Masters of the Air

  • by Donald L. Miller
  • Narrated by Robertson Dean
  • 25 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This is the dramatic story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. With the narrative power of fiction, this is a harrowing ride through the fire-filled skies over Berlin, Hanover, and Dresden.
Fighting at 25,000 feet in thin, freezing air no warriors had 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 music of Glenn Miller’s Air Force Band. 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. The Eighth Air Force lost more men in the war than the US Marine Corps.
The bomber crews were an elite group of warriors. Actor Jimmy Stewart was a bomber boy, as was “King of Hollywood” Clark Gable. 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 bombed at night while American bombers attacked by day - a technique that British commanders thought was suicidal.
Drawn from interviews, oral histories, and American, British, German, and other archives, this is an authoritative, deeply moving account of the world’s first and only bomber war.


What the Critics Say

Masters of the Air is a stunning achievement. The compound effect of the book’s narrative vitality and attention to human detail is terrific in all the meanings of the word - terrifying, extraordinary, highly admirable. What a story it is!” (David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Facts and Emotions Masterfully Combined

A book about war does not have to be either military history or record of human experiences but can be a combination of both if skillfully written for the knowledge and heart sections. This book is a very good example for this. It would not be the right book for somebody beginning to learn about World War II but if good overall knowledge of the war is given, the book provides deep insights into this very special theater of war in Europe. Even though I have read many, many books about the war I have found quite a bit of facts which were completely new to me. The individual histories of the fliers going through this ordeal are told with great tact, respect and without nationalism - just as it has to be. Highly recommended.
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- Olaf "German by birth - cosmopolitan by conviction. A CFO enjoying dynamic and multicultural Asia. Classic car and history buff and scuba diver."

Omelet with everything

The thing you should probably know before using a credit on this book is that the title is a bit misleading. While substantial portions of this very long survey of the Allied air war against Germany are devoted to telling the stories of individuals and the missions they flew (and even of their experiences as POW's), Miller's dominant objective seems to be the parsing of the air campaign from every possible viewpoint: economic, strategic, moral, political, social, strategic and tactical. Also, it is principally the story of the 8th Air Force operating out of England, so while it's treatment of that unit is comprehensive, it has little to say about other U.S. bomber commands in the European theatre.

Miller writes clearly and the book is read very competently, but I found my interest sagging as the narrative followed a kind of oscillating formula: detailing political maneuverings, analyzing matters of strategy, describing the planning and execution of a particular operation, and then zooming in for closeups of the action as it affected individual units and crews. Then the process would begin all over again with the next phase of the campaign.

That said, I certainly know a GREAT deal more about the air war in Europe than I did when I began the book. At times Miller also succeeds in powerfully communicating the emotional landscape of the struggle. While the flyers periodically take a back seat to the generals and the politicians, there is enough here to engrave their exploits in every reader's mind. And the questions he raises about the choices the U.S. and England made in regard to "civilian" vs. "military" targets are unsettling and painfully timely in today's world. I guess I just think all of it would have been more effective if it were not presented in a single omelet which was trying to use up all the tasty things in the fridge in one dish.
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- David "Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-08-2011
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.