I met Joel Freedman in the summer of 2012, shortly after Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last was published, when I saw his commentary in the local Canandaigua, N.Y. newspaper, the Daily Messanger. During the days surrounding the 75th anniversary of Amelia’s last flight, Joel was the only writer in America who recalled Fred Goerner’s book and his seminal work on Saipan in 1960, work that firmly established Amelia’s presence and death there following her loss in July 1937. I wrote about Joel’s article in a July 7, 2012 posting. Freedman is a community activist of sorts, and writes in support of many worthwhile projects including mental health patients’ and animal rights.
On Dec. 2 another fine commentary from Joel appeared in the Daily Messenger, headlined “Public needs truth about Earhart.” The guest column would also be run by several other sister papers in the Rochester area. Readers might recall that it was Joel Freedman who convinced the Knoxville News Sentinel in October 2012 to run his book review along with another feature story and photos in their local news section. The News Sentinel coverage remains the best we’ve received thus far, and along with the Daily Messenger and a scant few others, is a rare exception to the establishment’s continuing blackout of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
There may not be conclusive answers to such questions, but “Amelia Earhart: The Truth At Last,” a book written by Mike Campbell, a Navy veteran and a Jacksonville, Fla., journalist, answers many questions about what really happened to Earhart and Fred Noonan, her navigator, after their disappearance on July 2, 1937.
When American Marines liberated Saipan in 1944, island natives gave accounts of two white pilots, a male and female, who were imprisoned and buried on Saipan. It is uncertain whether Earhart died from maltreatment and disease or whether she was executed by the Japanese. There is evidence Noonan was probably executed by the Japanese. The islanders were told the two were American spies were picked up in the ocean. American Marines, under the direction of Military Intelligence, disinterred the remains of two individuals they were told were from Earhart’s burial site.
As a radio message code clerk in the communications center of the 8th Marine Regiment on Saipan in July 1944, Marine Cpl. Earskin J. Nabers of Baldwyn, Miss., decoded the top-secret message announcing the discovery of Earhart’s plane. A few days later, Nabers decoded the order, originating in the Oval Office, to destroy the plane. Nabers said he personally witnessed its torching by Marines under the direction of at least one civilian operative.
Another Marine, Robert Sosbe of Antwerp, Ohio, said he monitored radio communications during and after the liberation of Saipan. He said he heard discussion about finding the graves of Earhart and Noonan. He also claimed he saw the burning of a two-engine airplane shortly thereafter.
Marine veteran Stanley Serzan of Orange City, Fla., a retired Bayonne, N.J., police officer, said he saw several photos of Earhart and Noonan found on a dead Japanese officer on Saipan.
Robert Wallack of Woodbridge, Conn., another Saipan veteran, said he found an attache case containing “official-looking papers all concerning Amelia Earhart,” which he gave to a Navy officer
Arthur Nash of Kaneohe, Hawaii, a P-47 pilot whose carrier-based squadron landed at Saipan’s Aslito Airfield during the invasion, said he and other members of his unit saw Earhart’s plane outside a hangar at the airfield shortly after their arrival on Saipan.
Fifty years ago, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who commanded American naval forces in the Pacific during World War II, advised investigative journalist Fred Goerner, author of “The Search for Amelia Earhart,” that “Earhart and her companion did go down in the Marshalls and they were picked up by the Japanese.”
In 1966, Marine Gen. Graves B. Erskine, deputy commander of the V Amphibious Corps at the battle of Saipan, told news reporters, “It was established that Earhart was on Saipan. You’ll have to dig the rest out for yourselves.”
For the past several decades, the news media have largely failed to follow up on Erskine’s challenge, focusing instead on coverage of futile searches for Earhart’s plane in the Pacific.
Campbell concludes, “Despite the massive and compelling body of evidence attesting to the fliers’ cruel and ignominious ends on Saipan, Amelia Earhart’s fate remains, in the popular culture’s conventional wisdom and in the history books, as much a mystery now as in the first desperate days following their disappearance.”
It’s high time to set the record straight.