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Legendary bandleader Glenn Miller disappears over the English Channel

Legendary bandleader Glenn Miller disappears over the English Channel

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General James Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), hero of the daring “Doolittle Raid” on mainland Japan and later the unified commander of Allied air forces in Europe in World War II, offered the following high praise to one of his staff officers in 1944: “Next to a letter from home, Captain Miller, your organization is the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations.” The Captain Miller in question was the trombonist and bandleader Glenn Miller, the biggest star on the American pop-music scene in the years immediately preceding World War II and a man who set aside his brilliant career right at its peak in 1942 to serve his country as leader of the USAAF dance band. It was in that capacity that Captain Glenn Miller boarded a single-engine aircraft at an airfield outside of London on December 15, 1944—an aircraft that would go missing over the English Channel en route to France for a congratulatory performance for American troops that had recently helped to liberate Paris.

It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of Glenn Miller’s success in the years immediately preceding America’s entry into World War II. Though he was a relatively unspectacular instrumentalist himself—he’d played the trombone in various prominent orchestras but never distinguished himself as a performer—Miller the bandleader came to dominate the latter portion of the swing era on the strength of his disciplined arrangements and an innovation in orchestration that put the high-pitched clarinet on the melody line doubled by the saxophone section an octave below. This trademark sound helped the Glenn Miller Orchestra earn an unprecedented string of popular hits from 1939 to 1942, including the iconic versions of numbers like “In The Mood” (1939), “Tuxedo Junction” (1939) and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1941), as well as Miller’s self-penned signature tune, “Moonlight Serenade” (1939).

The Glenn Miller Orchestra played its last-ever concert under Miller’s direction on September 27, 1942, in Passaic, New Jersey, and shortly thereafter, Miller entered the Army. After nearly two years spent stateside broadcasting a weekly radio program called I Sustain The Wings out of New York City, Miller formed a new 50-piece USAAF dance band and departed for England in the summer of 1944, giving hundreds of performances to Allied troops over the next six months before embarking on his fateful trip to France on this day in 1944.

The wreckage of Miller’s plane was never found. His official military status remains Missing in Action.

New Evidence in the Mystery of Glenn Miller’s Fatal Last Flight During WWII

Popular big band leader Glenn Miller lost his life in a plane crash during the Second World War. To this day, the exact cause of the fatal crash and the death of those on the plane with him remains a mystery. Some even believed the story of a plane crash was a cover story for a more sordid end.

For many, Glenn Miller’s music (especially his most famous hit, “In The Mood”) is the sound of the WWII era. When he died, he was mourned throughout the United States.

His music was the background for many a serviceman’s dreams of home while they were at the front. Like the deaths of Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Kurt Cobain, the death of Miller came not only as a shock but seemed in a way to mark the end of an era. Miller was the biggest star of the Big Band era, and from 1939-43, was the biggest recording artist in the world.

On December 15, 1944, Miller was scheduled to fly from London to Paris to make arrangements to prepare for a show. His band was to play for troops stationed in Paris and on “R&R” (rest and recreation) from their wartime duties.

Maj. Glenn Miller standing with hand in pocket. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That winter was among the worst in modern history. The next day, December 16th, the Germans began their Ardennes offensive, better known as “The Battle of the Bulge”, knowing that the terrible weather would likely keep most Allied planes on the ground.

On the flight with Miller were pilot Lieutenant Colonels John Morgan and Norman F. Baesell. Theories abound as to why the plane took off in the incredibly foggy weather that day. Not only was England “socked in,” but their Paris destination was as well.

Some believe that Colonel Baesell, who was a sort of “fixer” for Miller who made arrangements for gigs, hotels, and so on, pressured Morgan to take off regardless of the danger. No one knows if he threatened Morgan or promised him some goodies in Paris, but neither was above Baessell, according to those who knew him.

The Noorduyn UC-64A “Norseman” plane carrying Miller took off from Twinwood airfield, 61 miles north of London at 1:53 pm. Their flight plan required them to fly along the “SHAEF corridor” (named for Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force), the main protected route for transport planes flying from England to France.

Glenn Miller Memorial at former RAF Kings Cliffe, England, site of his last hangar concert. Photo by Chris Lowe CC BY-SA 2.0

It was supposed to arrive in Paris sometime between 3:45 and 3:51. Royal Air Force spotters saw the plane heading out over the Channel at 2:37, on course and on time. That was the last time anyone saw or heard of Miller’s plane.

The most likely cause is that in the fog, Morgan became “spatially disoriented” — meaning that for a short time, he didn’t know his altitude, bearing or the attitude of the plane. A pilot experiencing this often ignores or dismisses his instruments or cannot see them.

In the fog, Morgan likely became utterly confused – his brain simply told him things that were not so or fed him incomplete information, and he crashed into the Channel, thinking he was much higher than the sea.

A U.S. Army Air Forces Noorduyn UC-64A Norseman (s/n 44-70439) from the 3rd Air Commando Group.

No confirmed wreckage or bodies were ever found, so there is very little information available to tell us more about what happened, but that may soon change.

In several documentaries about Miller’s life and death, a man named Fred Shaw, who was a navigator on an RAF Lancaster bomber, told another story about how Miller died.

Twinwood Airfield. Twinwood Airfield is notable as being the airfield from which Glenn Miller set off on his last journey before being lost over the English Channel. Photo by Peter Roberts CC BY-SA 2.0

Shaw’s plane was part of a flight of 138 of the heavy bombers who were on their way to bomb the rail-yard at the German city of Siegen.

Having reached Belgium, the formation was forced to turn back because of the weather. They received a message to jettison their bombs over the Channel, as the risk of accident (and explosion) upon landing was high.

Shaw was looking through a small observation window in the belly of the plane when he saw the bombs of his plane and the others begin to drop over the sea.

RAF Twinwood Control Tower restored in 2002. It contains a tribute to Major Alton Glenn Miller who took his final flight from here on December 15, 1944. Photo by MilborneOne CC BY SA 3.0

As he watched the bombs drop, his bombardier said: “There’s a kite (plane) down there.” Shaw looked down and saw a plane that fit the description of the UC-64A carrying Miller.

The UC-64A was an unusual plane to be seen over the Channel in that weather. It was unusual enough for Shaw to notice and remember it.

Shaw believed the pilot realized what was happening and panicked: the plane flipped over to the left, appeared to start a spin and then splashed into the sea. At that point, the bombers’ wing prevented Shaw from seeing anything else.

Monument in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut.

The captain of Shaw’s plane later confirmed that both Shaw and two other crewmen reported seeing a plane crash, but according to practice at the time, there was no debriefing on a scrubbed mission and no report was made – the men in the bomber formation saw planes going down every day, this was just one more.

Some RAF experts investigated Shaw’s claims and declared them credible, and that it was possible that the U.S. and British authorities did not want to have Miller’s death attributed to “friendly fire.”

However, another member of the crew found the story hard to believe, saying that visibility was almost zero that day – that’s why the mission was scrubbed and the bombs jettisoned.

One other theory about Miller is even stranger: Miller survived the flight and died of a heart attack while in a Paris brothel. This story is attributed to an article in the German tabloid “Bild” that appeared in 1997.

The article stated that a German journalist had found this out while reading documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, though later the journalist denied this and claimed to have only heard a “rumor” about it from supposed German intelligence agents.

Bust outside the Corn Exchange in Bedford, England, where Miller played in World War II.

Though no substance was ever put forward to support this theory, and any cover-up would have been insanely difficult, some people still believe in it, though no one with any sense gives it any credibility.

Regardless of what happened, Miller’s music lives on. Soon we may have more information: In 1987, a fisherman hauled up what many think are the remains of a UC-64A Norseman. He dropped the remains back into the ocean but recorded the coordinates.

Now, a U.S.-based team of researchers are preparing to organize an expedition to bring up that wreckage, which was on the flight path of Miller’s plane.

Though it’s been many years since the crash, the Norseman had a very unique engine. All other Norseman of the time have been accounted for, so perhaps the Miller mystery is nearing its end.

Mystery of Glenn Miller's death is finally solved 73 years after his disappearance

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Mystery of Glenn Miller's death is finally solved 73 years after his disappearance

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Now an historian claims to have discovered how big band leader Glenn Miller died after his aeroplane disappeared over the English Channel - after uncovering the diary of a teenage plane spotter.

