Masters of the Air – S01E01 – Part One | Transcript

Led by Majors Cleven and Egan, the 100th Bomb Group arrives in England and joins the 8th Air Force's campaign against Nazi Germany
Masters of the Air - S01E01 - Part One

“Masters of the Air,” a 2024 American war drama miniseries, heralds a new chapter in streaming television. Crafted by the creative duo John Shiban and John Orloff, and further developed by Orloff for Apple TV+, this series marks a significant addition to the platform’s offerings. The narrative is rooted in Donald L. Miller’s 2007 book, “Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.” It vividly recounts the harrowing experiences of the 100th Bomb Group, a B-17 Flying Fortress squadron in the Eighth Air Force during World War II. Known infamously as the “Bloody Hundredth,” this group was distinguished by the severe casualties it suffered in the thick of battle.

“Masters of the Air” stands as a companion piece to the esteemed series “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “The Pacific” (2010), completing a trilogy of sorts in war-time storytelling. Notably, it is the first series to be produced by Apple Studios, in collaboration with Playtone and Amblin Television, showcasing a significant investment in quality historical drama.

The production, which commenced in England in 2021, faced numerous setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, “Masters of the Air” successfully premiered on January 26, 2024, demonstrating resilience and commitment to bringing a pivotal era of history to the screen.

* * *

The premiere episode of “Masters of the Air” introduces key members of the 100th Bomb Group during World War II, such as Gale “Buck” Cleven and John “Bucky” Egan. The episode, blending fact with fiction, confirms some historical details, like the B-17 Flying Fortress named “Alice from Dallas,” but leaves others, such as Bucky’s narwhal tusk incident, ambiguous. Key plotlines involve challenging landings, airsickness leading to navigational errors, and the introduction of a dog named Meatball. The episode culminates in the 100th Bomb Group’s first mission, a disastrous affair resulting in significant losses, mirroring historical events. Personal struggles are also depicted, including a soldier’s hands freezing to his gun and a colonel’s unexplained illness, likely drawn from personal anecdotes rather than public records.

* * *

[captains sigh]

[captain 1] Two more.

[bartender] Coming right up.

Bucky’s got all the luck.

Yeah, she’s pretty.

No, not that. Lucky bastard’s shipping out tomorrow.

He’s gonna be a stone’s throw away from the Krauts, while the rest of us will still be flying practice missions over Nebraska.

Ah. Don’t worry. We’ll be over there dropping bombs soon enough.


Bucky, next round’s on us.

He’s never done that before. [chuckles]

So you’re Bucky, and he’s Buck?

Uh, it’s a long story.

They make a nice pair, don’t they? Oh, I should have introduced them earlier.

He’s leaving tomorrow.

Everyone needs someone to write to back home.

I don’t know if John Egan’s the pen pal type.


Well, maybe if he met a girl worth writing to, he would be.

Ah. Well, a girl worth writing to is hard to find.

Not if you know where to look.

Ah. I see what you mean.



So, you’ll write me?

Well, I already have.

You wrote me a letter?


What’s it say?

Well, you’ll have to wait and find out.

[chuckles] Well, when will that be?

Mmm. When I ship out. I’d say two or three weeks.

I’m gonna miss you every second.

[captain 2] All right, all right. Gentlemen, a toast.

Buck, Marge… hey, you lovebirds… we’re toasting Bucky over here.

[patron 1] Hear, hear, Major Egan.

To our new Air Exec, Bucky.

[patron 1] Hey, hey.

[patron 2] All right, Major.

[captain 1] Of all the drunks in the 100th.

Well, someone’s got to make a nest for the rest of you dodos.

Cheers, Major.

[patron 1] To the 100th.

[patron 3] Yeah, to the 100th.

[patron 4] Best of luck, sir.

[sighs] Thanks.

[captain 2] Save some Krauts for us.

We’re going to Slooter’s.

You guys coming?

Nah, I-I gotta fly early.

[captain 2] Buck?

I don’t think so, boys.

See you tomorrow then. Bye, Marge.

Bucky, see you in England.

And remember, I want extra blankets and a cot with a view.

[groans] Consider it done.

He won’t tell me. What’s with the nicknames?


[friend] Spill, Marge.


Go ahead. Go ahead.


[Bucky] Told you, it’s a long story.

Well, they met in basic training before the war started.

John, uh… John was always Bucky since he was a kid.


That’s right, yeah.

And Gale… Well, Gale’s always been Gale.


First day of basic training, this fella walks up to me

and says that I remind him of a guy back home in, uh, Wisconsin,

goes by the name of Buck.

I tell him my name’s Gale, Gale Cleven.

