This “Earhart find” on Saipan doesn’t pass smell test

March 16, 2015

This story originally appeared in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, on Sunday, June 16, 1996, and was republished in Bill Prymak’s July 1996 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter. Of all the eyewitness accounts from soldiers, sailors and Marine veterans of the 1944 invasion of Saipan that revealed the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan – and 26 such accounts were presented for the first time in my 2002 book, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart – this one has troubled me more the most.

Titled “Soldier’s Secret,” it concerns Army veteran Paul Erwin’s claim of finding what amounts to a treasure trove of Amelia Earhart’s papers, writings and other related personal belongings in a cave on Saipan in February 1945, seven months after the island was secured. 

Besides Erwin’s dubious story itself, this piece is an excellent example of how numerous falsehoods have been re-reported and perpetuated through the years by credulous reporters who so often fail to check sources and details. Reporter Jennifer Jacobs probably meant well, but her naiveté about the Earhart story and her bias in favor of Erwin and his weird tale are unmistakable. Let’s take look at this monster first, presented in its entirety and edited only for readibility, and then I’ll have few things to say. I have a feeling most will agree with me this time. (Please note: All boldings are mine.)

This is the photo of Paul Erwin that accompanied the  Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, on Sunday, June 16, 1996, and was republished in Bill Prymak’s July 1996 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.

This is the photo of Paul Erwin that accompanied the story in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, on Sunday, June 16, 1996, and was republished in Bill Prymak’s July 1996 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.

Soldier’s Secret”

 C.F. man says he saw missing Earhart’s possessions

CEDAR FALLS: The official story is that aviatrix Amelia Earhart vanished without a trace. Paul Erwin can add a wrinkle to the tale. The Cedar Falls Army veteran stumbled upon what he believes were belongings of Earhart’s that made it through her crash. 

He found them buried in a cave on a Pacific island during World War II. This is a piece of the unsolved puzzle that the 78-year-old has never shared publicly –  51 years ago he was warned by his superiors to keep silent. 

But it’s something he can’t prove. Paul Erwin of Cedar Falls holds a picture of himself while he was in the Army during 1942-45. He says he found the belongings of Amelia Earhart while in the service overseas. He did not pocket one of the airplane parts or ferret away a notebook with the signature “Amelia Earhart” penned on it. Still, Erwin said, each time word of the intriguing pilot pops up on TV or in the newspapers, “I say to myself, “Why, I found those things.’”

The mystery boxes

Since Earhart’ s airplane seemingly melted into the cloudy air somewhere between New Guinea and Howland Island in 1937, speculation about the famous flyer’s fate has fueled imaginations worldwide.

Did her plane run out of fuel and crash into the ocean during this leg of her round-the-world flight? Or was she a spy captured by enemy Japanese forces?

Did she survive and return to the United States under an assumed name? Or was she executed by the Japanese troops? And why are government files that could reveal the truth about Earhart still inaccessible today?

Erwin doesn’t have the answers to all those mysteries, but he has clues that confirm what some researchers theorize: that Earhart did indeed live past the day the U.S. government said her radio trans-mission went dead.

Stationed on the Pacific island of Saipan during WWII eight years after Earhart’s disappearance, Erwin, then 28, discovered boxes of her personal possessions – seemingly intact and without water damage –  in a dirt floored cave.

A few airplane parts and papers were scattered around the isolated cave, Erwin recalls. And in holes 6 inches underground, were two brimming boxes and a third box two-thirds full of what appeared to be Earhart’s personal writings and other belongings.

The Army private didn’t rifle through the boxes to further investigate the contents, but historical accounts mention that in her cockpit Earhart stowed maps, a thermos bottle, a bamboo fishing rod rigged to pass messages to the back seat to Fred Noonan, her navigator (the roar of the engines overwhelmed voices), notebooks, a diary, oceanographic charts and a bubble octant for establishing the plane’s position in relation to the stars while over seawater. 

At Missawa, Ethiopia, in mid-June 1937, Amelia and Fred Noonan busily restock the ElectrSince 1991, it has been part of Eritrea.  Massawa is a port city on the Red Sea, and actually occupies two islands just off the coast as well the mainland. The briefcase on ground to her right must have been the one found by Robert E. Wallack in a blown safe on Garapan in the summer of 1944,a and according to Wallack, it contained all the relevant papers she would have needed for her world flight.

For those who may doubt that Amelia had a briefcase with her during her world flight, here she is at Missawa, Ethiopia, in mid-June 1937, with Fred Noonan attending to business around the Electra. The briefcase on ground to her right must have been the one found by Robert E. Wallack in a blown safe on Garapan in the summer of 1944.  According to Wallack, it contained all the papers, passports, maps and other materials Amelia would have needed for her world flight.

According to the government, none of these items were recovered – despite a 16-day, post-crash Navy task force hunt that covered 250,000 miles of ocean, air and land. In public, officials concluded the plucky pilot and her skilled navigator were “lost at sea.”

“Absolutely false”

All Erwin knows is that he retrieved those three boxes from a cave on an island thousands of miles from Earhart’s flight route. He acted on orders from his commanding officers, who told him never to mention the items again. Since that day in 1945, Erwin hasn’t heard anything about them. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. hasn’t, either.

Dorothy Cochrane, curator at the National Air and Space Museum, a bureau of the Smithsonian, said people cite the Freedom of Information Act and demand to see the Earhart goods found on Saipan. 

“It’s easy to send them everything we have,” she said, “’because we just don’t have a thing. People have loved to speculate on this for years,” Cochrane said. “They don’t want to let it go. Nobody really wants it solved – they do and they don’t, you know what I mean?”

The theory that Earhart was a spy shot down and arrested by the Japanese is “absolutely false,” Cochrane said. “We don’t think there is any evidence of that.” (Editor’s note: We’ve heard similar statements from this government shill before. Why do you think she has her job?)

The fatal log

On July 2, 1937, the 39-year-old Earhart and Noonan, a 44-year-old former Pan American Airways navigator said to have a penchant for marathon drinking bouts, were scheduled to take off from Lae, New Guinea. The celebrated pair had already traveled 20,000 miles on their ambitious quest to complete the first flight girdling the globe at the equator. An entranced world followed each leg of their trip on radio. Earhart’s $80,000 twin-engine Lockheed Electra monoplane was fueled with enough gas for 3,000 miles, more than enough to reach Howland Island, a tiny strip of land 2,556 miles away.

After a 21-hour ride in cramped quarters, with a malfunctioning radio system that dispatched Earhart’s traffic to ground crews but failed to transmit their responses, the panicking pilot called out SOS, saying she was near Howland Island but couldn’t see it, and gas was running low. Then she vanished. What happened is anyone’s guess. (Editor’s note: Nothing in the Itasca log indicates Earhart ever “calling out SOS” prior to her last transmission at 8:43 am Howland time, July 2, 1937.)

Various authors have written that they tracked down evidence to prove Earhart was taken to Saipan. One claims to have found her shoe there, another interviewed natives who remember seeing her, another witnessed her plane being torched there by the then-Secretary of the Navy.

(Editor’s note:  Nobody has ever claimed to have found a shoe belonging to Amelia Earhart on Saipan.  Jacobs is convoluting the Cat’s Paw shoe heel found by TIGHAR on Nikumaroro in 1991 that was later shown to have come from a shoe size too big for Earhart.)

In one of the most recent works of nonfiction, the 1994 book “Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart,” author Randall Brink tries to document Earhart’s role in a covert government mission. It all stemmed from President Franklin Roosevelt, Brink writes. Earhart’s request for the Navy’s help with an air-to-air refueling operation over Midway Island inspired Roosevelt to consider the military advantage. Japan was warring in China and expanding its frontier in the Pacific island by island. Howland Island, long claimed by the British, was a key strategic location. Earhart’s flight was a good excuse to build an expensive airfield there. Navy staff took over the planning of her trip; Earhart’s longtime staffers were cut off, Brink said.

Evidence of espionage

According to Lockheed staff Brink interviewed, aerial cameras for photographing Japanese outposts were mounted in the belly of Earhart’s plane. It was a model that could fly twice as fast as the public knew – making it capable of zipping off course and returning to the publicized route with no one the wiser.

Witnesses told Brink that Japanese troops patrolling the seas north of Howland Island picked up Earhart’s SOS calls. They fired a warning signal at her plane, then opened fire. Brink said Earhart made an emergency landing on an atoll northwest of Howland Island and continued sending radio messages heard by operators on Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. A Japanese warship picked up Earhart, Noonan and their plane, and took them to Japanese Pacific Central Command on Saipan.

Because the Navy’s massive search never turned up a sliver of wreckage, a single scrap of paper, an oil slick, human remains or other tangible evidence of an ocean crash, Brink believes Earhart lived.

This is Bill Wallack's conception of the briefcase his father, Robert E. Wallack, found in a blown safe on Garapan, the capitol city of Saipan, in the days following the American victory in July 1944. Robert Wallack's find was known among many of the troops, and he told his story to thousands of avid listeners, including Connie Chung of the CBS program "Eye to Eye."

This is Bill Wallack’s May 2007 conception of the briefcase his father, Robert E. Wallack, found in a blown safe on Garapan, the capitol city of Saipan, in the days following the American victory in July 1944. Robert Wallack’s find was known among many of the troops, and he told his story to thousands of avid listeners, including Connie Chung of the CBS program “Eye to Eye.” This briefcase was not among the “personal possessions” that Paul Erwin told an Iowa newspaper — in 1996 — that he found on Saipan in 1945. 

 

(Editor’s note:  In her subsections “The Fatal Log” and  “Evidence of Espionage”,” Jacobs repeats several false ideas presented by Randall Brink in his error-riddled Lost Star, which doesn’t help her own credibility. We’ll leave the countless misstatements in Lost Star for another time, but not even Brink could have stated that “Japanese troops patrolling the seas north of Howland Island picked up Earhart’s SOS calls,” to track and shoot her plane down, as Jacobs writes.  Even Earhart hobbyists know that Earhart never sent Maydays or SOS signals before she went off the air permanently.)

A telegram Earhart’s husband received from Weishien, China, via the American Embassy in Chungking in August 1945 (reprinted in Brink’s book) says: “Camp liberated; all well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother.” The U.S. government didn’t declassify and release this telegram until the week of July 2, 1987, when newspapers ran stories on the 50th anniversary of the disappearance.

(Editor’s note: Researcher Ron Bright’s investigation into the telegram determined that it originated with a friend of G.P. Putnam, Ahmad Kamal, and not Amelia Earhart. For details, see page 130 of With Our Own Eyes.)

In the years after the crash, no one entertained such notions of espionage and conspiracy. But Erwin, along with virtually everyone in America, had definitely heard of Earhart and her disappearance.

As a child, his mother read aloud newspaper articles about the media sweetheart: Amelia modeling her own fashion designs, Amelia marrying millionaire publisher George Palmer Putnam, Amelia hobnobbing with the rich, Amelia cozying up to FDR and his wife Eleanor, Amelia speaking on the women’s equality, Amelia hopping from continent to continent in daring record-setting solo flights.

The disappearance of the “First Lady of the Air’’ only added to the myth of the woman, described by the press as shy and modest but pegged as a bullheaded prima donna by her friends and co-workers.

Earhart’s round-the-world flight and presumed death occupied front pages worldwide for two months. But no one seemed to question the government’s conclusions, and America’s attention was soon distracted by World War II.

A Redfield boy

Saipan fell to Allied forces on June 15, 1944. [Editor’s note: June 15 was the day of the initial assault. Saipan was declared “secure” on July 9.] Erwin, after spending 17 weeks in basic training at Camp Roberts, Calif., and several months assigned to a heavy weapons unit on New Caledonia, a flee French island east of Australia, was ordered to Saipan in February 1945. Army officials read in Erwin’s records that he’d taken first aid courses, so he was sent to a unit called the 39th General Hospital.

On free time from nursing soldiers wounded in various battles, including Okinawa, the Redfield native explored the 14-mile-long island. The other soldiers advised against it: there could be leftover mortars off the beaten paths or Japanese hiding in the hills. Erwin was cautious. One day, walking along a narrow path on the side of an out-of-the-way cliff, the sun shone down in the doorway of a small cave.

“Inside, I found two boxes and two-thirds of another,” he said. “They were Amelia’s belongings from her crash.” The discovery stunned Erwin. “I thought she was down to some other islands,” he said, “but here I found these, and I was very amazed at them being on Saipan.

Three well-dressed men

Erwin said he excitedly carried a few things to his department head, including [sic] 1st Lt. Charles Mauer. “They didn’t pay much attention to me,” he said. Later, “three well-dressed men” possibly Office of Naval Intelligence staff, told him to “go back and dig up this cave.”

Former Marine Capt. Victor Maghakian, who earned both the Navy Cross and Silver Star during for heroism at Makin Island in the Gilberts and Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, both actions coming in 1942. Maghakian was also named by Fred Goerner as a witness who supported the claim by Marines on Kwajalein of findings several items belonging to Amelia Earhart during the invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Former Marine Capt. Victor Maghakian, who earned both the Navy Cross and Silver Star during for heroism at Makin Island in the Gilberts and Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, both actions coming in 1942. Maghakian was also named (though his name was misspelled) by Fred Goerner as a witness who supported the claim by Marines on Kwajalein of findings several items belonging to Amelia Earhart during the invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Erwin scraped away the soil with his hands to get to the boxes. “They were in pretty good condition,” he said. After that, “it was all hush, hush,” Erwin said. “They wanted me to keep quiet about it.” But Erwin doesn’t assume anything. Earhart might have crashed, he thinks, although she was a highly experienced flyer. As for the Japanese, “they might’ve got her, I don’t know.”

Some researchers suspect that after World War II, the truth about Earhart was withheld because of the tenuous peace with Japan and concerns for national security. Government documents that would prove this aren’t necessarily hidden, but buried in unmarked files. 

Some buy the government’s story that Earhart’s plane – with her and Noonan inside it – rests at the bottom of the sea. Don Whitnah, a retired University of North  Iowa history professor who did research in Washington while writing his 1967 book, “Safer Skywards: Federal Control of Aviation, 1926-1966,” falls in the second category. “There are all sorts of rumors of all sorts of effects of Earhart’s that have been found and parts of airplanes,” he said, “’but we just don’t know. I hate to scotch ideas, but it’s like in any other mystery. You get all sorts of conflicting reports. I’m skeptical.”

Next year, during the centennial of Earhart’s birth, scholars expect people will emerge from the woodwork to tell their Earhart-related stories. But until something definitive breaks through, the Earhart mystery will remain like the Bermuda Triangle, the lost city of Atlantis, the missing tribe of Roanoke, or the UFO at Roswell – just another historic riddle.

There you have it. For all the bluster and buildup, there’s very little substance to this story, very little beef in this burger. In describing Erwin’s claim, Jennifer Jacobs quotes him directly only once, when he tells her, “Inside, I found two boxes and two-thirds of another. They were Amelia’s belongings from her crash.”