Dennis Spragg, consultant to the Miller achieve at Colorado University, believes that pilot error is to blame for the death of the legendary band leader whose light aircraft vanished as he was flying from Britain to Paris to make arrangements to relocate his band on December 15 1944.

Until now the most compelling explanation for Miller&rsquos death was that his single-engined Noorduyn Norseman was struck by bombs dumped into the sea by RAF Lancaster bombers flying overhead as they returned from an aborted mission to Germany.

But Mr Spragg was commissioned by Miller&rsquos family to investigate and has now published a book giving a full account of what happened for the first time.

His investigations have now concluded the pilot veered off course and was flying too low in bad weather.

Related articles

The six-year investigation has produced the historic milestone that is Glenn Miller Declassified

Dennis Spragg

He says the crucial piece of the jigsaw was a lost diary that had been stashed away for decades by a Devon family until it was taken along to an episode of the BBC&rsquos Antiques Roadshow.

The journal was written by enthusiast Richard Anderton, who was 17 when he spotted what proved to be Miller&rsquos plane flying overhead in Reading.

This sighting - which remained untold for more than 60 years - proved the star&rsquos plane took a major diversion on its way to Paris adding 40 miles onto the journey.

This meant it would have been impossible for the plane to have been in the jettison zone for the bombs at the correct time and was the final piece of key evidence to prove Miller died due to human error and miscalculation.

Mr Spragg said: &ldquoThe six-year investigation has produced the historic milestone that is Glenn Miller Declassified, which goes far beyond a rebuttal of conspiracy claims to honour a popular musician who was a genuine American patriot.

World War Two veteran uses VR for first time

&ldquoThousands of pages of documents have been discovered and many important details are published for the first time.

&ldquoThe Anderton diaries were the icing on the cake in this investigation,&rdquo

The diaries are now owned by Richard&rsquos nephew Phillip and were found in a house clearance after he died in 1982.

Philip Anderton, 52, from Bideford, Devon, said the family were thrilled to play such an important part of correcting history.

He said: &ldquoAs we were clearing out my uncle&rsquos things, my father found these two note books that he didn&rsquot know existed.

This newspaper cutting was kept by Richard Anderton

&ldquoHe found them fascinating and brought them home. When he flicked through them one page opened up to him because Richard had placed a press clipping from 1969 between two particular pages.

&ldquoThe press cutting was an article called &rsquo25 years later Miller fans search on&rsquo, from the anniversary of Miller&rsquos death.

&ldquoWe thought, &lsquowhy has he put this article here?&rsquo and realised the page corresponded with the day that Miller disappeared.

&ldquoWe started looking at the sightings he had made on that day and saw in the afternoon section he had written, &lsquoone Norseman, going east south east.&rsquo

&ldquoWe don&rsquot know how certain Richard was but he was obviously sure enough to think that was Glenn Miller&rsquos plane.

Richard Anderton's notebook which helped prove his theory about the death of Glenn Miller

&ldquoHe never spoke to anyone about it, but he obviously thought some thing to have done what he did.&rdquo

The family revealed Richard was making notes on the aircraft that he was seeing in and around Reading where he worked and cover about four months, from October 1944 to February 1945.

After the interest by their TV appearance, the family said they made contact with Mr Spragg, who is the senior consultant at the Glenn Miller Archive in the USA.

Phillip added: &ldquoHe had just been contacted by Steven Miller, Glenn&rsquos son, commissioning him to do a full investigation to find the real truth about the situation.

&ldquoDennis was very interested but had been looking at the archives and said on that afternoon there were two Norseman aloft in Reading.

&ldquoHe said that we had to know exactly where Richard was making these sightings and the direction he was looking at the time.

Glenn Miller Declassified

&ldquoWe started to re-look at the notebook and we noticed something interesting where Richard had written &lsquoeast south east&rsquo, he put in a tiny little &lsquoS&rsquo.

&ldquoInitially we didn&rsquot have a clue what it meant, but then we saw he put a &lsquoP&rsquo on some pages and an &lsquoOVHD&rsquo on others, and realised that meant &lsquooverhead&rsquo.

&ldquoOnce we realised that &lsquoS&rsquo meant starboard and &lsquoP&rsquo meant port, we knew that meant he was looking in an easterly direction.

&ldquoWe sent this info to Dennis and a few days later he got back to me and said there was no doubt that was a sighting of Glenn Miller&rsquos plane.

&ldquoThat was a critical time because it was a confirmation from the greatest expert there was on Glenn Miller&rsquos death.&rdquo

Phillip said he was delighted to hear Dennis describe Richard&rsquos sighting as the &ldquoicing on the cake.&rdquo


The son of Mattie Lou (née Cavender) and Lewis Elmer Miller, Glenn Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa. [8] He attended grade school in North Platte in western Nebraska. In 1915, his family moved to Grant City, Missouri. Around this time, he had made enough money from milking cows to buy his first trombone and played in the town orchestra. He played cornet and mandolin, but he switched to trombone by 1916. [9] In 1918, the Miller family moved again, this time to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where he went to high school. In the fall of 1919, he joined the high school American football team, the Maroons, which won the Northern Colorado American Football Conference in 1920. He was named Best Left End in Colorado. [10] During his senior year, he became interested in "dance band music". He was so taken that he formed a band with some classmates. By the time he graduated from high school in 1921, he had decided to become a professional musician. [8]

In 1923, Miller entered the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he joined Sigma Nu fraternity. [11] He spent most of his time away from school, attending auditions and playing any gigs he could get, including with Boyd Senter's band in Denver. After failing three out of five classes, he dropped out of school to pursue a career in music.

He studied the Schillinger System with Joseph Schillinger, under whose tutelage he composed what became his signature theme, "Moonlight Serenade". [12] In 1926, Miller toured with several groups, landing a good spot in Ben Pollack's group in Los Angeles. He also played for Victor Young, which allowed him to be mentored by other professional musicians. [13] In the beginning he was the main trombone soloist of the band. But when Jack Teagarden joined Pollack's band in 1928, Miller found that his solos were cut drastically. He realized that his future was in arranging and composing. [9]

He had a songbook published in Chicago in 1928 entitled Glenn Miller's 125 Jazz Breaks for Trombone by the Melrose Brothers. [14] During his time with Pollack, he wrote several arrangements. He wrote his first composition, "Room 1411", with Benny Goodman, and Brunswick Records released it as a 78 under the name "Benny Goodman's Boys". [15]

In 1928, when the band arrived in New York City, he sent for and married his college sweetheart, Helen Burger. He was a member of Red Nichols's orchestra in 1930, and because of Nichols, he played in the pit bands of two Broadway shows, Strike Up the Band and Girl Crazy. The band included Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa. [16]

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Miller worked as a freelance trombonist in several bands. On a March 21, 1928 Victor Records session he played alongside Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Joe Venuti in the All-Star Orchestra directed by Nat Shilkret. [17] [18] [19] He arranged and played trombone on several significant Dorsey Brothers sessions for OKeh Records, including "The Spell of the Blues", "Let's Do It", and "My Kinda Love", all with Bing Crosby on vocals. On November 14, 1929, [20] vocalist Red McKenzie hired Miller to play on two records: "Hello, Lola" and "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight". [21] [22] Beside Miller were saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, guitarist Eddie Condon, and drummer Gene Krupa. [23]

In the early-to-mid-1930s, Miller worked as a trombonist, arranger, and composer for The Dorsey Brothers, first when they were a Brunswick studio group and when they formed an ill-fated orchestra. [24] Miller composed the songs "Annie's Cousin Fanny", [25] [26] [27] "Dese Dem Dose", [24] [27] "Harlem Chapel Chimes", and "Tomorrow's Another Day" for the Dorsey Brothers Band in 1934 and 1935. In 1935, he assembled an American orchestra for British bandleader Ray Noble, [24] developing the arrangement of lead clarinet over four saxophones that became a characteristic of his big band. Members of the Noble band included Claude Thornhill, Bud Freeman, and Charlie Spivak.

Miller made his first movie appearance in The Big Broadcast of 1936 as a member of the Ray Noble Orchestra performing "Why Stars Come Out at Night". The film included performances by Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers, who would appear with Miller again in two movies for Twentieth Century Fox in 1941 and 1942.

