A Hunk O’ Home

Eighth Air Force HQ, Wycombe Abbey (AAF-101), High Wycombe, July 29, 1944

Chapter 4

A HUNK O’ HOME

 Capt. Miller and the Army Air Forces Band (Special) are ordered to the UK June 14, 1944. Their primary mission is to produce AEFP broadcasts and to also entertain allied service personnel in the European Theatre (ETO) at live concerts. Their activities and accomplishments in the studios and touring the military bases in the UK military are described, as well as the dramatic and positive impact they had upon the British people. The visits of Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore to the ETO and their performances with Miller are described. The Commanding Officer of Eighth Air Force, Lt. Gen. James Doolittle, praises Miller’s work. Doolittle’s Deputy Commander of Operations, Maj. Gen. Orvil Anderson, is married to Miller’s cousin and takes a special interest in the bandleader. Miller works closely with Col. Edward Kirby, Lt. Col. David Niven, Col. Robert Furber of Gen. Ray Barker’s SHAEF G-1 staff and Maj. John Hayes of AFN. Promoted to Major, Miller’s broadcasts for the Office of War Information (OWI) are detailed, as is the history of the American Broadcasting Station in Europe (ABSIE). This is the first detailed published description of ABSIE and its activities.

388th BG, Knettishall (AAF-136), August 25, 1944

OVER HERE

Maj. Glenn Miller introduces a new arrangement by S/Sgt. Jerry Gray of “Great Day” to open the  October 5, 1944 “American Band of the AEF” broadcast from the Queensberry All-Services Club in London. Miller also describes the AEFP programs broadcast by the “sub-units” of the ABAEF in England: T/Sgt. Ray McKinley’s “Swing Shift”, Sgt. Mel Powell’s “Uptown Hall” and Sgt. George Ockner’s “Strings With Wings”.

PREVIEW

“As the AAF Band settled into their English routine, Glenn opened up and relaxed somewhat. As an officer with personal wealth and a public persona, he had access to certain luxuries and conveniences that he shared with his men. For example, he purchased a large supply of Scotch whiskey, which was selling for sixteen dollars a bottle and he could have made a significant profit by selling it. However, Miller sold the bottles to any of his men who wanted them for one pound, or two dollars. On such refreshing occasions, the disciplinarian loosened up and came across as just a good natured member of the group rather than their leader. Miller became a reliable “easy touch” who was available for loans to see the men through from crap game to crap game. Artie Malvin was certain that “he left this world with a number of our guys owning him money”.

“On August 18 the band traveled to the 355th FG at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire (AAF-122). Six B-24s from the 466th BG at Attlebridge, Norfolk (AAF-120), picked up the band at Thurleigh (the big bombers could not use Twinwood), including the group’s assembly aircraft, which sported brightly painted zigzag lines. The band appeared at Steeple Morden the same day P-51 pilot Lt. Royce Priest landed his fighter in a farm field near Soissons, France, to rescue P-51 pilot Capt. Bert Marshall, who had been shot down. After dinner Miller and Haynes joined a celebration for the pilots before the band departed in the B-24s for Attlebridge. At 20:00 the band played for ten thousand people at the 466th BG 100th Mission party. They had to spend the night due to bad weather. Following the concert Miller met B-24 pilot Capt. John Woolnough in the crowded officers’ club. Woolnough asked Sgt. L. Russell Clements, who ran the group photo lab, to take their picture. Miller agreed if they could find a private location so he could avoid having to pose for dozens of other pictures. With the assistance of Chaplain Jerod A. Walker, the best spot they could find was the men’s latrine. A WAC officer followed them in, and when she realized where she was, she screamed and ran out in embarrassment. An amused Miller said, ‘That’s the first time I’ve been rid of her all day.’ Apparently she had been hounding Miller, trying to arrange an audition for a friend.

“In The Mood,” Jazz Jamboree, London, October 13, 1944