A visit with the “lunatic fringe” of the Earhart saga

May 25, 2015

For those who think I lack a sense of humor about the Earhart disappearance, the following is submitted for your entertainment and edification. By way of the July 1995 edition of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, this is a quaint little unattributed book review for Age of Heroes (Hastings House Publishers, 1993), by the legendary Henri Keyzer-Andre, that appeared in an otherwise undated April 1993 issue of the Naples (Fla.) Daily News.

In addition to its imaginative title, the cover of Age of Heroes is even more compelling, as its subtitle, “Incredible Adventures of a PAN AM Pilot and his Greatest Triumph, Unraveling the Mystery of Amelia Earhart,” promises readers the solution to our greatest aviation mystery. I had heard about this book a few times over the years, but just recently purchased it, brand new, for a few dollars on Amazon. Although I haven’t read it yet, I know the ending and am not recommending it to anyone interested in the Earhart case.

It doesn't get any more promising than this. Unfortunately, there's absolutely no substance underneath the stylish cover, and Keyzer-Andre reveals himself to be among the most gullible Westerners to ever visit Japan, as he fell prey to a whopper of a tale about the fate of Amelia Earhart, and dared to pass it to us as fact. This is precisely what Fred Goerner meant when he called a particular segment of Earhart authors "the lunatic fringe."

It doesn’t get any more promising than this. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no substance underneath the stylish cover, and Keyzer-Andre reveals himself to be among the most gullible Westerners to ever visit Japan, as he fell prey to a whopper of a tale about the fate of Amelia Earhart, and dared to pass it to us as fact. This is precisely what Fred Goerner meant when he called a particular segment of Earhart authors “the lunatic fringe.”

Keyzer-Andre said he met Amelia Earhart in 1928 when he was 21, and three years later, Fred Noonan, at Pan Am’s Dinner Key operation building, when Noonan was Pan Am’s instructor in celestial navigation and Keyzer-Andre was beginning his pilot training. That’s about as far as we can safely tread when it comes to most of the claims in this article,  and Keyzer-Andre’s bio might be much embellished as well, as far as I know. 

I’ve seen very little that’s more convoluted and clueless than this mess, which begins as what appears to be a review of Age of Heroes, but immediately leaves its author and begins quoting from a retired Air Force Colonel.  It’s no mystery why this review wasn’t bylined. Who would want to take credit for it? Without further ado, here’s “Whatever Happened to Amelia Earhart.”

BILL PRYMAK’s S NOTE: To illustrate the enormous range of thinking that goes through men’s minds, the following might be construed as the OUTER LIMITS we have had come across our desk.

“Whatever Happened to Amelia Earhart?”

PALM BEACHAmelia Earhart was executed by the Japanese, who then used the advanced technology from her plane to perfect their WW II Zero fighters, according to a flight engineer who worked on Earhart’s aircraft. Henri Keyzer-Andre, Palm Beach resident and longtime pilot, discussed one of the great mysteries of the 20th century as he explains it in his autobiography, “Age of Heroes.”

The story is similar to one that has been told for years by Naples resident and retired USAF Colonel James “Dusty” Rhoades.” He said he has known since 1959 that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were shot and killed by the Japanese in the South Pacific, but not for plane parts.

“It was an espionage mission,” Rhoades said of Earhart’s reported attempt to circumnavigate the globe. “We do spy on people. That’s the way to stay alive.”

Keyzer-Andre’s book says two lieutenants in the Japanese navy broke into Earhart’s radio frequency during the 1937 flight, and guided her into a trap on the island of Nonouti, where Japan had a base. Earhart and Noonan were killed and their bodies burned, to hide all traces. Keyzer-Andre said Earhart’s final words were, “Oh, mother”.

Rhoades, a 28-year veteran of military tours in Japan, Korea and China, said a Japanese general he befriended after WWlI told him a different story. Instead of being lured to Nonouti in the Gilbert Islands, Earhart crashed just to the northwest in the Marshall Islands after running out of fuel during a storm, and losing radio contact with a U.S. submarine tracking her mission.

Author Henri-Keyzer Andre, at age 86, in front of his wall of fame at his Palm Beach, Fla. home circa 1993. Keyzer-Andre may well have been a fine pilot in the early years of Pan American Airways, but an expert on the Earhart disappearance, he is not.

Author Henri-Keyzer Andre, at age 86, in front of his wall of fame at his Palm Beach, Fla. home circa 1993. Keyzer-Andre may have been a fine pilot in the early years of Pan American Airways, but an expert on the Earhart disappearance? Well, you decide, dear reader. 

The Japanese army captured and court-martialed the injured Earhart and Noonan, sentencing them to death tbr spying on the Japanese fortification of Pacific islands prior to the war, Rhoades said. The pair was brought before a firing squad, with Noonan standing tied to a post, and Earhart tied to a chair because she could not stand.

One day in 1959, while having lunch at a Japanese golf club, Rhoades said the Japanese general who told the story, Minouru Genda, introduced him to tile man who commanded the firing squad.

Rhoades said he does not know what became of Earhart’s plane after the crash, but does know it was equipped with a state-of-the-art engine built especially for the US Navy by Lockheed. But the plane was badly damaged, and the Japanese, who had spies in the US during the war, would not need to capture Earhart in order to learn about her plane.

“I was a good friend with Gen. Genda at the time,” Rhoades said. “I believed the things I heard because they had no reason to lie to me.” (End of review.)

Nothing is so firmly believed as that which is least known . . .