In 1937, Miller compiled several arrangements and formed his first band. After failing to distinguish itself from the many bands of the time, it broke up after its last show at the Ritz Ballroom in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on January 2, 1938. [28]

Benny Goodman said in 1976:

In late 1937, before his band became popular, we were both playing in Dallas. Glenn was pretty dejected and came to see me. He asked, "What do you do? How do you make it?" I said, "I don't know, Glenn. You just stay with it." [29]

Discouraged, Miller returned to New York. He realized that he needed to develop a unique sound, and decided to make the clarinet play a melodic line with a tenor saxophone holding the same note, while three other saxophones harmonized within a single octave. George T. Simon discovered a saxophonist named Wilbur Schwartz for Glenn Miller. Miller hired Schwartz, but instead had him play lead clarinet. According to Simon, "Willie's tone and way of playing provided a fullness and richness so distinctive that none of the later Miller imitators could ever accurately reproduce the Miller sound." [30] With this new sound-combination, Glenn Miller found a way to differentiate his band's style from that of many bands that existed in the late thirties. Miller talked about his style in the May 1939 issue of Metronome magazine. "You'll notice today some bands use the same trick on every introduction others repeat the same musical phrase as a modulation into a vocal . We're fortunate in that our style doesn't limit us to stereotyped intros, modulations, first choruses, endings or even trick rhythms. The fifth sax, playing clarinet most of the time, lets you know whose band you're listening to. And that's about all there is to it." [31]

Bluebird Records and Glen Island Casino Edit

In September 1938, the Miller band began recording for Bluebird, a subsidiary of RCA Victor. [32] Cy Shribman, a prominent East Coast businessman, financed the band. [33] In the spring of 1939, the band's fortunes improved with a date at the Meadowbrook Ballroom in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and more dramatically at the Glen Island Casino in New Rochelle, New York. According to author Gunther Schuller, the Glen Island performance attracted "a record breaking opening night crowd of 1800. " [34] The band's popularity grew. [35] In 1939, Time magazine noted: "Of the twelve to 24 discs in each of today's 300,000 U.S. jukeboxes, from two to six are usually Glenn Miller's." [36] In 1940, the band's version of "Tuxedo Junction" sold 115,000 copies in the first week. [37] Miller's success in 1939, culminated with an appearance at Carnegie Hall on October 6, with Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and Fred Waring also on the schedule. [38]

From December 1939 to September 1942, Miller's band performed three times a week during a quarter-hour broadcast for Chesterfield cigarettes on CBS radio [39] —for the first 13 weeks with the Andrews Sisters and then on its own. [40] On February 10, 1942, RCA Victor presented Miller with the first gold record for "Chattanooga Choo-Choo". [41] [42] The Miller orchestra performed "Chattanooga Choo Choo" with his singers Gordon "Tex" Beneke, Paula Kelly and the Modernaires. [43] Other singers with this orchestra included Marion Hutton, [44] Skip Nelson, [45] Ray Eberle [46] and (to a smaller extent) Kay Starr, [47] Ernie Caceres, [48] Dorothy Claire [49] and Jack Lathrop. [50] Pat Friday ghost-sang with the Miller band in their two films, Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives, with Lynn Bari lip-synching. [51]

Motion pictures Edit

Miller and his band appeared in two Twentieth Century Fox films. In 1941's Sun Valley Serenade they were major members of the cast, which also featured comedian Milton Berle, and Dorothy Dandridge with the Nicholas Brothers in the show-stopping song-and-dance number, "Chattanooga Choo Choo". [52] The Miller band returned to Hollywood to film 1942's Orchestra Wives, [53] featuring Jackie Gleason playing a part as the group's bassist, Ben Beck. Miller had an ailment that made laughter extremely painful. Since Gleason was a comedian, Miller had a difficult time watching him more than once, because Miller would start laughing. [54] Though contracted to do a third movie for Fox, Blind Date, Miller entered the U.S. Army and this film was never made. [55]

In 2004, Miller orchestra bassist Trigger Alpert explained the band's success: "Miller had America's music pulse. He knew what would please the listeners." [56] Although Miller was popular, many jazz critics had misgivings. They believed that the band's endless rehearsals—and, according to critic Amy Lee in Metronome magazine, "letter-perfect playing"—removed feeling from their performances. [57] They also felt that Miller's brand of swing shifted popular music from the hot jazz of Benny Goodman and Count Basie to commercial novelty instrumentals and vocal numbers. [58] After Miller died, the Miller estate maintained an unfriendly stance toward critics who derided the band during his lifetime. [59]

Miller was often criticized for being too commercial. His answer was, "I don't want a jazz band." [60] [61] Many modern jazz critics harbor similar antipathy. In 1997, on a web site administered by JazzTimes magazine, Doug Ramsey considers him overrated. "Miller discovered a popular formula from which he allowed little departure. A disproportionate ratio of nostalgia to substance keeps his music alive." [62] [63] [64]

Miller's management of his band has also been noted to have dampened the spirits of his musicians. His insistence on neat appearance and tight discipline onstage was not well-liked by some band members. He carried this philosophy into his Army Air Force band during World War II.

Jazz critics Gunther Schuller [65] (1991), Gary Giddins [66] [67] (2004) and Gene Lees (2007) [68] have defended Miller from criticism. In an article written for The New Yorker magazine in 2004, Giddins said these critics erred in denigrating Miller's music and that the popular opinion of the time should hold greater sway. "Miller exuded little warmth on or off the bandstand, but once the band struck up its theme, audiences were done for: throats clutched, eyes softened. Can any other record match 'Moonlight Serenade' for its ability to induce a Pavlovian slaver in so many for so long?" [66] Schuller notes, "[The Miller sound] was nevertheless very special and able to penetrate our collective awareness that few other sounds have. " [69] He compares it to "Japanese Gagaku [and] Hindu music" in its purity. [69] Schuller and Giddins do not take completely uncritical approaches to Miller. Schuller says that Ray Eberle's "lumpy, sexless vocalizing dragged down many an otherwise passable performance." [69] But Schuller notes, "How much further [Miller's] musical and financial ambitions might have carried him must forever remain conjectural. That it would have been significant, whatever form(s) it might have taken, is not unlikely." [69]

Louis Armstrong thought enough of Miller to carry around his recordings, transferred to seven-inch tape reels when he went on tour. "[Armstrong] liked musicians who prized melody, and his selections ranged from Glenn Miller to Jelly Roll Morton to Tchaikovsky." [70] Jazz pianist George Shearing's quintet of the 1950s and 1960s was influenced by Miller: "with Shearing's locked hands style piano (influenced by the voicing of Miller's saxophone section) in the middle [of the quintet's harmonies]". [71] [72] Frank Sinatra and Mel Tormé held the orchestra in high regard. Tormé credited Miller with giving him helpful advice when he first started his singing and song-writing career in the 1940s. Tormé met Glenn Miller in 1942, the meeting facilitated by Tormé's father and Ben Pollack. Tormé and Miller discussed "That Old Black Magic", which was just emerging as a new song by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. Miller told Tormé to pick up every song by Mercer and study it and to become a voracious reader of anything he could find, because "all good lyric writers are great readers." [73] In an interview with George T. Simon in 1948, Sinatra lamented the inferior quality of music he was recording in the late forties, in comparison with "those great Glenn Miller things" [74] from eight years earlier. Frank Sinatra's recording sessions from the late forties and early fifties use some Miller musicians. Trigger Alpert, a bassist from the civilian band, Zeke Zarchy for the Army Air Forces Band and Willie Schwartz, the lead clarinetist from the civilian band back up Frank Sinatra on many recordings. [75] [76] With opposite opinion, fellow bandleader Artie Shaw frequently disparaged the band after Miller's death: "All I can say is that Glenn should have lived, and 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' should have died." [77] [78] Clarinetist Buddy DeFranco surprised many people when he led the Glenn Miller Orchestra in the late sixties and early seventies. De Franco was already a veteran of bands like Gene Krupa and Tommy Dorsey in the 1940s. He was also a major exponent of modern jazz in the 1950s. [79] He never saw Miller as leading a swinging jazz band, but DeFranco is extremely fond of certain aspects of the Glenn Miller style. "I found that when I opened with the sound of 'Moonlight Serenade', I could look around and see men and women weeping as the music carried them back to years gone by." [80] [81] De Franco says, "the beauty of Glenn Miller's ballads [. ] caused people to dance together." [82]

