Bill Prymak, a giant of Earhart research, dies at 86

July 31, 2014

Bill Prymak, founder and first president of the Amelia Earhart Society (AES) of Researchers, a giant of Earhart research and a special friend whose generosity of spirit will never be forgotten, passed away July 30 in a Louisville, Colo. hospice. Bill had recently undergone surgery for colon cancer; he was 86. Bill joins his beloved wife of 60 years, Gloria, who died May 9 of this year, and is survived by his sons William, John and Paul, his daughters Anita (Langdon) and Linda (Coleman), and six grandchildren. Bill was born in Manhattan, N.Y., in 1928 to Ukrainian immigrant parents, attended the City College of New York and graduated with a degree in civil engineering. “He moved to Colorado in 1970, opened his own construction business and was very successful, building many large buildings in the Denver area and Colorado ski towns,” his daughter, Anita, said in an email.

But it was in the erudite, largely unknown circles of Amelia Earhart research – real investigative work, not the fabricated-for-public-consumption propaganda the media has force-fed the masses since the earliest days – where Bill left a lasting, indelible mark of excellence that will be always be remembered and honored by those who know and respect the truth about Amelia’s fate that he helped to establish.  Never one to seek praise or publicity, Bill’s natural humility kept him from making noise about his work, and so he wasn’t as well-known as many far-less accomplished Earhart researchers with larger egos. Occasionally, however, reporters would somehow find their way to his home in Broomfield, Colo., and write stories that only hinted at the insights and passion he brought to his work on the Earhart case. In 2012, a local reporter named Megan Quinn was privileged to meet and interview Bill, and she wrote a story headlined “Broomfield man digs for truth in Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance,” the last done about him while he was still with us. 

Bill Prymak, Amelia Earhart Society president, and Bilamon Amaron, circa 1989, Marshall Islands. Amaron’s eyewitness account is the cornerstone of the Marshall Islands–landing theory. (Photo courtesy of Bill Prymak.)

Bill Prymak, Amelia Earhart Society founder and its first president, and Bilimon Amaron, in Amaron’s Majuro, Marshall Islands home, in 1989. Amaron’s eyewitness account of seeing Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan aboard a Japanese ship in 1937 is the cornerstone of the Marshall Islands landing scenario. (Courtesy of Bill Prymak.)

Bill will be greatly missed by the many whose lives he touched, and I dedicated  Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last to Bill and the great Jim Golden, who worked closely with Fred Goerner in the late 1960s and ’70s to find the secret Earhart files, once headed Vice President Richard M. Nixon’s Secret Service detail and was chief of security for Howard Hughes in Las Vegas, among other fascinating achievements, and who passed away at age 85 in 2011.  These good men, who so revered the truth, were my best friends and collaborators in what has become my life’s work, and without their support and encouragement Truth at Last might never have been born.

Perhaps the first time I heard Bill’s name was during my initial visit to Thomas E. Devine’s West Haven, Conn. home in February 1991, about two-and-a-half years after I was infected with the Earhart bug. Devine told me that Prymak, a private pilot who had recently read Devine’s 1987 book Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident,  had called and asked if he could fly his plane out to visit Devine at his home and discuss his eyewitness account, as well as Prymak’s own findings in the Marshalls Islands.

Devine, of course, had his own problems, a malady known as “tunnel vision,” complicated by a severe case of egomania seasoned by a lack of imagination, and he always refused to consider that Earhart and Noonan could have landed in the Marshalls, in spite of the many witnesses who have attested to the fact that they did. Instead, Devine insisted that Amelia flew her Electra directly to Saipan, an impossible 90-degree mistake in navigation that no other researcher has ever thought was remotely possible. Devine rudely rejected Prymak’s suggestion, and though the two never spoke again, Bill always referred to the former Army postal sergeant and Saipan veteran with respect, calling him a “giant” in the Earhart saga more than once.

On Enajet Island, Mili Atoll in December 1989, Bill Prymak met Joro, a village elder born about 1915. Joro told Prymak about the "American airplane with the lady pilot [that] crash-landed on the inner coral reefs of Barre Island." (Courtesy of John Prymak.) On Enajet Island, Mili Atoll in December 1989, Bill Prymak met Joro, a village elder born about 1915.  Joro told Prymak about the American airplane with the lady pilot that crash-landed on the inner coral reefs of Barre Island. (Photo courtesy of John Prymak.)

On Enajet Island, Mili Atoll in December 1989, Bill Prymak met Joro, a village elder born about 1915. Joro told Prymak about the “American airplane with the lady pilot [that] crash-landed on the inner coral reefs of Barre Island.” (Courtesy of John Prymak.) 

I met Bill in August 2003, when I was visiting researcher Lily Gelb at her mountainside home in Boulder, Colo. Bill drove over from Broomfield, about 15 miles, and we enjoyed a few days together, talking and contemplating the state of the Earhart matter, even then neither of us optimistic about the possibility of any real breakthroughs in the case.  He understood, far better than I at the time, the depths of the U.S. government’s commitment to deny the truth and misdirect the public– then and probably forever.

A “boots-on-the-ground” researcher

Bill firmly believed that serious Earhart researchers should put their money where their mouths are and their “boots on the ground,” so he made three trips to the Marshall Islands, in 1989, ’90 and ’97, and was a leading proponent of the Marshall Islands landing scenario, made famous by Vincent V. Loomis in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story. Bill interviewed many Marshallese witnesses, more than a few for the first time, and he added much to confirm Loomis’ findings.  In 1989 Bill interviewed Bilimon Amaron, the Japanese-born hospital corpsman, whose eyewitness account of being called aboard a Japanese ship, undoubtedly the Koshu, at Jaluit in 1937 to tend to the injuries of Fred Noonan, while Amelia looked on, is the best known of all the Marshalls testimonies. Bilimon’s astonishing story is Exhibit No. 1 in the Marshalls evidence chest, and he achieved legendary status among his people. He died in 1996 at age 75.