Bill Prymak’s closing comment is spot on, but these wise words originally came from the pen of Michel de Montaigne (Michel Eyquem, lord of the manor of Montaigne, Dordogne) (28 February 153313 September 1592) who was an influential French Renaissance writer, generally considered to be the inventor of the personal essay.


Did islanders canoe 500 miles with Earhart note?

May 7, 2015

Earhart lore is replete with strange stories that have never been factually confirmed and presented as legitimate evidence, yet remain believable and even compelling, because the scenarios they describe fit so well with what we know happened, based on the mountains of legitimate eyewitness accounts and other evidence that reveals the truth about Amelia and Fred Noonan’s sad ends on Saipan.

Today we reach into the “back of the rack,” as disk jockeys used to say when they played real music on radio, and dust off an obscure piece of Earhart arcana for your information and edification. Bill Prymak either liked this story so much that he presented it in two separate issues of his Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, July 1996 and June 1999, something he’d never done with any other stories, to my knowledge, or as he was preparing his June ’99 newsletter, he simply forgot that he’d run it three years earlier.

Please forgive the sometimes intrusive editor’s notes, but I feel it’s important that readers understand this story as well as possible, and because it’s being presented in its original form, some of the details and terminology need further explanation.  Nothing more is known of this story’s author, Jack Ralph.

Bill Prymak’s note: “Somebody very high in U.S. government went to a lot of trouble, via London, to have this leak squashed.”

“AMELIA EARHART’S LAST FLIGHT, A TRUE STORY” 

In August 1942, I received my Air Force wings and was assigned to a Consolidated B-24 Heavy Bombardment Air Group being assembled in preparation for overseas duty. In January of 1943 we were in place on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and began operations against Japanese ground, air, and sea targets throughout the South Pacific.

 

A U.S. Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator bomber, flying over explosions on the Salamaua Peninsula, where the port is located.

A U.S. Army Air Forces B-24 Liberator bomber, flying over explosions on the Salamaua Peninsula, where the port is located. The campaign to take the Salamaua and Lae, New Guinea area, across the Solomon Sea in the general area of the Solomon Islands, began with the Australian attack on Japanese positions near Mubo, on April 22, 1943. The campaign ended with the fall of Lae on Sept. 16, 1943.

After several months of combat flying individual crews were allowed a rest leave in Auckland, New Zealand. These rests lasted about two weeks during which we enjoyed a return to the luxury of real civilization, along with good food, and recreational activities arranged by the city of Auckland and our own Red Cross. At a social center maintained by these two organizations for service personnel, my navigator, Lt. “Steve” Stevens met a lovely young lady and they dated a number of times before we had to return to duty in the Solomons, which then seemed like a different planet. This was about July of 1943.

Steve was a quiet, smart, completely honest, exemplary individual. He was acknowledged to be one of the best navigators in our unit. The art of navigation was critical to our survival. There were wartime blackouts on all radio navigation aids, and many hours aloft with no landmarks for checkpoints. We routinely had critical fuel problems with flights stretching our range to the maximum. At the time the B-24 was the only bomber in the world that could handle those missions. I mention this only to provide insight on Steve’s credibility and reputation.

On our way back to Guadalcanal Steve told me about his date with the young lady the night before. He had spent the evening with her and her Mother (sic). They told him about living on Nauru, a British protectorate island about 1,000 miles northeast of the Solomons. The girls’ father had been a high-ranking British official in charge of numerous British islands throughout the south Pacific. Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the mother and daughter were evacuated to the safety of New Zealand. Nauru was soon taken by the Japanese and the father’s fate was unknown.

(Editor’s note: Nauru, officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the Central Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 186 miles to the east. With over 10,000 residents in an 8.1 square mile area, Nauru is the smallest state in the South Pacific and third smallest state by population in the world, ahead of only the Vatican City and Monaco.

Settled by the Micronesians and Polynesians, Nauru was claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. After World War I, Nauru became a League of Nations Mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, who were bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. After the war ended, the country entered into trusteeship again. Nauru gained its independence in 1968. End of editor’s note.)

The two told Steve that the communications radios on Nauru were used by Amelia Earhart on her last flight as her path was quite near the island. The operators, along with all the others involved that night, could never figure out what went wrong.

(Editor’s note: When Steve’s two female hosts told him that radios on Nauru were “used by Amelia Earhart on her last flight,” they didn’t mean this literally, and could have been a bit more precise. At about 8:30 p.m. Lae time, the radio station at Nauru, which had been hearing her broadcasts for several hours,  heard Earhart say on 3105, “A ship in sight ahead.” The ship was Ontario, lying just a few miles north of the direct circle track to Howland.  Ontario had been sending Morse code Ns on the hour as requested in a July 1 update to Earhart’s June 27 message. The ship’s log contained no mention of seeing or hearing the Electra, and it was impossible for Earhart to communicate directly with Ontario and vice-versa.

These are not nurses, but uniformed female employees from the Westfield freezing works in Auckland, New Zealand, grouped outside the factory buildings during Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt's tour. Could the "lovely young lady" that Lt. Steve Steven met in Auckland have been among these young women?  This photo was taken on Sept. 2, 1943, about the same time Stevens and Jack Ralph, this story's author, were visiting Auckland on leave from their Army Air Corps Bombardment Group.

These are not nurses, but uniformed female employees from the Westfield freezing works in Auckland, New Zealand, grouped outside the factory buildings during Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s tour. Could the “lovely young lady” that Lt. Steve Stevens met in Auckland have been among these young women? This photo was taken on Sept. 2, 1943, about the same time Stevens and Jack Ralph, this story’s author, were visiting Auckland on leave from their Army Air Corps Bombardment Group.

