Most people who live in or around Kalamazoo, or even the rest of Michigan, are familiar with the classic 1940s song that musically references the city several times and actually helped popularize the town of Kalamazoo. But what some may not be aware of is an unsolved mystery still unresolved about the man who disappeared just two years after writing the song.
Glenn Miller and his orchestra first recorded “(I’ve Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo” on May 20, 1942 in Hollywood. It eventually reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, spending eight weeks in No. 1, and was the best-selling music recording of the year in the United States. He appeared in the 1942 film orchestra wives which also earned the song an Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Song.
The song’s catchy pun in the lyrics (Kalamazoo- zoo- zoo- zoo- zoo) hummed a lot again today and it has helped people to at least get familiar with the name “Kalamazoo”, even the name “Kalamazoo”. ‘they didn’t know. exactly where the city is, although the song gives a hint when the singers shout “I’m going to Michigan …”
Glenn Miller, who joined the Army during WWII in 1942, was twice promoted for his patriotic entertainment of Allied forces overseas by modernizing several traditional military marches with his jazz / blues style. On December 15, 1944, Miller was to fly from Bedford, England, to Paris, France to help prepare his group to settle there for future performances. The plane he was in disappeared in the fog as it flew over the English Channel. Miller, along with two other US military officers flying with him, were never seen again.
News of his disappearance was not reported until Christmas Eve, a week and a half later, but it was only said that he would not be running a scheduled radio show the next day. Confirmation of his disappearance and presumed death came later. The official explanation was that Miller and the other passengers on the plane had been victims of bad weather. Several other flights had been canceled at that time due to bad weather conditions.
Despite this seemingly rational explanation, several conspiracy theories and other explanations have surfaced as to what exactly happened to Glenn Miller.
One was given by a British pilot named Fred Shaw who believed friendly fire in the area had brought down Miller’s plane. Shaw was part of a fleet heading to Germany for a bombing raid that day, but it was called off due to weather conditions. As they already had explosives on board, they were ordered to go around the Channel and get rid of them by detonating them above the water. He says that during this operation he noticed a small plane flight, a spin and splashing in the water. He says the downed plane was reported over the intercom when the crash was seen. Some have challenged this theory, saying that it would have been impossible for anyone to see a small plane crash under these conditions, among other reasons.
Another even more fantastic theory is that Glenn Miller was not even on the plane that crashed that night. In fact, he claims that secret government documents were discovered in 1997 by a German journalist and conspiracy theorist. In these newspapers it is said that Miller did indeed arrive in Paris and that his death occurred in a brothel when he had a heart attack while in the company of a prostitute. The real cause of death has been kept secret, so as not to damage his reputation in the military. Those who support this theory say that the time lag between the night of her disappearance and the announcement of Christmas Eve validates part of it. But that theory was all but crushed when the German journalist backed down on some of the claims he had documents to say so and instead said he had been informed unofficially by an intelligence specialist.
Another theory came from Miller’s own brother, who said Glenn died in a hospital. Miller was a heavy smoker and apparently sent a letter to his brother Herb in the summer of 1944 complaining of respiratory problems, saying he felt gravely ill. This theory has some validation, at least related to Miller’s health, as it has been confirmed that he has lost a lot of weight and others are concerned about his health as well. But otherwise, this one is also not proven and there is no trace of a hospital he could have been in or where.
Various other theories such as his faking death, espionage or murder by Germans have also been put forward.
In 2019, CBS News published an article that had some very interesting new potential and which allows the mystery to be closed once and for all. And that would also come back to the original, most widely accepted explanation. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery told CBS that an English fisherman recovered an aircraft from the English Channel in 1987.
At the time, he called the Coast Guard and described the plane. The fisherman was told that if it was a WWII plane it could be part of a war grave and had to get rid of it. So he dropped the wreckage into the water. It wasn’t until years later that the anonymous fisherman made the connection with what he may have discovered in 1987.
At last report, the area was reduced to a three square mile radius, but there are no reports of any dives that have been taken or planned to attempt to locate the wreckage. In 2020, it was reported that a fundraiser was underway to attempt to raise $ 30,000 to research the plane, but it was not reported if they had already made their mark.
But if they do seek and find the plane one day, it will solve one of the greatest mysteries in the history of aviation and music.
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