finds you well. My grandfather was in the 306th Bomb Group, 367th Clay Pigeon Squadron. His name is Tunis Dykstra. He was the lower turret gunner. He flew 35 combat missions. Do you remember him? I would love to learn more- it pained him to speak about it, so our family never had the opportunity to hear any of his stories. He always had a picture of you all framed on the wall above his recliner.

      • Erick says:

        Sir thank you infinitely for your military service.
        I hope the release of this mini-series which I’m looking forward to as well, finds you in good health and high spirits.
        Your deeds will not be forgotten.
        Thank you.

    • David Owen says:

      Col. William V. Owen (Ret.), 95th bomb group, and 482nd, was the lead pilot on the first B-17 air raid over Berlin, and flew in all of the major missions, over Europe, during which the 100th were also involved with. He is still alive and has been mentioned in a few books about the Berlin mission, and more. He is almost 95, and doing well, and through talking to him, is not going away any time soon. He can put more into the Masters Of War than anything anyone has gathered up to this point, I know, because I’ve talked to him, and compared notes…..a book is currently being written about his career.

  • My brother, Walter “Buck” Merkel, Jr., gunner on “Amazin Maizie” (shot down 8-7-1944) completed over 260 combat flight hours. He kept his medals in a dresser drawer and seldom talked about the war. In 2011, we lost Buck. As professional authors, Ann Frommer and I honored him by writing “TailGunner: War Defines Us”

  • Darby groen Kinni says:

    My father flew late in the war. He passed away 2 years ago. This story should have been told long ago. The men who flew everyday were hero’s. I sent my fathers story to Tom Hanks about 8 years ago. The book was called “Aloft “.I now write a Newsletter for the 92nd BG(H) 407th Squadron and the more stories I hear and men I talk to makes me so proud to be an American and even prouder that my father was one of those men!.

    • John Davidson says:

      Darby, my Dad was in the 92nd as well. S/S Richard B. Davidson. He was in the 327th B/S and served from late 1944 until VE Day. He originally started off as the ball turret gunner, but was moved to the tail gun position in the deputy lead plane. His original pilot made group leader of the 92nd and it wasn’t long after that, that they installed a radar where the ball turret was. That’s when my Dad got bumped to the tail gun position. He flew 23 missions before the war was over.
      The 327th led the last bombing mission and he was always proud that his squadron led the 8th on the last bombing mission over Europe. He also flew in one of the planes that dropped the first Disney Rocket Bombs on the sub pens in IJuiden Netherlands.
      After VE day, he volunteered to help with the transportation of US POW’s from France to the UK. They stripped B-17’s of all armament, so they could transport POW’s to England. He ended up coming home by ship. Halfway across the Atlantic they announced that the Japanese had surrendered. My Dad passed away in 2012 at age 86.
      He was my best friend and my Hero.

  • Patrick says:

    Thanks to everyone for sharing your personal stories and family connections to WWII. It’s a pleasure to read them. Keep ’em coming!

  • Darby groen Kinni says:

    Thank you George for the condensed story of your time overseas. I will look you up on the 8th Air Force site and see what I can find. My newsletter is in a series of 3 on the 2nd Schweinfurt mission October 14,1943. If you would like to e-mail me personally I would like to send you my newsletter. My e-mail dkinni@pmafla.com. I think you would like it as I’ve had a great response from many of the old timers.
    I would also like to ask your permission to maybe add this to one of the newsletters. If so I would need a crew picture if you have one.

  • Kevin DiLuigi says:

    My father was on the ground at Bury St Edmonds with the 94th BG, tail sign Square A. He served under Col Fred Castle who later became a BG and took command of the 4th Bomb Wing and was killed Dec 24th 1944 receiving the MOH in the process. Pop is 93 and in good shape. I hope he gets to see this series.

    I remember him commenting about how badly the B-17s were shot up and still came home.

    • Patrick says:

      Thanks for sharing your father’s story, Kevin. An amazing and valiant experience and contribution to the Allied effort. I hope he’s able to see the series too. Cheers.

  • Monique says:

    My father was a B17 pilot/co-pilot for the 8th AF based in Chelveston, England. He flew 35 missions. He didn’t talk about the war. I have a photo of him with his crew and B17. I treasure it. He met my Mom over there. She was in the Royal Air Force working for the Belgian Embassy. I do have Donald Miller’s book – great book!!! I’m looking forward to seeing the movie based on his book!

    • Patrick says:

      Thanks, Monique, for telling us about your father and how he met your Mom. If you’d like the photo of your father and his B-17 crew posted here, feel free to submit it. With all these great personal stories coming into the Comments, perhaps I need create a place to embed photographs of loved ones as a tribute to those who answered the call of our nation and saved Europe.

      • Judy Werking says:

        I would love to see pictures from your other readers, especially crews with their bombers. All are hero’s in our eyes. Thank you.

  • Patrick says:

    Anyone with photographs of loved ones from World War II, particularly the 8th Air Force, and would like them added to the above post, please email your pictures to reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com and provide any information/background on the photo. Thank you!

  • I have been researching the teaching of Air Navigation at Griffith Observatory, and have found that thousands of navigators and other flight officers, mostly of B 17s and B 24s from March Air Field, Muroc, Tonopah, Santa Ana, the Transportation Corps reviewed thier star-identification in the planetarium here, under acting director Clarence Cleminshaw. Even 75 Chinese air men trained here! We had a secret preview planetarium session for the 19th Bombardment group the night before they flew the first 30 B-17’s from San Francisco to Hawaii on May 13/14 1941, under Lieutenant Eugene Eubank. If anybody has any stories connected to planetarium training during WWII, especially with Griffith Observatory I would be most appreciative to hear from you!

