Friday, September 23, 2011



Legendary bandleader Glenn Miller spent his last night alive at Milton Ernest Hall, on the outskirts of Bedford, Bedfordshire. On December 15, 1944, Miller was to fly from the United Kingdom to Paris, France, to play for the soldiers there. His plane (a single-engined UC-64 Norseman, USAAF serial 44-70285) departed from RAF Twinwood Farm in Clapham, Bedfordshire and disappeared while flying over the English Channel. No trace of the aircrew, passengers or plane has ever been found. Miller's status is missing in action.

There are three main theories about what happened to Miller's plane, including the suggestion that he might have been hit by Royal Air Force bombs after an abortive raid on Siegen, Germany. One hundred and thirty-eight Lancaster bombers, short on fuel, jettisoned approximately 100,000 incendiaries in a designated area before landing. The logbooks of Royal Air Force navigator Fred Shaw recorded that he saw a small, single-engined monoplane spiraling out of control and crashing into the water. However, a second source, while acknowledging the possibility, cites other RAF crew members flying the same mission who stated that the drop area was in the North Sea.

Further research by British scholars also seems to indicate that this is the most likely probability, making Miller's death a "friendly fire" incident. In his 2006 self-published book, Clarence B. Wolfe — a gunner with Battery D, 134th AAA Battalion, in Folkestone, England — claims that his battery shot down Miller's plane. Another book by Lt. Col. Huton Downs, a former member of Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal staff, argues that the U.S. government covered up Miller's death. Downs suggested that Miller, who spoke German, had been enlisted by Eisenhower to covertly attempt to convince some German officers to end the war early. The book goes on to suggest that Miller was captured and killed in a Paris brothel, and his death covered up to save the government embarrassment. However the Publishers' Weekly review talks of "breathlessly written suppositions."

When Glenn Miller disappeared, he left behind his wife, the former Helen Burger, originally from Boulder, Colorado, and the two children they adopted in 1943 and 1944, Steven and Jonnie. Helen Miller accepted the Bronze Star medal for Glenn Miller in February 1945.

The Miller estate authorized an official Glenn Miller "ghost band" in 1946. This band was led by Tex Beneke, former lead saxophonist and a singer for the civilian band. It had a make up similar to the Army Air Force Band: it had a large string section. 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. Future television and film composer Henry Mancini was the band's pianist and one of the arrangers. 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. In a website concerning the history of the Hollywood Palladium, it is noted "[e]ven 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." By 1949, economics dictated that the string section be dropped.

This band recorded for RCA Victor, just as the original Miller band did 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. The break was acrimonious and Beneke is not currently listed by the Miller estate as a former leader of the Glenn Miller orchestra.

When Glenn Miller was alive, various bandleaders like Bob Chester imitated his style. By the early 1950s, various bands were again copying the Miller style of clarinet-led reeds and muted trumpets, notably Ralph Flanagan Jerry Gray,and Ray Anthony. This, coupled with the success of The Glenn Miller Story (1953),led the Miller estate to ask Ray McKinley to lead a new ghost band. This 1956 band is the original version of the current ghost band that still tours the United States today. The official Glenn Miller orchestra for the United States is currently under the direction of Gary Tole. The officially sanctioned Glenn Miller Orchestra for the United Kingdom has toured and recorded with great success under the leadership of Ray McVay. The official Glenn Miller Orchestra for Europe has been led by Wil Salden since 1990.

Glenn Miller's widow, Helen, died in 1966. Herb Miller, Glenn Miller's brother, led his own band in the United States and England until the late 1980s. Herb's son, John continues the tradition leading a band playing mainly Glenn Miller style music. In 1989, Glenn Miller's daughter Jonnie purchased her father's house where he was born. The Glenn Miller Foundation was created to oversee the subsequent restoration.

The years that Glenn Miller had a hit band was not even a decade, and yet he left a lasting imprint into big band, popular, and jazz music. Sixty seven years after Miller's disappearance his final resting spot is still not known. However, his music lives in...


  1. This was such an interesting post. I didn't know any of that information. I had never heard that it may have been "friendly fire" that took his plane down. I always assumed it was a weather-related thing.

    I love Big Band music and am a huge Glenn Miller fan. I think my all-time favorite song (all genre) is Moonlight Serenade. It even beats out Sinatra's "My Way" as my favorite.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. The trumpeter in the photo is Jim Murray of Clementon NJ. He went on to be a high school band director and taught music right up to the very end. A great man himself

  3. Glenn Miller was the one man who won WWII.

  4. I am amazed at the great impact that the Miller music made. I am of Hispanic decent and can truly appreciate the soft and fun tunes created by this talented man. My best to the family and all who cherish his music.


  6. I thank you for this additional information because i can show my friends that it was a friendly fire as i have been told them all along NOT weather related as most movies is too bad that we have lost such great artist.,,,,,,,love the music.

  7. it.s too bad that his wife passed away and there was nothing in the newspapers. I am 75 and still listen to his wonderful music! But I know they are together dancing to his music.

  8. Nancy Anne LockwoodOctober 29, 2015 at 4:37 PM

    I have loved the Glenn Miller music since I was three. Now purchasing all the music I can get

  9. The sorrow of War! I remember that the great trumpet player also died violently in an automobile accident: he was only 26 years old. I JUST WISH THAT WRECKAGE OF THE PLANE WAS FOUND FOR "CLOSURE.

  10. I have Loved Glenn ever since I was { as the perverbial saying goes } I was knee--high to a grass--hopper!
    Guess my long Love affair with Glenn's Exquisite and Ethereal sounds, has its genesis with me being truly my Mother's son.
    She was an Extremely devout Admirer of Glenn; I remember my dear Grandmother telling me how my Mom, failing to be home for dinner--realizing she had gone to the huge Public Pool at Columbus, Ohio to swim, found my Mother near the Juke--Box listening to Glenn's records ( after having put a lot of coins in ). She told me my Mom would rather listen to Glenn than eat!
    I still remember the massive number of Glenn's LP's
    she had and would play them often. . .so yes, Loving Great music and [ as a baby--boomer ], I Absolutely adore Glenn Miller's flawless sounds! !
    Some Love Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo, H. Mancini, the Dorsey Bros. and other Big Band names. . .for me though, no one, clearly no Big Band group has or ever will eclipse the Greatest of them all: Glenn Miller! ! !

  11. Music of this legendary jazzman was and even is very popular in different layers of Russian society.

  12. Glenn Miller's sound defines the forties and America's involvement in World War II.

  13. It's my all time favourite Christmas Movie (I'm 55). Have always loved his music - came from my Dad

  14. I believe that the Norseman Airplane in which Glenn Miller was
    riding exploded from gas leakage as did one other such
    Norseman airplane.

  15. Glenn Miller is the very first man to receive a gold record! Well done. His death is not the end, it's the beginning.

  16. Is his daughter Jonnie still alive?

  17. Is his daughter Jonnie still alive

  18. Born in 1959, I was already far removed from the big band era. However picking up a trumpet in high school was the start of a wonderful part of my life. A local older gentleman approached me to play in his big band and I agreed. He was a huge Glen Miller fan and we played exclusively Glen Miller arrangements. Obviously I never met or heard Glen Miller's orchestra but became a huge fan. I will miss those days. I am also so grateful to have had the pleasure of playing these wonderful songs. Now I listen to his music on the internet. A HUGE Thank you to such a talented wonderful man.

    Scott Shipley November 6 2017