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Masters of the Air – S01E03 – Part Three | Transcript

Explore 'Masters of the Air' Ep 3: A heart-pounding dive into WWII aerial combat, showcasing the Eighth Air Force's daring raid on Nazi Germany
Masters of the Air - S01E03 - Part Three

Plunging into the heart of WWII’s aerial battleground, “Masters of the Air” Episode 3 ramps up the adrenaline and gets down to the nitty-gritty of combat. This episode transcends a mere history lesson, offering a front-row seat to the Eighth Air Force’s most audacious operation—a deep strike into the heart of Nazi Germany that focuses more on the visceral thrill of dogfights and the raw determination of the airmen than on their dialogue. Set on August 17, 1943, it’s a gripping narrative, capturing the turmoil of war from the tight confines of B-17 cockpits to the strategic disarray above the clouds. It tells an epic story of survival, where the thin line between success and failure is navigated through sheer willpower, and heroes are those who live to recount their ordeal. With “Masters of the Air,” the series doesn’t just recount history; it immerses us in every electrifying moment of the action, showcasing that the heart of a story often beats loudest in its most thrilling sequences.

* * *

Ah-ten-hut!

[Harding] At ease, gentlemen.

Exactly one year ago to the day, the Eighth Air Force sent up its first maximum effort.

It was a combined force of 12 B-17s.

[soldiers chuckle]

Today, the Eighth will be sending up a max effort with three air task forces.

[soldiers whisper] Yeah.

Totaling 376 heavy bombers and 240 fighters.

Not bad, huh?

Yeah.

That’s the largest air armada ever assembled in the history of mankind.

[cheering, whistling]

Yeah!

Yes!

Now, we will be in the first task force

targeting the Messerschmitt 109 engine assembly plant in Regensburg.

Second and third task forces will hit the ball bearing factories

in Schweinfurt.

And no war machine moves without ball bearings.

If we succeed,

we knock German production off line for months.

There’s no telling how many lives we could save.

Corporal.

Dear God.

Oh, boy.

This is Regensburg.

[soldiers clamoring, whispering]

[Harding] And you’re probably thinking

that’s a lot of flying time over Kraut territory.

It is.

It’s the deepest we’ve attempted to reach.

But the mighty Eighth has a plan.

Major Bowman?

Go get ’em, Red.

It’s a three-punch combo

and the Krauts will only be able to defend one of them.

So, execution and timing will be essential.

[Curt] Uh, Major?

Why does that red line go all the way down to Africa?

That is a characteristically astute question, Curt.

And I’ll answer that in a moment, if I may.

[soldiers laugh]

All right, all right. Laugh now. All right.

Now, the three task forces will assemble over the channel together.

And then split here.

Now, the Luftwaffe will only be able to mount a sizable defense

against our first task force

before having to head back to base to rearm and refuel.

And when they finally get back in the air,

the second and third task forces should be dropping their bombs

on the ball bearing factory in Schweinfurt,

while we’re dropping our bombs on Regensburg.

Now, to answer your question, Curt.

As we drew the… How can I put this…

[chuckles]

the shitty end of the stick on the approach,

and we’re taking the brunt of the enemy fighters,

the brass, they’ve-they’ve come up with an ingenious plan

that is sure to confuse the hell out of the Krauts

when we’re a no-show for the return.

That’s because you’re headed to Africa, gentlemen.

[soldiers whistling, clamoring]

The 12th Air Force will welcome you with open arms, ice-cold beer

and lobster tails.

[soldiers cheering]

It’ll be… It’ll be like a holiday. Y’all like beer.

If we get lucky.

[Harding] Thank you, Red.

And now for some bad news.

In our wing, we’re tail-end Charlie.

[soldiers murmuring, clamoring] Worst spot in the squad.

[Harding] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lives ain’t worth a nickel.

The lead squadron is the 418th

with Major Kidd as command pilot of the group.

In addition, Major Egan will be flying in Captain Cruikshank’s fort,

as, um, reserve command pilot of the group.

Major Veal leads the 349th and the 351st in the high position…

What, I got a fucking passenger?

