Prymak’s “Radio Logs — Earhart/ITASCA” conclusion: Was she looking for Howland or up to something else?

September 30, 2014

Researchers have long puzzled over Amelia Earhart’s incomprehensible radio behavior as she approached Howland Island, or at least appeared to be approaching her officially stated objective on July 2, 1937. Bill Prymak, a veteran pilot with more than 6,500 hours in private aircraft since 1960, studied the messages for years before presenting his conclusions in his December 1993 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter analysis, “Radio Logs — Earhart/ITASCA.”

Prymak was convinced that “a third-rate amateur back alley script writer with absolutely no aviation background would not have done a worse job [operating the radio], except for one perfectly executed objective: transmit so that nobody can cut a fix on you!” Recalling his experience with a partial engine failure off the New England coast in the mid-1970s, Prymak said he could have easily been killed. “So I grabbed my only lifeline — the radio, and ‘Maydayed’ on 121.5 and got the Coast Guard,” he wrote. “My most vivid memory of the incident was my refusing for even one second to let go (i.e. stop talking) with the voice at the other end of the line. I felt I was going to die without him!”

In my previous post we saw the rest of Prymak’s analysis of Amelia’s strange messages and incomprehensible behavior throughout the final hours of her last flight. Today we present Bill’s conclusions about what all this might have really meant.

Bill Prymak, a veteran pilot with more than 6,500 hours in private aircraft since 1960, studied the messages for years before presenting his conclusions in his December 1993 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter analysis, titled Radio Logs - Earhart/ITASCA."

Bill Prymak, a veteran pilot with more than 6,500 hours in private aircraft since 1960, studied Amelia’ final radio messages for years before presenting his conclusions in his December 1993 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter analysis, titled “Radio  Logs — Earhart/ITASCA.”

“Radio Logs – Earhart/Itasca” (Part 2)

A SUMMARY ANALYSIS OF THE ABOVE

1. To answer advocates of “crashed at sea near Howland”:

Assuming leaky tanks and sloppy (read “rich”) mixture settings, and that she did run out of fuel immediately after 0844 HIT (Howland Island Time) transmission; at worst-case altitude of 1,000 feet. At  the very first sign of an engine sputter, without any doubt (ask ANY pilot), she would have “MAYDAYED” over the radio, exhorting the ITASCA for help.

No matter what the mission – pleasure, flight, spy mission, overt, covert, you call it – Amelia Earhart suddenly becomes the pilot for none of the above. Instead, she is a frightened human being about to crash and possibly die, and she simply MUST reach out for the only lifeline possible – the radio.

How much time does she have from the first engine sputter to splash-down? Plenty. Twin-engine airplanes don’t have simultaneous engine quit from fuel exhaustion. Pilots who have experienced twin-engine fuel failures have invariably stated that one engine goes first, and the second engine quits several minutes later. The Electra, light on fuel and cabin weight, could easily have stayed aloft on one engine – there would have been plenty of time for a radio MAYDAY. It simply defies all logic that AE would refuse to send a MAYDAY if fuel exhaustion near Howland Island was indeed the case. She certainly had the time and a working radio transmitter.

2. The “LAND IN SIGHT” message comes 3 hours, 16 minutes after the infamous 0844 “LINE OF POSITION” message. (See previous post regarding this alleged message.)

If the Electra was somewhat northwest of Howland Island, this time frame, plus Art Kennedy’s fuel calculations, would put Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands as a most logical candidate for the “Land in sight” observation. Many authors and researchers have narrowed their search to focus on Mill, plus the flood of native witnesses (some even from Saipan) who have corroborated the above. Read Don Wilson’s excellent book Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend,  which also supports the above. Didn’t Amelia tell several people before she embarked on the last flight that if she became lost she would head in a westerly direction? (Editor’s note: See previous post for relevant comments on the alleged “Land in Sight” message.)

3. A FEW THORNS AMONGST THE ROSES?

There have been more than a few (some of the armchair variety) critics who have criticized and rebuked Amelia’s flying skills. Let them try flying a heavy, noisy airplane with crude autopilot capabilities for some 10 to 20 hours at a stretch, over vast oceans, hostile unexplored deserts and mountains, through monsoon rains of unimaginable intensities, with virtually no radio navigation aids to help find your way, with no decent charts for visual reference.

Some of these critics can’t even hack a 12-hour flight in luxuriously pampered cushy comfort on a 747! I have nothing but the greatest admiration for Amelia’s skills as a pilot. That has been proven time and time again from Miami to Lae. Piloting skills and radio skills are two distinct and separate endeavors. The former has been aptly demonstrated, but the latter has from time to time come under sharp criticism. From people who knew her personally:

ART KENNEDY:  “I think that a lot of the questions about her lack of using the radio correctly is because she would not learn how it worked or how to properly operate it. To me she had no real knowledge of what any radio could do. When Paul (Mantz) tried to teach her she just nodded and said, “#%*$¢! I will just turn the knobs until I get what I want.’” (Editor’s note: Kennedy had much more to say about Amelia, the Electra and what he claimed she told him in Hawaii before and after ground-looped the Electra at Luke Field in March 1937. We’ll be hearing from Kennedy in future posts.)

PAUL RAFFORD JR.:  Paul tells the story of how his PAN AM Division Radio Engineer met with AE at Miami to discuss radio and suggested several possible changes to increase safety and better radio capability. To his surprise and chagrin Amelia brushed him off with, “I don’t need that! I’ve got a navigator to tell me where I am!”

Radio room of USCG Tahoe, sister ship to Itasca, circa 1937 Three radio logs were maintained during the flight, at positions 1 and 2 in the Itasca radio room, and one on Howland Island, where the Navy's high-frequency direction finder had been set up. Aboard Itasca, Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts supervised three third class radiomen—Gilbert E. Thompson, Thomas J. O'Hare, and William L. Galten.  Many years later, Galten told Paul Rafford Jr., a former Pan Am Radio flight officer, “That woman never intended to land on Howland Island.”

