Retelling the heroic epic of the Eighth Air Force in Europe, the much anticipated sequel to Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and The Pacific, has been underway almost as long as World War 1 and II combined. It will be worth the wait as the ten episode mini-series resumed shooting in March 2021 in London and at the same bases where up to 350,000 U.S. airmen launched thousands of missions against Germany.
Set to be premiered exclusively on Apple TV, the release date has not been announced but it could be a long wait – perhaps until late 2022. As is Spielberg’s custom, little-known actors will fill the main roles in an air war, that, along with the Battle of the Atlantic, became the longest battle of the war. Over 26,000 U.S. casualties made it the costliest for America as well, with the Eighth Air Force having ten times the casualties of ground forces. RAF Bomber Command suffered even more with almost 40,000 casualties. A Google search will locate the thrilling trailer for the series, itself made several years ago.
No reason to wait because author, Jerome M. O’Connor’s widely praised (96% positive on Amazon) THE HIDDEN PLACES OF WORLD WAR II has five of its twenty-two chapters set at the remains of the same East Anglia, England bases, with vivid then to now descriptions , never-seen photos, and interviews. O’Connor located the same buildings where the First, Second, and Third air divisions were headquartered. He included the scrawled initials, bicycle tire tracks and size nine footprints trailing into eternity in what was then curing concrete at Rackheath. One chapter describes the relationship between an English boy of ten and the crew of a B-24 that made him their mascot and greeter after each mission. Jimmy Stewart has a well-deserved chapter set at both of his British bases.
Other chapters go deep into the never destroyed U-boat bunker bases in France, and to the mansion and the same plywood wall map viewed by General Eisenhower in making the most important decision of the 20th Century, the D-Day invasion. Visit a London mansion owned by the Sassoon family where 59 captured Nazi generals were maintained in luxurious conditions, even including plated meals, their own pub, and private rooms – but for a reason. Photos show author photos and the same rooms on the last day it was open before conversion into condos.
In 1978, seven years before opening as one of London’s most visited museum’s, the author was the first to reveal in the Chicago Tribune the intact existence of Churchill’s War Cabinet headquarters. His several cover features were the first to reveal Bletchley Park, where the Enigma cypher device was broken.
Amazon recently restocked the book with limited quantities now available.
For O’Connor, it’s all about connecting the past with the present by locating and documenting the real and existing places and unknown events of history’s greatest war.
The left photo below shows Jimmy Stewart with his air and ground crew as part of the 445BG, 703 squadron, in front of B-24 Tenovus at Tibenham. Jimmy is in the top row, fourth from left wearing a trench coat. Of five chapters describing the epic missions of the USAAF, an entire chapter covers Stewart’s desire to fly even as a movie star, and his understated heroics as one of the greatest of his storied generation.