YALE CONCERT BAND
Thomas C. Duffy, Music Director
"Hands Across the Sea"
Wednesday, May 11, 1994 Hamden Middle School 7:30 p.m.
Forty-first Concert of the Fifty-second Season
Buckle Down Winsocki arr. Jerry Gray
"I Sustain the Wings"
Re-enactment: Captain Glenn Miller & the Army Air Force Technical Training Command Band
Radio broadcast from Yale University's Woolsey Hall, May/June, 1943
American Patrol, At Last, The Volga Boatman, Rhapsody In Blue, The Anvil Chorus
[Radio script "Uncle Sam's Armorers" from the radio broadcast of June 5, 1943]
In The Mood, Moonlight Serenade,
NBC Radio Broadcast: December, 1944
As with the newsreels of the 1940's, this evening's concert has been constructed from pieces of music, the themes of which provide historical and contemporary commentary on the general topic of America and the Allies during the Second World War. Some of the vignettes fall within the category of entertainment, some of historical reference, and some contemporary commentary of the events of the past. The second half is a reconstruction of the Army Air Force Technical Training Command Band, which was stationed on the campus of Yale University in 1943 under the direction of Captain Glenn Miller. From Yale's Woolsey Hall, the AAFTTC Band made five test broadcasts on WEEI from May 29, 1943, through June 19, 1943. Tonight's "broadcast" is made up from materials from those shows, complete with the radio play that was narrated on June 5, 1943, by Pfc. Broderick Crawford. This show will be repeated in London, Normandy, and Paris, as part of the ceremonies surrounding the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day landing.
Glenn Miller At Yale University
Musicians and fans to this day still marvel at the unique assemblage of talent which invaded the Yale campus in the Spring of 1943. Officially, they were the 418th Army Air Forces Band from the Technical School of the AAF Technical Training Command stationed at Yale University. In non-military jargon, and to the delight of area residents, it meant that Glenn Miller was in town.
A man possessed of deep and genuine patriotic sentiment, Miller broke up his enormously successful civilian band the previous year to join the armed forces. Now, as Captain Glenn Miller in the Army Air Corps, he was placed in charge of organizing bands for the AAFTTC.
At a time when so many of the country's finest musicians were entering the service-some voluntarily, some not so-scores of nationally known instrumentalists found themselves in Atlantic City for basic training. From here, Miller was in a position to assign them to various AAF bands throughout the Unites States. As one might expect, he reserved the cream of the crop for the band he, personally, would lead at Yale.
On March 30, 1943, the 418th AAF Band settled into their quarters at 58 Lake Place, the former dormitories of Yale art students. (Three months later, they moved to Durfee Hall in the Old Yale Quadrangle.) A twenty-four piece marching band, which later grew to forty pieces, accompanied the cadets to the New Haven Green for morning review and evening retreat ceremonies.
Jim Harwood was a nineteen year-old trombonist with the Miller band at Yale. He recently reflected on the Captain's modernized approach to martial music. "We would march past the buildings where the guys were taking classes. The windows looked right out into the street and they could see our band parading by. I remember talking to one of those cadets and he said, 'One day, this wall of sound clapped out like a thunderbolt. There was absolute pandemonium in that classroom. Everything broke up. All the guys -even the instructors-ran to the windows and watched the band go down the street!'
"Well, we were playing 'St Louis Blues March' for the first time and that's the kind of impression that made when it was first sprung on them."
To the young admirers of the day's popular bands, many of these musicians were already household names. There was Ray McKinley, the celebrated drummer/vocalist who played with Jimmy Dorsey and co-led a band with Will Bradley. McKinley had just disbanded his own short-lived dance band and came to Yale with four of his sidemen. "Peanuts" Hucko, formerly with the Bradley/McKinley band, came into the outfit on clarinet and tenor. Piano star Mel Powell, baritone saxophonist Chuck Gentry and trumpeter Steve Steck all had played with Benny Goodman. From Artie Shaw came lead alto player and New Haven native Hank Freeman and eventually jazz trumpet soloist Bernie Privin. Guitarist Carmen Mastren had spent three years with Tommy Dorsey. From Miller's own civilian crew were trombonist Jimmy Priddy, lead trumpeter "Zeke" Zarchy, arranger Jerry Gray and bassist "Trigger" Alpert, for whose services Captain Miller had to surrender ten other musicians!
As additional personnel filtered into New Haven, it became evident that Miller's motives extended far beyond simply updating the marches he played for the Training Command. Movie star Tony Martin was assigned to the unit as a vocalist. A highly professional string section was assembled. Actors, writers, announcers-in short, an entire radio production staff-were soon at Miller's disposal. It was his ambition to return to the airwaves with a program showcasing his topnotch orchestra, combined with a brief dramatic segment aimed at recruiting men into the Air Force.