In 1942, at the peak of his civilian career, Miller decided to join the war effort, forsaking an income of $15,000 to $20,000 per week in civilian life (equivalent to $238,000 to $317,000 per week in 2020), including a home in Tenafly, New Jersey. [83] [84] At 38, Miller was too old to be drafted and first volunteered for the Navy but was told that they did not need his services. [85] Miller then wrote to Army Brigadier General Charles Young. He persuaded the United States Army to accept him so he could, in his own words, "be placed in charge of a modernized Army band". [8] After he was accepted into the Army, Miller's civilian band played its last concert in Passaic, New Jersey, on September 27, 1942, with the last song played by the Miller civilian band being "Jukebox Saturday Night"—featuring an appearance by Harry James on trumpet. [8] His patriotic intention of entertaining the Allied Forces with the fusion of virtuosity and dance rhythms in his music earned him the rank of captain and he was soon promoted to major by August 1944. [13]

Miller reported at Omaha on October 8, 1942, to the Seventh Service Command as a captain in the Army Specialist Corps. [86] Miller was soon transferred to the Army Air Forces. [87] Captain Glenn Miller served initially as assistant special services officer for the Army Air Forces Southeast Training Center at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1942. He played trombone with the Rhythmaires, a 15-piece dance band, in both Montgomery and in service clubs and recreation halls on Maxwell. Miller also appeared on both WAPI (Birmingham, Alabama) and WSFA radio (Montgomery), promoting the activities of civil service women aircraft mechanics employed at Maxwell. [88] At Maxwell, Miller was helped by saxophonist Gerald "Jerry" Yelverton, a veteran of Miller's prewar orchestra. Miller, playing initially with Yelverton's local band, measured the impact of his modernizing concepts on a small scale and quickly and efficiently made adaptations that were used in his famous 418th AAF band in 1943 and 1944. [89]

Miller initially formed a large marching band that was to be the core of a network of service orchestras. His attempts at modernizing military music were met with some resistance from tradition-minded career officers, but Miller's fame and support from other senior leaders allowed him to continue. For example, Miller's arrangement of "St. Louis Blues March", combined blues and jazz with the traditional military march. [90] Miller's weekly radio broadcast "I Sustain the Wings", for which he co-wrote the eponymous theme song, moved from New Haven to New York City and was very popular. This led to permission for Miller to form his 50-piece Army Air Force Band and take it to England in the summer of 1944, where he gave 800 performances. [88] While in England, now Major Miller recorded a series of records at EMI owned Abbey Road Studios. [91] [92] The recordings the AAF band made in 1944 at Abbey Road were propaganda broadcasts for the Office of War Information. Many songs are sung in German by Johnny Desmond and Glenn Miller speaks in German about the war effort. [93] Before Miller's disappearance, his music was used by World War II AFN radio broadcasting for entertainment and morale as well as counter-propaganda to denounce fascist oppression in Europe. His broadcasts included short playlets that dramatized the Four Freedoms promulgated by the Roosevelt Administration, summarizing the official goals of the Allies they equated American music with free expression and American culture. Miller once stated on radio: "America means freedom and there's no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music." [94] [95] [96]

There were also the Miller-led AAF Orchestra-recorded songs with American singer Dinah Shore. These were done at the Abbey Road studios and were the last recorded songs made by the band while being led by Miller. They were stored with HMV/EMI for 50 years, not released until their European copyright expired in 1994. [97] [98] In summarizing Miller's military career, General Jimmy Doolittle said, "next to a letter from home, that organization was the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations." [99]

For a time, Miller worked with actor David Niven, a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army, assigned to work with the radio service created by SHAEF and the BBC to entertain and inform American, British and Canadian troops.

During Miller's stay in England, he and his band were headquartered in a BBC Radio office at 25 Sloane Court in London. A bomb landed three blocks away, encouraging Miller to relocate to Bedford, England. The day after he departed London, a V-1 flying bomb demolished his former office, killing at least 70 of his former officemates. [100]

Miller was due to fly from Bedford to Paris on December 15, 1944, to make arrangements to move his entire band there in the near future. His plane, a single-engine UC-64 Norseman, departed from RAF Twinwood Farm in Clapham, on the outskirts of Bedford, and disappeared while flying over the English Channel. [101] Two other U.S. military officers were on board the plane, Lieutenant Colonel Norman Baessell and the pilot, John Morgan. [102] Miller spent the last night before his disappearance at Milton Ernest Hall, near Bedford. His disappearance was not made public until December 24, 1944, when the Associated Press announced Miller would not be conducting the scheduled BBC-broadcast "AEF Christmas Show" the following day the band's deputy leader Tech. Sgt Jerry Gray (July 3, 1915 – August 10, 1976) stood in for him. [103]

Miller left behind his wife and two adopted children. [104] He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, [105] presented to his wife, Helen, in a ceremony held on March 24, 1945. [106]

Conspiracy theories and other explanations of Miller's death Edit

Numerous unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and hypotheses have been promulgated about Miller's death. Among them are that he was assassinated after Dwight D. Eisenhower sent him on a secret mission to negotiate a peace deal with Nazi Germany, that he died of a heart attack in a brothel after arriving in Paris, and that his plane was hit by bombs being jettisoned by Allied bombers returning from an aborted mission to Germany. The most likely scenario was that Miller's C-64 Norseman flew into cold weather and experienced carburettor icing, causing the aircraft to lose power and crash in the cold water. Any survivors would have died of hypothermia within 20 minutes. [102]

In 1956, after seeing the movie biography The Glenn Miller Story, former RAF navigator Fred Shaw recalled watching a Norseman crash into the channel after being either hit by a bomb or knocked over by a nearby explosive blast as a fleet of RAF Lancasters he was part of released their bombs into the English Channel while returning from an aborted bombing mission. Shaw checked his old logbook and found that was the same day and time as Miller's flight (the one hour discrepancy in the reports being accounted for by the American use of local time versus the RAF's Greenwich time). Miller's flight would have taken him a couple miles from that area, and an inexperienced pilot could have strayed into that zone in the foggy conditions of that day. [107]

In 2017, following a seven-year investigation authorized and encouraged by the Glenn Miller estate, the Potomac Books imprint of the University of Nebraska Press published the comprehensive book Glenn Miller Declassified by historian Dennis M. Spragg, Glenn Miller Archives, University of Colorado Boulder. With unprecedented access to previously unavailable documents from numerous government agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom, and gathering thousands of other pieces of evidence, the author and contributors exposed key facts concerning Miller's disappearance.

They established beyond doubt from American and British documents that the Fred Shaw claim was physically impossible. As of December 15, 1944, SHAEF and all its commands observed British Summer Time (GMT+1). American and British records clearly document that RAF Lancasters jettisoned bombs in the English Channel between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. A flight of American Ninth Air Force planes flying below the 8/10 to 10/10 overcast reported encountering jettisoned bombs at 1:15 p.m. The C-64 with Miller aboard could not have physically arrived at the same area until between 2:45 and 3:00 p.m.