Radio room of USCG Cutter  Tahoe, sister ship to Itasca, circa 1937.  Three radio logs were maintained during the flight, at positions 1 and 2 in the Itasca radio room, and one on Howland Island, where the Navy’s high-frequency direction finder had been set up. Aboard Itasca, Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts supervised  Gilbert E. Thompson, Thomas J. O’Hare and William L. Galten, all third-class radiomen,  (meaning they were qualified and “rated” to perform their jobs). Many years later, Galten told Paul Rafford Jr., a former Pan Am Radio flight officer, “That woman never intended to land on Howland Island.”

(Itasca Skipper) Commander Warner K. Thompson and others have made depreciating remarks about her radio skills, but evidence has come forth that Fred Noonan did have a 2nd class Radio Operator’s License, certainly enough for slow Morse Code work and adequate communication skills. So somebody indeed was on board who could have managed the radio during the difficult last hours of the flight. (Editor’s note: Amelia had announced before the world flight that she would not communicate in code, but use voice only. Some have claimed that she left her Morse code key behind with the trailing antenna at Miami. The big question is why she took these actions, which appear to be so counterintuitive and destructive to her stated mission’s success.)

4. PUTTING THE RADIO LOG TIME LAPSES IN PROPER PERSPECTIVE:

The vast amount of time between Earhart’s communications to Itasca has always troubled me, and for some it may be difficult to see and comprehend this enormous time gap, so join me in this little exercise: Let us consider RADIO LOG times from 0512 to 0844 (HIT). That represents some three and one-half hours, or 212 minutes. Now take a roll of fax paper 8½” wide by 5-feet long and assign one minute of time to each normal line used for typing. Now insert the 0512 message at the top of the page; it will consume one line (one minute). Then skip 63 lines and insert the next Earhart message at time 0615. Next we skip 31 lines and insert the 0646 message, and so on until the last message 0844 is near the bottom of  the 5-foot-long roll of paper. The galactic void between messages is staggering! Something is terribly wrong; these voids must be considered as “windows of opportunity” that any prudent pilot, lost over a vast ocean and in imminent peril of crash-landing into the sea, would certainly take advantage of.

5. PLEASURE FLIGHT? COVERT MISSION? SPY MISSION?

These are the million dollar questions that have plagued us since day ONE.  The State Department, the Japanese, or perhaps some obscure WWII veteran will someday surface with the final indisputable truth.  The AMELIA EARHART SOCIETY’S efforts hopefully will hasten that day. I don’t drink, but when that day comes, I’ll tag one on BIGTIME! (End of Prymak analysis.)

In future posts we’ll begin presenting and examining the ideas of the elder statesman of Earhart researchers, Paul Rafford Jr., the former Pan Am flight radio officer, who flew with men who knew Fred Noonan and talked to technicians who worked on Earhart’s plane. Rafford’s work is legendary among students and fans of the Earhart case.  First, however, I’ll do a recap of my two-hour presentation to the South Sectional Meeting of the Ninety-Nines at Wichita, Kansas on Sept. 27.  Please stay tuned.


Bill Prymak, radio experts analyze Amelia Earhart’s bizarre radio behavior during her last flight

September 16, 2014

When Amelia Earhart took off from Lae, New Guinea at 10 a.m. local time on July 2, 1937, the challenge she faced seemed clear-cut. Her stated destination was a landing strip on Howland Island, 2,556 statute miles distant, a speck in the wide Pacific, about 1,900 miles southwest of Honolulu and 200 miles east of the International Dateline. They would be crossing two time zones and the dateline, “flying into yesterday,” so to speak, scheduled to arrive July 2 at Howland several hours before the time they departed Lae on the same date. But though the flight had never before been attempted, Amelia seemingly had every reason to be confident of success.

First, she had the best airborne navigator in the world, Fred Noonan, a veteran of the historic round-trip China Clipper flight between San Francisco and Honolulu in April 1935, who had mapped Pan Am’s clipper routes across the Pacific Ocean, participating in many flights to Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. Her Electra was loaded with 1,150 gallons of fuel and had an estimated range of 4,000 miles.  Her expected flight time ranged between 20 and 23 hours or so, depending on varying wind effects on the Electra’s average speed. Her radio equipment, though primitive by today’s standards, was the latest three-channel Western Electric equipment of the type then being used by the airlines to provide one channel at 500 kc and the other two at around 3000 and 6000 kc (kilocycles; 3105 and 6210 kc).

This photo is said to be the last taken before the flyers’ July 2 takeoff from Lae, New Guinea.  Mr. F.C.  Jacobs of the New Guinea Gold Mining Company stands between Amelia and Fred.  Note that Fred looks chipper and ready to go, not hung over from a night of drinking, as has been alleged.

This photo is said to be the last taken before the flyers’ July 2 takeoff from Lae, New Guinea. Mr. F.C. Jacobs of the New Guinea Gold Mining Company stands between Amelia and Fred. Note that Fred looks chipper and ready to go, not hung over from a night of drinking, as has been alleged.

But Amelia had a history of being a bit cavalier about radio communications, and for still unknown reasons, she left her trailing antenna at Miami, which severely limited her ability to transmit with any significant power on the all-important 500 kc frequency. This severely limited the range at which the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca could obtain a fix on the Electra as it approached Howland, and was only the beginning of the entire weird chain of events leading to Amelia’s failure to reach Howland.

Much has been written about Amelia’s final flight, and since we have a detailed record of radio receptions and transmissions between  Itasca and Earhart (see “Radio Transcripts – Earhart Flight”) before she disappeared, researchers have long sought the answers to the so-called Earhart mystery in the logs and other records. But though the “solution” has never existed in the air, and we already know where she landed and where she died, important clues that suggest what was actually going on during those final hours can indeed be gleaned by the discerning eye.