[both chuckle]

And, uh…

But Bucky here, he’s not deterred.

No, sir. It’s, uh… It’s just “Buck this, Buck that.”

“Buck, can you help me tie my shoes?” “Buck, help me fly this plane.”

[chuckles] Before I know it,

the whole damn Eighth Air Force is calling me Buck. So…

What kind of a name is Gale anyway?

Oh. [gasps]

[Bucky] You know what?

You… You know what? You should actually be thanking me. I did you a favor.

For giving me the same name as you?

It’s not exactly the same name,

and it’s not my fault you look exactly like Buck

from Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

From Manitowoc.

What kind of man does that to his best friend?

Aw, it’s so sweet. [chuckles]

Mmm. We need music.

Okay. Don’t go away, Gale…

Mmm. Buck. You’re gonna dance with me before this night is through.

Oh, don’t make me dance, Marge.

[chuckles, kisses]

[Bucky] Pick a good one.


Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman.

[Marge laughs]

Hey. You know, I am amazed that we’re friends.

You don’t like to dance with a beautiful woman.

You don’t drink. You don’t gamble.

You don’t even like sports.

Well, we are one of life’s great mysteries.


[Marge chuckling]

[“Begin the Beguine” playing]

[chuckling] Oh, I love that. Yes.

[friend] Yeah?

[Marge chuckles]


Hmm. So this is it.

[sighs] This is it.

I’ll see you in a few weeks.

If I don’t die first.

Hate to break it to you, Bucky, but you are the 100th’s Air Executive now.

You’re not going over there to fly missions.

Look, I, uh… I had a conversation with the CO over at the 389th,

and I’m flying with those boys until you guys show up.

I’ll be an observation pilot.

You son of a bitch.

Mm-hmm, yeah.

Well, someone’s gotta taste a little combat,

tell you what it’s really like up there.

Well, don’t you die on me before I get over there.

Don’t count on it.

[Bucky] Keep your nose down! Let’s get this fire out!

[pilot] Come on, faster! You have to help us!

That’s it! The fire is out!

Pull! Pull up! Up!

[pilot shouting]


[grunting, shouting]

[pilot] Okay, leveling out! Almost there!

[Bucky grunts] Fighters, 12:00! Dead ahead!

[pilot] Oh, shit!

We’ve lost the fourth flap.

Pilot to navigator.

We gotta head back. We need a new heading!


This is Duval. [grunting]

And I’ve been hit.

[Bucky] I’m coming down to you, Duval.

Point it due west.

Roger! We’re losing oil pressure on engine two!

[Bucky] Keep it steady and I’ll get a new heading.

[breathing shakily]

Breathe, man! Just breathe! Hang on!

[Duval grunting]

Duval! Where are you hit?

[shouts] Ah, fuck.

Stay with me, Duval!


I’m right here.

I’m not gonna make it, Bucky. [shouts]

Stop it, Duval. You’re gonna make it.


Put your hand on the wound.


Here. That’s good.

[Duval] Okay. Okay.

All right? Stay with me, goddamn it!

[breathing heavily, shouts]

You hear me?

Look at me! Open your eyes! Open your eyes!

Breathe, breathe, breathe!

[breathing heavily, grunts]

[pilot] Fighters, 12:00!

[sergeant] Got one!

[pilot] Egan, I need that heading!

[Bucky] New heading: Turn left at 248.


Come on. Stay with me.

[Duval grunts]

[Bucky] We’re headed home.

Yeah. Yeah.

Just keep breathing!


[choking, gasping]

That was a hell of an observation mission, Major.

Are they all like that?

You wondering what to tell your guys?

Don’t say anything. They’ll figure it out.

We all do.

[airplanes passing]

[crew member] The 100th bomb group was sent to England in the spring of 1943

to join the US Army’s Eighth Air Force in its battle against Nazi Germany.

[lieutenant] I say we call this fort Alice From Dallas.

Alice From Dallas?

It’s got a ring to it.

Alice From Dallas. Alice, our palace.

Show Major Cleven.

Lorch, show the major.

I want her back.

Hell of a dame. She’ll give this fort a little extra muscle.

Oh. [chuckles] I see why you’d wanna name this fort after her.

Aw, she’s special.

She’s formidable.

Amison, you sure you got us to the right fjord?

Roger. 100%.

[lieutenant] Nutting, how we looking back there?

Eight in a line, sir.

[lieutenant] Roger.

[crew member] Most of us had never traveled far from home,

let alone flown in an airplane.

We came from every corner of the country, with a common purpose:

to bring the war to Hitler’s doorstep.

[Buck] Pilot to crew. We’ll be touching down in Greenland shortly

to get some chow and some rest.