The team also exposed the problematic maintenance history of the C-64, including the carburettor issues. Most importantly, a formal Eighth Air Force investigation of the accident questioned Miller's state of mind in boarding the airplane. An inquiry, convened January 20, 1945, found that Miller was not authorized to accept the invitation of Lt. Col. Norman Baessell to board the single-engine Eighth Air Force Service Command airplane. Miller's travel orders specified a regularly scheduled Air Transport Command VIP C-47 passenger flight. When the ATC cancelled scheduled service December 13 (through December 17) due to problematic weather over the Continent, an impatient Miller went ahead with Baessell without informing his chain of command. The sworn testimony of numerous American and British witnesses established that Miller boarded the airplane and the C-64 departed RAF Twinwood at approximately 1:55 p.m. The Eighth Air Force established that "without evidence to the contrary" the C-64 went down over the water due to the probability of engine/carburettor ice and/or the possibilities of wing ice and pilot spatial disorientation. The morning of the flight, officials at the home field, RAF Alconbury, denied instrument clearance to Baessell's pilot, Flight Officer Stuart Morgan, who went ahead at Baesell's insistence under contact, or visual flight rules. The normal cruising altitude for C-64 flights between England and France was 5,000 ft. On December 15, Morgan flew at under 2,000 feet (610 m) in cold and wet conditions. At 155 miles per hour (249 km/h) airspeed, an engine failure would result in a nose-down dive. The pilot would have about eight seconds to recover the airplane. The Eighth Air Force thus determined that a crash was catastrophic and not survivable. Miller was the commanding officer of the Army Air Forces Band (Special), or the American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, as identified on its radio broadcasts. He had lobbied for the unit to move from England to France and SHAEF approved his recommendation. Arrangements for radio broadcasting facilities remained unresolved as of December 12, 1944. Miller's commanding officer. Lt. Col. David Niven, ordered him ahead of the band to help resolve matters before the band, its luggage and equipment were scheduled to embark on three ATC C-47s. Due to the poor weather, the band flew safely from England to France on December 18. SHAEF did not learn that the C-64 was overdue or that Miller was aboard it until December 18. Major Glenn Miller had no duties other than being an AAF musical and broadcasting officer assigned to SHAEF nor was he the victim of foul play. [108]

In 2019, it was reported that TIGHAR would investigate Miller's disappearance. [109] [110]

The Miller estate authorized an official Glenn Miller ghost band in 1946. This band was led by Tex Beneke, former tenor saxophonist and a singer for the civilian band. It had a makeup similar to the Army Air Forces Band: It included a large string section and, at least initially, about two-thirds of the musicians were alumni of either the civilian or AAF orchestras. [111] The orchestra's official public début was at the Capitol Theatre on Broadway where it opened for a three-week engagement on January 24, 1946. [112] Future television and film composer Henry Mancini was the band's pianist and one of the arrangers. [113] This ghost band played to very large audiences all across the United States, including a few dates at the Hollywood Palladium in 1947, where the original Miller band played in 1941. [114] In a website concerning the history of the Hollywood Palladium, it is noted "[even] as the big band era faded, the Tex Beneke and Glenn Miller Orchestra concert at the Palladium resulted in a record-breaking crowd of 6,750 dancers." [115] By 1949, economics dictated that the string section be dropped. [116] This band recorded for RCA Victor, just as the original Miller band did. [116] Beneke was struggling with how to expand the Miller sound and also how to achieve success under his own name. What began as the "Glenn Miller Orchestra Under the Direction of Tex Beneke" finally became "The Tex Beneke Orchestra". By 1950, Beneke and the Miller estate parted ways. [117] The break was acrimonious, [118] although Beneke is now listed by the Miller Estate as a former leader of the Glenn Miller orchestra, [119] and his role is now acknowledged on the orchestra's website. [120]

When Glenn Miller was alive, many bandleaders like Bob Chester imitated his style. [121] By the early 1950s, various bands were again copying the Miller style of clarinet-led reeds and muted trumpets, notably Ralph Flanagan, [122] Jerry Gray, [123] and Ray Anthony. [124] This, coupled with the success of The Glenn Miller Story (1953), [125] led the Miller estate to ask Ray McKinley to lead a new ghost band. [116] This 1956 band is the original version of the current ghost band that still tours the United States today. [126] The official Glenn Miller orchestra for the United States is currently under the direction of Nick Hilscher. [127] The officially sanctioned Glenn Miller Orchestra for the United Kingdom has toured and recorded under the leadership of Ray McVay. [128] The official Glenn Miller Orchestra for Europe has been led by Wil Salden since 1990. [129] The Official Glenn Miller Orchestra for Scandinavia has been led by Jan Slottenäs since 2010. [130]

In the mid-1940s, after Miller's disappearance, the Miller-led Army Air Force band was decommissioned and sent back to the United States. "The chief of the European theater asked Warrant Officer Harold Lindsay "Lin" Arison to put together another band to take its place, and that's when the 314 was formed." According to singer Tony Bennett who sang with it while in the service, the 314 was the immediate successor to the Glenn Miller led AAF orchestra. [131] The Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band's long-term legacy has carried on with the Airmen of Note, a band within the United States Air Force Band. This band was created in 1950 from smaller groups within the Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., and continues to play jazz music for the Air Force community and the general public. The legacy also continues through The United States Air Forces in Europe Band, stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. [132] Today, most branches of the American military, in addition to concert and marching bands, have jazz orchestras, combos and even groups playing rock, country and bluegrass. All that can be tracked to Miller's original Army Air Force band.

Annual festivals celebrating Glenn Miller's legacy are held in two of the towns most associated with his youth.

Since 1975, the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society has held its annual Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda, Iowa. The festival's highlights include performances by the official Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Nick Hilscher as well as numerous other jazz musicians, visits to the restored Miller home and the new Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum, historical displays from the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado, lectures and presentations about Miller's life, and a scholarship competition for young classical and jazz musicians. [133]

Every summer since 1996, the city of Fort Morgan, Colorado, has hosted a public event called the Glenn Miller SwingFest. Miller graduated from Fort Morgan High School where he played American football and formed his own band with classmates. Events include musical performances and swing dancing, community picnics, lectures and fundraising for scholarships to attend The School for the Performing Arts, [134] a nonprofit dance, voice, piano, percussion, guitar, violin, and drama studio program in Fort Morgan. Each year, about 2,000 people attend this summer festival, which serves to introduce younger generations to the music Miller made famous, as well as the style of dance and dress popular in the big-band era.

Glenn Miller's widow, Helen, died in 1966. [135] Herb Miller, Glenn Miller's brother, led his own band in the United States and England until the late 1980s. [136] [137] In 1989, Glenn Miller's adopted daughter purchased the house in Clarinda Iowa where Miller was born, and the Glenn Miller Foundation was created to oversee its restoration it is now part of the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum. In 1953, Universal-International pictures released The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton and Tex Beneke neither appear in nor are referred to in it. [138] In 1957, a new student Union Building was completed on the Boulder Campus and the new Ballroom was named "The Glenn Miller Ballroom". In 1996, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Glenn Miller postage stamp. [139]

In the United States and England, there are a few archives that are devoted to Glenn Miller. [140] The University of Colorado, Boulder, has an extensive Glenn Miller Archive that not only houses many of Miller's recordings, gold records and other memorabilia, but also is open to scholarly research and the general public. [141] This archive, formed by Alan Cass, includes the original manuscript to Miller's theme song, "Moonlight Serenade", among other items of interest. [142] In 2002, the Glenn Miller Museum opened to the public at the former RAF Twinwood Farm, in Clapham, Bedfordshire, England. [143] Miller's surname resides on the "Wall of Missing" at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. There is a burial plot and headstone for Major Glenn Miller in Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington, D.C. A monument stone was also placed in Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut, next to the campus of Yale University. [144] Miller was awarded a Star for Recording on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. [145] The headquarters of the United States Air Forces in Europe Band at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is named Glenn Miller Hall.

Additionally, on June 25, 1999, the Nebraska State Highway Commission unanimously agreed to name Nebraska Highway 97 between North Platte, where Miller attended elementary school, and Tryon, where the Miller family briefly lived, as Glenn Miller Memorial Highway.

Miller had a staff of arrangers who wrote originals like "String of Pearls" (written and arranged by Jerry Gray) [146] or took originals like "In The Mood" (writing credit given to Joe Garland [147] and arranged by Eddie Durham [148] ) and "Tuxedo Junction" (written by bandleader Erskine Hawkins [149] and arranged by Jerry Gray [150] ) and arranged them for the Miller band to either record or broadcast. Glenn Miller's staff of arrangers in his civilian band, who handled the bulk of the work, were Jerry Gray (a former arranger for Artie Shaw), Bill Finegan (a former arranger for Tommy Dorsey), [151] Billy May [152] and to a much smaller extent, George Williams, [153] who worked very briefly with the band as well as Andrews Sisters arranger Vic Schoen [154]

According to Norman Leyden, "[s]everal others [besides Leyden] arranged for Miller in the service, including Jerry Gray, Ralph Wilkinson, Mel Powell, and Steve Steck." In 1943, Glenn Miller wrote Glenn Miller's Method for Orchestral Arranging, published by the Mutual Music Society in New York, [155] a one hundred sixteen page book with illustrations and scores that explains how he wrote his musical arrangements.