An important witness discovered and interviewed exclusively by Bill in 1989 on the Mili Atoll island of Enajet was Joro, a village elder who told Prymak about the “American airplane with the lady pilot [that] crash-landed on the inner coral reefs of Barre Island.” Joro knew many of the villagers who were ordered by the Japanese to report to the site of the crash and assist in winching the Electra aboard the back of the ship, although Joro himself was not an eyewitness.  Bill found others whose stories had never been told, and he recorded their unique experiences that pointed to Earhart and Noonan at Mili and the Marshalls, later reporting them in his newsletters, and the most notable of these accounts are presented in Truth at Last.

Through his networking skills and Earhart expertise, Bill was able to gather, evaluate and disseminate an impressive volume of information in an entertaining and enlightening format to the AES membership. Bill’s AES Newsletters totaled 421 letter-size pages of original Earhart research from countless sources of all stripes, which he meticulously compiled and snail mailed – at significant cost to himself — to the AES membership every few months from December 1989 to March 2000.

These priceless documents are among the most important ever produced in the search for the truth in the Earhart case, extraordinary in their variety and wealth of content – true collector’s items that will never be duplicated. Without these remarkable references, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, would have been a far lesser book. Along the rough road to its 2012 publication, I would send Bill my latest chapters and updates, and he would encourage me to continue despite the massive rejections I faced, and his kind words salvaged many a terrible day for me. On several occasions before and after publication of Truth at Last, Bill told me the book was the “best ever about the Earhart disappearance.” Until this cancer diagnosis struck from out of the blue, Bill was planning to attend the Ninety-Nines’ sectional conference in Wichita, Kansas this September, to lend his support for my Truth at Last presentation to this elite group of women professional pilots.  Needless to say, these and many other of his kindnesses  meant the world to me.

Bill formed the AES in 1989 in his Broomfield, Colorado study, to “seek the truth regarding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.”  The original members of the AES numbered less than 20, but included some of the leading lights of the Earhart research community: Joe Gervais, whose Guam and Saipan witness  interviews in 1960 strongly supported Goerner’s investigations, but who, unfortunately, is best known as the creator of the disturbing and troublesome Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth, who passed away in January 2005; Rollin Reineck, who died in 2007, a retired Air Force colonel and former Army Air Corps B-29 navigator who served on Saipan, flew against the Japanese mainland in 1944-’45 and wrote the 2003 book Amelia Earhart Survived; and the late Ron Reuther (died 2007), the eminent  researcher who founded the Oakland (Calif.) Aviation Museum in 1981, directed the San Francisco Zoo from 1966 to 1973, and helped to catalog and prepare Fred Goerner’s papers for their placement at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Bill’s passing leaves only Paul Rafford Jr., 95, the former Pan American Airways radio flight officer and author of Amelia Earhart’s Radio: Why She Disappeared (The Paragon Agency, Second Edition, 2008) and Joe Klaas, 94, Gervais’ close friend and author of Amelia Earhart Lives (McGraw-Hill 1970), as the last of the old guard of Earhart researchers still with us. None will replace these men, who each left their own unique imprint on the record of the search for the truth in the Earhart disappearance.

May God Bless you, Bill, and I’m sure He has, and thanks so much for your kindness and friendship. I’ll always remember you with love, and I trust that someday we’ll meet again. Until then, my friend, Requiescat in pace.


For Amelia Mary Earhart, another unhappy birthday

July 23, 2014

Well, Amelia, another year has passed since Amy Otis Earhart brought you into this world in your grandparents’ Atchison, Kansas home on July 24, 1897, eons ago, in a much simpler and, some would say, far better America. Because you were so unexpectedly taken from us sometime after you turned 40, you’ll be forever young to those who remember and celebrate your life. I’m sure you can read these comments or receive this message somehow, and I’m certain you’re in a place where the free flow of all information is enjoyed by all, and where no secrets exist. I’ll bet there’s plenty you’d like to tell us, but the rules up there prevent it.

Admittedly, it’s a stretch to think you might still be with us at 117 if a few things had gone differently for you and Fred Noonan, and had you reached that exclusive club, you’d surely be a contender for world’s-oldest-person honors. But considering the amazing feats you managed in your brief life that earned you nicknames like Lady Lindy and the First Lady of Flight, an equally lofty and hard-earned title 77 years later doesn’t seem impossible, does it? After all, Amy was an impressive 93 and lived the majority of her years before penicillin was discovered, and your sister, Muriel, made it all the way to the venerable age of 98 before she cashed in, so I’d say the odds were about even money that you could have been your family’s first centenarian.

In a highly publicized July 1949 interview, Amelia's mother, Amy Otis Earhart told the Los Angeles Times, "I am sure there was a Government mission involved in the flight, because Amelia explained there were some things she could not tell me. I am equally sure she did not make a forced landing in the sea. She landed on a tiny atoll—one of many in that general area of the Pacific—and was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, under Japanese control.”

In a highly publicized July 1949 interview, Amelia’s mother, Amy Otis Earhart, who died in 1962 at age 93, told the Los Angeles Times, “I am sure there was a Government mission involved in the flight, because Amelia explained there were some things she could not tell me. I am equally sure she did not make a forced landing in the sea. She landed on a tiny atoll—one of many in that general area of the Pacific—and was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, under Japanese control.”

Of course, wishing you a Happy Birthday is just something the living do to make ourselves feel better; where you are, every day is far better than any grand birthday bash we could imagine, and birthdays there must be quite passé. For your devotees down here, though, at least for those who know the truth about what’s been going on for so long, it absolutely is another unhappy birthday, because nothing of substance has changed in the past year, and what little news we have ranges from the mundane to the depressing.

The big lie that your disappearance remains a great mystery continues to dominate nearly all references to you, often followed by another well-publicized whopper from TIGHAR that they’re just about to find your Electra on Nikumaroro, if only they can raise the money for the next search, ad nauseam. Such unrelenting rigmarole must bore you, but this and other ridiculous claims are what has passed in our despicable media for “Earhart research” since Time magazine trashed Fred Goerner’s bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart  in 1966.

