National Geographic is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the victory in Europe at the end of World War II on Thursday, May 21st, with two documentary specials airing that night. Starting at 9:00 pm ET, a 2-hour television event called Heroes of the Sky: The Mighty Eighth Air Force will take viewers on an air adventure crucial to stopping the nazis. Using archival footage and interviews with those involved, the story comes to life in the most authentic way possible.
The special starts with the creation of the US Air Force before focusing on the 8th division, which had been deployed to the UK. One of four key players highlighted is General Ira Eaker, who was sent there to help run the division. The British had been bombing German occupied parts of Europe at night for their safety, which also meant their targets were easy to miss and inadvertently killing civilians and bombing churches. Eaker had the 8th Air Force start attacking during the day, which initially took the German’s by surprise. Another key player in the special is Colonel Curtis Lemay, a bomb group commander who the troops referred to as “Iron ass.”
Viewers will get to know the airplanes created for the division, starting with the B-17, which was nicknamed the “Flying fortress” because of its twelve machine guns that could be used to defend it in all directions. They were critical in helping to free parts of Nazi occupied France. The P-47 Thunderbolt was nicknamed “The jug” because of its milk jug shape. A major flaw was the low fuel range, which meant they couldn’t make it from the UK to Germany. They would fly alongside the B-17's for defense, but had to turn back before they could get to the heart of enemy territory. And the P-51 Mustang single pilot fighters are covered with interviews from a few of the pilots, including Captain George Preddy Jr.
In two-hours, the special covers many of the important historical moments of the 8th Air Force during World War II. These include the Darkest Hour, Black Thursday, and D-Day. Most of the special focuses on the fight to defeat the Nazis, but it also features the Eighth Air Force’s involvement in the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, following Germany’s surrender. Paul Tibbets is another key player featured in the special, who left the Eighth Air Force to work on the top secret Manhattan Project and reconnected with them on that mission.
Ahead of Memorial Day, Heroes of the Sky: The Mighty Eighth Air Force is a perfect way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The National Geographic team has done a remarkable job using real footage from the war and interviews with the people who lived to talk about it. It creates an experience that feels authentic and doesn’t downplay the severity of this moment in history and its impact.
Heroes of the Sky: The Mighty Eightt Air Force airs Thursday, May 21st, at 9:00 pm ET on National Geographic.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.