Earhart’s murder among first of Japan’s War Crimes

When I wrote Chapter XIV of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, “The Care and Nurture of a Sacred Cow,” I closed the chapter with a subsection titled “Japan’s War Crimes” (pages 286-289), for a very specific purpose. I felt it was vital to demonstrate to a wide swath of the generally uninformed American public the ghastly barbarities the Imperial Japanese military had been practicing against its perceived enemies long before Pearl Harbor, for obvious reasons. 

“For those too young to understand the Japanese military’s capacity for barbarity in the several years before and during World War II,” I wrote in the original lead to the subsection, “a brief overview is instructive, because Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were among the first American victims of Imperial Japan’s war machine, an ugly fact our establishment has always been loath to admit.”

Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart pause for a local photographer at Bandoeng, Java, Indonesia, June 24-27, during their ill-fated world flight attempt in the summer of 1937.

The version of “Japan’s War Crimes” that finally appeared in both editions of The Truth at Last is less than half of the original.  The Sunbury editor saw no reason at all why a brief section on Japan’s gruesome history was necessary, and actually suggested that I drop the entire section! When I vehemently objected, the matter was kicked upstairs to Sunbury publisher Larry Knorr, whose decision to split the difference seemed to mollify both parties.  Of course I didn’t lose the original subsection, which you can read now in its entirely and decide for yourself whether I went too far in describing Japan’s prewar and World War II depredations, which, in my opinion, were among the most villainous in all world history.

Here, then, is the first of two parts of the original, unedited and unabridged version of Japan’s War Crimes“:

In late July 2007, the Germany-based Reuters News Agency ran a small item that went largely unnoticed, but the reaction it elicited from the White House offers an instructive glimpse into the politics of the Washington-Tokyo alliance, and why this cozy relationship offers so little hope for those who seek a final solution to the Earhart case. The story, headlined “House seeks Japan’s apology on ‘comfort women,’” announced that the “U.S. House of Representatives on Monday called on Japan to apologize for forcing thousands of women into sexual servitude to its soldiers during and before World War II”:

On a voice vote, the House approved a nonbinding resolution intended as a symbolic statement on the Japanese government’s role in forcing up to 200,000 “comfort women” into a wartime brothel program starting in the 1930s.
   The vote marked a rare rebuke by Washington politicians of Washington’s closest ally in Asia. An official at the Japanese Embassy in Washington would not comment on the House vote, leaving it to government officials in Tokyo.
    “Today, the House will send a message to the government of Japan that it should deliver an official, unequivocal, unambiguous apology for the indignity the comfort women suffered,” said Rep. Mike Honda, the California Democrat who pushed the legislation through the House.

California Congressman Thomas P. Lantos was one of the many vocal critics of Japan’s casual attitude about their wartime comfort women program. “Those who posit that all of the ‘comfort women’ were happily complicit and acting of their own accord simply do not understand the meaning of the word rape,” Lantos said.

California Congressman Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee approving the resolution, was among the more vocal critics of Japan’s blasé attitude about its wartime comfort women program. “There can be no denying the Japanese Imperial military coerced thousands upon thousands of Asian women,” he said. “Those who posit that all of the ‘comfort women’ were happily complicit and acting of their own accord simply do not understand the meaning of the word rape,” added Lantos, a Holocaust survivor. Honda, 66, is a Japanese-American who spent his early childhood in a World War II internment camp in Colorado.

According to Reuters, in 1993 Japan had acknowledged “a state role in the wartime program, which mostly victimized Chinese and Korean women. Japan’s government later established a fund, which collected private donations and offered payments of about $20,000 to 285 women.”  But this was a token gesture, as “Japanese officials including the Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, have [recently] denied there was evidence the government or military were directly involved in procuring the women.”  In June 2007, the Japanese government, deeply offended by the prospect of the forthcoming House resolution, warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Honda’s resolution “will almost certainly have lasting and harmful effects on the deep friendship, close trust and wide-ranging cooperation our two nations now enjoy.”

The American media, aghast at the House’s callous breach of protocol with our closest Asian allies, ignored the story. But the Bush administration, tripping over itself to assure Japan of its unconditional loyalty, trotted out mouthpiece Tony Snow the next day to send a conciliatory bouquet to the Japanese prime minister. The French news outlet, Agence France Presse, an unlikely U.S. ally, apparently was the only available messenger, but Snow availed himself of its willingness to carry the White House water.  The AFP story, “US [sic] supports ‘valued ally’ Abe, mum on ‘comfort women’ row,” appeared the next day:

We support the prime minister.  He is a valued and important ally, and the president supports him,” spokesman Tony Snow told AFP one day after US lawmakers voted to demand an “unambiguous apology” on the wartime issue.
    But Snow declined to say whether the White House sided with the US House of Representatives or Japan’s government, which says it has addressed the criticism over the use of an estimated 200,000 Asian “comfort women.  “At this point I don’t fall on either side,” Snow said.

The French release also cited the House resolution as “calling on the Japanese prime minister to make a public apology, urges the government to refute any claims that the episode never happened and wants future generations to be told of ‘this horrible crime.’ “

A 2017 photo of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, who became the first former Prime Minister to return to the office since Shigeru Yoshida in 1948.  Abe called a U.S. House resolution on the comfort women “regrettable,” and rejected any demand for an apology for Japan’s World War II depredations.

The New York Times weighed in August 1, with its Tokyo bureau reporting that the Japanese Prime Minister was not pleased by this reminder of his government’s lack of public remorse over its despicable abuse of women during the war. “Call by U.S. House for Sex Slavery Apology Angers Japan’s Leader,” the Times headline announced:

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe expressed some irritation on Tuesday at the resolution approved by the House of Representatives in Washington that calls on Japan acknowledge its wartime sex slavery.  His reaction indicated strongly that the Japanese government would not offer surviving victims an official apology.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan called a House resolution on sexual slavery “regrettable.”
    The resolution’s approval was regrettable,” said Mr. Abe, who caused a furor in Asia and the United States in March by denying that the Japanese military had directly coerced women into sex slavery in World War II. . . . This spring, Mr. Abe rejected any demand for an apology.  But since then, he has avoided discussing the issue in detail.

