Rafford’s “Enigma” brings true mystery into focus: What was Amelia Earhart really doing in final hours?

October 15, 2014

Now that my presentation to the Ninety-Nines at their South Central Sectional Meeting in Wichita, Kansas is history, we return to our regular scheduled programming.  Today, as promised, we consider the multiple radio conundrums posed by the final flight of Amelia Earhart, more specifically, the writings of Paul Rafford Jr.

The elder statesman of Earhart research, Paul is alive and well at 95 in Melbourne, Fla., and he remains among the planet’s most knowledgeable on radios and their transmission capabilities during the time of the Amelia’s final flight. He worked with Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer in 1940, flying with Pan Am until 1946. He flew with crew members who had flown with Fred Noonan, and talked with technicians who had worked on Earhart’s Electra.  After a promotion with PAA, he continued to fly as a technical consultant before transferring to the U.S. Manned Spaceflight Program in 1963. During the early space shots he was Pan Am project engineer in communications services at Patrick Air Force Base, and joined the team that put man on the moon. He retired from NASA in 1988.

Earhart fans will recall Paul’s name from Vincent V. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story (Random House), wherein he presented his then-current ideas about the Electra’s radio propagation capabilities and Amelia’s decisions during the final flight. In 2006, Paul’s own book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio, was published by the Paragon Agency, and though it didn’t have commercial success, it is a treasure trove of invaluable information you won’t find anywhere else.

“I know of no person more qualified than Mr. Paul Rafford to present to the American public the most probable cause of Earhart’s failure to find her destination island,” Bill Prymak wrote in 2006. “Mr. Rafford is world recognized for his astute radio propagation analysis and is THE man to contact re: radio problems. We are proud to have him as an AES member and radio consultant.”

Paul Rafford Jr., circa early 1940s, who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, is among the foremost experts on radio transmission capabilities during the late 1930s.

Paul Rafford Jr., circa early 1940s, who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, is among the foremost experts on radio transmission capabilities during the late 1930s.

Paul wrote many articles for Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters between 1989 and 2000, and not only about Amelia’s inexplicable radio behavior during the last flight. He also developed compelling theories about radio deceptions and plane switches, some of the most fascinating possibilities ever advanced to explain what could have happened during those final hours of July 2, 1937, before and after Amelia’s last officially recognized message was heard at 8:44 a.m. Howland Island Time.

Paul wrote two pieces with basically the same title, “The Amelia Earhart Radio Enigma” in 1997, and “The Earhart Radio Enigma,” in 2000, as if to repeat and emphasize the major problems and unanswered questions that still stumped him – and continue to baffle the experts. We’ll start today with Paul’s 1997 treatment of the Earhart radio enigma, and in coming weeks will explore a host of his analytic and theoretical essays about our favorite missing American aviatrix. Without futher ado, here is Paul’s essay, edited only for style and consistency, written April 10, 1997, which appeared in the AES Newsletters May 1997 edition.

THE EARHART RADIO ENIGMA”

1) Why did Amelia Earhart have her trailing antenna removed in Miami before starting her second attempt to circle the globe? During the early days of over-ocean flying, airplanes would reel out a long length of wire called a “trailing antenna” for radiotelegraph communication with ships on the international maritime calling and distress frequency, 500 kHz (kilohertz, same as kilocycles). This was in addition to their regular fixed antenna for communicating with land stations.

Legend has it that both Earhart and Noonan’s code speed was very slow, so she removed the equipment required for contacting ships. However, the assumption about Noonan’s radio operating abilities is not supported by former crew mates. On occasion while flying as navigator on Pan Am’s Clippers he would relieve the radio operator for rest periods. However, by eliminating 500 kHz, Earhart also eliminated the possibility that the Itasca’s direction finder could lead her to Howland. She didn’t need to know code in order to transmit on 500 for bearings. Both she and the Itasca had 3105 kHz, and they could have coordinated any bearing procedures by voice.

