From DZ Europe: The story of the 440th Troop Carrier Group
Whenever there’s an army, there is music. Military music for the formalities of parades and retreats and, usually, sweet swing and “hot licks” for the free-time hours.
The men of the 440th Troop Carrier Group, having with them no bandsmen officially assigned, soon filled the musical gap by the creation, under Major Robert W. Hanson, of the “Serenaders,” a fifteen-piece orchestra composed of volunteers from the line-crews, headquarters squadrons and other offices and units of the Group.
Working on their own time, and working arduously, the “Serenaders” developed into a crack dance orchestra whose members – with no fanfare of publicity about the fact – did wonders for the morale of these Troop Carrier boys overseas.
In addition to their regular daylight duties, the “Serenaders doubled in brass – literally – in the military band, which in the full regalio of gleaming helmets, white belts and leggings to contrast their OD uniforms, made gala those formal celebrations in which the 440th participated. Captain Donald G. Genung and his band members received high praise from the members of the 440th.
“I was their lead alto sax player and that is me in the center of the front row. When I arrived in Orleans, France in mid January 1945, there was an attempt to expand the original band. They noticed on my officer record that I played a saxophone in the high school band. I was approached to see if I would volunteer and I was more than happy to join. Another glider pilot, Jack Seawright, a recent replacement had been a trumpet player and also volunteered.
“We had no band leader at first. Major Hanson, the 98th TCS ex officer played a ukulele and offered to be our band leader. He promised to help us obtain transportation to the many tours that we eventually took into Paris and many other Troop Carrier bases in France plus a flight to the forward base where we played for the troops. We accepted his offer and that started a very rewarding experience.
“We played at the Rainbow Corners one time and on May 8, 1945, we were playing a show at the Grande Hotel when the war officially ended. What a night and what a celebration. One soldier came up to the band stand and asked for Major Hanson’s autograph. When he looked at the signature, he was disappointed as he thought that we were the Glenn Miller band and Hanson was the famous Glenn Miller, who by that time was missing on a flight from England to France. That evening show was recorded and broadcast back to the USA.”
Roster of the Serenaders:
Top Row (L-R):
Maj. Robert Hanson, 98th TCS, bandmaster
Warren Reinhold, 97th TCS, trumpet
Jim Delabar, 440th TCG HQ, trumpet
Flight Officer Jack Seawright, 98th TCS, trumpet
T/Sgt. Lou “Viggie” Viggiano, 440th TCG HQ, drums
Sgt. Ralph Hils, 98th TCS, bass
Tom Fulton, 95th TCS, piano
Middle Row (L-R):
Sgt. Cal Jordan, 98th TCS, trombone
Dick Reese, 95th TCS, trombone
George Fredericks, 440th TCG HQ, trombone
Front Row (L-R):
Myron Herschler, 440th TCG HQ, saxophone
Joe Antonnuccio, 98th TCS, saxophone
Flight Officer George Theis, 98th TCS, saxophone
Sgt. George Cowand, 98th TCS, saxophone
S/Sgt. Alex Stratigos, 96th TCS, vocals