Amelia’s first intelligible message wasn’t received at Lae until more than four hours after her departure. At 2:18 p.m., Lae radio operator Harry Balfour heard, “HEIGHT 7000 FEET SPEED 140 KNOTS and a remark that sounded like “EVERYTHING OKAY.’” Balfour sent weather reports until 5:20 p.m., but none were acknowledged by Amelia. At 3:19 p.m., she reported, “HEIGHT 10000 FEET POSITION 150.7 east 7.3 south CUMULUS CLOUDS EVERYTHING OKAY.” At 5:18 p.m. (0718 GMT), her position was “4.33 SOUTH 159.7 EAST HEIGHT 8000 FEET OVER CUMULUS CLOUDS WIND 23 KNOTS.” This put the Electra just southwest of the Nukumanu Islands, on track about one-third of the way on course to Howland.

This was the official flight plan, 2,556 statute miles from Lae to Howland.  The 337-157 line of position, or sun line passed through the Phoenix Islands, near Gardner, now known as Nikumaroro, and the popular theory, though completely false, is in part attributable to this phenomena.

This was the official flight plan, 2,556 statute miles from Lae to Howland Island. The 337-157 line of position, or sun line passed through the Phoenix Islands, near Gardner, now known as Nikumaroro. The massively publicized theory that the fliers landed there, though completely false, is in part attributable to this phenomena.

The plane had covered about 846 miles at a ground speed of just 118 miles per hour. At 6 p.m. Lae time, Earhart signed off with Balfour before she attempted to establish contact with Itasca, something that most agree never really happened. She told Balfour she was changing from 6210 to 3105, her nighttime frequency. “She told me that she wished to contact the … Itasca,” Balfour wrote, “so there was nothing we could do about it but pass the last terminal forecast to her and the upper air report from Ocean Island.” Balfour recalled Earhart’s last position as “somewhere in the vicinity of Ocean Island” and that she was “on course for Howland at 12,000 feet.”

In keeping with my previously stated theme of returning to some of the great articles published in Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters from 1989 to 2000, the following analysis, written by Bill for the December 1993 AES Newsletter, is presented. In following posts we will continue to explore the complexities of the Earhart radio conundrum, and will examine the work of a few of the finest analysts to examine this always-perplexing riddle, including Paul Rafford Jr., the former Pan Am radio flight officer, and Almon Gray, the late Navy Reserve captain and PAA China Clipper flight officer.

A view of Howland Island that Amelia Earhart never enjoyed. The island, a property of the United States, remains uninhabited, but is quite poplar among various wildlife that nests and forages there.

A view of Howland Island that Amelia Earhart never enjoyed. The island, a property of the United States, remains uninhabited by humans, though it’s quite popular among various birds and other wildlife that nests and forages there.

Today we present Bill Prymak’s informative and amusing 1993 essay to give us a glimpse into the Electra’s cockpit that fateful morning. Instead of setting off his piece with distracting quotation marks throughout, I will simply indent it slightly, and will clearly indicate when today’s segment ends. Now, from the December 1993 AES Newsletter:   

Radio Log — EARHART/ITASCA 

The following are my thoughts on a subject that has been beaten to death by every researcher — real or armchair, but I’m taking an approach perhaps never looked at–or discussed, so bear with me, and try to follow my reasoning.  The radio log is looked at from a new perspective.

Study the FINAL RADIO LOG [see The Itasca Radio Logs].  A third-rate amateur back alley script writer with absolutely no aviation background could not have done a worse job, except for one perfectly executed objective: TRANSMIT SO THAT NOBODY, BUT NOBODY CAN CUT A FIX ON YOU! INDEED, THE TRANSMISSIONS PROVE THIS!

Hundreds have dissected to ad nauseam the words, the time logs, voice pitch, etc., but nobody to my knowledge has ever, as PIC (Pilot In Command) put themselves in her shoes and really chronologically played out the events and thoughts about how a frightened person, ABOUT TO DIE, would, and should have reacted. Am I qualified to make this analysis? You can bet your buppies I am. Twenty-five years ago, as PIC 20 miles off the coast of New England, I suffered a partial engine failure, and, yes, I felt that I could easily die right then and there. So I grabbed my only lifeline — the radio, and “maydayed” on 121.5 and got the Coast Guard. My most vivid memory of the incident was my refusing for even one second to let go (i.e. stop talking) with the voice at the other end of the line. I felt I was going to die without him! I thus regard myself qualified to interpret AE’s feelings during the time period of the ITASCA RADIO LOG.

Keeping the above mental frame of mind that a distressed PIC would have, let’s take a look at the TIME LAPSES BETWEEN HER TRANSMISSIONS: (Earhart’s messages are bolded and set off by quotation marks.)

0345 (Howland Island Time): BROADCAST ON 3105 KC ON HOUR AND HALF-HOUR – OVERCAST.”  (This is radio chatter totally unbecoming a pilot.)

0512: “WANT BEARING ON 3105 KC ON HOUR, WILL WHISTLE IN MICROPHONE.”

ANALYSIS: She needs bearing, she is beginning to feel unsure of her position “Hey, this is getting serious. What the hell am I doing over this uncharted ocean without an absolute, positive fix? Can Fred really find that fly-speck of an island without a radio DF [direction finder] Fix? I better get cranking on that radio. ” And yet, after the above probable mindset, Earhart waits 63 minutes (over one hour), an eternity considering her plight, before she transmits again:

0615: “TAKE BEARING ON 3105 KC” Whistles briefly.

ANALYSIS:  Above totally incorrect, inappropriate, and certainly not what a lost (YES, she is lost because she is unsure of where she is!) pilot would be “’working” with what she may possibly feel is her last lifeline before death. I would expect a professional (and by now a very worried) pilot to say something like the following: “EARHART TO ITASCA … EARHART TO ITASCA … I DO NOT READ YOU … GIVING YOU A LONG COUNT … 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 … 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 … ANSWER ON 3105 KC REQUEST BEARING TO YOUR POSITION.”

