Masters of the Air: ten other films and TV shows about the ‘friendly invasion’ of the American Eighth Air Force

New Apple TV series Masters of the Air tells the story of the famed 100th Bomb Group. The “Bloody 100th” (as they became known), were a part of the United States Eighth Air Force, a huge organisation which operated out of around 70 airfields in eastern England from 1942 to 1945.

The show is based on a popular history book of the same name by Donald L. Miller and involves some of the same production team as Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010).

Masters of the Air is by no means the first time that the exploits of the Eighth Air Force have caught the interest of filmmakers and television producers. In several previous productions, two recurrent themes stand out: stories of Anglo-American romance and critiques of the bombing doctrine employed by American air force commanders.

Special relationships

The American military buildup in Britain – popularly known as the “friendly invasion” – was an unprecedented moment in British history.

It was the first instance of mass Anglo-American interaction, and in eastern England – where so much of the Eighth Air Force was based – many small rural communities were inundated by invading American GIs.

What followed were moments of “culture shock” as citizens of each nation attempted to understand one another. What followed, too, were Anglo-American romantic relationships. This is hinted at in the legendary refrain attributed to an unnamed British wit. The problem with the Yanks, apparently, was that they were: “Overpaid, overfed, over sexed, and over here.”

Little wonder that stories of Anglo-American love and romance quickly drew contemporary press commentary (especially when they led to marriage). Such stories have likewise featured in a number of films and television shows.

Take, for instance, director Anthony Asquith’s film, The Way to the Stars (1945). Focused on a British airbase – Halfpenny Field – taken over by the American air force, the film offers a lightheaded examination of the Anglo-American relationship, often lingering on moments of love and romance.

Take, too, the Herbert Wilcox film I Live In Grosvenor Square (1945) which similarly explores the Anglo-American ties that bind, this time via a transatlantic love triangle involving, once again, an American pilot. Anglo-American “special relationships” like this have remained a go-to plot device ever since.

In War Lover (1962), for example, two American bomber pilots based in England (one played by Steve McQueen) compete for the hand of an English sweetheart. In Hanover Street (1979), Harrison Ford’s American pilot similarly falls for an Englishwoman (Lesley Anne Down).


For the full article by Dr Sam Edwards visit the Conversation.


Notes for editors

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