Masters of the Air: What Happened to Bucky Egan? How Did He Die?

In Apple TV+’s ‘Masters of the Air,’ the men of the 100th Bomb Group are at the center of a story that displays the bravery and courage of the men who fought during the Second World War. Showcasing the brutal and unpredictable nature of war, every episode of the show has characters dying by the dozen. The fourth episode sees the plane of Gale “Buck” Clevan go down, and in the fifth episode, his best friend, John “Bucky” Egan, meets a similar fate. What happened to him in real life? SPOILERS AHEAD

John “Bucky” Egan Became a Prisoner of War

On October 10, 1943, Bucky Egan joined the group in the raid on Munster. Because the drop was at the city center, the men knew that they were going to be in enemy territory and were expecting heavy fire, but things got so bad for them that at the end of the day, only one plane returned. Bucky Egan’s plane was not one of them.

Image Credits: 100th Photo Archives

While his plane was destroyed, Egan survived by jumping from it just in time. For several days, he tried to hide from the Germans, hoping to find his way back to England, but eventually, he was caught and sent to the POW camp, Stalag Luft III. To his surprise, he was reunited with his best friend, Buck Clevan, who had also arrived at the camp two days ago. When they saw each other at the camp, Clevan asked Egan, “What the hell took you so long?” To this, Egan replied: “That’s what I get for being sentimental!”

It really was Egan’s sentimentality that led him running back to Thorpe Abbots base, even though he was on vacation at the time. He’d met Gale Clevan when they were in flying school in Texas. According to the stories, it was Egan who nicknamed Clevan “Buck” because he resembled Egan’s friend Buck from home. Even though Clevan hated the name, Egan used it so much around him that the nickname stuck. The duo quickly became friends and had been inseparable since.

Egan had read in the newspaper about the mission on which Buck Clevan had gone without him. When Egan phoned the base to find out what happened to the group, he was informed that Clevan wasn’t among the ones to return. His desire to avenge his friend fuelled Egan to return the next day and join the next mission, which would lead him to Clevan. The duo would spend the next eighteen months in the camp as prisoners of war.

John Egan Died of a Heart Attack

John “Bucky” Egan died of a heart attack on April 16, 1961, at the age of 45. He is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Image Credits: 100th Photo Archives

When Egan returned home in early 1945, the Second World War was already won. However, he still wanted to be a part of the Air Force. At first, he applied to be sent to the Pacific. However, it didn’t pan out, and he stayed in America. He was eventually sent to Korea, but before that, he had a bit of a calm period, in which he settled down with a woman named Josephine, with whom he had two daughters, Ann Sue and Cathleen Jo. They were married on December 6, 1945, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Egan’s pals from the 100th, including Buck Clevan, were present at the wedding.

Egan was eventually sent to Korea, and he came back home for good in August 1957. By then, he had been promoted to the rank of Colonel and was awarded the rating of Command Pilot. In 1958, he joined the headquarters of the US Air Force as Chief Policy Division, Directorate of Plans, DCS/Personnel. In the meantime, he also attended the National War College in Washington DC and got a Bachelor’s degree in Science from Georgetown University.

Egan’s illustrious career in the US Air Force got him many awards, some of which are the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, WWII Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and Korean Service Medal, among others.

Egan was remembered by the members of his unit as an easygoing man who was a great leader and respected by all. One of the things about him was that he insisted on writing personalized letters to the families of the fallen soldiers, which he would write in long-hand and never made any copies of because the content of the letters was between him and the families. He carried that concern for people wherever he went, and it was one of the things that made him one of the most beloved members of the 100th.

Read More: What Happened to Gale “Buck” Cleven in Real Life? How Did He Die?