And the above transmission, or words to that effect, would be repeated over and over again with never more than a minute break in between, and per Paul Mantz’s and Harry Manning’s teachings, she would have thrown in additional chatter to fill in more time to enable Itasca to get a good DF fix on her. She certainly would have asked “What are your local winds and weather? Can you push up some smoke to help us see you? Please respond, we are not hearing you. Our present flight conditions are … ”  She does none of the above, and is silent for another 31 minutes before the next recorded message.

0646: “TAKE A BEARING. ABOUT 200 MILES OUT.  POSITION DOUBTFUL.”

ANALYSIS: She’s now tired, lost, with gas gauges creeping towards zero, and the above message is so casual and insubstantial that it makes you wonder if she didn’t spend the last 31 minutes manicuring her fingernails! Something is terribly cut of sync.

After the 0646 transmission we have no material or technical reason to suspect any degradation of her transmitting capability, in fact her signals to the ITASCA are getting stronger. So it is with utter disbelief that Earhart waits nearly one full hour before (0742) her next transmission. She’s now been more than 19 hours in a hot, cramped, noisy and smelly cockpit, she has no idea where she is, she hasn’t heard one peep out of the ITASCA, she must be dead tired, totally drained. It would be such a tremendous lift for her if she could hear a friendly and assuring voice from the outside world. And yet for one full hour … she says nothing! I can’t believe it! It would break the droning monotony, plus avail the only opportunity to reach the outside world (AND ULTIMATE SAFETY) if she would pick up the mike and TALK! It doesn’t cost one plug nickel or one drop of gas to talk on the radio, which at this time could be their only hope of avoiding very deadly consequences.

0742: “WE MUST BE ON YOU BUT CANNOT SEE YOU, GAS RUNNING LOW.  UNABLE TO REACH YOU BY RADIO. FLYING AT 1000 FEET.”

ANALYSIS: Does this sound like a coerced preplanned program she was obliged to follow, to be broadcast at a certain pre-determined time? Could Paul Rafford be correct in his statements that quite possibly this whole affair was pre-recorded? Note all of her transmissions were deliberately shortened to preclude the ITASCA from taking a DF fix on her. She knew the time required; certainly Fred knew the same time required for ITASCA to take a fix.

0758: “WE ARE CIRCLING BUT CANNOT SEE ISLAND. CANNOT HEAR YOU. GO AHEAD ON 7500 kc WITH LONG COUNT EITHER NOW OR ON HALF HOUR.”

ANALYSIS: This message is totally non-conforming with the life- threatening saga unfolding before Amelia and Fred. They are lost. They are low on fuel. They’re both beat, and probably very frightened. The message from Earhart should have added: “FORGET THE HALF HOUR SCHEDULE: REPLY NOW AND CONTINUE TO REPLY UNTIL WE CONFIRM READING YOU. CAN YOU SEE OR HEAR US? ARE YOU SENDING UP SMOKE? CAN YOU GIVE US ANY CLOUD CLUES IN ANY DIRECTION?” Amelia would have continued transmitting, if only to give ITASCA more time for the DF fix. In her plight, growing more ominous by the minute, it is inconceivable that she did not constantly transmit to increase her chances of establishing a lifeline.

Finally, a small communication breakthrough is achieved. Earhart finally receives a signal but it is inadequate for her to get a direction fix. At 0803 she responds to ITASCA:

0803: “WE RECEIVED YOUR SIGNAL BUT UNABLE TO GET MINIMUM. PLEASE TAKE BEARING ON US AND ANSWER ON 3105.”

This was followed by a series of long dashes to ITASCA but they were unable to get a DF fix. See Captain Almon Gray’s excellent dissertation (elsewhere in this newsletter) for the best answer regarding why AE could not hear ITASCA. Note that there is a total absence of any urgency on the part of Earhart. Considering her situation, she should have been “’glued to her microphone” in a continuous attempt to establish two-way communications with ITASCA.

After the above transmission, strangely there is no further word from Earhart until some 40 minutes later. Forty minutes! That’s an eternity! What the blazes was she doing for 40 minutes, since it must be assumed, considering the strong signals, that any transmitting done by AE would have been received by ITASCA. Was she manicuring Fred’s fingernails? Or was a different, covert plan already put into action?

0844: “WE ARE ON A LINE OF POSITION 157/337. WE WILL REPEAT THIS MESSAGE ON 6210 kc. RUNNING NORTH AND SOUTH.”

At 20 hours and 14 minutes after lifting off from Lae, Amelia Earhart transmitted her last officially acknowledged radio message. Let the [Rollin] Reinecks and other navigation gurus battle over the true meaning of the above words “LINE OF POSITION 157/337.” There seems to be colossal differences over the true meaning of the phrase.

Captain Gray’s analysis of the message received by Nauru (at noon Howland time, as reported by Fred Goerner in the first edition of The Search for Amelia Earhart) is convincing evidence that Earhart did set down on land. There has been much controversy over the Electra’s ultimate time-in-air before fuel exhaustion. Let me set the record straight. This issue was discussed at length with Art Kennedy, who had overhauled her engines prior to the second attempt, and who calibrated her engines with PRATT & WHITNEY factory test equipment.

We carefully went over his test cell engine records, and barring fuel-cell leakage and gross mixture-control mismanagement, she had between 4.5 and 5.5 hours of fuel remaining after her 0844 transmission. This calculation by Kennedy is superior to any Lockheed literature. Therefore, it is my conclusion that she had the range to reach either the Gilbert Islands, or the lower part of the Marshall Islands, notably Mill Atoll, where so many researchers have placed her landing site.

Based on the above it’s tough to convince any serious researcher that she really intended to land at Howland Island. Frankly, I would have trashed as garbage the above RADIO LOG if it had not achieved such notoriety from official government channels. It’s a much censored and doctored script that’s a sad imitation of what should have transpired between two professional entities — Amelia Earhart, the professional pi!ot and the well-trained and disciplined crew of the ITASCA.

