Masters of the Air: The Hollywood TV Production Based in Norfolk

5 January 2024

Masters of the Air: The Hollywood TV Production Based in Norfolk

As many of us know, Norfolk and Norwich are filled with a fine history. Whether you’re exploring the city’s oldest buildings, or delving into the county’s many tales, you’ll soon see why we call it the City of Stories! Norwich is the perfect place to stay before exploring the area surrounding, and even two of Hollywood’s biggest names agree, basing their new TV series on the county’s involvement in World War II… 

Based on Donald L Miller’s book Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, ‘Masters of the Air’ is due to hit our screens on Apple TV on Friday, January 26, telling the story of the American bomber pilots who made up the US Eighth Air Force. After the success of Emmy-award winning ‘Band of Brothers’, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks collaborated on this $250-million-dollar production, bringing the Norfolk-based story to life as we follow the “bomber boys” in their fight against Nazi Germany.  

The real story behind the US Eighth Air Force. 

Did you know? The US Air Force stationed themselves across Norfolk and further afield in the East of England during World War II!

Between 1942-1945, 50,000 US personnel served across 18 airbases in Norfolk, including locations close to Norwich such as Horsham St Faith, Old Buckenham, Rackheath, Thorpe Abbotts, Watton, and more!  

It was a dangerous life to be a part of the US Eighth Air Force, however. During the war, they suffered more losses in the field than the Marine Corps, and even risked flying in daylight to strategically bomb Nazi-occupied Europe, dropping almost 700,000 tonnes of bombs. The Eighth alone made up roughly 47,000 of the Air Force’s 115,000 casualties, earning them a brutal reputation and the nickname of ‘The Bloody 100th’.  

Playing a key role in the Allies success, the brave troops of the Eighth earned 17 Medals of Honour, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 442,000 Air Medals after an incredible 11,200 aerial victories across the war. 

Not much is known about the mini-series’ plot itself but expect plenty of action both on the ground and in the air as the US Eighth Air Force’s incredible story is retold.  

Where was Masters of the Air filmed, and when does it release? 

Sadly, despite being based in our fine county, the series wasn’t actually shot in Norfolk, so you won’t have seen the star-studded cast such as Austin Butler, Callum Turner, Barry Keoghan, and Anthony Boyle anywhere nearby.   

Instead, Hanks’ and Spielberg’s production was shot in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, with the set being designed to look like an unspecified Norfolk village during the 1940s, which is a shame for us East Anglian locals! 

Masters of the Air premieres on Apple TV on Friday, January 26! So, keep your eyes peeled and be sure to give it a watch, you might just spot the recreation of somewhere familiar! 

Where can I visit real World War II airbases in Norfolk? 

If the series has you inspired, why not visit the real airfields yourself? (You can even use our 3-day itinerary to inspire your plans!) Firstly, you’ll need a car! Unfortunately, many of the US airbases used in the war aren’t easily found anymore, with airfields being built over and turned into farmland since their decommissioning. However, what is left is certainly worth a visit, especially the Old Buckenham Aerodrome! (17 miles from the city centre.) Note that most airfields are run by volunteers so always check opening days and times before you set out.

This airfield has absolutely everything you could want from an aviation-based day out, from learning to fly yourself, to airshows throughout the year. There’s also a museum on the 453rd Bombardment Group, who were part of the Eighth!  

Find out more about their life and involvement in the Eighth, see some of the amazing memorabilia in the flesh, and even enjoy a delicious meal in the on site restaurant from Friday – Sunday 10am – 4pm! 

For another airfield belonging to members of the Eighth, you can check out Thorpe Abbotts airfield and visit the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum. Based near Diss (20 miles from the city centre), this base has documents, photographs, uniforms, equipment, and even a recreation of the original teleprinter room!  Entrance is free, donations are welcome.

Members of the Women’s Army Corps

Learn more about the USA’s time in Norfolk at the American Library 

Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about the United States Air Force’s involvement in the war, including the Eighth Air Force and 2nd Air Division, you can visit the American Library (free entrance) in the Forum in the Norwich city centre! 

The American Library has a huge collection of over 4000 books about American life and culture, as well as films, newsletters, objects, audio recordings, and photographs, so you’re bound to find something that interests you! You can visit the library from 10am – 5pm Monday – Friday and 9am – 5pm on Saturdays. 

The 2nd Air Division Roll of Honor at the American Library