Glenn Miller and the Military Dance Bands

Glenn Miller
Miller promotional photo, 1942

By the time the United States formally entered World War II in 1941, Glenn Miller (1904-1944) had established himself as one of the most popular entertainers in the country. A defining figure of big-band swing, Miller began leading a regional territory band that took off following a famed performance in spring of 1939 at the Glen Island Casino. Later that same year the Glenn Miller Orchestra became the house band of a nationally-syndicated radio program for Chesterfield Cigarettes. This weekly broadcast spread Miller’s music across the country making songs like “Moonlight Serenade” “In The Mood” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” number-one hits.

In 1942, seemingly at the peak of his career, Miller decided to enlist in the army with hopes of helping modernize military bands. Initially Miller served as a Captain, entertaining troops at the southeastern training center for the army, Maxwell Field. Miller soon became a Major in 1944 and began leading his own ensemble, The Army Air Corps Dance Band which performed over 800 concerts for troops that year. The band temporarily relocated to London and recorded and performed frequently for soldiers. On December 15, 1944, the aircraft carrying Miller disappeared over the English Channel. Miller was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star.

Following his passing, Miller’s then-temporary wartime band was established as the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note, which has become one of the premier ensembles of the U.S. Military. Miller’s participation in the war greatly shaped institutional structure and policy regarding the necessity of popular music in state organizations, laying the groundwork for the wide array of ensembles that now make up sizable music programs in all branches of the military.

Recordings in this collection include "American Patrol,""Soldier, Let Me Read Your Letter," and Millers recordings with the Army Air Force Band

Sources Cited

Spragg, Dennis M. Glenn Miller Declassified. Lincoln: Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press, 2017.