Besides this, Erwin apparently told Jacobs that he found a few airplane parts, a notebook with “Amelia Earhart” penned on it, and papers were scattered around the isolated cave, but she doesn’t directly quote this information, nor does she directly quote Erwin whe she writes, “in holes 6 inches underground, were two brimming boxes and a third box two-thirds full of what appeared to be Earhart’s personal writings and other belongings.” 

Is that so? I seem to recall similar claims by former GIs that are far more credible than Erwin’s.  In January 1964, a Pampa, Texas radio station manager told Fred Goerner that W.B. Jackson, a Marine who served in the Marshall Islands in 1944, knew three unnamed Marines who had found some of Earhart’s things in a barracks room that was “fitted up for a woman, with a dresser in it.” Among the findings was a suitcase containing woman’s clothing, newspaper articles about Earhart and a “locked diary engraved 10-Year Diary of Amelia Earhart,” according to Jackson, who ordered the Marines to turn over the articles to intelligence and never heard about it again.

Jackson’s account was corroborated by former Marine Captain Victor Maghokian, who told Goerner that one of his men had “found a diary and personal belongings that were supposed to belong to Amelia Earhart,” according to Maghokian. Goerner learned that Maghokian had never heard of Jackson, though Jackson told Goerner he vaguely remembered a captain named Maghokian. 

Further research has revealed that Goerner misspelled Maghakian’s name, and this mistake has been repeated for decades by too-trusting writers including this one.  From Wikipedia:  “Victor Maghakian, also known as Captain Victor “Transport” Maghakian (Dec. 30, 1915 – Aug. 17, 1977), was an Armenian American member of the United States Marine Corps during World War II. Having received over two dozen medals and awards, he is considered one of the most decorated American soldiers of the war.” 

Saipan veteran Robert E. Wallack, whose claim of finding Amelia Earhart's briefcase in a blown safe on Saipan in July 1944 is among the best-known Earhart-on-Saipan testimonies, pauses in his Woodbridge, Connecticut, home during a November 2006 interview. The mediafriendly Wallack appeared on several national television specials, including Unsolved Mysteries and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung.

Saipan veteran Robert E. Wallack, whose claim of finding Amelia Earhart’s briefcase in a blown safe on Saipan in July 1944 is among the best-known Earhart-on-Saipan testimonies, pauses in his Woodbridge, Connecticut, home during a November 2006 interview. The media-friendly Wallack appeared on several national television specials, including Unsolved Mysteries and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung.

We also have the eminent claim of former Marine Pfc. Robert E. Wallack, who along with Thomas E. Devine, is the best known of the Saipan GI witnesses. Wallack, who lived in nearby Woodbridge, Conn., a 15-minute drive from Devine’s West Haven home, contacted Devine in 1987 soon after hearing about his book, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident  Wallack’s notarized statement was published in the December 1987 issue of 6th Marine Division magazine, and over the years became among the most prominent features of the Earhart-on-Saipan scenario.

The details of Wallack’s find of Amelia Earhart’s briefcase in a blown safe in the ruins of a Japanese administration building in Garapan are well known to all Earhart observers, but for newcomers to this blog, below is an extract from Wallack’s signed deposition that partially describes what he found after a Japanese safe was blown open during a souvenir-hunting party he and a few of his fellow Marines had had embarked upon a few weeks after victory on Saipan was declared:

The contents were official-looking papers all concerning Amelia Earhart: maps, permits and reports apparently pertaining to her around-the-world flight. I wanted to retain this as a souvenir, but my Marine buddies insisted that it may be important and should be turned in. I went down to the beach where I encountered a naval officer and told of my discovery. He gave me a receipt for the material, and stated that it would be returned to me if it were not important. I have never seen the material since.

Wallack’s account never changed, and the media-friendly veteran shared it with countless listeners, including millions in a 1990 Unsolved Mysteries segment with Robert Stack, a 1994 appearance on CBS’s Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, and a 2006 interview for The National Geographic Channel’s Undercover History special on Amelia Earhart. For more  on Wallack and the Earhart briefcase, you can begin on pages 204 to 206 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.

Wallack never located any of the Marines who with him when he found the briefcase, but Saipan veteran Bob Everett, of Indianapolis, wrote to Devine and endorsed Wallack’s story in 1991. Everett told Devine he was the only demolition man left in his battalion at the time and was assigned to a group rounding up stragglers. He and a group of Marines entered a building in Garapan that appeared to have served some sort of governmental function. There he applied the explosives that blew open the safe Wallack described, but in the ensuing commotion Everett didn’t see the contents of the briefcase retrieved by Wallack, who died in July 2008 at eighty-three.

So, we might ask, just how many boxes of “personal writings” and other “belongings from her crash” were left in a shallow hole discovered by Erwin in a  Saipan cave, after we consider the two preceding, far-better-documented finds on Kwajalein and Saipan? Earhart’s obsession with conserving fuel and making the Electra as light as possible for the critical flight to Howland is chronicled throughout a vast array of books and news articles; to suggest that she stored three extra boxes of her scribbles and personal papers aboard NR 16020 – in addition to her briefcase and diary – is beyond ridiculous. 

Erwin’s description of the “three well-dressed men is equally absurd; Saipan was still in a war zone, and ONI agents would have been dressed in Navy khakis without insignia, as was the man who appeared to be in charge of the disposition of the Electra on Saipan, who former Marine Earskin J. Nabers identified as James H. Nichols.

I presented Erwin’s account in Truth at Last (see page 222) as if it were just another of the more than two dozen we’ve received from former Saipan GIs, though I did characterize it as “perhaps the strangest Earhart-related account to come from a Saipan veteran.” Erwin didn’t step forward to share his story with Devine as the others did when Devine asked for help in the conclusion of Eyewitness, however; he waited until 1996 to tell his story to an uncritical reporter from a small Iowa newspaper. I now sincerely regret taking Erwin’s story at face value and not seriously questioning it, as I’m now doing. Better late than never.

Is Erwin’s story just another piece of the “historic riddle” of the Earhart disappearance, as Jacobs so naively asks, or is this just a phony story concocted by a dying old man desperate for attention? I think the real puzzle here is Paul Erwin himself, and what motivated him to concoct this yarn about finding Amelia Earhart’s papers, writings and other effects in the dirt floor of an open cave on Saipan, seven months after the Japanese garrison of 30,000 was wiped out by U.S. forces in the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War.

We’ll assume that Jacobs rendered Erwin’s account accurately, and that she didn’t simply fabricate or imagine that he said these things. In either event, Erwin’s story is extremely weak, and quite suspicious as well. Left unanswered are several obvious questions, which the credulous Jacobs failed to ask, including:  Why didn’t Erwin “rifle through the boxes to further investigate the contents”? Why did he wait until 1996 to tell  his story to the media? Did he ever tell anyone else about this, someone who might step forward and perhaps support his contentions? And so forth. The answers to these questions are uniformly negative,

At this point I’ll dispense with any more formalities.  Quite frankly, I think Erwin’s story stinks worse than a week-old kettle of dead cod, and never should have been published, at least not the way the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier presented it, as if it were real news.

Once I applied minimal scrutiny to this tale, which should have been done long before finalizing the manuscript of Truth at Last, its bogus nature became fairly obvious, and I’m embarrassed that this sorry yarn was included in Truth at Last I was temporarily blinded by the all the other credible accounts from the dozens of former GIs who didn’t fabricate tales about their Saipan experiences, but that’s a pathetic excuse.