“Japan had lobbied hard against the [U.S. House’s] resolution in Washington, warning that it could harm relations, ” the Times reported. The Tokyo office of the British newspaper Guardian Unlimited ran a similar account, but otherwise the comfort women story was ignored.  The House resolution condemning Japan’s wartime abuse of women came just a few months before the first World Conference on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, held at the University of California-Los Angeles from October 4-7, 2007. “HR 121 is the biggest reason why we came to the conference,” panelist Haruko Shibasaki of the Tokyo-based Action Network for the Military Sexual Slavery Issue told the Los Angeles Times.  But the conference was a well-kept secret, and its only advance publicity came from the Web site of its sponsor, UCLA’s Asia Institute, announcing that the event would build on the “momentum of House Resolution 121 demanding the Japanese government to apologize for its war crimes against ‘comfort women.’” 

While the L.A. Times supported the comfort women’s cause, running two stories during the three-day session, no other news organizations touched it.  In the weeks following the event, a few college newspapers including Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut, and Emory University in Atlanta, ran stories about the appearances a few surviving comfort women made at their campuses, but the 24/7 American media never mentioned the UCLA sex slavery conference.

In May 1999, The Rape of Nanking author Iris Chang told Salon.com she was “not welcome in Japan,” and addressed the ongoing phenomenon of that nation’s failure to fully acknowledge, adequately apologize for or pay restitution to its countless wartime victims.  “To this day, Japan has never paid a penny in reparations to the victims of the Nanking massacre,” Chang said, “or, to my knowledge, adequate restitution to its other victims, like Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese military or the American and Chinese POWs who were used as human guinea pigs for Japanese medical experimentation. . . . I find it extremely disturbing that the newly elected governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, is an outspoken revisionist of World War II history.  He told Playboy magazine back in 1990 that the Rape of Nanking was a ‘lie’ and ‘a story made up by the Chinese.’  He’s enormously popular in Japan, and he won the election by a landslide.”

Iris Chang, whose 1997 bestseller The Rape of Nanking was a powerful exposé of prewar Japan’s atrocities against the Chinese.  Chang, whose death in November 2004 by gunshot was ruled accidental, “ventured into a minefield of unexploded ordnance” when she exposed Japan’s guilt in the wholesale slaughter of more than 300,000 innocent men, women and children at Nanking, China – upwards of half the total population of Nanking and its surrounding area — in December 1937, said Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley.

Chang’s comments came a week after the Japanese company Kashiwashobo announced it had canceled plans to publish The Rape of Nanking in Japan.  And though her book brought long-overdue attention to Japan’s forgotten war atrocities and international fame to the driven young journalist and mother, in early November 2004 she was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her car along a rural road south of Los Gatos, California.  Chang, 36, had been battling clinical depression, and was hospitalized, treated and released five months before her death.

Whether threats and media attacks from Japanese ultranationalists and others, who, as her husband Brett said, didn’t “take kindly to what she wrote in the Rape of Nanking,” exacerbated the mental illness that precipitated Chang’s suicide, is uncertain.  But as Orville Schell, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Iris scraped away the scar tissue of something that had been half forgotten and half healed over, and to this date, it’s still a very raw wound.  She ventured into a minefield of unexploded ordnance” when she exposed Japan’s guilt in the wholesale slaughter of more than 300,000 innocent men, women and children at Nanking, China – upwards of half the total population of Nanking and its surrounding area — in December 1937.

Another appalling example of Imperial Japan’s cruelty toward her conquered neighbors can be found in the massive biological and chemical warfare program it began shortly after seizing Manchuria in 1931In towns and cities throughout Manchuria and occupied China, at Beiyinhe, Changchun, Mukden, and even Nanking, in death pits with benign names like Unit 100, Unit Ei 1644, and Unit 565, the secret Japanese biological warfare experiments subjected countless human and animal subjects to the most deadly pathogens known to science without restraint from 1931 until Japan’s surrender in August 1945.

In Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-Up (1994), Sheldon H. Harris writes that “Japan, during its occupation, in effect, turned Manchuria into one gigantic biological and chemical warfare factory. . . . They worked with human subjects on diseases that ranged from anthrax to typhoid A and B, typhus, smallpox, tularemia, infectious jaundice, gas gangrene, tetanus, cholera, dysentery, glanders, scarlet fever, undulant fever, diphtheria, pneumonia, brysipelas, epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis, venereal diseases, tuberculosis, salmonella, frostbite and countless other diseases that were endemic to the communities and surrounding regions. . . . No one has been able to catalogue completely all the maladies that the various death factories in Manchuria visited on human guinea pigs.”

As described on Amazon.com’s page for the second edition of Factories of Death, Sheldon H. Harris’ 1994 book “details the activities of the Japanese army scientists that conducted numerous horrifying experiments upon live human beings.  It investigates who from the upper echelons of the Japanese military and political establishments knew of the experiments, also the question of whether or not Allied POWs were subjected to such tests, and the nature of the deal that was brokered with U.S. authorities after the war.”

The mastermind of Japan’s biological warfare program was Lieutenant General Ishii Shiro, who performed his most notorious work at Unit 731, the enormous biological warfare facility at Ping Fan, about 15 miles south of Harbin.  At least 3,000 Chinese, Koreans, Russians, and other Asians died at Unit 731, where they were sent after their convictions for capital crimes, sentenced to death and sent to Ping Fan for use as “experimental material.”  Outside the death factories, Japanese and Chinese scholars have estimated as many as 270,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians died as a result of Japanese biological warfare attacks, but the exact numbers are impossible to determine.

