Apple TV+’s ‘Masters of the Air’ follows the story of the 100th Bomb Group during the Second World War. The show features an ensemble cast and doesn’t limit the story to just one character. It gives space to almost everyone in the team, no matter what position they serve. One of the characters in the show that received considerably less screen time but became an instant favorite with the audience is Meatball, the dog. Considering that ‘Masters of the Air’ is based on a true story and almost all characters in it are based on real people, one is bound to wonder if Meatball is also based on a real dog or if he’s a work of fiction. SPOILERS AHEAD
Meatball was a Real Dog with the 100th Bomb Group
In ‘Masters of the Air,’ Meatball is introduced in the first episode when he arrives at Thorpe Abbots Air Base with Captain Bernard DeMarco, who reveals that he won the dog in the game of craps. The husky, who quickly wins the hearts of the rest of the people on the base, is based on a real dog who accompanied the bomb group at their base in East Anglia. There really was a Meatball, and while the show tends to stick close to reality, some parts about Meatball are fictionalized for dramatic purposes.
In his book, ‘Masters of the Air: How the Bomber Boys Broke Down the Nazi War Machine,’ Donald Miller mentions Meatball, revealing that the Husky was “kidnapped in Iceland” by the members of the 100th Bomb Group and really did land in Thorpe Abbots with the team after they flew over the fjords and almost missed England due to an error by the navigator, Harry Crosby.
Because Meatball wasn’t officially a part of the US Air Force, there aren’t many records of him. Little is known about his time at Thorpe Abbots, and next to nothing about what happened to him next. However, because he never accompanied the bomb squad on their missions and never got into any armed conflict, instead spending his days at the base in relative security and comfort, it is fair to assume that he survived the events of the Second World War, though it cannot be confirmed who adopted him following the war.
One of the most notable incidents concerning the Husky is known as “Meatball vs the Pullet.” Reportedly, on October 3, 1943, following a raid on Emden, Major Egan was involved in a briefing regarding new aerial combat tactics when a farmer who lived near Thorpe Abbots showed up and started complaining about a brown dog who had attacked his farm and killed a pullet. The description matched Meatball, and the Major immediately knew that the dog was the one to stir the trouble.
By then, Meatball had become a beloved member of the team, and Major Egan thought it best to cover for Meatball. He calmed down the angry farmer and paid him for his troubles. It was a particularly heartfelt gesture from the Major for his furry friend because a few days later, on October 10, he left the base and didn’t return. His plane crashed in German territory, and he was thrown into prison camps, where he stayed till the end of the war.
‘Masters of the Air’ gives Meatball his due by giving him some heartwarming moments with the 100th bomb group members and being the one thing they can count on to melt their hearts in an otherwise unforgiving situation. While information is scarce about Meatball’s fate, it is hoped that he lived a long and happy life loved by the people who later became his family.