New evidence indicates the probability that after Earhart arrived at Miami from Burbank during her second attempt to circle the globe, she secretly switched planes. The second plane came from the factory without a trailing antenna. But, in order to explain to curious observers why she arrived with the trailing antenna, but left without one, she had it removed right after she arrived. This would help obscure the fact that she had switched planes. The second plane also came without a direction finding loop. Earhart could dispense with a trailing antenna but not a loop. So, just the day before departure Pan Am installed a new one for her. (Editor’s note: In future posts we will look more closely at Paul’s claim of a plane switch in Miami.)

2) Why did Earhart refuse Pan Am’s offer to track her plane across the Pacific if she would install a Pan Am direction-finding frequency? During Earhart’s eight-day layover at Miami she met with Charlie Winter, Pan Am’s local radio engineer. During their conversation he pointed out that if she would install a Pan Am frequency in place of the vacant 500 kHz channel, our direction finders could track her whereabouts over the Pacific, the same as we did with our Clippers.

Amelia in the cockpit of the Electra 10E, circa 1937.

Amelia in the cockpit of the Electra 10E, circa 1937.  Her inexplicable radio behavior in the final hours of her last flight continues to baffle researchers, and no definitive conclusions have yet been reached about her true intentions.

As Charlie told me later, she immediately rebuffed his suggestion with the comment, “I don’t need that! I’ve got a navigator to tell me where I am.” Charlie was flabbergasted. But the question is, why was Earhart so quick to reject his offer? Didn’t she want her whereabouts to be known?

3) Why, after seven hours of contact with Lae, did Earhart dismiss Harry Balfour’s offer to continue communicating with her until she could contact the Itasca, waiting at Howland Island? Seven hours into the flight Earhart advised Harry Balfour that she was leaving 6210 kHz and would try and contact the Itasca on 3105 kHz. Her signals were still coming in well, so Balfour implored her not to break off contact with him until she had established contact with the ship. This was normal operating procedure back then. But, she switched off anyway, and he never again heard her, nor did she ever again have two-way contact with any station.

4) Why did Earhart never engage Itasca in two-way radio contact? Bill Galten’s logs show that Earhart never directly answered any of his more than 50 calls or ever gave any indication that she was heating the ship except on one occasion. She would suddenly come on the air without a preliminary call-up, deliver a brief message and go off, all in the space of seven or eight seconds.

5) Why did Earhart never stay on the air for more than a few seconds at a time? We can only guess, but it would appear, as in the Pan Am direction-finding offer, that she didn’t want her position known. The bare minimum time for obtaining a bearing with a vintage 1930’s direction finder was about 15 seconds, but it usually took longer.

Radioman 2nd Class Frank Cipriani, manning the Howland direction finder, complained bitterly that Earhart never stayed on the air long enough for him to get a bearing. She also confused the Itasca crew by never advising what frequency she would be listening to or if they should answer with code or voice.

6) Why did Bill Galten believe that Earhart never intended to land on Howland Island? Bill left the Coast Guard and came with Pan Am shortly after the Earhart disappearance. We flew together during World War II. On one occasion while discussing the Earhart mystery he exclaimed to me, “That woman never intended to land on Howland!” When I asked why, he had two explanations. First, her radio operating procedures were nothing like that of a lost pilot desperately trying to make a landfall.

Second, Bill claimed that the condition of the Howland runway was unfit for a safe landing. It was covered with thousands of goony birds that, despite the best efforts of the Itasca’s crew to shoo them away, would not vacate the area.

Many thousands of "Gooney birds" like these pictured  on Midway Island posed a real threat to plane landings or takeoffs on Howland,  another factor that led many to believe that Amelia Earhart never intended to land there.

Many thousands of gooney birds like these pictured on Midway Island posed a real threat to plane landings or takeoffs on Howland, another factor that led many to believe that Amelia Earhart never intended to land there.

7) Why did Earhart ask for 7500 kHz from the Itasca when 7500 could not be used with airborne direction finders? While Earhart was supposedly approaching Howland, she requested, “Go ahead on 7500 kilocycles.” She had asked for it earlier so she could use it for radio bearings. Although the Itasca’s crew knew that she would not be able to get a bearing, they had no choice but to transmit long Morse code dashes for her. Five minutes later she replied, “We received your signal but unable to get minimum (a bearing).”