In the conclusion of “Japan’s War Crimes” we’ll examine many of the gruesome details of the Japanese atrocities at Unit 731, as well as the everlasting infamy the Imperial Japanese Military achieved by their barbaric treatment of their prisoners of war, including the worst single atrocity ever perpetuated against American POWs, the Bataan death march.

 

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Devine’s bizarre 1961 visit to Amelia’s sister Muriel

When the Almighty made Thomas E. Devine, He broke the mold.  What He said when Devine returned to Him in September 2003 at age 88, only He and Devine know. But if I had never met the Saipan veteran and author of one of the most important Earhart disappearance books, I wouldn’t have become involved with the Earhart story, and today I’d be doing something entirely different with my life.  I can’t conceive of what that might be.

I read Devine’s 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, for the first time in the spring of 1988, as I researched an assignment to do a news story about the so-called Earhart “mystery” as a civilian writer for the Navy Editor Service in Arlington, Va. The piece went out to the fleet worldwide, as well as all Navy shore stations and Marine Corps bases, for use in their local newspapers, radio stations and other official media.  I’ve always considered it extremely ironic that the first story I ever wrote about the Earhart case was facilitated by the same U.S. Navy that has been so intimately involved with the cover-up and suppression of the truth, practically from the very beginning of the Earhart search.

I’ll have more to say about Thomas Devine and his contributions to the Earhart saga, as well as the strange and sometimes tenuous nature of our relationship, in future posts.  But today, for those who haven’t read Devine’s extraordinary Eyewitnessthis brief, cryptic chapter from the book provides a glimpse into the sometimes bizarre world of the man who once stood on the wing of Amelia Earhart’s Electra, NR 16020, at the captured Japanese Aslito Airfield on Saipan in July 1944.

As Sgt. Thomas Devine peered into the famed Electra’s cluttered interior, which he once described as “littered with broken glass” in a letter to me, he was looking into already forbidden American history, as well as a vision that would define and shape his life from that day until his last.

Thomas E. Devine on Saipan in December 1963, more than two years after his visit to Muriel Earhart Morrissey in Medford, Massachusetts in July 1961. Devine found the gravesite that he was shown in 1945 by an unidentified Okinawan woman, but didn’t trust Fred Goerner enough to share the discovery with him. Devine never returned to Saipan as he had planned to do in 1963, and his decision to keep the gravesite information to himself was perhaps the worst he ever made. (Photo by Fred Goerner, courtesy Lance Goerner.)

 

Chapter Seven
FROM SAIPAN TO BOSTON

Since Mrs. Odlum could not supply the dental records, I arranged to visit Earhart’s sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, of West Medford, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. (Bold emphasis mine throughout.)  I arrived at the Boston depot early on Sunday, 16 July 1961.  While proceeding with a crowd of passengers to find local transportation, a man about thirty years old pushed his way through the crowd.  There was nothing remarkable about him, except that he stepped directly in front of me and called a peculiar invitation to the crowd.

     “Anyone here on their way to West Medford?” he asked. “I’m taking my cab to the garage and I have a ride – a free ride.”

     So many quickly accepted the driver’s offer that I decided against the free ride to West Medford.  Yet for some reason, the man singled me out.

     “Are you going to West Medford?” he inquired.  “Yes,” I replied, “but I’ll find another cab.”

     “Wait right where you are; don’t go away,” he ordered.  “I’ll get the cab and be right back.”

     Others in the crowd persisted, but he put them off saying, “I don’t have any more room.”

     The cabbie again told me to wait and amazingly he did return, and escorted me to his cab.  Oddly, there were no other passengers in the vehicle.  Since I expected others to be joining us, I sat in front.  But when three prospective passengers arrived to claim their free ride, the cabbie turned them away!

     “Turn on the meter,” I said as the driver got in. “I’ll be more than happy to pay.”

     “It’s a free ride,” he countered.  “I’m returning the cab to the garage.  You’re lucky you ran into me because cabs don ‘t operate on Sundays.”  Reluctantly he accepted a dollar tip, and off we drove.  The driver never asked my destination; we had little conversation.  Shortly after entering West Medford, he stopped.

     “This is as far as I go,” he said.

     “Thanks.  Do you have any idea where Vernon Street is?”

     “This is it, right up the hill.  It’s that corner house,” he said, pointing.

     “Oh, I’m looking for number one,” I remarked absently.  “That’s it, the corner house on the hill, where Amelia Earhart’s sister lives.”

     “Thanks again,” I replied.

An undated photo of Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia’s mother, and sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey.

     Completely baffled by this whole encounter, I walked up the short hill and was greeted by Mrs. Morrissey. Her husband [Albert Morrissey, who died in 1978], a former Navy man, had hoped to be there, but he had to work.  She had advised the Navy of our appointment, she said, but had received no reply.  I was curious why she had contacted the Navy, but I didn’t ask.

     Mrs. Morrissey was charming and gracious.  The resemblance to her famous sister was so striking that she could be taken, for Amelia herself.  We enjoyed an amiable discussion for several hours.  She said she knew of my efforts, and was interested in the real solution to her sister’s mysterious disappearance.  I related the information I had concerning the gravesite on Saipan, as well as a summary of my efforts to obtain a dental chart.  Mrs. Morrissey said both she and her sister had dental work done in Boston many years before, although she could not recall the name of their dentist.  Later, I spent many hours in Boston attempting to locate Earhart’s dental chart, but to no avail.

     Mrs. Morrissey said she had sought information about her sister’s fate from the Japanese government, but her requests went unanswered.  Their mother [Amy Otis Earhart], who was bedridden and living in the Morrissey home, believed Amelia was on an intelligence flight* for the United States government when she and Fred Noonan disappeared.  I could not corroborate Mrs. Earhart’s belief, but I assured Mrs. Morrissey, “I am certain of the events that occurred while I was on Saipan. I only want an opportunity to bring forth the proof, and your sister’s dental chart would be of prime importance in doing so.”