Blondie Tower, Army 233. A flight of B-17s over Bluie West One.

Landing instructions, please.

[landing officer] Army 233, flight Blondie Tower.

Continue for runway six. Clear to land.

Sky CAVU. Winds 330 at 40, gusting to 50.

Altimeter 2-niner-niner-0.

It’s a little breezy.

Breezy? In ‘Bama, we call that a hurricane.

Roger, Blondie Tower. Continuing to runway six. Sky CAVU.

Winds of 330 to 40, gusting to 50.

[landing officer] Hell of a crosswind. Gusts increasing, fellas. Be careful.

You might want to circle around, Major. Welcome to Greenland.

Landing gear down. Get ready on flaps.

[lieutenant] Landing gear coming down.

It’s gonna get bumpy. Hang on, guys.

[Buck] Pilot to crew. Prepare for landing.

Left gear down.


Right’s down.

Final-approach checks. Flaps at quarter?

Yeah. Flaps at quarter.


Flaps at half.

[lieutenant] Flaps are half.

[crew members grunting]

Flaps up.

Got ’em.

[Buck] You gotta pull up, Veal. Come back around.

[crew member] Our unit was made up of four squadrons.

Major Gale Cleven was the commander of the 350th.

He and Major Egan were the unquestioned leaders

of our entire group.

Ev Blakely was a pilot from Seattle.

Look who it is.


[crew member] And big-hearted Benny DeMarco, from Philly.



Hell of a landing.

Seen worse.

Is that the fight?

[Amison] Yeah.

Claytor, you got money on this, right?

I do.

It’s bad signal though, man.

Yeah, you don’t say.

Well, turn it up.

[crew member] Bombardiers James Douglass and Howard Hamilton were from the Midwest.




[Claytor] Calm down. I got it.

[crew member] And Charles Cruikshank, also known as Crank, was from New England.

Hiya, Crank. Heard you boys had a rough landing.

[crew member] My best friend Joe “Bubbles” Payne and I were navigators,

so location was important to us.

Uh, Major? Lieutenant Crosby.

Uh, where are you from? Yeah, we gotta put a pin in it.

Bubbles and I… we’re, yeah, you know, keeping the tradition alive.

Got guys from all parts.

Yeah. [chuckles]


Casper, Wyoming.

Cowboy State, huh? [chuckles]

[Buck] Yep.

Well, it looks like you’re the first, Major.

How about that.

[officers cheering, chattering]

Major. What can I get for ya?

A buddy of mine came through here some weeks ago.

Group Air Exec. Uh, there was an incident.

You friends with Egan? Major John Egan? Bucky?

I am. Yeah.

Whatever he said, I didn’t do anything wrong.

No, he… he just wanted me to give you this.

Said it’s a replacement.

A replacement?


[scoffs, sighs]


And how exactly is this supposed to be a replacement?

Sergeant, I don’t know what went on,

but he told me that that should make up for it.

You see that?

Broken narwhal tusk? He pulled it down off the wall, pretended to be a unicorn.

Ripped two of my couches, broke almost every glass in the bar.

I see.

You know, usually I can spot a troublemaker,

but your friend seemed fine.

Till he started to sing.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

♪ I asked her for credit She answered me nay ♪

♪ Such a customer as you I can have any day ♪

♪ And it’s no, nay, never ♪

You don’t have to do this.

It’s a stupid bet.

♪ No, nay, never, no more ♪

I have to now.

♪ Will I play… ♪

[patron 1] Who’s it gonna be?

All right, all right.

[patron 1] Who’s it gonna be?


Now, I’ve played every one of ya… [clears throat]

…and you Irish are about as good at hitting that bull’s-eye

as you are at hammering your nails.

[patrons clamoring, laughing]

I don’t know why you’re laughing. You English ain’t much better.


But Tommy here, Tommy here is the best damn dart slinger

in the whole of East Anglia!

You’ll lose an eye.

No, I won’t. I trust Tommy.


Now, he wins this, I get both those bikes.

Yeah. You’re on, Yank.

[Bucky] Both of ’em.

[patron 2] All right, both of them.

And I get a kiss.

All right, Tommy. Not my eyes. Not my eyes, Tommy. All right?

[breathing deeply]

[patron 3] Come on, Tommy.

[breathing deeply] Whoo! All right, Tommy. Whenever you’re ready.

[patrons cheering, laughing]


I just lost two bloody bikes, Tommy.

What’s the matter with you?

Tommy! [laughing]

♪ Nothing but blue skies Do I see ♪

♪ Not in England though Got shitty weather and blue skies ♪

♪ Smiling at me ♪

Evening, Major. Is that bike for sale?

