**Updated** HBO’s ‘Masters of the Air’ WWII mini-series filming in England

Mighty Eighth

Mighty Eighth B-24 crew of the “Wazzle Dazzle” (Photo by David Foster)

*** REEL BRIEF EXCLUSIVE ***

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.

*** REEL BRIEF EXCLUSIVE ***

The “Mighty Eighth“, as they were called due to their heavy bomber effectiveness, contributed greatly to the defeat of Hitler and Germany.  This upcoming HBO Spielberg-Hanks production is based upon the non-fiction narrative by Donald L. Miller entitled “Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany“.

Masters of the Air

This new WWII television series will be titled “Masters of the Air“–not to be confused with movie trailers released last year for the “Mighty Eighth“.  While HBO and Spielberg are keeping their filming cards close to the vest on this WWII film project, some details have emerged.

Eighth Air Force“Masters of the Air” filmed in Savannah, Georgia last fall.  Now, we see reports in the past month out of England that Spielberg and Hanks may have taken their cameras to film at one of the most historic airfields of the war, RAF Manston:

Rumours are circulating in the film industry that new HBO mini series Masters of the Air, focusing on the missions on The Mighty 8th American air squadron, could be partially filmed at Manston airport…

An American film source told the Thanet Gazette: “One of the sites being looked at for filming is RAF Manston as it is quite historical.

“The Mighty Eighth had carried out its first heavy bomb group from RAF Polebrook but that base no longer exists. So, one of the production sites viewed has been Manston with those historical, Battle of Britain links.”

RAF Manston

The airfield at RAF Manston. (Photo by Alamy)

Could it be true?  In May, it was reported that RAF Manston was closing her doors runway to operations at the end of that month:

“In the absence of other options, the decision has been taken to close the airport on May 15,” it said. “Individual consultation will now take place with all staff members who will be supported through this process.”

One “option” for RAF Manston would be to bring a HBO production crew about to begin filming the most expensive television series–ever.  After all, RAF Manston has appeared in other Hollywood films, most notably 2001’s “Die Another Day“, posing problems for James Bond as a North Korean air base.

If filming is now underway in England, and specifically at RAF Manston, perhaps a German location is next.

No release date has been set for “Masters of the Air“.  More to follow.

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42 Comments

  • Leonard Estrin says:

    I was a ball turret gunner with the 384th bomb group.stationed at Grafton-Underwood. Would like more info as it comes available.

    • Mary says:

      My dad was a ball turret gunner on a B24 – flew out of Tibenham. Shot down and captured on April 1, 1944. Was a ‘guest’ of the Germans in Stalag 17 until they went on their ‘death’ march to escape the Russians. They were liberated by Patton’s 3rd Army. THANK YOU for your service. You are an AMERICAN HERO!

      • My uncle Robert H Kaster was a radio operator on a B24 . Stationed at Tibenham England home of the 445th . His crew on there plane Turd Bird disappeared Jan 30 1944 . Just wonderd if maybe they knew each other ?

        • Mary Amberg says:

          Leslie, I don’t know if your uncle and my dad knew one another although it is entirely possible. Did your family ever learn what happened? I just saw that your uncle was on a raid to Brunswick. My dad flew three raids to Brunswick (1/30/44, 2/20/44 and 3/15/44). Two show one aircraft lost and the 2/20 raid shows three aircraft lost. They were all brave guys and gave their all..some more than others…Mary

          • No never found out what happend sure was hoping for a picture or more info Robert first started training at Gowen Field Boise Idaho had a movie script written out on his journey for Tom Hanks but couldn’t get it to him lol hope mini-series is good ! Sincerely from Leslie in Idaho

    • Les Schrenk says:

      I was a ball turret gunner in the 92nd bomb group
      In 2012 I found the German pilot who shot us down, made friends and went to Heidelberg to meet him.
      A documentary called Mortal Enemies was made and now being aired on local PBS television stations

      • Mary Amberg says:

        First thank you for your service and your part in saving the free world! You are a hero!! My dad flew in the 445th out of Tibenham. He was shot down on April Fool’s Day, 1944 – POW in Stalag 17 until Patton’s army liberated them. Finding the German pilot who shot you down is amazing! My brothers and I also took a trip to Germany and only by chance met the grand nephew of the burgermeister of the town where my dad’s plane crashed. The burgermeister wrote a letter to the American Army telling that them that they buried the crash victims in the church cemetery. We visited that cemetery (they had of course be re-interred later). Just by chance the ONLY person to visit the cemetery that day was that burgermeister’s grand nephew. We had a copy of the letter with us and gave him a copy. He told us how much his uncle hated Hitler. We had a wonderful short visit with him and he gave us a book about the town with a picture of the burgermeister. Your story of finding the pilot must be amazing….Is your story part of Mortal Enemies?? If so I will certainly look for it! God bless you! Mary

