Masters of the Air is the new Apple TV hit that has exploded in popularity. The show chronicles World War II (WWII) Aviators and their bombing missions in B-17 Bombers into Nazi-occupied Europe. Interestingly, the show and this aspect of WWII aviation history are local to the Columbia Basin region. 

Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

WWII Bombers Once Took to the Skies Over the Columbia Basin Region

The impressive B-17 bombers, like the ones in the show, once took to the skies over Walla Walla.

According to the Walla Walla Airport, In 1942, the airfield was taken by the United States Government and converted into an Army Airfield.

attachment-B17 ramp
B17s on the ramp at Walla Walla (Photo: Walla Walla Airport)

The Nation’s War Department announced they would spend over 7.5 million dollars constructing an Army Air Corps Training Airfield adjacent to the Walla Walla Airfield. 

Using the old 200-acre municipal airport, they built the Walla Walla Army Air Base, which ultimately covered 2,164 acres of land. The base built 300 buildings equipped to house, feed, and train approximately 6,000 men at one time. 

The military base at the Walla Walla Airport (Photo: Walla Walla Airport)
The military base at the Walla Walla Airport
(Photo: Walla Walla Airport)

Walla Walla was Home to some Famous WWII Bombers and Crews

The 91st Bomb Group claims they were the first Army Air Forces outfit to utilize the Walla Walla Base. The squadron had trained in Florida before arriving in Washington. Upon arrival, they trained and learned to fly B-17 airplanes like the ones in Masters of the Air. The 91st Bomb Group went on to a storied history in combat over Europe. Several of these crews made outstanding records during their tour of duty and were well publicized upon their return to the States with names such as “Jack the Ripper,” “Memphis Belle,” and “Delta Rebel.” The “Memphis Belle” became the first B-17 to complete 25 European missions. 

Walla Walla Switches from B17s to B25s

By 1943, the Walla Walla Army Airfield lay unused when the Air Force withdrew its B-17 Flying Fortress training operation. However, in April of the following year, the Fourth Air Force took charge of the airstrip and established a training base for B-24 crews. 

During WWII, it is estimated that more than 8,000 officers and men were trained at this base, producing 594 heavy bomber crews who compilted about 114,514 hours in the air while in training.

LOOK: This is an Amazing Historical World War II Hangar Hotel and Museum

The Fredericksburg Texas Hangar Hotel and Museum is awe-inspiring. It takes one back in time into Military History from the 1940s.

Gallery Credit: Rudy Fernandez

More From 870 AM KFLD