Not for all the money in the world.

[Crosby] It was my job to get Captain Brady and the rest of our crew

from Greenland to our base at Thorpe Abbotts in England.

But somehow, we were separated from the rest of our group

in the clouds over the Atlantic.

Tough enough with zero visibility,

but I had another problem: uncontrollable air sickness.


[Brady] We have an electrical problem.

We need a heading.

Crosby, you there?

Sorry. Could you repeat that?

We got a gremlin in the electrical.

Give us a holding pattern while we figure this out, Croz.

Roger. Stand by.

Turn right to 165. Over.

[Brady] Roger. Turning right to 165.

Shutting off electrical and recycling it. Let’s fix this.

It’s gotta be one of the control circuits.

I’ll pull the fuses. That’ll isolate the problem.

Right. Go.

[Hambone] How are you still vomiting?

Your stomach’s gotta be as empty as our fuel tank.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah.



[Hambone] Ugh!

Oh, gosh darn it, Croz.

I’m sorry.

It’s all over me. Get me a rag.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Come on.

It stinks.

[Brady] Come on. You got it?

No gremlin as far as I can see. Maybe a problem with the wheel motor.

[Brady] Restarting batteries and generators.

[flips switch]

Back on.

Warning lights off.

Is that the coast of England? Crosby, that’s England, right?


No, we… we shouldn’t be over water, Lieutenant.

Sir, what’s your heading?

165, like you told me.

Oh, good Lord in Heaven.

Son of a bitch. That’s France!


Pilot to crew, flak ahead. Hold on. Shit!

Goddamn it, Croz.

[exhales sharply]


[people chattering]

[horn honks]

[Bucky] Morris. Thanks for the bikes.

I’ll get you next time.


Come on. [clicks tongue] There you go, lovely.

Keep that way. Ooh, oh. Go on, girl.

Here they come.


[children laughing]

Come on, boy.


Hey, Major.

[Bucky] Where did you get that dog, Benny?

I won him at craps.

You took this baby above 10,000 feet.

He’s got a mask. It cost me three bucks. But boy, he loves to fly.

He wouldn’t stop howling.

That’s because he’s part wolf.


That wolf’s part dog.

Got a name?


Welcome to the 100th, Meatball.

Come on, Meatball.

You miss me?

Like a stone in my shoe.


How you been getting on?

Uh, half our equipment’s yet to show up.

Had to borrow masks and parachutes from the Brits.

Air Exec ought to take care of that.

My opinion: They ought to can the guy.

Also, get used to the mud.

Hey, listen, your, uh… your radio guy pick up any chatter from the 418th?

We’re missing Brady.


Oh, I got you a bike.

I need a bike?

Or it’s a 20-minute walk from the quarters to the mess.

And these things are sold out for weeks.

I figure you’ll buzz past a bunch of guys crawling through the rain

on the way to dinner.

You’ll come around and say, “Thank you, Bucky.”

Don’t count on it.

Well, there’s Brady.

Okay, let’s check the landing gear. Bring it down.


Left coming down.

Tail down.

Negative on right.


Right wheel won’t come down.

Blum, get on the manual crank.

[Blum] I’m on it.

Hafer, you help him out.

Roger, wilco.

Take that.

Where’s the crank?

Come on.



[Blum grunting] It won’t budge.

Come on.

[Blum] I’m trying.

Come on. Get out of the way. Come on. Give it here.

You got it?

Yeah. [grunting]

The landing gear motor must be fried or the jackscrew’s jammed up.

You sure?

[Blum] Yes, sir.


It’s completely frozen.

It’s not coming down.

Bring the left landing gear up.

You sure?

Yeah, we got a better shot at walking away from a belly landing

than we do on one wheel.

Clear-up Tower, this is Army 071. Landing gear not responding.

Requesting landing instructions. Over.

[tower operator] Roger, Army 071, clear to land.

Rescue crew at the ready. Over.

[copilot] Roger, Clear-up.

[Brady] Pilot to crew, prepare for crash landing.

[Hafer] You hear that? Come on. Let’s go. Let’s go.

[announcer] 247. Emergency personnel…

[soldiers clamoring, shouting]



[breathes heavily]

Okay. Get out! Everybody out.

[Blum] Let’s go, go, go!

Get the fuck out of here!

Move! Move!

Go, go, go, go.

[siren blaring]

Go, go! Come on! Get a move on. Run now or you’re dead. Go, go!

[sirens continue]

[emergency worker] All clear.

[panting] Oh, fuck.

Easy deal.

Jack it up and hook it up.

