Masters of the Air: Is Lt. Curtis Biddick Based on a Real US Air Force Officer? How Did He Die?

Apple TV+’s war drama, ‘Masters of the Air,’ presents a story of bravery and heart in the middle of the Second World War. It follows the exploits of the 100th Bomb Squadron, focusing on the journeys of its various members, from the pilots to the engineers, all of whom are indelibly affected by their experience. Of the many characters that the show follows, Lt. Curtis Biddick stands out for his humourous and hopeful attitude in the face of adversity. Played by Barry Keoghan, he is the kind of person who never gives up. Who was he in real life, and what happened to him? SPOILERS AHEAD

Lt. Curtis Biddick Belonged to the 100th Bomb Squadron

‘Masters of the Air’ is based on the book of the same name by Donald Miller, which in turn focuses on the real-life events surrounding the 100th Bomb Squadron. A lot of characters in the show are directly based on real people who served in the unit, and Lt. Curtis Biddick is one of them.

Image Credits: 100th Bomb Group Foundation

Born in Livingston, Wisconsin, in 1915, Biddick was 27 years old when he enlisted in the US military to fight in the Second World War. Before that, he majored in Animal Science at the University of California in 1937, and by 1940, he was working in San Francisco in the wholesale meat industry. The USA entered the Second World War in December 1941, and in January 1942, Biddick signed up as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps. In September 1942, he graduated as a pilot and was eventually assigned to the 100th Bomb Group, with whom he remained till the last day of his life.

He arrived at the Thorpe Abbots air base in 1943 with the rest of the 100th and piloted the aircraft nicknamed “Muggs” on July 24, 1943. As shown in the Apple TV+ series, Biddick ended up landing the plane on a vegetable patch, which turned out to belong to an RAF commanding officer in Aberdeen, Scotland. They’d been on a mission to Trondjheim, but due to some trouble during the return, the plane’s oxygen system was knocked out, leading to the sudden landing.

Biddick was described by his peers as a “hard luck” pilot, meaning that every time he flew, something happened. Reportedly, when he returned after an air raid, his plane had about 1700 shells and bullet holes. Still, Biddick knew that this was an invariable part of the war, and that did nothing to dim his courage. For his service, he received many awards and commendations, including the Purple Heart, which he received posthumously. He’d also received a Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and a World War II Victory Medal, among others.

How did Lt. Curtis Biddick Die?

Image Credits: American Air Museum

Lt. Curtis Biddick died on August 17, 1943, at the age of 28. That day, he and his crew were selected for a mission to Regensburg, which was supposed to create a diversion for the other half of the unit to attack ball-bearing plants in Schweinfurt. The crew was supposed to have been led by Lt. Flesh, but he was on leave that day, so Lt. Biddick took his place.

Biddick’s team was a part of the “Escape Kit” and was assigned to the “coffin corner,” named so for its vulnerable position, making it an easy target for the enemy. As expected, the attack was immediate once the formation entered enemy territory, and Biddick’s plane took a hit, which caused an oxygen fire that trapped the ones on the flight deck. Witnesses later reported seeing the plane with a large hole in its fuselage with flames pouring out of it. The entire ship was on fire. Some of the crew were killed by the gunfire, while the others managed to get out of the ship. However, those on the flight deck, including Biddick, were trapped. Co-pilot Lt Snyder tried to exit through one of the holes created by the gunfire, but according to some reports, he lost balance and fell without the parachute.

As for Biddick, with no way out, he tried to land the plane someplace with minimum casualty. He managed to steer clear of a small village where the plane would have headed, saving the innocent residents from the crash. Some of the crew are said to have survived the crash and were treated before being turned over to the Nazis. Four of the crew, including Biddick, didn’t make it out and were buried in a cemetery in Pulfringen. After the war, their remains were brought back by the US authorities. Lt. Biddick was laid to rest at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri with his two crew mates— Sgt James Bair and Sgt Lawrence Godbey.

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