      • Thankyou for your service ! My uncle went down Jan 30 44 based out of Tibenham home of the 445th after claiming them MIA two years later my grandmother who had another son my dad a Marine fighting in the pacific theater who received 3 Purple Hearts and the unit citation award she received the letter from the war department claiming they would of never survived the channel with the water so cold my grandmother I’m sure was terrified having both her sons fighting for our freedom ! Thankyou to Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg for telling there stories we must never forget there heroism and sacrifice Leslie in Idaho

      • Ali Canellas Carlton says:

        Les Schrenk – My dad was a ball turret gunner with the 91st bomb group. He passed 7 Dec. 1971. I never had a chance to ask him about his military service. Wondering if maybe you knew him, his name was Joe Canellas, he flew on the “Sweet Dish”, stationed at Bassingbourn, Englad.

    • Thankyou Leonard for your service it’s awesome to hear from the guys that made it back ! We shud never forget the sacrifices and bravery of all you. Big thanks to the big guns Tom and Steven for caring and telling the story so no one forgets ! Leslie in Idaho

    • Willow says:

      My great grandfather was a tailgunner on a b17 in the 384th.

    • Terry Laven says:

      Leonard, my childhood best friend’s father was a B-17 navigator with the 384th at Grafton Underwood. Ken Nelson.

    • Philip says:

      My father was a pilot with the 384th from July thru November ’44. He flew his first mission as Pilot In Command in Satan’s Playmate. I see you had a mission on that same a/c.

  • Don Sauers says:

    Donald Miller’s book is a real masterpiece and suggested reading about the 8th Air Force as is Graham Smith’s book “The Mighty Eighth in the Second World War”.

  • Wow! I thought I would never get any info on HBOs 8th AF project and if it was still going forward or given up on? Thank you for all the great information! I do not have cable so I guess I will be waiting even longer to watch it on Dvd or some other form. My Dad was a B-17 mechanic; looking forward to this great project. I have been lucky enough to see most of the flyable Forts in the past 20 yrs. or so and flew on the Liberty Belle. I live near Langley Air Force Base in Hampton where my Dad saw many of the Officers who would be leaders of the Air Forces in the 30s and 40s. Also please go to The Military Aviation Mueseums Website at Virginia Beach Virginia they have an amazing large and mostly FLYING group of WW2 planes from most Countries! Just saw their most recent annual air show in May 2015, amazing! Robert D. Hoffman Newport News Virginia.

  • Kevin DiLuigi says:

    My dad served on the ground in the 94th Bomb Group at Bury St Edmunds under Col Later BG General Fredrick Castle who became a MOA recipient and was KIA 12/24/44.

    My dad is healthy and almost 94.

  • My uncle was the radio operator of a B24 Turd Bird stationed at Tibenham England they were on a bombing mission to Brunswick Germany when they expirienced some kind of plane trouble they dropped out of formation 3 times before turning back to base . They lost radio contact 25 miles off the coast of the Netherlands , never to be seen or heard from again . All ten men were declared MIA. His name was Robert H Kaster his pilot was Thomas Conner Jr

  • Rick Plasmati says:

    Really looking forward to this. My father flew 30 missions (1944-1945) as a lead navigator in the 453rd out of “Old Buc”. Passed last December at one month shy of 98 years old. He was always so proud of his service.

    • David White says:

      Hi Rick
      Just read about your father serving at old Buckingham with the 453 bomb group , I am a volunteer at the new museam which will be open this year ,it is worth a visit , I would have liked to have your father and thank him .
      David White , Hingham , Norfolk.

    • joshua dabbs says:

      I thought you finished fighting in the air after 25 mission’s I’m not calling you a liar so don’t think that that’s just what I heard is it true

      • joshua dabbs says:

        btw your guy’s family’s were true heroes

      • jcrhem says:

        25 was an initial “tour of duty” when the losses were particularly grim. As the war wore on, and survivability improved for crews, the leadership increased the minimum number of missions. It grew to 50 at the very end stages of the war.

