True Story & What Happened Next
15 mins read

True Story & What Happened Next

This article contains spoilers for Masters of the Air.




  • In the final episode of Masters of the Air, key figures plan escape, face the realities of war, and keep Thorpe Abbotts running.
  • Episode 9 delves deep into characters’ last months of the war, creating emotional & monumental scenes that bring the show’s main themes to light.
  • Characters’ post-WWII lives are revealed, but not every detail is mentioned.

In the final episode of Masters of the Air, the war drama explores the fates of the key figures of the 100th Bomb Group, including Gale ‘Buck’ Cleven, John ‘Bucky’ Egan, Harry Crosby, and Robert ‘Rosie’ Rosenthal, and for the most part the series remains true, or at least close to the actual history of the U.S. Army Air Forces. At the end of Masters of the Air, Buck and Bucky create a plan for escape as they march across Germany, while Rosenthal gets a closer look at the realities of the war and Crosby keeps Thorpe Abbotts running.

Because Masters of the Air episode 9 was notably longer than previous episodes, there was plenty of time for the series to delve deep into its characters’ final months of the war. Included in the episode were countless monumental scenes that were not only important for the characters being depicted, but were also incredibly emotional for audiences. For example, Rosenthal’s discovery of the concentration camp, the POWs defeating the Germans at Stalag Luft VI, and the 100th’s food drop over Europe were all integral pieces of what ended up being a very touching and satisfying ending.


Masters Of The Air: Is Anyone From The 100th Bomb Group Still Alive Today?

The war series Masters of the Air offers a harrowing insight into the 100th Bomb Group in World War II but is any member of the team alive today?

What Happened After Masters Of The Air (That It Leaves Out)

Though Masters of the Air was quite thorough when it came to wrapping up the lives of its characters, there are inevitably some details that the series missed. For the most part, these are small aspects of Masters of the Air’s characters, but they are still pivotal in understanding who they were, and who they became after World War II.

Major Harry Crosby

While Masters of the Air explores Harry Crosby’s education and career post World War II, there are a few parts of his life that the series did not mention. For example, it is revealed that Crosby and his wife Jean were co-presidents of their childrens’ PTAs, but it is also true that the pair were active in their local community as well, and in fact, were at the head of several anti-Vietnam war campaigns. Furthermore, Crosby’s military experience came in handy during the 1960s when he became the Director of Studies for the Pakistan Air Force Academy.

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Jefferson

Though the end of Masters of the Air does mention Alexander Jefferson’s career as a Detroit public school teacher, this part of his life was actually incredibly significant. Jefferson was not just an elementary school science teacher, but eventually became an assistant principal in 1969. In total, Jefferson spent 30 years as an educator. Furthermore, the series does not mention that Jefferson was awarded a Purple Heart in 2004 and was given an honorary “key to the city” in Detroit in 2021.

Captain Richard Macon

Like his fellow Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, Masters of the Air’s ending does not make a note that Richard Macon was awarded a Purple Heart and an Air Medal for his service during World War II. Additionally, Macon, Jefferson, and the rest of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen and their widows were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2007 in honor of their World War II service. Finally, Macon should also be recognized as being another founding member of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. and a president of the Detroit chapter.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert ‘Rosie’ Rosenthal

Although Masters of the Air’s final minutes successfully summarize Robert Rosenthal’s achievements after the war, there is one aspect of the 100th airman that the show was unable to capture. While Rosenthal was shot down in February 1945 and saved by the Soviet Army, this actually was not his first scrape in German territory. Previously, in September 1944, Rosenthal was shot down in German-occupied France, and despite breaking his arm and nose, he was able to find asylum with the Free French. Though he was assigned to a desk job after that, he managed to quickly get back in the air.