Fred Noonan, Pan Am’s ex-chief navigator, would very well know she couldn’t get one on that frequency. Instead of asking for 7500, Earhart should have listened for 500 kHz. The ship was transmitting for her on this frequency almost constantly. Her direction finder had been calibrated to this frequency range before she left Miami. Later, Harry Balfour checked it at Lae with a nearby station operating on 500.

When Earhart declared, “We read your signal but unable get minimum,” it was the only time she admitted hearing the ship. She would also conclude that the ship was hearing her signals because they had turned on 7500 kHz at her request. At this point she should have been ecstatic! Lost and out of communication, she at long last had radio contact. Even though the crew could use only telegraph on 7500, they could at least have sent very slowly and advised her to listen on 3105 for communication and 500 for direction finding. But did Earhart cling to this one chance for survival? No! She went off the air for 40 minutes and when she returned it was only to declare that she was flying up and down a line of position and would switch to 6210 kHz. The Itasca never heard her again.

8) What actually happened during Earhart’s last flight? This is a complex question and we can only propose a scenario based on what facts we know, plus some educated conjectures. War clouds were fast gathering in the mid-1930s. In Europe the Axis powers were getting ready to invade their neighbors and Japan was about to invade China. America was just recovering from the Great Depression and money for defense was scarce. Also, the isolationists were very powerful and opposed any “foreign entanglements.”

To astute observers of international politics, it was obvious that we were rapidly approaching a world war for which we were woefully unprepared. For example, the location of many Pacific islands on maritime charts had not been checked since the early 19th century whaling ships had stumbled across them. Their positions could be no more accurate than the ship’s chronometers that may not have been checked against time standards for weeks or more.

And so it was that the powers-that-be in government came up with a plan. Amelia Earhart was getting ready to circle the globe on a flight that would carry her over the mid-Pacific islands in question. Why not have her disappear during it? The American public would demand that the government find their heroine at any cost. A vast search would ensue. Ostensibly, it would be for humanitarian purposes, but meanwhile our fleet would be quietly updating its century old charts while reconnoitering the area. With war clouds looming, our charts had to be accurate. As an example of the problem, during the search one particular island in the Phoenix group was found 60 miles away from its plotted position.

The centerpiece of the plan would be the action around Howland Island after Earhart supposedly went down. But, after signing off with Harry Balfour, instead of Howland, Earhart would head for the British controlled Gilbert Islands, and land on a predetermined beach. After the Navy finished its survey, the flyers could be rescued. But tragically, rescue never came. Did Earhart overfly the Gilberts and land in the Marshalls?  I leave the answer to other investigators.

The wording of all of Earhart’s transmissions was such that they could have been recorded weeks beforehand for later broadcast by a clandestine radio station somewhere in the vicinity of Howland. Coast Guard logs show that just before Earhart’s flight, the Itasca dropped off men and supplies at Howland and then proceeded to Baker Island, which along with Howland, was part of the inter-island weather gathering network operating on 7500 kHz.

At Baker, the ship dropped off four new colonists and their gear. They would secretly set up a radio station to transmit the Earhart recordings on 3105 kHz.  (Editor’s note: Baker Island is an uninhabited atoll located just north of the equator in the central Pacific about 1,920 miles southwest of Honolulu, and lies almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia.  Its nearest neighbor is Howland Island, 42 miles to the north-northwest; both have been territories of the United States since 1857. Baker Island was the site of a U.S.  LORAN [Long Range Navigation] radio station in operation from September 1944 to July 1946. The station unit number was 91 and the radio call sign was NRN-1.)

Baker Island, 42 miles from Hwhere Paul Rafford believes

Baker Island, 42 miles south-southeast of Howland, where Paul Rafford Jr. suggests four unnamed Coast Guardsmen sent pre-recorded radio messages to Itasca as part of the Earhart radio deception on July 2, 1937.

After word was received that Earhart had left Lae, the plan would go into action. When Earhart was supposedly approaching Howland, the Baker operator would commence sending the recordings at hourly intervals until sunrise. After that they would be sent more frequently, consistent with Earhart’s supposed flight activities when in the vicinity of Howland. The transmitter power was adjustable so the operator could simulate her calls at various distances out from Howland.