About an hour after the “ship in sight” message, T.H. Cude, the Nauru director of police, claimed he heard Earhart’s signals on his new 12-tube radio receiver. “Between 10 and 11 p.m.,” Cude wrote in a 1969 letter, “I heard her calling Harold Barnes. She called several times and said she could see the lights of Nauru.  The time corresponds to the last, unintelligible signal reported by Radio Nauru on 3105, but Cude’s receiver was much better for receiving voice, according to Capt. Laurance Safford, author of Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday: The Facts Without the Fiction, who said Earhart would have passed Nauru at a distance of 125 nautical miles.

The lights Earhart saw were floodlights strung out along the two 1,000-foot cableways on top of the island that allowed mining operations at night, and “the 5,000 candle-power fixed light should have been visible from an altitude of 10,000 feet, or at least the bloom of the light on the clouds overhead,” Safford wrote. “Once again half-way to Howland, Noonan was dead on course.” End of Editor’s note.)

Quite some time later (I recall that Steve mentioned a matter of months) some south sea island natives arrived at Nauru in an outrigger canoe. They were from the Marshall and Gilbert Islands and they had a handwritten scribbled note signed by Amelia Earhart. (Bear in mind that the natives cover vast distances in their canoes. On some of our B-24 sea search patrols we would encounter them hundreds of miles from any land. That ancient art of open ocean navigation passed on from father to son is now, according to the National Geographic, almost forgotten, and certainly not as skilled as in the past. Remember, we are going back almost 52 years with this story.)

(Editor’s note: The distance from Mili Atoll to Nauru is about 573 miles, and 498 miles from the Gilberts to Nauru.)

The note stated that she had gone down and been captured by the Japanese in the Marshall and Gilberts and she was hoping her note could be smuggled out by friendly natives. She and her navigator, “Newman” were held prisoners. Mother and daughter told Steve that the news was immediately reported to London.

But meanwhile, the local newspaper picked up the story and immediately went to press. As I recall Steve said the name of the paper was “The Pacific Inter-Island Express” or very near that. The paper was distributed throughout the protectorate islands. The two women had saved some of those papers and Steve personally read the account from one of the copies. (Editor’s note: Online searches found no trace of The Pacific Inter-Island Express or any publication remotely similar, but this doesn’t mean the newspaper didn’t exist.)

Within just a few days a message arrived from London classifying the story TOP SECRET. That set off a frantic search for all the papers that had been printed and sent to all the islands. It was done, since communications were slow and cumbersome then, and though the distances were great, the actual number of copies and readers was comparatively small. The security clamp was never rescinded and no further information on the subject ever reached Nauru despite requests for information.

A recent photo of Nauru. Note the landing strip at far right. Nauru International Airport serves as the main hub of the national carrier, Nauru Airlines, formerly known as Air Nauru. Flights originate in Brisbane, Australia, and are available from Nauru to Majuro, Nadi and Tarawa.  As of January 2015, the population of Nauru was estimated at 10,436.

A recent photo of Nauru. Note the landing strip at far right. Nauru International Airport serves as the main hub of the national carrier, Nauru Airlines, formerly known as Air Nauru. Flights originate in Brisbane, Australia, and are available from Nauru to Majuro, Nadi and Tarawa. As of January 2015, the population of Nauru was estimated at 10,436.

We decided that Steve should tell the story to our Bomb Group Intelligence Officer immediately upon our return to Guadalcanal and I’m sure Steve did so although I didn’t go with him. Nothing more was heard of it and we really didn’t expect that after the war the story would break. I did write the Pentagon after a few months of peace, and the reply tersely only said there was no record of such an incident.

Steve and I kept in touch. As time passed we concluded that the Allies were intent on making good and dependable friends of the Japanese and didn’t want to open old wounds with bad publicity. We wrote the whole thing off as diplomatic expediency and figured the story would forever be suppressed.

Picking up this cold trail now would involve tremendous research effort. The Freedom of Information Act would not be useful since the story would be in British archives. There may be no references to it in U.S. records. There is a fair chance the daughter is still alive and still under orders to suppress. As I write this, in 1994, I would presume she would be around 70-73 years old. Steve died some 10 years ago.

Considering the relationship now existing between Britain, the U.S. and Japan, I would bet there is no way the information will ever be divulged. There have been many stories and theories expounded over the years concerning Amelia’s disappearance. Many of them contain deductions that mesh very well with this story. I firmly believe this is what really happened.

 “Jack” Ralph

 


April 22, 2015

      ********SPECIAL MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT********

Henrik Palmgren of Sweden’s Red Ice Radio recently interviewed me about Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, and its important message, which continues to be completely ignored by the mainstream and even alternative U.S media. Red Ice Radio’s theme is “Dispelling the Mythmakers,” which is especially poignant and appropriate in this case. To listen to the interview, click on The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart: FDR’s Cover-Up.”

Red Ice Photo.


How much flight time did Amelia Earhart really have?

April 14, 2015

Invariably, the main objection raised by critics of what has long been popularly known as the “Marshall Islands landing theory,” but which I prefer to call “Amelia Earhart’s Mili Atoll landfall,” is that the Electra did not have enough fuel reserves to fly another 600 to 800 miles to reach the southernmost Marshall Islands from an area presumed to be somewhere north of Howland Island.

The most well-known proponent of this idea is the renowned aviator and author Elgen M. Long, whose 1999 book, Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved, co-written with his wife, Marie, has become the bible of “crashed-and-sank” advocates.

Elgen M. Long, well known as the poster boy for the Navy's archaic "crashed-and-sank" theory, which became such an anachronism by the late 1980s that the establishment decided to adopt the TIGHAR-Nikumaroro "hypothesis" as its most favored Earhart disappearance theory.