Apparently so.

There you are.

[Harding] Now, uh, it seems like we have a little tricky weather pressure

in the early hours. Stormy?

Let me guess, it’s gonna rain.

Hundred-percent chance.

That’s, uh, quite right, sir.

Over the base today, gentlemen,

cloud cover stands at about five-tenths stratus at 4,000 feet.

Topped by five-tenths…

What the hell is a “reserve command pilot”?

I… I don’t know.

You had nothing to do with it?

[Stormy] Visibility will be…

What?

Cloud invisibility should be good over the Alps

and on your way south to Africa.

Thank you, Stormy.

Now, the success of this mission rests upon getting all three task forces

precisely coordinated over the channel.

If we don’t rendezvous in sync,

well, there’s no pass fake.

That means a fake pass in sports talk.

05:20 in ten seconds.

Good luck…

and I’ll see you all in a few days.

Hack.

[tower operator] This is Clear-up Radio to aircraft 567.

All aircraft are advised that takeoff has been delayed

due to heavy fog.

The entire wing is on temporary hold. Stand by for further instructions.

[crew member] Clear-up Tower, this is aircraft 567.

Roger temporary hold. Standing by. Over.

[Teska] “Lord, guard and guide the men who fly

through the great spaces of the sky.

Be with them traversing the air in darkening storms or sunshine fair.

Thou who dost keep with tender might, the balanced birds in all their flight.

Thou of the tempered winds, be near, that having thee they know no fear.”

[sergeant] All three task forces are socked in.

We got a 30-minute delay.

[Teska] “…Fly through lonely ways beneath the sky.”

You’re on the way through purgatory and you reach a fork in the road.

One road goes to Valhalla,

the other goes to hell. Damnation.

On each of the road is a goblin.

One goblin always tells the truth.

The other is a tricky little fucker. He always lies. Okay?

What’s the one question that you need to ask

that’s gonna tell you the right way to go?

Jesus Christ. [chuckles]

[horn honks]

Hey, Lieutenant. You got a visitor.

That is a class woman.

[sergeant] Stand by for 30 more minutes.

Do you ever have any good news, Garcia?

[Garcia] You got complaints? Take it up with operations.

Hey! Strongly worded letter to follow!

[vehicle departs]

Delayed another half hour, fellas.

Why can’t we just take off?

Because we can’t. It’s fog.

Haven’t the pilots been trained for that?

Yeah. [stammers] Isn’t that what they get paid for?

Sure.

They can fly upside down with a lollipop in their mouth.

But if there’s a cow on the runway…

A cow on the runway?

Where do you come up with this shit, Quinn?

We’re in a flying fortress.

We can take on a cow.

[Quinn] Alice isn’t a Buick, Baby Face.

She’s a tin can.

If we go head-to-head with a cow, she’d accordion. With us in it.

[Chuck] Oh, I see your cow.

Peanut butter, peanut butter, peanut butter, jam.

[sighs]

I’d turn your cow into ground beef.

Bucky.

Bucky.

Bucky.

Yeah, Crank?

[Crank] How’d you convince Harding to let you fly?

What do you mean?

You, Buck, Veal, Kidd?

Three squadron COs and an Air Exec.

Lot of eggs in one basket.

Yeah, I’ve never seen so much brass in the same mission before.

Well, I wasn’t gonna miss this one, was I? [chuckles]

[Crosby] Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Do you ask it, “Are you the good goblin?”

Uh, no.

No, but you’re getting closer.

You’re smarter than I thought, Croz.

Ten bucks says the second and third task force

is already up in the air.

[Crosby] Ah, nah.

Nah, they wouldn’t hit their target before we formed up with them.

Ah, what if they do?

Then this genius plan is shit.

[sniffs]

Come here, Meatball. Come on.

[Meatball whines]

Good boy.

[Curt] Hey, Buck.

Hey, Curt. [sighs]

[Curt] Some soup, huh?

Yeah.

We have fog like this back home.

Always spooked me as a kid.

[Buck] No one likes the fog.

How your boys doing?

Antsy.

Not me.

I’m feeling good.

