World War II veteran played trumpet in Glenn Miller’s band

Robert Christoferson

U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Robert Christoferson played lead trumpet in one of Glenn Miller’s bands while stationed near Bedford, England during World War II.

His day job was control tower operator for a service base that was responsible for eight surrounding airfields.

Watching the aircraft come and go, he marveled at how the bombers — battered by anti-aircraft fire — were able to make it back after their missions.

“I don’t see how they did it with two engines out on one side, or part of the tail shot off,” he said.

When Christoferson arrived in Bedford in August of 1943, he found he could continue his fledgling trumpet career. He picked up the horn when he was a sophomore in high school and found he had some talent.

“I had good tone, and I was loud,” he said, laughing

He said there was a big, 20-piece band at the base, and they were looking for players.

It didn’t matter the experience level, he said. They were willing to train novice musicians.

Within three months, the band was playing all over.

“It was a thrill to play in front of monster crowds,” he said.

When Miller arrived in June of 1944, his band was deluged with requests to play.

“They had a load that was unbelievable, of requests, and recordings and personal appearances,” Christoferson said. “When they found out they needed more help, our band was drafted into special services, headed by Miller. That took us away from all our military jobs.

“We were the B band … while Miller and his main band were making recordings five days a week, 10 hours a day, somebody had to take care of these requests to play at different air bases. That was our job.

“‘Moonlight Serenade,’ ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo,’ ‘Pennsylvania 6-5000,’” he said, rattling off some of the songs on the band’s play list.

Christoferson had been playing a military-issue trumpet, but wanting to take his performance up a notch, he sent home for his new Buescher True Tone trumpet his mom bought for him for $300 in 1941.

“They got a hold of the Red Cross and contacted my mother. She sent the horn to me at the base.”

The new band was assigned a B-24 bomber — with the armament removed and outfitted for the musicians.

“We traveled around to all the bases in France, Belgium.”

Christoferson has a picture, dated Nov. 26, 1944, of himself and a couple of other U.S. Army Air Corps musicians. Glenn Miller also is in the photo and he’s holding Christoferson’s trumpet.

“He wanted to see this trumpet that they’d gone to all that trouble to bring over here,” he said, laughing.

It was the last time he saw Miller.

A little more than two weeks later, a plane carrying the famous band leader went down in the English Channel, on Dec. 15, 1944.

“He shouldn’t have taken off,” Christoferson said. “It was a miserable day. Rainy, windy. He had to leave to go to Paris. We were waiting for him. He never arrived.

“Miller wasn’t very outgoing — he was more of a technical guy,” Christoferson said.

“He wasn’t happy until he got the right sound, but he was an overall nice guy with a lot of talent.”

Christoferson said he’ll never forget the day he returned to the states after the end of the war.

“There were 20,000 soldiers all on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth.”

Nearly three days later, the luxury liner approached the coast of New York.

“Every boat that floated was in the harbor when we came in.”

Name: Robert Christoferson

Age: 89

Born: April 18, 1923

Hometown: Seattle

Residence: Palm Springs/Sun City, Ariz.

Branch of service: U.S. Army Air Corps; 8th Air Force

Years served: May, 1943 – November, 1945

Rank: Private First Class

Family: Wife Amy; five children, Jeff Wilson of Palm Springs, Ronda Ambrosini of Eureka, Randy Christoferson of Foster City, Paul Christoferson of Sacramento, and Marty Langham of Lansing, Mich.

Bandleader Glenn Miller (second from right) checks out Robert Christoferson's trumpet (Christoferson is pictured second from left)

Robert Christoferson

Raul Ruiz tries to make peace with local officers

Just back from the start of freshman orientation in Washington, Rep.-elect Raul Ruiz is already trying to build bridges with those who campaigned against him during the 36th Congressional campaign.

Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, was spotted at today’s Peace Officer and Public Safety Awards luncheon in Palm Desert.

Local police unions began campaigning against Ruiz after audio tapes surfaced that showed Ruiz, as a college student participating in protests, expressed support for Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, two men convicted of killing law enforcement officers.

Ruiz went on to unseat Rep. Mary Bono Mack, a Palm Springs Republican.


Ruiz is certainly not the only elected leader showing their support for local police today.

The Desert Sun also spotted Assemblyman Brian Nestande, a Palm Desert Republican who is widely seen as a challenger to Ruiz in 2014, as well as Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia and Indio Mayor Glenn Miller, who are both likely to run for state office two years.

Ruiz, who is handing out food to needy families on Wednesday in Desert Hot Springs, will return to Washington next week to resume his new member training.

About the photo:

Congressman-elect Raul Ruiz talks to Riverside County Fire Department Indian Wells Firefighter of the Year award recipient Firefighter Paramedic Aaron Keser after the 16th Annual Peace Officer & Public Safety Awards Luncheon in Indian Wells. Photo by Desert Sun photographer Crystal Chatham

Dems, GOP hold get-out-the-vote rallies

Both the Republicans and the Democrats are holding rallies this week as part of the bipartisan effort to get voters to the polls.

Republcians, who held a rally Tuesday night for Rep. Mary Bono Mack, will hold a similar celebration this Thursday. This one is done in conjunction with Indio Mayor Glenn Miller’s campaign. It starts at 6 p.m. at a private home in Indio’s Country Estates. Information: (760) 899-2772

Democrats have three get-out-the-vote rallies planned in partnership with congressional challenger Raul Ruiz’s campaign:

– Saturday: Supporters will meet at 1 p.m. at El Mexicali Cafe in Indio, 82720 Indio Blvd.

– Monday: Democrats will gather at at noon at Frances Stevens Park in Palm Springs. They’ll also meet at 6 p.m. in Coachella at 49-305 Grapefruit Blvd.

Information: (760) 969-8459

In addition, Democratic Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez is holding a get-out the-vote effort Saturday that’s focused on Latino voters. It starts at 3 p.m. at 1494 Sixth Street in Coachella. Actress Rosario Dawson, who co-founded Voto Latino, will be featured.

The event was announced through Perez’s legislative office, indicating it will not be focused on just one candidate’s campaign.

The Riverside County Registrar of Voters expects about 75 percent of all registered voters will cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election. The county is already counting the vote-by-mail ballots that have been cast.

Although Latino voters are traditionally harder to get to the polls, a national survey released this week indicates 87 percent of Latino voters will participate this year.

Updated as of 2 p.m. Nov. 1:

Bono Mack’s campaign has just announced that supporters will rally in San Jacinto on Saturday. Rep. Jerry Lewis, a Redlands Republican who represents many of the western areas in the new 36th, will be among the speakers. The rally starts at 11 a.m. at Estudillo Mansion, 150 S. Dillon Ave.