On May 29, 1943, the first of six "test" broadcasts of "I Sustain The Wings" was aired throughout New England over WEEI, Boston. (All but one of these shows emanated from Woolsey Hall.) Broderick Crawford, now a regular member of the unit, served as announcer and acted in the playlet. According to trumpeter Whitey Thomas, a drinking companion to the late actor, "We'd go out in New Haven and he'd teach me how to hit him Hollywood style. You know, making that slapping sound but actually missing his face. Then he'd just lie there on the floor in front of everybody like I knocked him out cold!"
In July, "I Sustain The Wings" was picked up by CBS and broadcast over the network's 106 stations. In September, it switched to the even larger NBC hookup, where they remained until Miller took the band overseas.
Cellist Bob Ripley is a thirty-eight year veteran of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He recently shared his reaction to the Miller experience. "I knew of Glenn Miller as a kid growing up in high school. I wasn't that interested in jazz or popular music but I did go to dances and I knew about top bands. Of all of them, the only one I really liked was the Glenn Miller Band. To find out that he was in the army and that I was going to be in his outfit was just incredible."
"We would rehearse with the arrangers early in the week for our weekend broadcast from New York. Glenn would come in on a Thursday. He wouldn't touch the thing until the arrangers had worked with us the first two or three days. I'll never forget that first Thursday morning. In walked Glenn Miller while we were playing. Oh, boy, my heart jumped a beat! I was really nervous but excited by it. Just the way he walked into the room. You could feel he was taking charge instantly. Here was the boss. No question about it. And he worked so fast. He made corrections and changed things without hesitation.
"'Bring this up an octave. Change this part here.' He probably couldn't have written the arrangements himself, though from what he heard he knew exactly what he wanted."
Throughout 1943, the unit continued to expand in size and reputation. Johnny Desmond, often referred to as the "G.I. Sinatra", replaced Tony Martin who left for Officer Candidate School. The orchestra recorded their first V-Discs at the end of October. These twelve inch 78's were recorded exclusively for distribution to servicemen and were not sold to the public. A sixteen piece dance band, led by Cpl. Ray McKinley, began a series of broadcasts direct from Byers Hall entitled, "Wings For Tomorrow". The string section followed suit a month later with their fifteen minute, "Strings With Wings" program.
In addition to radio work the Miller band also appeared at numerous War Bond rallies where they helped raise countless sums of cash for Uncle Sam. With Yale as their base, they traveled to other towns in Connecticut and neighboring states where the price of admission was the purchase of a war bond.
According to Jim Harwood, "we were pretty busy during that year and a half at Yale. A lot of that stuff was after we'd done our full day's work there in New Haven. Aside from our weekend trips to New York for the radio show, we seldom stayed out overnight. We'd get in army trucks and go as far as eighty or ninety miles away to do a bond rally, WAC recruiting drive or hospital appearance. Then we'd come back to Yale and be up at the crack of dawn for the first parade."
The outfit's official designation changed from the 418th AAF Band to the 2nd AAFTTC Radio Unit to the 2001st AAF Base Unit for Radio Production. Regardless of its military moniker, this remained an uncanny collection of premier players under the baton of the man who, in civilian life, was America's most beloved bandleader.
"Glenn was sort of business like," recalls saxophonist Hank Freeman. "It was like he was the head of a big corporation. He had that kind of mind. But Glenn did an awful lot for musicians during the war. I don't think he turned anybody down. He would find an AAF band for all the guys that contacted him."
Freeman should know. He was in the 102nd Infantry, stationed at Camp Blanding, Florida. "It was like a nightmare. We were on maneuvers in Louisiana and found ourselves sleeping with snakes and scorpions. I wrote home to New Haven and told my folks I was going to shoot myself if they didn't get me out of there."
In the meantime, Miller was organizing his band and, knowing that Hank was in the service, called his family to learn of the sax player's whereabouts. A grateful Hank Freeman adds, "Right after I wrote that letter home, I got a wire from Glenn-'Don't shoot yourself, sweetheart. You're coming with me!'"
Similar circumstances prevailed with violinist Fredy Ostrovsky, a friend of Bob Ripley's since their days at Tanglewood. "I was in the 95th Infantry Division. They eventually went to Italy with very heavy casualties. But I've always felt, quite seriously, that in many ways Robert saved my life because he was the one that was able to get me into the band."
