In ’85 letter, eyewitness describes Earhart’s takeoff, Insists Noonan “had no drink” before last flight

Bob Iredale, Socony-Vacuum Corp. manager at Lae, New Guinea, spent two days with Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan before the last leg of their world flight attempt in early July 1937.  In this 1985 missive, he offers Fred Goerner a firsthand account of their last takeoff, plus his opinion about what happened later.  The following letter appeared in the November 1998 issue of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society NewslettersBoldface emphasis mine throughout.

793 Esplanade
Victoria Aust. 3931
July 28, 1985

Dear Mr. Goerner,

Through good work by Australia Post, I received your letter 15 days after your post date of July 11.  I am glad to be able to assist your research about Amelia Earhart, as I have read many views by writers, example, spying for the U.S. against Japanese in the Marianas, beheaded by the Japs, still alive in the U.S., etc., etc., all of which to me is a lot of sensationalist garbage.

C.K. Gamble was president of the Vacuum Oil Co., a subsidiary of U.S. Standard Vacuum, when he was a young man.  Fred Haig, our Aviation officer, and I knew him quite well, then and later.  Up until a year ago I chatted to him about Amelia many times and he recorded the views I’ll relate to you.  Fred left the Planet over 12 months ago, hence no response to your letters.  He was in his 80s.

KCBS newsman and bestselling author Fred Goerner, right, with the talk show host Art Linkletter, circa 1966, shortly before the establishment media, beginning with Time magazine, turned on Goerner and panned his great book, The Search for Amelia Earhart, telling readers, in essence, “Move along, Sheeple, nothing to see here.”

Yes, I fueled the Lockheed and did it personally. Fred had arranged 20 x 44 gallon drums of Avgas 80 octane shipped out to us from California many months before.  I can assure you all tanks were absolutely full — the wing tanks and those inside the fuselage.  After she had done a test flight, I topped them up again before her final take-off.  I think she took somewhere around 800 gallons all up.  Fred Noonan was with me at the fueling and checked it out.  He was also with me when we changed the engine oil, as was Amelia.  I enclose a much faded photo, me in white, Fred in brown, and Amelia leaning on the trailing edge of the wing.  [Photo not available.]

You are aware that because of an unfavorable weather forecast from Darwin (some 700 miles SW of Lae), of at least 2 days, Amelia decided on a two-day layover at Lae.  She stayed with Eric Chater, General Manager of Guinea Airways, and Fred with Frank Howard and myself at Voco House.  Frank and I shared quite a large bungalow as the two representatives of Vacuum Oil in N.G.  He died, unfortunately, in 1962.  As was our custom, we had a drink in the evening — 90 degrees F, and 95 percent humidity made it that way. 

We asked Fred if he would join us the first night, and his comment was, “I’ve been 3 parts around the world without a drink and now we are here for a couple of days, I’ll have one.  Have you a Vat 69?”  I did happen to have one so the three of us knocked it off.  He confessed to Amelia next morning he had a bit of a head, and her comment was, “Naughty boy, Freddie.”  That was the only drink session we had, and to suggest he was inebriated before they took off is mischievous nonsense.  I can assure you or anyone he had no drink for at least 24 hours before take-off.

We talked a lot about his experience as a Captain on the China Clippers flying from the West Coast to China, and he told us of his expertise in Astro-navigation, amongst other things.  We all talked about ourselves, and he showed great interest in our life at Lae.  He came around our little depot, where we stored drums of petrol, oil, and kerosene in the jungle to keep the sun off, etc.  He told us how keen Amelia was to write a book about the flight, and the different people. 

In the two days at Lae, she tried to learn pidgin English and talk to the [natives], and about her ability wherever they landed to take the cowls off the engines and do a Daily Inspection.  A remarkable woman, and he has great admiration for her ability.  He spent a lot of time with me in Guinea Airways hanger, and around the airfield, looking at the JU31’s, the tri-motored metal Junkers planes that flew our produce and the dredge up to Bulolo, how they were loaded with cranes and all that.

