September and World War II—Glenn Miller and Poinciana

Thanks to swerpol for the You Tube.

That video consisted of a World War II public service announcement encouraging women to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC.)  It played in movie theaters at the time.  That was followed by a version of Poinciana by the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Orchestra created by the You Tube poster.  Glenn Miller was one of the most prominent celebrities to have died in World War II.

September 1, 1939, 77 years ago this  month, World War II began after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the subsequent invasion of Poland.  World War II came to an end 71 years ago  September 2, 1945 in Tokyo Harbor on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri with the surrender of the Japanese Emperor.  The United States declared war December 8, 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the previous day.  Of course, the war became backdrop for many popular songs.

Glenn Miller (1904-1944) was one of the Swing Era’s biggest success story among the big bands.  After many years of struggle to create the sound Miller was looking for, the band finally clicked in 1938.   His recording contract with Bluebird Records produced many hit records and big sales.  This led to network radio broadcasts most notably from the Glen Island Casino, in New Rochelle, New York.

Then, with the United States at War, he gave it all up to volunteer for the Army.  There was no need for him to do so; he was too old for the draft.  But he felt that he could be of service to boost morale for the servicemen.  He was made a Captain in the Army Air Force and put in charge of their band.  Musicians from the swing era bands were being drafted as well and he put their talents to use in the AAF Band.  They made records in London and played live broadcasts both to the troops and propaganda broadcasts beamed over Western Europe.

On the night of December 15, 1944, Glenn Miller, the pilot, and another officer  disappeared on a small aircraft flight from London to Paris.  The airplane was never found and they were all presumed dead.  For more on Glenn Miller, please log on to his Wikipedia link.

So, this recording of Poinciana, my favorite Glenn Miller record, is in memory for all those who died or were wounded in World War II.  Poinciana was based on a Cuban folk song—La cancion del arbor— (Song of the Tree) rewritten and adapted to the swing idiom by Nat Simon with lyric by Buddy Brenier in 1936.  Glenn Miller had used  other arrangements of the song in his civilian bands.

Although it is a coincidence, today is September 11, 2016,  the fifteenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York and the destruction of the Twin Towers.  That struggle is on going; and for the victims of that attack and those killed or injured in the subsequent wars and acts of terror, let us never forget.

Thanks again to Chuck Cecil.  I first heard Poinciana on his Swingin’ Years program…and many times there afterwards as well.

About Richard Rollo

I am a retired Community College Instructor. I taught Political Science 1 American Government for 22 years in Southern California. I am originally from Northern Minnesota. My earliest years were spent in the living quarters of a rural Duluth Winnipeg & Pacific Railway Depot. Then my family joined the great 1950's migration to Southern California where I joined up with fellow baby boomers in overcrowded schools.
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