Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Apple TV+ and directed by Mark Herzog and Laurent Bouzereau is a documentary, narrated by Tom Hanks, about the men who served in the air and how they feel today about what combat they experienced being part of THE BLOODY HUNDREDTH.

Germany is invading all over Europe by sea, land and air and the world is in turmoil to stop the constant invasions. Hitler controls Europe and there had to be a way top it. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg speaks about how his own family is affected, Jimmy Stewart makes his feelings known as he was a pilot in the 453 Bomb Group announcing that they needed more men in the air and those to make it happen.

John “Lucky” Luckadoo was a pilot with the 100th Bomb Group, who tells his story about becoming an Air Force cadet. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, also a member of the 100th Bomb Group, saw what was happening around him at the time and wanted to be an effective part of the war as a young man. He also joined up to become an Air Force cadet.

The call was answered and thousands of men came from all walks of life to sign up to be part of flying in the war. There training was swift as John A. Clark of the 100th Bomb Group tells his story of flying. Harry Crosby of the 100th Bomb Group decided to become a navigator as flying didn’t work out so well. Joseph Armanini also became a navigator of the 100th Bomb Group. The ten-hour training moved the pilots swiftly to the Boeing “flying fortress” B-17 planes. 

Loaded with weaponry, the pilots were trained for six months and in May of 1943, Frank Murphy of the 100th Bomb Group, was sent to England to become a part of the 8th Air Force. The pilots being told they were going “overseas to die” did not stop the men from arriving at Thorpe Abbotts, East Anglia, England. Sharing the bombing duties with the British, they spent day and night bombing the Germans.

Richard C. King, Owen “Cowboy” Roane, Robert Wolff, Robert Rosie Rosenthal, John “Bucky” Egan and Gale “Buck” Cleven, pilots of the 100th Bomb Group get a chance to know each other. Cleven and Egan stand out as the leaders with flare of the group. Seth Paridon, Historian at the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum talks about these two men and what they believe in.

Bruce Alshouse, a Tail Gunner for the 100th Bomb Group talks about the plans they learn about as to what their missions would accomplish and what equipment the men would need to fly. One by one the planes take off and form a “combat box” to be able to fight their way to the drop point. The anti-aircraft guns firing from below, shrapnel made its way through the skins of the plane made of aluminum.

German pilots were proficient at fighting in the air but that didn’t stop the B-17’s from dropping their payloads from 12,000 feet up. Gene Bankston, Togglier with the 100TH Bomb Group says he could see the bombs drop and hit the ground from his window view. After the dropped their payload, they would go home with some damage to the plane as described by Thomas Jeffrey, commander of the 100th Bomb Group.

Now, the 100th is assigned to go deep into Germany to bomb factories in Regensburg while the 8th Bomb Group hits Schweinfurt at the same time. Dr. Conrad C. Crane, SSI Senior Historian, US Army War College describes what is planned and how it can go wrong. Retired Gen. Curtis Leman, Commander, 3rd Bombardment Division talks about that day. A two-hour fire-fight trying to reach their drop point doesn’t stop the pilots as the Regensburg mission crew pushes through.

In October 1943, there were over six targets and on Black Week the pilots were set to drop thousands of pounds of bombs. Planes are hit and Cleven’s plane was one of them as other ships are severely damaged. In all, only six bombers returned. Egan is furious and returns from leave to lead the group. Their next mission to Munster, Germany is told to the pilots and Egan refers to it as a ‘revenge raid’. It was after this that the name The Bloody Hundredth came about after losing so many men and planes.

Pilots were beginning to feel the stress of the war as men were suffering from combat fatigue. Going to Flak House in Oxford, England, the men had a chance to be away from the war enough to regather their thoughts. Sometimes it helped and sometimes it did not to the point of it affecting missions.

Being shot down over Germany, airmen were not trained on survival tactics. Taken to Dulag Luft, Frankfurt, Germany, captured airmen were interrogated in different and sometimes disarming ways. Transferred to Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany, the camp was huge but there was a surprised to discover that there were survivors of the 100th Bomb Group there that were thought dead. Cleven and Egan were two of the pilots that were there as the two men became leaders once again in the camp.

Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill and meet in Tehran to talk about an assault given the codename “Overlord”. The key to the success of the mission is that air superiority must happen. The P-51 Mustangs arrive in England, they are fast and the range to help the B-17’s reach their goal. Continual raids begin and they are non-stop as fighters keep attacking as Germany starts to feel their dominance in the air falling fast. Dr. Tami Davis Biddle, author of Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare talks about it.

Ships, warehouses, ball-bearing factories and bombing Berlin is affecting German morale. At the Stalag, prisoners are attempting to escape, some manage it and others do not. The 100th begins to work on more combat formations as Jeffries takes over and in two days they were flying the best formation. The basic rule was that after 25 missions, a pilot could rotate back to the states, but Rosenthal wanted to be a part of D-Day that was coming soon. Allied forces were to land in Normandy and the Air Force would be putting up every plane.

D-Day, June 6, 1944, the voice of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, gives a speech that lets each airman know that “they eyes of the world are upon you”. Looking out the window, airmen could see the vastness of planes in the air. As the men hit the beaches of Normandy, the bombs dropped, went back and gassed up collecting more bombs, and back in the air again. Germans are surrounded by Russia and the West and the discovery of what Hitler had done to people in camps.

In Luft III, Dr. Matthew F. Delmont, author of Half American talks about the Red-Tail pilots who were African American and also in the camps. Richard Macon was a pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group who believed they were better pilots than their German counterparts. J. Todd Moye, author of Freedom Flyers talks of the bomber pilot’s appreciation to the Red-Tail pilots.

The air bombing continues and more missions send up 2,000 bombers as they drop, drop, drop on war manufacturing. The servicemen from Luft II are on the move as the Germans move them from Sagan, to Spremberg, to Stalag VII-A in Moosburg. In a short amount of time, they were rescued and free to finally go home.

On May 1, 1945, the 100th flew one more mission to drop food to 5 million people in the Netherlands happened. The crews were finally ready to go home and they were celebrated all along the way. The reunions were amazing and the recollection of the pilots are still bringing tears to their eyes. Rosenthal would return to Europe for the Nuremburg Trials.

Now, those who are able to speak on it today, share how they feel about their time with The Bloody Hundredth, how it changed them and how it makes them feel as Americans. “The World War II generation deserves to be remembered”.

What more can anyone say than that? The brave men and women who took up arms when they were needed the most, did so without fanfare, without a second thought and with the courage of their convictions that it was the right thing to do as an American.

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Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have once again come together to bring us the stories of these brave individuals who have the courage of their convictions. These two filmmakers have covered space, battles at sea, battles on the ground, in the air and so much more. THE BLOODY HUNDREDTH is another chapter in their ability to bring such amazing stories and, with this documentary, from the words of those who are still alive to tell it today.

THE BLOODY HUNDREDTH is a look at what it took to fight evil from the air. It is absolutely incredible that these pilots were trained so quickly to do a job that was as dangerous as any other. It also examines the friendships, sorrows, death and survival in a time where being anything other than German could be a death sentence.

My grandparents did their part during that time and so did many of my family after becoming service members in all the branches of military. They were fathers, sons and uncles in my family that fought on land, in the air and on the sea giving their lives in some cases and some came back completely different. Those that did return always told me that they served with honor for their country. I never truly understood that until I was older and my own son went to war.

THE BLOODY HUNDREDTH would be a remarkable tool for teachers who cover this part of history. Hearing it from them men who served and the historians is a stunning way to show the history that always needs to be understood.

In the end – it honors the heroes of the 100th Bomb Group!



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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.