Guinea Airways employee Alan Board is credited with this photo of the Electra just before leaving the ground on its takeoff from Lae, New Guinea on the morning of July 2, 1937.  This is the last known photo of the Earhart Electra.

Their final take-off was something to see. We had a grass strip some 900/1000 yards long, one end the jungle, the other the sea.  Amelia tucked the tail of the plane almost into the jungle, brakes on, engines full bore, and let go.  They were still on the ground at the end of the strip.  It took off, lowered toward the water some 30 feet below, and the props made ripples on the water.  Gradually they gained height, and some 15 miles out, I guess they may have been at 200 feet.  The radio operator at Guinea Airways kept contact by Morse for about 1,000 miles where they were on course at 10,000 feet, and got out of range.

In 1940, I joined the Australian Air Force as a pilot, trained in Canada, and operated in England with the RAF before being promoted to a Wing Commander, commanding an Australian Mosquito Squadron attached to the 2nd Tactical Air Force.  I did 70 missions in all sorts of weather, awarded Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, French Croix de Guerre with Palm for blowing up a prison in France, and other operations for the French.  I mention this only as that experience confirmed what I believe happened to Amelia.  It is just another view.

The possibility is that they ran into bad weather, 10/10th cloud up to 30,000 feet at the equator, which negated Fred’s ability of Astro-navigation; he would have relied on DR navigation where wind can put you 50 miles off course, cloud base too low to get below it because the altimeter is all to hell if you do not know the barometric pressure, and to see a searchlight provided by a U.S. Cruiser under those circumstances would be impossible.  My guess is they got to where Howland Island should have been in the dark, spent an hour looking for it, before having to ditch somewhere within a 50 mile radius of Howland.  I find it hard to accept anything else.

Group posed in front of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10-E Electra (NR 16020) at Lae, New Guinea, July 1937.  From left are Eric Chater (manager, Guinea Airways), Mrs. Chater, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.

I hope I have not bored you.  If I can provide anything at all beyond these comments, do write.  As long as I am above ground, I’ll reply.


Bob Iredale

P.S. Can I get your first book in Australia?

Doubtless Iredale could have obtained The Search for Amelia Earhart, Goerner’s only book, in Australia, though the shipping and handling charges might have been a bit stiff.  He certainly needed to read it closely, considering his closing statement, “My guess is they got to where Howland Island should have been in the dark, spent an hour looking for it, before having to ditch somewhere within a 50 mile radius of Howland.  I find it hard to accept anything else.”

Perhaps Iredale’s most important contribution in this letter is his up-close-and-personal account of drinking Vat 69 with Fred Noonan two nights before the doomed fliers took off, and his assurance to Goerner, that “he had no drink for at least 24 hours before take-off.”

For an extensive examination of the always-controversial issue of Noonan’s drinking, please see my Jan. 6, 2015 post, Fred Noonan’s drinking: In search of the true story.”

I don’t believe I have Goerner’s reply to Iredale, but if anyone out there does, please let me know and I’ll be glad to post it.

Hull, Putnam ’37 telegrams reflect Earhart truth

“Two very strange telegrams,” is the way Bill Prymak described these compelling missives in the opening pages of Volume 1 of his Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  I don’t know how Prymak procured these provocative documents, or even if they were ever made public before they appeared in the AES Newsletters.  I’ve never seen them anywhere else, but maybe someone can shed more light.  In his brief note at the bottom of the page, Prymak wrote: 

July 30, 1937 from [U.S. Secretary of State] Cordell Hull to American Embassy London, and [second] telegram from [George Palmer] Putnam to Marvin McIntyre, personal secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  We are digging to find out what is so ‘hurtful and internationally embarrassing to all concerned.’  Putnam evidently knew something that had to be kept from the American public; could be that he knew AE did survive July 2nd.”

Here’s the first telegram, from Cordell Hull to the American Embassy in London.  At the time, the U.S. Ambassador to Britain was Robert Worth Bingham, whose name has never been associated with the Earhart story, to my knowledge.