Moreover, nobody else in the media picked up Erwin’s story until Bill Prymak decided to include it in his newsletters, which in itself tells us something. Considering the magnitude of Erwin’s claim, this is a strong indication that virtually no one the normally gullible and apathetic media believed Erwin’s whopper, or at least found it unworthy of publication for a variety of reasons related to its credibility, or lack of same. 

Finally, fish tales about phony Earhart discoveries on Saipan like this one have not been helpful to the cause of the truth that serious Earhart researchers have labored so hard to present over the decades. As a result of stories like this and many others, the general public has a severely jaded attitude about the truth in the Earhart disappearance.

Erwin passed away in 1999, so the opportunity to cross examine him about this fish-wrapper is long gone.  Admittedly, I was fooled, but this is an occasional occupational hazard in Earhart research. If anyone out there disagrees with me, please let me know, but only if you can provide one or more good reasons why Paul Erwin’s story should be believed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga

March 2, 2015

I don’t remember the first time I heard the late Jim Golden’s name; of course, it was in some way connected to the Earhart story. But I’ll never forget the reverent tones of respect that often punctuated mentions of his name.

Within the closed confines of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society in the 1990s and early 2000s, before the AES lost several notable researchers to the grim reaper and began its descent into oblivion as a viable entity, Golden enjoyed a special status as an iconic character, a mystery man who, some suspected, might have possessed unparalleled knowledge about the Earhart case. Nowadays, one would now be hard pressed to find more than a few in the AES who have heard of Golden, and fewer still that understand and appreciate his contributions.

In the May 1997 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, which I didn’t see until about 2005, when Prymak offered all his original newsletters to newer AES members in a collection of two very thick, bound volumes, he spelled out many of the whispered suspicions that often accompanied mention of Golden’s name. 

Prymak’s lengthy article, titled “The Search for the Elusive ‘Hard Copy’ Continues: Maybe, just maybe via Jim GOLDEN? drew heavily from a number of letters between Goerner and Golden, mainly from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s that can be found in Goerner’s files at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Most of Prymak’s eight-page piece is accurate in describing several intriguing exchanges between the pair, though it presents no smoking guns.  But these conversations between Golden and Goerner strongly hinted that if anyone knew where the “bodies were buried” so to speak, Golden knew who they were and where to find them. (For more, see Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, pages 342-347.)

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa 1975. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman's unsuccessful search for the elusive, top-secret files that would finally break open the Earhart case. During his amazing career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon's Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa 1975. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman’s search for the elusive, top-secret files that would finally break open the Earhart case. During his amazing career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon’s Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

Golden initially contacted Goerner after reading The Search for Amelia Earhart in 1966, offering to help the KCBS radio newsman in his Earhart investigation, and together they pursued the elusive, top-secret Earhart files in obscure government locales across the nation.  Although they didn’t find the elusive top-secret Earhart files, Golden’s exploits became legendary in the Earhart research community.

The man whose fascinating career included eight years as a Secret Service agent assigned to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard M. Nixon indeed knew much about the Earhart case. Among the still-classified secrets he shared with Fred Goerner was the early revelation that Amelia and Fred Noonan were brought to the islands of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll by air from Jaluit Atoll by the Japanese in 1937, a fact he learned from Marine officers during the American invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Sometime in the late spring of 2008, since no one else seemed interested in doing it, I decided to contact Golden and perhaps find out the truth for myself about what he really knew about the Earhart case. Much to my surprise, Golden welcomed my initial interest and soon we became friends, bound by our mutual interest in the Earhart matter.

From his Las Vegas home, Golden recalled his days on Kwajalein, where he was a 19-year-old enlisted Marine photographer in the intelligence section of the 4th Marine Division. There he learned that Marine intelligence personnel were sent into the Marshalls to interview natives about their knowledge of the two American fliers who landed or crash-landed there before the war. On Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden, who headed the criminal conspiracies division at the U.S. Justice Department from 1973 to 1982, was told by Marine officers about at least one Marshallese who confirmed Earhart and Noonan’s presence on Roi-Namur, though he couldn’t remember a name.

“The Marine Corps were very apparently assigned the effort to search for evidence of AE, being the first to retake the Marshall Islands,” Golden, who didn’t like writing emails, told me in his most extensive written message. “The Marine 4th Div. Intelligence Section, 24th Marines Intel Unit, interviewed a native who worked for the Japanese on Roi Island air strip in early February 1944 after it had been captured by that unit.

“The Marines wrote up a detailed report capturing the info that related that in 1937 two white persons, a male and female were brought by plane to Roi,” Golden continued, “the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short cut hair wearing men’s pants, who were taken across a causeway to the Namur Admin building. Three days later taken out to a small ship in the lagoon, which then departed. I read the report myself. This report would routinely be forwarded to 4th Div. Intel, then on to the U.S. Navy. This report must have been the first sighting of her capture by the Japanese by U.S. forces at that time.”

Jim Golden's no-nonsense comments about FDR's role in the cover-up of the truth in the Earhart disappearance were the subject of this story in the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe. Headlined "FDR's Amelia Earhart 'Watergate' the tabloid story was sloppy with the details. but got the basic story right, thank to the straight-shooting, politically incorrect Jim Golden's love for the truth.

Jim Golden’s no-nonsense comments about FDR’s role in the cover-up of the truth in the Earhart disappearance were the subject of this story in the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe. Headlined “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate'” the tabloid story was sloppy with the details. but got the basic story right, thanks to the straight-shooting, politically incorrect Jim Golden’s love for the truth.

Golden’s recollection of a native witness report of a white male and female being taken to a “small ship” in the lagoon, “which then departed,” is likely accurate, and doesn’t necessarily mean the ship took them to Saipan. Since the evidence suggests Earhart and Noonan left Kwajalein by plane, they could have been taken aboard the ship for any number of reasons, and later flown off the island. (See Truth at Last, pages 162-163.)

During the next three years, this American patriot shared much of his unique past with me, revealing many still-classified stories including a bizarre, possible Soviet assassination attempt on Nixon during his visit to Moscow in 1959. Although he seemed quite open and quite willing to talk about his days in the Secret Service, Golden was always tight-lipped about his brief stint in the early 1970s as head of security for the eccentric Howard Hughes. I never pressed him to explain his reluctance to discuss his time with Hughes.

In an October 1977 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune story on Golden, “Prober says Amelia Earhart death covered up,” Golden, then with the U.S. Justice Department, told reporter Richard Williams that President Franklin “Roosevelt hid the truth about Miss Earhart and Noonan, fearing public reaction to the death of a heroine and voter reaction at the polls…. What really bothers me about the whole thing is that if Miss Earhart was … a prisoner of the Japanese, as she seems to have been, why won’t the government acknowledge the facts and give her the hero’s treatment she deserves?” Golden asked.

Shortly after the Tribune story broke, Golden was spotlighted in a front-page story in the Midnight Globe tabloid, headlined “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate'” that appeared Jan. 3, 1978. The story took many liberties with facts and even fabricated some of his quotes, Golden told me in June 2008, but he stood by his closing statement: “Earhart gave her life for her country, and it ought to have the good grace to thank her for it.”

In these two news stories, Golden joined Fred Goerner to publicly finger President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the major culprit in the Earhart problem. “Amelia Earhart was killed in the line of duty, and President Roosevelt refused to let it get out,” Golden told Midnight Globe writer Leon Freilich. “She was a spy for the Navy. She didn’t just ‘disappear’ as Roosevelt led the press and public to believe. Amelia Earhart was taking reconnaissance shots of Japanese naval facilities when her plane was forced down. She died at the hands of the Japanese.” More than once during our many phone conversations, Golden said that after those two stories came out, “many people in Washington, mostly Democrats,” were not pleased with his statements to the press, and began to treat him differently.

Shortly after Golden called Goerner in 1966 to offer his help to Goerner,  he was soon contacted by a former Marine who told him he “helped to wheel Electra NR 16020 out of a locked and guarded hangar on Aslito Airfield” on Saipan in July 1944. “He wouldn’t give me his name or any further info,” Golden said in an e-mail, “so Fred and I could not proceed to use the info at that time.”

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden read a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit about a native on Roi-Namur who told them of two white people, a man and a woman, brought by Japanese airplane to Roi, the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men's pants.

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden read a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit about a native on Roi-Namur who told them of two white people, a man and a woman, brought by Japanese airplane to Roi, the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men’s pants.

In 1975, Golden told Goerner that Robert Peloquin, a former federal prosecutor and then president of Intertel, Inc., an elite organization composed of former FBI, CIA and IRS agents that provided internal security for private clients – was also a former Office of Naval Intelligence officer who claimed he had seen the top-secret Earhart files and confirmed that they reflected her capture by the Japanese and her death on Saipan. Golden set up a meeting between Goerner and Peloquin “sometime in the mid-’70s,” but when Goerner got to Washington, Peloquin backed out of the meeting because he “feared for his career,” according to Golden.

In June 2008, Peloquin, 79 and retired in Fairfield, Penn., agreed to a phone interview with me after Golden called him and they spoke for the first time in 30 years. Peloquin told me he was a beach master during his active-duty Navy years, from 1951 to 1960, then he attended law school and became a Navy Reserve Intelligence officer between 1960 and 1980. He said he’d seen several classified Earhart files while at ONI, was familiar with the 1960 ONI Report, and was sure that the files he viewed were not those declassified in 1967.

“It was the general consensus among Navy intelligence people that Earhart died under the aegis of the Japanese,” Peloquin said, “whether by execution or disease.”  But he wouldn’t or couldn’t  provide any details about the documents or the circumstances in which he viewed them, claiming he had taken “an oath” that was still binding, and he also claimed he didn’t “remember much” about their specific content.

In mid-June 2009, Golden was, incredibly, one of only five American veterans of the Battle of Saipan who returned to the island for ceremonies commemorating its 65th anniversary — events completely overlooked by an American media focused solely on the June 6 D-Day observances in Normandy, France. 

At a campfire held for the ex-servicemen on June 18, Golden and the others shared their Saipan memories with local officials, historians, and students. Golden, who didn’t bother to keep any record of the attendees’ names, challenged the skeptics’ claims that no documentation exists to support Earhart’s prewar presence on Saipan, citing Goerner’s work, the native eyewitnesses on Saipan and the Marshalls, and his own experience with Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in early 1944. His moving speech brought a standing ovation from most in attendance. I found it so very moving and appropriate that, more than anyone, Golden was the face and voice of the forgotten Saipan veteran 65 years after the key U.S. victory of the Pacific war.

Golden was extremely interested in everything related to the Earhart case, and he avidly read each new chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last as I completed and sent them for his review. This fine man constantly encouraged me in my work, understood the establishment’s aversion to this story better than anyone I’d met, and was among the best friends I’ve ever had, despite never meeting him face to face.

Sadly, Golden passed away unexpectedly at his home on March 7, 2011 at age 85. His father had lived well into his 90s, and he was in good health and not suffering any serious illnesses at the time. Still, he had told me he wasn’t expecting to match his father’s longevity, and urged me to hurry in my efforts to find a publisher for Truth at Last.  It wouldn’t be until that summer that I found Larry Knorr and Sunbury Press, and yet another year before the book was published in June 2012.

I like to think that Jim watched it all from a comfortable spot on the Other Side, and perhaps he even had a hand in making it happen. We’ll never see the likes of Jim Golden again, and I hope someday we’ll meet in a much better place. For now, my dear friend, may you Rest in Peace.  

 


New analysis of Marshalls “fishing boat pickup” story: Logs, news clips, witness accounts suggest real event

February 16, 2015

With the recent finds of several small artifacts on one of Mili Atoll’s tiny Endriken Islands, any or all of which may have once been parts of Amelia Earhart’s Electra, as well as the emergence of a rare 1937 U.S. newspaper clipping, a new look at the origin and evolution of the “fishing boat pickup” story and how it fits into the Earhart saga might be instructive.

In the wake of the Battle of Kwajalein, fought from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 1944, on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, several discoveries were made relative to the presence of Amelia Earhart at different  locations in the Marshall Islands, including Kwajalein in the years before the war.  The below story appeared in the Benton Harbor (Mich.) News Palladium on March 21, 1944, under the headline “Clue Obtained To Mystery of Amelia Earhart,” by Eugene Burns, an Associated Press war correspondent posted at Majuro, the capital and largest city in the Marshalls:

MARSHALL ISLANDS, March 4 – (Delayed) (AP) The possibility that Amelia Earhart Putnam, world famed aviatrix, ran out of gas in the Marshall Islands and was taken to Japan has been revived by a remark of a mission trained native to Lieutenant T. Bogan, New York City.

Lieutenant Bogan, a representative of the Marshall Island military governor, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said Elieu, the 30-year-old native, limited himself to these statements and stuck to them: “A Jap trader named Ajima three and a half years ago on Rita island told me than an American woman pilot came down between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap atolls and that she was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat and the trader Ajima heard that she was taken to Japan.”

Elieu insisted that he heard of no man being with the “American woman pilot.” Fred Noonan flew with Miss Putnam as navigator on her world-girdling trip in 1937.

Elieu Jibambam, one of the earliest known Marshall Island witnesses, though not an eyewitness, told several Navy men on Majuro in 1944 about the story he had heard from Ajima, a Japanese trader, about the Marshalls landing of the white woman flier who ran out of gas and landed between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap."  Elieu's account was presented in several books including Fred Goerner's Search. This photo is taken from Oliver Knaggs' 1981 book, Amelia Earhart: her final flight.

Elieu Jibambam, one of the earliest known Marshall Island witnesses, though not an eyewitness, told several Navy men on Majuro in 1944 about the story he had heard from Ajima, a Japanese trader, about the Marshalls landing of the white woman flier who ran out of gas and landed between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap.” Elieu’s account was presented in several books including Fred Goerner’s Search. This photo is taken from Oliver Knaggs’ 1981 book, Amelia Earhart: her final flight.

Since the story was an Associated Press release, we can be reasonably sure that it appeared in a number of newspapers throughout the country, including the New York Daily News, the New York Sun and the Oakland Tribune, according to Bogan’s 1961 account to Fred Goerner in The Search for Amelia Earhart, but this story made very little impression on a nation still at war.  Thanks to various investigations in the Marshalls over the past 65 years, we know that much of this story that Elieu passed to Burns was incorrect in many details, but its major thrust, that she landed in the area and was picked up by the Japanese, was certainly true.

In 1961, shortly after Goerner returned to San Francisco after his second trip to Saipan and an unsuccessful attempt to visit Kwajalein, he was called by John Mahan, a local realtor and former Navy yeoman stationed on Majuro in 1944. “Amelia Earhart crash-landed somewhere between Majuro, Jaluit, and Ailinglapalap in the Marshalls,” he told Goerner. “We knew it back in 1944.” Mahan said several Marshallese natives who served as interpreters, among them Joe and Rudolph Muller, told him the Japanese picked up two American fliers, “a man and woman, and brought them for a while into either Jaluit or Majuro, then took them to another island. They said it was 1937, and the Japs thought they were spies.”

Mahan referred Goerner to Eugene Bogan, his commanding officer on Majuro, who recalled that a Majuro native named Elieu, a schoolteacher with a reputation for integrity among the Marshallese, was the source of the Earhart information. Shortly after the Navy arrived on Majuro, Elieu overheard a conversation about the Japanese preoccupation with secrecy, Bogan continued, “and asked if they knew of the white woman flier who ran out of gas and landed between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap.”

Elieu wasn’t an eyewitness but had heard the story from a Japanese friend named Ajima, a trader with a company the Japanese used as front to cover military activities in the Mandated Islands. The woman was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat and taken to either Jaluit or Majuro, Ajima told Elieu, and later to Kwajalein Atoll or Saipan. No man was mentioned in the story, “because the Japanese would have been greatly impressed by a woman pilot,” Bogan said.

This was Goerner’s introduction to the Marshall Islands landing scenario, the “front-end” of the Earhart disappearance story, so to speak, which he didn’t investigate quite as extensively as Amelia’s Saipan presence as revealed by the Chamorro witnesses, as well as the GIs who fought in the Battle of Saipan in the summer of 1944.

In Search, page 165 of the first edition, we have Bogan’s key statement to Goerner via Elieu’s story: “A Japanese fishing boat picked her up and brought her into either Jaluit or Majuro. Then she was taken presumably to Kwajalein or Saipan.”

Most Earhart enthusiasts are familiar with the famous July 1949 interview given by Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia’s mother, to the Los Angeles Times. But many don’t realize that unless they’ve seen the original Times article, they probably missed some or all of the most revealing and provocative statements Amy made that day. The newspapers clips that I’ve seen edited Amy’s remarks to various degrees; I don’t know why this occurred, only that I’ve seen the entire interview only in the original Times version of the interview.

This is the shallow reef area near Barre Island that Vincent V. Loomis presents in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, where witnesses say Amelia Earhart "ditched on a reef, about 100 yards offshore,"  on July 2, 1937. These three islands are the so-called  Endrikens where artifacts thought to be from the Earhart Electra were recently found.

This photo, circa 1983, is the shallow reef area “near Barre Island Mili Atoll” presented by Vincent V. Loomis in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.  Native Marshallese eyewitnesses Lijon and Jororo told to Ralph Middle “sometime before the war [1937] they saw an airplane land on the reef about 200 feet offshore.”  These four small islands are the so-called Endrikens, the nearest about a mile from Barre, where a search team sponsored by Parker Aerospace returned for a five-day search in late January 2015. Researchers Les Kinney and Dick Spink say the main focus of the search, with high-tech metal detectors and ground penetrating radar, was the second island from the left, and several artifacts were found. For more, please see previous post,  “New Mili search uncovers more potential evidence.”

Among Amy’s most interesting comments in the July 24, 1949 Times article are those where she repeats allegations she made in a May 1944 letter to Neta Snook.  Virtually all newspapers included Amy’s statement that she believed Amelia landed on a “tiny atoll” in the Pacific, and “was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, then under Japanese control.” Eugene Burns’ March 1944 article could well have been the source of Amy’s statement about the fishing boat pickup, but her statements weren’t limited to this aspect of her daughter’s loss.

Amy also told the Times that Amelia “was permitted to broadcast to Washington from the Marshalls, because the officials on the island where she was taken — I can’t recall the name of it believed she was merely a transocean flier in distress. But Toyko had a different opinion of her significance in the area. She was ordered taken to Japan. There, I know, she met with an accident, an ‘arranged’ accident that ended her life.”

Five years earlier, in Amy’s May 6, 1944 letter to Neta Snook, she told Amelia’s first flight instructor that she had information brought to her “by a friend a few days after Amelia’s S.O.S [in July 1937] who was listening to a short-wave radio when a broadcast from Tokyo came in saying they were celebrating there, with parades, etc. because of Amelia’s rescue or pick up by a Japanese fisherman. That was before the war you know, and evidently the ordinary Jap had no knowledge of their military leaders’ plans so were proud of the rescue and expected the world to be. That young girl drove 27 miles at 11 o’clock at night, and through a horrid part of Los Angeles to tell me. It was too late when she arrived at my house in North Hollywood, but the next day I went with her to the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles and asked him about it.”

Of course by the time Amy saw anyone at the consulate, nobody knew anything about the fishing boat story. But she never forgot it, and later in her letter to Snook, she wrote, “So the hope is only the finding out what happened after the Jap fishing boat picked her up from the small island where she had landed. One can face anything she knows is so, but unless she goes through the torture of not knowing, it is not possible to understand the agony connected with uncertainty, nor the loopholes it leaves for the imagination to get in its work.”

In my Dec. 9, 2014 post, Amy Earhart’s stunning 1944 letter to Neta Snook,” I expressed doubts about the veracity of Amy’s claims that Amelia was allowed to broadcast for a few days from the Marshalls after being captured by the Japanese. I still have these doubts, because although many alleged post-loss messages were reported in the Pacific area as well as the United States in the days immediately following July 2, none of them contained anything that could have been construed to mean that Earhart and Noonan were in Japanese custody, much less taken to Tokyo. Most were incomprehensible snippets.

The Japanese navy's 2,080-ton survey ship Koshu, almost certainly was the ship that picked up Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from their landfall near Mili's Barre Island, and which carried the Earhart Electra its stern to Saipan, where it was discovered by American forces in June 1944.

The Japanese navy’s 2,080-ton survey ship Koshu almost certainly picked up Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from their landfall near Mili’s Barre Island, took the pair to Jaluit, where Bilimon Amaron tended to Noonan’s wounded knee, and carried the Earhart Electra to Saipan, where it was discovered by American forces in June 1944.

But what of  Amy’s claim of the “short-wave radio … broadcast from Tokyo [that] came in saying they were celebrating there, with parades, etc. because of Amelia’s rescue or pick up by a Japanese fisherman” that Amy’s “young girl” friend (probably Margot DeCarie, Amelia’s secretery) in Los Angeles drove 27 miles to tell Amy that night in 1937? Could this have really happened as Amy was told? Can’t we assume the broadcast would have been in Japanese? Did Margot DeCarie speak Japanese, and if not, how did she understand its message?

On Majuro in 1979, Judge Kabua Kabua, the chief magistrate on Jaluit in 1937, told Vincent V. Loomis he heard about the “lady pilot” from the Japanese. “Part of the story, I heard,  her plane ran out of gas and she came down near Mili,” the  judge said.  “The Japanese picked her up in a fishing boat and took her to Saipan, the Japanese headquarters.” 

Through Loomis’ 1981 Tokyo investigation, we know that Koshu, which wasn’t a part of the 12th Squadron, was anchored in Ponape on July 2, 1937, and at 5 p.m., July 6, Lieutenant Yukinao Kozu, the ship’s radioman, logged the official order for the ship to depart Ponape for the Marshalls to join the Earhart search. Koshu was steaming for Jaluit on July 9, arriving there just after noon July 13. “That night she took on coal,” Loomis wrote. “One of those loading the fuel was Tomaki Mayazo, who heard the crew members excitedly mention they were on the way to pick up two American fliers and their aircraft, which had crashed at Mili. The next day the ship steamed out of Jaluit for Mili Mili, where it picked up both the Electra and its crew.”

If Koshu did pick up the fliers at Mili Mili, located in the southwest part of Mili Atoll at least 20 miles from Barre Island, in the northwest part of the atoll, it’s possible they were taken to Mili Mili by this alleged fishing boat. However, we have no accounts or evidence of their presence at Mili Mili besides Loomis’ statement.

When Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki visited Fred Goerner at his San Francisco home in June 1982, the fishing boat story was among the first topics he raised. “Did you know that on July 13, 1937, a Japanese newspaper reported that Amelia Earhart was rescued by Japanese fisherman?” Goerner asked the young woman who told Goerner that she wanted to help his cause, something she never came close to doing.

Undated photo of Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki, wife of famous American writer Pete Hamill, who told Fred Goerner she wanted to help him in his Earhart investigations in the early 1980s. As it turned out, Aoki was anything but helpful, at least from Goerner's point of view.

Undated photo of Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki, wife of American writer Pete Hamill. Aoki told Fred Goerner she wanted to help him in his Earhart investigations in the early 1980s. As it turned out, Aoki was anything but helpful, at least from Goerner’s point of view, as her only purpose was apparently to undermine Goerner’s Saipan findings. For more, see final chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, pages 393-403.

The claim that a Japanese paper published a story about Amelia’s pickup in the Marshalls was directly related to a “most urgent” message sent by Japanese foreign minister Koki Hirota to Japan’s British ambassador, Shigeru Yoshida, in London, also on July 13, 1937, and reported by Loomis in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story. “The Advertiser here [in Japan] reports that they received a London international news dispatch at 2:00 AM today to the effect that a Japanese fishing boat had rescued the Earhart plane,” Hirota wrote. “Please verify this and confirm by return.”

Panic descended upon “the small circle of Japanese officials who knew what was happening in the Marshalls,” Loomis wrote. “Had the truth leaked out from one of their classified sources – radio, a letter, a loose statement? Or even worse, had the secret diplomatic code been broken? Would the Americans press them for more details or would they accept this as rumor? A few tension-ridden days passed, and nothing more came of this coincidental near exposure of the truth.”

Aoki told Goerner that she would look into the fishing boat story, but her findings further confused the matter (see pages 147-148 of Truth at Last). Aoki wrote that “the Tokyo Asahi Shimbum [newspaper] dated July 15 [1937] reported, ‘The report of the rescue is without foundation,'” and so she concluded, “Goerner’s theory of the Japanese fishing boat rescue is extremely weak.”

Aoki was eager to dismiss the fishing boat story, but her report of the newspaper’s July 15 printed retraction of the article nonetheless proved the fishing boat pickup story had appeared two days earlier, as Goerner’s information indicated. But why did one newspaper retract a story that had appeared in another two days earlier?

I’ve never seen an original copy of the story that allegedly appeared in the Japan Advertiser newspaper on July 13, 1937, or the July 15 retraction of the story in Tokyo Asahi Shimbum.  But thanks to Woody Peard, an enterprising researcher in Santa Maria, Calif., we’re now one step closer to the original Japanese story.

In December 2014, Woody, an avid Earhart collector who’s amassed hundreds of newspapers, magazines, scrapbooks, article cutouts, documents, philatelic covers and other memorabilia on Amelia and Fred Noonan since 1998, made an amazing find on eBay – an American newspaper that reported on the Japanese fishing boat pickup story’s Japanese origin.

The below story appeared at the top of page 1 in the July 13, 1937 edition of the Bethlehem (Penn.)-Globe Times

Fishing boat story 5

For those not able to easily read this clip, here’s the top three paragraphs:

Vague and unconfirmed rumors that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan have been rescued by a  Japanese fishing boat without a radio, and therefore unable to make any report, found no verification here today, but plunged Tokio [sic] into a fever of excitement.

The Navy Department had no official word of any such rescue, but were striving to ascertain the position of the fishing boat rumored to have effected the rescue.

Tokio newspapers had a virtual field day. Stories speculating about the rumors were given a tremendous play, competing with developments in North China for the most prominent display.

The rest of the story, filed by Paul Brooke, an International News Service correspondent aboard the carrier USS Lexington, is an update on the carrier group’s ocean search for the Earhart plane, suspended July 19 after 262,000 square miles of ocean was searched by Navy and Coast Guard ships. Only one other researcher has ever told me he has a copy of this story in an American newspaper from July 1937; obviously very few U.S. newspapers ran it.

Woody has been focused on the Earhart saga since 1998, and has a fascinating family connection, beginning with his grandfather, a career Marine officer who graduated from the University of Kansas in 1909. “After serving with the 1st Marine Division in France during World War I, he took a year of international Law at the Sorbonne,” Woody wrote in an email. “He was also the Judge Advocate General for the Eastern Seaboard from 1916-1936, an ONI agent for his entire career and an aerial photo reconnaissance specialist. He was moved to Hawaii in early 1936 as the XO [executive officer] of the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor. Comments made by my father over the years, also a career marine, test pilot and accident investigator led me to believe my grandfather was transferred there to be in charge of security for Earhart’s flight. That was the beginning of my obsession with the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance.”

Like most ruled by logic, reason and respect for facts, Woody is convinced Amelia and Fred died on Saipan, but he believes the Earhart Electra is buried on Taroa, an island on Maloelap Atoll in the Marshalls about 185 miles from Mili Atoll, and the site of a major Japanese airfield during the war. He plans to return to Taroa for a fourth time after he raises the money he needs for a ground-penetrating-radar search, and is seeking a financial backer. Woody is on Facebook and invites comments.  I wish him luck, but don’t believe the Electra is on Taroa. The sooner he crosses this idea off his list, however, the sooner he will come to fully support the Saipan truth. 

Woody Peard, of Santa Maria, Calif.,  an avid Earhart researcher and collector, has generously provided us with a rare clip from a U.S.  newspaper, published on July 13, 1937, that indicates the "fishing boat pickup" of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the Marshall Islands.

Woody Peard, of Santa Maria, Calif., an avid Earhart researcher and collector, has generously provided us with a rare clip from a U.S. newspaper, published on July 13, 1937, which reflected the Japanese reports of the “fishing boat pickup” of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the Marshall Islands

The Japanese fishing boat pickup of Earhart and Noonan is a common thread in the Marshallese saga of the American fliers for a very good reason, but what transpired between the fliers’ July 2 landing and their pickup by the Japanese at an as yet unknown date is largely still unknown.

Through Vincent V. Loomis Tokyo 1981 research in Tokyo, which was later supported by Fukiko Aoki, we know that the Japanese survey ship Koshu was anchored in Ponape on July 2, 1937, was underway for Jaluit on July 9, arrived on July 13 and “the next day steamed out of Jaluit for Mili Mili, where it picked up both the Electra and its crew,” Loomis wrote.  We also know that Koshu returned to Jaluit on July 19 (see pages 157-158 of Truth at Last.) 

Marshallese eyewitnesses John Heine and Tokyo have told investigators about seeing a silver airplane on a barge in different locations, and many others knew of it. In 1997 the elderly Robert Reimers, then 88 and the most powerful man in the Marshalls, told Bill Prymak, “It was  widely known throughout the islands by both Japanese and Marshallese that a Japanese fishing boat first found them and their airplane near Mili.” (see Truth at Last pages 173-174).

Thus it seems clear that the July 13 reports of the “fishing boat pickup” of Earhart and Noonan involve another, unnamed and unidentified vessel, and that the Koshu could not have been the fishing boat alluded to in the July 13 stories. Unfortunately, we have no account from any eyewitness or even hearsay witness that indicates the identity of this vessel, what the fliers were doing or where precisely they were, between the time of their Mili landfall and the unknown time of their pickup.

Once again, even as it seems the big picture in the Earhart disappearance is coming into better focus, the process of actually “getting a visual,” so to speak, on what really happened continues to elude us, as many nagging smaller mysteries present themselves without hinting at easy or quick solution.

