Half the month of December gone – and it’s hard to believe. Where these days go to, I don’t know – but I’m glad they go. Each – is one less to sweat out. Say – before I go any further – you asked me in one of my letters whether I was scared. Now I know I’ve mentioned that word a few times here and there since landing on the Continent – but darling – I don’t want you to start thinking your fiancé is a coward. I’ve been scared – but on occasion only – and anyone who has been here has been the same – from time to time, and if he doesn’t admit it, he’s a g-d’d liar. But it hasn’t affected me in any way at all darling and I’m just as normal as anyone else. It’s just that if you happen to be in a house – and the shells start whistling over – you can’t help being scared; and you go out and stand behind a brick wall, trying to figure out from which direction the shells are coming; and then a few crash not too far from you and the shrapnel flies – and you duck – all that is a tense half-hour or so. And 5 minutes afterwards – you’ve forgotten all about it. As a matter of fact – and this seems to be popular consensus – it’s the whistling of the shell which most of us hate. Now I’m not writing this to worry you, dear, but just to explain how a person can be scared. There are other ways too. Please don’t repeat any of this to your folks or mine.
In my letter written yesterday to you, dear, I became so engrossed in answering some questions that I forgot to tell you about opening and enjoying the package you sent me. It was swell and everything came in good condition – especially the Brownies. You can tell Marjorie Mills – or whomever it was – that she’s all wet about Brownies and nuts. There were no worms, dear. If there were – we all ate them as is – anyway. And I can use the Tobacco, too. For awhile – we were getting enough – but recently, with the problem of supply turning up – we haven’t been getting anywhere near as much as before. The candy bars were unspoiled also – although cracked – of course. And I found the flower – and thank Mary for it. And thank you again, sweetheart – for sending it.
I got two old letters from you yesterday, 8 and 9 November – and there’s still a whole pile outstanding. It was interesting reading your reactions concerning the election results. We missed the campaigning over here – but from what we gather – it was a hum-ding of a contest.
One of the two letters mentioned Nancy and her state of unhappiness. As you know, dear, I never did know Nancy and Abbot too well – but it had been intimated to me that family affairs weren’t too satisfactory there. But what good a psychiatrist will do her – I fail to see. She knows her problem, the irritant factor behind it etc. A psychiatrist will not try to adjust her to it; she’s had enough time for that and has failed. If anyone needs a visit to the psychiatrist – Abbot seems to be the one. Well – I hope she settles it – because she certainly sounds unhappy.
But it’s you I’m more interested in, sweetheart, and your state of happiness. You seem concerned about mine – and in reality – there’s no cause for worry on that score at all – honestly. The fact is – that inherently – I’m a happy sort of fellow – and it takes a lot to make me otherwise. But if I’m unhappy at all – it’s only a temporary reaction and I’m able to snap out of it. I need only to think of you sweetheart and what’s in store for the both of us when I get back – and I’m able to snap out of any doldrums. So – don’t you worry at all, dear; I’m O.K. Just you take care of yourself and sit tight!
By the way – the Battalion was able to print up only a few of these Christmas Cards. I got only two – I’m sending one to you and probably one to my folks.
|438th AAA AW BN (M) Headquarters and HQ Battery|
Christmas Card - 1944
For now – I’ll have to say ‘so long’ again, darling – but only until I write again. Take care, dear - and love to the folks.
Alton "Glenn" Miller, born on a farm in Las Vegas, California, on 1 March 1904, was an American jazz musician (trombone), arranger, composer, and bandleader in the Swing era. He was one of the best-selling recording artists from 1939 to 1943, leading one of the best known "Big Bands". Miller's notable recordings include "In the Mood", "Moonlight Serenade", "Pennsylvania 6-5000", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "A String of Pearls", "At Last", "(I've Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo", "American Patrol", "Tuxedo Junction", and "Little Brown Jug".
Miller bought his first trombone at the age of 14 and played in his town orchestra in Missouri. By the time Miller graduated from high school in 1921, he had decided he wanted to become a professional musician. He dropped out of college and became a student of Joseph Schillinger. Under his tutelage he composed what became his signature theme, "Moonlight Serenade".