In the telegram (above) Hull flatly states that “evidence that to many sources seems positive indicates that Amelia Earhart (Mrs. Putnam) was on land the two nights following her disappearance.”  What “evidence” is Hull referencing in his July 30, 1937 telegram, written less than two weeks after the official Navy and Coast Guard reports failed to list a single instance of any such evidence?  (See also Truth at Last, pages 38-57.)  To this day, these reports are cited as the official U.S. government position on the Earhart matter.

Otherwise, Hull is asking the British government, which owns the Gilbert Islands, to continue a thorough search in those Islandsand thatMr. Putnam would be glad to defray the expense involved.”  Hull then reports that Putnam is offering an $8,000 reward for “any evidence leading to a solution of her disappearance whether in the nature of wreckage or more positive indication of what happened.”

Cordell Hull graces the cover of the Oct. 2, 1939 issue of Life magazine.  Hull remains the longest-serving U.S. secretary of state ever, holding the position for 11 years (1933–1944) in the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during most of World War II.  Hull received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his role in establishing the United Nations, and was referred to by President Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.”  What did Hull know about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart that the history books don’t tell us?

Can anyone tell us why this statement from the eminent Secretary of State under Franklin D. Roosevelt, the longest serving SecDef (11 years) in U.S. history, has never been mentioned by the U.S. media in over 83 years of its dishonest coverage of the Earhart disappearance?  Or has it?

Nearly a month later, Amelia Earhart’s husband, George Palmer Putnam, writes to Marvin McIntyre, FDR’s secretary, to complain that after three weekshe has been unable to secure reply or cooperation British [sic] on small specific search financed by me.  Putnam asks McIntyre for help in “getting action at least information” on his request to Britain, adding that he is “anxious [to] head off threatened story by newspaper which knows situation some likely hurtful all concerned and internationally embarrassing.

To summarize: These two telegrams sent soon after Amelia Earhart’s disappearance contain statements that strongly suggest that Secretary of State Cordell Hull and G.P. Putnam are in possession of facts that directly contradict the official U.S. story.  Prymak’s AES Newsletters don’t offer anything further from Hull or Putnam along this thread, so we’re left to speculate just what Hull and Putnam were talking about. 

What do you think?

Could Earhart be interred in her birthplace’s cellar?

We continue our brief inquiry into possible resting places for our heroine, Amelia Earhart, and the great Fred Noonan, her overlooked and misunderstood navigator.  In my last post,Amelia Earhart held in Saipan’s Garapan Prison: Was she also buried somewhere nearby?we saw more witness testimony that strongly suggested Amelia was buried on Saipan, just as so many others have told us.  Boldface emphasis is mine throughout.

Today we take a brief look at an Earhart burial theory suggested by a few of the more fanciful types who’ve speculated on this mystery, although its exact origin isn’t clear.  To introduce this bizarre idea, we present a letter from one of the most speculative and imaginative of all notable Earhart researchers and authors, retired Air Force Col. Rollin C. Reineck, who needs no introduction to regular readers of this blog.  Reineck’s letter to the director of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Louise Foudray, and her response, which follows after my brief comments, were published in the February 1999 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.

Louise Foudray, former director of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, circa 2004. Photo courtesy Alex Mandel.


Rollin C. Reineck
1127 Lauloa St.
Kailua, HI 96734

24 October 1998

Louise Foudray
Amelia Earhart Museum
Atchison, Kansas 66002

The other day I received the enclosed letter from a researcher.

I find it interesting in two respects.  First, it indicates that Goerner had some inside information that Earhart was
killed on Saipan and that her remains were returned so the United States.

Secondly it eliminates the Arlington National Cemetery as possible place where AE could have been buried had her remains been returned to the U.S.

When I read the letter, specifically that part of the 6th para. “I can’t be specific, but why don’t you look in the most obvious place.”  I immediately thought of her home in Atchison, Kansas, as the most obvious place.

(Editor’s note:  Here Reineck was referring to an Oct. 9, 1998 letter from Ross Game to Bob Ross, which was presented in our Dec. 20, 2019 post, Game letter suggests possible Earhart burial site In the letter’s sixth paragraph, Game wrote, “Just before the CIA assistance [he and Goerner were receiving] was cut off I pleaded with our contact to tell me where the Earhart remains had been placed after being brought from Saipan.  The reply:  ‘I can’t be specific, but why don’t you look in the most obvious place.’ ”  Game and Goerner’s subsequent investigations of Arlington National Cemetery came up empty.)

