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The Glenn Miller Conspiracy: 07/27/09
Glenn Miller was a big band leader of superstar proportions. His music is still played. If you only know one Big Band or one song from the 1940s you'll probably know Glenn Miller and his Orchestra and "In the Mood." What you might not know is that he went MIA during WWII, presumably in a crash over the Channel. Further more, you might not know that there have been numerous conspiracy theories about his disappearance over the years. The Glenn Miller Conspiracy by Hunton Downs is the latest theory.
This short book starts off strong with outlining the history of events as first reported (both versions) and then goes about finding holes in both theories. Hunton Downs goes on to outline his theory that Miller was actually captured and tortured for information and then left for dead in a Paris Brothel. Unfortunately all of this is accomplished in the first chapter leaving the rest of the book to flounder.
The second chapter has some brief biographical information on Miller's early life and some thoughts on why he would have been perfect for such a dangerous mission. Apparently having German ancestry and a fair to middling grasp of the language is enough during times of war to be sent off to be a spy. On the other hand as Downs points out, most celebrity service men were given safer jobs acting as moral boosters to the troops, offering free publicity to the Allies and of course propaganda against the Axis. It doesn't make sense that Miller would be different from the others in his position. From my own family's experience in the war, those who were fluent in German ended up as MPs of the German speaking prisoners of war.
The remainder of the book devolves into something akin to The Best Friend I Never Had, the biography of Ernest Hemingway I recently reviewed. Instead of the research being put into Downs's own words with endnotes or footnotes to back up his theories and conclusions, he just paraphrases or does lengthy quotes from the people he interviewed. Then the last fifty or so pages are blurry photocopies of all his documentation rather than a more standard (and academic) bibliography.
While I have learned about the existence of conspiracy theories about Glenn Miller's death I am not convinced that Hunton Downs's theory is correct. My interest might be piqued enough to learn more about the artist and his music but I will start with more credible sources.
Comment #1: Tuesday, July, 28, 2009 at 10:30:21
The book is being laughed at and derided by Miller fans world wide.
He was not at all skilled in German. Have you heard him speaking in German? Totally phonetic. German speakers who have heard the broadcasts keep saying there is no way he was conversant in German.
The book is crap.
Props to you for realizing it. Others have not.
Comment #2: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 18:19:23
I'd call the book naive instead of crap.