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Publisher's Summary

This is the dramatic story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. With the narrative power of fiction, this is a harrowing ride through the fire-filled skies over Berlin, Hanover, and Dresden.

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.

©2006 Donald L. Miller (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

Masters of the Air is a stunning achievement. The compound effect of the book’s narrative vitality and attention to human detail is terrific in all the meanings of the word - terrifying, extraordinary, highly admirable. What a story it is!” (David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Olaf
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • 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

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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

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Youngstown, OH, United States
  • 08-06-12

Heros

Where does Masters of the Air rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

My father only answered my direct questions about the war. He was a belly gunner on a B-17. This book answeres many unasked questions. This is by far the most detailed account of why dad's hands shook every day after the war.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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The Mighty Eighth story is told in full

What did you love best about Masters of the Air?

This is a long book with many details. There are so many stories. If just one book about the Mighty Eighth is bought, this is definitely the one.

What other book might you compare Masters of the Air to and why?

The Wild Blue

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

A Sacrifice for Their Country Beyond Imagination

Any additional comments?

There is one sentence in this book that made a great impression on me:<br/><br/>"Mass education made the 8th Air Force."<br/><br/>Our nation's public education system before the war created so many quality Air Corp officers, America completely overwhelmed the Luftwaffe.<br/><br/>The air battles over Europe defy comprehension. This book expands that impression an order of magnitude.<br/><br/>I will listen to it again.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Lee
  • Texas
  • 07-28-13

An Excellent Story

What made the experience of listening to Masters of the Air the most enjoyable?

I thought the book did a wonderful job mixing the stories of the men in the planes with the political and strategic parts of the book. This made for a well rounded story which really gave the listener a full picture of the war.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Masters of the Air?

The descriptions of what took place inside the planes in the skies over Europe are absolutely riveting.

What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I thought that the narrator did a wonderful job. Often times the narrators for history books can be dry and, to be frank, rather dull. Mr. Dean did a magnificent job. The book flows very well and so it really felt like I was listening to someone describe the events rather than reading from a book.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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From Start to Finish in Europe

This is a great day to day complete story of the air war in Europe. A chronicle of the behind the scenes politics and maneuverings. The double strategies the Allies fought, The crews life and death struggle, that broke some, and tested all.
London and the fly boys. A good description of the British thoughts of the American fly boys, and the Americans experiences with the British people.
A great book that puts you in the ERA along with all the peoples involved. Even the enemies.
I listened night after night. Happily, it's a long book. I highly recommend "MASTERS of the AIR" to WW ll buffs or anyone who like to read books of life in the 1940's.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Noel
  • Peregian Beach, Australia
  • 11-02-12

One of the best war books I have listened to.

Where does Masters of the Air rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

As a 2nd world war narrative it rates as among the best

What was one of the most memorable moments of Masters of the Air?

The real story about how the airmen and their doctors dealt with the chaos of their experiences going from sitting around to being in the air with the enemy guns and planes attacking them

Which scene was your favorite?

the story about the 32 year old airman who was a rough diamond but was able to put the fire out in the plan, rescue his mate and also still keep shooting the guns

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Endurance, strength and falability make the man

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 04-25-13

Omelet with everything

The thing you should probably know before using a credit on this book is that the title is a bit misleading. While substantial portions of this very long survey of the Allied air war against Germany are devoted to telling the stories of individuals and the missions they flew (and even of their experiences as POW's), Miller's dominant objective seems to be the parsing of the air campaign from every possible viewpoint: economic, strategic, moral, political, social, strategic and tactical. Also, it is principally the story of the 8th Air Force operating out of England, so while it's treatment of that unit is comprehensive, it has little to say about other U.S. bomber commands in the European theatre.

Miller writes clearly and the book is read very competently, but I found my interest sagging as the narrative followed a kind of oscillating formula: detailing political maneuverings, analyzing matters of strategy, describing the planning and execution of a particular operation, and then zooming in for closeups of the action as it affected individual units and crews. Then the process would begin all over again with the next phase of the campaign.

That said, I certainly know a GREAT deal more about the air war in Europe than I did when I began the book. At times Miller also succeeds in powerfully communicating the emotional landscape of the struggle. While the flyers periodically take a back seat to the generals and the politicians, there is enough here to engrave their exploits in every reader's mind. And the questions he raises about the choices the U.S. and England made in regard to "civilian" vs. "military" targets are unsettling and painfully timely in today's world. I guess I just think all of it would have been more effective if it were not presented in a single omelet which was trying to use up all the tasty things in the fridge in one dish.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Dan Greene
  • CHATTANOOGA, TN, United States
  • 07-29-12

Excellent: The classic bomber campaign of the 8th

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes - great stories, good insight into the phases of the bomber campaign.

Any additional comments?

Thoroughly enjoyed the detailed look at the bomber campaign.Explores the details of the B-17s mainly and the roller coaster ride they had from 1942 to 1945. Details include targeting strategies, crew experience, Luftwaffe strategies and coverage of the Fw-190 vs B-17 war plus lots of other details and little known facets of the bomber experience. A must read for someone wanting a good understanding of the European Air War in WW2.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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History Uncovered

Book describes just what the title says...from training to bombing missions to POW status and everything in between. It's well researched and well written with personal vignettes that are illuminating and illustrative. It's mostly about 8AF and 15AF (the other European numbered air force) gets short shrift in the deal. Probably, the book would have been too long. I enjoyed learning more about that time in history.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Allan
  • 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

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  • Bob Upndown
  • 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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  • Mr. Malik Chibah
  • 05-16-17

Excellent!

Very good book, mix of historical fact and entertaining anecdotes. Was very unbiased is describing both sides of the air war.

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  • Barry Martin Cooke
  • 06-05-16

Outstanding account

Incredible detail covering a very wide aspect of this little known story of great courage and endurance.

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  • D. Williams
  • 08-03-15

Looking fwd to the Hanks/Spielberg production

So good I had to buy the Hardback. This is a weighty subject - there's really too much to fully absorb on the commute to work and back, but it's very good and well read too.

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  • Swapcat
  • 01-22-14

Epic account of life and death above the 3rd Reich

If you could sum up Masters of the Air in three words, what would they be?

Truth, blood, and bravery.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

If only that were possible... a big book.

Any additional comments?

The most concise account of the US bomber campaign in WW2 europe I have ever encountered. Simply epic.

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  • K. P. Clark
  • 11-13-13

Very Informative and Better than Expected

If you could sum up Masters of the Air in three words, what would they be?

Informative, Compelling, Touching

What did you like best about this story?

It was well structured and packed with information.

What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

An American accent

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Its too big for a single sitting. Its not a story and best listened too in chunks so that you can reflect on the content.

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  • Hamish
  • 02-02-17

Masterful.

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