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 to 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 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

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 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 Change 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, Amelie 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.

Experts weigh in on Earhart’s “post-loss” messages

May 13, 2014

In my last posting, several of Amelia Earhart’s best-known “post-loss messages” were discussed briefly; the information was taken from a chapter in the original manuscript of Truth at Last that had to be deleted during the publication process.  The receptions included the report from a Nauru radio operator, who claimed to have heard a “voice similar to that emitted from [Earhart] plane” 12-and-a-half hours after Earhart’s last message to Itasca. Walter McMenamy and Carl Pierson, Los Angeles amateur shortwave operators, both claimed to have heard SOS signals and other messages on frequencies 6210 and 3105, the two main wavelengths used by Earhart. From Rock Springs, Wyoming, came the report of Dana Randolph, the 16-year-old operator who claimed to have heard, on the morning of July 4, “This is Amelia Earhart. Ship is on reef south of the equator. Station KH9QQ”  [sic] on 16,000 kc, a harmonic of 3105.

Various signals including long dashes were heard in response to requests sent by Pan American Airways radio stations on Midway Island, Mokapu (Honolulu, KGMB) and Wake Island on 3105 kc and 6210 kc. Also noted was the  controversial “281 message,” heard by operators at the Navy’s HF/DF  station at Wailupe and the British steamer SS Moorby, 370 miles north of Howland island, and in California by Charles Miguel of Oakland, and reported by the Coast Guard’s Hawaiian Section to the cutter Itasca early July 5. Miguel reported hearing “281 … north … Howland … Can’t hold out much longer … drifting … above water … motor sinking … on sand bank 225 miles from Howland.”

Several other alleged messages were also reported by various parties, and some were outrageous or bizarre enough as to be easily classified as hoaxes. The reports presented here, in this writer’s opinion, are representative of the most credible of the alleged post-loss messages.

Commander Warner K. Thompson, Itasca skipper, included the Nauru message in his report without comment, but Almon Gray, a former Navy reserve captain and Pan Am Airways China Clipper flight officer, believed the signals, sent on 6210 kc and received at Nauru at 9:31, 9:43 and 9:54 p.m. July 2 (Howland time), merited “serious consideration. … The Nauru operator reported good signal strength and was able to judge the tone or timbre of the speaker’s voice yet was unable to understand what the speaker was saying,” Gray wrote. “He suggested the possibility of modulation problems.” Gray noted that Harry Balfour, the Lae radio operator, as well as the “DF operator on Howland who was trying to take a radio bearing on the plane” had both reported similar symptoms and suggested possible modulation problems.  According to Gray, the probability that “more than one transmitter in the area would exhibit the same symptoms of over-modulation on the same frequency at essentially the same time is very small.  It is the writer’s opinion that the signals intercepted by Nauru were in fact from the Earhart plane no longer in flight.”

Paul Rafford Jr., who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, strongly believes that none of the alleged messages came from Earhart.

Paul Rafford Jr., who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, strongly believes that none of the alleged messages came from Earhart.

Paul Rafford, Jr., author of Amelia Earhart’s Radio (Paragon Agency, 2006), flew with PAA as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, and worked in the Manned Spaceflight Program from 1963 until his retirement in 1988 disagrees the messages could have been sent by Amelia. “Reference the very unsteady voice modulated carrier described by Hansen,” Rafford said in a January 2006 e-mail. “This immediately tells me that the signals could not have come from Earhart’s plane. Her transmitter was crystal controlled whereas ‘unsteady carrier’ indicates that the ‘voice modulated’ (radiotelephone) signal was not crystal controlled. Prior to crystal control, when voice was applied to a radio transmitter it could result in an unsteady carrier. However, this also suggests that the signal came from a naval or military transmitter. These services were slower to adopt crystal control than the civilian services. It was a matter of Depression era funding for new equipment.” 

In his little-known book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio, Rafford was less technical when assessing the reliability of the signals that followed the KGMB announcement, depicting the receptions as an “outright hoax,” and insisting the claims didn’t pass the common sense test. “Would anyone believe that Earhart was running down her batteries by listening to music and news from KGMB instead of calling for help?” Rafford wrote.

U.S. Government confiscates PAA intercepts

Mrs. Ellen Belotti, George Angus’ secretary in 1937, contacted Fred Goerner in 1971 about the reports from the three PAA HF/DF stations she had retained under somewhat unusual and suspicious circumstances. “One day several U.S. Navy officers who identified themelves as from the Office of U.S. Naval Intelligence appeared at the office (PAN AM) and confiscated all of the reports dealing with Earhart,” Goerner wrote in a 1971 letter to Fred Hooven. “She says the Pan Am people were warned at the time not to discuss the matter with anyone, and that the reports were to be considered secret and any copies of the reports were to be destroyed. Mrs.Belotti says she decided not to destroy her copies of the reports because she believed the Navy did not have the right to require that of Pan Am. She also felt a fair shake was not being given to her idol, Amelia.”