Elgen M. Long, the well known public face of the Navy’s archaic “crashed-and-sank” verdict in the Earhart case, which became such an anachronism by the late 1980s that the establishment decided to adopt the equally erroneous  TIGHAR-Nikumaroro “hypothesis” as its most- favored Earhart disappearance theory.

The truth about the “crashed-and-sank” theory, which is nothing more than the original 1937 Navy and Coast Guard reports, is that  never has even the smallest shred of physical, eyewitness or even anecdotal evidence been found to support it. In fact, as the years passed and the Saipan witnesses grew from dozens of native Saipanese to include the 26 American GIs who came forward to tell Thomas E. Devine of their experiences on Saipan during the summer of 1944 that revealed the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan, the establishment was forced to find another, more plausible theory to explain Amelia’s disappearance. The crashed-and-sank idea was simply no longer selling well among the masses, and had become an anachronism.

In his book, Long, who set 15 world records while flying solo around the world over both the North and South Poles in 1971, presents a lengthy and, at first glance, impressive analysis of the final flight. Largely echoing the conclusions of the Navy and Coast Guard searches, Long believes the Electra’s fuel ran out shortly after Earhart’s last message, and she was forced to ditch the plane somewhere within 100 miles of Howland Island.

Soon after The Mystery Solved was published, longtime AES researcher and retired Air Force Col. Rollin Reineck issued a scathing critique of its major claims. In his book, Long cites Earhart’s first intelligible message to Lae, at 2:18 p.m. local time, when she reported, “HEIGHT 7000 FEET SPEED 140 KNOTS,” which Long says meant that “they were already experiencing stronger headwinds than anticipated. The increased winds had made them recalculate their optimum speed.”

Reineck called Long’s interpretation of this message “totally wrong,” a mistake that is “the foundation of the Long theory. … Long knows, as all pilots know, that when you give a position, you report the speed you are making over the ground, or GROUND SPEED, not TRUE AIR SPEED. … It is more than obvious,” Reineck wrote, “that Earhart is talking about GROUND SPEED when she says 140 KNOTS, not TRUE AIR SPEED as Long would like you to believe.” (Emphasis Reineck’s.)

Instead of the strong headwind Long says was forcing Earhart to decrease her air speed, Reineck says the increased ground speed reflected “a tailwind component for that period of the flight,” a normal condition the Electra might encounter in the intertropical convergence zone where winds tend to vary. At 5:18 p.m. (0718 GMT), seven hours, eighteen minutes after takeoff, Earhart reported her position as 4.33 south, 159.7 east, at 8,000 feet over cumulus clouds with winds at 23 knots. Long claims the wind was a 26.5 mph headwind, but doesn’t explain how he knows that, Reineck observed.   

A very young Rollin C. Reineck, England 1942, as he prepares for another perilous  mission over Nazi Germany.

Somewhere in England, circa 1942, a very young Lt. Rollin C. Reineck prepares for another perilous bombing mission over Nazi Germany.

Throughout his analysis, Reineck demonstrates how Long’s erroneous assumptions conspire to exhaust the Electra’s fuel supply earlier than planned, preventing the fliers from reaching Howland Island. Reineck also debunked Long’s statement that the navigational chart Noonan used had missed Howland’s true location by six miles, when in fact Itasca had correctly charted the Line Islands, including Howland, in August 1936, and the correct charts were in Noonan’s possession during the flight.

“Long, by changing certain facts, using poor information and bad assumptions would have the reader believe that Earhart ran out of gas some 20 hours and 32 minutes after she left Lae, New Guinea,” Reineck wrote. “He changed GROUND SPEED to TRUE AIR SPEED. He said a wind reported was from a CERTAIN DIRECTION when in fact the radio communication DID NOT GIVE ANY DIRECTION. … The truth is that Earhart, maintaining a true air speed of 150 MPH and using the power settings provided her by Lockheed, had over 24 hours of flying time ahead of her. When she called in at 1912 GCT, she had flown approximately 2556 miles … at an average ground speed of 133 MPH.

“Maintaining a true air speed of 150 MPH would mean that she had encountered an average head wind of 17 MPH,” Reineck continued. “At 2014 [GMT, or 8:44 a.m. Howland Time], Earhart, in her last message said we are running north and south. At that time it can be reasonably assumed that she departed the Howland Island area and headed for the Marshall Islands. She would have had approximately four  hours of fuel remaining. Using maximum range true airspeed of 150 MPH (130 knots) and a tail wind of 17 miles per hour, she would have been able to travel some 680 miles. Would it be enough to get her to the Marshall Islands? Yes, she did make it to Mili Atoll, the closest atoll in the Marshalls to Howland.”

“There has been much controversy over the Electra’s ultimate time-in-air before fuel exhaustion,” Bill Prymak wrote in his analysis, “Radio Log – Earhart/Itasca,” which appeared in the December 1993 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter and was discussed in an earlier post on this blog.

“Let me set the record straight,” Prymak wrote.” This issue was discussed at length with Art Kennedy, who had overhauled her engines prior to the second attempt, and who calibrated her engines with PRATT & WHITNEY factory test equipment. We carefully went over his test cell engine records, and barring fuel cell leakage and gross mixture control mismanagement, she had between 4.5 and 5.5 hours of fuel remaining after her 20:14 [8:44 am Howland Time] transmission.

“This calculation by Kennedy is superior to any Lockheed literature,” Prymak continued. “Therefore, it is my conclusion that she had the range to reach either the Gilbert Islands, or the lower part of the Marshall Islands, notably Mill Atoll, where so many researchers have placed her landing site. Based on the above it’s tough to convince any serious researcher that she really intended to land at Howland Island.”