I feel like this could be a big one, you know?

It is.

I think we could do some real damage.

Well,

better get back to the ant farm.

See you in Algeria.

See you there, Buck.

Here you go, sir.

LeMay wants us wheels up.

He doesn’t wanna wait for the other task forces.

What do you mean?

They’ll have to catch up, sir.

[sniffs]

Engine start at 06:40. Send up a flare to resume operations.

Yes, sir.

We’re sending them straight into hell.

Alone.

Command pilot to crew.

Anyone see the other task forces?

[soldier 1] Radio, negative.

[soldier 2] Waist negative.

[soldier 3] Tail, negative.

[soldier 4] Negative, sir.

Negative.

Not what they fucking said!

They said we’d get the brunt of it, buddy.

Yeah, I know. I know.

But the other task forces were supposed to be sweeping up after us

to make sure they don’t come back for seconds.

Where are they, huh?

Via, you sure you don’t see anyone?

Not a one of ’em. Still alone.

Crank? You think we can get, uh, closer to Blakely?

Can do.

Back seat driver.

Ha! That’s right, Crank.

Backseat pilot in reserve.

Come on, Buck. Keep pace with us.

[Buck] Looks like we got stood up by the other divisions.

We’re on our own.

[Dickie] They ain’t trying too hard with this flak.

[Curt] Keeping it clear for the fighters.

Shit! Fighters at 10:00 low! Ten o’clock low!

[shouting, groans]

They’re going for Buck.

Fighters, 2:00!

[ball turret] Nine o’clock low. More Germans.

[waist gunner] I’m on the nine!

[Douglass] More fighters. Two o’clock level.

Got you, son of a bitch!

More at 11:00 low!

They’re going for Claytor!

[grunts] Left wing is hit.

[breathing heavily]

Oh, she’s pulling left.

Left flap locked up. Compensating.

[gunner] Rockets 2:00!

[Buck] Holy shit!

[screams]

[breathes heavily]

[Curt] Shit! They’ve hit Cleven.

Norman? Strout?

[copilot] We’re losing air speed. We need to increase power.

[Buck] Do it. Norman! Strout!

[Strout] We’re both here.

[Buck] What’s your damage?

[Strout] Electrical and oxygen hoses.

[Buck] How’s the bombsight?

[Strout] Checking.

[Norman] Bombsight is okay!

Two 190’s, 2:00.

[groans]

Charge handle’s blown off! [breathes heavily]

[breathes heavily, groans]

Two o’clock low!

Jesus. They’re coming from everywhere!

[Crosby] I got one!

Full squad, 10:00 low!

[Bucky] Shit! Buck’s hit.

Ah, hell with it. I’m going down to the nose.

Roger.

[gunner 2] Seven o’clock low!

Another from two!

[Bucky] All right, Murph. I’m taking that gun.

Sir.

Ten o’clock low! Tail to nose, coming your way.

[gunner 2] Two o’clock high!

[Bucky] They’re gonna split, Murph!

[crew member] They’re going for Buck.

[gunner 3] Fighters, 2:00 high!

Copy. Got ’em. Hit ’em, boys.

[gunner 3] They’re going after the second element.

Tail to Cleven. Hummel’s fort is gone.

You see any chutes?

All ten chutes, but Claytor’s in trouble.

He’s pulling badly. He’s falling out of formation.

[groans]

[copilot] We’re losing fuel.

[Claytor] Well, I can see that.

Left wing’s on fire.

[copilot] Should we bail, Roy?

Roy! Roy! Should we bail?

Should we bail?

[breathing heavily]

[alarm ringing]

Pilot to crew, abandon ship.

Bail out! Abandon ship! Bail out!

Did you say abandon ship?

[Claytor] Yes, goddamn it!

Destroy the order and then bail!

Pilot to bombardier. Open the bomb bay doors!

Roger.

[alarm continues ringing]

[shouting]

Lorch, drop all the bombs.

[straining]

[sighs]

[grunts]

[grunts, pants]

[grunts, screams]

[Baby Face] Ball turret to crew. I’m stuck.

I can’t get out of the turret.

