Glenn Miller was one of the greatest musicians of his age, but a tragedy cut his career short.
But Miller’s music career was short-lived. The bandleader went missing on Dec. 15, 1944, during a flight across the English Channel. His disappearance is considered one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, along with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
What happened to Glenn Miller?
At the time of his disappearance, Miller was enlisted in the Army Air Forces during World War II. He put his musical career on hold in 1942 to join the U.S. forces battling the Axis in Europe. While serving in the Army, Miller was named Director of Bands, and he formed the Army Air Forces Band.
General Dwight Eisenhower summoned Glenn Miller to Europe to help boost morale.
With Miller at the lead, the Army Air Forces Band toured the U.S. to garner support for the war effort. Then, in 1943, Miller was summoned by General Dwight Eisenhower to put together entertainment for the U.S. troops in England.
Miller took his 60-member band across the pond in June 1944. Being closer to the front lines of the war, Miller and his band members had some close calls when the Germans bombed parts of the U.K.
Following the invasion of France, Glenn Miller was set to play for Allied troops in Paris on Christmas Day in 1944.
Miller’s band was scheduled to perform for Allied troops in Paris on Christmas Day in 1944 and he planned to get to Paris early to coordinate accommodations, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. After two of his flights on Dec. 13 and 14 were canceled due to bad weather, Miller was able to hitch a ride on a Dec. 15 flight with his friend Colonel Norman Baessell.
However, Miller's plane never arrived in Paris after departing from the United Kingdom.
The flight wasn’t formally approved, as per standard military protocol, and Miller wasn’t officially listed on the flight manifest, so it wasn’t until the band arrived in Paris on Dec. 18 and Miller wasn’t there that an investigation started into his whereabouts.
Miller was officially declared dead in December 1945, with his plane never being located.
Miller’s disappearance was officially announced to the press on Dec. 24, 1944. On Christmas Day, the Major Glenn Miller Army Air Forces Orchestra performed in Paris without him.
Miller was officially declared dead in December 1945. Today, it remains a mystery as to what happened to his plane as it flew over the English Channel. It’s unknown whether the plane went down due to German fire, friendly fire, weather conditions, or mechanical failure.
Glenn Miller’s net worth was in the millions at the time of his death.
It’s estimated that Miller had a net worth of about $5 million at the time of his death. After his disappearance, he was given the Bronze Star Medal, and his official memorial headstone is located at Arlington National Cemetery.
Miller’s music is still played around the world today. Three of his recordings – “Moonlight Serenade,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” and “In The Mood” — were posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
A fisherman claims he may have found Miller’s plane in 1987.
In 2019, reports circulated that Miller’s plane may have been found by a fisherman trawling the English Channel in 1987. When the fisherman told the Coast Guard what he’d found, they told him it was probably a "war grave" and to get rid of it, so he left it at the bottom of the English Channel, CBS reported in 2019.
It's believed that Glenn Miller's plane crashed somewhere in the English Channel.
"In 1987 trawling in the English Channel, he pulled up an airplane wreck that he later realized looked like the kind of airplane that Glenn Miller disappeared in. He called the Coast Guard and described it. They said, 'Well, if it's a World War II plane it might be a war grave, just get rid of it,'" Ric Gillespie from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery explained.
The fisherman didn't know the importance of the discovery at the time, and was told to leave the potential grave alone.
The fisherman made a note of where he found the plane, but it wasn't until years later that he saw a picture of what Miller's Norseman aircraft looked like and realized that the wreckage he found might be of the plane that Miller was in.
Miller's plane was the only one of its type to go missing during the war.
Gillespie, who is also searching for Amelia Earhart's missing plane, said that it should be easy to confirm the aircraft was the one that Miller was on. It was the only aircraft of its body and engine type to be reported missing during the war.
"You find the steel tube fuselage, you find the engine, you found the Miller airplane," Gillespie said.
Gillespie isn't too optimistic about the report, though.
"Once you say, 'We're going to go out and find the Glenn Miller airplane,' everyone holds their breath," says Gillespie. "But it's a c--------. This stuff is really hard and there's a good chance you're going to get skunked! That's what this game is like. You can't find something if you don't try to find it but that's the call we're going to have to make."
For now, Gillespie is trying to dispel some common myths around Miller's disappearance.
"Right now, if you really look at the facts of the case, there really isn't much doubt at all that the airplane went down in the English Channel," says Gillespie. "They probably just iced up and went into the channel. But we don't know. With a mystery as popular and iconic as the Miller disappearance, there will always be conspiracy theories and adherence to other theories. Finding the wreckage answers the question finally. You can say, 'There it is. We can now put that to bed.' That's what we're out to do: replace mystery with documented history."