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Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,084 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
The riveting history of the American Eighth Air Force in World War Two, the story of the young men who flew the bombers that helped bring Nazi Germany to its knees, brilliantly told by historian Donald Miller and soon to be a major HBO series.

Masters of the Air is the deeply personal story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep
Paperback, 688 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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A.L. Sowards
This book did an impressive job of covering the air war in Europe, focusing on the US Eighth Air Force, based in England. The parts I most enjoyed were the experiences of the bomber crews, but he also covered strategic air theory going into the war, the debates and decisions of those higher up, American/British relationships, and the view from the German side.

Miller showed the ugly side of war—the results of fire-bombing, the intense mental strain the men were under, mistreatment of POWs and in
This is an extensive read regarding the guys that were in the 8th air force and helped liberate Europe, including my country. I was awed by their adventures, stories and experiences that they had to endure in order to defeat the German Reich, particular the Luftwaffe.

Donald L. Miller writes about a lot of things, the personal lives of the pilots, bombers and gunners, their relationship with the English people, their trips to Londen and the life in a German prison camp for example. All stories ar
How do we compare this new arena of warfare, especially in 1943, to other battles? In 1943, an Eighth Air Force crewman had an 80% chance of dying, being wounded, captured or going missing before completing 25 missions. The bombers always got through, never stopped by the German defenders. This book tells the story of the Eighth Air Force in WWII magnificently. 5 Battle Stars all the way!

If you want to understand the air war in WWII over Europe, this single volume will give you much of what you
Apr 02, 2011 Bennet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Wars are uncontrollable, and no one knows how or why they get out of control but they do. Witness Roosevelt's first statement about fighting a clean war and not wanting anybody to bomb children or innocents or anything like that. But wars just fly out of control." -- Donald Miller

That is at once the most human and inhumane thing about war, and Miller understands the hows and whys more than most. He's a master at parsing and explaining the chaotic dynamics of the air war against Germany. He also
Aug 15, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the subtitle of this book and assumed it was a collection of war stories from 8th Air Force crewmen. I'm not a huge fan of oral history but decided to give it a shot anyway. Wow was I pleasantly surprised. It is much, much more than an oral history. MASTERS OF THE AIR examines the entire experience of the 8th AF from POWs to its portrayal in movies and books to race relations to the effect of the American air bases on the social fabric of the English countryside to the whole question of t ...more
May 25, 2016 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
After sitting on my shelf for a few years, I finally decided to read this. Having read many books on the 8th AF over the years, I was hoping this wouldn't be a rehashing of what I'd previously read. I'm happy to say it wasn't.

The book concentrates solely on the bombers of the 8th AF, with very little attention paid to the fighters or the other American air forces in Europe, although they all do get a little bit of a mention here and there. Some units, such as the 100th BG, get a bit more ink tha
J. Bryce
Easily one of the best things I've read on the "Mighty Eighth Air Force" in WWII -- but like The Monuments Men, I don't see how they (Spielberg, Hanks, and HBO) are going to make a miniseries out of it. Despite the inherent drama, there ain't much traditional plot -- but maybe that's why I'm not a screenwriter!