What do you mean you can’t get out?

The elevation clutch is jammed.

It won’t crank.

[grunts]

[breathes shakily]

[Quinn groans]

[Baby Face] Quinn! Help me out.

[shouts]

Quinn, come on. Help me, man.

[Quinn] Push!

[Baby Face] Pull on the count of three.

Trying! [groans]

One, two, three.

Come on!

[straining]

Push, Baby Face! Help me!

[Baby Face straining]

[straining, grunting]

Come on, Quinn! Please!

[grunts]

Come on, get me out of here. Please!

I’m sorry.

What do you mean? No!

No!

[grunts]

[Quinn straining]

[crying] No!

Come back, Quinn! Quinn, please!

[grunts] I can’t.

Get me out of this thing!

Help!

I can’t.

[screaming, crying] Get me out! Please! Quinn!

I’m sorry, Baby Face. [grunts] I’m sorry.

[Baby Face crying] No! No! No!

Tail to lead pilot. Our whole second element is gone.

Jesus. Roger, tail.

We need to join the 418th.

Redmeat Lead to Redmeat Squadron, we’re joining up with Pacer.

Roger that, Redmeat Lead. Let’s power up.

We’re gonna climb and get some protection with the 418th.

Tail to command pilot,

the whole last element of the 350th is gone.

The rest are trying to join us.

Roger.

[chattering]

[Garcia] Come on.

Sir.

Every Luftwaffe base in Belgium’s been scrambled.

And we’re still more than three hours away from the IP.

Rockets incoming. Seven o’clock!

[screams]

Christ!

Smith, report!

Smith! Smith, report!

[top turret] Smith is down. He-He’s not breathing.

Waist to Cleven. Smith is dead, sir.

Fighters, 11:00 high!

[screams, groans] Son of a bitch!

[groans] Son of a bitch!

You okay?

[top turret] Yeah.

Then get back up there and man your gun.

[breathes heavily]

Main electrical panel’s been hit.

How bad is it?

[Buck] Generator’s down. I can’t tell.

Waist to Pilot. Biddick’s been hit.

Pressure’s dropping everywhere. All systems. Curt, we’re losing her.

No, we’re not.

[groans]

No!

Dickie! Dickie! Dickie! No!

Best! Get down here now!

He’s on the controls. Get him off.

Get him back.

[Best groans]

[groans] How is he?

[Best] I think he’s dead.

No, Dickie. Dickie, wake up!

Fuck!

She’s not gonna make it. We gotta get out.

Pilot to crew. Bail out! Bail out!

[alarm ringing]

[Best] Here’s your chute, Curt.

[Dickie groaning]

He’s breathing, sir!

[Curt] Dickie, stay with me.

I’m gonna get you down safely. You hear me?

[Best] You can’t land this thing, can you?

Yes, I can. If we drop him, he’ll die.

Drop him. It’s his best chance!

He’s gonna die anyway, Lieutenant.

No, he’s not!

We have to bail! Come on!

Go. I’ll be right behind you. Go!

Promise me!

I’ll be behind you.

I’ma keep her level till everyone bails out. Go!

[Best] You gotta get out, Curt!

[Curt] I’m right behind you. Get out!

[Dickie groans]

I’m getting us down, Dick. I have control.

Right over there. You see it? That long field, huh?

Dickie, stay with me. Come on.

Come on, Curt. Fly like an angel, huh?

[grunting]

Oh, God.

[Bowman] Sir, the second and third task forces have just crossed the channel.

Five hours late.

God help our boys.

One o’clock high!

[Buck] You hit?

[copilot] No. You?

No.

Got a fluid leak on the port wing.

I think the column may be jamming on something.

Left rudder pedal feels loose and I’ve only got right rudder.

[Buck] Compensate!

I can’t. Help me.

[Buck groans]

I think we may be done. It’s not responding.

We can manage it. We’ll use throttles and rudder trim.

It’s too much. We need to bail out. Engine three is on fire too.

Pilot to crew, get ready to b… [grunts]

[Buck] You son of a bitch!

We are going to sit here and take it.

You hear me? We’re gonna take it.