References & Further Reading

Brown, R. "Britain at War: Did we kill Glenn Miller?" UK Telegraph. 30 Oct. 2008, Newspaper.

Farlander. "The Mysterious Disappearance of Glenn Miller." h2g2. British Broadcasting Corporation, 20 Jul. 2004. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/dna/place-lancashire/plain/A2654822>

GMA. "Press Release." Glenn Miller Archive. Glenn Miller Trust, 22 Nov. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://www.glennmillertrust.co.uk/Glenn%20MIller%202nd%20Sighting.htm>

Hill, S. "Clue to the mysterious disappearance of bandleader Glenn Miller in plane-spotter’s log." Doubtful News. Lithospherica, LLC, 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://doubtfulnews.com/2012/01/clue-to-the-mysterious-disappearance-of-bandleader-glenn-miller-in-plane-spotters-log/>

Magnusson, D., Dishlevoy, R. "The Aircraft: A brief history of each individual Norseman." The Noorduyn Norseman. Don Magnusson and Roy Dishlevoy, 26 Jan. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://www.norsemanhistory.ca/Aircraft.htm>

Quartermaster General. Missing Air Crew Report for Lieutenant Colonel John R.S. Morgan, Major Glenn Miller, and Flight Officer Norman F. Baessell. Washington, DC: War Department, 1944. 1-5.

Simon, G. Glenn Miller and His Orchestra. New York: Da Capo Press, 1974.

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The mysterious story behind the Glenn Miller memorial in Northamptonshire

If you venture to the former RAF airfield at King&aposs Cliffe in Northamptonshire, you won&apost be surprised to see a memorial to fallen British, Commonwealth, Belgian and American soldiers who flew from this fighter base during World War II.

What you might be surprised to see is a memorial to musician Glen Miller, famous for records including Moonlight Serenade and In The Mood.

The disappearance of the big bandleader during World War II has remained one of aviation&aposs greatest mysteries.

Today, a pyramid-shaped stone stands on one of the former aircraft hangars at RAF King&aposs Cliffe which is not far from Corby.

A plaque on the stone commemorates the place where the trombonist gave his last airfield concert.

Little is left of the airfield now, which was used by the RAF and the US Air Force during the Second World War, apart from the concrete runways and a few buildings including the former cinema, the chapel and some pillboxes.

In the late 1930s and early 40s there was no bigger musical act than Miller and his orchestra.

Miller wrote and performed dozens of top ten hits, selling millions of records but in the middle of World War II, Miller gave up his well-paid career and enlisted in the military.

In 1942, Miller volunteered to entertain the troops and becoming a Major in the US Army Air Forces Band, boosting the morale of thousands of soldiers during the war.

But it is the spot at RAF King&aposs Cliffe which is incredibly poignant because it is here, on October 3, 1944, where Glenn Miller and his band would perform a "hanger concert" in public for the last time before the jazz musician disappeared on a flight in bad weather.

At the time of his disappearance, Miller was flying from Bedford to Paris to make arrangements to move his entire band there so he could perform to the troops in Europe.

His single-engine plane took off from RAF Twinford Farm for the French capital on December 15, 1944, but disappeared while flying over the English channel.

Two other US military officers were on board the plane, Lieutenant Colonel Norman Baessell and the pilot, John Morgan.

Unusually, Miller&aposs disappearance was not made public until December 24, 1944, when the Associated Press announced Miller would not be conducting the scheduled BBC broadcast AEF Christmas Show.

It&aposs unlikely that the Glenn Miller mystery will ever be solved and various conspiracy theories have been floated over the years including that he was a spy killed after being sent on a secret mission to negotiate a peace deal with Nazi Germany.

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Other theories include that he was hit by friendly fire - explosives from Allied bombers returning from an aborted mission to Germany.

But the most likely scenario is the aircraft came down because of bad weather, forcing the plane to ditch in the cold water of the Channel.

However, in January 2019, a fisherman claimed that he had pulled up an aeroplane wreck while trawling in the English Channel decades before in 1987.

The fisherman made a note of where he dropped the wreckage but it wasn&apost until years later when he saw a picture of what Miller&aposs Norseman aircraft looked like that he realized what he might have discovered.

To this day, the plane and the bodies of Glen Miller and the two other men have never been found.

Welcome to NorthantsLive, a digital-only news service. We will bring you fast-moving and in-depth news seven days a week direct to your mobile phone, tablet or laptop, from Kettering to Corby, Northampton to Daventry.

Get in touch with us on Facebook here and Twitter here. Read more articles on our website northantslive.news.

Get the best Northamptonshire news straight to your inbox with the free NorthantsLive newsletter.


It has been nearly 80 years since Elmer Miller packed up his son Glenn and the rest of the family and left this southwest Iowa town, never to return. Doesn`t matter.

And it`s been more than 40 years since Glenn Miller, by then one of the world`s top band leaders, disappeared during a wartime flight over the English Channel.

Glenn Miller was just home in Clarinda. And he brought hundreds of guests. Through his music and the memories of his fans, who had come from as far away as Japan, Miller worked his magic on the crowd at the 11th annual Glenn Miller Festival last weekend.

For two hot June days, the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society turned Clarinda High School, home of the Clarinda Cardinals, into a shrine. The sacred hymns wafted through the halls: ''Chattanooga Choo Choo,'' ''Moonlight Serenade,'' ''In the Mood,'' ''String of Pearls.''

''There`s an enchantment to the music that won`t die,'' said St. Louis disk jockey Charlie Menees. That was as close as anyone could come to verbalizing the hypnotic pull of a long-gone trombonist and band leader.

The birthplace society, formed in 1976, held its first festival the next year. At least two other Miller fan clubs exist, one in England and one in South Africa. The Clarinda group has about 500 members, representing more than a dozen countries.

Marvin Negley, president of the birthplace society, has long been a fan of Miller, but he isn`t hooked as badly as some other members.

Some people, Negley says, ''are obsessed. I`m not a collector, for example.'' But he`s learning: ''If I`m somewhere and I do see some Miller memorabilia, I`ll probably pick it up.''

Saturday, June 13--officially Glenn Miller Festival Day by proclamation of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad--was a day for the obsessed. It started in the high school auditorium with showings of Miller`s films for 20th Century Fox. It ended in the lunchroom with an evening of dancing to Miller`s tunes. In between, a quartet and a 20-piece band performed Miller music. A St. Louis big band expert discoursed on Miller`s lasting appeal. Hundreds of fans browsed through rooms full of memorabilia in the society`s Miller museum, looking at the bandleader`s first gold record and reading his last letter to his brother. ''I grew up with Miller,'' said Norm Wood, who journeyed from his Nebraska home for the festival. ''I was born and raised in West Virginia, and I followed the band everywhere it went--Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati.''

Wood said he also saw Miller`s Army Air Corps band without its leader in 1944. ''I was in Paris, waiting to dance to him.''

Miller never got to Paris. On Dec. 15, 1944, the Norseman D-64 single engine military plane carrying him to France for a Christmas concert for the troops disappeared over, and presumably into, the English Channel. Neither the plane nor Miller`s body was recovered.

''The band came on ahead,'' said Wood, an infantryman at the time.

''When he didn`t show, they played, anyway. They really did what they were supposed to do. He had them trained well.''

Miller, who had volunteered for military service and was inducted as a captain, was a major at the time of his death.

At the festival, fans displayed their photos of the airfield from which Miller`s ill-fated flight took off. Under a glass dome was a small, fragile model of the plane itself. There even were photos of the World War II memorial in Tenafly, N.J., Miller`s pre-war home, with the bandleader listed among the town`s war dead.

In fact, Miller memorabilia was everywhere. Dog-eared scripts from Miller`s films, ''Sun Valley Serenade'' and ''Orchestra Wives,'' were on one table in the high school`s library. Scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine clippings and photos filled another room, along with sheet music wrapped in protective plastic. An English fan`s painting of Miller in his Army uniform rested against the wall.

And always, there was the music: ''Pennsylvania 6-5000,'' ''The Java Jive,'' ''At Last,'' ''Tuxedo Junction.''

There were pages of photos from the 1954 premiere in Clarinda of ''The Glenn Miller Story,'' starring Jimmy Stewart.