1200: Received by Nauru Radio on 6210: “LAND IN SIGHT.”

Captain Gray gives good reason why this message is valid: It should be further noted that her 0844 message has AE going to frequency 6210, same as received by Nauru Radio. (End of Radio Log – Earhart/ITASCA.)

It should be noted that this alleged “LAND IN SIGHT” message has been widely disputed, and many believe it was an aberration or false report of a message received by Nauru radio the previous day.  In our next posting, we’ll look at Prymak’s summary and conclusions relative to the above, and consider that it all might mean in terms of trying to divine just what was actually occurring during the final hours of Amelia Earhart’s alleged approach to Howland Island.

 


Did Amelia Earhart’s secretary send the mysterious letter found at Jaluit Post Office in November 1937?

September 4, 2014

With the recent passing of my dear friend Bill Prymak at age 86, we can write finis to a great era of Earhart research. Bill has joined a host of Earhart researchers whose myriad contributions have made an enormous impact in establishing the facts about Amelia’s tragic end on Saipan, and although our current national zeitgeist stands in vehement opposition to their findings becoming widely known anytime soon, the truth will stand the test of time and will someday be revealed to all when the U.S. government finally finds the fortitude to do so. Bill’s death leaves only Paul Rafford Jr., 95, the former Pan American Airways radio flight officer and author of Amelia Earhart’s Radio: Why She Disappeared (2008) and Joe Klaas, 94, Joe Gervais’ close friend who penned the infamous 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives as the only surviving old timers.

Beginning with today’s post, as a tribute to Bill and his formidable contributions to the Earhart saga, I will republish some of the great research articles that graced the pages of his remarkable Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, which he produced, without fanfare or remuneration, and solely for the limited membership of the Amelia Earhart Society in his Broomfield, Colo. office from December 1989 until March 2000.  I know Bill would be happy that his fine work, and that of many others, is honored and shared with the remaining few who continue to seek and value the truth.

This issue of Pacific Islands Monthly is from May 1934. Four years later, the magazine presented missionary Carl Heine's report of finding the strange letter to Amelia Earhart at the Jaluit Post Office.

This issue of Pacific Islands Monthly is from May 1934. Four years later, the magazine presented missionary Carl Heine’s report of finding the strange letter to Amelia Earhart at the Jaluit Post Office on November 1937.

Due to the columnar format of this blog, it won’t always be possible to exactly reproduce the letter-size that comprised Bill’ newsletters, but I’ll do everything possible to present these entries as close to their original look as possible. I’ll also make it clear when the material presented is taken directly from Bill’s AES Newsletters. Today’s article is taken from the May 1991 issue of the newsletters, and looks like this:

FROM: PACIFIC ISLANDS MONTHLY MAGAZINE 5/25/38

POSTAL MYSTERY, UNCLAIMED LETTER FOR AMELIA EARHART

From: Mr. Carl Heine a special correspondent and German missionary in the Marshall Islands, Jaluit Atoll, March 17, 1938

“Here is a curious thing. On November 27, 1937 in the Jaluit Post Office, in the Marshall Islands (Japanese), among the unclaimed mail a certain letter attracted my attention. In its upper left corner was printed ‘Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood California.’  A little lower down appeared the postal date stamp with “Los Angeles, California, October 7, 10 pm,” within the circle, Lower down in the usual place appeared the following stating address:

Miss Amelia Earhart (Putnam); Marshall Islands (Japanese); Ratak Group, Maloelap Island, (10); South Pacific Ocean.”

“Written diagonally across one corner was this, ‘Deliver Promptly.’  On the back of envelope ‘Incognito’ was penciled in very small, fine handwriting. The letter was unopened, and consequently I have no idea of its contents. Now, it seems to me that anyone in U.S.A. writing as late as October, ought to be well aware that Amelia Earhart had been given up as lost long before. Hence, it would appear that the letter may have been written by some one desirous of hoaxing the public. Still, it is just possible that such may not be the case at all.

“Certainly, the writer of the address on the envelope, while making some errors such as anyone at a distance might make, displays a little more geographical knowledge of these parts than one would expect of the average individual, but which one would certainly expect of anyone about to traverse the Pacific, and would be passing this group at a distance of a few hundred miles.

“It is conceivable that Amelia Earhart may have told some trusted friend in America, before setting out on her ill fated journey, that she intended to take a look-see in at the Marshalls enroute or that she might possibly do so if in any danger as she passed by. And it is possible that this hypothetical friend in Hollywood might think that Amelia had reached this group, and might be lying low for some reason or other at Maloelap. It seems curious that anyone without specific interest in the group should know the name of that particular atoll which is of no great importance. What the number (10) might mean in connection with that island I have no idea.” (End of Heine’s original narrative.)

HISTORICAL NOTE: “Maloelap Island” (Bill Prymak’s comments follow.)

“Prior to WWII in the Pacific the Japanese built its first military operational airfield among the Marshall Islands Group on this island. During the invasion of the Marshall Islands by the U.S. Forces during WWII, Maloelap Island was bypassed and not occupied. The Japanese on this island did not surrender until after the signing of the surrender in Tokyo Bay.”

ED NOTEIsn’t it coincidental that Margot DeCarie, AE’s personal secretary, was living in the Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel during Sept-Oct. 1937? It is stated that with her death in 1983, the true answers to the AE mystery were buried with her….” (End of entry.)

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, circa 1937, where Margot DeCarie, Amelia Earhart's personal secretary, was living during the September-October 1937 time frame, when the mysteries letter to Earhart was delivered to the Jaluit Post Office.

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, circa 1937, where Margot DeCarie, Amelia Earhart’s personal secretary, was living during the September-October 1937 time frame, when the mysteries letter to Earhart was delivered to the Jaluit Post Office.

