John "Bucky" Egan was one of the most notable pilots the United States had in its ranks during World War II. Alongside his good friend, Gale "Buck" Cleven, the two men were larger-than-life heroes—and now, the main figures of Apple TV+'s Masters of the Air, which debuts its first two episodes today.
Played by Callum Turner and Austin Butler, respectively, Egan and Cleven were the heart and soul of the Eighth Air Force and the 100th Bomb Group—known as the "Bloody 100th" due to the number of casualties that plagued the crew. "The honor I feel that I got to represent them is through the roof," Turner told Good Morning America. "What these men did for us, they saved the world, and we wouldn't be living the way that we are if it wasn't for them."
But before Egan saw war—and long before he was portrayed by Turner in Masters of the Air—he was just a kid in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, born on September 9, 1915. At the age of 25, Egan entered the Army Air Corps in March 1940. He graduated from training in under a year, but he wasn't sent to London, England alongside Cleven until May 1943. He was promoted to Major by then, when he would help prepare the airbase for the 100th Bomb Group to fly missions over Germany.
"He was doing what he thought he had to do for his own soul," Turner told Entertainment Weekly about Egan. "But I didn't like getting in the plane, and so I created this friction between me and the plane... You have to go up there, but it's the last thing that you want to do. It's like going on a theme park ride—when you're queued up and then you're at the front of the line and you don't want to do it. I created that friction and that really helped me."
Following a couple of incredibly dangerous outings, both Egan and Cleven were eventually shot down by enemy forces. Surviving the crash, he spent the rest of World War II in a prisoner of war (POW) camp. Reportedly, when he arrived to the camp at Stalag Luft III and saw Cleven, his buddy called out, "What the hell took you so long?" It was a major blow to the 100th's members at the time, who viewed Egan and Cleven as two of the best pilots they had ever seen.
Miraculously, both men survived the war. Turner was the best man at Cleven's wedding, and he even married his ow sweetheart and had two children. Sadly, he died much before Cleven at the age of 45, suffering a heart attack in 1961. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery with full honors.
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