I’m on it. Let’s go.

You’re a navigator, Crosby.

You should be able to, I don’t know, find England.

Everyone okay?

Yes, sir.



Step into my office.

How’d you lose the rest of the squadron?

We, uh… We got separated in clouds.

And, um, then we had some kind of electrical failure,

so we spent an hour just trying to get the wheel down.

Well, you know what they say.

There are two kinds of pilots,

those who have had a wheels-up landing and those who will.

Major, it looks worse than it is.

[Bucky] All right. Sort it out.

[crew member 2] On it, Major.

You didn’t have to cover for me, okay.

It was my responsibility. I should’ve…

I wasn’t covering for you.

We had a mechanical failure.

Get a grip on that airsickness.

Or get off my plane.

[softly] Yes, sir.

Croz, you take the scenic route?

So, you wanna tell me about this unicorn story?

Well, the unicorn is my favorite extinct animal.


How the hell did you manage that?

How else, Bubbles? [stammers]

Puking my goddamn guts out.

I thought that went away

once you got going.

[Crosby] No, yeah, it usually does.

But this time with the turbulence, it kinda… [stammers] …I don’t know.

[sighs] This time it didn’t.


I gotta be the worst navigator in the entire Army Air Force. [grunts]

Oh, Crosby, there’s gotta be somebody worse.

[Bucky] Whoa. Hey.

[Bubbles] At least one.

Wrong side of the road, Lieutenant.

[Crosby] Sir.

[Bucky] Welcome to England.

Now, you ask me, those two have watched Test Pilot

a few too many times.

You watched Test Pilot a few too many times.

Yeah. [sighs] Didn’t help.

Well, at least we get to tell ’em which direction to point the plane.

[Bucky] See ya, Buck.

[Buck] Thanks for the lift.

Normally the direct route. In your case, the scenic route.

[Crosby] Oh, the scenic route? Oh, very funny.

I wouldn’t have assumed I’d need to explain to you

the gravity of your responsibilities.

You are aware this isn’t just about how well your crews make their beds.

I am, sir.

Which is why I prioritize the flying more than their folding.

You are in charge of 35 planes and 350 aircrewmen.

Boys who have yet to experience combat.

Their lives depend on order and discipline and your example.

Yes, sir.


With all due respect…

I think I would be of more use to them and you

as a squadron commander, rather than an Air Exec.

Just because you spin the baton at the front

doesn’t make you the band leader.

I just don’t think I was made to sit behind a desk.

I need to be up there helping my guys.

Colonel LeMay has us in his sights.

And he’s just itching to pull the trigger on the 100th Bomb Group.

That’s not gonna happen on my watch.

And I expect all officers to get in the game with me.

That means you, Major Egan.

You’re dismissed.




[breathing heavily]

[guard] You okay, sir?

Should I call the doctor?

I’m all right. [breathes heavily]

[Crosby] Within days, they woke us up for our first mission.

With hundreds of hours of flight training in the States,

we had to believe we were prepared.

We had to, because now it was real.

[soldier] Sir. Sir, you’re flying today.

Major Cleven, sir.

[Crosby] There was always a special breakfast on mission days:

eggs, French toast, flapjacks, double rations of bacon,

fresh grapefruit juice and a couple of cups of GI coffee.

The men would come to call it the last supper.

I hope we all we get back okay from…

Chuck, can you pass the salt, please?


[soldier] Oh, shit. He spilled the salt.


Would you please toss the salt

over your shoulder, so we can all get on with our breakfast?

[shaker shatters]

[soldier 2] Who did that?

[soldier 3] Jesus.

Not the whole thing, Chuck.

[soldier 4] Doesn’t bring us bad luck.

You said toss the salt.

[soldier 2] Moron.

He said toss the salt.

Curt, I’m flying with you today.

[DeMarco] Here you go.

You’re what?

Sorry, Dick.

I know that puts you in the tail, but at least you’ll be able to shoot back.

It’s all right.

Is Meatball saddling up?

Lemmons or Wink will watch him.

You don’t wanna go on this one, buddy. I promise you.

Well, I better get some of those eggs before they’re all gone.

No, don’t bother, Buck.

These eggs were hatched and powdered before my balls dropped.


All right. I’ll pass on the eggs then.

Morning, boys.

[soldiers] Major Veal. Morning, sir.

How’d you sleep? [sighs]

Fucking great.

Like a fucking baby.

The new CO flying with us?

The new CO, or the new, new CO?

[soldiers laughing]

Don’t worry about the CO.

Worry about your flying.

I want formation so damn tight

you wouldn’t be able to slip a dime through our wingtips.

[soldier 5] Yes, sir, Major Veal.