By the spring of 1944, the string section had swollen to an even twenty with the addition of Sgt. David Sackson on violin. (Could Glenn really tell the difference between fourteen and fifteen violins?) The former conductor of the Charleston Symphony, Sackson was quite impressed with the musicianship he found at his new assignment. "Coming from a concert world to the Glenn Miller Band, I was absolutely floored," says Sackson. "Now, I'm a naive guy. I know exactly what it's all about when you mention Beethoven, Brahms and so forth. In a quartet, all you do is work for precision-four people playing as one. Well, here I see six saxes and a five-man trumpet section whose precision is just unbelievable. And the sound of four muted trombones taking half a chorus on 'Blue Champagne'? Why, I almost swooned!"
On June 6, 1944, Captain Glenn Miller and the full orchestra left New Haven for a tour of major American cities, in connection with the Fifth War Loan Drive. Simultaneously, across many miles of open sea, a drive of much greater magnitude had begun on the beaches of Normandy. Perhaps coincidentally, Miller's tour was cut short after appearing in St. Louis and Chicago and the band was ordered back to New Haven.
After many months of waiting for permission to take his band overseas, Miller finally received his orders. "Glenn was very patriotic," says Bob Ripley. "He felt he wasn't doing his bit unless he was up as close to the front as he could get playing for the guys who were getting shot."
On the morning of June 19th, the Miller bandsmen vacated their quarters at Yale. For fifteen months, New Haven had been the home of what many consider the greatest band ever assembled. Lt. Don Haynes and sixty-one enlisted men left to board the jam-packed "Queen Elizabeth", en route to the ETO where they would entertain hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers.
As for Captain Miller, he left New York by plane to secure accommodations for his incoming orchestra....It would be a flight without incident.
-Robert A. Ronzello
[Robert Ronzello is a resident of New Britain, Ct., and an authority on the life and music of Glenn Miller.]
NBC Radio Broadcast: December 1944: ..."President Roosevelt, in the Christmas message to the American people, revealed that Germany still has plenty of reserves, supplies, and military power left and that we are still confronted with a hard fight. The President hinted that this war may not be over even by the end of next year, although he expressed the hope that we might find ourselves at peace by next Christmas.
American Headquarters in Paris announced today that Major Glenn Miller, Director of the Army Air Forces Band and a former popular orchestra leader in the United States, is missing on a flight from England to Paris. Miller left England on December 15th, a passenger aboard a plane. No trace of the plane has been found since. His Air Force Band had been playing in Paris, but no member of the Band was with him on the plane...and that's this morning's news from around the world."
Captain Glenn Miller and the
Band of the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command-1943
Clarinet: Corporal Peanuts Hucko (Vincent Oneppo)-formerly with Bob Chester, Charlie Spivak, Bradley/McKinley
Alto Saxophones: Sergeant Hank Freeman (Colby Keith)-formerly with Artie Shaw; Private Jack Ferrier (Michael Goldberg)-formerly with Woody Herman, Bob Crosby
Tenor Saxophone: Private Vince Carbone (Elizabeth Branch)-formerly with Teddy Powell; Corporal Peanuts Hucko (Dylan Pfeifer)
Baritone/Alto Saxophone: Private First Class Chuck Gentry (Andrew Ryder)-formerly with Jimmy Dorsey, Harry James, Benny Goodman
American Patrol: Sergeant Whitey Thomas (Stanton Wheeler)-formerly with Isham Jones, Tommy Reynolds
Volga Boatman: Private First Class Steve Steck (Else Festersen)-formerly with Benny Goodman
Rhapsody in Blue: Staff Sergeant Rubin "Zeke" Zarchy (Adam Miller)
Anvil Chorus: Staff Sergeant Rubin "Zeke" Zarchy (Adam Miller)
In the Mood: Private First Class Jack Steele (Molly Whalen)
Horns: Corporal Addison S. Collins, Jr. (James Szinger), Private First Class Carl Swanson (Tova Leigh)
Trombones: Corporal Jimmy Priddy (Corby Boldissar), Private First Class Jim Harwood (Mark Gahm), Private First Class John Halliburton (Barry Setlow), Private Larry Hall (Dave Altman)
Rhythm: piano, Corporal Mel Powell (Syam Gadde)-formerly with Benny Goodman; guitar, Private Carmen Mastren (Roger Taylor); bass, Corporal Trigger Alpert (Richard Chapple); drums, Corporal Ray McKinley (Jim Allen)
At Last: vocals, Private Bob Houston (Ethan Nash). Radio Script: Private First Class Broderick Crawford (Dave Adelman, Ben Rota), Private Damien O'Flynn (Peter Smith), Lieutenant Donald Briggs (Dave Adelman). Captain Miller's monologues are taken from radio broadcasts between May 29 and June 12, 1943 for the "I Sustain the Wings" program and from the War Bonds Rally Broadcast from Chicago, Ill., on June 10, 1944, in the Service Men's Club No. 2 (for monologue with In The Mood and Moonlight Serenade).
Back to index of works