This will fascinate those interested in WWII history. There are anecdotes and personal histories galore, statistical analysis, strategic discussions and lots of parts where things get blow
Jan 11, 2013 Gerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
I would strongly recommend reading this book only after one has read "A Few Good Captains" by Dewitt S. Copp. It certainly dove tails the development of the USAAF into the USAF and shows the many struggles of pilots of all sorts of Aircraft during WW II and their attempt at surviving especially the early days of the war in the ETO. I wished it would have done more to cover the air war in the PTO but this is the American Psyche - war in Europe was known because of the general knowledge of America ...more
John Nellis
This book is one of the best I've read; on the American bombing campaign in Europe. This book contains almost anything you would want to know about the campaign. It has first person accounts; profiles on the planes; men; and equipment. It has sections on the beginnings of air medicine; and the psychological aspects of what the crews went through. From the supply services to the building of airfields. It's all here. The book is easy to read and keeps you interested throughout. I could go on; and ...more
Devin Croft
Alternately depressing and uplifting. Most WII books on the 8th AF in WWII tend to be hagiographic. The leaders knew what they were doing from the start, chose the right targets and despite the odds overcame the obstacles to victory. The real story was very different. The "Bomber Barons" had no idea what they were doing and clung to pre-war theories of air power that were disastrously out of line with reality. It took more than two years of catastrophic losses in men and machines before previous ...more
Ann Rodgers
Dec 25, 2015 Ann Rodgers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masters of the Air is a masterpiece.
This is both a superb history of one of the most important and controversial battle strategies in World War II and a brilliantly written and edited page-turner. Miller examines many layers and facets of the 8th Air Force in the European Theater, but always through the eyes and voices of the real men who participated. We learn about the roots of the bombing strategy that emerged from World War I through the larger-than-life characters involved in its design and
May 27, 2014 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WWII, in Europe, so the birth of modern aerial warfare. Essentially, the Eighth Air Force ushered in the age of large scale strategic bombing, developing, testing, revising and debating the effectiveness and morality of air campaigns as it proceeded. It is unquestionable that the men who fought in the bomber and fighter aircraft were, as a group, unquestionably brave and valorous. This story also deserves to be told not only in memory to these brave airmen, but so that the issues with which they ...more
Apr 03, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In "Masters of the Air" Donald L. Miller covered every conceivable aspect of the United States heavy bomber crews in Europe during World War II. Enduring extremely high casualty rates these crews suffered more killed in action than the United States Marine Corps suffered in the entire Pacific war. Miller details how the crews were trained, how they lived, how they fought and, all too often, how they died.

The central theme of the book was target selection, how it was arrived at, whether it worked
Jan 28, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Throughout my Air Force Career I read a bit and heard plenty of stories about service in the 8th Air Force in WWII. This book made much of it come frighteningly alive. It even caused me to rent the movie "12 O'Clock High," and gave me the opportunity to pick it apart some. It is still an entertaining piece of film, but a part of me started to wonder whether the Spaatz and Arnold and LeMay crowd hadn't gotten to the movie makers and given the story a bit of positive press as a recruitment tool. A ...more
Luke Henning
Sep 30, 2014 Luke Henning rated it it was amazing
Great book on what was, for me, an overlooked and down played part of the war. Of course the USAAF controlled the skies of Europe; that was just natural to me. But this book tells you how they got there, how they lost a huge percentage of combatants and what the strategic thinking was and how it evolved. I picked this book up for two reasons, the first is a 90 year old ball turret gunner I had the honor to meet this past summer and help with his own book. The second is the upcoming HBO series th ...more
Ralph Wark
Mar 06, 2015 Ralph Wark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyable

That is, if you like history, especially WW II stories. But why would you be reading this if you didn't? Miner does a great job of not only telling the stories, but giving you an idea how it felt to be on a bomber crew in Europe. Pretty much the story of the Eighth Air Force, it takes you through the training in the States to the perilous trip to England to acclamation a nd experiences in the first years of our air war. With the benefit of hindsight he points out the flaws in
Sep 11, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, wwii, aviation
Both entertaining and informative, this book covers the air war waged by the Eighth Air Force against Germany during WWII. You get a good sense of the progression of the air war and learn about the growing pains that the USAAF went through to discover the best way to wage war in the skies. It discusses the USAAF commanders, their strategic decisions, and the relationship with the British Bomber Command.

Much of the book (probably about two thirds of it) is dedicated to the stories about the men
Alex Reinhart
Oct 19, 2013 Alex Reinhart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written, readable history of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign in Western Europe during World War II, when the Eighth effectively ran an entire front of the war on its own.

