Actor Anthony Boyle expressed his nervousness about meeting his Masters of the Air character Harry Crosby’s four children at the premiere of the Apple TV+ show. After all, viewers were only shown the pilot episode at the premiere, an episode that didn’t portray her father as the war hero he would become.

Rather, the queasy navigator dodges explosions and airborne illnesses with a pencil in one hand and a poop bag in the other. But the Crosby siblings knew that his uncertain first days in the 100th Bomb Group were just the beginning of his story, making the journey that followed perhaps all the more remarkable.

With the popularity of the series, a wide audience came to know Crosby, not only for the character but also for his narration. It is perhaps fitting that Crosby’s voice should be the guiding constant of the series, since in life he was a man with a remarkable talent for his use of words.

It was 2017 when Rebecca Crosby Hutchinson first learned that Playtone, a production company founded by Tom Hanks and producer Gary Goetzman, had plans to develop the show. While the series takes its name from Donald Miller’s Masters of the Air, reports from Harry Crosby’s memoir A Wing and a Prayer also provided source material. As Hutchinson explains it, Crosby’s book focuses on the 100th, while Miller’s book provides a comprehensive historical record of air warfare during World War II.

Hutchinson serves as the family archivist and her access to his letters, notes and documents provided a valuable resource for the production. In the years that followed, producer Kirk Saduski and writer John Orloff remained in regular contact with the Crosby family.

Hutchinson remembers requests for early photos of her parents and a sample of her mother’s handwriting for the many letters she was known to send. She also provided the dialect coach with an audio recording of her father’s voice, a resource Boyle used in his preparation for the role. “He listened to them every day.” Hutchinson said, “He wore headphones when he went to the sets and practiced the lines in his room while listening to his father’s voice in his ears.”

The siblings also traveled to the set. “They spent a lot of money and a lot of research on authenticity, and we could see that on set.” April Crosby recalls: “So we went to the meeting room where the pilots give their lecture every morning about what the film is about Mission goes.

We saw the officer’s quarters bunk and Dad’s bunk.” In addition to seeing their father’s portrayal on screen, the Crosby children recognized many of the characters in the series from their father’s stories and throughout their childhood. “He was good friends with a lot of these guys on the show,” April Crosby said, “Rosie [Lt. Robert Rosenthal], for example, was often in our house when we were children, Hambone, Crankshaft,…. A lot of these guys were my parents’ friends when I was growing up.”

Even before the book was published, Steve Crosby remembers his father as a storyteller. “When I was little, my dad would cut my hair all the time, I would go into my parents’ bathroom and they would put a towel around my neck and then he would tell me a story about one of the missions.” By working on an academic schedule The family had plenty of time to travel together in the summer, and the time in the car also provided plenty of opportunity for storytelling.

After the war, Harry Crosby completed his master’s degree in English at the University of Iowa. He then received his doctorate from Stanford University before returning to the University of Iowa as a lecturer. In 1958 he and his wife Jean moved their young family to Newton, Massachusetts, where he taught English at Boston University until 1984. April Crosby remembers her father’s studies. “[He] There was a note above his desk that read “Zest!!”

That was what he always strived for when he wrote. Make it jump off the page.” He taught a literature course on Hemingway and Faulkner, but many of his courses focused on writing, composition and rhetoric. Over the course of his career, he authored ten college writing textbooks.

As a professor, Crosby was known for generously giving feedback. “You would get your work back from him, and it was written entirely with long sentences and long, powerful comments that would take you further.” April Crosby remembers: “He took it very seriously. He loved the craft of writing and wanted to teach it. I’ve heard students write and thank him over the years.”

Even after his retirement from Boston University in 1984, Dr. Crosby continued to lead Harvard University’s Writing Center, a role that focused primarily on training writing faculty. “He always said he taught tutors how to ‘teach,'” Steve Crosby said.

In 1993, he combined his storytelling and writing skills and published his memoir, A Wing and a Prayer. Hutchinson believes her father’s involvement in the 100th Bomb Group Foundation and faithful attendance at meetings may have influenced his decision to write the memoir after all these years.

“My impression is that as he got older he became more interested in making sure this was a record,” Hutchinson said, adding that his role as a navigator in the war made him a natural chronicler of events. In a 1993 interview with Tom O’Neill of the Hennepin County Library, Dr. Crosby said it only took him nine months to write. “I had this story in my head and couldn’t believe the details that came to mind,” he said.

What would Crosby think of Masters of the Air and his prominent presence on the show? “He would be incredibly honored and he would be thrilled,” Hutchinson said. Despite his impressive courage and accolades, Crosby’s children remember him as a man of humility, a quality that would undoubtedly have influenced his experience of the series had he seen it today.

April Crosby believes that if her father had given a speech at the premiere, he would definitely realize that he was one of thousands and that without everyone they would not have succeeded. “He always said, ‘I just hope people think I did my part.'” One common denominator between the siblings is that Crosby felt compelled to give credit to everyone. “He was always very careful to recognize the other characters,” Steve Crosby said, “the ground mechanics, the ground officers, the people who didn’t get the credit.”

Humility, hard work and respect for others were qualities that Harry Crosby carried with him throughout his life and that he wanted to instill in his students. Hutchinson found a memo her father wrote to his students after his retirement from Boston University that sums it up well:

I learned from my own experience

that there is a good life out here

If you take care of yourself, stick with it

Bear your share of the burden when it comes to important tasks

and be considerate of other people,

You will find that good life. You need to

Look for it and work for it, but it is there.

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