Monday, May 11, 2009

Glenn Miller - I Sustain the Wings

...In June 1943, Miller and his AAF band began a weekly radio series, "I Sustain the Wings," broadcast coast to coast on NBC..."
That's where we left off last week. Today we cover the rest of the story. Glenn Miller became Captain Glenn Miller. He had applied to the army but they weren't interested in a commissioned swing band. The air force went for it and it is their name that graces all of his acetates and the CDs now made from them.

In December of 1942 Captain Glenn Miller served initially in the Army Air Forces Southeast Training Center at Maxwell Field, Montgomery. He found time to play on air at both WAPI-AM in Birmingham and WSFA-AM in Montgomery.

In March of 1943 he was transferred to Yale University in New Haven. At that base he formed a marching band. There at Woolsley hall they did six broadcasts for I sustain the wings." the first was May 29th. This band shared members with his later broadcast orchestra. He began performing weekly on the program "I sustain the wings" NBC series live at the Vanderbilt Theater in New York. Nonetheless Victor records began recording this new band and releasing V-discs. The American Federations of Musicians (AFM) were on strike, but even union musicians were allowed to record V-discs for the troops.

These releases were popular despite their misgivings so permission came to form his big-ass 50 piece band and go to England in the summer of 1944. In his absence the AAFTC orchestra filled on on the radio program. While in England he continued to broadcast from the BBC and he was promoted to major. His band recorded 20 songs the week of December 3rd 1944 then he went MIA.
On December 15th he was declared officially missing in action. He was flying from an RAF base in England to Paris for a gig. Theories vary. He may have crashed. He may have been shot down by either Germans or the English. German propaganda newspapers said that he died of a heart attack in the arms of a French hooker. In 1985 divers found what they think was Miller's Norseman C-46 aircraft off the coast of France. The most accepted theory is that his plane wandered into a no-fly zone and was accidentally bombed by a British plane dropping it's payload to save fuel.

Chris Valenti requested documents from the Miller files at the Air Force and posted them online here. After Miller's disappearance, his band continued to play for Allied personnel. they toured Germany well into the summer of 1945. In 1956 Millers estate allowed drummer Ray McKinley to reform the band with the miller name. Today that watered down dance orchestra continues to exist in tribute.