Amelia looks over the extra fuel tanks in the fuselage of her Electra 10E.

Amelia looks over the extra fuel tanks in the fuselage of her Electra 10E. Upon her departure from Lae, New Guinea, the Electra had at least 1,100 gallons of fuel and 26 hours of flight time, according to the most reliable estimates we have.

Four years later, another Prymak analysis, “How Much Fly-Time Did She Really Have?” appeared in the May 1997 edition of the AES Newsletter. In this article, Prymak approached the question of the Electra’s fuel consumption from another angle, applying the plane’s performance during its 2,400-mile Oakland to Honolulu flight in March 1937 to the 2,556-mile Lae-Howland trip.

Prymak found that the Electra consumed 617 of the 947 gallons it held during the fifteen-hour, fifteen-minute Honolulu flight, for an average per-hour burn rate of 38.97 gallons he rounded off to forty gallons per hour. At Lae, loaded with 200 more gallons (1,200 pounds) but with two less people than the Oakland-Honolulu flight, Prymak estimated the plane was about 800 pounds heavier, and added one gallon per hour for the trip. He added another gallon per hour in consideration of the plane’s climb to higher altitudes after leaving Lae.

“Thus, with 1,100 gallons departing Lae, at average consumption of 42 gph [gallons per hour], at 20 hours 15 minutes, she had burned 850.50 gallons of fuel,” Prymak wrote. “She had close to 6 hours left before fuel exhaustion. If we assume Amelia was over, or close to Howland, at 20:15 hours  [8:15 a.m. Howland Time], she had an average ground speed of 126 mph LAE-HOWLAND. ‘We must be on you but cannot see you’ is heard from Amelia at 19 hours 12 minutes into the flight; if we assume she was over or close to Howland at this time, she has an average ground speed of 133 mph over the entire trip. … [Clarence L.] Kelly Johnson was lavish in his praise of her careful and precise handling of engine power and mixture. … Six hours can get you to a lot of places – Phoenix Islands, The Gilberts, Canton, Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands.”

We should remember that no one knows where the Electra was actually located along the 157-337 line of position Earhart reported in her last transmission. Most believe she was referring to a sun line, the angle of the sun just as it broke above the horizon, and the July 2, 1937 Nautical Almanac confirms that at 1756 GMT in the area of Howland Island, the sun’s line of position was 157º – 337º.  But a line of position does not establish a location, and a precise “fix” is only possible if combined with a point of reference — a landmark or a radio bearing, for example.

As Vincent V. Loomis put it, “Flying a line of position was like driving an interstate highway without knowing which exit to take for the destination.” During his 1981 scale-model tests of the Electra’s transmission capabilities, Paul Rafford Jr. collaborated with Loomis, who wanted to know how far north of Howland Island the Electra could have been when her last messages was heard at a strength 5 of 5. Rafford’s computer analysis determined Earhart’s last messages would have come in full strength even though the aircraft could have been 150 miles north-northwest of Howland.

In his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, Loomis suggested that the fliers, lost and turning westward for the Gilberts, were so far north of Howland they found landfall at Mili Atoll in the southeastern Marshall Islands. It was pure speculation, of course, based on numerous variables and guesses, but among Loomis’ greatest contributions to the Earhart saga are the eyewitnesses — Mrs. Clement, Jororo and Lijon — who told him of seeing the downed fliers near Barre Island. 

In March 2009, I asked Rafford if he still endorsed his findings as reported by Loomis. “Nearly 25 years have passed since the Loomis book came out and I lost my copy some time ago,” Rafford wrote in an e-mail. “However, I can say that today I wouldn’t stand behind a claim that Earhart was 150 miles north-northwest whenshe claimed, ‘We must be on you.'”  In the years following his early 1980s work with Loomis, Rafford developed a more radical theory, The Earhart Radio Deception,” which we examined in October 2014, and which Rafford presented in his 2006 book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio.


“Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection”: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?

March 31, 2015

The late Rollin C. Reineck was a war hero, retired Air Force colonel and a longtime member of the Amelia Earhart Society, whose passion for Earhart research often produced interesting, informative pieces, one of which you are about to read.  At other times, Reineck’s unrestrained enthusiasm for the spectacular and bizarre led him into areas populated only by Fred Goerner’s “lunatic fringe,” and these ill-conceived forays have somewhat tainted his reputation among Earhart researchers.

Reineck’s authorship of the dreadful Amelia Earhart Survived (Paragon Agency, 2003), his unsuccessful attempt to resurrect and validate the long-discredited Irena Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth, was inarguably his greatest blunder in the Earhart arena. But that story is for another day.

Rollin C. Reineck, circa 1945, served as a B-29 navigator in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star. A true patriot in every sense of the word, Reineck passed away in 2007, but left some very controversial writings about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Rollin C. Reineck, circa 1945, served as a B-29 navigator in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star. A true patriot and war hero, Reineck passed away in 2007, leaving us some very controversial writings about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

During World War II, Reineck’s consistently outstanding performance as a B-29 navigator earned this brave patriot decorations such as the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star, as well as numerous commendations while flying missions in both the European and Pacific theaters, over the Mediterranean, Africa and against Japan from the recently captured Aslito Airfield on Saipan in early 1945.

Reineck  served for 30 years in his distinguished Air Force career, and for 15 years volunteered for the Red Cross whenever he could. Rollin Reineck’s “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection” appeared in the January 1997 edition issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, and as best as I can determine was written sometime in 1996.  Forthwith is his Morgenthau  piece, with additional comments to follow.

“Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection”

Why all the mystery about what happened to Amelia Earhart? A good question without a good answer. However, there 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.

Henry Morgenthau was the son of a well-respected Jewish banker who had been the American Ambassador to Turkey.  Mr. Morgenthau Jr. first met Franklin Roosevelt at the outbreak of World War I. He had bought a thousand acre farm near the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park in upstate New York, and had become a gentleman farmer. Over the years Henry became one of Franklin’s closest friends and his wife became an even closer friend to Eleanor. When Roosevelt became the Governor of New York, Henry was brought into the state administration where he was very effective.

Subsequently, when Roosevelt moved to the White House, Henry followed. Within a year after that he became Secretary of the Treasury, and one of Roosevelt’s most trusted friends. He was often given extra departmental jobs which he accomplished with notable efficiency. He gave the president unswerving loyalty and in return the president gave him power and influence as a trusted counselor. Indeed, so close, the Morgenthaus often seemed to be members of the Roosevelts’ immediate family – a status greatly envied by Mr. Morgenthau’s colleagues.

In the dark days before World War II, when Japan was overrunning China, it was Morgenthau who arranged for a $100 million loan to the Chinese government for the FLYING TIGER Operations. The Flying Tigers were a group of so-called volunteers (mostly Americans) that provided badly needed air support to the Chinese leader Generalissimo Chang Kai Shek in his war against the Japanese.

There are many researchers who feel, as I do, that Morgenthau held the financial as well as operational control over the Amelia Earhart-around-the-world adventure in 1937. Although there is little documentation of the Morgenthau effort in support of Amelia Earhart, there is one file that sheds a great deal of light as to the extent of the Morgenthau involvement.

I am speaking here of the relatively recent discovery in President Roosevelt’s Hyde Park Library of a document relating to the Earhart episode. This document is a recorded memo (Dictaphone) between the then Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Mrs. Malvina Thompson Scheider, better known as “Tommy,” who was Mrs. Roosevelt’s personal secretary.

This document first appeared in a book about Amelia Earhart titled “My Courageous Sister” written by Muriel Morrissey, Amelia’s sister and Carol L. Osborne, noted Earhart researcher. The book was published in 1987. Since that time researchers have puzzled over the complete meaning of the memo’s contents. 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. 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.

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.

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.

In the way of background, on April 26, 1938,  Paul Mantz (stunt pilot and technical advisor for Amelia Earhart), wrote to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and asked that she use her influence to obtain for him the “Official Report” of the Itasca relating to the flight of Amelia Earhart from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island. Mr. Mantz explained that he was told by the Coast Guard that the official report could not be released except through certain channels. In other words, the Roosevelt administration, for reasons unknown even today, had put a clamp on the release of information relating to the flight and disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Mrs. Roosevelt sent the Mantz letter to Henry Morgenthau with a note that said, “Now here comes this letter…I do not know whether you can send the man these documents. Let me know whatever your decision may be.” Mrs. Roosevelt signed the letter, “Affectionately, E.R.” A clear inference can be drawn from Mrs. Roosevelt’s note that there was a veil of secrecy surrounding the Earhart disappearance and that Morgenthau would know what could and could not be released. Whatever Morgenthau decided, Eleanor wanted to know.

On the morning of May 13, 1938, Morgenthau placed a telephone call to Eleanor Roosevelt. Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider,  Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary, answered the phone. The following is a direct quote of [Morgenthau’s side of the] conversation.

“Hello, Tommy (Malvina Scheider). How are you? This letter that Mrs. Roosevelt wrote me about trying to ge the report on  Amelia Earhart. Now, 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 my …

“Yes, I mean if we give it to this one man we’ve got to make it public; we can’t let one man see it. And if we ever release the report of the Itasca on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone, because – and I’d like to – I’d really like to return this to you. 

(Continuing) “Now. I know what the Navy did, I know what the Itasca did. And I know how Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders, and if we ever  release this thing, good-by Amelia Earhart’s reputation. Now, really – because if we give the access to one, we have to give it to all. And my advice is that – and if the President ever heard that somebody questioned that the Navy hadn’t made the proper search, after what those boys went through. I think they searched, as I remember it, 50,000 square miles, and even one of those planes was out, and the boys just burnt themselves out physically and even other way searching for her.

“And if – I mean I think he’d get terribly angry if somebody, because they just went the limit, and so did the Coast Guard. And we have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else, what that woman – happened to her the last few minutes. I hope –  I’ve just got to never make it public. I mean, O.K.  Well, still if she wants it, I’ll tell her.  I mean what happened. It isn’t a very nice story.  Well, yes. There isn’t anything additional to something like that. You think up a good one.  Thank you.” (Conversation ends.)

(To Chauncy) “Just send it back.” 

Chauncy:  “Sure.” 

(Morgenthau) “I mean we tried – people want us to search again those islands, after what we have gone through. You (Gibbons) know the story, don’t you?” 

(Gibbons) “We have evidence that the thing is all over, sure. Terrible. It would be awful to make it public.”

Looking at just the substantive words in the memo, here is what it says:

“Now, I’ve been given a verbal report.”

“If we’re going to release this, it’s just going to smear the reputation of Amelia Earhart.”

“If we give it  to this one man we’ve got to make it public.”

“We can’t let one man see it.”

“If we ever release the report of the Itasca on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone.”

“I know now Amelia Earhart disregarded all orders.”

“If we ever release this thing, good-bye Amelia Earhart’s reputation.”

“If we give access to one, we have to give it to all.”

“We have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else.”

What that woman – happened to her the last few minutes.”

“I hope I’ve just got to never make it public.”

