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In the Mood - Glenn Miller and his Orchestra

Many people have only heard of Glenn Miller because of this charismatic classic. Equally charismatic are his "Moonlight Serenade" and "String of Pearls" but "In the Mood" is still the gold plated, sure-fire dancer, even in modern terms.

Although it was recorded by Miller and his orchestra and became a US number one in 1939, it was also later released in February 1944 as a 78 rpm single on the "V-Disc" label, "V" standing for "Victory". V discs were issued free to all overseas American military personnel during World War II.

On December 5th of the same year, Miller was on an aircraft that was reported missing as it flew across the English Channel. Miller was flying over to Paris in order to make preparations for a New Year's Eve concert for the troops there. There have been many theories as to what might happened, but many years ago I saw a Channel 4 tv programme that proved almost certainly that the plane had been destroyed in a "friendly fire" incident. The suggestion is that the plane, a small one-engine US military passenger aircraft, a "Nordyun Norseman", was flying off course at a low altitude and had been hit by bombs discharged by British bombers returning from a night raid over Germany. It is probable that the pilot of the Norseman, who was inexperienced at using dashboard navigational instruments and used a compass, had accidentally strayed into a jettison zone. It was the practice for bombers who hadn't been able to reach their target over enemy lines to drop their load over the channel on their journey home as this saved valuable aircraft fuel. There has been a consistent claim from the navigator on one of the returning Lancaster bombers that he saw a Norseman hit below them. He didn't realise that this might have been Glenn Miller until he saw the film "The Glen Miller Story" in 1956.

It's possible that UK authorities realised quite quickly what may have happened, but understandably poured cold water on any such suggestion as it would have been a propaganda own goal and bad for Allied moral if the Brits were shown to be responsible for the death of an American who was at that moment the most popular band leader in the world. Even today, contrary to the near certainty of the programme I saw, there is much pooh-poohing of this theory. Maybe US / UK relations have never been secure enough to bear the brunt of such an acknowledgement since that time.

Certainly, Miller's message of freedom (see yesterday's post) can rarely have been so needed on both sides of the Atlantic as today.

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