  • Tim Starnes says:

    Cannot wait to see the series. My father was a tail gunner with the 491st out of Metfield. They transferred to 44th BG when they became lead crew. My dad passed 4-11-95. My daughter went abroad for a semester in London. She met a boy from East Anglia that grew up 30 minutes from Metfield. They are dating and she has been to the old airfield and the pubs etc in the area. She was told to tell the locals her Grandfather was tail gunner with the 8th and she would be treated like a queen – which she was. I hope to go to the area one day. The 8th AF museum in Savannah is awesome if you have not been.

  • robert hart says:

    My father major thomas j hart was the co-pilot of the cabin in the sky, robert brown was the pilot. 390th bomb group. 571st bomb squadron. Ive met the crew they’ve been to my house. My father never talked about the war. I had to read books to find out what happened. I read the history of the 390th bomb group. Now i know why he drank alot when he got home. I will read you a little of it. Two bombers. Cabin in the sky and The eight ball. These two b-17s dropped more tonnage of bombs on Germany than any other aircraft in the history of WW11. Cabin in the sky shot down eleven enemy aircraft on the swienfurt raid. One shy of a war record. I don’t know what raid it was. Munster maybe. The 571st had twelve planes on that raid. The pilot called over the intercom to the navigator Gorden Forbes after 45 minutes of hell in the sky. “How are our guys doing back there” he responded “there’s nobody left, it’s just us. They limped back to Framlingham England with heavy hearts and 390 bullet holes in the plane. The Eight Ball was shot down on its last mission. The pilot William Cabral was being attacked by a swarm of nazi fighters with no ammunition left he told his guys to bail out counted eight chutes open. He got on the radio as the fighters opened up on him and calmly said ” I guess this is it” and they blew him out of the sky. So if miller and spielberg and hanks want to show a pilot with more courage than any man they have ever met. Read the story of the 390th bomb group and the skipper of the Eight Ball. William Cabral.

  • Marie Williams says:

    My brother was a tail gunner on a B24 flew 30 missions with the 392nd bomb group. would love to find the nose gunner on another Liberator who shot down an e/a going for his ship . My brother didn’t see the e/a coming because of the contrails, but thank God the other Liberator did. He had many close calls, but came home. They didn’t realize how close they came until they got back to base in Wendling.

  • MIke Johanson, jr. says:

    My father and uncle were ground crew and maintenance on an Island airstrip during WWII [albeit in the PTO] and the stories they’ve told me would make a great series in itself especially in the hands of Spielburg and company.

    Now hearing that the next installment will be “Wild Blue” and relate to Island crews and salvage units during WWII in the Pacific is so exciting and makes me recall those tales. Heroic, heartwarming, funny and exciting. So much history has been lost and should be captured before it’s too late. While they’re both still living they’re far too old at this point to follow such a series but I was very enthusiastic to read all this and look forward to it with my own sons.

  • Craig says:

    I can’t wait. Band of brothers and Pacific were amazing.

  • Marie Williams says:

    My brother flew in 44 & 45 as a tail gunner in a B24 Liberator out of Wendling. I am trying to find the ship & nose gunner who shot down an enemy aircraft who was going for my brothers lead ship 459 on Mar. 3rd 45. The enemy a/c was coming in on their contrails so they couldn’t see him coming.Found out later at base, they were saved by this nose gunner. Think the pilot of my brothers ship was Miller. He usually flew with Daley in Trips Daily. Would love to hear from any WWII vets who have any knowledge of this, or anyone who flew with the Daley crew. My brothers name was Joseph. F. Berry. The mission was Magdeburg.

  • Mark anderkin says:

    I pray that the ground crews get an honorable portrayal in this mini series. Without the masters on the ground there would be no masters of the sky.
    My father was a b-17 mechanic serving with the 99th bg 12th air force in north africa and the 15th air force in italy. Those men spent their years overseas in tents enduring sandstorms, heat and cold, rain and mud. There was no number of missions for them. They were there from start to finish.
    These men cared about their planes and their crews and sweated out missions making sure they did tbeir jobs so their plane and crews could make it back.
    God bless those crews who flew them and those nco gunners! No better bomber no finer men. And ball gunners deserve a special place in heaven in my book!

    • Marie Williams says:

      I totally agree with Mark. After 30 missions with the Mighty Eighth, my brother, after many close calls, came home in one piece. The ground crews certainly deserve much credit for that. After reading many accounts, I know that they did anxiously await the ships making it back to base, rejoiced when they did, and sorrowed when they didn’t. God bless all who fought or otherwise participated and made victory possible.

