The October Meeting 2017
The Curious Disappearance of Major Glenn Miller. Speaker: Tony Eaton
President David Richardson introduced Tony Eaton who gave a detailed account of the intriguing mystery surrounding the disappearance of Glenn Miller. The world-famous band leader joined the US Army in 1942 and two years later brought his Army Air Force Band to England. His commanding officer here was David Niven and the two became good friends. His music was a great morale booster in the UK and for Allied troops throughout the European Theatre of Operations. Miller also made propaganda broadcasts to the German people, urging an early end to the War.
November 1944 saw both Miller and Niven visit General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Versailles where the transfer of the band to France was arranged for the following month. According to the official records, Glenn Miller took off with two other people in a single-engined Norseman aircraft from RAF Twinwood in Bedfordshire on 15 December 1944, and was never seen again. Its loss was reported 9 days later and the popular 1953 film The Glenn Miller Story is based on these events.
However, subsequent research has found many inconsistencies in this version of his disappearance. Miller hated flying and is highly unlikely to have agreed to travel in such a small plane as the Norseman. His previous trip to France was on the regular military shuttle from the main US transport base at Bovingdon in Hertfordshire and he would have been much more likely to have used that. In addition, the Official Records show that RAF Twinwood was not operational on December 15th1944 from which the flight is supposed to have taken off. There are also conflicting eyewitness reports, including sightings of Glenn Miller in Paris the day before the Norseman vanished and another from a US veteran claiming to have seen Glenn Miller in a military hospital in Ohio with a serious head injury.
Historians trying to make sense of these discrepancies have attempted to gain access to the documentary evidence of what took place. Key files appear to have been withheld by the military. German documents suggest that the Gestapo knew of Glenn Miller's presence in Paris and that he may have been involved in a clandestine mission, the failure of which has been covered up to protect the reputations of those at high level who were involved in its planning.
So, the questions remain. Was Glenn Miller killed when his plane crashed into the English Channel? Did he come to grief in Paris? Did he die in the US from a head wound received elsewhere? All of these matters are of conjecture. But most intriguing of all perhaps is the question of why the authorities appear to have been so reluctant to open their files on his mysterious disappearance! The question what really did happen to Glenn Miller is still asked 70 years on?
Barry Buttenshaw thanked Tony for having given a wonderfully detailed and excellent talk which gave a brilliant description of the intrigue and false information surrounding the disappearance of Glenn Miller.
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