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Thread: Glen Miller wasn't killed by RAF Lancasters?

  1. #1
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    Glen Miller wasn't killed by RAF Lancasters?

    Of passing interest to historic aviation. The popular theory that Glen Miller's Norseman was struck from the sky by Lanc's jettesoned bombs is wrong.

    Link to Gruniad article.

  2. #2
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    Hmmm. Someone has written a book. A national newspaper reports it but that doesn't make it true. Colour me sceptical!

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    Well, somebody says it's wrong, which doesn't necessarily have to mean that it is wrong. The Lancaster theory was conjured by Roy Nesbit in Aeroplane, IIRC? His research always seemed very sound to me. Less so the mix of airframe and "engine" (carburetor?) icing in the linked article...

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    The Guardian not being an acknowledged source of irrefutable aviation history knowledge I have added a '?' to the thread title. If the OP thinks this is unfair, feel free to contact me by PM.

    Moggy
    Moderator

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    Point me toward any national news organisation that is of 'irrefutable aviation history knowledge'.

    I ran across this story and I though it had some legs, notwithstanding the impending book publication. There is a thread somewhere about the jettisoned bomb theory and perhaps in hindsight I should have tacked my comment onto the end of that.
    Last edited by Supermarine305; 29th August 2017 at 20:03.

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    Dennis Spragg may be a historian but he's obviously a nonpilot and not particularly knowledgeable about aviation. If you're on the ground looking up at a Norseman cruising at 5,000 feet, does it look like "an indistinct flyspeck"? Hardly. But that's what Spragg claims a Norseman seen from 5,000 feet above would appear to be. Also, the primary danger from icing is not that "it makes the engine stop working properly." That would be carburetor ice.

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    Sorry Supermarine I should have written my post a little more thoughtfully. I was not accusing you personally for promoting the story. :-)

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    Not really in the mood for this thread

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    “He was flying too low – below 2,000 ft – and he exposed aircraft to icy conditions. Ice will cause the engine to stop working properly. The only other rational explanation is that he just flew into the water because he couldn’t see.
    This quote is taken from the author's text in the article, but as far as I remember from conversations with Roy Nesbit when I painted the scene, the weather was crystal clear over the Channel that day. People just assume that because Glenn Miller took off in poor weather, it persisted for the entire journey, which it didn't. Roy was an experienced wartime RAF navigator and was very thorough in his investigation into the met and timings etc so in my opinion his theory is much more credible.

    Mark P

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    Couldn't TIGHAR apply some of That Old Black Magic here and try and locate the wreck? Maybe they just aren't In The Mood? I'm sure being taken out by a bomb from a Lancaster was not Glenn's idea of a Moonlight Serenade? Apparently he was heard to comment on The Nearness of You, to the Lancaster crews, as the bombs reigned down on his aircraft prior to a loud Boom Shot was reported. Maybe he should have been flying a Catalina instead, or some other form of American Patrol aircraft.

    Alright I'm done here.

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    My problem with the bomb theory is the report that the RAF crews saw the event and never reported the incident.

    Is that accurate?
    If so, it doesn't say much for the bomber crew(s) involved.
    One would bope they'd report the incident so a search could be conducted.
    There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

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    Rosevidnesy: That's fine. I should have added the usual caveat that I have in no way anything to do with this book. The article just happened to have something about an aviation mystery to it.

    At $35 I am not going to be the one to judge how well researched it is. I am not that keen on Miller.

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    Glen Miller's plane found? This headline appeared a few years ago, what was the outcome?
    http://www.flightmemory.com/ I have been round the world 11.83 times!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Newforest
    Glen Miller's plane found? This headline appeared a few years ago, what was the outcome?
    Wasn't that someone claiming to have found it and for just £20,000, they would share the location?
    Martin

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    It's Guardian. Not Gruniad. That's not even an anagram.

    Sorry, pet hate. Same as Daily Fail et al. I just can't take anything seriously with that kind of sneering.
    Some of my best friends are imaginary

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    I remember seeing the interview with the former (Australian?) navigator on TV several years ago. He had trained in Canada and had flown in Noorduyn Norseman aircraft so he knew the unusual (and distinctive) type very well. If he says he recognized one flying low-ish over the sea in reasonably good weather from around 5-6,000 ft then that's good enough for me. I think he also said that only he and the tail gunner noticed it, they reported it at debriefing but were later told not to mention it again. The interview is probably out there on youtube somewhere.