When you get a minute, I would appreciate your comments.

Aloha, Rollin C. Reineck

Reading Game’s account of the cryptic response from the unidentified CIA man about how he might find Amelia Earhart’s gravesite brought to mind a long litany of negative responses from officials that Donald Kothera’s wife, Florence, received during her brief fact-finding foray in Washington. D.C., as chronicled near the conclusion of Joe Davidson’s highly underrated 1969 book,  Amelia Earhart Returned from Saipan.  

“I do not remember going on any grave digging detail,” former Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold had told Kothera, John Gacek and Davidson at his home in Erie, Penn., in answer to their queries about his role in the 1944 Saipan grave-digging incident as recalled by Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks.  Before Kothera and friends left, Griswold, not content with leaving them flat, asked whether they had “checked with the National Morgue? You might be surprised what you would find there.”  We continue, quoting directly from Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last:

Rather than ignore Griswold’s devious suggestion, Kothera sent his wife, Florence, to Washington to “check with the National Morgue.”  Florence soon learned that no such entity exists, but a phone call to the ever-helpful Griswold redirected her to the National Archives, as if the answers might be found there.  Three days later, her bureaucratic goose chase had taken her not only to the National Archives, but to the Naval History Office, Japanese Embassy, U.S. State Department, Chief of Naval Intelligence, and Navy Annex as well.  Along the way, she told several officials how she felt about their inability to produce any answers about Earhart, Griswold, or the remains he had removed from Saipan.  Florence Kothera learned a hard lesson from her frustrating Washington experience: Nobody in the U.S. government has ever offered anything helpful about the fate of Amelia Earhart.                    

This is the portion of the basement of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum with the mounds that some have speculated house the bodies of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.  Photo courtesy Suzanne Bower, July 2012, and taken from the 2015 book, The Amelia Earhart Saga: Plausible Suppositions, by Barry Bower.

Rudely, Louise Foudray did not respond directly to Reineck’s sincere letter, but wrote a brief note more than three months later to Bill Prymak, whom she presumed would publish it in his Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, and he promptly did.  


Jan. 28, 1999

Dear Bill,

I have not responded to [the above from] Col. Reineck, so will do so via the newsletter.

We have joked for years about the 2 large cement mounds in the basement of the birthplace.  One for Amelia Earhart, one for Fred.  If she requested they be “entombed” together, it’s ideal.  According to certain sources, this may be true.

[Researcher] Art Parchen observed thesemounds recently and said he didn’t think so.

When the new fiction book comes out, maybe we’ll know.  The lady researching for the book says, “’You are going to be surprised!

These are exciting times!  I can just “feel” an answer coming — can you?

Bless you all and “Happy Hunting”
              Louise Foudray

I don’t know to which Earhart fiction book Foudray was referring, but considering the numerous tomes of varying uselessness published since 1999, it couldn’t have been terribly compelling.  The very idea of producing more Earhart fiction is a insult to Amelia and her legacy, which had already been muddled, nearly beyond redemption, by decades of disinformation and fiction.

That’s about it, I have only the basics on this one.  The source of the birthplace basement theory remains a mystery, at least to me.  Others may be out there besides Alex Mandel, who has personally visited there several times and rejects the Earhart-Noonan interment idea, who might have their own stories or insights.  Special thanks to Alex for his assistance with the photos.

Amelia Earhart held in Saipan’s Garapan Prison: Was she also buried somewhere nearby?

On the 88th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s solo Atlantic flight, by which she became the first woman and second person to achieve that remarkable feat, we return to a recurring theme in the Earhart saga — the possible location of Amelia’s final resting place.  “THE GARAPAN PRISON . . . Another Incident” appeared in the November 1998 issue of The Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters In his introduction, Bill Prymak wrote, Recently, Don Wilson, author of Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend [Enigma Press, 1994] received a letter from a [person] who had been on Saipan in 1953, long before public interest in the AE disappearance took off in the early 1960s.”  The unnamed person’s letter follows.  Boldface emphasis mine throughout.