     Mrs. Morrissey mentioned that she had been visited recently by Paul Briand [Jr.], who was associated with Joseph Gervais and Robert Dinger.  Briand, she said, was writing a thesis about Earhart which he hoped would evolve into his second book.

     Over the years, she said several people had brought infor­mation to her, which they irresponsibly claimed would solve the Earhart mystery.  These sensational disclosures had put a tremen­dous strain on the family.  I hoped Mrs. Morrissey was not classing my investigation with those.  After years of investigative failures, she said she had accepted the 1937 report that Amelia Fred were lost at sea near Howland Island.*  I pointed out that no physical evidence substantiated this conclusion.  I reviewed how the gigantic sea and air search for Earhart and Noonan had fail­ to turn up one scrap of wreckage or equipment.

     We both enjoyed our conversation, but an odd thing happened as I was preparing to leave.  Mrs. Morrissey went to a window where the shade was pulled. She raised and lowered the wind shade its full length, then made a remark about protecting room from the effect of the sun. Saying she would be right back to see me off, she excused herself to look in on her mother. After Mrs. Morrissey left, I peeked out the window. A short distance from the house, I saw two men. One was the cabbie who had driven me from the depot. I did not recognize the other, who was shorter and stockier.                     

One of the better of the may hundreds of Amelia Earhart biographies, Amelia, My Courageous Sister, was written by Muriel Earhart Morrissey and Carol L. Osborne, and published in 1987, ironically, the same year that Devine’s Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident was released.

     Saying goodbye, I left the house and walked down the hill.  The two men were nowhere to be seen.  As I rounded the corner, looking for transportation to Boston, there was the cab driver! Without the slightest awkwardness, he directed me to a stop on the MTA which would shuttle me back to Boston. While I was waiting for the local train, I noticed the man who had been talking to the cab driver, standing a short distance from me.

     Back at the depot, I stopped for a quick lunch. Except for two people at a table, the restaurant was empty. Presently two men and a woman entered the restaurant and claimed a table.  The woman then walked behind the counter where I was seated, and went into the kitchen with my waiter. I caught only a portion of their whispered conversation, but she asked him for an apron.  I paid no particular attention to the woman, who was apparently serving the two men at the table behind me.  Suddenly she said, “You’ll have to sit at one of the tables, or I can’t serve you.”

     Since I was nearly finished, I said nothing, but the woman persisted.

     “You’ll have to sit at one of the tables.”

     Contemplating another cup of coffee, I agreed to move.  Turning, I saw the cab driver and the man who had been talking with him outside the Morrissey home. I pretended not to recognize them and took a seat a few tables away.  They seemed oblivious to me.  After I was seated, the two men began a real show.  The woman encouraged me to speak to the men about their foul language, but I declined; then they pretended to argue.  “Here I invite you in for a drink,” the cab driver roared, “but you don’t reciprocate!”

The undated drawing of Amelia Earhart that her sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, gave to Thomas E. Devine upon his visit to Muriel’s home in West Medford, Mass., in August 1961. (Courtesy Thomas E. Devine.)

     I stole a glance at their table and saw three full beers in front of the man.  Again the woman prodded me to speak up, but I refused.

     The cab driver pounded on the table, threatening to beat up the other man.  They rose and left.  Amazingly, the woman urged to go out and intervene, but I had seen enough of this ridiculous charade.  I was not about to be relieved of my briefcase.  Instead, I left the restaurant by another door.  Shortly, who should I spy amidst a group of passengers in the depot but the cab driver!  As I looked toward him, he turned his head.  Finally my train arrived, and I boarded, but there was the cab driver, also boarding.  Thoroughly unnerved, I walked to the last car and stepped off just as the train started moving.

     Unfortunately, there was a long interval before the next train to New Haven.  I wandered around in the railroad station until I found myself back at the restaurant, deciding to risk a cup of coffee.

     The same waiter was behind the counter, but I did not see the man.

     “Where’s your waitress?” I asked.

     “She left,” was his only response. After several cups of coffee and a little conversation, I boarded the next train and arrived home without out further incident.

     In 1963 when I visited the Hartford station of the Office of Naval Intelligence, I read a confidential report on the location of Amelia Earhart’s gravesite.  Later I made a second visit to the facility to determine if the ONI were still active in its investigation.  I was ushered into an office where two men and a woman were seated.  One of the men opened the safe to get the Earhart file, shuffled through some of the pages, and pointed out certain passages for the woman to read.  She was obviously acquainted with the file and understood the significance of the noted passages.  During this exchange, the second man left.

     I was haunted; the woman looked familiar to me.  Slowly, I came to the astounding realization that this woman was the “waitress” in the Boston depot!  The woman must have sensed that I recognized her, for she immediately excused herself.  Hastily, the remaining ONI agent informed me that there had been no further investigation of Amelia Earhart’s grave.  I left the meeting convinced that the people who had accosted me in Boston were agents of the Office of Naval Intelligence.  Why their presence in Boston on the day of my visit with Mrs. Morrissey? I cannot say. Mrs. Morrissey did tell me that she had informed the Navy of my intended visit.   But why would the ONI trail me to West Medford?  I don’t know. What was the purpose of the ONI agents’ peculiar­ antics in Boston?  That I do not know, either. Perhaps they were trying to frighten me into curtailing my investigation.

Muriel Morrissey Earhart’s note to Devine. Aug. 19, 1961. (Courtesy Thomas E. Devine.)

     Although Mrs. Morrissey was unable to assist me in locating her sister’s dental charts, I was pleasantly surprised to receive from her a portrait of Amelia. On the back of the photograph, Mrs. Morrissey graciously wrote:

To Thomas Devine,
who is genuinely and unselfishly interested in
Amelia’s fate, I am happy to give this
photograph of  her.

Cordially,
Muriel Earhart Morrissey
August  19, 1961

 

Devine’s Notes to  Chapter 7

Page 79

*Mrs. Morrissey said her sister used a new plane for her second attempt. Supporters of the spy theory contend that this faster, more sophisticated aircraft would have enabled her to deviate from her flight path and avoid detection. Mrs. Morrissey herself never believed that her sister had been sent to spy on the Japanese Mandates.

Page 80

*Fred Goerner claims Mrs. Morrissey abandoned the belief that her sister had crashed near Howland Island after hearing his progress report in September­ October, 1961, and after his second expedition to Saipan. By 26 June 1962, however, Mrs. Morrissey had returned to her original conclusion. She wrote to me somewhat bitterly, “The claims of Captain Briand and the CBS have been shown to be completely false and unsubstantiated, so why continue the discussion? Amelia’s plane went down near Howland  Island [and] because of a radio failure – the  Coast Guard Cutter could not home her in.” (End of Chapter 7.)

Editor’s Note:  To my knowledge, no Earhart researcher or author has ever been physically harmed by any U.S. government agency or operative while pursuing information in the Earhart disappearance, but the foregoing situation might have produced a different result had Devine behaved with less caution.  Sixteen years earlier, in August 1945, Devine was probably even closer to serious harm when he was ordered to board a Navy plane by a man who was likely an Office of Naval Intelligence agent, who told Devine, “You can’t go back. . . You know about Amelia Earhart!” (See pages 64-66 in Eyewitness.)

In February 1991, while I was visiting at his home in West Haven, Conn., Devine told me he was  “flabbergasted,” with the situation he faced in August 1945. “I don’t know what they were going to do with me,” he said. “Was I going to be interviewed? Would they have offered me a government position or something for silence? Because I think that might have happened to [Pfc. Paul] Anderson. The thought persists that if I had boarded the plane at Tanapag Harbor on Saipan in 1945 at the insistence of the ONI agent, I might never have arrived at any destination.”

Grace Muriel Earhart Morrissey died in her sleep on Monday, March 2, 1998 at the age of 98.

From forgotten files of the Earhart lunatic fringe: The incredible tale of Ellis Bailey and USS Vega

In Chapter 13 of the second edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, titled “Griswold, Henson and Burks,” I present the story of  Capt. Tracy Griswold and Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, the three Marines who excavated what might well have been the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from a gravesite just outside the Liyang Cemetery, on the outskirts of southern Garapan, in late July or early August 1944.

The original version of the  chapter included the strange account of Ellis Bailey, whose incredible story, if true, would have lent great credibility to the claims of Henson and Burks, who were told by Griswold that they had just excavated the remains of Amelia Earhart. Twenty-one years later, they both separately identified Griswold from photo lineups, while the former Marine Intelligence captain denied ever knowing them or ordering them to excavate skeletal remains on Saipan.

I was reluctant to include Bailey’s story in The Truth at Last, because it did nothing to advance the truth, so I decided to cut his section from the final manuscript. I still feel it’s quite instructive, in that it shows the extreme lengths that some of the Earhart-addled will go to gain attention. The Earhart chase has badly infected some with its own peculiar strain of fever, and those carrying the bug can usually be identified by their ridiculous claims.  The recent History Channel imbroglio, which I have written about at length, is a prime example of this awful malady.  Earhart lore is replete with many other examples, but Bailey’s fantasy, at least for me, was one of the most believable, well-conceived fabrications ever; it certainly caught my attention and spurred me to make a serious effort to confirm it.

USS Vega (AK-17), circa late 1930s. Vega was a Sirius-class cargo ship, laid down July 8, 1918, launched July 18, 1919 and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on Dec. 21, 1921. She was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack of Dec. 7, 1941, but was not damaged, and in 1944-1945, Vega supported three major amphibious operations — in the Marianas, the Western Carolines and at Okinawa — carrying supplies and construction materials to assist the “Seabees” in establishing the advance bases necessary to the smooth operation of the Fleet.

For a time, it did appear that a series of amazing letters forwarded to me by Bill Prymak in 2008 might hold the key to unlocking the next stage of the government’s top-secret operation to return the fliers’ bones to the United States in 1944. Below is the unpublished section of Chapter 13 of Truth at Last, “Griswold, Henson, and Burks.” Obviously, this passage will make far more sense to those who have the book, and can place it in the original context.

Between 1991 and 1999, Ellis Bailey, of Middletown, Iowa, wrote seven letters to Prymak, describing a series of remarkable events he witnessed aboard the USS Vega (AK-17), a Capella class cargo ship that carried a crew of 439 and displaced 11,500 tons, during operations off Saipan and in the Marshall Islands during July and August 1944.  Bailey’s recollections of the remarkable incidents remained clear and consistent throughout his letters, and though he offered his own strange ideas about the meaning and the significance of the events, the core of Bailey’s account never changed. He never indicated his Navy rating, or job, in his letters, but a copy of the “Muster Roll of the Crew” of USS Vega for Sept. 30, 1944, shows that Bailey was a storekeeper first class (SK1).

In Bailey’s final letter to Prymak, titled “Amelia Earhart,” he recalled that Vega came to Saipan the “first part of July 1944,” and that after dropping anchor a group of Marines came aboard and informed Bailey and others that someone had just found “Amelia Earhart’s helmet,” somewhere on the island, but they offered no details.

The next day, Bailey “got permission to go ashore,” and “tried to visit Aslito Airfield” but was told it was restricted and off-limits. “While waiting for a ride back to the ship I talked to boat crew members who were discussing an important meeting of top General and Admirals,” he wrote. “One had come in that day. The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was there and he probably called the meeting.”  With this, Bailey joined the handful of GIs claiming knowledge of Forrestal’s presence on the island during the invasion – an allegation that has never been officially confirmed, and which further research indicated was not possible.