    As for the Gruniad - didn't that name come into being due to a hilarious (deliberate?) misprint of their own newspaper title some years back?
    Last edited by Nachtjagd; 30th August 2017 at 13:21.
    A Thousand Shall Fall

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    I bet a new film will be made so the story need to fit the films ending, cheaper than hiring a Lanc
    SMOKE SMOKE GO!
    TA out

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    Grauniad is a Private Eye invention, making fun of the high level of typographic errors found in the paper many years ago.

  19. #19
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    And typos a-plenty can still be found.

    Anyway, just moving on, regretting posting this threa and all. A little searching found this on the Daily Mail. Not 'fail' Snapper, no matter how apt.

    Long story short, over fives years ago the self same Daniel Spragg considers a note jotted by a 17-year-old near Reading of a Norsemen flying ESE was key against the jettisoned bombs theory.That's just weak.
    Last edited by Supermarine305; 30th August 2017 at 17:20. Reason: typo fix.

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    Education is good - I felt a bit sneery myself with the comment BUT I've learnt some cool stuff so thank you!
    Some of my best friends are imaginary

  21. #21
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    Gentlemen,

    I have read all of your offhand comments and respectfully recommend that it might be judicious to hold your criticisms until you actually read my new book “Glenn Miller Declassified”.

    The book is the result of a project by numerous contributors that took many years to complete. It has been endorsed by serious aviation and military history scholars and recommended by professional reviews. The project had the unconditional support of many organizations, including the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The book is excruciatingly detailed (as described in a December 2014 BBC Radio 2 documentary) and contains hundreds of precise references and notes.

    Beyond any reasonable doubt, there is overwhelming documented evidence that Avro Lancaster aircraft of RAF Bomber Command No. 3 Group and, specifically, 149 Squadron, including aircraft NF 973 with F/O Fred Shaw aboard as the navigator, did not accidentally cause the crash of VIII AFSC Noorduyn C-64B aircraft 44-70285 with Major Glenn Miller aboard as a “casual passenger” on Friday, December 15, 1944. As plainly documented in December 1944 by the AAF, errant Lancaster bomb jettisons 15-20mi northeast and east of a designated bomb jettison area interrupted a ferry flight of L-1 liaison aircraft operating in the air transport corridor between Langney Point and St. Valery. All 138 No. 3 Group Lancaster aircraft operating on December 15, 1944 completed their bomb jettisons between 1304A and 1321A (BST). The C-64B aircraft with Miller aboard departed RAF Twinwood at 13:55A (BST) for AAF Station A-42, Villacoublay. The February 1, 1945 issue of “Stars and Stripes” reported the errant jettison over the ferry flight in an article titled “On A Wing and Spray.”

    The late Roy Conyers Nesbit was my good friend. I and others do not take lightly the implications of refuting his published conclusions regarding the accident that killed Glenn Miller and understand your inclinations to believe Roy’s conclusions because of his well-deserved reputation as an aviation authority.

    The AAF and RAF used the exact same time standard for their coordinated operations, BST (GMT+1), during the winter of 1944-1945, per easily authenticated SHAEF directives for all allied air, ground and naval forces. Roy assumed a one-hour time shift from BST to GMT so he could bring the C-64B into any possible alignment with NF 973 (the Lanc with F/O Fred Shaw aboard as navigator). He relied upon his personal memory of using GMT to navigate. He did not examine all of the extant RAF documents or provide specific references. Inexplicably, he did not research or cite any AAF documents. Had he done so, I am confident that his conclusions would have been profoundly different and in agreement with “Glenn Miller Declassified”, which proves irrefutably that the Eighth Air Force HQ and Bomber Command No. 3 Group orders and reports for December 15, 1944 match exactly in BST. Anyone can compare the RAF ORBs and orders with the AAF Group records and orders or study the SHAEF orders for themselves.