Amelia at 7

Amelia at 7:  Even as a child, Amelia Earhart had the look of someone destined for greatness. In this photo, she seems to be looking at something far away, not only in space, but in time. Who can fathom it? 

You’ve likely heard that a young woman, Amelia Rose Earhart, a pilot and former Denver TV weatherperson who happens to have your first and last names but isn’t otherwise related, completed a relatively risk-free world flight July 11 following a route that roughly approximated your own. At least three others have already done this, all Americans: Geraldine “Jerrie” Fredritz Mock in 1964, Ann Pellegreno in 1967 and Linda Finch in 1997, so there was nothing notable in Amelia Rose’s flight, especially considering that she had the latest GPS navigational technology to ensure her safe journey.

Her motivation was to honor your memory, said Amelia Rose, who was the featured speaker at the annual festival held in your name at Atchison last week. I don’t attend these pretentious galas, and unless and until event organizers find the courage to come to terms with the truth of your untimely and completely unnecessary demise on Saipan, I never will. Last week she must have been making the rounds of the TV talk shows, as someone on FOX News announced she would be on soon, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

If Amelia Rose actually cared a whit about your legacy, she’d learn the truth that so many insist on avoiding but is available to all, and would use her public platform to stand up and call attention to this great American travesty and cover-up – rivaled only by the Warren Commission’s “lone gunman” verdict in the John F. Kennedy assassination in its mendacity, but unlike the JFK hit, completely ignored in the popular culture – and demand that our government stop the lies about her namesake’s true fate.  Unfortunately and all too predictably, based on what I know about this grandstanding pretender, Amelia Rose has never uttered a word that had any relationship to the truth about what happened to you 77 years ago.

Amelia’s younger sister by two years, Grace Muriel Earhart Morrissey of West Medford, Massachusetts, died in her sleep Monday, March 2, 1998 at the age of 98. Muriel was an educator and civil activist, participating in many organizations and benevolent causes.  Muriel and Amelia were inseparable as children, sharing many tomboyish activities, riding horses together, loving animals and playing countless imaginative games.

Amelia’s younger sister by two years, Grace Muriel Earhart Morrissey of West Medford, Massachusetts, died in her sleep Monday, March 2, 1998 at the age of 98. Muriel was an educator and civil activist, participating in many organizations and benevolent causes. Muriel and Amelia were inseparable as children, sharing many tomboyish activities, riding horses together, loving animals and playing countless imaginative games.

Facts are stubborn things

Amelia Rose’s supporters say she doesn’t know about all the investigations and research that tell us that you and Fred Noonan landed at Mili Atoll on July 2, 1937, were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Jaluit, Roi-Namur and finally Saipan, where you suffered wretched deaths. This gruesome scenario, as well as the fact that our fearless leader at the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, refused to lift a finger to help you, much less inform the public that you were the first POWs of the yet-undeclared war to come, continue to be denied by the corrupt U.S. government and suppressed by our media big and small. But facts are stubborn things, and they don’t cease to exist because the local PTA, the Atchison Chamber of Commerce or Amelia Rose Earhart wishes it were so.

Many hundreds of books celebrate your remarkable life, but only a handful dare to reveal the facts surrounding your miserable demise at the hands of barbarians on that godforsaken island of Saipan. Now that the Japanese are among our best friends and allies in the Pacific Rim, we don’t want to offend their delicate sensibilities with public discussions of their World War II barbarities, do we?

Speaking of which, you might know Iris Chang, author of the 1997 bestseller The Rape of Nanking, which exposed the long-suppressed Japanese atrocities against the Chinese in December 1937, only months after your disappearance. Despite the book’s notoriety and widespread acceptance of its findings, the Japanese ambassador refused to apologize for his nation’s war crimes when Chang confronted him on British TV in 1998. In 1999 she told that she “wasn’t welcome” in Japan, and she committed suicide in 2004.

We’re still not sure why Chang perpetrated the ultimate atrocity against herself, but it’s said that the years of research into such horrific subject matter disturbed her greatly. The parallels are obvious, but the depravities the Japanese committed against the Chinese, despite the overwhelming numbers of the murdered, don’t rankle Westerners nearly as much as the mere consideration of what befell you and Fred on Saipan. Chang may have been unpopular in Japan, but her work was celebrated by the U.S. media, which avoids anything or anyone that hints at the truth about you like the plague.

The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang'e 1997 bestseller that exposed the World War II depravities of the Japanese military, was embraced by the U.S. media, which continues to suppress and cover up the truth about that same Japanese military's atrocities against Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.

The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang’e 1997 bestseller that exposed the pre-World War II depravities of the Japanese military, was embraced by the U.S. media, which continues to suppress, deny and ignore the truth about that same Japanese military’s atrocities against Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.

Amelia Rose may not know the sordid details, but she’s heard the story and has shown no inclination to learn about the truth, falsely marginalized as an “unsubstantiated fringe theory” for many decades by our trusted media. So at best, Amelia Rose is among the willfully ignorant about you; this strain of ignorance is just another form of cowardice, another excuse to avoid the truth, and of course it’s dishonesty in spades.

How can I say this so blithely? At last year’s Amelia Earhart Festival, an Earhart researcher engaged Amelia Rose, on hand to collect another dubious honor, in a conversation that began well but abruptly turned to ashes when he brought up the subject of your death on Saipan. Amelia Rose, upon hearing this, flew from this man as if he had leprosy. Almost a year earlier, she ignored my email missives that not only politely informed her of the truth, but offered her a free copy of my book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. So Amelia Rose Earhart, rather than being a special person, is just one of many hundreds of similar mainline media lemmings who assiduously avoid the truth.  Those who aren’t part of the solution are part of the problem, and excuse me if I repeat myself, but they are cowards as well.

So the lies continue without surcease, and 99.99 percent of the public continues to hear, read and without reservation buys the myth that your disappearance remains among the “greatest aviation mysteries of the 20th century.” A few of us know better, and are doing our best to rectify this appalling situation, but we aren’t having much success. Few will admit it, but the word has long been out that it’s not acceptable to talk about what really happened to you. Nobody wants to hear it, so it’s fallen to outsiders like this writer to do justice to your story. We’re called conspiracy theorists and wing nuts, and are strenuously shunned.