In 1979, Goerner told radio technician Joe Gurr, hired by Lockheed to work on the Electra’s radio at Oakland prior to the first world flight attempt, that he traced the PAA intercepts seized by the Navy in July 1937 to the Navy Security Group in Washington, D.C. The records are “in effect part of NSA [National Security Agency] and the records of radio intelligence are beyond the purview of the Freedom of Information Law [sic],” Goerner wrote. “I have also learned that the FCC conducted a full investigation into the radio receptions believed received from AE by amateur radio operators. The records of this investigation were also turned over to U.S. Naval Intelligence Communications and are considered also to be beyond the Freedom of Information Law. There’s something wrong there, isn’t there, Joe? What in God’s name is worth classifying after 42 years?” To this researcher’s knowledge, the PAA intercepts remain classified.

Navy, Coast Guard skippers unanimous in rejecting messages

Capt. J.S. Dowell’s “Report of Earhart Search,” of July 20, 1937, is a sometimes confusing summary of the Lexington Group’s two-week involvement in the mission. Dowell’s report begins with a ten-page segment labeled “Estimates and Decision,” replete with several subsections. Nowhere in Dowell’s report can a heading labeled “Conclusions” be found, and the statement  commonly accepted as such — “That at about 2030 [GMT, 9 a.m. Howland time] the plane landed on the sea to the northwest of Howland Island, within 120 miles of the island” – is presented in this opening section under seven other “Probable Actions of Plane,” before any narrative or summary of the search itself.

More germane to this discussion was the DESRON2 commander’s apparent willingness to consider the legitimacy of several of the “post loss” radio receptions. Under “Possibilities Arising from Rumour and Reports,” Dowell listed ten reported messages, including Walter McNemay’s July 3 reception, which he noted was given credibility by the Coast Guard; the “281 message;” Dana Randolph’s Rock Springs, Wyoming reception; and KGMB Hawaii’s test announcement that received dashes in response to its request. Captain Leigh Noyes, Lexington’s commander, had no such inclinations, and in his nine-page summary of the carrier’s actions, “Report of Earhart Search Operations 3-18 July 1937,” Noyes’ comments, later echoed by other official sources, left no doubt where he stood on the idea that any of the transmissions could have originated from NR 16020. “Numerous radio messages were reported to have been received by various agencies, particularly amateur radio operators, which purported to give information received directly from the plane after it landed,” Noyes wrote. “Many of these messages were in conflict and many of them were unquestionably false. None could be positively verified. These messages were a serious handicap to the progress of the search, especially before the arrival of the Lexington Group.” 

The late Fred Hooven, the noted engineer, inventor and creator of the Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) landing theory, was adamant that some of the post-loss transmissions originated from Amelia Earhart's Electra 10E.

The late Fred Hooven, the noted engineer, inventor and creator of the Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) landing theory, was adamant that some of the post-loss transmissions originated from Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E.

Commander Thompson was equally convinced that none of the broadcasts received after Amelia’s “line of position” message at 8:43 a.m., July 3, came from the Electra. The Itasca commander’s 106-page report, “Radio Transcripts – Earhart Flight,” of July 19, 1937, is the chronological record of more than 500 official messages received and sent by Itasca from June 9, when it received orders to assist in the flight, to July 16, when the cutter was released from the search by the Navy.  The report contains far more than official communications, however. Thompson freely inserted his comments and complaints wherever he felt appropriate throughout the document, and in his zeal to represent Itasca as blameless for the Earhart loss, some of his statements have been shown to be inaccurate and possibly dishonest.

For example, Thompson claimed that Itasca had been repeatedly attempting to contact Amelia since 10 a.m., July 3, and that the signals sent by Itasca “as picked up by other units are steadily reported as possible signals from other sources. A careful check of the ITASCA radio logs shows that in most cases the signals were originated by ITASCA.”  As Ric Gillespie points out in Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance, this statement is “patently untrue. A careful check of Itasca’s radio logs shows that not one of the purported receptions from the plane corresponds with a transmission by the cutter. In fact, Itasca’s own radio operators logged more unexplained signlas on Earhart’s frequency – forty-four in all – than any other station.”  Gillespie notes that as reports of distress calls came in to the cutter from various outside sources in the first several days of the search, Itasca “shared virtually no information about what its own radio operators were hearing.”

Thompson also declined to report that on the night of July 4, the Howland Island operator said that he “heard Earhart call Itasca” and that “Baker heard Earhart QSA 4 [strength 4 of 5] R7 [readability 7 of 9] last night at 8:20 p.m.”  Nothing is noted in the Howland log for July 4, however, except the notation “charging batteries all day.” Thompson did not include the Itasca or Howland Island radio logs in his report, but Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts and Radioman 3rd Class Thomas O’Hare kept their original logs and donated them to the National Archives in the early 1970s. Bellarts’ son, Dave, has also provided copies to many researchers, including this one.

Thompson denied that any possible transmissions from the Electra had been received by Itasca, Swan, Howland or Baker Island, basing this claim on speculation that these units “were closest to the signals,” as if he knew where the broadcasts were originating.  “None of these units heard the apparently faked messages,” Thompson wrote. … “Throughout, ITASCA opinion was that if the plane was down some of these units would get the traffic.” He then questioned the content of messages that were reported, without naming the sources, because “ITASCA was of the opinion that the traffic would consist of some useful information and not just call signs and dashes. Both Earhart and Noonan could use code. Why should a plane in distress waste time on repeated calls or on making special signals. If the plane was using battery the carrier signals were out of all proportion to the length of time the battery could stand up.” 

In his 16-point summary, Thompson continued to dismiss the idea that messages could have been sent by the Electra, depicting the stateside amateur reports as “all probably criminally false.” Moreover, he incorrectly stated that “the only interceptions were by amateurs, with the exception of one Wailupe interception” and concluded it it was “extremely doubtful that Earhart ever sent signals after 0846, 2 July.” As for the Electra, “ITASCA’s original estimate after three (3) weeks of search problem still appears correct, that the plane went down to the northwest of Howland,” Thompson wrote.

The commanding officer of USS Colorado, Capt. Wilhelm L. Friedell, essentially agreed with Thompson. “The broadcasting stations and the ITASCA continued to send messages to the [Earhart] plane,” Friedell wrote in his July 13, 1937 search report to the Fourteenth Naval District. “On the night of 3 And 4 July no signals were heard on the plane frequency by the ITASCA or COLORADO, but reports were received from Wyoming, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Australia and other points that signals, and in some cases voice reports, had been received from the plane. … There was no doubt that many stations were calling the Earhart plane on the plane’s frequency, some by voice and others by signals. All of these added to the confusion and doubtfulness of the authenticity of the reports.”

Other expert opinions vary

Were any of the intercepted messages sent by the lost fliers? It’s impossible to be sure, but any fair and objective consideration certainly must include more than the flatly dismissive verdicts of the Navy and Coast Guard.  Although George Angus, the Pan Am official who directed the Earhart watch in the Pacific area, didn’t share the enthusiasm expressed by R.M. Hansen, the operator in charge at Wake Island, who said he was “positive” that a bearing of 215 he took on a “very unsteady voice-modulated carrier …was KHAQQ [Earhart],”  Angus didn’t rule out the possibility that one or more transmissions had come from the Electra.

“All of the above information was turned over to the Coast Guard officials at Honolulu with emphasis being made at the time that there was nothing definite in what we had heard because of no identifying signals of any nature being received,” Angus wrote in his July 10, 1937 report, later seized by U.S. Navy Intelligence agents after it was sent to the Pan Am communications center in Alemeda, California. “While it would appear there may have been some connection between the dashes and the KGMB broadcast, we could not state definitely that the signals were from the Earhart plane.”  Almon Gray wrote at length about the Nauru receptions reported 12-and-a-half hours after Amelia’s last message, concluding that “the signals intercepted by Nauru were in fact from the Earhart plane no longer in flight.”  Moroever, Gray believed that the “peculiar signals” intercepted by the PAA stations at Wake, Midway, and Honolulu “may very well have come from the Earhart plane.”

Fred Goerner based his opinion on years of experience gathering news and dealing with people rather than technical expertise, and was convinced of the validity of some of the receptions. Writing to Fred Hooven in 1970, Goerner addressed the various amateur operator claims of receptions from the Electra. “The messages were publicly discredited by the Navy and the amateur operators were branded as cranks,” Goerner wrote. “I have contacted a number of those operators within the last couple of years, and I believe the messages they received were bona fide. The men I have talked to are all dedicated and responsible amateurs who were very upset at the official attitudes in 1937. Several of them have accused the Navy of having asked the editors of QST and other radio magazines not to print the letters of protest they wrote.”

Paul Rafford Jr., who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, says he “never saw eye to eye” with Gray, and puts little stock in the post-loss receptions. In 1981, Rafford built a nine-to-one scale model of the Electra, and ran tests to determine the difference in transmitting efficiency between a trailing antenna and the Electra’s fixed “V” antenna, based on his knowledge of its parameters and characteristics. “Measurements with the model, confirmed by mathematical formulas, show that the trailing antenna would have radiated almost all of the 50 watts supplied to it by the transmitter,” Rafford writes.” By contrast, her fixed antenna transmitted only ½ watt on 3105 kHz.” In April 2009, I asked Rafford if he thought any of the messages could have come from the Electra. “Personally, I don’t go along with any so called post loss messages,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Some of them are outright bogus and none of them provide any useful information as to her whereabouts. In any case she would have to be down on land, undamaged, in order to put out a useful signal. It would be virtually impossible for her to be heard on 3105 for more than 200 miles by day and 100 by night. On 6210 she might be able to be heard out to 500 miles by day and 1000 by night, but most of the intercepts were on 3105.”

After more than 15 years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged radio receptions, Fred Hooven, the noted engineer and inventor who spent his last years as a Dartmouth University professor, besides working with Fred Goerner on the Earhart case, presented his paper, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight,” at the Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in June 1982. Citing the bearings on the signals reported by the three Pan Am radio stations and the Howland Island high-frequency direction finder supplied by the Navy, Hooven announced it was “undeniable” that the transmissions had originated from the downed fliers. “Five bearings were taken on the weak, wavering signal reported on the frequency used by the Earhart plane,” Hooven wrote, “and four of them, plus the 157-337 position line of the last message all intersected in the general area of the Phoenix Group. This constitutes positive evidence of the presence of a transmitter in that area which could only have been that of the downed plane. No hypothesis purporting to explain the events of the last flight can be credited that does not offer a plausible explanation of these signals, and why they originated along the plane’s announced position line at the only location, except for Baker and Howland, where there was land.”

“Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight”: Birth of the Nikumaroro theory

“Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight” is more than an erudite analysis of the alleged post-loss radio intecepts.. Hooven studied everything available about the ill-fated flight, and saved his most damning criticism for George Palmer Putnam, “who promoted the flight in the first place,” and characterized Putnam’s role as its “most tragic aspect. It was his responsibility to see that the flight was properly administered,” Hooven wrote, “that Miss Earhart had the best equipment and the proper instruction in its use, that the best possible logistic arrangements had been made, and above all that the most complete provisions possible had been made for the safety of the flight, and for the organizations of rescue operations, especially for the hazardous over-water flights.”  Hooven was convinced that “Putnam failed completely” to fulfill his responsibilities to Amelia, leaving “important management details to her,” and failing to sufficiently fund the required support operations. “He consistently showed interest only in the promotional aspects of the flight,” Hooven continued, noting that Putnam’s last messages to his wife “were exhortations to her to reach the United States by July Fourth in order to meet appearance commitments he had made for her.”

Hooven’s paper was a milestone in Earhart research, possibly the first academic, objective analysis of the post-flight intercepts, and firmly established him as the progenitor of the McKean-Gardner Island landing theory – which became popularized by Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR and the mainstream media as the “Nikumaroro hypothesis” during the past 25 years.. In his conclusion, Hooven not only emphasized his conviction that Almon Gray’s “peculiar signals” were sent by the Electra, but he embraced Fred Goerner’s belief that Amelia and Noonan met their ends on Saipan, in Japanese custody. “The evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that has been presented here,” Hooven wrote, “that the flyers landed in the Phoenix area, probably on McKean or Gardner, that they transmitted signals from there during the next three days, that they were removed by the Japanese, who either removed or destroyed their plane, that they were taken to Saipan, where they died sometime before the end of 1937, and that the U.S. Government knew about their fate, but for reasons of foreign relations and military secrecy were not able to make that knowledge public. We hope that one day records will be found or released that will reveal the truth about the fate of the flyers. Meanwhile the memory of a brave and gracious lady remains bright after forty five years.”

Hooven reportedly changed his theory that the Electra landed in the Phoenix Islands area – from which has sprung so much confusion and misinformation through the TIGHAR-Nikumaroro hypothesis that so dominates media coverage – and returned to Fred Goener’s original Mili Atoll-landing scenario. Several researchers, including the late Ron Reuther and Rollin Reineck, and the still-living Bill Prymak and Ron Bright, agree that Hooven indeed changed his mind.

“I should have also mentioned that Fred Hooven, after making original conclusions that Earhart came down SE of Howland, thus influencing Goerner to concur, later recalculated and changed his conclusions and determined that AE/FN came down close to Mili,” Reuther wrote in an email to me shortly before his death in 2007.  “I strongly believe Goerner would have reassessed his position and very likely would have agreed with Hooven’s final conclusion – near Mili,” if Hooven hadn’t passed away in 1985.

One possible post-loss message remains to be considered, perhaps the most controversial of all. We take a look at it in the next posting.


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