[soldier 6] Yes, sir.


[colonel] As you were.

The target for today is Bremen.

[soldiers clamor, laugh, whistle]

We’ll be hitting the U-boat pens on the Weser River.

Now, I cannot stress enough the importance of this target.

We lost almost 70 cargo ships to U-boats last month alone.

And if we can’t get material from the United States to Great Britain,

we won’t be stepping foot on the continent.

The 350th will be in high position with Major Cleven as lead pilot,

and the 349th will be low with Major Veal as lead.

I’ll be up front with Lieutenant Dye in the 351st.

After formation, the 100th will join the 94th, the 95th,

and the 96th bomber groups.

We will be in the low-low.

[soldiers sigh, whisper]

Tail-end Charlie.

[colonel] In a total wing strength of 78 heavy bombers.


Major Bowman, our Intelligence Officer,

will take it from here.

And Captain Becker will finish up with the weather.


[Bowman] Thank you, sir.

Lights, please.

[colonel] There you go.

Note both naval and ground-based flak positions

along the Frisian Islands, from Norderney to Langeoog.

Over the mainland, you can expect concentrated flak from Wilhelmshaven,

all the way down to Bremen.

Identified batteries consist of 88 and 105 millimeter guns

guided by Würzburg radar, so they will be tracking you.

Navigators, bombardiers, once we’ve wrapped up here,

be sure to report to HQ for a specialized briefing.

Now, your IP is on the northwest side of Bremen, here.

Target map, please.

From that initial point,

it’s a straight nine-mile run to the target.

These are the pens on the east side of the river.

Now, this central pen here will be your mean point of impact.

And your heading on to the run-up will be 218 degrees true.

Immediately after the turn, follow the river.

Here you go, Major.

Thank you.

[Dick] Come on, Curt. [sighs] What’s your quote for the day?

I’m gonna fly like an angel today, and not die like one.


Major, I think it’s too small. I can’t get it on.


There you go.

Buck, give me a hand with this sheepskin.


[crew member 3] You good? You got this. We got this.

I like your aftershave.

Good. This is how close I want you on my wing today.

Just like we trained for.

Yes, sir.

[person] Good morning, gentlemen.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Father Teska.

I’m right across the way…

Captain Phillips too,

if anyone needs us.

Thank you, Padre. We’ll be sure to keep that in mind.


[Bucky] Buck.


You all right?

[Buck] Yeah.

What’s this?

You settling accounts?

It’s my lucky deuce.

Your lucky…

Jesus, John.

Here. Take it.

I’ve gone on two missions with it already. I had two wheels down.

Look, two corners bitten off. One for each mission. Here I am.

Take it.

[Curt] Get on in here.

For luck.

All right.

[blowing kisses]

See you later.

[blows kisses]

All right.

See you all later.

That’s where I’m going.

Let’s circle up.

As you know, it’s our first mission here.

I trust you all to remember your training and know your jobs.

Let’s knock one off, and drop bombs on those Nazi fucks,

and we get to go home early.

[crew] Yes, sir!

Major here is gonna be flying with us. Major?

First time in the sawmill, boys.

Let’s rack ’em up and knock ’em down.

[crew] Yes, sir.

All right. Why are we still standing here then?

[Buck] Everything okay back here, Dickie?

Are you kidding?

It’s cozy as a suite at the Ritz.

[chuckles] Thank you.

[sniffs, sighs]



We’re blessed to have you on our plane, sir.

I feel the spirit of God in you.

Yeah, in all of us, pal.

You saved my seat.


Rather offer it to you than have you sit on my lap till I move.

Ready for the checklist.

[Curt] Form 1A?


Fuel transfer valves and switches?

Both transfer valves are off and switch is off.

Intercoolers are cold.


[lieutenant] Fuel shutoff switches?

All four open.

Cowl flaps?

Open left and locked.


Throttles are closed.

Master and ignition switches?

Batteries on.

And check.

Booster pumps, pressure?

[Dye] Pumps on.

Fuel quantity, good.

All right, Lieutenant, you ready to start engines?

Yes, sir.

Start one.

Good to have you with us, Colonel.

[engine starts]

[Curt] Start two.

Start two.

Fuel pressure, oil pressure looking good.

Start three.

[Crosby] The B-17 had 12 machine guns protecting us from every side.

We called it the Flying Fortress.

But the key to our survival was sticking together,

creating a combat box of defensive fire from a tight formation.

It was important because if we got separated,

the German fighters could pick us off one by one.

[soldiers cheering]

Give ’em hell, boys!

[cheering continues]

Show ’em green.

[colonel] Here we go, fellas.

