If 2018 was memorable for anything in Earhart circles, it was the news of the birth of the grass-roots movement to erect an Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan, which actually occurred in September 2017. The Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Incorporated (AEMMI) committee is the brainchild of Marie S.C. Castro, 85, the current committee vice president, who is essentially responsible for its existence. Former AEMMI President Rep. Donald Barcinas (Republican, Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature, who has since lost his seat), said in February 2018 that at least $200,000 is needed for the successful completion of the monument.
I learned about the AEMMI on Feb. 8, 2018, when reader Ken McGhee told me that he’d seen the initial story, “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan,” on the website of the Marianas Variety. You can read the original article, which appeared on Feb. 7, by clicking here. Several stories followed in quick succession. My near-joyous announcement, “Finally, some good Earhart news from Saipan” was posted March 2, followed by “Saipan architect unveils planned Earhart Memorial” March 16.
In my March 18 story, “Marie Castro, a treasure chest of Saipan history, Reveals previously unpublished witness accounts,” Marie produced a photo of Jose Sadao Tomokane, who told his wife in 1937 that he was late coming home because he had “attended the cremation of the American woman pilot,” according to his wife’s statement to Marie.
In the March 28 edition of Marianas Variety, my post about Marie S.C. Castro appeared under the headline, “Marie Castro: An iron link to Saipan’s forgotten past,” and an extended version, “Marie Castro: Iron link to Saipan’s forgotten history,” was published here April 2. The stories presented Marie’s accounts of her experiences with Matilde Arriola, one of the best known of the Saipan eyewitnesses, introduced by Fred Goerner in his 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart. Marie’s interview with another of Goerner’s eyewitnesses, “Revisiting Joaquina Cabrera, Earhart eyewitness,” was published here April 17.
Marie continues as the prime mover and virtual sole voice in the movement to erect the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument. With the exception of a few very generous individuals, the response to our year-long fundraising campaign has been cool on this side of the Pacific, and ice cold on Saipan.
In an effort to change hearts and minds, in early January 2019 Marie was inspired to write a small booklet about her life and devotion to Amelia’s legacy, intended for distribution on Saipan, “mostly for the locals to educate and induce them to read,“ she told me. She sent me a 20-page draft, which I tuned-up and expanded, and by mid-February, the first of three boxes of Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy, arrived on Saipan.
Saipan’s Marianas Variety newspaper published a story about the booklet, “New book about Amelia Earhart on Saipan now available,” by reporter Junhan B. Todiño, on Feb. 25, 2019, and on March 4, Saipan TV’s Ashley McDowell interviewed Marie for a story you can watch by clicking here.
The 35-page booklet is available at the Saipan’s Bestsellers bookstore and the Saipan Library, and Marie will ask for donations when she distributes it to those she hopes might be willing to help make the Earhart Memorial Monument a reality someday. I think it’s appropriate that readers everywhere see it, and hope that some might be moved to help Marie on Saipan, at the address listed at the top right of the front page of this blog.
Beginning with the back-cover narrative, here is the first of three parts of Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy. (Boldface mine throughout and not in the booklet.)
In My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy, Mike Campbell, author of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last (Second Edition 2016), and Marie Castro, author of Without a Penny in My Pocket: My Bittersweet Memories Before and After WWII, her 2013 autobiography, present a brief summary of the facts in the 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, and their tragic deaths on prewar Japanese-controlled Saipan.
Marie, 85, is the leading light in the grass-roots initiative to erect the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan. Along with Campbell and a few others, she persists in her determination to bring long-overdue justice to the famed aviatrix and her navigator.
My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy is Marie’s unique way of continuing her mission to thank America for saving Saipan, in a way no one else has ever done, by educating her own people about Earhart, Noonan and the unhappy truth about their lonely ends on Saipan. Seeing the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument project through to its completion has become among the most daunting challenges of Marie Castro’s long life, but one in which she is determined to succeed.
Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy
By Mike Campbell with Marie S.C. Castro (Part 1 of 3)
I’m currently 85 years old, and what has happened in my life is quite amazing. For starters, and quite briefly, I lived in Kansas City, Missouri for 50 years and decided to sell my great home at 100 Garfield Avenue, also known as Tiffany Castle, and move back home for good to Saipan, the largest island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI.
In 1966 I was sent to Kansas City as a nun to complete my higher education. During the 1960s and ‘70s a big transitional movement was under way in the Catholic Church for clergy and religious to reflect on their vocations. I believe it was Pope St. John XXIII who issued a Decree for priests and nuns who questioned their vocation to go on sabbatical leave for one year. I prayed to the Holy Spirit to guide me in my decision, and I decided to relinquish my vows as a nun. I believed I made the right decision. Although I am no longer in the religious life, I maintain my Catholic Faith and training that has served as a strong guide and anchor in my secular life.
I never forget what the American military endured in World War II in order to free the people of Saipan from oppression, and I dedicated my life to education. I decided to remain in Kansas City and teach in school, where I could help children and reciprocate in my own small way to this great country. I taught two years at Ozanam Home for Boys, an institution for emotionally disturbed youngsters, and then applied to the Kansas City Missouri Public School System, where I taught for 25 years and retired in 1998. I felt it was a big accomplishment in my life in helping children to make a difference. Later I spent time doing voluntary work, as well attending courses and lectures until I came back home for good in 2016.
I took lots of pictures of the castle to show to my mother and my family before I went to Saipan in the summer of 1989. Everyone admired the beauty of the woodwork and the stained glass around the house.
When I came back to Kansas City from that vacation, I called the realtor to make an appointment to see the castle once more, so I could definitely decide what to do. I met with the realtor at the castle at 2 o’clock one afternoon. As she opened the big front door, I was mesmerized with the beauty of the woodwork, the high ceiling and a big mantle with a huge mirror built over it. The realtor led me up to a beautiful spiral stairway to the second floor and a big master bedroom with five other bedrooms. Next we went on to the turret, where we could see the Missouri River, overlooking Kansas City, downtown and the residential areas all around.
As we went back down and proceeded to the dining room, I looked over the stained glass door entrance, and I felt so humbled for the opportunity to see it again. While I stood in the dining room, suddenly I remembered what my brother Gus told me, “If you see something you like and you can do it, go for it. You only live once in your lifetime.”
I thought if I don’t take this house, it would haunt me all my life, and I will be sorry if I pass up this opportunity. At that moment I turned to the realtor and said, “I will purchase the castle.”
It wasn’t easy to sell that big historic mansion, but finally after four years on the market an interested person made an offer after touring the castle. After 26 years in this house, leaving was an emotional and difficult experience. It was a special home for me, not only considering it as my home on earth, but especially after having found out through my research on the castle that it was built in 1903. Right then, the connection with my mother became even more meaningful to me. It seemed to be a sign, in that my mother was also born in 1903. Although I was over 8,000 miles away from her, I always felt the closeness between the two of us. The castle served as a therapeutic home, a kind of extension of the intimate love of a mother.
I had sold my property on Saipan during the economic boom in the late 1970s-early ‘80s when the Japanese were investing on the island. The castle was badly in disrepair and the price was affordable, so I was able to put a down payment and then applied for a mortgage.
After a month this huge commitment began to sink in, but my determination to own it was stronger than the financial burden. I thought nothing is easy in this world.
I went back home feeling satisfied at my accomplishment that day. That evening I wasn’t able to sleep until 3 a.m. for that incredible decision I made. Later I remembered my realtor told me, “Marie, the house was meant for you.” I believed she was right, because for the 26 years I lived in that house I enjoyed every minute and every corner of the house. It was my heaven on earth. I wish my mother would have had the opportunity to taste the beauty of that house.
The castle was completely empty when I bought it. To find the most appropriate set of furniture to furnish the castle was not easy, but finally after over three years the house was well furnished, appropriate to its unique style.
My mother, Virginia C. Castro, left, was recovering from her minor heart problem at the hospital when I came for my yearly summer vacation to Saipan. I spent as much time as I could with her that summer; the thought of leaving her was so painful to me.
Three days after I arrived back in Kansas City, I got a call from my brother Gus, who said, “If you want to see Mother for the last time, come home as soon as possible. She is in critical condition.” I made my plane reservation and flew the next day back to Saipan. I prayed so hard during my flight that I would see my mother alive before she departed.
I arrived at Saipan at 8 p.m. the next day. My brother was at the airport to meet me, and we went directly to the hospital. As I entered her room the family had just finished praying the Rosary by her bedside. As I bent and kissed her, I said “Mother I am here, si Daling.” Mother opened her eyes and smiled at me, and I knew she was waiting for her daughter. I was fortunate to stay at my mother’s bedside, giving her my last assistance for five days until she died on Aug. 6, 1990.
In 2013, my book, Without a Penny in my Pocket, was published through funding provided by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council. Its subtitle, My Bittersweet Memories Before and After World War II, well summarizes its contents.
William H. Stewart, former senior economist for the Northern Marianas and a career military-historical cartographer and foreign-service officer in the U.S. State Department, wrote a very nice, comprehensive review of Without a Penny in November 2014.
“Marie Castro’s fascinating book, Without a Penny in my Pocket, takes the reader back to a period on Saipan long ago swept away on the waves of time,” Stewart wrote in beginning his two-page review. “Recalling the days of her youth she provides vivid and rare insight of bygone days of a peaceful Saipan before the ravages of war destroyed much but not the memories of what used to be. . . . Today’s youth would be well-advised to learn from the experiences of the author and her family and friends, of the heartbreak and suffering the people of Saipan endured and the faith they all exhibited to overcome such adversity. . . . She is an inspiration for all who aspire to make a contribution by helping others through education and good deeds.”
I urge interested readers who want to learn more than I can offer in this small booklet to obtain a copy of Without a Penny in my Pocket.
Return to Saipan
Two years later, on Oct. 13, 2016, I returned to Saipan for good and wondered, “What am I to do now?” Perhaps I would be bored, but interestingly enough, a few months later I remembered Matilde F. Arriola, whom I interviewed about Amelia Earhart in 1983. Perhaps this was what had been bothering me in the back of my mind the year 2017 in connection with 1937, 80 years ago when Amelia Earhart’s plane came down in the Pacific with her navigator Fred Noonan and eventually was brought to Saipan by the Japanese.
I began considering this event that happened in 1937 on Saipan. At that time, people were subject to strict Japanese governance. We had no rights on our own island. People were ordered to comply with any ordinance given by the Japanese regime. Any infraction would result in punishment, and depending on the severity of the offense, the price could be terrible and devastating. The people lived in constant fear, which had become the normal daily environment on Saipan.
Japan’s economic interests on Saipan were mainly to subsidize her own people. Much of the land was used to cultivate tapioca and cotton, but most of it was devoted to sugarcane plantations. The production of sugarcane became so large that the country decided through an entrepreneur businessman named Matsue to build a sugarcane factory on Saipan. He brought in large numbers of workers from the island of Okinawa to work in sugarcane fields as well as in the factory.
Interestingly enough, only a few Saipanese who were conscripted by the government in 1937 happened to witness an event that the locals had suppressed in their minds until the war ended. After the liberation of Saipan in the summer of 1944 and people were encamped at Camp Susupe, fears suppressed by the people for so long during the Japanese regime began to unravel, and the seeds of freedom the American victory had planted began to bear fruit.
I remember Joaquin M. Seman and his friend Frank Deleon Guerrero, who came to our house one evening for a social visit and told the story about an American woman pilot who wore a man’s outfit with short hair. The woman pilot was the great Amelia Earhart. It was so strange to them, as they had never seen a woman dressed like that, as according to the Chamorro culture, woman always wore dresses.
In early February 2017 I met with Robert Hunter at his Department of Community and Cultural Affairs (DCCA) office and Rep. Donald Barcinas and explained my idea. The presence and death of Amelia Earhart on Saipan is a very unpopular subject here; however, I believe that it should be recorded in our history, for many important reasons. These include recognizing Amelia as the American woman pilot who so exemplified the fearless spirit of adventure that so characterized the early aviation pioneers, and to finally offer those who are interested in Amelia and her possible fate a monument on Saipan, where she met her tragic fate.
Amelia Earhart endures in the American consciousness as one of the world’s most celebrated aviators, and she remains a symbol of the power and perseverance of women who are determined to achieve a lofty goal, and the adventurous spirit so essential to the American persona. The last time I checked, the CNMI is still a part of America.
End of Part I.
David M. Sablan is a well-known Saipan citizen and entrepreneur who founded the Rotary Club of Saipan in 1968. In 2017 he published his autobiography, A Degree of Success Through Curiosity: True Story of a Young Boy Eager to Learn and Find His Calling in Life, his account of “living under the Japanese regime before and during WWII on a remote Pacific island, who grew up under hardship but made something positive out of his life.”
In 2005, Sablan, who turns 87 in early April and founded Saipan’s Rotary Club in 1968, was named Rotary Club Citizen of the Year, the first time in the club’s 37-year history the club presented this award to one of its own.
“Our honoree complements his public service by being closely involved with civic and community groups,” said Michael Sablan, who introduced David at the 2005 ceremony. “The list of civic and community organizations he has served on is long, but of all the honors bestowed to our honoree, of all the distinctions he has earned . . . it was his involvement in 1968 in founding the Rotary Club of Saipan that we Rotarians, as a club, appreciate the greatest.”
In my May 18, 2018 post, “Marie Castro, a treasure chest of Saipan history, Reveals previously unpublished witness accounts,” Marie introduced yet another previously unpublished piece of the ever-continuing Earhart saga, an account with which Sablan was personally familiar:
I have the photo of Mr. Jose Sadao Tomokane. He told his wife one day the reason for coming home late. He attended the cremation of the American woman pilot. Mrs. Tomokane and Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes were neighbors during the Japanese time. They often visited with one another. Dolores, daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, heard their conversation about the cremation of an American woman pilot. These two wives were the only individuals who knew secretly about the cremation of Amelia through Mr. Tomokane.
“Had it not been for the daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, who heard the conversation of the two wives, we would have never known about Mr. Tomokane’s interesting day. And David M. Sablan, after I showed the power point presentation at my house last month, he got up after the presentation and told the group that he heard about Amelia being cremated, according to Mr. Tomokane.”
At the Oct. 9, 2018 reception dinner honoring Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s return to Saipan at age 92 at Garapan’s Fiesta Resort and Spa, Sablan spoke of his childhood memory of seeing an airplane towed through Garapan’s Second Street, though on this occasion Sablan wasn’t quite as specific as he was in an earlier email to Marie Castro:
Going back in years, during the Japanese occupation of Saipan (late thirties to early forties), I was wandering around the northern part of Garapan Town, when I saw a large crowd gathered near the dock area of a large Japanese company, Nanyo Boeki Kaisha (or NAMBO). This dock was privately owned by NAMBO for unloading cargoes that were brought in by “sampan” or barge unloaded from a ship into a sampan and brought ashore by a barge to the small “jetty.” I was curious to see what was going on but I could only see a plane which was apparently off-loaded from a barge at the NAMBO dock.
I saw an airplane being towed on Second Street in Garapan Town. The plane was being towed southward on Garapan Main Street. I later learned that the towed airplane was seen at “ASLITO AIRFIELD” on the southern end of Saipan. A local worker at Aslito Airfield came by our ranch in Chalan Kiya and told us that the airplane was recovered by the Japanese as well as a woman and a man pilots. The name of the person who told us is ISIDRO LISAMA.
Sablan then recalled visiting the Marshall Islands during the course of his many duties with Atkins Kroll Guam Ltd., where he rose from being traffic clerk to president and general manager, and upon his retirement, as chairman of the company. “One person that I remember very distinctly is Bilimon Amaron . . . was one of my customers for the merchandise that we used to sell. And I said, ‘What do you know about Amelia Earhart?’ Well, [he said] I was a corpsman in 1937 working for the Japanese government and all of a sudden we were asked to go on a ship to treat a man and a woman who were injured and were on that ship . . . and [he was told] you are not to say anything of what you see. This is in 1937.
“So they went aboard the ship and they treated a white man and a white woman,” Sablan continued, “not Japanese, and as he was doing that he looked at the aft side of the ship, the rear part of the ship, and saw a damaged airplane. This was shared to me by Bilimon Amaron.”
(Editor’s note: Although Sablan pronounced Bilimon’s name as “Amaron” in his talk, in an email he insisted the spelling should be “Amram,” a form I’ve seen before, though rarely. Bilimon himself told Bill Prymak to spell his name as Amaron when Prymak interviewed him in 1989. Amram may be a Marshallese form, but Vincent V. Loomis, whose book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, is the definitive Marshall Islands, Earhart-landing work, spelled it “Amaran,” though most others have it as Amaron, so we’ll stay with that on this blog for continuity, at the least.)
David Sablan’s childhood memory is valuable in that we have scant witness testimony about the disposition of Amelia Earhart’s Electra, and how it came to be at Aslito Field when it was discovered in a hangar there during the American invasion in the summer of 1944. And although many have heard and written about Bilimon Amaron’s sighting of Earhart and Fred Noonan aboard a Japanese ship at Jaluit in summer 1937, as a prominent member of the Saipan establishment, Sablan’s endorsement of Amaron’s eyewitness account lends it additional credibility and weight. Considering that the popular sentiment on Saipan against the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument remains strongly against its success, Sablan’s accounts can only help this worthy cause.
Sablan also has several interesting photos on his blog, including one of his meeting the emperor of Japan. To see these, please click here.
Your support of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument would be greatly appreciated; please see this blog’s front page, top right side for more information.
Today we present another installment in the fascinating correspondence between Fred Goerner and Fred Hooven. In this March 1971 letter from Goerner, he treats Hooven to a scathing review of Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, Joe Klaas’ 1970 bid for Earhart glory that will forever live in infamy as the most damaging of all the Earhart disappearance books ever penned.
Thanks chiefly to Klaas, an otherwise fine writer with nine books to his credit, and his precocious crony Joe Gervais, whose multiple delusions are featured throughout Amelia Earhart Lives, legitimate Earhart research, particularly of the kind that supports and reveals the Marshall Islands-Saipan truth, has been forever tainted in the public mind and more eagerly discredited by the establishment media, already dead set against release of the truth since the earliest days.
The centerpiece of the insanity in Amelia Earhart Lives is Gervais’ “recognition” of Amelia Earhart, returned from Japan, in the person of American housewife Mrs. Guy Bolam, who he met on Aug. 8, 1965 at the Sea Spray Inn on the Dunes, in East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y. If you’re not familiar with the story behind this catastrophe, I wrote a four-part series that will tell you far more than you probably want to know.
It begins with my Dec. 29, 2015 post, “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV” and continues consecutively, describing the entire sordid affair and its incredible aftermath. But here’s Goerner’s 1971 missive to Hooven, which boils it all down to a neat little dollop. (Boldface mine throughout.)
Dear Fred, March 2, 1971
How are you and Martha? Are you completely recovered from your accident? Are you ever coming back to S.F.? Merla has two wall clocks she wants fixed and I am totally incapable.
This letter is months overdue. The passage of time apparently is accelerating. Then, too, the longer letters always come last. Human nature, I guess, to tackle the shorties first. Give more of a feeling of accomplishment to mail ten short letters rather than one long one.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, by the way, and since neither of us bother with cards.
Amelia Earhart is not alive and well and living in New Jersey — and nowhere else. Unfortunately. How those guys thought they were going to get away with that gambit I haven’t yet been able to figure out. I guess they figured that the truth is so hard to come by these days that it would never really catch up with them.
I think they were both smoking pot when they dreamed up their script. In case you didn’t get it all, it goes like this:
AE and Noonan are shot down by Japanese carrier aircraft onto Hull Island in the Phoenix Group from whence they are picked up and spirited first to Saipan and then to Japan. FDR is blackmailed by the Japanese into giving up the plans for the Hughes racing plane which is adapted by the Japanese into the Zero fighter plane. AE is kept prisoner in the Imperial Palace and during WWII she is forced to broadcast to American troops under the guise of Tokyo Rose. And the end of WWII, Emperor Hirohito trades AE back to the U.S. with the bargain that he be permitted to retain the Japanese throne. AE is sneaked back to the U.S. disguised as a Catholic nun whereupon she assumed the identity of one Irene (Mrs. Guy) Bolam.
If it were not for the fact that Mrs. Bolam was outraged, the authors might have achieved their purpose: A bestseller. Mrs. Bolam scuttled them with dispatch and McGraw-Hill took a black eye. Yet the human willingness to suspend disbelief always amazes me. Some people accepted the entire creation and it is no small task to disabuse them of that desire to believe in limitless conspiracy.
Enclosed find a recent epistle from AE’s sister, Mrs. Albert Morrissey, which reveals how the family felt about the disclosures [not available]. The photo Muriel mentions is one the two authors submitted as placing AE in Japanese custody in Japan. In the photo, AE is wearing the kimono and bracelet referred to by Mrs. Morrissey. The photo was actually taken in a Japanese restaurant in Honolulu in 1935 at the time of AE’s Hawaii to California solo flight.
Along with that small flaw, nothing else in the book bears scrutiny, either. For instance, Hull Island was populated with several hundred persons in 1927 under British administration. U.S. Navy planes landed in the Hull Island lagoon in the week following the AE disappearance, and no sign of AE or the Japanese had been seen by anyone. As Hull is a very tiny coral atoll, there was no mistake. The authors, however, produced a photo supposed taken from a U.S. Navy plane above Hull Island which shows the wreckage of AE’s plane on a beach with a Japanese flag planed beside it. The picture also shows some rather large hills in the background. This provides some embarrassment because the highest point of land on Hull rises only nine feet above sea level.
Ah, but they have really muddied the waters. I despair at reaching anything like the complete truth at this point. But I will keep trying simply because my nature is such that I don’t know how to do anything else.
(Editor’s note: So compelling was the siren song of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth that some otherwise rational souls remained in its thrall even after the overwhelming evidence against this pernicious lie became well known. Soon after Amelia Earhart Lives hit the streets, Irene Bolam filed a defamation lawsuit against McGraw-Hill that forced the publisher to pull all copies of the book bookshelves nationwide, and Bolam reportedly settled for a huge, undisclosed sum.
In 2003, retired Air Force Col. Rollin C. Reineck, a charter member of the Amelia Earhart Society, self-published Amelia Earhart Survived, possibly the worst Earhart disappearance book ever, in a vain attempt to resurrect the odiferous corpse of the Bolam theory. To this day, there are some who continue to push this insidious nonsense upon the unwary.)
We never have gotten launched on that final Pacific jaunt. One thing after another after three others has always emerged. Now I’m shooting for this summer with some Air Force cooperation. Canton Island, which has air facilities and close to the area we wish to search, is currently under Air Force-SAMSO (Space and Missile Systems Organization) control. I addressed the Air Force Academy Cadets and their faculty two weeks ago on the Credibility Gap, and I believe we have an arrangement forged for the necessary cooperation. If you have changed your mind with respect to a little light adventure, let me know. [See Truth at Last pages 174-175 for more on Goerner’s expedition that never got under way.]
Within the last few weeks there has been an interesting development: A Mrs. Ellen Belotti of Las Vegas, Nevada, came forward with some reports from the Pan American Airways radio direction finder stations at Wake, Midway and Honolulu which deal with the Earhart case. Mrs. Belotti was secretary to G.W. Angus, Director of Communications for Pan [sic] in 1937, and she was given the task of coordinating the reports. She states that one day several U.S. Navy officers who identified themselves as from the Office of U.S. Naval Intelligence appeared at the office (PAN AM) and confiscated all of the reports dealing with Earhart. She says the Pan Am people were warned at the time not to discuss the matter with anyone, and that the reports were to be considered secret and any copies of the reports were to be destroyed.
Mrs. Belotti says she decided not to destroy her copies of the reports because she believed the Navy did not have the right to require that of Pan Am. She also felt a fair shake was not being given to her idol, Amelia.
She did, however, keep silence over all the years, but now she thinks the truth should be told.
The reports really don’t tell very much except for the fact that some signals were picked up by the three Pan Am stations which they believed came from Earhart. The bearings place the location of the signals in the Phoenix Island area between Canton and Howland Island. Strangely, the time of the reception of the signals matches up with reports of amateur radio operators along the West Coast who stated they had received signals from the AE plane.
The only reason I can think of that the Navy would want to quash such information is that Naval Intelligence Communications were not anxious for the Japanese to learn that we had such effective high-frequency DF’s in operation in the Pacific. Much valuable intelligence information was gained between 1938 and 1941 by DF’s monitoring Japanese fleet activity in the Pacific area, and particularly within the Japanese mandated islands.
I have also enclosed copies of the Pan Am reports for you to peruse. I’d love to hear your opinion of them.
Merla is doing great. Still turning out her column for the S.F. CHRONICLE. She joins me in sending warm, warm, warm, warm, warm, best wishes to you both and in issuing a permanent invitation for you to come and be our house guests for as long as you like.
Fred Goerner died in 1994, Joe Gervais in 2005, and in 2016 Joe Klaas passed away at age 95. It’s a shame that Klaas should be remembered chiefly for writing history’s most notorious and controversial Earhart book, as he led a remarkable life distinguished by more admirable achievements.
Klaas began his World War II service by flying British Supermarine Spitfires as an American volunteer in the Royal Air Force. After Pearl Harbor, Klaas transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force and fought in the North African invasion of Morocco, as well as the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, where he was shot down and captured by Arabs who sold him to the Nazis for $20. Klaas spent 25 months in German prison camps, escaped to be recaptured and worked for the X-Committee that planned “The Great Escape” from prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III.
For more on Klaas’ life and World War II exploits, please click here.
Most readers of this blog are familiar with Australian David Billings and his New Britain theory, the only one among all other Earhart disappearance “solutions” besides the Marshalls-Saipan truth that presents us information and poses questions that cannot be explained or answered. Readers can review the details of Billings’ theory by reading my Dec. 5, 2016 post, “New Britain theory presents incredible possibilities.”
“The evidence that motivates Billings, 76, who works in relative obscurity out of his home in Nambour, Australia, where he often flies gliders to relax, is real and compelling,” I wrote in a December 2016 post. “Unlike our better known, internationally acclaimed ‘Earhart experts,’ whose transparently bogus claims are becoming increasingly indigestible as our duplicitous media continues to force-feed us their garbage, David is a serious researcher whose questions demand answers. His experience with our media is much like my own; with rare exceptions, his work has been ignored by our esteemed gatekeepers precisely because it’s based on real evidence that, if confirmed, would cause a great deal of discomfort to our Fourth Estate, or more accurately, our Fifth Column.”
In June 2017, Billings returned from his seventeenth trip to East New Britain in search of the wreck of the Earhart plane. Once again, he was unable to find what he believes is the lost Electra 10E, which Amelia flew from Lae, New Guinea on the morning of July 2, 1937. Here’s my June 22, 2017 post: “Billings’ latest search fails to locate Earhart Electra.”
Billings’ website, Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project, subtitled “Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain: Second World War Australian Patrol Finds Tangible Evidence” offers more information on this unique and fascinating theory.
Now comes another Australian, semi-retired field exploration and research geologist William J. Fraser, who lives near Cairns in tropical far north Queensland, to stir the pot. In a series of mid-February emails, Fraser presented his own novel explanation for the 1945 discovery of the alleged Earhart plane in East New Britain, which follows forthwith (bold emphasis mine throughout):
In compiling a solution to the vexing mystery of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed aircraft I made two main assumptions:
1. That the theories and eyewitness accounts as detailed by Mike Campbell on this website and in his book Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, are substantially correct, excepting for the accounts of the American destruction of Earhart’s Lockheed 10E aircraft on Saipan in June 1944. I suggest that this was not the case and it was another Lockheed owned or captured by the Japanese which had been comprehensively booby-trapped.
2. That the wreckage of Earhart’s aircraft was found in the Mevelo River area near Rabaul, New Britain by an AIF patrol in April 1945 and as investigated by David Billings is credible and real. This is quite satisfactorily explained by Billings’ interviews with then surviving patrol members and the marginal notes on an old topographic map. However, I do find it disappointing that the detailed A1 patrol report seems to be missing from the Australian War Memorial archives.
In my narrative I propose that following the Japanese salvage of Earhart’s aircraft from an atoll in the eastern Marshall Islands in July 1937, it was quickly transported by ship to either Kwajalein or Saipan where it was washed down with available fresh water and assessed for restoration. At the commencement of wash down the engine cowls were put aside for some time while the engines were worked on. The 1945 observed apparent corrosion of one of the cowls by an AIF patrol member would have happened at this time.
The Japanese Government ultimately restored the aircraft to flyable condition, and it was put into passenger service, perhaps even pre-World War II and operated unobserved in the Marianas and Marshall Islands.
Following the invasion of Rabaul by Japanese military forces from January 23, 1942 to February 1942, sometime in the subsequent period 1942-43, the aircraft made a flight, departure point unknown, intended to reach Rabaul. For whatever reason (it could have even been structural failure due to corrosion) the aircraft crashed in the Mevelo River area.
Billings and his team commenced their search for the aircraft wreck about 25 years ago (1994) and have made multiple expeditions since then and without any success. This present outcome is a mystery in itself.
I have attempted to understand why this is so and I presently propose several reasons to explain:
- Up to about the 1950s to 1960s the search area was probably primary forest (near virgin). However, forest mapping and classification done for the Government of Papua New Guinea indicates that post 1972 the search area was secondary forest (re-vegetating). Now why is this so? I may be mistaken but I suggest that much of the forest was burnt and destroyed by a major fire during a long period of a serous drought (yet to be determined from existing, if any, rainfall records). Such severe fires and long-lasting droughts have been well documented in many other parts of PNG.
- The forest fire was very intense on favorable dry hill slopes and it could well have melted much of the aircraft components. Remnant layered charcoal is well known to cause problems for metal detectors as it is highly conductive which makes it very difficult to locate any metal objects.
- During the period 1980s to the mid 1990s selective, then total logging of the regenerating forest was carried out. It is possible that the aircraft remains may have been found and recovered at that time.
As the logging and access track preparation progressed under strict supervision (there were valuable equipment and fuel assets involved) there should have been maps (now archived) drawn up. This is standard industry practice. So, in the first instance there needs to be research of the logging and timber (lumber) company records and interviews with previous managers and workers. Following this research, a well-appointed search directive needs to be assembled and detailed expedition planning commenced with ancillary fundraising.
David Billings’ Response
Mike Campbell has asked me to comment on Mr. William Fraser’s astounding revelations about the Earhart Mystery contained in several assumptions and further text passages which contain imaginative thinking.
Being as Mr. Fraser has seen fit to make quite a lot of assumptions concerning my project, which is the search for the Electra 10E on New Britain Island, I see it as reasonable for me to comment, if only to correct, inform and educate as to what has actually happened in line with what has been written by Mr. Fraser as “assumptions” and further remarks.
The Project Team started to search for an aircraft in 1994, due to certain evidence obtained from veterans of the World War II New Britain campaign against the Japanese located at Wide Bay, New Britain. In short, these Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Infantrymen found some aircraft wreckage while on a patrol and the aircraft wreckage was not identified at the time, but detail from an engine found on site was later described to them in a reply from the U.S. Army as a [Pratt & Whitney] “Wasp” engine.
Many years later, written evidence was found on a topographical map, evidence (which also included detail of the patrol carried out) which clearly pointed to the owner of the Wasp engine as being Amelia Earhart. This big clue to the identity of this wreckage seen in 1945 by the patrol, was found quite by accident in 1993.
I gathered a team together and ventured into the Wide Bay jungle using the recollections of the veterans as to locations as a guide. Most of the path as told was incorrect and not until some archived messages in the Australian War Memorial were seen did we gather a fair idea if where they had been.
Now, on to the “Fraser Report” and my response to Mr. Fraser’s blog post:
The First Main Assumption by Mr. Fraser:
I make no comment except to say that Mr. Fraser is entitled to his opinion and to his assumption, such as it is.
The Second Main Assumption by Mr. Fraser:
“That the wreckage of Earhart’s aircraft was found in the Mevelo River area near Rabaul, New Britain by an AIF patrol in April 1945 and as investigated by David Billings is credible and real.”
I applaud Mr. Fraser for seeing the light and agreeing that the wreckage, from the evidence and from the eyewitness statements, is indeed the missing Electra 10E.
“This is quite satisfactorily explained by Billings’ interviews with then surviving patrol members and the marginal notes on an old topographic map.”
“However, I do find it disappointing that the detailed A1 patrol report seems to be missing from the AWM archives.”
There is a handwritten report which is contained in the Australian War Museum (AWM) website. You have to be an African witch doctor to find it. Unfortunately it does not mention the wreckage find, as it is a topographical report with grid references designed to placate a certain Capt. Mott, who was an HQ staff captain and a mapmaker who was quite miffed that Patrol A1 leaders could not tell him to his acceptable degree of accuracy, “Where they had been.”
This upset to the staff captain caused Lt. Ken Backhouse, the Patrol A1 leader, to receive a slap on the wrist and be immediately sent out on another patrol along the Melkong River. However, that said concerning the topographical report, there is a missing situation report (SITREP) numbered as “63A.” Despite two visits to the AWM in Canberra, the nation’s capital, to peruse records and many, many website searches of the records, SITREP 63A still eludes us. The letter “A” signifies 63A as an “Annex Report,” something extraneous to the patrol orders that has been encountered, which is not strictly anything to do with the task at hand.
I strongly suspect that SITREP 63A described what they saw in the jungle. I also suspect that Capt. Mott (who wanted to know where the wreckage was sited) possibly had an idea of whose aircraft it may have been and kept a copy of 63A, being as the patrol members believed from the state of the wreckage that it had lain where it was for quite a few years. Mott was a very intelligent man and was famous for his mapping of Queensland and the Northern Territory of Australia.
I did speak with Mott’s son in the mid-’90s after locating him in a nursing home, and he did tell me that his father had mentioned an aircraft wreck that he was interested in when speaking to his son in Melbourne after the end of World War II.
To continue with Mr. Fraser’s statements:
“In my narrative I propose that following the Japanese salvage, etc., etc.”
It is a known fact that any aluminum alloy aircraft, especially one without any anti-corrosion finish in the form of paint (outside and inside) and which has been immersed in seawater is basically a write-off unless it can be washed out “immediately, pronto, quick-as-a-flash” with fresh water, and even then immersed in a water tank or treated with chemicals to halt the commencement of corrosion. There is also the thought that any magnesium alloy components would start to fizz away from the effects of salt water like a soluble aspirin tablet in a glass of water.
There are also the engines to consider, for they would be swamped with salt water which would get into the intake manifolds and through open poppet valves enter the cylinders. Who is going to strip, clean and reassemble the engines with some new parts?
I have neither the knowledge or the inclination to find out whether Kwajalein or Saipan had thousands of gallons of reticulated water from a mains pressure system to spare to even try to wash out the Electra after a sea voyage of a week or more to get from “an atoll in the eastern Marshalls” to either of those two places of Kwajalein or Saipan. I suspect that atoll locale habitations instead of having reticulated water, individually collected rainwater in tanks rather than having desalination plants or collection dams in that pre-war period.
Rather than the cowls being left without washing in the “Mr. Fraser circumstance,” I have previously proposed that the Electra picked up salt from the atmosphere whilst flying at low-level after take-off and while searching for Howland Island. The impinged salt being the cause of the “holed and filigreed” nose cowl rings described by the Patrol Warrant Officer.
“The Japanese Government ultimately restored the aircraft to flyable condition, etc., etc.”
No comment. Again, Mr, Fraser is entitled to his opinion/assumption.
“Following the invasion of Rabaul by Japanese military forces from January 23 to February 1942, sometime in the subsequent period 1942-43, the aircraft made a flight, departure point unknown, intended to reach Rabaul. For whatever reason (it could have even been structural failure due to corrosion) the aircraft crashed in the Mevelo River area.”
Again, I applaud that Mr. Fraser comes out in support if the Electra 10E being where we say it is, but I have no comment on the circumstantial assumption as to the reason why.
We now get to some massive assumptions by Mr. Fraser in respect to an area of heavily timbered and quite difficult terrain, into which Mr. Fraser has never been.
“Billings and his team commenced their search for the aircraft wreck about 25 years ago (1994) and have made multiple expeditions since then and without any success. This present outcome is a mystery in itself.”
1994 is the start; that is correct, but why then does Mr. Fraser go on to say the obvious: “without success,” and then go on to proclaim that our lack of success “is a mystery in itself”? That is, in itself, an immature schoolboyish remark from a person who has not been into this area of jungle, does not know the terrain, does not know the circumstances under which we undertook the earlier searches and who now compounds his lack of knowledge and his ignorance by saying, “I may be mistaken but I suggest that much of the forest was burnt and destroyed by a major fire during a long period of a serious drought (yet to be determined from existing, if any, rainfall records). Such severe fires and long-lasting droughts have been well documented in many other parts of PNG.”
Please note the “yet to be determined,” which makes the forgoing statement a guess. I now say that the guess has no foundation in fact, for Mr. Fraser is mistaken. There has been no forest fire in the Wide Bay area which destroyed the whole forest 80 years ago or since. We have seen no evidence of that. The rainfall there has to be seen to be believed and definitely no droughts in our now 25 years. Rain, rain and more rain, even a cyclone.
I will not comment on the rest, I believe I have made my point abundantly clear. Fraser’s assumptions are just that, assumptions, made largely without substantial knowledge of the subject matter and in the belief that he and he alone is correct.
Mr. Fraser earlier communicated with me back in August 2018 with the suggestion that the wreck we were seeking from our information may be a Lockheed captured by the Japanese on Guam, Wake Island, the Philippines or the Netherlands East Indies, forgetting that (or not knowing), the R-1340 S3H1 engines were only fitted to the Model 10E Electras.
He again contacted me in November and this time he mentioned B-17F 41-24458 as a candidate. This B-17 was obviously powered by Wright Cyclones and nothing to do with S3H1s. This particular B-17F, famously known as “The San Antonio Rose,” must have crashed to the north of the Mevelo River, as it took Col. Bleasdale two weeks to walk off the mountain to his capture at Tol Plantation, which is north of this river. Our search area is south of the river. I doubt the colonel would be tempted to cross the Mevelo River by fording it. I certainly would not, for it has big crocodiles.
In November 2018 I assisted Mr. Fraser in his interest by providing him with a 1943 topographical map of the area and by giving Mr. Fraser several pointers from the Project because of his interest. I also pointed him in the direction of “GAIHOZU” the military maps that the Japanese used in the Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, of which the map of the area made by the Japanese does show some walking trails they used.
Fraser, with the aid of the area map I sent to him, then searched for holes in the jungle canopy using the modern-day “Zoom Earth” application and then proudly sent me a picture of the jungle with a “hole,” about which he stated: “It is in your search area.” There are many such holes in the jungle at floor level, not all of which can be seen from aerial views due to the tree canopy. I considered that Mr. Fraser was trying to suggest that here was a hole made in 1937 “which I did not know about” which existed to this day, and he asked me, “What can you see?”
Instead, I asked Mr. Fraser where it was in order to see if it was indeed “In our search area.” Fraser by return mail told me to tell him “what I could see” – first. Presumably then he would tell me where the hole was in latitude-longitude. By having to tell Mr. Fraser what I could see “first” meant that here we had a man playing the schoolboy game of ”Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” I grew tired of such pedantic messages long ago and told Mr. Fraser that I do not play games such as that and “Good Luck.” In the event, a hole on a modern-day application such as Zoom Earth or Google Earth would be “modern” and any hole made in 1937 would completely close over within ten years with new growth and so Mr. Fraser would be completely mistaken in what he was thinking. Why else would he send me a picture of a hole in the tree canopy?
Mr. Fraser has a basic lack of the appreciation of jungle growth activity if what he thinks may be a hole made by the entry of an aircraft in 1937 or during World War II, would still exist today, up to and over 80 years later.
I will admit we went on a hole search ourselves when one of my team found the exact aerial photograph made by a Photo-Reconnaissance Lockheed F-5 from 23,000 feet from which the 1943 Topographical Map was made. Then again, we were looking at holes on a photograph from only six years after the Earhart loss. We have a whole list of latitudes and longitudes for those holes, most of which are not in our designated search area.
Mr. Fraser’s stated “assumptions” and remarks on what he “thinks” may have happened are colorful, imaginative and somewhat amusing, and lettered men such as he may well think they know more than others. But in the end, practical knowledge will trump theoretical musings.
In addition to Billings’ list of problems with Fraser’s theory, a major discrepancy I find is that Thomas E. Devine, Earskin J. Nabers, Arthur Nash and other soldiers and Marines on Saipan saw or knew of the discovery of Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E, NR 16020, on that island in the summer of 1944. Devine even wrote down the plane’s registration number, and inspected it — climbing on its wing to look in — before it was torched at night, strafed by a P-38 after being doused with cans of gasoline, according to Nabers, who was also at the off-limits airfield for the event. Before Fraser’s introduction of this idea, nobody has ever suggested that the plane was destroyed because it was “booby-trapped.” Moreover, if our troops knew it was such, why would our tech-savvy GIs destroy an airplane for this reason? Couldn’t anything that was booby-trapped be un-booby trapped by skilled operatives?
As for the Earhart Electra and its discovery and pickup at Mili Atoll by the Japanese, by the time the plane would have reached Kwajalein, a distance of roughly 375 miles from Mili Atoll, it would probably have been too late to forestall the corrosion that its exposure to salt water would have caused. Sometime before that, probably in Jaluit or earlier at Mili, the Japanese had access to enough fresh water to wash the corroding salt away, else how could Thomas E. Devine and others have seen it operational at Saipan? We also don’t know the extent of the Electra’s engine’s exposure or immersion in the ocean or lagoon at Mili where it landed. Fraser’s other ideas about the disposition of the Earhart Electra are speculation.
Billings, for his part, has yet to propose a plausible reason to explain the Electra’s presence in the remote jungles of East New Britain. Turning around within a few hundred miles of Howland and heading back in a nearly 180 degree course that terminated in East New Britain simply doesn’t pass the common sense test.
Another explanation for C/N 1055 and two other distinctive identifiers of Amelia Earhart’s Electra being recorded on an Australian soldier’s map case in 1945 must exist, and has yet to be found. Thus the East New Britain mystery remains unsolved, and will stay that way unless and until the wreck found in 1945 is re-discovered. Even then, if the wreck were to be found and absolutely confirmed as NR 16020, the work of explaining how it got there will remain, as will the mystery.
Don’t hold your breath.
UDPATE: In an April 3, 2019 email, William Fraser writes:
I can understand a comment by a USA resident that the aircraft wreckage found by an AIF patrol in April 1945 in the Mevelo River area of New Britain is a different (Lockheed) aircraft. Nonetheless, for very significant historical reasons this wreckage needs to be re-discovered and identified.
Missing AIF Patrol Report
On the apparently missing patrol report for AIF 11th Infantry Battalion, D Company Patrol A1 for April 1945, I have made further enquiries with the records section of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. They have said “the curator of Official Records (says) that the Patrol Reports in question are comprised as messages in Appendix M found on images 130-152. Following your re-examination of the file and advice from Official Records, it appears that material in question was either not elaborated upon beyond what was included in the original file, was omitted from the original file, or was not submitted by those responsible for the reports.”
It is indeed unfortunate, but we have now come to a dead end here with the official Australian records.
A Conclusive New Search In New Britain
I have previously remarked upon the notable lack of success of previous searches over a period of some 25 years. In order to properly resolve this matter, I suggest that the Government of Papua New Guinea and its department responsible for historical sites and heritage would need to approve the formation of new independent NGO search directorate to enter the New Britain area and commence a ground search.