HBO’s Next World War II Miniseries

A B-17 of the 8th Air Force during a mission over Germany in 1944.

A B-17 of the 8th Air Force during a mission over Germany in 1944.


So this news is a little over a month old already, but I wanted to let everyone know that Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who made the hit film ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ and also gave us the thrilling ‘Band of Brothers,’ and ‘The Pacific,’ will be working on their third World War II-centered series for HBO, this time based on Donald Miller’s book Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. I think a miniseries about the bombers of the 8th Air Force flying the unfriendly skies over Nazi-occupied Europe would be incredible, and I for one am looking forward to it whenver it may come out. Spielberg and Hanks are, at least in my mind, two of America’s foremost World War II geeks. They get criticized for portraying a popularized view of history (I’m willing to bet there are probably people out there that think Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division won the war single-handedly), but I think the production values, action, dialogue, and characterization are so good that they get people interested in the history while at the same time tell a good story. For even attempting to tackle what could easily turn into B-movie dreck in less capable hands, I enjoy their work and what they have created with their films. I only wish I could bend their ear a little, as I have what I think is a sure-fire hit idea swirling around in my head that would be perfect for HBO or one of the bigger pay-cable channels (I’m sure they don’t hear that on a daily basis). My idea wouldn’t swirl around just American military history, but that of various nations and eras. So if anyone knows how I can get in touch with the money-and-idea men and women (or just Speilberg and/or Hanks), let me know, because this thing would have to have a really big budget! I’m sort of half-joking here, but I really enjoyed ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘The Pacific,’ and welcome another series about America’s involvement in the war. But there is one thing I would have to take Spielberg and Hanks to task over-would you two please do a series on the Navy’s role in the war already?!

3 comments on “HBO’s Next World War II Miniseries

  1. Thomas Cripps says:
    The bomber wars continue at this stage of life to disturb my sense of things in World War II. In general, we may find in the historians’ coverage of World War II a certain level of exhultation not present in other narratives of the of the war years. Tregaskis’s Guadalcanal Diary marvelously, precisely catches the slogging, terrifying ‘foxhole’ war in the Pacific as, indeed, almost all of the writing on land-based combat manages to do. “War is Hell” the coverage seems to say, whether European or Pacific. Japanese treatment of prisoners was used to heighten the cruel severity of war even further.

    In contrast, the ‘bomber war,’ while not making it into a picnic, sold to American newspaper readers the notion of a certain larkiness made visual by pet-names of bombers painted on their noses. True, such things, testifying to the high morale of American forces, were a part of the war’s actuality. At the same time, the scarcity of ground-level footage of cities in flames was less available or accessible except in German images of life on the ground in, say, Hamburg. Not that the impact of aerial bombing by the 8th Air Force was slighted, but rather, its triumpalism larded with a sort of larkiness among the aircrews, hardened a bit during combat itself.

    I write this with a certain residual moral dismay derived from what we–I was ten when the war began–learned of aerial bombing in the immediate prewar years In the late middle l930s a couple of Pennsylvania quakers–I was told later as an adult–published a series of a couple of hundred ‘war cards’, stiff color lithographed cards of war scenes that came, one-to-a-pack with our bubblegum. On the back of each card was a one-paragraph depiction of war scenes-atrocities, bombing of civilians, troops overrunning nunneries, combat scenes that emphasized bombing civilians–all in vivid color. Each account ended with the slogan, “To know the horrors of war is to want peace.” The one image out of hundreds that remains vivid to this day is a bombing of Barcelona by Franco’s rebel air force in Spain. A bus has been wrecked by a bomb, its passengers mutilated, and its driver missing almost entirely, except for most of his two bloody hands still gripping the steering wheel.

    All of this is to say that my generation–I would be draftable until, say, l949 or so–saw the war through this medium–our ‘war cards.’ And it was a horror that, it was made clear on the backs of the cards, that our side would probably not resort to. And during World War II we were fed the notion that ‘our side’ did not bomb civilians. Yet by mid-late war ‘our’ 8th air force, unlike the RAF, developed a reputation for bombing civilians–not specifically their war work sites, but their homes and neighborhoods. Hamburg as Exhibit ‘A’.

    Your writer concludes his comments on previous war reportage that “he really enjoyed” by Spielberg and Hanks. Triumphalism? ” Okay. But “Yes but,” one must say.

  2. Bob says:

    Thanks for the info. My father was a tail gunner in the 8th Air Force, Army Air Corps., so this definitely appeals to me. You are correct in your assessment of the Band of Brothers, an excellent program, perhaps one of the finest historically based stories committed to film. It shows that high production values, good acting, and well written scripts, do not need top, high recognition, named actors to be successful.

    • navyphoto22 says:

      No problem Bob! I think we all appreciate it when Hollywood occasionally gets it right, and does a small service to men like your dad. They deserve a well-written, acted, and produced portrayal. Usually they stink it up by throwing in a love story, some improbable action sequence, or the standard run-of-the-mill stereotypical soldiers, like the kid from Brooklyn or the southern hayseed. I still don’t think Hollywood has grasped the fact that most stories from the war have high drama already built-in, so they don’t have to go over-the-top with it.

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