In the entire history of reviews of the handful of books that present aspects of the truth in the Earhart disappearance, only two are memorable. The first was the Sept. 16, 1966 Time magazine unbylined attack against Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart, titled “Sinister Conspiracy?” and still available online, though you have to subscribe to the source to see it now. My commentary about Time’s hit piece, “The Search for Amelia Earhart”: Setting the stage for 50 years of media deceit,” was posted June 21, 2016; you can read it by clicking here. Goerner, a KCBS radio personality in San Francisco, was the only real newsman to seriously investigate the Earhart case.
The only other significant review of an Earhart disappearance work was Jeffrey Hart’s examination of Vincent V. Loomis’ Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, which appeared in William F. Buckley’s National Review in the Oct. 18, 1985 issue, but is no longer available online.
Hart wasn’t an Earhart researcher, and his belief about the reason Earhart reached Mili is the same pure speculation that Loomis advanced. But Hart was a well-known establishment pundit, critic and columnist, and wrote for National Review for more than three decades, where he was senior editor. He wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan while he was governor of California, and for Richard Nixon. Now 88, Jeffrey Hart is professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire. No one of similar stature has ever written a review of an Earhart disappearance book.
I’ll have a bit more to say, but here is Jeffrey Hart’s review of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, originally titled “The Rest of the Story.” Boldface is mine throughout.
AS A BOY I was thrilled with horror when Amelia Earhart disappeared somewhere out over the Pacific during the summer of 1937. She had been the first woman to fly the Atlantic, and now she and her navigator were trying to circle the globe at the equator. She rather disliked being called “Lady Lindy” by the press, because she wanted her own independent identity, but the odd thing was that she looked a little like Lindbergh: thin, with short hair and a wide grin, somehow quintessentially American.
On her last flight she and her navigator Fred Noonan, flew an advanced-model twin-engine aluminum Electra specially designed for the trip. It was known to the press as the “Flying Laboratory.” On July 2, 1937, all contact with the plane was lost, and searches by U.S. ships and planes failed to turn up any trace of Miss Earhart, Noonan, or the plane. As far as anyone at the time knew, they had simply disappeared into that vast blueness, like Hart Crane off the Orizzaba.
It turns out that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were the first casualties of the coming Pacific war with the Japanese. Vincent Loomis, a former USAF pilot with extensive Pacific experience, became fascinated with the Earhart mystery and made it his business to solve it, which he had done. lt is a remarkable, enormously romantic, and heartbreaking story. Loomis went to the Pacific, traveled around the relevant islands, and found natives who had seen the plane crash and had seen Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. He interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved, and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents. The mystery is a mystery no longer.
For all her frame and accomplishments, Amelia Earhart was an innocent flying out over the Pacific. She and Noonan were also incompetent navigators and did not know how to work their state-of-the-art equipment. They were thus more than a hundred miles off course flying right into the middle of the secret war plans of the Japanese empire* when they ran out of fuel and had to ditch the Electra. (Editor’s note: Amelia never claimed to be a navigator at all, but Noonan was recognized as among the best in the world at the time of the final flight.)
By 1937 the Japanese had long since concluded that war with the United States for control of the western Pacific was inevitable. They were hatching plans with Hitler to divide up the British, French, and Dutch possessions that would be vulnerable as a result of the coming European war. The projected Japanese empire, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, would have its large mainland anchor in a China the Japanese were attempting to conquer, and The Pacific islands would be the first line of defense against the U.S. Navy. The Japanese knew that the United States was unlikely to tolerate their geopolitical plans and would be decidedly hostile to any monopolistic co-prosperity sphere run from Tokyo.
The Japanese had acquired control of the key Pacific islands at the end of World War I under a League of Nations mandate. In violation of international law, they were pouring military resources into them. All Japanese military personnel worked in civilian clothes. Newly paved airstrips were marked as “farms” on the maps. Foreign visitors were absolutely excluded. If the local natives obeyed the Japanese rules they were treated fairly, and the Japanese even married some of them. An infraction, however, could mean instant death.
On July 2, 1937, bewildered and lost, Amelia Earhart crash-landed in the middle of all this, putting the Electra down and running into an atoll near Mili Mili a principal military position in the Japanese Marshall Island chain. The Japanese took her and Noonan prisoner and tried to figure out what to do with them. They could hardly release them, not knowing what they had seen. Perhaps the American fliers could blow the whistle on the whole secret operation. They might even be spies. Actually, they had seen nothing.
