Historian Finds Proof That Glenn Miller Was Not Killed by RAF Bombers

Glenn Miller, the popular big band leader from the United States, died when the plane he was in crashed over the English Channel in 1944 during WWII. He was flying to France to take part in a concert for Allied troops who had recently liberated Paris.

Many historians believe that Miller’s plane crashed when it was struck by bombs jettisoned from bombers returning to English bases, after flying missions into Germany and occupied Europe.

Historian Dennis Spragg believes he has unearthed evidence that shows Miller’s plane could not have been in the vicinity of the jettisoned bombs when the pilots released them. Therefore, it would not be possible for his plane to have been struck by them.

Miller had 23 number one hits in his career. He was flying in a C64 Norseman plane with an inexperienced pilot at the time of his death. The weather conditions were foggy, and the pilot was not certified to fly without visuals.

According to Spragg, the carburetor on his plane may have frozen while they were flying over the channel. It would have prevented fuel getting to the engine, leading to a backfire which would have put the plane into a dive. It would only have taken eight seconds for the plane to hit the water. This scenario is in line with the US Army’s findings after their three-week investigation into the crash.

Miller c. 1942
Miller c. 1942

Miller’s family commissioned Spragg to research the cause of the crash. The final piece of documentation in his six-year investigation, which helped him determine jettisoned bombs could not have hit the plane, was a diary that appeared on the television programme Antiques Roadshow. The diary had been stored for seventy years by a family who lived in Devon, UK.

The diary belonged to Richard Anderton. In 1944 he was a 17-year-old aviation enthusiast, who saw Miller’s plane fly overhead in Reading and recorded the event in his diary.

For Miller’s plane to have been in Reading, shows that the pilot took a diversion on the way to Paris and could not have been in the jettison area at the time the bombers were returning.

Anderton’s nephew, Phillip Anderton, is now in possession of his uncle’s diaries. Phillip’s father had found them, following Richard’s death in 1982.

When they looked inside one particular diary, they found a newspaper clipping. The article was about people who were still searching for answers to what happened to Miller’s plane twenty-five years after the crash. Phillip and his father wondered why the article had been placed in the journal until they read what Richard had written. He had seen a Norseman airplane traveling east-south-east.

USAAF UC-64, 1945.
USAAF UC-64, 1945.

The entry occurred during a period when Richard noted the airplanes he saw, from October 1944 to February 1945.

According to records, there were two Norsemen aircraft flying at that time, on that day, and in that area. So, even though Richard thought he had spotted Miller’s plane, there was no proof that it was the actual one he had seen and not the other one flying at the same time.

Then the family noticed that Richard had included the letter ‘S’ next to the entry. Eventually, they figured out that it referred to starboard. Once they had that piece of information, they forwarded it to Spragg, who determined that it must have been Miller’s plane that Richard had spotted.

For Spragg, it was the final evidence he needed to prove that RAF bombers jettisoning their armaments did not kill Miller. The fact that he was spotted in Reading shows that he could not have been in the jettison zone when the RAF bombers were returning.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE