IN STOCK ON AMAZON – THE HIDDEN PLACES OF WORLD WAR II, PLUS TIMELY NEWS ABOUT MASTERS OF THE AIR DIRECTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG WITH TOM HANKS AS CONSULTANT.
A London Blitz survivor: ” The best book I have ever read about the Second World War.” An Amazon book reviewer: “I wanted to put it down but couldn’t.”
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.
UPDATE 22 JUNE 2021 – TAKING FLIGHT: UK Sources confirm that MASTERS OF THE AIR (Formerly The Mighty Eighth) is underway in several villages in East Anglia, the location of numerous Eighth Air Force bases. Director Steven Spielberg, uniformed extras, vintage vehicles and equipment are filming in Chalfont St. Giles and other villages, some of which barely changed since the war. Already, neighbors are complaining about the sounds made by the vintage aircraft disturbing garden parties. The series will be largely based on the real-life saga of the 100th Bomb Group based at Thorpe Abbots, located four miles east of Diss, population 605, in Norfolk, England. The former base has a museum dedicated to the 100th BG. Called the “bloody 100th” as a sign of respect, the group lost 177 B-17s and 785 crew killed in action, a casualty rate of 77% in 22 operational months.
(From THE HIDDEN PLACES OF WORLD WAR II) : “Only four of the original thirty-eight co-pilots survived. No complete crew of ten finished intact. At least 450 complete replacement crews served with the 100th BG. Appalling as were the 100th BG losses, they were exceeded by the 91st BG stationed at Bassingbourn. In 340 missions, the 91st lost 197 B-17s, with the entire group of seventy-two bombers replaced an extraordinary four times, including damaged aircraft…they were eagles all.” (Highly recommended by the author are THE WAR LOVER and the much-admired 1949 film TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH with Gregory Peck.)
Spielberg assigned relative unknowns to the roles of flight and ground crews, but several have already been cast in other films to be released well before MASTERS OF THE AIR. Austin Butler, will be seen in Elvis, with the inevitable Tom Hanks portraying Col. Tom Parker. British actor Callum Turner stars in The Last Letter from your Lover, set for a mid July 2021 Netflix release.
To bring authenticity to the mini-series, a $7 million airfield including support buildings such as Nissan Huts, was built as a stand-in for the scores of bases once populating the region. Small change indeed compared to the $200 million record budget for the 10-episodes. In comparison, the celebrated Band of Brothers cost $125 million. Based on the filming time of Band of Brothers, the shoot is expected to finish by the end of 2021 for release sometime in 2022. Directing the first 3 episodes is Cary Fukunaga, highly praised for True Detective (2014-16).
NO NEED TO WAIT – FIVE CHAPTERS OF THE HIDDEN PLACES OF WORLD WAR II ARE SET AT THE SAME BASES AS PORTRAYED IN MASTERS OF THE AIR.
(L) Chalfont St. Giles today, one of the settings for MASTERS OF THE AIR. The Eighth Air Force had half the war casualties of the entire USAAF, with 17 aviators given the Medal of Honor, 220 awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and 850 given the Silver Star. The mighty eighth had 261 aces (5 or more enemy downed) and 305 enlisted gunners became aces. As described with numerous never-seen photos in THE HIDDEN PLACES OF WORLD WAR II, numerous base remains and memorials await the time traveler. Five chapters of the 340-page book describe the same bases where, as an example, the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourn lost 197 B-17s in 340 missions, with the entire group of seventy-two bombers replaced an extraordinary four times.
Over 26,000 U.S. dead 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 killed. A Google search will locate the thrilling U-tube trailer for the series, itself made in 2014. NOTE: It was then called THE MIGHTY EIGHTH.
No reason to wait because author, Jerome M. O’Connor’s widely praised first book brings readers to 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. Included are photos of scrawled initials, bicycle tire tracks and size 9 footprints by an airman trailing into eternity in curing concrete at Rackheath. One chapter describes the relationship between an English boy of ten and the crew of a B-24 who 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 into the nearly intact U-boat bunker bases in France, or to the mansion and the same plywood wall map viewed by General Eisenhower in making the most important decision of the 20th Century. Visit a London mansion owned by the Sassoon family where 59 captured Nazi generals were housed in luxurious conditions, including plated meals, their own pub, and private rooms – but for a reason. Photos show 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 (L) 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.
An oversize paper – back version of THE HIDDEN PLACES OF WORLD WAR II will be released February 1, 2022.
For O’Connor, it’s about connecting the past with the present by locating and documenting the 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.