Glenn Miller’s Disappearance, Accident or Cover Up?
Glenn Miller, with trombone. Source: (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
On December 15, 1944, American orchestra leader, Glenn Miller, famous for hits like “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” and “In The Mood,” was in England entertaining the troops serving in World War II. Although the weather was dicey, Miller and his orchestra agreed to perform in Paris in the days leading up to Christmas. So Miller sent his orchestra ahead with plans to meet up with them in France in three days. He never made it. After boarding a small airplane with its two crew members, Miller took off for the flight over the English Channel. He, his plane, and the two crew members were never seen again. The obvious conclusion was that the plane crashed into the English Channel, but there may be more to the story.
Miller Goes Missing
On December 18, Glenn Miller failed to meet up with his orchestra in Paris for scheduled rehearsal time. The musicians weren’t too concerned. After all, it was winter and it was wartime, so there were a lot of variables that could delay the bandleader. A full nine days passed before Miller was officially reported as missing. An investigation failed to turn up any evidence that Miller’s plane ever made it to France. The investigation shifted to the last place he had been seen…England.
Miller’s Flight Crew Was Missing, Too
The records in England showed that Glenn Miller boarded a UC-64A Norseman, a small airplane, that was piloted by John Morgan and Lt. Col. Norman F Baessell and the three men left England in the afternoon. It also showed that there was heavy fog in the area. In fact, other flights had been grounded that day on both sides of the English Channel. On top of that, the pilot, Morgan, was not certified to fly using just the plane’s instruments. The conclusion was that Morgan became disoriented due to the poor visibility and the plane crashed into the Channel.
Did Miller’s Plane Have a Mechanical Issue?
Miller was flying in a UC-64A Norseman, a plane that had a record for engine carburetor issues when flying in freezing temperatures. The defective carburetors would often freeze up in certain weather conditions…such as flying through heavy fog in below-freezing temperatures. This is exactly what Miller’s plane did. When the engine carburetors seized up, the plane would drop from the sky. Since so many other carburetor problems plague the Norseman, it is feasible that it downed Miller’s plane, too.
Was Miller’s Plane Downed By Friendly Fire?
Another theory about Miller’s disappearance is that his plane was struck by friendly fire. This story came about when a British airman, Fred Shaw, who was with a group of 138 British planes heading to Germany for a bombing raid. The squadron was forced to turn back due to the heavy fog, but they had one big problem. Their planes were carrying more than 100,000 live explosives. Landing with those was a risky venture, so the fleet was ordered to drop their bombs in the English Channel in an area where there were no boats or planes. Shaw claims that he watched as a small plane came into view. The radiating blast waves from the detonating bombs struck the airplane and flipped it over, sending it careening into the water. Shaw claimed that, years later, he saw a news clip about Miller’s disappearance. That led him to check his log book to see if the dates matched up. To his astonishment, they did. At least three people including Shaw reported the downed plane to the RAF who failed to follow up.
Was Miller Captured By the Germans?
Some people claimed that Glenn Miller was an orchestra leader by day and a spy by night. They believe that he was working for the United States government and using his position as a famous and well-respected entertainer to glean information about the German war machine. Some have even expounded on this story by stating that Miller was acting as a diplomat of the United States and had embarked on a highly-classified liaison with the Germans to discuss a peace agreement when he was captured and killed by the Germans. No evidence has ever been found to connect the Germans to Miller’s disappearance or to link Miller to espionage activities.
Did Miller Really Die in a Paris Brothel?
One rumor that was circulating after Miller’s death was that the famous bandleader had made it safely to France that December day. While waiting for his musicians to arrive, he visited a local brothel where, according to the story, he died of a heart attack while in bed with a prostitute. The U.S. military and U.S. government covered up this unflattering death by concocting the plane crash story. They didn’t want Miller’s reputation, and by extension, the American reputation, to be soiled by Miller’s extracurricular activities. The biggest flaw in this rumor, however, was that the two men who were on the plane with Miller were also never seen again.
Did Miller Die of Cancer in England?
Glenn Miller’s own brother, a fellow musician named Herb, presented another theory regarding the disappearance of the bandleader. He contends that his brother, a lifelong smoker, was in declining health prior to his trip to England. Six months before his disappearance, Miller wrote a letter to Herb in which he wrote about his failing health. He said he had difficulty breathing and was losing weight at a terrifying rate, despite eating a healthy diet. He confessed to his brother that he believed he was “very ill.” Corroborating reports from others show that Glenn Miller, indeed, was in poor health in the days leading up to his disappearance. Herb Miller believes that his brother helped to devise a plan of a plane crash death to give himself a “hero’s death” rather than dying of lung cancer alone in a hospital bed in England.
Miller’s Disappearance May Never Be Explained
Still more incredulous theories have emerged to explain Glenn Miller’s disappearance. Some say he faked his own death and moved to Argentina to start a new life. Others say he was murdered by mobsters. Still, others claim Miller’s plane flew into a Bermuda Triangle-like vortex. Although it may be tempting to want to look for nefarious theories to explain Miller’s disappearance, the most likely scenario is that his Norseman plane crashed into the English Channel and that his death was nothing more than a tragic accident.
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