Real-Life Harry Crosby In ‘Masters Of The Air’: Is Sandra Wesgate A Real Person?


Masters of the Air made us privy to certain characters inspired by real-life people, who were portrayed in such a manner that from the onset, we had no doubts about their capabilities. These were the people who were ready to sacrifice their lives for the welfare of their nation. People like Gale Cleven, John Egan, and Robert Rosenthal topped that list. But then there were also people like Harry Crosby, who were misunderstood by many at the beginning and probably didn’t fit in that stereotypical soldier image. So let’s find out more about the character of Harry Crosby, if whatever was shown in the series actually happened in real life, and if the man had an affair with a British subaltern or not.

Who Was Harry Crosby?

There was a set of characters in Masters of the Air who didn’t hesitate to show their vulnerable sides. They accepted the fact that they didn’t have a lot of confidence in their own abilities and probably weren’t best suited for the mission. Harry Herbert Crosby was one of those characters whom people could very easily misunderstand, though, in the long run, he proved his worth and showed everybody why he was meant to be a navigator. The character of Harry Crosby is based on a real-life person, and his work, titled A Wing and a Prayer, became the source material for Masters of the Air. Harry, much like many of his colleagues, left his studies in between to join the army after the US decided to take part in the war. There were 36 people who were elected to be a part of the 100th Bomb Group, and Harry Crosby was one of them. I believe that, a lot of times, introspection is necessary and also beneficial in the long run. Crosby always questioned if he was the right man for the job because he didn’t want his incapability or maybe pompousness to come in the way of his nation or his colleagues. But little did he know at the beginning that he would become one of the most decorated navigators in the US Air Force. His dedication and determination were above par, and he had such a selfless attitude that, at times, his superiors had to stop him from putting his life at risk. After Harry Crosby became a part of the 418th squadron of the 100th Bomb group, he undertook many missions, and his existence proved to be a boon for those pilots who drove with him. 

Did Crosby have an affair with Sandra? 

According to Crosby’s accounts in Masters of the Air, he did meet Sandra Wesgate at Oxford, and we saw in the series how awkward the meeting was. Her name has been changed in the series, as according to Crosby’s works, her real name was Landra Wingate. In real life too, Sandra knew a lot of languages, and as Crosby speculated, probably it was not her real name too. There was an air of mystery pertaining to what her scope of work was, and we saw how discrete she was whenever Crosby asked that question. Crosby had come to know about his best friend Bubbles’ death before he came to Oxford, and he was still not able to cope with it. Crosby was made the group navigator just days before Bubbles’s death, and that’s why he believed that had he not taken the post, then on that day, he would have flown instead of his friend. Sandra was Crosby’s roommate in Oxford, and they had a few conversations when they went out to drink together.

Crosby opened up to Sandra, and that’s when she told him that it was not his fault and that he should stop blaming himself. Crosby was a married man, and in that moment, he did something that he really shouldn’t have done. But this world is not ideal, and even the most righteous people at times do things of which they are probably not proud of. Most of the things that we saw happening between Crosby and Sandra in the series did happen in real life. It is true that Crosby wasn’t able to pronounce her designation, “subaltern,” when he first saw her. Crosby had some extramarital affairs, though he has not specifically mentioned in his memoir if he was romantically inclined towards Sandra or not. But the way Crosby mentioned her name makes me think that she was more than a friend to him. As Crosby puts it, he had Jean back home and Sandra in London. Yes, he liked the woman, and he tried meeting her whenever he was in London. The entire scene where he tries to call her happened in real life. 

It is true that, in a way, Masters of the Air tried to justify Harry’s relationship with Sandra. Harry was mourning the loss of his friend, and he needed to confide in someone. Sandra became that person, and they both got intimate with each other. In my personal opinion, a lot of times, two people stuck in a similar situation understand each other better than anybody else. I am not justifying the fact that what Harry did was right, but I believe that these things happen. Obviously, it was unfair for Jean, Harry’s wife, and the latter felt guilty about it. He did confess to Jean about having an affair in real life, though whether he told her specifically about Sandra was uncertain. 

What happened to Harry Crosby after the war?

Crosby, just days before the D-day, was quite stressed out about the various maps and blueprints that he had to create. It was true that he passed out due to lack of sleep and then later woke up when the war was over. After the war, Crosby went on to complete his studies at the University of Iowa, which he had left when he joined the Air Force. Then later on, he also went on to get a PhD from Stanford University. Crosby was married to Jean Evelyn until her demise in 1980. Because of his academic qualifications and military experience, he was a part of the team that created the curriculum for the Air Force Academy. In 2010, Harry Crosby passed away, leaving a great legacy behind him. Crosby, till the very end, could never figure out if what they went through was worth it or not. Harry Crosby was not a perfect man, and he had his share of flaws. But those who fought alongside him knew that he was the kind of person who kept his nation above himself and who could put his life at stake for his fellow soldiers. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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