“If she wants it, I’ll tell her – I mean what happened.”

“It isn’t a very nice story.”

“There isn’t anything additional to something like that.”

“People want us to search again those islands.” 

“We have evidence that the thing is all over, sure. Terrible.” (Gibbons)

“It would be awful to make it public.” (Gibbons)

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

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

On July 5, 1938, Mr. Morgenthau sent a memo to Eleanor Roosevelt and said, “We have found it possible to send Mr. Mantz a copy of the log of the ITASCA, which I think will supply him all the data he asked for in his letter.”  Mr. Morgenthau is telling Eleanor Roosevelt that he has made the radio log palatable for public consumption. It is obvious that he did this by deleting or changing portions of the log that would be damaging to Earhart’s reputation and by deleting portions of the log that may have told what ORDERS Earhart has disregarded.

From the recorded conversation, it is more than obvious that there were additional wireless messages and related information released to Mr. Morgenthau, but never released to the public. For instance, there is nothing at all in the log of the Itasca that has been released that “would ruin her reputation.” Or what orders she disregarded. Nor is there anything in the released log that would indicate “what happened to her in the last few minutes.” Or why, “It isn’t a very nice story.” The log of the Itasca has obviously been expurgated and changed.

The suspect portion of the radio log that was released is the void of communications that runs from 0800 hours to 0840 hours (Howland Island Time). This void comes only 20 minutes after Earhart declared that her fuel was running low. It would seem to me, as an experienced Air Force pilot with a great deal of over water time, that the 40 minute void should have been filled with pleas for help, position reports and an indication of intentions. Perhaps it was. We may never know.

For several years I have tried to get additional information from various sources which would supplement the Morgenthau memo. I felt that there should be other information in the Morgenthau files that would add more insight relating to what he might have known and have recorded. Toward this goal, Senator [Daniel Kahikina] Akaka of Hawaii on March of 1991, signed a letter, that I had prepared, to Mr. Nicholas F. Brody, Secretary of the Treasury under President Bush. The letter reads in part as follows:

“Colonel Reineck advised me that other researchers who are colleagues of his, namely Mr. Merrill D. Magley (deceased) and Mr. John F. Luttrell, have tried through the normal Freedom of Information Act channels to obtain additional information from your department without success. This is true even though they had pinpointed 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 it being classified Top Secret.

In March 1991, Senator Akaka (D-Hawaii)  signed a letter written by Rollin Reineck to the , Secretary of the Treasury under President Bush, requesting that all classified material relative to the Earhart disappearance be released.  Of course nothing more than the original Itasca logs was ever forthcoming from the U.S. government, then or ever.

In March 1991, Senator Daniel  Akaka (D-Hawaii) signed a letter written by Rollin Reineck to the Secretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush, requesting that all classified material relative to the Earhart disappearance be released. Nothing more helpful than the original Itasca logs was ever forthcoming from the U.S. government, then or ever.

“I would like to request that your Department retrieve from your files, wherever they may be, all the classified information concerning Miss Earhart’s last flight. When this is assembled, please contact my office so that I can make arrangements for its review.

(Editor’s note:  Senator Akaka’s effort was met with the typical government stonewalling that has characterized virtually all efforts to penetrate the airtight national security apparatus that surrounds and protects the truth in the Earhart case. In one of the more cogent sections of Amelia Earhart Survived [p. 152-153], Reineck briefly discussed the Treasury Department’s response to Akaka’s formal request:

This letter stayed on Secretary Brady’s desk for ten days without any apparent action. He then sent a memo to Senator Akaka, that said in effect, the Morgenthau files have been sent to the National Archives. This had the impact of putting a tree in the middle of a forest for safe keeping. It worked; we have never been able to find the Morgenthau files. Why Secretary Brady was unwilling to work with Senator Akaka is unknown. It is just one more example of the government’s refusal to cooperate in any way in trying to find an answer to the question of what happened to Amelia Earhart. End of Editor’s note.)

In September of this year (1996), I sent a letter to the Commandant of the Coast Guard and requested a copy of the unexpurgated, official report, including the radio log of the Coast Guard cutter Itasca as it related to the flight of Amelia Earhart on 2 July 1937. I cited the Presidential Directive #12958, dated 17 April 1995, concerning the automatic declassification of documents that are more than 25 years old, as authority. The Coast Guard Commandant advised me that all documents relating to that event were in the National Archives.

With the name of a contact for Coast Guard material in the National Archives, I again requested the original, unexpurgated log of the Itasca. Again I was told that no such document exists in their files. However, they did send me a copy of an index of material that they had relating to Earhart and the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca. Although much of the information in the index is familiar, I did send for some documents that may offer some new light.

Why all the mystery about what happened to Amelia Earhart? It is my judgment Morgenthau knew what happened to Amelia Earhart from “a verbal report and all those wireless messages and everything else.” But, he put a cap on the release of all information about her shortly after she disappeared. I believe he took that action to protect the reputation of Amelia Earhart from that day forward so that people of the world would remember her as a beautiful and courageous young lady who was willing to challenge the concept of a man’s world and would live on as a legend for all to love and admire.

On January 6, 1935, Amelia Earhart planted a Banyan tree in Hilo, Hawaii. (Earhart was in Hawaii preparing for her flight to Oakland.) On August 12, 1937, Secretary of the Treasury for President Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., planted a Banyan tree next to the Earhart tree. They are there today on Banyan Tree Drive, Hilo, Hawaii. (End of “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection.”)