More than one fan reverently touched Miller`s first trombone, which he got as a teenager.

''Anything connected with Miller`s memory should be sacred to everybody,'' Wood said.

Clarinda has done what it could. Although the Miller family left for a new home in Nebraska when Glenn was 5 years old, long before he ever picked up a trombone, the town has cherished its link to him. The two-story frame house in which he was born is marked not by one, but two plaques out front. And the street out front now is known as Glenn Miller Avenue instead of 16th Street.

''I told my wife I had to come here, if it was just once in my life,''

said Charles Hazzard of Norristown, Pa. ''And I`m here.''

Postcards of the house are available, of course. They sold for a quarter at the festival. T-shirts, stickers, buttons and other souvenirs also were available. An album of early recordings of Miller playing in other bands was priced at $10. Sales were brisk.

Many of the Miller artifacts came from private collectors or from the collection of the birthplace society. Much of it also came from Boulder, Colo., where C.F. Alan Cass is curator of the Glenn Miller Archive of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Cass also came, as he has for most of the 11 Miller festivals.

''I`m not an expert, compared to some of the other folks around,'' Cass said. But he knew enough to keep an audience spellbound as he told anecdotes during a Miller history lesson in the high-school auditorium Saturday morning. In Boulder, the Glenn Miller Ballroom now has been joined by the Glenn Miller Lounge. In it is a jukebox from which, for a nickel, the sounds of the big bands will come, setting the feet tapping and the shoulders swaying. The lounge is the site, every Thursday, of a jitterbug class.

The Boulder archive, Cass said, specializes in Miller`s civilian career and particularly his days at the university.

Other fans and collectors also specialize. Hazzard, the Pennsylvania fan, presented the Clarinda society with tapes of 58 half-hour radio shows by Miller`s Air Force band. But that`s not his specialty.

''My love is the civilian band,'' Hazzard said. ''But I`ll collect everything. I might be in the top 100 collectors, but I don`t know. There are a lot of us.''

Hideomi Aoki, president of a Japanese film company and bass player in a Dixieland band, traveled to Clarinda from his Tokyo home just for the festival.

He plans to return next year, but with a camera crew, to film a documentary about the festival. He also wanted to talk to Miller`s daughter, who was scheduled to be in Clarinda but had to cancel because of illness, about getting permission to turn ''The Glenn Miller Story'' into a stage play. ''In Japan, there are lots of Glenn Miller fans,'' Aoki said through a translator. ''They are impressed by (the film version of) ''The Glenn Miller Story`.''

Menees, disk jockey for the Big Band Sounds radio show in St. Louis, presented a 90-minute retrospective of Miller`s music for an audience of about 300 Saturday. He played the earliest known recording of Miller on trombone and the first recorded solo by Miller, both dating from 1926. ''Glenn, I apologize,'' Menees said. ''They aren`t very good, are they?''

Menees, who is 70, said, ''I began following Glenn Miller in the late

`30s when I was in college. When I graduated in 1941, I had all the Glenn Miller recordings that had been released to that time.

White hair and bald heads were predominant at the festival, but were by no means alone. Scattered throughtout he audiences for various concerts and lectures were people not even born when Miller died. Many brought their children. Others were too young even to have children.

''Lots of young people know who Miller is,'' Cass said. In Boulder, students flock to the Glenn Miller Lounge to listen to the jukebox, he said.

Cass, born in 1941, never saw the bandleader perform, either. But still, he knows the hypnotic attraction of Miller`s music. ''When you talk to people who saw him,'' he said, ''you can see it. You look into their eyes, and they remember it as if it just happened, as if it was yesterday.''

Meanwhile, back in the air-conditioned auditorium, Charlie Menees was finishing up his presentation. The last song was a fast Miller World War II version of ''Over There,'' the hit World War I song.

''Over there, Glenn, wherever you are,'' Menees said, ''thank God you were here.''

75 years ago, Glenn Miller vanished on a flight over the English Channel

The news broke most places on Christmas Day 1944, crammed onto front pages amid the blaring war headlines: Glenn Miller was missing.

The legendary American big band leader, whose music cheered the war-weary and thrilled a generation, had vanished over the English Channel while flying from Britain to France.

Indeed, he had been missing for 10 days, and for part of that time no one realized he was overdue.

Seventy-five years ago this month, in one of the strangest episodes of World War II, the U.S. military "lost" Maj. Glenn Miller, the king of swing and one of the biggest stars of his era.

It took four days before top officers discovered that Miller, without authorization, had hitched a ride on a small plane with a friend and a 22-year-old pilot, had flown into foul weather and probably crashed, according to historian Dennis Spragg.

Based in England, Miller was going to France to arrange for his Army Air Force band's move to Paris, now that the allies had shoved the Germans back during World War II.

A missing-aircrew report was filed for the plane on Dec. 16 when it did not radio its arrival, Spragg said. But military officials did not know that Miller was aboard and considered the report routine. "Nobody connects it with Miller," he said.

Plus, the report was eclipsed by the gigantic German attack the same day that began the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and France.

It was only when Miller failed to meet his band in Paris a few days later that people realized he might be missing.

"When Glenn wasn't there to meet us, I knew something was wrong," recalled Carmen Mastrin, a guitarist in Miller's band, according to Geoffrey Butcher's history of the band's war years. "He had gone on ahead to make arrangements for us and I knew he would accomplish what he started to do."

Spragg said after one top U.S. staff officer was briefed, he exploded: "How the hell did we lose Glenn Miller!"

It was a monumental embarrassment, as well as a tragedy.

Miller had been the top bandleader in the United States for years, and the Army Air Forces band he put together abroad in 1944 may have been the best big band ever assembled, Spragg said.

Staffed with the best musicians in the service, it was "a juggernaut entertainment machine," he said.

Miller's recordings of pieces such as the jazzy, foot-stomping "In the Mood" and the romantic "Moonlight Serenade," along with "American Patrol," "A String of Pearls" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo," made up the soundtrack for a generation and became embedded in the American music psyche.

"Between '38 and '42 he had . . . more charted stuff than anybody in history," Spragg said.

His music "clings relentlessly to the collective memory," jazz critic and author Gary Giddins has written. "Miller exuded little warmth on or off the bandstand, but once the band struck up its theme, audiences were done for."

The single-engine aircraft in which he was a passenger had left an air base near Bedford, England, on Dec. 15 about 1:45 p.m. Miller was accompanied by an acquaintance, Lt. Col. Norman Francis Baessell, and the pilot, Flight Officer John R.S. Morgan, according to Spragg's 2017 book "Glenn Miller Declassified."

Morgan had filed a flight plan but probably didn't know he would have the famous Miller as a passenger, Spragg said in a telephone interview. Miller, for his part, was a VIP. He was supposed to stick to the military's regularly scheduled passenger transports, and keep the brass informed of his whereabouts.

But the English weather had grounded scheduled flights, and Miller was in a hurry to get to Paris. Baessell had a plane and a pilot and was also in a hurry to get to France. He offered Miller a ride.

The War Department, after realizing that Miller was missing, investigated for six days and notified Miller's wife, Helen, in Tenafly, New Jersey, on Dec. 23.

An official announcement on Christmas Eve made most papers on Christmas.

Alton Glenn Miller was a musical giant of his day, with a status like that of the Beatles for a later generation. (Some of his wartime radio broadcasts were made in the Abbey Road studios, later made famous by the Beatles, Spragg said.)

And his loss was akin to the sudden deaths of John Lennon, Michael Jackson or Prince.

His music was embraced by the youthful cohort of the late 1930s and early '40s - the kids who packed dance halls, fed jukeboxes and then went off to World II.

Miller, 40, setting aside a lucrative civilian music career, went with them, joining the Army in 1942.

He formed a 50-piece Army Air Force Band, took it to England in the summer of 1944 and gave hundreds of performances, according to author Jeffrey Benton. He was often joined by other stars of the time, including Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore.

The band was a sensation, playing in packed airplane hangars, hospitals and on airstrips across England, according to Butcher, the historian.

"Next to a letter from home, [that] organization was the greatest morale builder in the" European theater of operations, the American general James Doolittle said.

Miller, speaking in phonetic German, also did broadcasts aimed at listeners in Germany. And some American planes were decorated with the titles of Miller's tunes. "In the Mood" became a popular subject of aircraft nose art.