  • Harris says:

    I don’t doubt this will be a great series and I know they’re both WW2 buffs, but it’d be awesome if Hanks and Spielberg would teamed up and made a series about another war. Maybe WW1 or especially the Korean War, since that war gets overlooked and it has many great stories to be told (plenty of source material, e.g. “The Last Stand of Fox Company” and “Colder than Hell”) and units to pick from. More importantly it still has living American veterans to be interviewed, not many though, they’re in their 80s and 90s (some are WW2 vets).
    Strange how Hollywood just ignores that movie, the South Koreans have made some really good movies about it.

    • I think Masters of the Air has the potential to be the best of the three mini series so far. Or at least on par with Band of Brothers. The best approach I can think of would be focusing on one crew for their entire tour with brief look ins into other aspects. So you could have an episode that looks at the ground crews and the emotions and struggles they go through sending guys off getting to know guys and seeing so few of them return, you could also have other aspects like that with a “core” focus for the majority of series with 1 bomber crew throughout the series. The Pacific struggled from being too scattered. Not one unit fought in the majority of major engagements and its hard to jump around and follow the war in the pacific. The 8th air force has a much more chronological and understandable narrative than a pacific that jumps all over, more in line with what Band of Brothers saw. Another war would be interesting as well but I think the Bomber Crews in WWII really don’t get the kind of attention that the most of the rest of the theaters do get, and the war was so different and unique for them compared to any other conflict.

  • Marie Williams says:

    Found the name of the nose gunner who shot down the ME262 jet that was gunning for my brother. It is John P. Malley who flew with Lt. Jones crew with the 392nd bomb group. I would love to contact him if possible to thank him. I am just researching my brothers service .I think he is 92 now. If he or anyone has knowledge of how I can reach him, I would appreciate that information

  • Piet de Geus says:

    After having read the book and implemented as much as possible in my flightsim Prepar3D, making documents of concerned airfields etc., I am looking forward to the series as well. But who can give me information on when and where (which countries) the series will be presented?
    Witk kind regards,
    Piet de Geus
    Netherlands.

  • Capt. Douglas J.W. Olsson, USN-Ret says:

    My father-in-law…Howard M. Pinner…from Candler, NC…was a Pilot of a B-17 with the 398th Bomber group. He flew out of an airfield about 60miles outside of London…not sure which one. He just passed away on Dec. 23, 2015 at the age of 90. He and his crew were shot down 3 times. They only lost one man…on the ditching into the North Sea…in January 1943. His other events occurred around Kutnow, Poland..the third one I am not sure about. He received the WW II Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross, with 3 Oak-Leaf Cluster combat decorations. When Robert Morgans plane…Memphis Belle was in the Asheville area, Howard and as it so happened…his flight engineer…a Finnish-American guy from Minnesota…were at the Asheville airfield and were allowed to go up into the plane and sit at the controls. So many brave young men put their lives on the line to fight in the Air War over Europe. If anyone out there has info or knows of anyone else from the 398th…please feel free to write me back!.. Capt. D.J.W. Olsson, USN-Ret. ‘ olsson5@charter.net‘ thanks!

  • Scott Sheldon says:

    I have an uncle who was a B17 navigator in the Eighth. He has photos and his journals of the missions they flew over Europe, if there’s any interest in that.

  • Nathan skeem says:

    My Gpa Arlo “Tom” Skeem was in the 398th bomber group with Gallagher’s crew he was a Radio operator/gunner he enlisted in 1942 not sure what went on for 2 years before 1944 when I got told their b17 got the “purple heart Corner on thier mission, Then b-17 he was on had their turbo charger fail which made their plane lag behind the rest of the group after they had dropped their payload in Germany. then they came under fire from enemy fighters and took damage I believe at least 2 if not 4 of his crew got killed and the plane caught fire he was able to shoot down one of the enemy planes which he saw the pilot parachute out, he then realized that everyone else had parachuted out and he was the last man alive on the plane which he bailed, he had some how managed to get his parachute on back words but was able to land with out getting hurt, he then came under fire from Germans and was able to evade capture and flee to the woods for a few days before being capture when he was tricked by some natives in Switzerland to cross back in to a bridge which at which on the other side was controlled by germans which he was captured and became a pow for the rest of the war long story short he survived the death march he past away in 2012 age 92 I thank God he survived or the 4 kids he had, 21 grandchildren, and like 30+ great grand children.
    if anyone would like more info or has info about people that we’re in his crew or group email me nathan155@hotmail.com

  • […] Veja aqui o artigo. Nele você encontra também a entrevista com Donald L. Miller. […]

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