The two Americans were shipped to Japanese military headquarters on Saipan and jailed. The conditions were miserable, but not unusual for that time and place. The jail was not set up to serve food to the prisoners, mostly natives, whose meals were brought to them by relatives. But the jailers did provide the two Americans with soup, fish, and so forth, though of very poor quality, and with medical treatment. When an exasperated Fred Noonan threw a foul bowl of soup at a Japanese jailer, he was forced to dig his own grave and was immediately beheaded. Japanese culture was not especially permissive in 1937.
After a while, Miss Earhart was allowed a limited amount of freedom and made friends with native families, some of whom Loomis interviewed. She was permitted visits to these friends, and her diet and spirits improved. In mid-1938, however, life in the tropics proved too much for her and she came down with a severe case of dysentery, weakened rapidly, and died there on Saipan. She does not seem to have grasped the significance of what she had stumbled upon and witnessed; ironically enough, she was a philosophical pacifist. The Japanese military asked the natives to provide a wreath for her, and she was buried with Noonan.
One curious footnote to the story is that the present Japanese government, democratic and pro-Western as it supposedly is, has been covering the whole thing up. Today’s Tokyo will not admit, in the face of absurdly obvious proof, that the imperial government was violating the terms of its mandate by militarizing the islands, claiming that everything the islands, claiming that everything going on had to do with “culture” and fishing — no one here but us Japanese Margaret Meads and a few fishing boats. Nor will today’s Tokyo admit that the imperial government lied fifty years ago when it covered up the Amelia Earhart matter. Of course no U.S. Navy search vessels were allowed anywhere near the Marshall Islands. The Japanese claimed that they themselves were doing all the necessary searching. Loomis shows that the “search ships” were in Tokyo Bay at the time. It is odd that the present government cannot admit to the demonstrable facts; it must represent some sort of face-saving. But Tokyo has run out of luck on this one. Vincent Loomis has the documents, the testimony of the Pacific islanders, local Catholic nuns, Japanese medics and seamen.
It is all very poignant. One sees that the Japanese military among whom Amelia Earhart lived for about a year could not begin to comprehend her, this woman pilot, this . . . American. But the evidence is that the Japanese who knew her, if from a very great cultural distance, nevertheless bemusedly admired her. (End of Hart review.)
Hart wrote an accurate, unbiased review of The Final Story, but neither the U.S. government or anyone else in the media got his memo that “the mystery is a mystery no longer.” Not only did they disagree, and still do, but Hart’s review has been expunged from the Internet, where the hard copy I have is taken from Encyclopedia.com in 2007. I don’t know when the review was removed, but there’s no doubt about why it’s gone, and I’m not going repeat here how sacred cows get even better with age.
Within the past year, plugging the name Amelia Earhart into the Amazon.com search engine has resulted in over 1,500 results for books; recently, for some unknown reason, that number has fallen to “over 1,000” in the same category. Nevertheless, many books have been penned about our ageless American heroine, but of these thousand or so, only about 10 actually present aspects of the truth about the Earhart case. The rest, 99.9 percent, are biographies, novels, children’s books (the biggest sellers) and assorted fantasies — all except the good biographies only muddle the picture and further obscure the truth.
The indisputable fact that this phenomenon exists tells us something is very wrong with the media’s relationship to the Earhart story. For the most recent example of media propaganda and malfeasance, we need only turn to our trusted Fox News and its June 27 non-news piece, “Amelia Earhart signed document discovered in attic box.” Moreover, Fox News has never allowed my name or the title of Truth at Last to stand in the comments section of any of its Earhart stories, to my knowledge.
As I wrote at the top of this post, Fred Goerner was the only newsman to ever publicly advocate for the Saipan-Marshall Islands truth in the Earhart disappearance. When you consider the few important books written about the so-called “Earhart mystery,” consider also the authors of these works. Obscure non-journalists such as Thomas E. Devine, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Joe Davidson and T.C. “Buddy” Brennan produced the important tomes about the Earhart matter. Paul Briand Jr., who authored the seminal work of the genre, Daughter of the Sky, in 1960, was an English professor at the Air Force Academy. Bill Prymak, an engineer by trade, was not an author, but his assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters is as important as any but a few of the books, though the newsletters are unavailable to the public.