So Amelia, that’s how it looks to at least one of us down here on your 117th birthday. Sadly, you and Fred Noonan are as far from realizing Fred Goerner’s “justice of truth” as ever, and there’s nothing coming from our government that gives us the slightest glimmer of hope. But the difficulty of this mission doesn’t deter those of us who truly believe in the worthiness of the cause. And so we continue.



Linwood Day: Forgotten hero of the Earhart saga

July 10, 2014

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of research into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart knows about Fred Goerner and his 1966 classic The Search for Amelia Earhart. Goerner’s book remains the only bestseller ever penned about the Earhart case, and it opened the doors for other researchers, including this one, to continue the quest to establish the truth about what has evolved into one of the greatest travesties and cover-ups in modern American history.

may 27, 1960: Linwood Day's first Earhart story stuns the world. Even in 1960, none of the nation's big newspapers carried this story. though hundreds of smaller papers spread the word across the country that the Earhart mystery had been solved,

May 27, 1960: Linwood Day’s first Earhart story stuns the world. Even in 1960, none of the nation’s big newspapers carried this story, though hundreds of smaller papers spread the word across the country that the Earhart mystery had been solved.

But the popular San Francisco radio newsman would have never known about Amelia Earhart had it not been for the fine work of San Mateo Times reporter Linwood McGuire Day, whose groundbreaking stories set the stage for everything that was to come in the real modern-day search for Amelia Earhart.  On May 27, 1960, a full-page headline adorned the top of page 1 of The Times, exclaiming, “San Matean Says Japanese Executed Amelia Earhart.” The first of many of Day’s reports, titled “Woman’s Story: Aviatrix Died Before Saipan Firing Squad,” began:

A San Mateo woman who may have been one of the last to see Amelia Earhart alive, says that  the famed aviatrix was executed by a Japanese firing squad even while the U.S. Navy was spending $4,000,000 in a futile search for the missing flier and her navigator, Frederick Noonan.

Mrs. Josephine Blanco Akiyama of 15 South Idaho Street, has identified pictures of Amelia as the “American lady pilot” she saw taken into custody on the fortress island of Saipan in July 1937.  The woman flier was accompanied by a man, she said, an American also dressed in aviator’s garb.

Little more than a month later, the front page of the July 1, 1960 Times, with its 100-point headline, “AMELIA EARHART MYSTERY IS SOLVED” rocked the nation.  As true today as it was 54 years ago, the page is framed and mounted on my study wall, and it never fails to inspire. Even in 1960, though hundreds of newspapers ran Day’s story, and United Press International, then one of the preeminent news wires in the world, picked it up immediately, no trace of it can be found in the major papers such as the Washington Post and New York Times. Apparently, the word came down quickly from the nation’s power centers that the truth in the Earhart story was off limits, and it’s remained so to this day.

In mid-May 1978, San Mateo Times reporter Linwood Day pauses with Patty Hearst outside the Pleasanton, Calif., prison where Hearst was expected to spend the remainder of her seven-year sentence for bank robbery. Day developed a rapport with Hearst, and she responded by giving him exclusive information about her last few weeks of freedom. Day often remarked that the Patty Hearst case and the Amelia Earhart disappearance were the two  stories that defined his career as a reporter. (Photo courtesy of Beverly Day.)

In mid-May 1978, San Mateo Times reporter Linwood Day pauses with Patty Hearst outside the Pleasanton, Calif., prison where Hearst was expected to spend the remainder of her seven-year sentence for bank robbery. Day developed a rapport with Hearst, and she responded by giving him exclusive information about her last few weeks of freedom. Day often remarked that the Patty Hearst case and the Amelia Earhart disappearance were the two stories that defined his career as a reporter. (Photo courtesy of Beverly Day.)

I always wondered about Linwood Day, the forgotten scribe who produced so many great stories in May, June and July of 1960, stories that rattled cages across the country and reverberated all the way to the halls of Congress. Quite serendipitously, I recently came across Linwood Day and his daughter Beverly’s names in a state of Maine genealogy chat room discussion. A few more steps and a kind cousin provided Beverly’s email address, as well as her snail mail. Soon we were talking on the phone, and she was happy to share her memories of her father’s days on the Earhart story, and how much it meant to him.

A byline in a family newspaper        

“Goerner contacted him because he saw the newspaper story that came out that my dad wrote,” Beverly told me from her home in Waterville, Maine. “He told me a lot about his conversation with her [Josephine Blanco Akiyama, whose account was first reported by Paul Briand Jr. in his little-known 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky]. What sticks with me is that my father was absolutely certain that she was correct about the fact that Earhart and Noonan died on Saipan, and that it was the Japanese that had taken them there and that Josephine was a young girl at the time but she saw them being pushed through the jungle. And they went to this military barracks kind of thing where they imprisoned them.”

But while Day’s stories transfixed the nation and launched Goerner on his life’s mission, the public never heard the rest of the story, the story behind the story, so to speak, and it wasn’t a happy one. Goerner got all the glory and wrote the famous book. Linwood Day got a byline in a family newspaper, and that was it, except perhaps his own satisfaction in a job well done. For Goerner, it was always about himself, about fame and celebrity, narcissism and greed. Sure, he was a great radio newsman and is still the most important Earhart researcher ever, but Fred Goerner wasn’t a nice guy, not by any stretch. Many anecdotes I’ve heard in recent years attest to this unhappy fact, and I don’t enjoy reporting it. Moreover, I’ve kept the most disturbing things I’ve learned about Goerner off the pages of this blog, and will continue to do so.

From the first time Goerner saw Day’s story, he determined to make it his own. One fact I was unaware of until talking to Beverly was that beginning with the July 1, 1960 shocker, the Earhart stories her father produced were written with information Goerner provided over the phone. Day was never sent to Saipan to cover Goerner’s investigations in the summer of 1960, the first of his four visits to the island prior to the publication of Search.