Lead pilot to crew. We’re gonna stick with our mission as long as we can fly.

Somebody check if that last hit ruptured a fuel tank.

Navigator to pilot, I see it. We got a leak.

[Buck] Roger.

Looks like the Krauts are heading back to refuel.

Keep your eyes peeled.

[panting]

They’re refueling.

[Blakely] How we looking, Croz?

Navigator to command. Hitting IP.

[Jack] Command, roger.

[flare explodes]

Flares up!

IPs.

[grunts]

Thirty seconds to bomb release. Prepare to hand over aircraft.

Trimming.

And holding 155.

Autopilot is set and servos on. Pilot to bombardier, your aircraft.

[Douglass] Roger, my aircraft.

Fighters, 10:00 high! Coming in!

[grunting]

[grunting]

[Bucky] I got that son of a bitch.

Bomb bay doors opening.

Prepare to drop. We’re gonna get it done, boys.

[Douglass] Bombs away!

Take that.

[copilot] Bombs away!

Jesus. Will you look at that?

Lead pilot to ball turret. How’d we do?

Sir, that factory… is gone.

Mission accomplished, boys.

[Strout] Can we go home now?

Not yet, Strout. We gotta make a little pit stop in Africa.

Uh, it’s… it’s okay. I…

[in French] German?

[Quinn, in English] I’m American.

Américain?

[in English] Can you help me?

Wait here.

[in French] He’s American.

[parent] You’re sure?

[villager] Yes.

[Bucky] Command pilot to tail, how many left behind us?

[tail] Tail to command pilot, nine.

They’re scattered everywhere, I got ’em left and right.

Is Cleven’s fort still with us?

[tail] They’re beat to shit and trailing way behind,

but they’re still with us.

Roger.

Menzie, we’re pulling left. How are the elevators looking?

[Menzie] The left one is shot to hell.

[straining]

It’s not working.

[Menzie] Tail to pilot. We lost another fort.

I think it was Oakes.

[Buck] Roger.

Major, I don’t know how much longer we can hold this.

We’re okay.

I think if we’re gonna ditch, we should…

We can make it.

Elevator line is shot to shit, sir. What’s our pl…

I’m not planning to sit this thing out in a stalag, are you?

Menzie, Hollenbeck and DeMarco following?

Tail to pilot. DeMarco’s sticking with us.

Hollenbeck is abandoning ship. Eight chutes…

Nine. All ten.

That’s good, Menzie.

Norman. Strout. How you doing?

[Strout] We’re okay, sir!

Just taking in the view and the fresh, thin air.

You did good. I’m glad I had you with me.

And that goes for the rest of you rabble on this fort too.

Great job, fellas.

Hey, Doug?

Yeah?

Do you know when we lost Biddick?

I, uh… I didn’t have time to mark it in the log.

Jesus, Croz, I… I don’t think a goddamn navigator in the entire wing

had time to work the logs.

Yeah, I just want to get it right, okay?

I know, Croz.

I guess they went down, uh, 1100.

Yeah. Got it. 1100.

We’re under 600, sir.

Pilot to navigator. We got just under 600 gallons left.

Can it get us to Africa?

No, Major. It looks like we might need more like 750, at present speed.

We’ve been leaking fuel since the IP.

Roger.

Lead pilot to crew. We need to stretch our range as much as possible.

Dump everything not bolted down. Bombsight, guns, ammo, everything.

Bombardier to pilot. You say my bombsight?

We’re over water, Norm. Krauts won’t get it.

Let it go.

Release the turret.

Pilot to top turret, how we looking up there?

[top turret] Pretty ragged, but okay, sir.

[Bucky] Garrison, how are the stragglers looking back there?

DeMarco’s clean. Cleven’s dumping now.

It looks like Van Noy’s gonna ditch in the water.

[Strout] Navigator to pilot,

Van Noy ditched smoothly in water. Approximately 350 miles from land.

[Buck] Roger.

Is it good?

Yeah.

[speaking French]

Louise… [speaking French]

Turn around. Turn around.

You will not know my name, and you will forget my face. Yes?

Yes.