This is all we know about the letter.  Carl Heine obviously respected privacy rights — even of those believed deceased — too much to open and read its contents, and no one else has ever indicated what became of it. It’s quite possible that the letter was confiscated by U.S. intelligence assets soon after they learned of its existence, and it’s probably joined Robert E. Wallack’s briefcase and the photos of Amelia and Fred reportedly discovered by Seabee Joe Garofalo and other GIs on Saipan, deep in top secret archives where nobody can get to it.

We do know that DeCarie wasn’t shy about expressing her ideas about what happened to her boss in July 1937, but we can also wonder whether she told people like Fred Goerner all that she really knew.  In a phone interview sometime in the early 1960s, she told Goerner that she had “promised secrecy” to an unknown party, but still gave him plenty to think about.  “Do you really think Purdue University bought that plane for Amelia,” she asked, “and do you think that it was intended for some kind of vague experimentation? Second, if the whole thing was a publicity stunt … why did the government assign some of its top experts to the flight, and why did President Roosevelt have an airfield built for her? Last, do you believe the President ordered the Navy to spend four million dollars on a search for a couple of stunt fliers?” DeCarie was sure Earhart “died a long time ago,” and that the Japanese captured her “within moderate range of Howland Island. … President Roosevelt knew everything,” she said. “He knew the price Amelia paid.” Margot Decarie passed away in North Hollywood, Calif., in 1983 at the age of 79.

In his 1997 book, Where Nets Were Cast: Christianity in Oceana Since World War II, John Garret wrote that during the war, Carl Heine was given the option to leave the Marshalls, but he chose to stay. He was detained, along with his wife, at times in isolation by the Japanese. “In January 1944 US bombing became heavier at Jabwor, preceding the full counter-attack on fortified positions,” Garret wrote. “Many Marshallese – but few, if any Japanese – died in the most intensive bombardment in March. In April, Carl R. Heine was beheaded and his body burned at Enijet, Jaluit.” (Garrett is clearly in error about the location of Heine’s beheading, as Enijet is an island on Mili Atoll, not Jaluit Atoll.) Heine’s grandson John would later tell Earhart researchers about the barge with the silver airplane with the broken wing he saw at Jaluit as a child. “It was the plane an American lady had been flying when she crashed,” Heine told T.C. “Buddy” Brennan in 1983, and he believed that after leaving Jaluit the ship “went on to Kwajalein … then on to Truk and Saipan.”

 


“Silver container” recovered on Mili Atoll islet was indeed “hard evidence” in Earhart case (Part 2 of 2)

August 22, 2014

In my previous post we heard the accounts of Marshallese fishermen Lijon and Jororo as told to Ralph Middle on Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, and passed on to Earhart researchers and authors Vincent V. Loomis and Oliver Knaggs in 1979. The story as related by Middle was that before the war they watched as an airplane landed on the reef near Barre Island, “two men” emerged from the airplane and produced a “yellow boat which grew,” climbed in and paddled to shore. Hiding in the island’s dense undergrowth, Jororo and Lijon saw the pair bury a “silver container” on the small island, and soon the Japanese arrived. After one of them screamed upon being slapped during the ensuing interrogation, the fishermen realized one of the men was actually a woman.  They remained hidden and silent, fearing for their lives.  

Lorok, who had heard Lijon's story as a child on Mili, owned Barre Island in 1981 and granted permission to Oliver Knaggs to search for the silver container buried by the plane's crew before the war.

Lorok, who had heard Lijon’s story in detail as a youth on Mili Atoll, owned Barre Island in 1981 and granted permission to Oliver Knaggs to search for the silver container buried by the plane’s crew before the war.

The existence of the silver container as described in Lijon’s account is supported by a little-known  passage written by Amelia herself, in the final pages of Last Flight, her abbreviated 1937 book in which she chronicles her world-flight attempt.  On page 223, Amelia wrote that she and Noonan “worked very hard in the last two days repacking the plane and eliminating everything unessential,” to help offset the burden the fully loaded fuel tanks would place on the engines, especially on takeoff from Lae. “All Fred has is a small tin case which he picked up in Africa,” Amelia wrote. “I notice it still rattles, so it cannot be packed very full.”

Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 with a metal detector but without Loomis, hoping to locate Lijon’s silver container, and he soon met Lorok, “who owned the island of Barre and several others,” he wrote.  Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon alone had seen the plane come down, but he’d died several years ago. Lorok said he was 11 years old, living on Mili, when he heard Lijon tell his story. How Jororo, a co-witness in the original story told by Ralph Middle, was no longer present in Lijon’s account as related by Lorok, has never been explained by Knaggs, Loomis or anyone else. The accounts as presented in the books by the two authors are all we have on this incident.

The results of the scientific analysis of this 7-centimeter piece of the buried artifact recovered by Knaggs confirmed that "in section the sample revealed what is described as a pin cover, rivet, and body of the hinge. ... In general the microstructures are consistent with a fine, clean low carbon steel ... indicating that good technology was used in its manufacture."

The results of the scientific analysis of this 7-centimeter piece of the buried artifact recovered by Knaggs confirmed that “in section the sample revealed what is described as a pin cover, rivet, and body of the hinge. … In general the microstructures are consistent with a fine, clean low carbon steel … indicating that good technology was used in its manufacture.”

Lijon was “out fishing in the lagoon near Barre, when he saw this big silver plane coming, “ Lorok told Knaggs.  “It was low down and he could tell it was in trouble because it made no noise. Then it landed on the water next to the small island. He pulled in his fishing line and went quickly to see if he could help. When he got there he saw these are strange people and one is a woman. He hid then because he was frightened; he had not seen people like these. He watched as they buried something in the coral under a kanal tree. He could tell the man was hurt because he was limping and there was blood on his face and the woman was helping him. He waited there in his hiding place until he saw the Japanese coming and then he left. … Later we were told the people who crashed were Americans.” Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon later said, “The Japanese had taken her to Saipan and killed her as a spy. They were making ready for the war. They didn’t want anyone to see the fortifications.”