    The Lancaster story as recalled by Shaw forty years later came to be believed as the best answer as to what happened to C-645 44-70285 but it is not true. The actual jettisons were made between 1304A and 1321A (BST - not Zulu or GMT) or 90 to 110 minutes ahead of Miller’s plane appearance in the vicinity. According to the RAF Squadron ORBs and the logs of pilot Victor Gregory and navigator Shaw, Lancaster NF 973 was on the ground at Methwold with its engines shut down at 1420A. Roy incorrectly shifted the arrival notation by one-hour to 1520A and 1420Z. All 138 No. 3 Group aircraft had returned to base or diverted to other aerodromes by 1440A.

    The physical limitations and impediments within the Lancaster for a navigator to see anything moving on an intersecting course from port forward to starboard rear directly below the aircraft are evident. The only clear view below the aircraft and forward was from the bomb-aimer position. In real time, the pilot and aircrew of NF 973 never reported seeing a friendly aircraft in distress over allied territory, which was a requirement.

    The weather forecast and then reported over the English Channel reported in multiple Eighth Air Force HQ and Group documents and as reported by south coast observation stations was 8/10-10/10 stratus cloud with a 2,000ft ceiling and deteriorating (lower) over water. There were additional layers of stratus above the lower cloud layer. No. 3 Group Lancasters reported unfused jettisons between 5,000 and 7,000 ft. above the lower cloud layer and within intermediate cloud layers. Eighth Air Force groups aloft at higher altitudes reported high-level cirrus cloud and haze overhead the lower and intermediate cloud layers.

    The L-1 ferry flight was 90 minutes ahead of C-64 44-70285 with Miller aboard and over the water flying at below 1,000ft when buffeted by the errant jettison. RAF Bomber Command regulations required “unfused” jettisons over allied territory, which is consistent with the complaint filed by the Ninth Air Force 434th Troop Carrier Group when their L-1s were buffeted and huge sprays of water but not explosions. It is reasonable to give Shaw the benefit of the doubt and deduce that NF 973 was among the aircraft that accidentally jettisoned off target and overhead the ferry flight, and that if Shaw or, more probably, the bomb-aimer, saw one or more of the L-1s.

    About the Richard Anderton spotting, my reaction when interviewed in 2012 was to simply confirm that his spotter log was consistent with what we already knew about the flight plan and path of C-64B 44-70285, including the logged observation by military personnel of a C-64 with American national insignia passing southbound over Beachy Head during the 1430A-1445A watch (C-64B 44-70285 was the only AAF C-64 aloft at that time and on that day). This was precisely when C-64B 44-70285 would have passed overhead given its airspeed and the distance between RAF Twinwood and Langney Point via a required dogleg air transport route of Bovingdon-Maidenhead Intersection-Dorking-Langney Point. The AAF flight charts, navaids and frequencies are detailed in the book. The Anderton notation has nothing to do with the veracity of whether NF 973 and others jettisoned bombs over C-64B 44-70285.

    Along with the bomb jettison details, there are abundant aviation-oriented details about the Eighth Air Force, the Eighth Air Force Service Command (VIII AFSC), the European Division of the Air Transport Command, USSTAF, the C-64B aircraft, the precise actual weather conditions, the pilot’s qualifications, the aircraft maintenance history, and other relevant facts.

    The actual circumstances of Major Glenn Miller’s disappearance are precisely documented for the first time, including the actual January 1945 Eight Air Force Inquiry and hearing into the accident. More of the book is a biography of Miller’s remarkable career and wartime service, which are probably not of any interest to you.

    You welcome to learn more about “Glenn Miller Declassified” and then we might hopefully have an informed and productive conversation.

    Sincerely,

    Dennis M. Spragg

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    Thank you for taking the time to reply.

    One thing puzzling me is the different reports on what the weather was like that day. Surely they can't be that different even given the alleged short period in time

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    As with the splendid Dr North's groundbreaking re-evaluation of the Battle of Britain narrative I think I'll wait until it is available free from my local library

    Moggy
    "What you must remember" Flip said "is that nine-tenths of Cattermole's charm lies beneath the surface." Many agreed.

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    Hell, I hope the book is easier to read than that post!

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    Dennis, thank you for your considered and comprehensive post, which demonstrates that you've undertaken a great deal of research into the question. I think I'll have to have a read of it.