I arrived on Saipan in early summer of 1953, for a tour of duty.  Two or three months later, by which time I and others had pretty thoroughly explored the island, the subject of Amelia Earhart came up, probably during a dinner party.  We all remembered the story of Amelia’s disappearance many years earlier, and that she may have been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan, assuming that her plane went down elsewhere than Saipan. A few days later I was talking with a Chamorran  native, a male about mid-thirties in age, and I asked him about Amelia.  He offered to take me and one or two other friends to the prison where she and Fred Noonan had been held.  A day or two thereafter we followed the Chamorran into a fairly heavily overgrown area near where the headquarters of the prewar Japanese sugar and tapioca business was located.

The smaller of the two Garapan Prison cell blocks, often reserved for “special” prisoners and females, according to some reports, where several witnesses reported that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were held after their arrival on Saipan in the summer of 1937.  “It also seems to be a consensus that she [Earhart] was kept in the cell block on the left,” Guam researcher Tony Gochar wrote in July 2015.  “This cell is the closet to the office building and would have been the quickest for the Japanese to have access to her.  After seeing the compound I am convinced she was in the small building and her cell was on the left.”  (Courtesy Tony Gochar.)

The main building was roofless and the walls were in bad shape from the bombings that occurred during the American invasion.  Beyond the headquarters building in the direction of Garapan, but I would guess to be about halfway between Chalan Kanoa and Garapan, we came to a small clearing in which stood the remains of a jail.  As I remember, there were four cells and the second cell from the right was pointed out to us as the one in which Amelia was kept.  Fred was in the one to the far left.

As I recall, the cells were about five by eight feet in dimension so the entire cell block was only twenty some feet long.  The paint on the interior of the cells was faded and chipped and open to the elements because the roof was missing.  There was no floor, just sand and coral.  The wall of her cell had faded writings, scratchings really, which were unintelligible except for those made by an American GI, a corporal, who may have been locked up for a few days for some misdemeanor or, more likely, simply scratched his name and date while visiting the cells as I was.

Father Sylvan Conover with eyewitness Jesús Bacha Salas, a Chamorro farmer who was held at Garapan Prison between 1937 and 1944 for fighting with a Japanese soldier.  Fred Goerner reported that “sometime during 1937 a white woman was placed in the next cell [beside Salas], but kept there only a few hours.  He saw the woman only once but gave a description of her that fitted those given by the other witnesses.  The guards told him the woman was an American pilot the Japanese had captured.” (Photo by Fred Goerner, Courtesy Lance Goerner.)

My Chamorran guide said that Amelia was kept there for an unspecified period of time and then executed and buried in the jungle beyond the cell block fifty yards or so.  Fred met a similar fate, according to him.

Please bear in mind two things: one is that I was not in search of Amelia at that time.  It was just a curious thing that I happened to find myself in a spot on which a very interesting event took place.  I now wish I had spent a lot more time questioning my Chamorran friend and looking farther afield for other natives who might have knowledge.  Second, in 1953 there was no public interest that I was aware of in Amelia’s fate and surely there was no excitement on the part of the native population in the story that would have served to whet their appetites or imagination and produced exaggerated details.

This appears to be the back of the same prison block. Wilson’s photo caption says only, “Amelia’s cell window — the closest one.”

The attitude at the time amongst all of us including the Chamorros was sort of ho-hum, isn’t this interesting.  So I am quite willing to accept the story told to me by the Chamorran.  Whether he acquired his story from other credible sources, from stories circulated by the Japanese to suit their own purposes, or saw any portions of the story himself, I don’t know.  Nor was a time frame hung on this scenario.  Amelia and Fred went down in 1937.  I was there 16 years later.  My Chamorran friend didn’t say when Amelia and Fred were brought there, from where, or when they were executed.  If he did, then I have forgotten that part.  I did not scratch around for graves.  The undergrowth was much too thick for that.  I simply took his word for what he said because he would have had no ulterior motive.  I had not offered to pay him, nor did I.

So, Don, that is the extent of my recollection.  I realize it offers you nothing new and may only confuse matters even more than they are now.  I wish I could have been more useful.  I shall now open your book for the first time and read with interest what you have acquired.

Good Luck.  (End of letter.)

This is the inside of the cell at Saipan’s old Garapan prison that is said to have been occupied by Amelia Earhart. Former Marine and Saipan veteran Henry Duda took it during his visit to Saipan for the 50th anniversary of the historic 1944 Battle of Saipan. Note the larger square area at the bottom center of the barred window, which is where the food door was located.

DON WILSON’s response to this letter, in part, was as follows:

I really appreciate the detailed information you sent me about your experiences on Saipan regarding accounts of, Amelia Earhart.  You stated that We all remembered the story of Amelia’s disappearance many years earlier and that she may have been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan.”  This statement surprised me because I was not aware that people had been talking very much about her being taken to Saipan until after the investigations began in the 1960’s.  As I mention in my book, there were some American servicemen both in the Marshalls and on Saipan who had some information during WWII regarding Amelia.  But to my knowledge these accounts were not widely publicized in the ’50s.

It was fascinating to read about your recollection of the jail and the four cells in one of the cell blocks.  It was especially interesting to read that your source indicated different cells for both Fred and Amelia than my source. But that’s OK, and does not discredit the tact that Amelia and Fred may well have been imprisoned there.

You wrote that you wished that you “could have been more useful.”  Actually, your account is significant to me because of the early date — 1953 — in which your experiences occurred.  Many people were interviewed years later, but yours is the earliest account that am aware of where Americans talked with the islanders about Amelia and Fred after WWII.  I would agree that they had no ulterior motive for their accounts.

When you have a chance I would appreciate any comments that you might want to make about my book. You may or may not agree with my conclusions, but I would like to know your thoughts.

Don Wilson provided this photo of a sketching from the inside of the cell that he believed was occupied by Amelia Earhart.  He was told that a Japanese guard was the artist, but not the date of its creation.  Who really can say?  

I would like to be able to share what you have written to me with other members of the Amelia Earhart Society.  A newsletter is published several times a year for the benefit of the 100 or so members who have an interest in the fate of Amelia and Fred, and who from time to time come up with bits of information which they share with fellow members.  Much of my resource material came from the newsletters of the society.

May I have your permission to send the information you sent me to the editor of the newsletter?  An issue will be coming out in a few weeks and your material could be included in that newsletter.  It would also be helpful if you could give your name and your reason for being on Saipan.  But I leave that up to you.

Members of the Society simply are trying to find out what really happened.  They do so at their own expense, and are not engaged in fund raising for any special projects.  The Society does not have an officialposition as to what happened to Fred and Amelia, but welcomes information from any source.  Despite years of work, and extensive travel by some members, there are still many unanswered questions, and many conflicting opinions.

Best Wishes, Don

The 7-by 8-inch steel door through which food may have been passed to
Amelia Earhart while she was held prisoner in Garapan Prison, Saipan, in 1937. Thomas E. Devine observed this door and various inscriptions on the prison wall during the American invasion of Saipan in 1944.  The door was retrieved by a native islander on Saipan, and is now in the possession of Deanna Mick, a pilot who co-owned an inter-island charter service from Saipan. (Photo courtesy of Deanna Mick, circa 1994.)

Note that the person who wrote this letter to Don Wilson, apparently a former member of the U.S. military — he mentions a tour of duty”   — and almost certainly a male, did not want Wilson to know his name.  This is not a rare phenomenon in Earhart research. 

I still haven’t posted my story about a fourth U.S. flag officer — another admiral, this one on active duty in the early 1980s — who stated that Earhart and Noonan died on Saipan.  The man who provided the information to me — a retired Navy officer himself — refuses to have his name associated with the Earhart story, or what he obviously considers to be the wrong side of it.

His fear is real, but entirely unfounded.  This man and other former high ranking officers I’ve encountered who refuse to lend their names to this cause don’t inspire my faith in humanity, or my hope that our deeply corrupt establishment will ever do the right thing in the Earhart case.  Although the relatively scant numbers of those who care about the Earhart disappearance continue to dwindle as I write, this sacred cow has long been among the Deep State’s most revered, and the documents that reveal the truth will stay out of public hands unless and until a U.S. president decides the time has come.  

The unidentified letter writer wasn’t the first to suggest that Earhart might have been buried near the prison, but most of the native witnesses pointed to other locations on Saipan, most often the Liyang Cemetery, south of Garapan, where Marine Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks were ordered by Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold to excavate a gravesite several feet outside of the Liyang Cemetery in late July or early August 1944.  This incident is detailed in Chapter 13 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Lasttitled “Griswold, Henson and Burks.”

Japanese crematorium on Saipan circa 1944. (Courtesy Marie Castro.)

In late October 2017, Ms. Carla Henson, daughter of the late Everett Henson Jr., contacted me about her father’s experience on Saipan.  To read more about Carla, her father and the Saipan gravesite incident in 1944, please see my Dec. 26, 2017 post, KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”

For extended discussions on several of the more prominently alleged Earhart gravesites on Saipan, please see pages 219-231, 233-240 and 245-249 in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at LastOther suggested locations include Arlington National Cemetery and the basement of Amelia’s birthplace museum in Atchison, Kansas.

And let’s not forget the real possibility that Amelia may not have been buried at all, but cremated and her ashes scattered to the wind, as Saipan eyewitnesses Matilde F. Arriola, Joaquina Cabrera and others were told.  In May 2018, Marie Castro presented Jose Sadao Tomokane, who claimed to have been an eyewitness to Earhart’s cremation.

For more about Tomakane and other witnesses, please see my May 18, 2018 post, “Marie Castro, a treasure chest of Saipan history, Reveals previously unpublished witness accounts.”

Morgenthau papers could reveal Earhart truth

Today we return to the matter of the “one-way” phone conversation between Henry Morgenthau Jr., U.S. treasury secretary and confidante of President Franklin D. Roosevelt,, and Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider,  Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary, on the morning of May 13, 1938.  Via Dictaphone, we have long had Morgenthau’s side of this conversation, which is interesting indeed.  The document first appeared in the 1987 book Amelia: My Courageous Sister, by Muriel Earhart Morrissey, Amelia’s sister, and researcher Carol L. Osborne. 

The late Col. Rollin Reineck’s distinguished Air Force career spanned 30 years, and his work is well known to readers of this blog.  The mercurial Reineck served with great distinction as a B-29 navigator flying from Saipan in action against mainland Japan.  In his Earhart work, Reineck was at times brilliant, at others less than coherent (see my Dec. 29, 2015 series of posts, starting with Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV).

During a patch of clarity, Reineck wrote at length about the Morgenthau incident in a piece titled “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection,” which appeared in the January 1997  edition issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  “Today, it ranks as one of the most compelling pieces of circumstantial evidence we have in our search for the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart,” Reineck wrote.  The memo is unclassified and was probably overlooked when they screened the Morgenthau files that were to be made public and put in the Hyde Park Library. To date, it is the only document concerning Earhart in his archival material. . . . [T]here was one person, more than anyone else, who probably knew the answer as to what happened on the fateful day in early July, 1937.  That one person was Henry Morgenthau Jr., the secretary of the treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” 

My own take on the Morgenthau phone conversation, Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?appeared on this blog on March 31, 2015.  The below letter from Joe Gervais was presented by Bill Prymak in the October 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society NewslettersBoldface, italic and caps emphasis both mine and in original AES Newsletter article.

Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR’s treasury secretary and confidante, is captured in a familiar pose in this undated photo taken about the time of his conversation with Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider.  We can safely assume that Morgenthau knew everything that FDR knew about the fate of Amelia Earhart.

EDITOR’S [Prymak] NOTE: The following reveals that secret papers relating to the Earhart mystery, are still cached in the basement of the US TREASURY DEPARTMENT, labelled ‘TOP SECRET’ after 62 years!  Why can’t the papers be released?  Do we need to send Harrison Ford or Rambo to retrieve these papers’?  Are these papers being denied because they could damage US-Japanese relations?  Far Fetched?  Read and judge for yourself.