Knaggs found only one kanal tree when he searched Barre and two small, adjacent islands, and the intense heat and humidity made the going tough for his group. The next day, however, the wife of his native guide led them to another nearby island where she had seen a part of an old airplane when she played there as a child. They found no wreckage, but saw a “large, rotting trunk of a tree that could have been a kanal [years ago] and there was also a small kanal growing nearby,” Knaggs wrote. The detector soon responded, and about a foot-and-a-half down they found a “hard knot of soil that appeared to be growing on the root of a tree. Cutting into it, we discovered a mass of rust and what looked like a hinge of sorts.” Doubting that the shapeless lump could have once been the metal canister buried by the American fliers, Knaggs chipped away at his find but found nothing else.

Knaggs kept the hinge and brought it home to South Africa, where it was analyzed by the Metallurgical Department of the University of Cape Town. The results confirmed that “in section the sample revealed what is described as a pin cover, rivet and body of the hinge. In general the microstructures are consistent with a fine, clean low carbon steel … indicating that good technology was used in its manufacture.” Knaggs regretted not bringing the entire mass back for analysis, but “the hinge could have come from something akin to a cash box and could therefore quite easily be the canister to which Lijon had referred,” he concluded.

Lijon’s eyewitness account, as reported by Ralph Middle to Loomis and by Lorok to Knaggs, and reportedly supported by Mili’s Queen Bosket Diklan and Jororo,  is among the most compelling ever reported by a Marshall Islands witness. The profoundly realistic description of the “yellow boat which grew,“ combined with Knaggs’ recovery of the deteriorated, rusted hinge in a place where nothing of the sort should have been buried, lend additional credibility to Lijon’s story. Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon had spoken the truth about what he saw, and what could better explain the presence of a metal hinge on the tiny, uninhabited island, buried near a dead kanal tree?

The hinge wasn’t much to look at, of course, and will certainly never attain “smoking gun” status in the Earhart case. It wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t Amelia Earhart’s Electra, her briefcase that was found in a blown safe on Garapan by Marine Pfc. Robert E. Wallack in the summer of 1944, nor even one of the many photos of Amelia and Fred in Japanese custody reportedly found by American soldiers on Saipan. Regardless of its appearance, its provenance qualified the old, rotted hinge as solid, hard evidence of the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on a small island near Barre Island, Mili Atoll in July 1937. I have no idea what has happened to this artifact, nor do I even know if Oliver Knaggs is still alive. Anyone with information is kindly asked to contact me through this blog.

This set of four postage stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia Earhart's last flight. The stamps (clockwise from top left) are titled: "Takeoff, Lae, New Guinea, July 2, 1937; USCG Itasca at Howland Island Awaiting Earhart; Crash Landing at Mili Atoll, July 2, 1937; and Recovery of Electra by the Koshu."  Frank Benjamin elarged and mounted these stamps, and they are an impressive part of his unique Earhart display.

This set of four postage stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s last flight. The stamps (clockwise from top left) are titled: “Takeoff, Lae, New Guinea, July 2, 1937; USCG Itasca at Howland Island Awaiting Earhart; Crash Landing at Mili Atoll, July 2, 1937; and Recovery of Electra by the Koshu.”

The Marshallese people have never forgotten the story of the woman pilot, and it’s become a part of their cultural heritage. In 1987 the Republic of the Marshalls Islands issued a set of four stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia’s landing at Mili Atoll. (See earlier posts: “Frank Benjamin: ‘We are brothers in pain!’” Jan. 28, 2014; and “Dave Martin to the rescue,” Aug. 11, 2012.)  Thus, in the Marshall Islands, the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan is far from the “great mystery” it’s constantly proclaimed to be in the United States and most of the Western world. To the Marshallese, the landing of the Electra at Mili, the Japanese pickup and transfer to Saipan are all stone, cold facts known to all.

 

 


“No hard evidence” in Earhart case? Knaggs’ find on Mili refutes skeptics’ claim (First of two parts)

August 12, 2014

Even casual observers of the Earhart case know that the major weapon used by skeptics and critics of the truth, the blind crash-and-sankers, the Nikumaroro morons and the rest who refuse to accept the obvious about Amelia and Fred Noonan’s Mili Atoll landing and deaths on Saipan is their never-ending cry, “Where is the physical evidence? No hard evidence has even been found!”

Forget the many dozens of witness accounts from natives, Saipan veterans and other sources that so clearly points to the truth.  Only when the Electra is finally discovered, they say, will the Earhart puzzle be solved. Until then, all theories are acceptable – except the hated Saipan truth, of course, which is a “paranoid conspiracy theory” and is far too “extremist” to have any validity. These bozos are quite happy to keep Amelia and Fred in cold storage for eternity, floating out there in the unfathomable ether where the world’s great mysteries abide.

Vincent V. Loomis at Mili, 1979.  In four trips to the Marshall Islands, Loomis collected considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers' presence there. His 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, is among the most important ever in establishing the presence of Amelia and Fred Noonan at Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands on July 2, 1937.

Vincent V. Loomis at Mili, 1979. In four trips to the Marshall Islands, Loomis collected considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there.  His 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, is among the most important ever in establishing the presence of Amelia and Fred Noonan at Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands on July 2, 1937.

They’re wrong, as usual; hard evidence has been found and analyzed, and it tells us a compelling story. Most of the doubters are unaware of this evidence, but it makes little difference. Even if the Earhart plane was somehow miraculously found underneath the Saipan International Airport’s tarmac amid hundreds of tons of wartime refuse, where, as Thomas E. Devine has told us, the plane has been since it was bulldozed into a deep hole several months after it’s torching in the summer of 1944, the naysayers wouldn’t accept it. And our corrupt media, which has been so invested for so long in perpetuating the big lie that Amelia’s fate remains a mystery, would take all pains to thoroughly ignore and suppress news of the discovery, as they always have.