Colonel Gale ‘Buck’ Cleven

Among the many impressive details Masters of the Air includes about Buck Cleven’s post-war life, there are actually even more incredible things he did. For one, Cleven’s doctorate from Georgetown University was in interplanetary physics, and later in life, he took over the management of the failing Webber College in Florida and completely turned the school around. Before that, Cleven notably worked for a brief time at the Pentagon. And finally, in his personal life, it is important to note that Cleven remarried to a woman named Esther Lee Athey, who he stayed with until his death in 2006.

Colonel John ‘Bucky’ Egan

Finally, Masters of the Air did a good job explaining Bucky Egan’s amazing achievements in his brief time after World War II, such as his service during the Korean War and his sweet romance with his wife Josephine. However, there are a few extra details to note, such as Egan being posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit to join his other World War II and Korean War medals. Additionally, Egan was survived by two daughters, whom he had with Josephine.

Did Gale “Buck” Cleven Really Escape From Being A POW (& Was Bucky Left Behind)

Austin Butler as Gale Cleven Escape Masters of the Air ep 9

Buck Cleven truly did escape from being a POW during World War II, however, the real timeline and situation turned out quite a bit differently. First and foremost, Buck’s escape is portrayed as having happened in April 1945 from the POW camp in Nuremberg, but it actually occurred all the way back in January 1945 during Stalag Luft III’s initial evacuation and march. As the men moved from Stalag Luft III to Moosburg, Buck Cleven managed to escape in the midst of the chaos. Based on records kept by the American Air Museum, it seems that he escaped alone.

One notable aspect of Buck’s escape in Masters of the Air is that Bucky Egan steps in front of a German soldier’s gun to protect Buck and allow him to escape. Although this is an intense yet touching moment, there are no records indicating that this happened in real life. In reality, the only confirmed information is that Buck Cleven was able to escape while Bucky Egan and the rest of the 100th were left behind and remained POWs until the spring of 1945, when the Americans finally took over the German POW camps. Eventually, Buck and Bucky were reunited.

The Importance Of Rosie Seeing The Concentration Camp & The Old Jewish Man

Nate Mann as Robert Rosenthal discovering the concentration camp Masters of the Air ep 9-1

While Masters of the Air’s final episode has many inspirational and happy moments, there are also several scenes that are absolutely heartbreaking, and reveal the true darkness that occurred during World War II. One such scene is when Robert Rosenthal is being escorted through Poland by the Soviet Army and takes a moment to explore his surroundings. Rosie quickly finds himself in a concentration camp in a Polish town called Zabikowo. While there, he finds the corpses of countless Jewish people, and later, in a conversation with an old Jewish man, he discovers the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

Zabikowo was a real Polish town that was converted into a labor camp during World War II. It is unconfirmed whether Robert Rosenthal truly visited the camp.

Though these scenes were difficult to watch, they are pivotal to Masters of the Air. While much of the series focused on American soldiers flying missions and being brave in the face of adversity, it was important to also show the perspective of World War II’s European victims. By including the concentration camp and the Jewish man, Masters of the Air shed light on the bigger picture. It was not only eye-opening for Rosie, who finally saw what he had been fighting for, but for audiences who may have forgotten the resounding effects of the Second World War.

Operation Chowhound: The 100th Bomb Group’s Missions Taking Food To The Dutch

Dutch citizens waving to the 100th Masters of the Air

An unexpected yet wonderful moment that occurs during Masters of the Air episode 9 is when Buck Cleven, Robert Rosenthal, Harry Crosby, and Ken Lemmons fly over the Netherlands and drop food to the Dutch people down below. Both the men and the Dutch citizens are thrilled by the moment of humanitarian aid, and it is incredibly heartwarming for audiences. And as it turns out, this scene was not just fiction created for the betterment of Masters of the Air’s story, but was an actual mission called Operation Chowhound, carried out by the U.S. Army Air Forces.