The scuttlebutt Bailey said he heard about Amelia Earhart, Aslito Airfield, and Forrestal during Vega’s early July stop at Saipan was mere prologue to the astonishing episode he claimed he witnessed when the ship returned to Saipan later that month. The morning after the crew unloaded 61 tons of dynamite, the captain received orders to “take on fuel and supplies, enough to go 1,000 miles to Majuro and to take a government intelligence officer and two boxes of human remains that were two Caucasian flyers lost at sea seven years earlier,” Bailey wrote. “One was a woman.” [Italics mine.] 

The next day, the intelligence officer, who had “no insignia but lots of authority,” came aboard with two boxes, “the remains of the flyers,” according to Bailey. “They were taken to the bridge and put under 24-hour guard,” he wrote, and the captain was ordered to steam to Majuro. Four days later Vega reached the Marshalls capital, Majuro, and while waiting for a “whale boat to be lowered to take him to shore,” the intelligence officer, apparently addressing Bailey, said, “I expect you are wondering why you are here. Seven years ago two Caucasian flyers were lost at sea. One was a woman. I came to see and talk with the two natives that had seen and talked with the flyers.” The agent returned to the ship the next morning, and ordered the captain to set sail for Kwajalein.

Bill Prymak, a veteran pilot with more than 6,500 hours in private aircraft since 1960, corresponded with Ellis Bailey for several years during the 1990s, and even arranged for Bailey to address the Amelia Earhart Society. Prymak called Bailey’s performances “unbelievable, and that is why I never seriously wrote about him in the AES Newsletters.”

Upon arrival at Kwajalein, a small contingent of Marines came aboard and “told us that the day before one of their group was on . . . Roi Namur, [and] found Amelia Earhart’s suitcase of clothes and her diary in a barracks,” Bailey continued. “They had taken it to the man in charge of Kwajalein [Rear Admiral Alva D. Bernhard, who died in 1955].  The government officer with no insignia took the guarded boxes of the remains and left the U.S.S. Vega at once.”  According to Bailey, the agent never mentioned any names in connection to the boxed remains, and Bailey himself didn’t believe the bones were those of Earhart or Noonan. The remains “weren’t the American flyers, they were British, which makes the whole situation so confusing,” Bailey wrote.

The Marines’ story about the discovery of Earhart’s suitcase, clothes, and diary on Roi Namur mirrored W.B. Jackson’s 1964 account to Fred Goerner, but Bailey’s story began to unravel when it became apparent their find did not occur “the day before,” Vega arrived, as Bailey wrote, because Kwajalein was secured in early February 1944, and by April 1, four months before Vega allegedly arrived at Kwajalein, 14,000 thousand Americans occupied the main island, with 6,500 more on Roi-Namur.

Bailey’s repeated references to the “British flyers” lost at sea at the same time as the Earhart flight must have originated with The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection, by James A. Donahue, among the most bizarre Earhart conspiracy books ever. Contrary to Donahue’s fanciful scenarios, no evidence has ever supported the idea that two British flyers, male and female, were operating anywhere in the Pacific area at that time. Writing to Ron Reuther in 1992, Goerner described The British Connection with Robert Myers’ Stand By To Die as one that “perfectly represents the totally irresponsible weirdo fringe which has been omnipresent in the Earhart matter since 1937.” In The British Connection, Donahue “has used photos and benign basic research and stitched the wildest kind of fiction to them and it is without any proof or ANY reference to source,” Goerner wrote.

“You’ll see that Ellis read too many AE books,” Prymak, who met Bailey in the “very early ‘90s,” wrote in a note attached to Bailey’s original letters. As a researcher who had seen and heard nearly everything during his four-decade investigation into the Earhart mystery, Prymak never put much stock in Bailey’s story. “Ellis spoke at the [August 1993] Flying Lady Symposium in [Morgan Hill] CA and at Atchison [Kansas],” Prymak wrote in a March 2008 email. “Both times he was a very ineffective and poor speaker, losing his thought process as he went along. He became very ‘unbelievable,’ and that is why I never seriously wrote about him in the AES Newsletters.” 

Bailey’s imaginative ramblings reflected a few of the most implausible scenarios found in Earhart literature, but the remote possibility that his story about the intelligence agent and the canisters might be true was too compelling for me to immediately dismiss out of hand. Admittedly, I hoped against hope that Bailey’s story would prove to be true. If it were, another missing piece in the Earhart puzzle — the transport of the fliers’ remains off the island of Saipan — could be placed into the final solution.

This is page 1 of the “Muster Roll of the Crew” of USS Vega for Sept. 30, 1944.  Ellis Orrin Bailey is listed second from the bottom, along with his rating, SK1 (Storekeeper First Class), followed by his date of enlistment and date he reported aboard, Nov. 16, 1942. According to one source, Vega’s normal contingent was 36 officers and 413 enlisted men. Bailey’s affiliation with Vega was about the only thing he was honest about in his letters to Bill Prymak.

My efforts to find any surviving members of the 1944 Vega crew who might have corroborated Bailey’s story were unsuccessful, but Tony Gellepis, of Santa Clara, Calif., a fireman aboard Vega from 1940 to 1942, was skeptical about Bailey’s alleged shore visit at Saipan during early July 1944. “In all my six years experience on various supply ships, shore leave was never granted while the ship was ‘swinging on the hook [anchored in the harbor],’ especially so during war time,” Gellepis, 87, told me in a July 2008 email.  “Shore leave was granted only after the ship was docked and secured, if at all.  And Bailey claims he went ashore the next day while Vega was at anchor!  And this guy was set to go to Aslito Field? Incredible! I consider this to be a stretch, an embellishment.” Gellepis passed away in 2016 at age 96.

Much to my disappointment, a November 2008 trip to the nearby National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md., to verify Bailey’s affiliation with Vega and its purported movements during the key dates, confirmed that Prymak and Gellepis’ doubts were well founded.

