If you want to understand the broader context of Masters of the Air, there is no better place to start, than the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford.
- Kirk Saduski, Executive Producer, Masters of the Air

Understanding the Air War

Interior of IWM's B-17 Flying Fortress showing waist gun positions

Playtone and Apple TV+ looked to IWM to advise on their mini-series Masters of the Air  released in January 2024. Having provided historical consultation across a range of areas for Band of Brothers in 2001, IWM were a natural choice of collaborator.

Following the men of the 100th Bomb Group throughout America's bombing campaign during Second World War, the B-17 Flying Fortress plays a central role in the series. IWM advised on the production from the outset, by helping scriptwriters John Orloff and Graham Yost to understand the perilous conditions of the US strategic bombing campaign. They and other key members of the production team were led on tours of IWM's B-17 Flying Fortress by American Air Museum Curator Emily Charles between 2017 and 2019.

Bringing history to life

Lieutenant Armando J Sinibaldo, a navigator of the 91st Bomb Group in position inside his B-17 Flying Fortress
©IWM (FRE 5748)
A navigator plotting a route at his position inside a B-17 Flying Fortress.

Emily Charles was also IWM's principal historic advisor on the series, supplying remote advice to the production team, from 2020 to 2022. While the experiences of the men of the 100th Bomb Group are well documented, the enormous scope of the series meant that IWM was often enlisted to answer the production team's most challenging questions.

Emily also helped the production team to bring to life the locations seen in the series. IWM's rich visual collections of film, art, photographs and posters were used extensively by the art department as reference material to recreate the day-to-day routine of life on an airbase, the streets of wartime London, and the deprivations of a prisoner of war camp. 

Featured areas of consultation

  • Interior of the cockpit of IWM's B-17 Flying Fortress

    B-17 Flying Fortress

    IWM's B-17G Flying Fortress, as the most complete surviving example of its type, was also a crucial reference for the art department, in constructing the CGI and life-sized replica aircraft and interiors used for filming Masters of the Air

  • Oberst Friedrich von Lindeiner-Wildau, the Commandant of Stalag Luft III, Sagan inspecting newly arrived Allied POWs at the camp.
    ©IWM (HU 21063)

    Stalag Luft III

    As the camp where the series protagonists are imprisoned, Stalag Luft III is a major location in Masters of the Air.  The art department relied on the photographic collection of Oberst Von Lindeiner, the commandant of Stalag Luft III, to help bring daily life as a prisoner of war to the screen. 

  • First Sergeant Elco Bolton encountering a policeman in Britain in June 1942
    © IWM (HU 54542)

    Black Americans

    Masters of the Air will explore the experiences of Black Americans in the US Army Air Forces, an area that to date, has received little attention in dramatizations of the Second World War. IWM's small, but insightful collections on this topic were used to inform the Black storylines depicted in the series. 

IWM’s extensive collections contain some 11 million photographs, 23,000 hours of film, 33,000 hours of sound recordings, 20,000 paintings, posters and drawings and 155,000 three-dimensional objects. The collections can be navigated with the help of our experienced curatorial team and provide fantastic insight for projects concerning twentieth and twenty-first-century conflicts.

Masters of the Air and IWM

Discover more about IWM's role in the creation of the Apple TV+ series Masters of the Air.

Imperial War Museum’s Curator Consultancy service can be used for a variety of projects, both big and small, from television and film to consumer products and publishing. Further information can be found on our website and enquiries can be sent to [email protected] or through the enquiry form online.