Though we've certainly seen our fair share of World War II dramas in recent years --- one of which, World on Fire, is currently airing right now --- it doesn't seem like the entertainment industry is running out of ways to tell this story anytime soon. Perhaps that's a good thing, if only because attention must be paid to the many incredible acts of bravery and self-sacrifice that made the Allied victory possible. Apple TV+'s upcoming drama Masters of the Air is centered on one such group, a squad of American pilots whose heroism ultimately helped change the tide of the war --- and played a key role in thwarting Hitler's Reich for good.
Based on the meticulously researched book of the same name by Donald L. Miller, Masters of the Air is set to dramatize the story of the 100th Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force, which began hitting targets inside Germany in early 1943. Known as the Bloody Hundreth for the high number of killed, wounded, and missing in action the unit suffered during the war, only four of the original 38 co-pilots assigned to this group completed their assigned twenty-five mission tour. The group lost 732 airmen in less than two years, with over 900 more taken prisoner. The average age of pilots in this group was just 25 years old.
The nine-episode limited series will follow the stories of these young men as they conduct perilous bombing raids over Nazi Germany and grapple with the frigid conditions, lack of oxygen, and sheer terror of combat conducted at 25,000 feet in the air. Taking viewers from the bucolic fields and villages of southeast England to the harsh deprivations of a German prisoner-of-war camp, the ambitious drama will delve into a unique and crucial time in world history and take an unflinching look at the emotional and psychological toll these events took on those that participated in them. Some were shot down and captured; some were wounded or killed. And some were lucky enough to make it home. Regardless of individual fate, a toll was exacted on them all.
For all that Masters of the Air aims to tell a specifically American story, the cast features more than a few faces who will be familiar to Anglophiles. The all-star ensemble is led by Academy Award nominee Austin Butler (Elvis), Callum Turner (The Capture), Anthony Boyle (Derry Girls), Nate Mann (Ray Donovan), Ben Radcliff (Anatomy of a Scandal), Rafferty Law (Twist), Barry Keoghan (Saltburn), Josiah Cross (A Thousand and One), Branden Cook (Industry), and Ncuti Gatwa (Doctor Who).
Here's the series' synopsis.
From Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman - the producers of Band of Brothers and The Pacific. During World War II, airmen risk their lives with the 100th Bomb Group, a brotherhood forged by courage, loss, and triumph.
Masters of the Air is written by John Orloff (Band of Brothers), with Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) directing four of the nine episodes. Amblin Television’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey co-executive produce alongside Playtone’s Steven Shareshian. In addition to writing, Orloff also co-executive produces. Graham Yost also serves as co-executive producer.
"Masters of the Air is a salute to the brave men of the 8th Air Force, who, through their courage and brotherhood, helped defeat Nazi Germany in World War II,” Goetzman said in a statement. “Tom and Steven have always wanted to visualize cinematically what our author Don Miller has called, this ‘singular event in the history of warfare.’ We’re thrilled that Apple TV+ has given us the opportunity to combine the efforts of so many talented people, on-screen and behind the camera, to tell this important story.”
Masters of the Air will premiere on January 26 with two episodes, followed by new installments every Friday through March 15.