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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Olaf on 01-05-12
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.
20 of 20 people found this review helpful
By Michael on 02-19-12
An excellent, comprehensive history
Where does Masters of the Air rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Among those books dedicated to telling the story of the European air war, and notably that based in England, this is one of the best. It is comprehensive, well written, well narrated, and it artfully and engagingly stitches together strategy, personal stories, and tactical events. The mix of German and British and American story lines is superb.
What other book might you compare Masters of the Air to and why?
The telling of the personal stories reminds me of Ambrose's talent for doing so. James Hornfischer's
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
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By Allan on 02-01-12
Masters of The Air
You have just got to listen to this audio book. It demonstartes just what was involved with the USAAF and their bombing missions over the Third Reich. The battles that were going daily, during day time, with the American bomber crews against the Luftwaffe and the numerous flak batteries. Is described in authentic detail. It beggers belief that these men were destined to do their bombing missions in daylight. Especially when the RAF got slaughtered when they tried it. However, keeping those USAAF bombers doing their missions created other battles on the ground for their High Command. As the pressure from the USA on the horrendous losses caused their own problems in justifying a continuation of the bombing. Achieving that aim in itself is eye opening, and sometimes surprising. All the problems that the bomber crews of the USAAF suffered at heavy cost of life and aircraft are mentioned in full. So to support the bombing missions the USAAF High Command had to fight a war on two fronts. One on the ETO and the other on The Home Front where the dollars, bombers and aircrew come from. The stories told of these men during their bombing missions leaves not much to the imagination. Their bravery is unquestionable and undeniable. Listen to the events as they unfold. Some of them will surprise you with what was actually involved with the wheeling and dealings that went on behind the closed doors in High Command. Leaving the bomber crews to carry out those decisions made without any say in the matter. That was war. That was the bombers war. Though which is the more difficult?. Bombing during daylight where you can see and be seen. Or bombing at night. Where one can not see but can still be seen? Especially over the lit target area. Either way. This audio puts to rights what actually went on with what the men of the USAAF bomber crews had to endure and live with on a daily basis. Yet somehow.....try and come to terms with what their lost innocense had witnessed and experienced.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Bob Upndown on 09-27-17
Leaves no stone unturned
Very comprehensive account of the mighty 8th. Narration is excellent and it gives you a stark impression of events. The chronology slowly moves forward in the main and it gives a very good account of additional stories such as POW camps, a fate to befall so many flyers. The mixed position of the Swiss is something one never hears about and was a real eye opener. It covers so many personal accounts from the physical flying and targeting to the antics of crew seeking horizontal refreshment in the back streets of London. I'm inclined to say this must be the most authoritative text on the subject as a whole. 25 hours later and I felt like I'd been on a great journey of discovery. Not an easygoing listen but a vital source of information for anyone serious about understanding the events. Highly recommended.
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By Bill on 06-18-18
Riveting listening - an epic description
This audio book is an excellent account of the operations of the brave men of the 8th Air Force. The descriptions of the air combat, and it's effect on the flyers, is amazing.
While it is a great account of the action, the true story is the massive failure of the air campaign. While the author tries at the end to justify the "precision bombing" as a major contribution to the war, it is easy to see that in fact the campaign struggled from failure to failure; every time the bombers advanced their techniques, the defenders countered their tactics.
That these brave young men went out time after time to face death is incredible. That their masters insisted on it despite clear evidence of the lack of impact on the German war machine is an example of the risks all wars have.
If a country invests so heavily in a combat technique, and that technique does not work, it is very difficult for those responsible to admit it and abandon it.
If you are interested in air warfare, this is a must read.
By Hamish on 02-02-17
Has to be the definitive story of the history and men of the 8th Air Force in WW2.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful