Stormy Weather

VIII AFSC Noorduyn C-64 “Norseman”

Chapter 6 

STORMY WEATHER

When SHAEF and the BBC finalize a schedule to move Miller’s unit or about December 16, 1944, there are snags. The project to wire a theatre for broadcasts and set up reliable transmission lines to London falls behind schedule. Niven summons the perfectionist Miller ahead of the band for assistance and because he also needs to privately discuss the status of Miller’s administrative officer,  but bad weather grounds scheduled air passenger service. Miller learns from Haynes that F/O Stuart Morgan is flying Baessell to Paris regardless and accepts an invitation from Baessell to accompany them. Friday, December 15, 1944, Miller and Baessell board a VIII AFSC Noorduyn C-64 “Norseman” liaison aircraft piloted by Morgan for a flight from Twinwood Field, Bedfordshire to Villacoublay Aerodrome, Ile-de-France, and the aircraft vanishes.

Maj. Glenn Miller and driver-instrument repairman Pvt. Veto Pascucci, Ashburnham Road, Bedford

 

F/O Stuart Morgan (right) with Col. Phillip Foote of VIII AFSC

 

Lt. Col. Norman F. Baessell, July 16, 1944 (photo by VIII AFSC Chaplain Joseph Luck)


HERE’S WISHING YOU WELL AGAIN

Maj. Glenn Miller is interviewed by Vernon Harris of the BBC General Forces Programme and the “Here’s Wishing You Well Again” series on September 14, 1944. He describes his experience in Britain and looks forward to moving the American Band of the AEF to the Continent so his band can perform for the ground forces as well as the air forces addition to their broadcasting duties. This is an especially poignant recording.

 

PREVIEW

“Miller and Haynes had to go around the tail of 285 and into the roaring prop wash with a buoyant Baessell leading the way. Miller and Baessell carried their own luggage. Baessell may have been perturbed that Morgan had pulled up with the passenger door on the wrong side, not realizing the pilot had actually done the right thing in keeping the plane pointed back toward the active runway to expedite ground and taxi time. He had also not shut down the engine, perhaps also irritating Baessell. Shutting down required Morgan to walk into the watch office and submit paperwork with Flying Control for a new clearance, even though Twinwood was an RAF aerodrome. Morgan was doing Baessell a favor and saving time, perhaps as much as a half hour, although he still potentially had to land at Bovingdon for overwater IFR clearance because he was bypassing fresh paperwork at Twinwood. Leading Miller and Haynes under the left wing with the prop wash blasting him in the face, Baessell opened the door and threw his B-4 garment bag and briefcase into the aluminum cabin. He placed his left foot on the one-rung metal extension step under the door, lifted himself in with both hands, climbed past the port side bench, and dropped his portly figure into the right front seat next to Morgan. The most popular musician in the world was next. Miller looked into the cabin and asked Baessell where the parachutes were. Baessell replied loudly above the engine noise, “What’s the matter, Glenn. Do you want to live forever?” Miller may not have been reassured as he turned around to say good-bye to Haynes. Morgan could now see that the second and probably unexpected passenger to board his aircraft was the one and only Glenn Miller.

“Miller threw his B-4 garment bag and briefcase into the cabin and followed Baessell aboard. Perhaps he hesitated for a moment. Miller climbed into the cabin using the extension step with both hands gripping the doorway. He found and fastened his safety belt after taking a seat on the port side bench. Miller was seated in a compartment with bench seats on each side and accommodating up to six passengers. At the rear of the cabin there was a folded seat with a life raft stowed behind it. Miller was seated behind the pilot and facing the starboard side of the aircraft. In this position he could see and potentially speak with Baessell. Morgan had to turn around in his seat to see or speak with Miller. Haynes looked into the cabin and said, “Happy landing, good luck, and I’ll see you in Paris tomorrow.” Miller replied, “Thanks, Haynsie, I think we’ll need it.” With that Haynes closed, latched, and banged on the door to let Morgan know it was secure, then walked back around the tail of the aircraft and through the prop wash to the automobile. As the big engine spooled up with a roar, the pilot released the brakes, the cabin shook, and 44–70285 was moving. Morgan had sat idling at Twinwood for a very efficient four minutes.

Air Controller’s Desk, northwest corner of RAF Twinwood Building 66, Watch Office, Second Floor Air Control Room
Parking apron where VIII AFSC C-64 Courier aircraft transited on daily flights to and from Villacoublay, France
Aerial view looking northwest of the RAF Twinwood aerodrome site with visual evidence for the former runways