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As the third installment in the iconic World War II series from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Masters of the Air is already standing out for expanding the scope of the storytelling. In particular, episode 3 took viewers to the North African front in a first for the war dramas.
Highlighting an Overlooked Aspect of World War II
The episode depicts the bomber pilots crash landing in Algeria after a brutal mission. This small plot point highlights a key way Masters of the Air distinguishes itself:
“Masters of the Air is different from its predecessors for many reasons, but one unique distinction is that the 2024 series explores a segment of World War II that the others never even touched.”
Neither Band of Brothers nor The Pacific ever stepped foot in Africa or delved into that theater of war. So Masters of the Air offers the chance to illuminate an oft-overlooked region where critical battles took place.
What Africa’s Involvement Looked Like
- North Africa witnessed some of the earliest clashes – Even before the U.S. joined the war effort, British and Commonwealth forces battled German and Italian troops scattered across Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and more throughout 1940-1943. These power struggles impacted control of crucial shipping routes through the Mediterranean to Europe.
- Operation Torch – America’s first major land battle against Axis powers came during this November 1942 invasion of French North Africa. Within days, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia fell, paving the way for Italy’s surrender.
- Allied campaigns up Italy – Victorious forces pushing through North Africa allowed strategic advances up through Italy itself – notably the bloody campaign taking Sicily and violent trudge northward.
So events in Africa greatly enabled beating back German-Italian strength in southern Europe.
Algeria Provides an Intriguing Backdrop
The closing Algeria scene in Masters of the Air seems likely only a brief pitstop for the 100th Air Squadron. But those moments provide interesting narrative potential:
“ultimately, the 100th must return to Thorpe Abbotts…But [Algeria] gives the show a chance to explain Africa’s significance in World War II. This is a feat that neither Band of Brothers nor The Pacific ever accomplished.”
Viewers could gain insight into how Algerian air bases aided the Allies, the weather challenges for pilots, interactions between locals and soldiers, and more unique aspects of this crucial theater.
Visual Potential Through a New Lens
Seeing war-torn Algeria also brings a refreshed visual approach:
Band of Brothers and The Pacific focused extensively on European villages, forests, beaches and battle sites most viewers easily connect to WWII imagery. Africa delivers new scenery – like deserts, palm oases, casbah villages and tropical shores.
Cinematography may emphasize unusual elements compared to the European front – perhaps camel caravans weaving past warplanes, ammunition caches amid date groves, combat on shifting sands. This all helps portray the layers of a complex war.
While likely brief, simply incorporating North Africa at all allows Masters of the Air to depict a key WWII region and era its predecessors missed. We’ll have to stay tuned to see what added perspectives emerge.