Cary Joji Fukunaga, the Emmy award-winning director behind the masterful first season of HBO’s “True Detective,” has signed on to direct the first three episodes of the 10-part series. Fukunaga is also at the helm of the upcoming James Bond Film, “No Time to Die,” which recently confirmed a release delay until April 2021 due to COVID-19.
Based on Donald L. Miller’s book of the same name, “Masters of the Air” is expected to follow American bomber pilots of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, who, on a daily basis, risked flying at 25,000 feet in frigid temperatures—in broad daylight—to bring the fight to Hitler’s doorstep.
Three years (1942-1945) of death-defying bombing runs by the Eighth’s Flying Fortresses over cities like Berlin, Dresden and Hanover were, for much of the war, the only battles Allied forces waged inside the territorial borders of Nazi Germany.
The Eighth’s effort to pry Europe from the claws of the Third Reich — one that included unleashing 697,000 tons of bombs — proved to be overwhelmingly costly. By war’s end, over 47,000 of the 115,000 U.S. Army Air Force casualties were from the Eighth.
“The Eighth Air Force was one of the great fighting forces in the history of warfare,” famed war correspondent Andy Rooney once wrote.
“It had the best equipment and the best men, all but a handful of whom were civilian Americans, educated and willing to fight for their country and a cause they understood was in danger—freedom. It’s what made World War II special.”
In the summer of 1943, Oscar-winning director William Wyler (“Ben-Hur”) and a film crew embedded with men from the Eighth to film air combat missions aboard Boeing B-17s. The footage Wyler’s group captured would eventually become the 1944 World War II documentary, “The Memphis Belle: A story of a Flying Fortress.”
One of Wyler’s own camera crew, Harold Tannenbaum, was killed during the filming process.
More recently, director Erik Nelson resurrected Wyler’s footage for the documentary “The Cold Blue,” a film dedicated to the heroic actions of the men of the “Mighty Eighth,” who stared down death each time they climbed into their cockpits and bombardier enclosures and took to the sky.
The men of the Bloody 100th earned their moniker the hard way. Flak-filled skies over Germany were so deadly that the odds of surviving the 25 missions required to complete a full tour were only one in four.
One former pilot of a 100th Bomb Group Flying Fortress went so far as to compare the ever-present threat of flak to Russian roulette.
“You were going to be hit by it,” John “Lucky” Luckadoo, now 98, told HistoryNet. “It was just a matter of where it would hit you and when.”
Reuniting with Spielberg and Hanks on the aviation-centered series is “Band of Brothers” writer John Orloff, who also served as a consultant on “The Pacific.” The series is slated to run as an in-house, Apple-exclusive on the tech behemoth’s streaming service, Apple TV+.
The development of the miniseries, which includes production costs that could exceed $200 million, was originally confirmed by HBO in January 2013, but delays and budget considerations led to the project being dropped, according to a statement from the network.
The trilogy’s first two installments, “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” earned over 40 Emmy nominations and took 14 awards home.