Miller had performed his last radio broadcast on Dec. 12, according to an Associated Press report at the time. He was supposed to do a BBC concert on Christmas. His wife had received several letters from him on Dec. 23, in which he said flights had been grounded by heavy fog.

He had told his brother, Herb, in a Dec. 12 letter: "Barring a nosedive into the Channel, I'll be in Paris in a few days," according to an article Spragg wrote last month in Smithsonian Magazine.

Spragg said investigators think the plane crashed because its engine was crippled by ice, or the pilot became disoriented in poor visibility.

Miller was born in Clarinda, Iowa, played the trombone and worked his way through the crowded big-band ranks until he had his own band and his own sound.

"At first Miller's was rated as just another good swing band," a columnist wrote in a South Carolina newspaper in December 1939. "But last summer when it moved to Westchester's Glen Island Casino [in New York] things began to happen. Within five months Glenn Miller's band was causing more rug dust to fly" than any other.

Miller and his orchestra became so popular that they appeared in the 1941 movie "Sun Valley Serenade" and 1942′s "Orchestra Wives," and he was the subject of a 1954 film, "The Glenn Miller Story," starring Jimmy Stewart.

"He was a phenomenon," Spragg said.

As Miller's doomed plane prepared to take off that overcast day in 1944, Don Haynes, a close friend and band manager, saw him off, according to Butcher: "Happy landings and good luck! I'll see you in Paris tomorrow," Haynes called out.

70 years later, mystery of Glenn Miller’s disappearance may be solved

(Photo: Courtesy of the University of Colorado Boulder Glenn Miller Archive) A researcher claims he can put to rest decades of conjecture surrounding the mysterious disappearance of big band leader Glenn Miller during World War II.

Long overlooked military documents indicate the small plane in which Miller was likely traveling when he disappeared in 1944 probably crashed in the English Channel after fuel intakes froze, according to Dennis Spragg, a senior consultant to the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“The icing took three forms: engine icing, carburetor icing and induction ice,” Spragg says. “And that’s the kind of ice that forms on the fuel tanks and fuel lines, feeding fuel to the engine.”

Miller was born in Iowa and spent the latter part of his boyhood in Fort Morgan on Colorado’s Eastern Plains. There, he played high school football and honed his skills on the trombone. He attended the University of Colorado Boulder briefly before dropping out to pursue his music career.

On the day he went missing, Dec. 15, 1944, Miller, an Army major, is believed to have boarded a UC-64A Norseman in Bedfordshire, England, as a passenger. The plane was bound for France, where Miller was planning a performance for Allied troops.

Spragg has penned a book on the subject of Miller's disappearance, called "Resolved." It is set to be released later this year.

Spragg says the plane was flying low because of poor visibility. When fuel lines froze the engine stopped, giving the plane's pilot about eight seconds to react before it plunged into the water. Because the plane was constructed of mostly lightweight materials, it probably disintegrated on impact, killing those aboard instantly, Spragg says.

(Photo: Courtesy University of Colorado Boulder Glenn Miller Archive) Spragg cites military documents to back his claims, some of which have been in the public realm for decades, but were previously uninspected by Glenn Miller researchers, he says.

In the late 1930s, Miller experienced widespread fame with hits like “Tuxedo Junction” and “Chatanooga Choo-Choo.” Even though Miller was in his late 30s and it was unlikely he would have been drafted for World War II, the band leader joined the Army. Spragg says Miller signed up partly out of patriotism and partly for practical reasons, including that Miller may have had a hard time keeping young musicians in the band because of the draft.

As a major in the U.S. Army Air Forces Band, Miller led musical shows broadcast from England and meant to boost troop morale.

He also participated in counter-propaganda campaigns against the Nazis. In some recordings Miller speaks German, phonetically pronouncing words for a German audience. Such broadcasts, combined with Miller’s work alongside British actor David Niven, Spragg says, emboldened theorists to assert that Miller had been a spy for the Allies and perhaps assassinated.

Some other entertainers, including dancer Josephine Baker, did covert work.

Yet there’s no substantial proof that Niven, who served for a short time in an elite British military unit, worked as a spy with Miller, Spragg says.

“There is a difference between broadcasting music or information to the enemy from England as opposed to being clandestine agents in the field running around the continent putting yourself at risk,” Spragg says.

Another theory -- one that’s more widely accepted -- is that the plane Miller was flying in was destroyed by friendly fire. That theory was first proposed in the 1980s as intriguing evidence about the Norseman plane came to light. It was discovered that 138 planes returning from an aborted Allies bombing raid disposed of their bombs over the English Channel, and the theory is that one hit Miller's plane, causing it to crash.

Citing U.S. Army Air Force records, Spragg says the timing of when the planes were over the channel rules out that theory.

More likely, he says, is that another plane was journeying across the channel at the time the bombers were returning. It appears to be a “case of mistaken identity” that the Norseman was in the area at the time.

Miller never arrived at his destination and traces of the Norseman and its passengers were never found.

Nine days later, BBC and CBS news reports stated that the plane and occupants, including Miller, were missing.

Military officials had answers about engine ice problems provided in reports from the time, but those answers were not shared with the general public, Spragg says. He launched his investigation in 2009 at the behest of Miller’s son, Steven Davis Miller, who passed away in 2012.

“Steve was pretty much fed up with having spent most of his adult life dealing with conspiracy theories,” Spragg says. “And he said, ‘I trust you to take the ball on this thing and go with it and if you want to do it, will you please go, study this situation, go anywhere you need to go, open any files you need to open, ask for permission to go anywhere you can, but find out what really happened.’”

The Disappearance of Glenn Miller

As Glenn Miller&rsquos musical career soared, he traded in his commercial success for a military uniform to entertain US troops during World War II. Then, on a foggy afternoon, December 15, 1944, he took off from England heading for France. His plane vanished over the English Channel. Glenn Miller was never seen again.

Since that fateful day, Glenn Miller&rsquos disappearance has remained a mystery. Did friendly fire destroy the plane? Was Miller involved in espionage? Was he on a secret mission to end the war?

Recent discoveries&mdashincluding an intriguing entry in an aircraft spotter&rsquos log&mdashgive the History Detectives fresh leads and new clues to explore. Along the way, they learn of the unusual role Glenn Miller and his music played in winning hearts and minds during World War II. Can they find out what happened to this beloved bandleader once and for all?

Season 11, Episode 2

Tukufu Zuberi Detective:
Wes Cowan Detective:
Kaiama Glover Location:
RAF Twinwood Farm

Glenn Miller's lost plane might have been found by a fisherman decades ago

The disappearance of bandleader Glenn Miller during World War II has remained one of aviation's greatest mysteries. But intriguing clues from beneath the waves could finally be providing some answers.

In the late 1930s and early 40s there was no bigger musical act than Miller and his orchestra. The big band leader wrote and performed dozens of top ten hits and sold millions of records but in the midst of World War II, Miller gave up his lucrative career and enlisted in the military, where he led the U.S. Army Air Force band. It was in his service to his country that Miller lost his life.

Anxious to bring his band to troops on the European front, Miller took off from England on December 15, 1944, bound for Paris. His plane disappeared over the English Channel, and the fate of Miller's lost flight has been a mystery ever since.

Ric Gillespie from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, or TIGHAR, said an English fisherman has provided the most solid lead in decades on where to find the wreckage of Miller's plane.

"In 1987 trawling in the English Channel, he pulled up an airplane wreck that he later realized looked like the kind of airplane that Glenn Miller disappeared in. He called the Coast Guard and described it. They said, 'Well, if it's a World War II plane it might be a war grave, just get rid of it,'" Gillespie said.

The fisherman made a note of where he dropped the wreckage but it wasn't until years later when he saw a picture of what Miller's Norseman aircraft looked like that he realized what he might have discovered.

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Gillespie, who has extensively researched Amelia Earhart's disappearance, said if the wreckage can be found, tracing it back to Miller should be an easy task since it was the only aircraft of its body and engine type to go missing during the war.

"You find the steel tube fuselage, you find the engine, you found the Miller airplane," Gillespie said.

Watch the video: The DISAPPEARANCE OF GLENN MILLER Solved After 67 Years? (May 2022).