But that’s for another time. This post is the first of two that will present and discuss the hard evidence that was found at Mili Atoll, evidence that all but proves the reality of our heroes’ presence at Mili Atoll in July 1937.  So that readers can best understand the sequence of events that led to the discovery of this artifact, a bit of background is in order.

Amelia Earhart: The Final Story among best ever penned

Former Air Force C-47 pilot Vincent V. Loomis and his wife, Georgette, traveled to the Marshalls in 1978 hoping to find the wreck of an unidentified plane Loomis saw on an uninhabited island near Ujae Atoll in 1952. Loomis never located the wreck, which he fervently dreamed was the lost Earhart plane, but in four trips to the Marshalls he obtained considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, was praised by some at a time when big media’s rejection of information supporting Earhart’s survival and death on Saipan had yet to reach its virtual blackout of the past two decades, and is among the most important Earhart disappearance books ever written.

The Final Story’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review. After gushing that Loomis “interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents,” Hart flatly stated, “The mystery is a mystery no longer.” Of course, the U.S. government disagreed completely, and continued its abject silence on all things Earhart.

Two Marshallese fishermen, Jororo and Lijon, claimed that sometime before the war they saw an airplane land on the reef near Barre island, about 200 feet offshore. "When ‘two men' emerged from the machine, they produced a ‘yellow boat which grew,' climbed aboard it and paddled for shore. "Jororo and Lijon, only teenagers, were frightened, crouching in the tiriki, the dense undergrowth, not quite knowing what to do,“ Vincent V. Loomis wrote.

Two Marshallese fishermen, Jororo and Lijon, claimed that sometime before the war they saw an airplane land on the reef near Barre Island, about 200 feet offshore. “When ‘two men’ emerged from the machine, they produced a ‘yellow boat which grew,’ climbed aboard it and paddled for shore. “Jororo and Lijon, only teenagers, were frightened, crouching in the tiriki, the dense undergrowth, not quite knowing what to do,“ Vincent V. Loomis wrote. (Drawing courtesy of Doug Mills, Bellaire, Mich.)

On his first flight to Majuro, Loomis met Senator Amata Kabua and Tony DeBrum, commission officials seeking Marshallese independence from the United States. Kabua, a descendent of the first king of the Marshalls, Kabua the Great, said Earhart had come down in the islands and that her plane was still there. DeBrum told Loomis, “We all know about this woman who was reported to have come down on Mili southeast of Majuro, was captured by the Japanese and taken off to Jaluit. Remember, the stories were being told long before you Americans began asking questions.”

Among the witnesses Loomis interviewed at Mili Mili, the main island at Mili Atoll, was Mrs. Clement (Loomis provided no first name), the wife of the boat operator Loomis had hired. Mrs. Clement said her husband knew nothing, but she recalled that she had seen “this airplane and the woman pilot and the Japanese taking the woman and the man with her away.” She pointed out the area – “Over there … next to Barre Island” – as the spot where the plane had landed, but she offered no other information.

Loomis next sought out Jororo Alibar and Anibar Eine on Ejowa Island, hoping to confirm the story he heard from Ralph Middle on Majuro. Middle’s story was that two local fishermen, Jororo and Lijon, told him that before the war they saw an airplane land on the reef near Barre island, about 200 feet offshore. “When ‘two men’ emerged from the machine, they produced a ‘yellow boat which grew,’ climbed aboard it and paddled for shore,” Loomis wrote. “Jororo and Lijon, only teenagers, were frightened, crouching in the tiriki, the dense undergrowth, not quite knowing what to do.” Shortly after the men reached the island, the fishermen saw them bury a silver container, but the Japanese soon arrived and began to question, and then slap the two fliers, Middle said. When one screamed, Jororo and Lijon realized it was a woman. The pair continued to hide, watching in silence, because “they knew the Japanese would have killed them for what they had witnessed.” 

The natives’ description of “the yellow boat which grew” is especially compelling for its realism, as it reflects their relatively primitive understanding of what only could have been an inflatable life boat produced by Earhart and Noonan after the Electra crash-landed, possibly on a reef. No inventory of the plane’s contents during the world flight is known to exist, but several sources support the common-sense idea that the fliers would not have departed Lae without such a vital piece of emergency equipment.

 

Author and Earhart researcher Oliver Knaggs, circa early 1980s.

Author and Earhart researcher Oliver Knaggs, circa early 1980s.

Amelia, My Courageous Sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey and Carol L. Osborne’s 1987 biography, contains a photocopied story from the March 7, 1937 New York Herald Tribune, “Complete Navigation Room Ready to Guide Miss Earhart.” Discussing emergency items the Electra would carry on the first world flight, the unnamed reporter wrote, “In the fuselage will be a two-man rubber lifeboat, instantly inflatable from capsules of carbon dioxide.”  In the July 20, 1937 search report of the Lexington Group commander, under “Probabilities Arising from Rumor or Reasonable Assumptions,” Number 3 states, “That the color of the lifeboat was yellow.” 

In September 1979, South African writer Oliver Knaggs was hired by a film company to join Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search. The Knaggs-Loomis connection is well known among Earhart buffs, but neither Loomis, in The Final Story, nor Knaggs, in his little-known 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight (Howard Timmins, Cape Town,  S.A), mentioned the other by name. In Her last flight, a rare collector’s item known mainly to researchers, Knaggs recounts his 1979 and ’81 investigations in the Marshalls and Saipan. Knaggs wasn’t with Loomis when Ralph Middle told him about Lijon and Jororo at Majuro in 1979, and wasn’t there when Loomis interviewed Jororo. Knaggs wrote  that “our leader [Loomis]” had told him of Lijon’s story, which he didn’t believe initially, but later, when a village elder repeated it, Knaggs became interested. Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 without Loomis but armed with a metal detector in hopes of locating Lijon’s silver container, and establishing his own claim to fame in the search for Amelia Earhart.

In part two of this post, we’ll look at what Knaggs found, what the experts said about it and what it means in the continuing search for Amelia Earhart.

 

 


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