In the final days of World War II, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Operation Chowhound set out to drop much-needed food over the German-occupied Netherlands, who were suffering from a severe famine. The U.S. ended up dropping around 4,000 tonnes of food over the Netherlands, along with 7,000 more tonnes dropped by the British RAF for their Operation Manna. Operation Chowhound was flown by the U.S. Third Air Division, so members of the 100th definitely could have been a part of the effort, however, food wasn’t dropped via parachutes, as shown in episode 9.

Harry Crosby’s Nietzsche Quote Meaning & Importance In Masters Of The Air’s Finale

Anthony Boyle as Harry Crosby in Masters of the Air ep 9

In Masters of the Air episode 9, Harry Crosby recites a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, and the quote ends up becoming abundantly important for the remainder of the episode, and beyond. While talking with Robert Rosenthal, Crosby reveals his fears that killing men in the war has changed him into a different, and perhaps worse man. To better describe his worries, Crosby quotes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

The original quote reads: ”
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”
This quote not only explains Crosby’s personal fears, but represents every
Masters of the Air

Ultimately, the Nietzsche quote warns individuals who must commit violence against bad people to not become as bad as their enemies. In the context of war, this quote urges soldiers to maintain their morals despite having to commit morally questionable acts. Masters of the Air offers a perfect example of this when Buck Cleven has the opportunity to kill a German soldier who is just a child and decides to let him run away. In this way, Buck abided by the quote, not letting himself become like the cruel Nazis he has had to fight throughout the war.

The Real Meaning Of Masters Of The Air’s Ending

Callum Turner as John Egan raising the American flag Masters of the Air ep 9

The final episode of Masters of the Air brings to light the major themes of the series. Rosenthal’s discovery of the concentration camp, highlights the horrors of World War II and the long-lasting effects that should not be forgotten. Through Buck and Bucky’s POW storyline, Masters of the Air showcases the airmens’ bravery and their commitment to surviving, no matter what. And finally, Harry Crosby’s fears and worries about the future acknowledge that, despite their achievements, World War II continued to affect the 100th for the rest of their lives, forcing them to confront themselves and their actions.

In the end, Masters of the Air’s ending is a successful mix of light and dark. It celebrates the 100th and their efforts, while also noting the serious effects war has on individuals and entire countries. Furthermore, each character’s story gets a satisfying end. Overall, the best moments of the Masters of the Air finale are those in which the 100th’s service and sacrifice finally feels worth it. When Bucky raises the American flag over the POW camp or when the 100th drop food over the Netherlands, Masters of the Air feels like it has finally come full circle.

Will There Be Another Band Of Brothers Show After Masters Of The Air?

Cast of Masters of the Air in near silhouette in a field

Now that Masters of the Air is over, the next obvious question is, will there be another companion series? Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman created Band of Brothers in 2001, The Pacific in 2010, and now Masters of the Air in 2024, which means that there is definitely a possibility for another series. So far, three branches of the military have been explored, which leaves two more to be portrayed. However, considering the time frames in which the shows were made, if another war drama does happen, it likely won’t be for a long time.

Spielberg, Hanks, and Goetzman War Dramas

Year of Release

Years Between Next Series

Band of Brothers



The Pacific



Masters of the Air



If another show comes after Masters of the Air, there are plenty of directions it could go in. Namely, a new companion series could follow the U.S. Navy during World War II. Masters of the Air brought a completely new experience to the franchise by including so much in-the-air airplane content, and a Navy series could do something similar in the water. However, it would definitely take time to gather the right story, and in the end, what really matters is the important themes that Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and now Masters of the Air have all depicted.

Masters of the Air TV Show Poster showing Austin Butler and Several Air Pilots in World War II Uniforms

Masters of the Air
Austin Butler , Callum Turner , Barry Keoghan , Nikolai Kinski , Stephen Campbell Moore , Sawyer Spielberg , Isabel May , Anthony Boyle

Release Date
January 26, 2024


John Shiban , John Orloff

Cary Joji Fukunaga , Dee Rees , Anna Boden , Ryan Fleck , Timothy Van Patten

Where To Watch
Apple TV+

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