Dear Bill,

Reference the below page of Senator [Daniel] Akaka’s report of March 1991.  Gervais, [Randall] Brink, [John] Luttrell, [Dean] Magley, [Rollin] Reineck, Senator [Daniel] Inouye, and Senator Akaka have all been denied access to those 12 boxes.  This cover-up by the executive branch of government is similar to the [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower/Gary Powers affair.  This is a case of international magnitude between the U.S. and Japan.  We have received no help from our ambassadors to Japan, such as [Edwin] Reischouer, [Douglas] McArthur [II], [Michael J.] Mansfield, [Walter F.] Mondale, etc.  Why not put this on the Internet?

Joe [Gervais]

[Below is from Sen. Daniel Akaka’s (D-Hawaii) March 1991 report]

Senator Henry Morgenthau Jr.:

I’ve been given a verbal report.  If we’re going to release this it’s just going to smear the whole reputation of Amelia Earhart. . . . and if we ever release the report of the ITASCA on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she has is gone. . . . and I know now Amelia Earhart disregarded all orders. . . . What happened to her the last few minutes.  I hope I’ve just got to never make it public . . . I mean what happened.  It isn’t a very nice story. . . . And, we have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else.

After reading the referenced memo of Secretary Morgenthau and comparing it with what we know today about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, I can certainly understand Col. Reineck’s assertion that there is a great deal more Amelia Earhart material in Secretary Morgenthau’s files or in the Treasury Department that has not been released and is still being withheld from the public.

In this regard, I also understand why Col, Reineck believes it is strange that of all the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. papers in the F.D.R. library at Hyde Park, only this one — albeit very significant, makes any reference to Amelia Earhart.  Col. Reineck wonders whether this material was somehow accidentally overlooked when the Secretary’s papers were screened for public release by the government.

Col. Reineck advised me that other researchers who are colleagues of his, namely, Mr. Merrill D. Magley and Mr. John F. Luttrell, have tried through the normal Freedom of Information Actchannels to obtain additional information  from your department without success.  This is true, Col. Reineck informed me, even though they had pin-pointed box containers T-33A and T-33B in the basement of the Treasury Department behind a locked metal wire cage as the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. files for 1937 and 1938.  One of your personnel, Ms. Karen Cameron, described the material as relating to Amelia Earhart, but denied access on the basis of its being classified “TOP SECRET.”  (End of Akaka report.)

Eleanor Roosevelt, Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider and Edith Helm, Washington, D.C. 1941.

As I said in my March 31, 2015 presentation, plenty of room exists for different interpretations of Morgenthau’s statements as recorded on the Dictaphone.  Without having Mrs. Scheider’s side of it, we can never know for sure exactly what these two were really saying.

I have no doubts about two points relative to it, however.  First, despite the treasury secretary’s thrice-repeated concern about the “reputation of Amelia Earhart” and how he wanted to protect it, I am convinced that Morgenthau cared only about the reputation of his boss, FDR, and how public knowledge of the truth in the Earhart matter would affect FDR’s political future. 

Secondly, by May 1938 if not much earlier, Morgenthau was fully aware of Earhart’s captivity on Saipan and her probable if not certain death in Japanese hands.  Based on Morgenthau’s comments to Scheider, many of which make little or no sense without Scheider’s replies, it’s difficult to believe that she was among the few who had been brought into the small circle of those who knew the unhappy truth, which would have been so deadly to FDR and his administration’s future.

Perhaps the most important question arising from the Morgenthau-Scheider phone conversation is this: What did Morgenthau mean when he said, “Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders”?  Whose orders?  To do what?  And how did she disregard them?  Some have attempted to explain Morgenthau’s reference to Earhart’s disregard for orders as her failure to follow the planned radio schedule and protocols between her and Itasca, but if that was the case, why all the secrecy on Morgenthau’s part?

And what are we to make of Morgenthau’s reference to “all those wireless messages”?  Is he referring to some or all of the alleged “post-loss” radio messages that some believe came from Earhart in her downed Electra?  Or others that remain undiscovered in top-secret files?

For more, see Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?” 


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