Do you want to escape back to England?

Yes.

I can help you. But know this,

if you turn yourself in to the Germans now,

you will become a prisoner under the Geneva conventions

and likely you will survive the war.

But if you choose to attempt to escape,

you will be treated as a spy if captured, and likely you will be executed.

Do you understand?

Yes.

And which do you choose? Surrender? Or escape?

Crank? That it? That Africa?

Yes, it is. Pilot to crew. Africa dead ahead!

Command, navigator.

Croz, are we where we’re supposed to be?

‘Cause if we’re not, we’re gonna land in that sand.

Yeah.

We should be seeing the base at 184 any minute.

Croz, we’re running on fumes. Are you sure about this?

I’m telling the truth, gentlemen. As sure as I can read and count.

[sighs] Come on.

Fork in the road here, Croz.

We could do with the answer to that riddle.

The answer to the riddle’s 184. Keep your eyes peeled.

I think I see it.

Twelve o’clock. And change.

[chuckling]

Close enough, Croz. Close enough.

Oh, man.

[Blakely] All right. Nice work.

[Jack] Command pilot to Zootsuit Two, airfield’s in sight.

[chuckles]

Pilot to crew, prepare for landing.

To Valhalla, boys.

[chuckles] Valhalla here we come, fellas.

[chattering, laughing]

Landing gear down.

Landing gear coming down. Right gear down.

Left gear down. Quarter flaps.

Well done, boys.

[grunts]

Hey, Blakely, what was the answer to that riddle?

I was hoping you’d tell me.

Well, pretty sure this ain’t Valhalla.

[Bucky] Well, we made it, boys.

Where’s the welcoming committee?

[Graham scoffs]

[Blakely] God. Welcome to Africa, boys.

[copilot] There’s the airstrip. Due south.

We’re dropping fuel pressure on four. Feathering.

I’m gonna sharpen the turn to the runway.

[copilot] Now we’re losing engine two.

Feather it.

[copilot] All engines feathered.

[engines stop]

That’s it. We’re a glider now.

200 feet. Landing gear down.

Wait. It’ll slow us down.

[copilot] Landing gear now?

Wait.

[copilot] 100 feet.

Wait.

Now.

[grunts] Right landing gear down.

Left down. Flaps at quarter.

Better late than never.

Yeah. Let’s get that kübelwagen.

[exclaims]

[pants]

[exhales sharply]

[panting]

[chuckles]

[copilot] Whoa!

I got you.

You boys okay?

[copilot] Yeah.

[Bucky] Hey, Norm.

[grunts]

[Bucky] You all right?

Pull the med kits off the plane.

Let’s get these guys in the wagon.

Guys, I’m fine.

Get him on the wagon. Listen to Kidd.

Up.

Look after him, all right?

I got him.

[groans]

Major, I got him.

You got him?

Come on.

[groans]

I don’t know how you flew that thing all the way to Africa,

but you couldn’t make the runway.

It’s right there. Huh?

[crew member] All right. Watch it, watch it, watch it, watch it.

[Buck breathes heavily]

Oh, boy.

Who is it?

[Buck] Norman Smith. Radio operator.

[grunting]

[Buck] I lost four forts.

I know.

[Buck] How many of us made it?

[Bucky] Eleven out of 21.

What about Claytor? Any chutes?

I… I, uh, didn’t see any.

Yeah. And Curt?

I don’t know.

Yeah, well, knowing Biddick,

he’s probably sipping on a bottle of schnapps right about now.

We’re gonna get through this. Come on. Don’t you stop believing that.

Sure, Bucky.

[guide] She’s your guide, and you will do what she says.

[Jack] Get your things, boys. We’re going home.

[Bucky] All these are, uh, new faces…

Major Egan. Major Cleven.

Think you might be the last pretty face I ever see.

Feels like we’re actually gonna do something.

Yeah, you’ll do something, all right.

To the fellas who aren’t here tonight, who should’ve been.

[guide] German. They have tried many ways to infiltrate our network.

We go down, they won’t remember us either. Like we never existed, Buck.

What happened to Baby Face? Is he dead?

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