The transmissions were kept very brief so Cipriani could never get a bearing. Had he been able to do so, he would have noticed that the signals were coming from the south southeast, instead of west. Although he was unable to get a bearing at the time, days later he heard a strong, nearby station send a long dash on 3105 kHz. This time he got a bearing. It fell on a line of position running north-northwest by south-southeast through Howland. Baker is south-southeast.

For several nights after Earhart’s disappearance, numerous, unidentified signals were heard on her frequencies. Some were obvious hoaxes. However, there is no evidence to indicate that she ever again came on the air “live” after discontinuing contact with Balfour.

9) Why was an official Earhart accident investigation report never issued? Today, any aircraft crash or disappearance would get a far better accident report than Earhart’s did. The only official report we have from the government was that issued by the Navy. But, it is simply a description of the search, and not an accident report.

In a letter to Fred Goerner dated April, 1962, Leo Bellarts, former chief radio operator on the Itasca, commented about the lack of an investigation. “Honestly, I thought there was going to be an investigation of the flight and that is the reason that I have kept certain logs and papers concerning the flight.”

By contrast, the Hawaii Clipper that disappeared between Guam and Manila just a year later under very similar circumstances, was the subject of an intensive investigation. Perhaps the powers-that-be at the time didn’t want the public to know just what happened to Earhart. (End of Paul Rafford’s “Earhart Radio Enigma.”)

Among the most vexing questions about the Earhart flight,  of course, the one whose correct answer  might help unravel the whole impossibly complicated ball of wax, is WHY didn’t Amelia want anyone to get a fix on her position? We can assume that the Japanese were quite interested in her flight, for obvious reasons, and would have been listening to her transmissions from several of their radio stations in the central Pacific area, including Jaluit, where a powerful transmitter was operational. It seems quite clear by now that Amelia was up to something besides trying to locate Howland Island.

I’ve often said that the Earhart “mystery” can never be solved in the air, that the real answers are kept where our government buries its deepest secrets. But we’ve learned plenty since Fred Goerner started banging on doors, and now, for the most part, it’s mainly the many nagging details that continue to evade us. Readers should understand that this editor is not fully endorsing the entire range of Paul Rafford’s ideas, but  presenting them for your consideration.

In coming posts we’ll delve further in Paul theory that Amelia Earhart was engaged in a deliberate, well-planned radio deception during her last flight, as well as several other aspects of the flight that might shed light on the real mystery of the Earhart disappearance – not what happened to her on Saipan, but what was she doing during the final hours of the flight, and most importantly, why did she land at Mili Atoll?

 


Ninety-Nines welcome “The Truth at Last” to Wichita

October 4, 2014

On Saturday, Sept. 27 at 2:30 p.m., in a spacious, well-appointed first-floor meeting room at the Wichita, Kansas Marriott Hotel, hundreds of hours of preparation and sweat were finally put to good use.  A mostly unsuspecting audience consisting of 50 members of The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots from eight states, a number of their husbands and others totaling about 70 souls were soon to  learn about the Truth in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, my obsession for the past 26 years and the subject of my second book on the subject,  Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.

Many months previously, Kay Alley, the vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines and the primary mover and shaker for the three-day, South Central Section Fall Meeting of the Ninety-Nines, invited me to be their main speaker, all expenses paid, and I gladly accepted. I was extremely grateful for the rare opportunity to tell others the unvarnished truth about the Earhart disappearance. The South Central Section is made up of chapters from Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. They meet twice a year, in the spring and fall, and the Fall 2014 theme, ironically, was “Remembering Our Past.” In the case of the Earhart disappearance, this theme was especially poignant. For more information on the Ninety-Nines and their colorful history, see my March 8, 2014 post, “A point of light emerges.”

Linda Horn of the Ninety-Nines Colorado Chapter fine tunes the "Truth at Last" slide show shortly before the 2:30 presentation on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 27.

Linda Horn of the Ninety-Nines Colorado Chapter fine tunes the “Truth at Last” slide show shortly before the 2:30 presentation on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 27 at the Wichita Marriott.

The Colorado Chapter’s Linda Horn had the unenviable task of advancing each of the 142 slides in my power point program, sometimes through sheer guesswork, and considering my sometimes confusing, rambling commentary, Linda performed admirably. I briefly considered naming my talk something like, “It’s Time to Change the Conversation,” but realized that the best opportunity to change the public perception of the Earhart disappearance had passed by long ago. 

Thanks to 77 years of government and establishment propaganda, the iron-clad idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is an irresolvable mystery is a part of our cultural furniture, nailed down and impossible to move. If Fred Goerner couldn’t break through the stone wall of the federal security apparatus in the mid-1960s, with his 400,000 book sales, six-weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and thousands of irate Americans demanding in vain that their congressmen act to bring the “Justice of Truth” to Amelia and Fred Noonan, who am I with my unknown book to make such a presumption?

It was my first ever power-point presentation, and 63 pages of notes stood ready to support the slides. Soon, however, I realized these notes were of little practical use, that reading from them only slowed down the program and distracted the audience, which does not appreciate being read to, and I just didn’t have enough practice doing these presentations to fake it.

I also wasted 30 precious minutes and 30 slides telling the audience things about Amelia’s life they could easily find for themselves in any of the 2,000 Earhart biographies and other Earhart-related books they can find on Amazon.com.  Next time I’ll cut that to about 10 minutes and get on with the reason I’m standing in front of them– to tell them about the long suppressed facts in the Earhart case — if there is a next time.

A  Hopalong Cassidy Watch, box and saddle exactly like the set pictured above was among the many curiosities evaluated and appraised by Stephen Gleissner, Ph.D., at the Ninety-Nines version of the popular Antiques Road Show TV program Friday night at the Wichita Marriott.

A mint-condition  Hopalong Cassidy Watch, box and saddle from the early 1950s, exactly like the set pictured above, was among the many curiosities evaluated and appraised by Stephen Gleissner, Ph.D., at the Ninety-Nines version of the popular Antiques Road Show TV program Friday night, Sept. 26,  at the Wichita Marriott.

Slightly nervous to begin, I forgot a few things I wanted to say in the opening, stumbled a few times, blanked out on a name once, but kept at it and quickly began losing track of time as I traced the modern-day search for Amelia back to Paul Briand’s 1960 book Daughter of the Sky, then to the San Mateo Times stories about Josephine Blanco Akiyama by Linwood Day (see “Linwood Day: Forgotten hero of the Earhart saga,” July 10, 2014), to Fred Goerner’s Saipan trips and so on down the line of the major Saipan and Marshalls threads, of course only brushing the surface, doing my best to paint the big picture. Instead of stopping at the agreed-upon 90-minute mark, I went two hours and no one said, “Stop! Time’s up!”

I couldn’t restrain my passion at times, as I hit on some of the key witnesses and dramatic accounts that place Amelia and Fred on Saipan, and put the lie to the constant establishment mantra that the Earhart case is a great “Aviation Mystery.”  I made sure to point out that convicted murderers are regularly sent to their executions on the smallest fraction of the eyewitness testimonies that tell the sad story of Amelia’s wretched end on Saipan. Yet we’re told by Wikipedia and virtually all of the media that the truth is nothing but a “paranoid conspiracy theory” or an “unsubstantiated urban myth” unfit for polite discussion.

I think the audience got the message, but a small number clearly didn’t like the unpleasant truth, which is always predictable, given the toxic reaction this information often elicits from the uninformed.  Many were surprised and virtually none had any knowledge of the work of Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Thomas E. Devine and others through the years that so clearly established the truth.   I was glad for the opportunity to begin to educate them about the fate of their co-founder, we sold a few books, and most important to me, Kay Alley was pleased and told me I did a “beautiful job.” Several others said nice things, and Kay made it clear that I had vindicated her faith in me. Thus I will count the event as a victory for the Truth, which is rare indeed in these days of massive indifference and rejection, not only from the media but virtually the entire public.

Of course the Truth at Last presentation was the highlight of my weekend, but Kay Alley and her committee planned the three days for everyone’s enjoyment, and all were kept busy with a variety of activities. A first-floor Hospitality Room offered shopping and browsing, a book fair, aviation timeline, snacks, beverages and visiting area. On Thursday evening, members and their husbands were treated to dinner at Mid-American All Indian Center under the flag of nations, a tour of the museum, a film about how the Wichita Indians were employed at Boeing for the building of aircraft for World War II, a walk around the Keeper of the Plains statue and lighting of the Arkansas River fire-pots at sunset.

The Air Capital Chorus quartet of (left to right) Bruce Bergsten (tenor), Mary Halsig (lead), Jeff Moler (bass), and Tom Schleier (baritone) join to offer the assembled Ninety-Nines a fabulous rendition of the famous 1937 standard "Turn Your Radio On" at the "Banquet in Blue" finale Sept. 27 at the Wichita Marriott.

The Air Capital Chorus quartet of (left to right) Bruce Bergsten (tenor), Mary Halsig (lead), Jeff Moler (bass), and Tom Schleier (baritone) offer the assembled Ninety-Nines a fabulous acapella rendition of the famous 1937 standard “Turn Your Radio On” at the “Banquet in Blue” finale Sept. 27 at the Wichita Marriott.

An outstanding buffet breakfast in the first-floor Marriott restaurant was available each morning, and activities on Friday began with a citywide bus tour of historical buildings, aircraft plants, the Amelia Earhart Elementary School, lunch at Lloyd Stearman Field in nearby Benton, Kan., and a tour of the new condo-hangars being built at the airport.

Following dinner on Friday night, which featured a particularly excellent vegetarian entry, the group settled in to enjoy a Wichita-style “Antiques Roadshow,” complete with TV camera and projection screen to show all the fascinating details of the many pieces on display.  Wichita native Stephen Gleissner, Ph.D., former chief curator of the Wichita Art Museum (2001-2013) and member of the International Society of Appraisers, looked over a wide variety of artifacts and memorabilia, from a signed edition of Amelia Earhart’s 1932 book, “The Fun of It,” to a mint-condition Hopalong Cassidy wristwatch on a saddle it its original box from the early-1950s. Dr. Gleissner, who specializes in appraising decorative arts and accessories, glass, paintings and prints, treated the Ninety-Nines to an impressive, educational  performance laced with plenty of laughs, and captivated the dinner audience for well over an hour.

Saturday began with a business meeting followed by a fashion show luncheon that I only caught at its finish. After my talk, a 99 helium-filled balloon launch was held in memory of the original founding members for the 85th anniversary, followed at 7 p.m. with the weekend’s climax, the “Banquet In Blue” wherein all attendees were asked to dressed in something blue, the corporate color of the Ninety-Nines.

After the food was served, we were treated to the musical stylings of The Air Capital Chorus Quartet of Bruce Bergsten, Mary Halsig, Jeff Moler, and Tom Schleier. Among their offerings was a fabulous acapella rendition of the famous 1937 standard “Turn Your Radio On.” “They worked up an arrangement of ‘Song of the Ninety-Nines’ that has never been heard by members of our organization in the last few decades,” Kay wrote in an email. “I found a copy of the song at our International Headquarters in Oklahoma City, Okla., and gave it to the quartet to sing for us, written in 1941.”

The exquisitely crafted Amelia Doll, a creation of Ninety-Nines memberJene Rapp, owner of The Doll Jenie, in Belle Plaine, Kansas, that Kay Alley gave me at the conclusion of the "Banquet In Blue."

The exquisitely crafted Amelia Doll, a creation of Ninety-Nines member Jene Rapp, owner of The Doll Jenie, in Belle Plaine, Kansas, that Kay Alley gave me at the conclusion of the “Banquet In Blue.”

Following the music, Bonnie Johnson, replete in American-flagged aviator’s garb, delivered a fascinating 25-minute impression of Louise McPhetridge Thaden, perhaps the second-most famous American female pilot of the Golden Age of Aviation, next to Amelia herself. Johnson-as-Thaden recalled the early pioneering days with Amelia, Pancho Barnes, Opal Kunz and Blanche Noyes. Thaden defeated her colleagues in the first Women’s Air Derby, also known as the Powder Puff Derby in 1929, a transcontinental race from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the site of the National Air Races that year. It took place from August 13–20, 1929. Twenty women were entered in the race, and Marvel Crosson was killed.

