Published: 08 July 2010
by GERALD ISAAMAN
DID Glenn Miller die when his plane crashed crossing the Channel on a mission to France on December 14, 1944, where his famed USAF orchestra was due to play for allied troops fighting to end the war?
Or was the great American bandleader, then just 40, tortured by the Gestapo in a Paris brothel, his body thrown out on the street, all part of plot to stop his popular propaganda broadcasts demanding surrender?
There are many crazy theories about the mysterious wartime disappearance of the man whose music – In the Mood, Little Brown Jug, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Moonlight Serenade, String of Pearls – sold millions, creating some 70 top ten records in its heyday.
And you don’t have to be of a certain age to know about Miller and his music because it is regularly played today – on air, on CDs and live by the revived Glenn Miller Orchestra currently touring the country.
One theory is that Miller’s single-engined UC-64 Noorduyn Norseman plane crashed into the sea in bad weather, another is that it was hit by bombs released by RAF crews following an abortive raid in Germany. Yet another theory is that there was a bomb on board Miller’s aircraft, which is why there were, allegedly, no clues – or bodies – as evidence of what actually happened, and Miller being posted Missing in Action.
There are claims too that Miller died in hospital from a medical condition, the news covered up because of the effect it would have on wartime morale, his swing music loved by troops on either side.
Yet the strangest theory of them all, the one about Miller being murdered by the Nazis, sounds the most compelling, even convincing once you have delved into Hunton Downs’ remarkable book.
While the name of the author sounds more like a joke, no insult intended, his conspiracy saga will undoubtedly grab your attention by its sheer audacity. The one trouble is that, like all true conspiracies, it is so complex that it takes time to unravel the amazing events.
Indeed, you just can’t simply roll out the story and shout Eureka! And it is one reason why I won’t begin to reveal all the staggering and embarrassing details in chronological order, which is no doubt one additional reason why they have been kept under lock and key.
What is important for the record is that Downs is a former colonel in the US Army who was on Eisenhower’s staff and a post-war journalist who received the Edward Murrow citation for his Cold War coverage and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Vietnam.
With that background and journalistic determination, his exposé reveals that Miller was never on the missing plane that allegedly crashed, that after being turned down for the Navy in the Second World War he ended up in US Psychological Warfare division working alongside Eisenhower, who, by the way, always denied ever meeting him.
Moreover, Miller came from a German family (Mueller), spoke enough German for it to be brushed up by the American secret service (OSS) and used the popularity of his music to become a propaganda tool, even making broadcasts from London aimed at persuading German troops to give up their arms.
By delving into declassified American, British and German secret wartime documents, Downs not only exposes the blunders in the deliberate false claims about Miller’s death but builds up a significant case that presents Miller as a true and faithful American hero.
His aim, all along, was to save thousands of lives in the latter stages of the war when Hitler lost control and the support of his generals. That resulted in attempts to assassinate him, especially following the death of his beloved General Rommel.
Some of it you just won’t believe as Downs reveals how the Germans had infiltrated the offices of the Supreme Allied Commander, became aware of bids to call an armistice together with attempts to rescue highly trained German scientists, who were wrongly believed to be ahead in the race to develop the atomic bomb.
To add to the confusion, there were the political problems of the Russian army and what would happen if they were first in arriving in Berlin and taking control of a defeated nation. For that reason alone, the Americans wanted Miller in Berlin playing his popular music and urging surrender.
You don’t believe it? All I can recommend is that you read the book and come to your own conclusions.
• The Glenn Miller Conspiracy: The Shocking True Story of How He Died and Why.
By Hunton Downs. JR Books, £18.99