In the first three episodes of Apple TV+'s Masters of the Air, the American pilots witnessed the horrors of war firsthand. Many young, hotshot bombardiers joined the war effort with rose-tinted glasses—propelled by a sense of duty and American pride. But it wasn't until
In episode 3, a dangerous mission over two German cities, Regensburg and Schweinfurt, proved even more destructive for the 100th Bomb Group than Bremen. Of the 100th's 22 planes, the National World War II Museum cites that nine were destroyed that day. "We thought it was going to be a great run," 100th bombardier Joseph Armanini later told the American Veterans Center. “But then we got into it, hell, it turned out to be a disaster because they shot the living Christ out of us."
Sadly, episode 4 doesn't give our boys any respite. Those who parachuted into German territory and survived the mission must now find their way back to base in London, England. In this episode, actor Kai Alexander gets a big break. He plays Sgt. William Quinn, a radio operator who falls in with a sketchy and paranoid resistance operation. Though they plan to help him return to England, their distrust of Quinn is eerie. It doesn't help that the young American is shell-shocked by the fact that he had to leave his friend "Babyface" behind to die in a plane explosion. War is hell.
Meanwhile, Egan takes a much-needed day off (see: drinking and getting laid) as he and his one-night stand watch bombs explode in the distance. During this time, Cleven embarks on a second mission to Bremen without Egan—and his plane is shot down. Since Egan is away, he hears the news about his best friend through a payphone. It's devastating. "If he couldn’t make it, who could?" Lieutenant Harry Crosby (Anthony Boyle) wrote about Cleven in his real-life memoir, A Wing and a Prayer. "His good friend, Bucky Egan, didn’t talk much that night." Does Cleven survive? History has the answer, but I won't ruin the cliffhanger for viewers at home. Driven by revenge, you can bet Egan will be on the first flight out of home base in episode 5.
Surprisingly, Masters of the Air episode 4 misses out on a moment of for levity for the crew. While researching the true story behind the 100th Bomb Group, I happened upon a story involving a lieutenant with the nickname "Cowboy" (a classic!) and a donkey. According to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Lieutenant Owen "Cowboy" Roane picked up the farm animal nicknamed "Mo" after landing in Africa. The 100th Bomb Group was forced to land on the continent for safety purposes after the raids on Regensburg and Schweinfurt.
Returning to the airfield in London, Roane reportedly smuggled the donkey and wrapped it in blankets for warmth—with the intention of bringing some laughs back to base. He radioed the tower and said, "I’m coming in with a frozen ass!" Naturally, the base assumed that his crew had been stricken with frostbite due to the high altitudes. When they landed (and were promptly surrounded by ambulances), Roane revealed the donkey—and the crew all took photos. Please, do not miss the photo below.
Of course, the drama between Egan and his missing best friend should take center stage. But I couldn't leave you after such a somber episode without the story of Mo the donkey. Even though the mission is over, maybe the cute little guy will show up next week.
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