The Disappearance of Glenn Miller By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
May 2, 2014
Alton Glenn Miller was born on a farm in Clarinda, Iowa in 1904. His family moved, and he attended school in North Platte, Nebraska. In 1915, Miller had finally made enough money from odd jobs to purchase his first trombone and he played in the town’s orchestra. The family moved again and he attended high school in Fort Morgan, Colorado. During his senior year he became very interested in a new style of music called dance band music, and formed a band. By the time he graduated from high school in 1921, he had decided to be a professional musician. He dropped out of college intending to make his way as a professional musician, and he was a good one at that. He was the best-selling recording artist from 1939 to 1943, leading one of the best known big bands, with a long list of hits. In 1942, at the peak of his civilian career, Miller decided to join the war effort. At age 38, he was too old to be drafted, he first volunteered for the Navy, but was told they didn’t need him. He then wrote to Brigadier General Charles Young, persuading the Army to accept him so he could “be placed in charge of a modernized army band”. By 1944 he had not only been accepted into the army, but promoted to major and in the summer of 1944, he took his fifty piece band to England where he gave 800 performances. Before his 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. Miller once said on the radio “America means freedom, and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music”. Miller spent his last night in England. He was due to play for the soldiers there. His plane, a UC-64 Norseman departed Clapham and disappeared while flying over the English Channel. No trace of the aircraft or passengers has ever been found. His official status is “missing in action”. Most theories conclude that Millers plane was brought down by friendly fire. Miller left behind a wife and two small children.
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