“My dad was really upset,” Beverly recalled. “The deal was Goerner got his station [KCBS] to send him to Saipan, while my dad tried to get the newspaper to send him along and they refused. … He was heartbroken about not being able to go to Saipan when KCBS sent Goerner. … My dad was the real writer. It was ridiculous, because Goerner came in on it after my dad had started this whole thing. It was like he all of a sudden took over and took all the credit.  My dad was going to write a book about it and Goerner said, “No, no. We can work on this book together. And then he wrote the book and never gave my dad credit for anything. … My father was livid. He called Goerner and they argued on the phone, and I remember that because I remember my father slamming the phone down and pacing back and forth in his den. His face was just blood red. I had never seen my dad so angry, and you can imagine how he felt because he had to convince the Times to run the Earhart story. At first they were very nervous about doing this because ‘How do you know this is true’ and ‘Are we going to be liable?’ blah, blah, blah. But my dad was such a good reporter. Not only did he know how to write, he knew how to tell a story, how to pull it all together.

“He gave Goerner all this information” she continued, “what questions to ask, he told him who talk to [on Saipan], he told him everything.  He totally screwed my dad; it did not end well.” A check of The Search for Amelia Earhart reveals just one single mention of Linwood Day. On page 2, Goerner wrote about how he initially became involved with the Earhart story: “Intrigued, I called Lin Day, the Times newsman who had written the story.” And that was it for the man Goerner promised co-authorship of the book that was to become the definitive Earhart work and turn Goerner a national celebrity.

“He [Day] was very charismatic … a great intellectual and he had a way of getting people to talk to him,” Beverly said. “He was very professorial and had an innate grasp on history. He was always interested in the way things happened. I mean he did a lot of firsts. He was the first reporter on an atomic submarine … and then wrote about what it was like.” Indeed, an archive search of the San Mateo Times revealed an October 1964 story headlined “Staff Travels Around Globe” with the statement, “Linwood Day spent two days beneath the ocean in an atomic submarine.”

Another story in the same October 1964 issue, titled “Times News Staff Builds Top Record in its Coverage,” tells us that “Lin Day has served seven years with the staff and gained his experience in Philadelphia and Maine journalism. He was formerly on the staff of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, and San Jose (California) Mercury,” as well as the Maine Sunday Telegram. Most importantly, “Day’s coverage of the Search for Amelia Earhart brought The Times worldwide attention.”

“Discourses” with presidents and kings

Linwood Day spent most of his days in San Mateo at the Times, where he was eventually promoted to editor, recalled Beverly. “He first edited The Post, a ‘weekly grocery rag’ put out by the San Mateo Times, and he did something unexpected,” she said. “He applied the tenacious spirit and dedication to detail that had made him a great reporter to molding The Post into something people actually wanted to read. And read they did.  The Post’s circulation increased fourfold.  And Lin Day?  He was swiftly moved over to a new position — editor of the San Mateo Times. Besides his editing duties, my Dad also served as the Times Food Editor  —  — which I remember all too well as he would get tons of free coupons for ‘a hand-packed quart’ of Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors Ice Cream. Ah, to be a kid again.”

Beverly also worked as a journalist before branching off into a multifaceted writing and high-tech marketing career that included positions with Cray Supercomputers, Lockheed Martin and the advertising agency VIA in Portland, Maine. She laughs when talking about her last position with the famed Jackson Laboratory, in Bar Harbor, Maine saying “I could probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about 3,000 strains of inbred mice.”

An animal lover, she’s also owned Arabian horses for many years and has been breeding Maine Coon Cats since 1993, with an eye toward earning a Grand Championship for her 9-month-old Maine Coon cat, Honeycoon Sir Braeburn during the next show season. “Like my Dad, I love a challenge and  have a very competitive spirit,” she said. When asked what she most remembers about her Dad, she answers, “His growl!  Friends of Dad used to joke that when he was on a story he was like a bulldog,  he just wouldn’t let go.  He developed the habit that whenever he finished a story he would let out this great terrier growl.  The only time I don’t recall the growl was when he was on the Amelia Earhart story.” Why no growl?  “To my Dad the Amelia Earhart story wasn’t finished yet, Beverly recalled. “There was more, much more to be written.”

Beverly spoke fondly of a childhood spent mainly with her father, who took the family to California when she was 4 but was divorced her mother four years later. “It was just my dad and me from the age of 8 till I was 13 or 14 when he married for the second time,” she said. “So from that age, I was the one he talked to and I was mature for my age because I had to be. He would take me with him on stories. I would accompany him all over the place. If there was a fire engine passing, he would jump in the car and I would jump in the car and off we’d go.” Linwood Day, without doubt, often caught up with the fire engine or whatever else he was chasing for a story during his heyday at the San Mateo Times. Below is a list of just a few of the many memories – “random facts” – about her father that Beverly created on short notice:

  • He was heavily involved in political writing and mentions that he “walked the floor of Philadelphia’s Convention Hall with Jim Farley, stood by as Harry Truman ‘gave ‘em hell,’ sat on the floor in dim hotel rooms with Henry Wallace Progressives, and accompanied the Goldwater crusaders in their epic San Francisco takeover.”
  • He interviewed, “or discoursed with” (his words) President Richard Nixon, President John F. Kennedy, Estes Kefauver, Harold Stassen, Joe Martin, Adlai Stevenson, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Edward VIII of England and Robert Frost.
  • He wrote a speech for Nixon when he was running for Governor of California. 
  • He received a brief note from Ronald Reagan when he was Gov. of Calif. thanking him for his book [The Constitutional Conservative: The Poetry of a Cause, 1972] and saying, “I enjoyed reading it and found much food for thought.”

“My father could talk anyone into just about anything,” Beverly wrote, “and somewhere I have a picture of him getting the head of a museum in San Francisco along with the Egyptian liaison – well –  he got them to let him try on King Tut’s ring – when the King Tut Exhibit came to California.”