Vega’s deck logs for July and August 1944 reveal the ship was not at Saipan in early July, as Bailey claimed, but anchored at Eniwetok Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, though July 21, when it left for Saipan, arriving July 25. Vega anchored in Tanapag Harbor until July 31, per Bailey’s account, but then departed for Guam – not Majuro – in convoy with the cargo ship USS William Ward Burroughs (AP-7), LST (landing ship tanks) 341, and the destroyers USS Stockham (DD-683) and USS Trisdale (DE-33), reaching Guam Aug. 1.

On Aug. 15, Vega left Guam en route to Eniwetok, its home operating base in the Pacific war zone, arriving Aug. 20.  The muster roll of the Vega for the quarter ending September 1944 does establish that Ellis Orrin Bailey, a storekeeper first class (SK1), was a member of its crew, having joined the ship’s company Nov. 16, 1942.  Otherwise, as Prymak observed, it seems obvious that Bailey, who died in 2004, had indeed read too many Earhart books. And though he didn’t author one himself, Ellis Bailey’s serial letter-writing adventures qualify him to join James A. Donahue, Robert Myers and others who will remain unnamed here among the disreputable ranks of Fred Goerner’s “totally irresponsible weirdo fringe” in the annals of Earhart lore. (End of unpublished Ellis Bailey section.)

Without doubt, the ranks of the Earhart-addled have not been yet filled, as the lure of instant attention and imagined fame is usually sufficient to ensnare these unprincipled characters in its unsavory web. Your humble correspondent will keep a sharp lookout, and if the story is wild or ridiculous enough to merit mention, you’ll see it here.

Martin’s analysis continues to bolster Earhart truth

The brilliant news analyst David Martin (DCDave.com) has been alone among all media operatives large and small in recognizing and supporting the truth from the beginning of the fading media flap that erupted July 5 when NBC News announced that an unclassified Office of Naval Intelligence photo found at the National Archives in College Park, Md., by former federal investigator Les Kinney might be the smoking gun in the Earhart disappearance.

Bringing you up to date, the photo was the centerpiece of the two-hour July 9 History Channel propaganda exercise, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” I lost no time in becoming the first to publicly denounce the false claims made by Kinney and  Morningstar Entertainment operatives who descended upon network airwaves to promote the coming History Channel program. Later July 5, I published July 9 Earhart special to feature bogus photo claims.Two days later, Martin, who shared my pessimism  about a documentary predicated on such a shaky foundation as the ONI Jaluit photo, published “Press Touts Dubious Earhart Photo.Meanwhile, the media had already begun their blanket denunciations of the photo claims, seemingly on cue.

A day after posting my July 12 review of the History Channel special, History’s ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence’: Underhanded attack on the Marshalls-Saipan truth, which included  this report from The Guardian online that claimed the  photograph had been found in a Japanese travel “book” that allegedly was published in Japanese–held Palau on 10 October 1935, Martin published Earhart Photo Story Apparently Debunked.

Now Martin has added his own perspective to my July 28 article that discussed the Marshallese government’s statement that the ONI photo could not have been taken in 1935, as claimed by the Japanese blogger, Marshalls release is latest twist in photo travesty with his “ ‘Earhart Photo’ Debunker Debunked? published on Martin’s website Aug. 2, following forthwith:

“ ‘Earhart Photo Debunker Debunked?”

Perhaps everyone should have been a bit more skeptical when the British Guardian came out with its article with the confident sweeping headline, “Blogger discredits claim Amelia Earhart was taken prisoner by Japan.” (Bold emphasis Campbell’s throughout.) As we noted in our previous article in which we accepted the “discovery” of the photo in a 1935 Japanese travel book as valid, the apparent discrediting of the photo did absolutely nothing to undermine the wealth of evidence that Earhart was, indeed, captured by the Japanese, in spite of The Guardian’s major overselling of the new purported evidence: “But serious doubts now surround the film’s premise after a Tokyo-based blogger unearthed the same photograph in the archives of the National Diet Library, Japan’s national library. (Emphasis added)

A recent photo of news analyst and world traveler David Martin at Jeju (Cheju) Island, South Korea. (Photo courtesy David Martin.)

The Guardian did go to some length to give the discovery quite an appearance of authenticity. They provided links to the travel book including the photo and page numbers. In addition, they gave us these quotes from the blogger himself:

Kota Yamano, a military history blogger who unearthed the Japanese photograph, said it took him just 30 minutes to effectively debunk the documentary’s central claim.

“I have never believed the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, so I decided to find out for myself,” Yamano told the Guardian. “I was sure that the same photo must be on record in Japan.”

Yamano ran an online search using the keyword “Jaluit atoll” and a decade-long timeframe starting in 1930.

“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said. “I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”

The initial impression one gets—the impression that The Guardian clearly wanted us to take with us—is that this Yamano is quite an enterprising researcher. But the impression does not bear close scrutiny well.

Yamano claims that the motivation for his effort was the belief that the Japanese military did not capture Earhart. The main problem of the supposed evidence presented by the photo is that it is not strong enough to convince any skeptical person that it actually shows Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in the custody of the Japanese. The natural reaction of a predisposed doubter is simply to reject the photo out of hand.

The second paragraph in the Yamano quote, then, amounts to a non sequitur. From the outset, what could conducting a search for a copy of the photograph presented in the History Channel program have to do with anything? It really looks like a waste of time. Did Yamano have some premonition that he might find evidence that would apparently prove that the photograph had been taken well before Earhart’s disappearance? Going in, the endeavor looks like a wild goose chase.

To read the rest of Dave Martin’s analysis, see “Earhart Photo Debunker Debunked?”

For Dave Martin’s reviews on both editions of  The Truth at Last, as well as a summary of that evidence and the press (and Wikipedia) treatment of it, see Hillary Clinton and the Amelia Earhart Cover-up,” Amelia Earhart Truth Versus the Establishment,” and Wikipedia’s Greatest Misses.”