 

 

 

 


New Mili search uncovers more potential evidence

February 4, 2015

Earhart researchers Dick Spink and Les Kinney, who led a search team sponsored by Parker Aerospace, returned from Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands Jan. 30 after spending five days combing the tiny Endriken Islands near Barre Island with high-tech equipment including ground-penetrating radar and metal detectors.

Although no one has made any more claims that “concrete proof” or a “Holy Grail” has been found, they didn’t return empty-handed, either, and some of the artifacts appear to have serious potential.

“Wow, what a trip!” Spink wrote in an email Feb. 3. “Two of the pieces we found are very consistent with what I found on my first couple expeditions to Mili. One piece in particular is some type of identification plate that is consistent in size with that of a Lockheed airframe tag. There is no way of knowing this until we get it to the lab, but you can tell it was some type of ID tag.

Dick Spink stands at what he believes was the exact spot that Amelia Earhart landed her Electra on July 2, 1937. Spink and a search team returned to the area for a five-day search of the tiny Endriken Islands in late  January.

Dick Spink stands at what he believes is the spot where Amelia Earhart landed her Electra on July 2, 1937. Spink, Les Kinney and a search team returned to the area for a five-day search of the tiny Endriken Islands in late January.

“Something important to note,” Spink continued, “is that all of the aluminum pieces we found were in a direct line between where [I believe] the [Earhart] plane came to rest and the location of where the plane was loaded onto the shallow draft barge.  Very interesting indeed, and the foundation of this story is becoming more solid.”

Readers unfamiliar with the full background on this story and the new search at Mili for parts of Amelia Earhart’s Electra can find details in my three earlier posts, Yahoo! News announces new search for Electra parts, Recent find on Mili Atoll called “Concrete proof and Update to Recent find on Mili story.”

“We found six small artifacts that could or could not have come from the Electra,” Kinney wrote in a Jan. 29 email. “We also found a couple of small unidentified pieces of aluminum, and a round one inch diameter rusted magnet.  Most of this stuff was buried — all except one piece were found by metal detectors.” 

Kinney urged caution about making any premature announcements until thorough testing can be done.  He will coordinate the tests, financed by Parker Aerospace and conducted as soon as possible. None of the tests will likely provide absolute proof that an artifact came from the Earhart plane, but Kinney, Spink and antique aircraft Jim Hayton all believe the aluminum plate and airwheel dust cover found by Spink in previous trips to the Endrikens were probably from the Electra.

Kinney also interviewed some native Marshallese he called “knowledgeable locals” in the Mili Atoll area, and says he “confirmed there were no aircraft wrecks on any of the nearby islands stretching out for at least ten miles” during or before the war years, with only one exception. This supports his earlier research, and makes the possibilities even stronger that one or more of the artifacts’ came from the Earhart plane.

“We also got some Japanese aircraft samples we picked up on Mili Island to compare the aluminum we got from our island,” Kinney wrote, adding that “everything has been cleared by the Marshallese government.  I wrote up a release and the President signed it as well as the Historic Preservation Office Manager. Everything is legal.”

As is usually been the case when Earhart searches are undertaken by TIGHAR, Nauticos and others, the media has enthusiastically informed the public about the great adventure. These same news agencies have almost invariably failed to publish follow-ups when the searches fail to deliver. Much the same is the case here, though on a far smaller scale; nothing about the search has been published to date by Yahoo! News or any other media outlet, though Spink says he will be talking to a local newspaper soon, and other possible media exposure may be forthcoming.

Readers of this blog can be sure that this reporter will do all that he can to keep them informed about any news in what might be properly called “the postmodern” search for Amelia Earhart.  

 

 

 

 

 

 


Yahoo! News announces new search for Electra parts

January 25, 2015

I awoke this morning to a telephone message from Earhart researcher and presentation artist Rob Ellos, of Stillwater, Minn., and was quite surprised to learn that Rob was calling to alert me that Yahoo! News had just published a story about a new search for parts of Amelia Earhart’s downed Electra near Barre Island, in the northwest area of Mili Atoll.

I already knew about the search, as Dick Spink, Les Kinney and several high-tech operatives sponsored by Parker Aerospace departed several days earlier for Mili, with a return scheduled for Jan. 30. I was advised to keep this news to myself, but apparently Parker Aerospace has seen fit to let the cat of the bag, and Yahoo! News, of all agencies, has broken the story.

This section of the  "Sketch Survey" of Mili Atoll taken from U.S. and Japanese charts focuses on the northwest quadrant of Mili Atoll, where Barre Island is clearly noted. Witnesses saw the Electra come down off Barre, and Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were seen embarking the Electra and seeking shelter in the tiny Endriken Islands just  off Barre, where the current search in ongoing.

This section of the “Sketch Survey” of Mili Atoll taken from U.S. and Japanese charts focuses on the northwest quadrant of Mili Atoll, where Barre Island is clearly noted. Witnesses saw the Electra come down in the reef off Barre, and Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were seen embarking the Electra and seeking shelter in the nearly Endriken Islands, where the current search is ongoing.

Here’s the link to the brief but highly significant article,Search for Earhart plane on remote Marshalls atoll,” which provides very little information other than the statement of Jon Jeffery, Parker’s director of technology and business development, who told Yahoo! News, “We brought more sophisticated equipment to find other parts.”

What is especially surprising is that a mainstream outfit like Yahoo! would even consider publishing anything that runs counter to the longstanding lies that Amelia either crashed and sank near Howland Island or landed at Nikumaroro  in the Phoenix chain. The latter is by far the most well-known myth that’s been perpetuated on a gullible and apathetic American public, and requires no further explanation at this time. 

Did the recent mention of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and the “mountain of evidence” it presents in the January 2015 Smithsonian magazine cover story signal others in the establishment  that it’s now permitted to mention the hated Marshall Islands-Saipan scenario in the Earhart discussion? Up until today, the answer has been a resounding, “No way!”

"Generations of Marshallese people have known since 1937 that the famous fliers didn't just disappear in the ocean," Loeak said. “The aircraft landed on a small atoll in the Marshall Islands and (Earhart and Noonan) survived.”

“Generations of Marshallese people have known since 1937 that the famous fliers didn’t just disappear in the ocean,” Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak told Yahoo! News. “The aircraft landed on a small atoll in the Marshall Islands and (Earhart and Noonan) survived.”

But if Yahoo! News’ decision to include the statement of Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak is any indication, perhaps matters are slowly changing.  “Generations of Marshallese people have known since 1937 that the famous fliers didn’t just disappear in the ocean,” Loeak told Yahoo! News. “The aircraft landed on a small atoll in the Marshall Islands and (Earhart and Noonan) survived.”

Readers new to this blog can find the full background on this development in the search for Amelia Earhart in my two earlier posts,Recent find on Mili Atoll called “Concrete proof” and Update to Recent find on Mili story.” Dick Spink, Les Kinney and others are virtually certain that the aluminum plate and Airwheel dust cover found during searches since 2011 came from the Earhart plane, but neither of these parts has a distinct serial number that would rule out all other possibilities. Without absolute proof, no claims about the Electra will be accepted by an establishment which has shown it’s dead set against public knowledge of the truth about Amelia’s fate. This again is why I was so surprised to see this story published on Yahoo! News. I can only surmise that Parker Aerospace has some serious connections at this news agency.

Les Kinney has promised to keep me informed about anything new that the search team might uncover at Mili’s Endriken Islands, but it appears that might be unnecessary if Yahoo! News stays on this story. Please stay tuned and check in here often for the latest.

 


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