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    I think Mr Spragg was packing as much detail as possible into that post in order to indicate the depth and breadth of his research. He certainly succeeded in impressing me. His book is evidently not a rehash of old theories and dubious suppositions, but I shall of course reserve judgment until I've read it.

    I've always had a fascination for the Miller mystery and did a little delving in the archives over the years, enough to discover a few anomalies. One was that Twinwoods, then a satellite for 51 OTU at Cranfield, was temporarily closed around that time, so would it have had any Flying Control personnel to record movements? Maybe the pilot just phoned Cranfield from the watch office, or didn't bother ...

    I also found an entirely separate reference to a UC-64 crash - in Alaska, I think - caused by loss of fabric from a wing. It may have mentioned other similar incidents. Must search for my notes.

    Dave Smith

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    Even in this modern age light A/C are more than capable of getting themselves into trouble, without any help from a passer by.
    Why be your own worse critic, that's what the forum is for.

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    Dave,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    About C-64 status, here is some information from page 176 of "Glenn Miller Declassified": In the UK, the Eighth Air Force and Ninth Air Force operated a total of 212 C-64 A/B aircraft (note: the AAF terminology UC-64 A/B was changed to C-64 A/B on 1Jul44). 102 of the aircraft were ultimately assigned to salvage, 80 to surplus, 29 were destroyed and 1 missing (the aircraft with Miller aboard). Noted causes of damage: Landing accident, 25; ground loop, 17; crash, 13; takeoff accident, 12; fuel starvation, 7; weather, 3; pilot error, 2. There are photos of one aircraft that was subjected to severe turbulence that tore apart the wing fabric in an incident that reminds me of the Alaska example you cite.

    Dennis

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    Thank you. I hope that you will find it informative and interesting.

    Professional critics are giving it solid reviews.

    Here is an authoritative review from Military Review, the professional journal of the U. S. Army, that may be helpful to everyone:

    http://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journ...ok-Review-020/

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    This is an excellent and quite relevant question. I think some of the confusion comes from what sources have been cited over the years. To begin, the multiple military observations from different aerodromes and airfields varied greatly because the weather conditions varied greatly that morning and afternoon, and the conditions were changing throughout the day. For example, the AAF stations at Alconbury and Thurleigh were open in the morning and closed during the afternoon. Many returning American and British combat aircraft had to divert upon arrival at their stations. All the AAF aircraft from Thurleigh were diverted. The Paris-area aerodromes including Villacoublay were open early and closed during the afternoon. The ten squadrons of RAF bombers departures' were delayed one hour and their fighters never got off the ground. Essentially, all of the aerodromes and airfields in Norfolk and closer to the North Sea in Suffolk were problematic in the morning, which coincidentally caused the Eighth Air Force Second Division B-24 groups to all cancel their portion of the 15Dec44 mission. Aerodromes and airfields further inland were operational in the morning. So to start, from a military perspective you had dozens of separate hourly weather reports in play. Then add to that the weather observations sent by aircraft en-route to targets and destinations and returning overhead the North Sea, English Channel and the Continent. Previous writers appear to have used the UK Met Office observations for their source material rather than comparing that information with the more thorough and diverse military observations station-by-station. Finally, and not to be too obsessive, one then has to consider the observation stations noontime and 3pm reports from the south coast. So, to summarize, my book considers three sources, (a.) AAF and RAF hourly observations from bomber and fighter bases, (b.) en-route weather reports from operating aircraft, and (c.) Met Office and south coast observation stations' data. From that, one can ascertain with absolute confidence what the changing conditions were as events un folded on 15Dec44. Finally, there is the matter of the 0600A versus 1200A weather reports from Twinwood, Alconbury, Thurleigh and Cranfield, which were quite different. For example, at 0600A, Twinwood and Cranfield were essentially fogged in with low visibility that caused the 51st OTU to cancel training flights. By 1200A, Twinwood reported 2,000ft ceiling but Cranfield was still reporting low visibility. At Thurleigh, by 1500A, the weather had deteriorated so much that the returning B-17s were diverted. There were a lot of "moving parts" that day. Its all in the book.

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