On December 15th each year, it is the sad anniversary of Glen Miller's presumed death, the popular band leader that produced such classic songs of Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood and Chattanooga Choo Choo. In 1944, over the English Channel, the plane carrying this famous musician went missing and the circumstances have long perplexed authorities.
Born in the Midwest in 1904, Glen Miller's family initially moved to a between the states of Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. In the meantime, young Glen saved his money from farm chores to buy a trombone and played in the town orchestra. He also played the cornet and mandolin. The family settled in Colorado during his high school years in Fort Morgan. Besides, being strong in music, he joined the Maroons who won the Northern Colorado American Football Conference in 1920. Miller was named the best left end in Colorado. Glen Miller graduated from high school in 1921, during his senior year he had also become enamored with a style of music called "dance band music." He even formed his own band with classmates.

Even though he went on to attend college in Bolder, at the University of Colorado, Glen would end up leaving school. Despite joining a fraternity, he spent most of his time pursuing any auditions he could get. Glen Miller decided to forgo his studies to become a professional musician. Although, he did hone his craft by studying with Joseph Schillinger- utilizing the Schillinger technique which would influence his composition Moonlight Serenade. Through the 1920s, he would tour with several groups but he ultimately found his interest and talent lay in composing. Towards the end of the 1920s, he also married his college sweetheart. His life definitely was on the upswing.
In the 1930s, Glen Miller continued to make a name for himself. He continued to arrange, compose and perform. He also explored ways to develop a unique sound- which hasn't always been embraced by the jazz scene. He also had a broadcast several times a week for Chesterfield cigarettes on CBS. His band appeared in two 20th Century Fox films in 1941 and 1942.
Glen Miller decided in 1942, at the peak of his career, to reject his weekly income of $15,000 to support the war effort. Miller initially was deemed too old for the draft, at the ripe age of 38, and the Navy told him he was not needed. Glen Miller reached out to Army Brigadier General Charles Young asking him to be allowed to be accepted so he could, "be placed in charge of a modernized Army band."
By August 1944, Glen Miller had achieved the rank of Major. He not only played for the military servicemen, he also wanted to modernize military music. Not only leaders agreed, based on tradition (military is big on that) but other supervising officers allowed him to continue. Glen Miller's efforts resulted in forming a 50-piece Army Air Force Band. In the summer of 1944, he performed 800 times. His recordings were used on radio broadcasting to not only raise moral of trips but to also be used as counter-propaganda against fascism in Europe.
On December 15, 1944, Glen Miller was to fly from the United Kingdom to Paris, France. The purpose of this mission was to make arrangements move his entire band there in short order. His plane, was the single engine UC-46 Norseman, USAAF serial 44-70285. He departed on the outskirts of Bedford and his plane was never heard from again, assuming somewhere over the English Channel. Lt Col Norman Baessell was also on board as well as pilot John Morgan. It was last seen at Beachy Head in East Sussex.
There has been a wide range of theories in books and on documentaries as far as Miller's fate was concerned. Ultimately, it was determined by a well-respected researcher, that it was due to a faulty carburetor. These parts were in short supply, and the particular type was known to be faulty in the weather conditions in mid December of that year. Other theories indicated that the aircraft was hit by friendly fire- Allied planes were returning from Germany and jettisoned their bombs over the Channel after aborting a bombing on Germany. There was also speculation that maybe Miller was a spy and there was a plot to assassinate him. (Not sure if you remember, Josephine Baker actually did such work).
The plane was flying low due to poor visibility. If the fuel lines froze, and the subsequent engine would stop, that would give the pilot 8 seconds to react before the aircraft would plunge into the water below. The plane most likely disintegrated and those on board would be instant fatalities. A few years ago, Sylvan Anderton brought his brother's plane-spotter notebooks from 19444 to the BBC's Antiques Roadshow television program. At 17, Richard Anderton was working at an airfield in Reading. He carefully documented every plane that he saw in the sky- including type, estimated altitude and directions of flight.
Dennis Spragg, one of the leading Glen Miller historians, reviewed the notebooks and realized that this may have been the key to the mystery. Due to the location and time he saw the Norseman overhead that afternoon, it eliminates the theories of other courses were taken that day and possibly coming into contact with the returning Allies.
Sadly, his missing status was not released until nine days later, which played into conspiracy theories. At such time, searches were conducted. No bodies or aircraft parts were recovered. His wife, Helen, became a widow with their two adopted children, Steven and Jonnie. Glenn Miller's life and that of the other plane passengers was all for the troops to have a Christmas Day concert.