Masters of the Air creators highlight Maxwell, AU impact on WWII bombing strategy

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tyrique Barquet
  • Air University Public Affairs

The creators of the upcoming television series Masters of the Air were at Maxwell, Oct. 17, 2023, to discuss the base and Air University’s pivotal roles in the development of the strategic bombing doctrine employed during WWII depicted in the multi-episode program.

Documentarian and senior executive and producer for Playtone Productions Kirk Saduski and screenwriter John Orloff spoke with Air Command and Staff College students and faculty about the process of adapting history into film. The show is based on the book by the same name authored by Dr. Donald Miller.

The doctrine of high-altitude daylight precision bombing used during WWII was developed in the early 1930s at the Air Corps Tactical School on then-Maxwell Field. The War Department announced the relocation of the ACTS to Maxwell from Langley Field, Va., in 1928. The school officially opened at Maxwell Field in 1931, with one of its first graduates being then-Army Air Corps Capt. Claire Chennault, after whom Air University’s Chennault Circle, or “Academic Circle,” is named. Other notable ACTS graduates with their names on Air University centers are Gen. Curtis E. LeMay (‘39) and Gen. Ira C. Eaker (‘36). The ACTS was the predecessor of Air University.

“The strategic bombing campaign allowed the Eighth Air Force and Allies to eventually gain air superiority over the continent, thereby disrupting German logistics and enabling the invasion of mainland Europe on D-Day,” said Lt. Col. Matt Ziemann with the ACSC Department of Leadership and who was instrumental in bringing the two to Maxwell. “The opportunity for them to talk to our students about a book being turned into a visually compelling story, there’s a lot to be learned from that.”

To truly understand the experiences of the men and women of the Eighth Air Force, Saduski and Orloff immersed themselves in primary sources, interviewed veterans and consulted historical records. Their dedication to recreating the past accurately is a testament to their respect for the sacrifices made by those who served.

“When you spend so much time on one topic, study it and envision it, you have a certain vision in your mind, so when you actually visit what you’ve studied, it rings more true,” said Saduski. “So, to be at Maxwell airfield, which is the cradle of the Air Force, it’s beautiful.”

Maxwell has played a pivotal role in shaping the U.S. Air Force. Established as a military aviation depot in 1918 and designated as an Air Force base in 1948, it is one of the oldest military bases in the country. One of Maxwell’s most notable contributions is the preservation of Air Force history. The Air University Library, with its extensive archives of documents, records and manuscripts, offers invaluable resources to researchers, scholars and military historians. These records provide insight into the evolution of airpower, military strategy and leadership throughout Air Force history.

“There’s a lot of Air Force-specific history at Maxwell and the surrounding areas,” said Maj. Ryan French, a pilot and current student at ACSC. “I think their visit here highlights both their appreciation and respect for honoring those who came before us and doing their best to tell the story the right way, the way its supposed to be told.”

In the process of writing his book, Masters of the Air book author Miller did about two months of extensive period research at the Air Force Historical Research Agency on Maxwell. The AFHRA serves as the long-term “institutional memory” of the Department of the Air Force

The agency provided detailed mission reports, lost bomber and aircrew reports, before and after high-resolution aerial photos of targets and hundreds of pages of documentation.

“We welcomed the opportunity to leverage the world’s largest repository of primary source documentation on American military aviation to assist the Masters of the Air project,” said AFHRA Director Tim Brown. “We were honored to be able to contribute and help bring back a part of our WWII history.”