Linwood McGuire Day was born in 1917 and attended the University of Maine in Orono, majored in history and journalism and graduated about 1941.  He retired at age 68 and spent the remaining years of his life in Davis, California, where he died in 2003 at age 85. I like to think that Amelia was among the first to welcome him at the Pearly Gates, and that she thanked him profusely for all he did to tell the world the truth about her sad end on Saipan.


The 77th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s last flight approaches, but who cares?

June 24, 2014

We’re just a week out from July 2, the 77th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s fateful flight, but it’s safe to say that no one will mention it, especially anyone in the media, whether it’s the mainstream or the so-called alternative variety. Since TIGHAR’s previously announced plans to visit and search Nikumaroro for the eleventh time in August 2014, at an announced cost of $3 million for an operation that will yield nothing except another nice payday, have apparently been derailed or postponed (please advise if you know differently), our stalwarts in the truth-seeking media have been silent, and they will likely stay that way on July 2. The reason for this silence is quite simple: If they can’t broadcast falsehoods and propaganda about Amelia Earhart, they won’t do anything at all. How do I know this? Twenty-six years on this story, and two books, have given me a perspective that few, if any, have on this topic.

For those discerning souls who visit this blog regularly, I know this might sound like a broken record bordering on sour grapes, but please bear with me. The overwhelming majority of media people are not interested in the Earhart disappearance, and the rest actually detest the truth. (See “Frank Benjamin: ‘We are brothers in pain!’” Jan. 28, 2014, and “A look back at 2013,” Jan. 1, 2014, for more.) Again, you might ask how I know this. Since the publication of Truth at Last in June 2012, I’ve undertaken several massive emailing campaigns designed to inform the media and everyone else I can think of about Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and the worthiness of the cause.

One of my favorite photos of Amelia, revealing her essential nature before she found fame. While visiting her sister Muriel at St. Margaret’s College in Tornonto in 1917, Amelia encountered three Canadian soldiers who had lost a leg, and decided, on the spot, to join the war effort. She enrolled in the Voluntary Aid Detachment and was assigned to the Spadina Military Hospital. “Sister Amelia soon became a favorite among the wounded and discouraged men,” Muriel wrote.

A unique photo of Amelia as a young woman, seeming to reveal her essence before she found fame. While visiting her sister Muriel at St. Margaret’s College in Toronto in 1917, Amelia encountered three Canadian soldiers who had lost a leg, and decided, on the spot, to join the war effort. She enrolled in the Voluntary Aid Detachment and was assigned to the Spadina Military Hospital. “Sister Amelia soon became a favorite among the wounded and discouraged men,” Muriel wrote.

It’s hard to estimate the number of people I’ve contacted, but it’s far more than enough to reflect how most Americans perceive the Earhart disappearance, and must be somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 email contacts. Groups that I targeted, wrongly believing that they might be more receptive to the message than average citizens, included but were not limited to every talk radio station and host in the United States; every major newspaper and many hundreds of smaller papers in the country; thousands of Navy veterans; history departments and libraries at higher learning centers including the Universities of Kansas, Maryland, Florida, North Florida, Alabama and Florida State; all or most public libraries in Kansas, Minnesota, Maryland, Texas and Florida; all seniors assisted living centers and community centers in the Jacksonville, Fla.,  Gainesville, Fla., and southern Georgia areas; every aviation museum bookstore in the country (about 180); every public and private high school in the Jacksonville area; and even the entire faculty of Gonzaga High School, in Washington, D.C., where I graduated in 1968 and which ignored me without a single exception. Along the way, of course, were countless angry emails demanding to be taken off my mailing list, and worse.

Besides the radio and print outlets listed under my website’s Media button, I can count the positive responses from the above list on two hands. Doing the math is unnecessary here, and it’s far too depressing. I can’t think of another subject that Americans would be less interested in than the one to which I’ve devoted so much time and effort. Such is the putrid state of interest in poor Amelia’s fate that even the minimal standard one-half of 1 percent return that marketers expect from any ad campaign is an impossible pipedream when the topic is the Earhart case. If this two-year mass-mailing experiment has proven anything at all, it is that the media’s enthusiasm for the TIGHAR search is entirely synthetic and contrived, and doesn’t in any way reflect a public demand for information in the Earhart matter.

I’ve recently suspended the email campaign, having surpassed my tolerance threshold for rejection months ago. As we approach July 2, I’m not booked on a single radio program, and not one newspaper, or even blogger, has accepted the below commentary for publication. So rather than hide my light under a bushel, my July 2 commentary is herewith offered.  A much longer version, with the same title, “The truth in the Earhart ‘mystery’ is a sacred cow,” has been among the top 25 most read at Veterans News Now since mid-June of 2013. The commentary’s success at VNN is a rare but illustrative anomaly, and demonstrates that a compelling presentation can attract discerning readers who are interested in the truth.  The other light shining in the distance is that of Kay Alley, the vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, whose enthusiasm and advocacy in this cause has moved her committee members to approve my appearance at their sectional conference in Wichita, Kansas, at the end of September.  I’ll have two hours to change some hearts and minds, and will do my best.  (See “A point of light emerges,” March 8, 2014.)

The truth in the Earhart “mystery” is a sacred cow

July 2 is the 77th anniversary of the loss of Amelia Earhart, America’s “First Lady of Flight,” and Fred Noonan, her navigator, during their world-flight attempt in 1937.  No missing-persons case in history has been as misreported and misunderstood. In fact, the popular myth that the Earhart disappearance remains among the 20th century’s greatest mysteries is a complete falsehood, the result of decades of government propaganda aimed at perpetuating public ignorance in the Earhart matter.

The ugly truth is that the flyers and their twin-engine Lockheed Electra 10E crash-landed at Mili Atoll in the central Pacific’s Marshall Islands, were picked up by the Japanese and eventually taken to Saipan, where they suffered wretched deaths at the hands of their barbaric captors. This unpleasant reality has been dismissed and repackaged by the American media so successfully that it now permanently resides in the dustbin of fringe conspiracy theory. But in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the flyers’ landing and recovery by the Japanese survey ship Koshu are commonly accepted facts. In 1987, the Marshallese government issued four postage stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the events.