  • Clint HayesC says:

    As of 9/5/15, Variety Insights shows no entry at all for Masters of the Air, either under that title or The Mighty Eighth. It doesn’t show up on the in-development slate for HBO, Playtone, or under any of Spielberg’s shingles. Only The Wright Brothers and Lewis and Clark show up under Playtone. If the B-17 mini is in development at all at this point, it’s not evident, and definitely nowhere close to final script, much less principal photography.

  • Martin Bacon III says:

    My Great Uncle, Martin G. Bacon Jr. was a top turret gunner crew chief and was a T/SGT in The Mighty Eighth. He and his crew led by pilot Dan Corson on B-17F tail number42-24432 named Danellen or Dan Ellen was shot down on the 4th mission to Romily-sur-Sein France Dec. 20 1942. Only the tail gunner survived and was taken POW.

    • Sam Ashworth says:

      Martin – I just finished an exhibit featuring four WWII veterans from Middletown, Ohio, one of which was Dan Corson. Will send photos if interested. Sam

  • Nick Tasy says:

    My Grandfather was the oldest of five children; four boys and one girl. He and two of his three brothers went off to fight the war. My Grandfather served as, I believe, a radio operator inside of an LVT(A)-4 amtank in the Pacific. He may have seen his first combat on Eniwetok in February 1944. My Grandfather later went on to land on Saipan with the first assault wave on June 15, 1944 supporting the 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. He was almost killed after landing. He went on to fight on Tinian and then on islands surrounding Okinawa in April and May of 1945. He survived the war.

    The second of the three brothers that fought served in the U.S. Navy, though I’m not certain where. I’ve been told that he may have fought in North Africa and/or Italy. The third and final fighting brother served in the Pacific, similar to my Grandfather. We have a picture of him standing on the wing of a P-47 Thunderbolt in New Guinea in November of 1944. Whether or not this means he served in the United States Army Air Force, I do not know. That information, and the information regarding the Navy brother, are all in the possession of my other family members, the immediate family of both men, respectively. All three brothers survived the war.

    Also, my Great-Grandfather, the father of the woman by amtanker Grandfather would later marry after the war, served in F Company, 310th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division in France in 1918 during the First World War. I am humbled to be related to such brave men. I can’t wait to see this upcoming HBO miniseries, for if Hanks, Spielberg, and Goetzmen are at the helm, it will definitely be superb.

  • bob josephs says:

    My father was, Robert Josephs a B-17 pilot for the 305th bomb group, 366th bomb squadron. He flew out of Chelveston from the fall of 1943 to July 1944. He had four crew member receive purple hearts. He brought home a small wooden smoke bomb painted with the crew member names and the missions flown. It had flak gathered from the plane in the hollow chamber inside where the charge had been removed. He too, lost crew members when they flew as replacements on other planes. At his funeral several crew members said your dad’s flying saved my life to me. If my dad had been there in spirit, he would have said boys, I was saving my life first. Then he would have laughed.

  • William J Carter says:

    I was a ball turret gunner in tthe 358th Sqdn; 303rd Bomb Group and flew 35 missions in 1944-45. I am now 90 and anxiously awaiting the release of Masters of the Air.,
    Wm J Carter
    Ames, IA

    • Gary Birken says:

      My father, Irving Birkenholz, also served in the 303rd. He was a radio operator as part of the Nafius crew in the 360th squadron and completed his 35 missions during the same time you did. Did you by chance know him?

  • bob josephs says:

    My father Captain Robert Josephs flew 30 missions with the 305th bomb group 366th bomb squadron on the B-17 “Ain’t Misbehavin” out of Chelveston. He told me that his was a replacement crew for the Schweinfurt mission losses. He flew from late 1943 till early summer in 1944. I picked up his flight jacket after he passed to keep and it still had a morphine styrette in the pocket.

  • steven arnett says:

    Dear Sir; As a Retired Air Force veteran and son of a member of the 100th Bomb Group WW11, I can tell you, I can not wait to see the series Master”s of the Air. I relish in the thought of watching a series about the men who served the mighty 8th Air Force. I have read and studying about the Air War in Europe since I was a small boy. My father entered the USAAF in 1944 at the age of 17 and was a tail gunner. Thank you to all involved for telling the story of the mighty 8th. Steven Arnett Master Sergeant Retired USAF.

  • Dave says:

    still waiting……

  • Steve Oakes says:

    George Roberts as an Englishman I’d like to thank you and all those who served in the US armed forces for helping to secure freedom to my country and the wider European continent. Your story is very inspirational and I hope that When Masters of the Air eventually comes to our screens that it will capture everything experienced by brave airmen such as yourself during the war. Thank you again, the UK, US and our allies are eternally in your generation’s debt.

  • Kay Manly says:

    With all due respect…..how about some FACTUAL DATA on the release date.

  • donna says:

    I can’t wait for this series to be released.I know Tom and Steven will do it justice.I so humbly and respectfully thank all you men for serving and for sharing your stories with us.It really brings to life the value of freedom when we hear the stories and watch these mini series.We owe these men so much.Thank you!

  • Robert Weingartner says:

    Any new updates on the mini-series? I have been looking forward to this since I first heard about it over 3 years ago. As of today, October 8, 2016, the nearest update was from 15 months ago. I thought the series would have been finished and aired by now.

    • Clint Hayes says:

      Robert, the director of business development for Variety’s film and TV database told me last December that their contact at HBO said they were no longer developing Masters of the Air. Neither Playtone nor HBO showed it in development at all at that time. That we’ve seen no more news about it makes me believe it’s dead for now.

      • jycmba says:

        Wow, that seems so strange considering how far along the project seemed to be. Usually, that kinda thing only happens with big blockbuster films.

  • Don McAlpine says:

    I hope that the 15th AF is mentioned in this-they were underreported and are often overlooked.

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