Friday, March 15, 2024

The Bloody Hundredth, on Apple TV+

They did it the hard way, which was the right way and the American way. The 100th U.S. Army Air Force Bombardment Division flew in broad daylight, carefully bombing legitimate military targets. As a result, they suffered tremendously high mortality rates. In contrast, British Bomber Command flew night missions, largely dropping their payloads anywhere in the vicinity of large urban areas. You can directly compare the Hundredth’s conduct during WWII to that of the IDF’s today, conscientiously striving to minimize civilian casualties, despite the elevated risks for their own. The Hundredth’s service and heroism have been dramatized in the amazing nine-part series Masters of the Air. In addition to the concluding episode, Laurent Bouzereau & Mark Herzog’s one-hour companion documentary, The Bloody Hundredth also premieres today on Apple TV+.

Sadly, neither Maj. Gale “Buck” Cleven or Maj. John “Bucky” Egan, the two most prominent Airmen featured in
Masters of the Air, are still with us. However, Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal and Harry Crosby, who also played significant roles in the series, discuss their wartime experiences at length.

The veterans of the 100
th make a critical point that is not readily apparent from the series. The skeleton of the famous B17 consisted of aluminum rather than steel, so any kind of ordinance would cut right through it. They took a lot of fire and a lot of flak—and did not always live to talk about it.

Bloody Hundredth
provides a concise but descriptive recap of the missions chronicled in the series. At times the scenes of aerial combat are so impressive and immersive in Masters of the Air, viewers might lose sight of the bigger picture, with respect to the overall tides of war. Bloody Hundredth provides wider context, explaining how the Hundredth needed to control the skies of Europe, to secure the Normandy landing.

None of the
Masters of the Air cast-members appear in Bloody Hundredth, but producer Tom Hanks narrates. Fellow producer Steven Spielberg and author Donald L. Miller (who wrote the nonfiction book on which the series was based) also appear as on-camera talking heads. Frankly, Masters of the Air is probably the best project Spielberg has been involved with, in any capacity, since Bridge of Spies.

Masters of the Air
is a terrific series and Bloody Hundredth is a good, solid supplement. It is briskly paced, but also respectful and educational. Those who are in awe of the Hundredth’s service and heroism will probably want something to fill the void after finishing episode nine. The Bloody Hundredth should help satisfy their hunger and curiosity, but it is recommended for all viewers, because the history it documents is so important. Highly recommended, The Bloody Hundredth starts streaming today (3/15) on Apple TV+.