Rollin Reineck’s longtime devotion to the Earhart case notwithstanding, I can’t agree with all his conclusions relative to Henry Morgenthau’s phone conversation with Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider.  Plenty of room exists for varying interpretations of his statements, and without having Mrs. Scheider’s side of it, we can never know for sure exactly what these two were really saying.

Amelia Earhart planted this Banyan tree on Jan. 6, 1935 while she enjoyed a sightseeing flight to Maui.  Five days after planting the tree, Earhart he took off from Wheeler Field, Oahu in her Lockheed Vega, nicknamed “old Bessie, the fire horse.”  In this this solo flight from Hawaii to California, Earhart became the first person to solo from Hawaii to California.  The flight covered 2,408 miles and took 18 hours,16 minutes, and with it, she also became the first person to solo across both oceans, as she had previously flown the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.

Amelia Earhart planted this Banyan tree on Jan. 6, 1935 while she enjoyed a sightseeing flight to Maui. Five days after planting the tree, Earhart he took off from Wheeler Field, Oahu in her Lockheed Vega, nicknamed “old Bessie, the fire horse.” In this this solo flight from Hawaii to California, Earhart became the first person to solo from Hawaii to California. The flight covered 2,408 miles and took 18 hours,16 minutes, and with it, she also became the first person to solo across both oceans, as she had previously flown the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.

Though much about this “Dictaphone” recording remains unknown, I have no doubts about two points relative to it. First, despite the treasury secretary’s thrice-repeated concern about the “reputation of Amelia Earhart” and how he wanted to protect it, he cared only about the reputation of his boss, FDR, and how public knowledge of the truth in the Earhart matter would affect his political future. Secondly, by May 1938 if not much earlier, Morgenthau was fully aware of Earhart’s captivity on Saipan and her possible 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 ghastly truth, which would have been so deadly to the Roosevelt 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?

In his aforementioned book, Amelia Earhart Survived, Reineck continued  his discussion of the Morgenthau transcript, and makes several huge assumptions about Earhart’s actions during her flight from Lae to Howland Island.  Reineck tells us, without citing any sources, that be believes Earhart “disregarded all orders” by breaking radio silence and telling Itasca that “she was turning north,” in direct contravention of her prearranged “PLAN B,” to be initiated if she failed to locate Howland Island.  Although the idea that Earhart may have turned northward toward Mili Atoll, where she did indeed land, is very plausible, Reineck’s  concoction — out of thin air — of PLAN B, and his convoluted, bizarre discussion in arriving at this conclusion would leave most readers completely dazed and confused.

Similarly, Reineck cites no sources for his assertion that “it is a documented fact that he [Morgenthau] did travel from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii and did have a private discussion with Commander  Thompson … on 29 July 1937.” After he points out that such a trip would  have taken about 10 days at that time, Reineck asks “what could be so terribly important that a top level Presidential cabinet officer had to be away from his duties in Washington for almost a month, to personally see the Commander of the Itasca.” Reineck makes Morgenthau’s Hawaii trip seem quite sinister and conspiratorial, and alleges that, “as a cover story, [Morgenthau] said that this trip to Hawaii was a vacation for him and his wife.” Again, Reineck offered no sources for his contentions, some of which I included in my discussion of the Morgenthau matter in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last without noticing that Reineck had not sourced his Morgenthau claims.

As I often do these days when I’m stuck or need expert advice on an Earhart question, I asked researcher Les Kinney for this take on the Morgenthau transcript and Rollin Reineck’s ideas about it.  “Now, regarding the sinister overtones of Morgenthau’s travel to Hawaii,” Kinney wrote in an email,  “it’s all bunk.  Morgenthau had been planning a vacation to Hawaii for some time.  His family went along and he stayed there for about a month.  FDR sends him a note and says I am glad you are enjoying yourself, etc.  Morgenthau talks of various things he and his family were doing while on vacation (I have all this).”

“There is no mention of official business,” Kinney continued.  “In other words, Morgenthau was on a planned vacation that had been pre-arranged.  There was nothing sinister about the trip as Reineck suggestsMorgenthau certainly did not travel to Hawaii just to interview Thompson.  Because Morgenthau was head of the Treasury Department, and the Coast Guard was in the Treasury Department, no doubt he might have paid a visit to the CO of the Coast Guard District in Honolulu.  Did Morgenthau specifically wish to meet privately with Thompson?  I don’t know, and I have searched long and hard to find a record of this meeting to no avail.”  

Finally, I don’t share Reineck’s  certainty that “Mr. Morgenthau is telling Eleanor Roosevelt that he has made the radio log palatable for public consumption … by deleting or changing portions of the log that would be damaging to Earhart’s reputation and by deleting portions of the log that may have told what ORDERS Earhart has disregarded.” Although Morgenthau did imply this might have occurred in his memo to Eleanor, does any other credible evidence exist that supports Reineck’s belief that the original logs of the Itasca were “expurgated or changed” by government censors?  

Itasca Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts kept the first three pages of the original flight log until his death in 1974, and these pages reflect the same 40-minute gap in communications from Earhart. Neither Bellarts nor anyone else in the radio room ever reported that the  cutter’s radio logs had been tampered with. Two other logs, the Itasca deck log and Howland Island Detachment radio log, have long been questioned, but for reasons far less ominous than upper-echelon censorship of information that would have revealed Earhart’s actions during her alleged final moments.

Again, without Malvina Scheider’s half of her conversation with Henry Morgenthau to fill in the blanks, we can only continue to speculate about why Morgenthau said, “It isn’t a very nice story,” or what Stephen B. Gibbons, assistant treasury secretary, meant when he told his boss, “We have evidence that the thing is all over, sure. Terrible. It would be awful to make it public.”

Your comments are welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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