[engine rumbling]





Okay, boys. Here we go.

[engine rumbling]

[Curt] Forty.





100, 110.

[Buck] Still climbing, boys. Three hours before we hit the target.

After-takeoff checklist.

Climb power is set.

Cowl flaps are good.

Right gear is up.

[Buck] Left gear’s up.

[sergeant] Tail wheel up.

Okay, Bosser, let’s get you in the hole.

[Buck] Okay, Curt, I got control.

Pilot to crew. 10,000 feet.

Masks on and check in.

[Bosser] Ball turret, roger.

Tail, roger.

Right waist, roger.

Left waist, okay.

Radio, roger.

[sergeant] Engineer, roger.

Navigator, okay.

Bombardier, roger.

Best, pop a flare.

Let’s see if we can get into formation in this soup.

[Best] Roger that.

Is that a flare?

Nose to crew, I think I saw a flare right below us.

Copy. You see who it came from?

Negative. I can’t see a thing out there.

Holy shit! B-17 12:00 low. They’re right below us.

[copilot] Roy, pull up!

Damn it! There’s a fort on top of us.

Roger. I see him.

[Claytor] Tail gunner, talk to me back there.

Goddamn it, are we clear?

Tail to pilot, we’re clear.

[copilot] Jesus. That was close.

[Claytor] That’s Cleven’s fort.

I’d know that aftershave anywhere.

[copilot] Are you serious?

[Curt] I mean, you told him to stay close.

[Buck] Not like that.

Pilot to crew, we got another hour climbing through this muck.

Keep your eyes peeled.

[Veal] Christ. We need to catch up to the rest of the group.

We’re way behind. Formation’s a mess.


[lieutenant] Engine one running rough.

We’re losing it.

[Veal] Shit.

[Buck] Pilot to tail gunner. What can you see back there?

Tail to Cleven, from our group we’ve got six in formation.

The 351st is lined up but the 349th is way back. All six of ’em.

Looks like their lead, Veal, is trailing smoke.


Redmeat Lead, this is Surface lead.

What’s going on back there, Veal?

[Veal] Surface Lead, having engine problems. Working on it.

Roger. You need to make a decision, Veal.

You’re putting your squadron in jeopardy.

Pacer Lead, roger.


[lieutenant] Sir, we’re miles behind the group.

The longer we wait, the longer it’ll take for them to catch up.

[huffs] Goddamn it. Shut it down.

Cutting fuel.

[engine 1 stops]

Feather that prop.

Pacer Lead, this is Redmeat Lead.

We’ve lost engine one.

Can’t maintain this pace. We’re headed back.

Copy, Surface Lead.

[Veal] Redmeat Deputy, we have mechanical failure.

I’m heading back. Lead is all yours.

[colonel] Roger, wilco.

Pilot to crew, we’re taking Redmeat Lead position.

Go to maximum continuous power.

Monitor our consumption.

We’re gonna burn a lot of fuel catching up with the rest of the group.

[siren blaring]

[soldiers panting]

[siren continues]

[speaking German]

[speaking German]

Fire! Fire!


Here we go. Flak incoming. Hold on, boys.

[Bosser] Ball to crew, flak, 11:00 low.

Flak 10:00 high. Four o’clock high.

[Best] Flak, everywhere.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray.

And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,

by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan.

[Curt grunting]

[Buck] Navigator, what’s the ETA for our target?

[navigator] About 11 minutes.


[Curt] Eleven minutes?


The heavenly host, and all the evil spirits…

[left waist] Holy shit! [grunts]

Who wander through the Earth, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

[shrieks, pants]

[Curt] Shit.

Bombardier to command pilot, we should be over the target

but I can’t see a damn thing. Should I drop?

[colonel] It’s no good.

It’s no good.


I am not dropping bombs

if we can’t see the damn target.

Navigator, how does the secondary target look?

[navigator 2] Navigator to command pilot, the same.

Zero visibility, sir.

Command pilot to crew, I’m scrubbing this mission.

Navigator, prepare a new heading.

[navigator 2] Roger.

Zootsuit Two Lead to Zootsuit Two.

Roger. Uncle. Fox. Xray.

[Dye groans]

[colonel] Repeat. Roger. Uncle. Fox. Xray.

Damn it, CO’s scrubbing.


Surface Lead to Pacer Lead, roger, wilco.

Pilot to crew, mission scrubbed. Repeat, mission scrubbed.

[bombing stops]

Flak stopped.

You know what that means, boys.

Okay. Get ready, fellas.

[left waist] Roger that, Major.

Command pilot to tail, what do you see back there?

[tail] I can’t get a read on the 349th. They’re still way back.

