On The Continent

The AAF Band (Special) in-flight aboard a C-47 transport outfitted with military bucket seat. The former civilian DC-3s flown by Air Transport Command were outfitted with passenger seats. T/Sgt Ray McKinley is seated to the left across from Lt. Don Haynes

Chapter 8

ON THE CONTINENT

It is not until the band arrives in Paris intact and unharmed Monday, December 18, 1944 that SHAEF and VIII AFSC realize the aircraft carrying Miller is missing.  The search for Miller and the investigation into his disappearance are fully detailed for the first time, as are the activities of the band on the continent. The genesis of conspiracy theories about Miller is dealt with and the achievements of the band without their leader are recounted. As the war in Europe ends, the band prepares to go home after touring the French Riviera, Germany and entertaining top American and Soviet leaders.

Report of Missing Personnel, SHAEF Adjutant General for the Supreme Commander, December 22, 1944

 

The Casualty Telegram that was hand-delivered to Helen Miller at her New Jersey home by officers detailed from Army Air Forces HQ, Washington, DC at the order of Gen. H. H. Arnold, who reached Mrs. Miller by telephone about an hour later to express his condolences

THE SWING SHIFT

T/Sgt. Ray McKinley leads the dance band of the American Band of the AEF on an AEFP “Swing Shift” program recorded April 2, 1945 at the Olympia Theatre in Paris and first broadcast on April 28, 1945.

PREVIEW

“At approximately 10:30 aircraft 058 and 733 arrived overhead. Haynes watched the aircraft circle, land, and taxi to the transit apron. Sgt. Michael “Peanuts” Hucko discovered he had left his alto saxophone at the ABAEF enlisted men’s billet in Bedford. Hucko had loaned the instrument to Norman Leyden, who had not returned it to the luggage. Haynes sent Pascucci to retrieve the instrument, and when Pascucci returned, the men boarded the aircraft. The RAF ground personnel secured the big port side doors of the Dakotas, and Sgt. Mockridge gave thumbs up to the lead plane. Captain Perkins started his left engine with a big cloud of exhaust smoke, and Lieutenant Tapper followed. They made their way out to Runway 23 and were swiftly airborne. Twinwood called Bovingdon, and the flight entered the air traffic system. By 11:30 058 and 733 were climbing to 5,000ft. They passed over Bovingdon, turned southeast near Maidenhead, proceeded to Langney Point, crossed the English Channel, and approached Orly flying east of the gleaming bronze Eiffel Tower. The aircraft arrived at 13:45, and Orly sent confirmation to Bovingdon. Then 058 and 733 taxied to park at the arrivals ramp and shut down their engines after parking on hardstands adjacent to their companion aircraft from Bovingdon, which had already arrived.

“As the men disembarked, Haynes looked around, but there was no sign of Miller. No buses were waiting for the band, even though Bovingdon sent Orly a coded message that the flight was en route. The ATC staff at Orly was busy with the backlog of outgoing and incoming traffic. No one had called ComZ Seine Section Transportation Desk, so Haynes did. The officer on duty had no record of the requisition and said he would get buses moving. The band had to wait  more than two hours for the buses to arrive.

“An ARC Red Cross canteen was located in the crowded terminal building, so a few men at a time could run in and fetch coffee and doughnuts for the others, huddled out on the windy tarmac with their luggage and equipment. Every time another aircraft taxied in or fired up its engines to depart, the chilly prop blast would blow right through the men. While hovering around the canteen, the ABAEF picked up scuttlebutt about the German offensive. It did not yet occur to the band that Miller was anywhere other than attending to duties in Paris and too busy to meet them.”

The AAF Band (Special) led by T/Sgt. Ray McKinley, Olympia Theatre, Paris, France