San Francisco newsman Fred Goerner’s 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart, was the first of several books to reveal the truth.  Among Goerner’s witnesses was Manual Aldan, a Saipanese dentist who treated Japanese officers and spoke their language. “The name of the lady [flyer] I hear used,” Aldan told Goerner in 1960. “This is the name the Japanese officer said: ‘Earharto!’In 1965, retired Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz told Goerner, “Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese.”  Not a whisper about Nimitz’s revelation can be found in any mainstream media product in the past several decades.

In his 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, former Army Sgt. Thomas E. Devine recounts his Saipan experiences that exposed the prewar presence of the American flyers.  In July 1944, Devine and other GIs watched as Earhart’s Electra was burned and later bulldozed into a pit with tons of war refuse, destroyed at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s direction after its discovery at Saipan’s Aslito Airfield. Our nation was not prepared to confront Japan in 1937, and if Earhart’s abandonment on Saipan by the popular president became known, FDR’s political future would have turned to ashes. Soon after FDR learned of the flyers’ capture, likely through Navy intercepts of Japanese radio communications, the Earhart matter became a sacred cow, the truth deeply hidden until Goerner revealed it to a fascinated nation whose outraged call for Congressional action was roundly ignored.

With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart (2002) presents the accounts of 26 Saipan veterans whose Earhart-related experiences corroborated Devine’s. Ten years later, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, this writer’s expansive follow-up to Own Eyes, overwhelmingly confirmed the truth with many new findings, witness testimonies and documents.  Convicted murderers are regularly sent to their deaths based on the smallest fraction of the evidence Truth at Last offers that places Earhart and Noonan on Saipan — far exceeding any objective standard of proof

A mountain of evidence reveals the tragic fate of Amelia Earhart on Saipan, yet nothing the media tell us about the so-called Earhart mystery ever hints at the truth. The recycled theories are transparently false, but the establishment’s goal of diverting Americans away from the facts never changes, nor does the continuing travesty of official denial.  Will this pathetic state of affairs ever end?

Fred Goerner’s high school letter sweater finds a new home, courtesy of Lance, his only son

June 10, 2014

Several months ago, in late February, Larrry Knorr, the publisher of Sunbury Press forwarded an email to me from Lance Goerner, the one and only son of Fred.  “To the folks at SUNBURY PRESS, my name is Lance Goerner,” the message started. “I am the son of Fred Goerner the author  of “The Search For Amelia Earhart.”  I would like to get in contact with Mr. Mike Campbell.  …  I have some info that he would find very interesting.  I am enjoying reading his book. AMELIA EARHART The Truth At Last.”

I didn’t know Fred had a son before Lance contacted Sunbury. Since then we’ve had several cordial phone conversations covering many topics, including Lance’s childhood, spent almost entirely without his father.  Lance said Fred actually told him he would be too busy becoming famous with the Amelia Earhart story to pay much attention to him. His father was dead serious, and basically abandoned the boy when he divorced Lance’s mother, Claire, in 1966, when Lance was 8. This was occurring just as Fred’s 1966 classic The Search for Amelia Earhart, the only Earhart disappearance book ever to attain bestseller status, was published and briefly launched Fred into a national celebrity. “As a kid I remember seeing him only two or three times,” Lance said, adding that when he got a bit older, he saw his father about six hours a year. 

Fred Goerner's Beverly Hills High School letter sweater, probably from the 1940-'41 school year.

Fred Goerner’s Beverly Hills High School letter sweater, probably from the 1941-’42 school year.

A few things things Lance told me about his father are best left out of this post. Suffice to say, although Fred Goerner was undoubtedly the greatest Earhart researcher ever, he was no saint in his day-to-day life, according to Lance and a few others with knowledge I’ve talked to.  But if Lance, who was basically abandoned by his father at a very young age, is still carrying any serious baggage or bitterness toward Fred, who died of cancer in 1994 at age 69, it hasn’t been evident in the several conversations we’ve had about him. 

On May 22, I was astounded when I opened up a FedEx package to behold Fred Goerner’s high school letter sweater, from Beverly Hills High School, with the symbols of four sports — tennis, football, baseball and basketball — embroidered on the B, and “Fred” woven into the left pocket.  “Here is a little something for keeping the good fight,” Lance wrote on an amusing card that accompanied the sweater. Neither he nor his mother know much about Fred’s high school athletic exploits, but Lance says his father’s best sport was tennis, and that he was good enough to have had a future as a pro. He also remembers hearing that his father received a letter from the iconic Amos Alonzo Stagg, an American sports legend who coached football at the  College of the Pacific from 1933 to 1946, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as a player and as a coach, and was among the first group of inductees to the Basketball Hall of Fame 

A pair of crossed tennis rackets. a football. basketball and baseball signify the achievements of a  four-letter athlete, rarely seen in today's  high school sports world.

A pair of crossed tennis rackets. a football, basketball and baseball signify the achievements of a four-letter athlete, rarely seen in today’s high school sports world.

Lance says Fred didn’t graduate from high school in the normal way, instead choosing to join the Seabees in 1942 at the age of 17.  After the war, he attended University of California Santa Barbara, sometime early in his college days broke his leg, which prevented him from participating in any college athletics, was later involved in the school’s theater program, and graduated, year unknown, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, at least that’s Lance’s best guess. Believe it or not, there’s no Wikipedia entry on Fred Goerner, and an Internet search reveals little about his biography except the bare bones contained in his New York Times obituary.

Now 55 and never married (“I never found the right one”), Lance Goerner is quite a character in his own right.  He’s a talented musician from a long line of distinguished performers on his father’s side.  Lance reports that Fred was the only one of his ancestors who wasn’t touched by the musical gene.  For example, Fred’s father was also named Fred Goerner, and was the “principle cello player with the New York and Pittsburgh Philarmonic orchestras,” Lance said in an email, adding that his grandfather was also “first call cello in LA during the 1930s and ’40s, recording with most major artists of the day [including Frank] Sinatra, Harry James and Artie Shaw’s Starlight Orchestra of 1939.”