Miller makes the book interesting with human interest. There are anecdotes and tales about Eighth bomber crews and staff coming into culture conflict with the British hosting their bases. A chapter is dedicated to the human impacts of bomber attacks, in the form of what we'd now call PTSD: the im
Apr 30, 2016 KJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: b-17s
Absolutely incredible. From the opening pages the writing is brilliant and Miller seamlessly weaves quotes from the men who flew into the narrative. And it truly is a narrative. He puts the war into perspective and you see so many perspectives not usually found in books on similar topics. Nearing the end of the book, you feel the exhaustion and hope of those who were praying for the end of the war. Absolutely phenomenal. If I have to choose one book as a recommendation for someone to read about ...more
Alan Konyer
Oct 16, 2014 Alan Konyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Miller does an impressive job covering the experience of the American bomber crews in WWII. One gains tremendous insight into the strategy, planning, personalities, horror, heroism and folly of this aspect of the was against the Nazis. I was very pleasantly surprised at the extensive detail provided in a highly readable and entertaining fashion. Enjoyed it cover to cover.
Nov 26, 2007 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in military history
I have not finished the book, but so far I find it interesting and different from other chronicles of the WWII airwar. In particular, I was amazed at the impact of military and civilian politics on the loss of lives of military airmen. The myth of B17 defensive capabilities perpetrated to justify sufficient allocation of money and manpower to the bomber programs resulted in high losses as the reality of their vulnerability to German fighters became apparent. It seemed that the Army Air Force lea ...more
Feb 11, 2012 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
An amazing account of the bombing campaign in Europe. Great detail, but I never found it dry or boring. The book covered all aspects of the campaign, from high-level strategy, to the daily lives of the men, to the experience of flying in B17s and B24s, to their experiences as POWs. I knew a lot of the basics of this story, but I managed to pick up a lot of new details -- fliers who landed in Sweden and Switzerland; the treatment by the Swiss; the long forced marches from prison camp to prison ca ...more
May 22, 2016 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a very interesting book, though it's more like a report containing some short stories. There's a lot of background information about strategies and tactics and why they were chosen. Which you may or may not find interesting.

Still it is a very good read if you are interested in WWII history.
May 14, 2014 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book for the most part. I found some of the history a bit dry, especially the areas that covered the policies and plans of the generals that were operating on theory and not actual reports from those actually doing the fighting. I was a little disappointed more experiences of the flight crews were not included. I have an uncle who was a B-17 pilot in the 8th Air Force who has related several hair raising tales of his own. That is what prompted my interest in this nook.
Oct 24, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is how histories should be written! The author did a masterful job of combining personal anecdotal stories from the participants with a keen analysis of the grander scope of the events and their motivations. The book was very good at portraying the heroism and the stupidity of the the men involved in the air battles of the bombing campaign against the Third Reich. I was particularly interested in the coverage of some of the incidents and issues that often get little or no coverage in standa ...more
Adam Smith
Jan 27, 2016 Adam Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the finest book on the European theater bombers. Gives a very complete image of the life of an American B-17 crew from liberty to the fear at night of having to get in the saddle the next morning.

Highly recommend.
Jul 08, 2014 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing story of the Air war over WW II Europe. Truly an eye-opening an educating book about an aspect of the war often considered secondary to the heroic infantry battles in the pages of history, yet just as dangerous and important
Steve B
Although the book contains many very interesting individual stories, it rambles too much from one place to another...from personal narrative to tactical second-guessing, to political perspective.
Ian Divertie
Apr 04, 2015 Ian Divertie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read so many books on this stuff its kind of sad. If you haven't read a book on the Air War over Europe in the context of the US Bomber forces involved this is a good one. Highly recommended.
Jon Molesan
Mar 09, 2009 Jon Molesan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book. It's mostly individual stories and accounts from the air war over Germany during WWII. What I remember the most from this book was the strong bond that bomber crews had for each other, and the stress that they had to experience. Case in point (and I get chills thinking about it) 4 crew members on a B-17 bomber took an oath that if the plane got hit and was going to crash, they would all parachute out together. Well on a mission over Germany, the plane did get hit and ...more
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THE WORLD WAR TWO...: 2013 - February - "Masters of the Air" by Donald Miller 182 79 Mar 09, 2013 01:22PM  
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Dr. Miller is the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History at Lafayette College and an expert on World War II, among other topics in American history. Three of his eight books are on WWII: D-Days in the Pacific (2005), the story of the American re-conquest of the Pacific from Imperial Japan; Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany (2006); and The Sto ...more
More about Donald L. Miller...

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