Cleven’s group is close and tight with us.

[colonel] Roger that. Keep an eye out for enemy fighters.

Any second now, boys. Keep your eyes peeled.

Top turret to crew, 12:00 high. Fighters!

[tail] Jesus, they’re fast.

He’s going after Veal’s crew.

Fighters, 12:00 high!




They got Adams. Oh, no. No. They gotta bail.

Adams, bail out. Anyone see chutes?

[tail 2] Tail to pilot, I don’t see any chutes.

Roger. Keep calling out those fighters.

Fighters! Twelve o’clock high!

Schmalenbach’s hit.

Oh, Christ. There goes Schmalenbach.

[captain] Oh, shit. They’re coming straight for us. Jesus.




Cleven to tail, what do you see back there?

Tail to Cleven, the 349th are in a cloud bank.

I don’t see them, sir.

190s coming back at us.

Fighters, 6:00. Eight o’clock!

Oh, man. [grunts] Fucking jammed.

[pants] Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Come on! [strains] Come on!

Son of a bitch! [grunting] Jesus Christ.

Tail, report. Dickie.

[panting, grunting] Tail to Cleven, fighters are gone.

I only see two left from the 349th, sir. Three forts are gone.

Dickie, repeat.

There’s only two left from the 349th, sir.


[Bosser] Ball turret to pilot. Sir, they shot a hole in the turret.

I’m freezing to death. Can somebody get me out of here?

[Buck] Hey, guys, get Bosser out of there and warm him up.

Bosser okay back there?

[right waist] We’re working on him, sir.

Your suit’s all shot up. No wonder.

Get him a blanket.

Hang in there, boys.

We’ll be back at base right after we dump these bombs in the channel.

[Veal] No power and then she just finally gives up on us completely.

[engineer] Some tough luck on your first mission, Major.

The carburetor mixture link caused a spark plug to load up and foul.

It should just take a few hours to fix.

[alarm blaring]

Seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

[soldier] We got you. We got you.

Let’s go. Go.

[medic] Come on.


[soldiers clamoring]


[medic 2] Stay tight.





Colonel, are you okay?

Oh, geez. Are you okay, sir?

CO needs help!

There’s no more coming.

I count 15.


Nineteen took off, one returned. Three missing.

They’re all from Veal’s squad.

Come on.

Here’s the numbers, sir.

Not now.

Okay. Get in the fucking truck.

[crew clamoring]

[clamoring continues]

Van Noy! Hey! Glen! Glen!

[Bucky] Hey, Veal. Veal, calm down.

[Bowman] Mouths shut. Get in the truck.

Not another word, not another word. Save it for the interrogation.

Van Noy, nothing. On the truck.

Get to interrogation now.

[Bucky] Not another word.

[Veal] I’m just trying to find out

what fucking happened to my boys.

Get to interrogation.

Now! That’s an order.

[soldier 1] Come on. Get on, man.

What are you looking at? You got a fort to patch up.

Back to work, boys.

[Bucky] Let’s go!

[crew member 1] Let’s do it. Let’s go.

Let’s get the truck moving. No talking!

[breathing heavily]


[crew member 2] Yeah. Freaking miracle it didn’t go down.

[crew member 3] Look at this baby.

[crew member 4] Yeah.

[crew member 5] Shredded to shit.

This’ll take a while.

Let’s fix it up.

Ain’t nobody came.

[crew chattering]

[crew member 3] We gotta replace it…

I don’t know. I don’t know about that.

No-flap landing.

Motor was shot.

I need to get you to interrogation, Buck. Come on.

Didn’t drop a single bomb.

I had to salvo them over the channel.

I know.

[engine starts]

Let’s go.

Why didn’t you tell me?


You’ve been up.

Two missions.

You didn’t tell me it was like that.


I didn’t know what to say.

You’ve seen it now.

I don’t know what I saw.

[sniffs] Thirty guys…


I should have been up there with you.

[sighs] We got a long road ahead of us.


[captain] I admire you Americans. You’re up there in broad daylight.

But bombing during the day is suicide.

Seeing as you like to do your fighting at night, Bryan.


Who can hit their target at night!

Do you feel anything? Because me? I don’t… I don’t feel a thing.

[Blakely] We have a problem, Major.

I can fly.

Oh, the hell you can.

We’re leading the Wing today.

I can’t lead a wing.


[Crosby] Flak, 12:00 level.

[Dickie] Engine three has been hit bad.

[gunner 3] Tail to Cleven. Biddick’s been hit.

[Curt] Prepare for crash landing.

Too low. Too low.

Pilot to crew. Brace yourselves.


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