Johnson-Thaden went on to tell her rapt audience about how she won the Bendix Trophy Race in the first year women were allowed access to compete against men. She set a new world record of 14 hours, 55 minutes from New York City to Los Angeles, California. In her astonishing victory she flew a Beech C17R Staggerwing biplane and defeated twin-engine planes specifically designed for racing. Laura Ingalls, another aviator, came in second by 45 minutes flying a Lockheed Orion. First prize was $4,500 and she also won the $2,500 prize for a woman finishing the race.

Among those Kay thanked for their contributions to the weekend’s events were the Northeast Kansas Chapter, Ann Shaneyfelt, chairman, for the 99 helium-filled Balloons Launch; Judy Benjamin Godfrey, of the Northeast Kansas Chapter, for her invocation before dinner; and Janet Yoder, Kansas Chapter chairman for her leadership in planning the Fashion Show with Ann’s Fashions. Others Kay praised were Ann Sooby, of the Kansas Chapter, for preparing the welcome packets; The Kansas Chapter’s Phyllis Blanton for her work in historical aviation, Wichita and the Amelia Earhart timeline; Cathy McClain, Kansas Chapter, for her dinner toasts to Indian Heritage, Amelia Earhart and the Ninety-Nines; and the planning committee of Blanton, Sooby, Johnson, Shaneyfelt, Janet Yoder, Mandi Hill, Cindi Newport, and Linda Leatherman.

Kay Alley truly went the extra mile to produce this event, and her hard work and attention to detail paid off in a well-orchestrated and enjoyable three days for all concerned.  Still recovering from a severely broken ankle, Kay handed out many gifts and mementos to conclude the final night, and she completely surprised me when  handed me a beautiful Amelia Earhart doll, finely handmade and crafted by Jene Rapp, owner of the Doll Jenie in Belle Plains, Kansas, which will always be treasured by this heretofore non-doll collector. 

Kay Alley, vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, thanks the "Banquet in Blue" guests for a great three-day sectional meeting at the windup dinner Sept. 27.

Kay Alley, vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, thanks the “Banquet in Blue” guests for a great three-day sectional meeting at the windup dinner Sept. 27.

My weekend at Wichita closed on just about the sweetest note I could imagine.  Kay kindly offered to drive me to The Church of the Blessed Sacrament for 11 a.m. Mass on the way to Mid-Continent Airport, and I arranged a noon pickup for the airport with Uber.com taxi driver Teresa D. Renecker.  On the way, Teresa asked what had brought me to Wichita, and after a brief recap of the Ninety-Nines, Amelia Earhart and a simpatico conversation about the plight of our nation generally, she said the ride would be “complimentary, for what you’ve done for women’s aviation.” I was deeply moved by Teresa Renecker’s generosity, and she even refused to take a tip! What more could a visitor to the fine city of Wichita ask than this, as well as the many other kindnesses I’d received in the past three days?

It think it’s appropriate to close just as I closed with the Ninety-Nines when winding up my presentation at the Marriott, words that I wrote long ago as I prepared for a rare radio interview. I hope you, dear reader, will take them to heart.

The disappearance of Amelia Earhart is NOT an insipid piece of American historical trivia, an unimportant subject for idle academic discussion and speculation that, in the end, defies solution. This is a major event in our history that has been so distorted and misrepresented by our government and establishment media that the American people think it’s an irresolvable mystery. Without some incredible, unforeseen change, the status quo in the Earhart case will never change. Please help dispel the darkness and support this cause in whatever ways you can. Thank you for your consideration.

 


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

September 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

A SUMMARY ANALYSIS OF THE ABOVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. A FEW THORNS AMONGST THE ROSES?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. PLEASURE FLIGHT? COVERT MISSION? SPY MISSION?

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

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


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

September 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radio Log — EARHART/ITASCA 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

September 4, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

FROM: PACIFIC ISLANDS MONTHLY MAGAZINE 5/25/38

POSTAL MYSTERY, UNCLAIMED LETTER FOR AMELIA EARHART

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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