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Miller managed to earn a living working as a freelance trombonist in several bands. On a March 21, 1928 Victor Records recording session Miller played alongside Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Joe Venuti in the All-Star Orchestra, directed by Nat Shilkret. On November 14, 1929, an original vocalist named Red McKenzie hired Glenn to play on two records that are now considered to be jazz classics: "Hello, Lola" and "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight". Beside Glenn were clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, guitarist Eddie Condon, drummer Gene Krupa and Coleman Hawkins on tenor saxophone. In 1935, he assembled an American orchestra for British bandleader Ray Noble, developing the arrangement of lead clarinet over four saxophones that eventually became the sonic keynote of his own big band.
Glenn Miller made his first movie appearance in the 1935 Paramount Pictures release The Big Broadcast of 1936 as a member of the Ray Noble Orchestra performing "Why Stars Come Out at Night". The Big Broadcast of 1936 starred Bing Crosby, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Ethel Merman, Jack Oakie, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and also featured performances by Dorothy Dandridge and the Nicholas Brothers, who would appear with Miller again in two movies for Twentieth Century Fox in 1941 and 1942.
Glenn Miller compiled several musical arrangements and formed his first band in 1937. The band failed to distinguish itself from the many others of the era, and eventually broke up. Discouraged, Miller returned to New York. He realized that he needed to develop a unique sound, and decided to make the clarinet play a melodic line with a tenor saxophone holding the same note, while three other saxophones harmonized within a single octave. In September 1938, the Miller band began making recordings for the RCA Victor, Bluebird Records subsidiary. Si Shribman, a prominent East Coast businessman, began financing the band, providing a much needed infusion of cash. In 1939, TIME magazine noted: "Of the 12 to 24 discs in each of today's 300,000 U.S. jukeboxes, from two to six are usually Glenn Miller's." Miller's huge success in 1939 culminated with his band appearing at Carnegie Hall on October 6, with Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and Fred Waring also the main attractions. Louis Armstrong thought enough of Miller to carry around his recordings transferred to seven-inch tape reels when he went on tour.
In 1942, at the peak of his civilian career, Miller decided to join the war effort. At 38, Miller was too old to be drafted, and first volunteered for the Navy but was told that they did not need his services. Miller then wrote to Army Brigadier General Charles Young. He persuaded the United States Army to accept him so he could, in his own words, "be placed in charge of a modernized Army band." After being accepted into the Army, Glenn’s civilian band played its last concert in Passaic, New Jersey, on 27 September 1942. At first placed in the United States Army, Glenn Miller was transferred to the Army Air Force. Miller initially formed a large marching band that was to be the core of a network of service orchestras, but his attempts at modernizing military music were met with some resistance from tradition-minded career officers.
Miller's weekly radio broadcast "I Sustain the Wings", for which he co-wrote the eponymous theme song, moved from New Haven to New York City and was very popular. This led to permission for Miller to form his 50-piece Army Air Force Band and take it to England in the summer of 1944, where he gave 800 performances. In summarizing Miller's military career, General Jimmy Doolittle said, “next to a letter from home, that organization was the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations.”
On 15 December 1944, Miller was to fly from the United Kingdom to Paris, France, to play for the soldiers there. His band had flown to France some days before him. His plane (a single-engined UC-64 Norseman, USAAF serial 44-70285) departed from RAF Twinwood Farm in Clapham, Bedfordshire and disappeared while flying over the English Channel. No trace of the aircrew, passengers or plane has ever been found. Miller's status is missing in action. There are three main theories about what happened to Miller's plane. The official report was that the Norseman aircraft had crashed into the channel due to either iced-over wings or engine failure; however, this explanation would prove unsatisfactory for the majority of the populace, thus causing multiple theories and speculations to mushroom over the years.
A second (and most outrageous) theory suggested that Miller made it to France, where he met his untimely death. A book, The Glenn Miller Conspiracy, by Lt. Col. Hunton Downs, a former member of Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal staff, argues that the U.S. government covered up Miller's death. Downs claims that Miller was sent on a secret mission to Germany in December 1944 to persuade anti-Hitler generals to alert the Allies of troop movements. These generals would prevent their own troops from participating in these movements and be spared by the Allies. But Hitler found about Miller's visit. The Nazis tortured Miller, leading to his death.
A third (and most likely) theory suggested that he might have been hit by Royal Air Force bombs after an abortive raid on Siegen, Germany. One hundred and thirty-eight Lancaster bombers, short on fuel, jettisoned approximately 100,000 incendiaries in a designated area before landing. The logbooks of Royal Air Force navigator Fred Shaw recorded that he saw a small, single-engined monoplane spiraling out of control and crashing into the water. Further research by British scholars also seems to indicate that this is the most likely probability, making Miller's death a "friendly fire" incident.