Lance, a gifted trumpet player who spent eight years in Beijing playing with various jazz bands, finally had to return to the states when the filthy air of the unregulated Chinese industrial state threatened his health.  He’s performed with such greats as Ray Charles and Lenny Williams, as well as well-known groups including the The Chi-Lites and The Dramatics. Lance is currently living with his mother at their Santa Barbara home, watching over her in her golden years.

Although we’ve known each other just a brief time and have only spoken via Skype and the phone, I already consider Lance a good friend, and will always treasure Fred Goerner’s high school letter sweater.

Amelia Earhart’s alleged “Land in sight” message remains a curiosity, if not a mystery

May 27, 2014

This is the third and final installment in a series that briefly examines the alleged “post-loss” radio messages sent by Amelia Earhart after her last official transmission to the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca at 8:43 am Howland Island time. The most intriguing of these possible signals has come to be known as the “Land in sight” message. The only evidence for its existence can be found in the first edition of The Search for Amelia Earhart, where Goerner described viewing secret Navy files somewhere in Washington with Ross Game in April 1965, shortly before his meeting at the Pentagon with Marine General Wallace M. Greene, Jr.:

Near the bottom of the thick folder another piece of
Evidence had been added. A terse, U.S. Navy message
with no heading stated, “At 1030, the morning of the
disappearance, Nauru Island radio station picked up
Earhart on 6210 kcs saying, “Land in sight ahead.”

I blinked my eyes. Nearly two hours after Amelia had
run out of gas, a radio station in the British-controlled
Gilbert Islands had received her voice. Why was that
message not included as part of the 1937 search? What
had she sighted? Was that the extent of the message? 

Bill Prymak, at Enajet Island, Mili Atoll, with witness Joro in 1989, believed the "Land in sight" message may have reflected Amelia's sighting of land in the Marshall Islands.

Bill Prymak, at Enajet Island, Mili Atoll, with witness Joro in 1989, believed the “Land in sight” message may have reflected Amelia’s sighting of land in the Marshall Islands.

Goerner never saw the message again, and his two paragraphs describing its discovery were pulled from subsequent editions of Search. Writing to Rob Gerth in 1989, Goerner said he and Game were not allowed to make photocopies of the files, but took notes that were later cleared by the Navy. “When the Freedom of Information Act took effect, the file we had been shown in 1965 was released to the public, but the message ‘Land in sight ahead’ was no longer part of the file,” Goerner wrote. “In other files we found that Nauru had received a message “Ship in sight ahead” at 10:30 P.M. the evening before the disappearance. Captain Lawrence [sic] Frye Safford, USN, (Ret.), who did considerable Earhart research in the late ’60s (and was writing a book on the matter at the time of his death), told me he believed the message Game and I saw was pulled by the Navy before the file was released in the belief that it had been corrupted from the “ship in sight ahead” and/or because I had made a point of the morning message in THE SEARCH FOR AMELIA EARHART. At this writing I am unsure whether the morning message was bona fide or not.”

Interest in the “Land in sight” message persists, at least among the few who still pay attention to such things.  Despite Paul Rafford’s reluctance to support any of the other alleged “post loss” signals as legitimate, he believes the 10:30 a.m., July 2 Nauru reception could have been sent by the Electra. “As I see it, the question is Could Earhart have still been in the air and how far could she have been heard at 10:30 a.m. Nauru time,” Rafford wrote in July 2008…. “Nauru is just east of the 165 E meridian. The time at this meridian is 11 hours ahead of Greenwich. Thus if the time at Nauru was 10:30 PM (2230 Local), the time at the Greenwich Meridian would be 1130. So we are talking 1130 GMT for 10:30 PM at Nauru. Subtract 11 hours from 10:30 a.m. and you have 2330 GMT. So, Earhart would have been in the air 23 hours, 30 minutes. At 10:30 in the morning, on 6210 Earhart should have been heard to at least 500 miles. Yes, she could have been heard at Nauru if the land in sight were the Marshalls.”

Longtime researcher Bill Prymak agrees. “The ‘LAND IN SIGHT’ message comes 3 hours and 16 minutes after the infamous 20:14 ‘LINE OF POSITION,'” he wrote in 1993. “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 Mili … 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?”

So what are we to believe? Did Amelia Earhart send radio messages from her downed Electra, transmissions that were heard not only by PAA and Navy stations in the central Pacific area, but by amateur radio operators in the continental United States? I’m not technically smart enough to have an informed opinion, but tried to present the thoughts of some of the experts in radio propagation and reception capabilities of the day. If forced to endorse an opinion, I would have to side with Paul Rafford Jr. and Bill Prymak in their conclusions that none of the alleged post-loss messages, with the possible exception of the “Land in sight” message, came from the Earhart Electra. Others may disagree, and the only certainty at this point is that we’ll never know for sure.

 *  I wrote in Truth at Last (p. 122) that the two paragraphs describing the “Land in sight” message were removed from all subsequent editions of The Search for Amelia Earhart, but I don’t know this for a fact and should have qualified that statement in the book. A few researchers have made this statement through the years, and I always accepted it. I have two different versions of Goerner’s book. One, the Book Club Edition, which I found in an Arlington, Virginia used bookstore in 1990, is smaller and has more pages (336) than the regular first edition (326 pages) that I recently acquired. The two paragraphs can be found on pp. 318 of the Book Club Edition and pp. 307-308 of the regular first edition.  If these paragraphs were indeed deleted from all other versions of Search, no reason for this action was ever given by the publisher, Doubleday, or Goerner himself, to my knowledege, which makes it suspicious in itself. Comments from readers with later editions are welcomed.


May 16, 2014

On Saturday night, May 17 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT, I appeared on “The Fringe” with Pat Wilkinson, on KTTK 630 AM “K-Talk,” Salt Lake City, “The Independent Voice of Utah.” The subject, of course, was Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. Click here for podcast.


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