INTERVIEW

 

With John Miller at the RAF Twinwood Watch Office

Why Did You Write “Glenn Miller Declassified?”

During 2009, yet another undocumented attempt was made to spread false allegations about Glenn Miller’s disappearance and to smear his legacy. Glenn Miller Archive Curator Alan Cass and yours truly prepared a detailed statement in rebuttal with the guidance of distinguished historian Ed Polic. However, Glenn Miller’s son Steve believed the time had come to settle the matter of what happened to his father and to share the true story about what his father accomplished in the armed forces in a comprehensive and decisive manner. With Steve’s blessing and complete access to all of his father’s military and private records, he asked me to discover and publish the whole truth with no punches pulled. Across the pond, Steve’s cousin John Miller, historian Chris Way and mentor Eric Hamilton were of particular encouragement and guidance. Many other agencies and people on both sides of the Atlantic offered their unconditional support. The resulting six-year investigation, code named Resolved, has produced the historic milestone that is Glenn Miller Declassified, which goes far beyond a rebuttal of conspiracy claims to honor a popular musician who was a genuine American patriot. Many individuals and agencies have kindly given their complete support and guidance as the rich legacy of Glenn Miller has been assembled from every available source. Thousands of pages of documents have been discovered and many important details are published for the first time in Glenn Miller Declassified. The end result is the truly remarkable history not only of Major Alton Glenn Miller but all of the people and agencies that he worked with in the fascinating partnership of the American entertainment and broadcasting industries with the government, as well as the intimate and victorious alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom, during World War II. As importantly as the American airmen who helped to win the war in the air, Glenn Miller helped to win the war on the air.

What Surprised You When Investigating the Disappearance of Glenn Miller?

Clearly, the volume of information available in formerly classified documents that have been held for decades by the Air Force or in the National Archives that was discoverable with the assistance of military and government archivists. The key was not to search for information in records about Glenn Miller but in finding details regarding Glenn Miller in the records of numerous agencies and military units. The patient methodology of assembling details from many locations in the USA and UK yielded a cohesive picture. Individual testimonies and memories compared with written records straightened out long-held misconceptions about what have turned out to be the actual events. Some discretion has been required with regard to non-relevant details. By process of elimination and careful examination, numerous suggestions concerning people and events have been proven wrong.

Also very enlightening is the level of sophistication apparent in the communications and correspondence of military officers and civilian officials of the era. Every document written by everyone from a lieutenant to a general is literate and clear. The amount of paperwork and reports among the many millions of documents produced during World War II is staggering. The remark that World War II was “fought in triplicate” is true! The reports of Eighth Air Force group and squadron commanders following combat missions are as livid and gripping as they must have seemed at the time. You can almost hear the voices of Eisenhower and Churchill when you read their correspondence. In an era before satellites, laptops and gadgets, and armed with typewriters, carbon paper, teletype machines, short and long wave terrestrial radio transmitters, the men and women who won World War II not only sent unambiguous and understandable messages between themselves but produced honest, enlightening and entertaining broadcasts for the American and British people and armed forces, our allies, the occupied people of the world … and the enemy.

What Makes The True Glenn Miller Story Relevant Today? 

In a time of increasingly harsh and polarized discourse with disagreement about national direction and purpose, the unique era of media and government cooperation, clear national priorities and a successful celebrity who literally gave his life to his country is refreshing and inspiring. Glenn Miller was born during the sunset of America’s frontier west. He and others of his generation came of age during World War I and the Roaring ‘20s. An unusual number of remarkable leaders were able to quickly prepare for and competently win a global conflict which resulted in the sunrise of world forever enriched by American courage and generosity. The generation following, born into the 1920s, stepped forward to fight the good fight and justly win often-repeated praise as “the greatest generation.” Although he would scoff at the notion, Glenn Miller’s music was and remains the soundtrack of that important era. Not only Americans but the British people who came to love him and everyone else around the globe, including former enemies, continue to share a very special affection for Glenn Miller and his music. This is not only a memory of what some might call a simpler time, which it wasn’t. Glenn Miller produced a lasting legacy that lives with every young person who today plays a musical instrument because of the quality and good taste of his work product.

There is inspiration as well as instructive guidance for 21st-century readers in the specific story of Glenn Miller and the over-arching quality, skills and sacrifice of the people and agencies who won World War II, not only in combat but in vital tasks ranging from broadcasting to aircraft maintenance. Ultimately, from the point of view of a journalist and media professional, the professionalism of figures including David Sarnoff of RCA and William Paley of CBS with SHAEF, Thomas H. A. Lewis of Young and Rubicam in creating AFRS, Elmer Davis of CBS in directing the OWI, David Niven of Hollywood with the AEFP, John Hayes of WOR, New York with AFN and so many more including Glenn Miller is an inspiring inheritance. They showed today’s journalists and media professionals why integrity, common sense and responsibility will always matter as a common practice but especially when the chips are down.

ORDER