Marshalls release is latest twist in photo travesty

Lest those who might have thought the latest chapter of the continuing Amelia Earhart disinformation campaign had come to a neat and tidy close with the July 11 report from The Guardian online that the photograph of the dock at Jaluit in the Marshall Islands had been found in a Japanese travel book published in 1935, we now have another, not unexpected, loose end. You might recall that The Guardian reported that “The image was part of a Japanese-language travelogue about the South Seas that was published almost two years before Earhart disappeared.”

“Does it get any worse than this?” I wrote in my July 12 review of the latest History Channel propaganda effort, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” “If the report is true, whatever the photo claims that began with NBC’s Wednesday, July 5 promotion barrage, are now entirely destroyed, discredited and defunct.” 

I didn’t need a report from a Japanese blogger to convince me that the claims made by Les Kinney, Morningstar Entertainment and the History Channel, first broadcast nationwide by NBC News on July 5, were false and totally without substance. I was the first to publicly denounce Kinney’s assertions for the delusions (at best) that they were, and I’d known about this shameless plot to grab headlines under false pretenses for many months, since a reader from Pennsylvania procured the same photo from the National Archives in College Park, Md., and sent it to me. 

Now Karen Earnshaw, a journalist who lives in the Marshall Islands and wrote June 26, 2015 and July 9, 2015 stories in the U.K.’s Daily Mail online about Dick Spink’s discoveries at Mili Atoll’s Endriken Islands, has informed me in a July 16 email about a Marshallese government press release she found on Rich Martini’s blog.  Here is the release:

I

It’s not easy to read this rather fuzzy document, so here is its content:

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is following your investigation of the Amelia Earhart mystery with great interest. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, confirms that the photograph found in the US National Archives is the dock at Jabor on Jaluit Atoll.

Jabor Dock was built in 1936. The events of this period are still recalled by our eldest citizens.  The claim that Jabor dock was already built in 1935 does not match the historical record. Therefore, it would not have been possible for any photos to have been taken of the Jabor dock in 1935.  The dock simply did not exist. The elders who confirmed that Amelia and her navigator were brought to Jabor are of the highest standing and reputation in our community.

The ministry hopes this helps the record straight.

It’s interesting to note that there is no Internet site for the Republic of the Marshall Islands; the closest I can find to an online presence is a website for the Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United States of America.

The obvious question is, who are the “your” referred to in the first line of the press release? Closely following that, we can ask who besides Rich Martini and TIGHAR, who I’ve been told also has posted it, was this release sent to? Surely they weren’t the only recipients of this highly significant statement from the Marshallese government.  I think it’s perfectly obvious that the Marshalls statement was sent to many, if not every major player in the American media. How Martini and TIGHAR obtained it is irrelevant. What is relevant is that no one else in our media has paid any attention to it.

Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, N.Y., who writes letters and editorials to newspapers locally and nationally in support of the truth, contacted the Marshalls Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was informed that the press release did originate with the Marshallese government. So at least we know this is a legitimate document.

So what does this latest revelation, which so directly contradicts The Guardian report about the 1935 origin of the photo, really mean? It must be insignificant, based on the complete silence emanating from our esteemed media, and indeed it does mean little. But the media isn’t interested in it for entirely different reasons. They’ve already played their roles with the phony photo claims in advance of the History Channel’s Earhart special. As far as the establishment media is concerned, the Marshalls-Saipan truth has been discredited, and the public is once again flummoxed and confused about all aspects of the Earhart case. Mission accomplished.

This is the photo that began the current furor, with NBC News breathlessly announcing on July 5 that the Earhart mystery may soon by solved, and which was the cornerstone of the July 9 History Channel special, “Amelia Earhart:  The Lost Evidence.” In the program, Les Kinney falsely claimed the photo actually revealed the lost fliers. In the right background is the ship Kinney says is the Japanese survey ship Koshu, with a mass of metal on its stern that could well be a salvaged airplane, possibly the Electra, but impossible to confirm because the definition is lacking.

It’s more than likely that the Republic of the Marshall Islands, an independent nation that doesn’t answer to the United States on all matters related to its Earhart propaganda program, was simply not informed by the appropriate parties that the current operation was over. Some in the Marshallese government might actually have been trying to be helpful and set the record straight about the provenance of the photo in relation to the dock at Jaluit. I’m sure their efforts were not appreciated, judging by the overwhelming media silence that has greeted the press release.

Meanwhile Martini has now joined the vision-challenged Les Kinney in insisting, despite all evidence, that the photo does indeed reflect the presence of Earhart and Noonan, in effect doubling down on the insanity most thought had been put to rest — and seemingly has been, with the exception of these two luminaries. Martini has apparently decided that he has nothing better to do than to team with Kinney on his grave-digging detail to incoherence and irrelevance in the Earhart chase. But is this really a case of the blind leading the blind, or is it something altogether different, something far more sinister than mere incompetence?

On his blog, Martini further muddles the picture by injecting the interesting but complex and unverifiable tale of the “bottle message” found on a beach in France in October 1937 that some have unsuccessfully tried to tie to Earhart by way of French explorer Eric De Bisschop. I decided long ago not to venture into these very murky waters that demand too much speculation to ever be accepted as fact. If you want to be thoroughly confused, I suggest you visit Rich Martini’s blog, where you will come away with far less clarity than you arrived with.

For those who still fail to understand what has recently transpired despite my best efforts to explain this deviously planned disinformation exercise as clearly as possible, I can only suggest that you carefully re-read the previous posts on the History Channel travesty, and to review Dave Martin’s Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression to see how many of them fit nicely into the despicable drama we’ve seen unfold since NBC News kicked it all off with their promotion blitz on July 5. 

The bottom line is that “Earhart Fever,” a condition I’ve seen work its insidious ways on far better than these two, is alive, well and highly contagious. Its victims can be identified by their abject willingness to say or do anything that will bring them a moment’s more attention than they otherwise deserve, which is little or none at all. 

Readers of this blog can continue to trust that this correspondent will always tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My integrity and credibility are all I have, and they are infinitely more valuable to me than a few minutes on a third-rate History Channel Earhart special.

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