Why hasn’t any newsperson, author or journalist except Fred Goerner ever investigated the Earhart story? The question is rhetorical, of course, as the few who read this blog know, but its answer reveals the real problem.
For the few who pay attention to the ongoing saga of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, today marks another year’s passing, the 81st, and it’s not been uneventful.
Most will recall last July’s History Channel flap over the bogus claims about the Office of Naval Intelligence photo found at the NARA Archives in College Park, Md., by researcher Les Kinney several years ago and presented in the odious Morningstar Entertainment-produced “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” To refresh your memory, here is my review of that July 9, 2017 abomination: “History’s ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence’: Underhanded attack on the Marshalls-Saipan truth.”
Much more was written here during that time frame about that over-hyped disinformation drill, but at the end it was all smoke and mirrors. Just as the lowlifes who ran that deceitful operation had planned, nothing changed in our cowardly media. Our Fourth Estate’s aversion to publishing anything related to the truth continues unabated, and anything even hinting at the Marshalls-Saipan truth continues to be blacklisted across all news and media outlets, as does Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Early in 2018, however, something quite unexpected finally appeared on the heretofore dismal Earhart horizon, with the announcement that appeared in the Feb. 7 Marianas Variety (“Micronesia’s Leading Newspaper Since 1972″), “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan.”
On Feb. 14, Marianas Variety published my letter to the editor, “Amelia Earhart’s Saipan fate,” that enthusiastically welcomed the news of plans to honor the First Lady of Flight at the location of her tragic and untimely death sometime after she failed to reach Howland Island in early July 1937. You might recall my March 2 post that announced that recent development on Saipan, “Finally, some good Earhart news from Saipan.“
Several stories have been published here and in the Marianas Variety on the proposed Earhart Memorial Monument, including “Marie Castro: Iron link to Saipan’s forgotten history,” in praise of the intrepid soul who birthed the bold plan to build the Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan, and who continues her brave efforts, with little help, and hopes that need serious bolstering in light of the very bad politics that surround the memorial initiative on Saipan.
The situation on Saipan is a constant concern, and a minor miracle will be necessary to bring the Earhart memorial to the light of day — a wonder for which we will sincerely thank Marie Castro, her unyielding devotion to the truth and her constant prayers for moving God to grant, if indeed it ever happens.
I think today’s anniversary is an appropriate time to present what I define as my general Position Statement regarding the Earhart matter, especially its relationship to our broken culture and the feckless media who are largely responsible for creating it. I’ve sent various parties versions of the below statement, and have updated and revised it slightly to conform as closely as possible to the current state of affairs. I only wish that just a few in the media who have not been bought and sold by the establishment would grow a backbone and step forward to support what is clearly not an “aviation mystery,” but an obvious truth lying in plain sight, as well as a worthy and long overdue cause.
Many won’t like the words they read below, and will strongly disagree with this little treatise, learned the hard way during 30 years of focus and work on the Earhart matter. But nobody will send anything that credibly refutes any of it, because the truth doesn’t change and is not a matter of opinion, but a specific, discrete series of events that occurred involving the doomed fliers, beginning on July 2, 1937. All who desire to rebut the below are welcome to send their statements to the comments section, so that others can judge for themselves the merit, or lack of same, in those assertions.
Following is my statement on the Earhart situation, and I’m sticking to it. Boldface is mine throughout:
The very idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is a “great aviation mystery” is arguably the most despicable of all the prevailing myths of mainstream American history. So effective has the U.S. government been in creating, maintaining and protecting this straw man as the unquestioned narrative, that it has become a fixture in our cultural furniture, and because of its universal acceptance by the gullible, incurious masses, the phony phraseology “Earhart mystery” defines and dominates all public dialogue about the Earhart case, while the fact of Amelia’s wretched and unnecessary demise at the hands of the prewar Japanese on Saipan is ignored or labeled “conspiracy theory,” advanced only by and for the fringe conspiracy lunatics of society.
But deep in the bowels of the U.S. government security apparatus, some are well aware of the fliers’ true fate, and they protect the physical evidence that would reveal the truth that lies in the deepest recesses of our national security apparatus, known only to these scant few custodians of this precious evidence. I explain all this in my book and in my blog, and won’t go on at length here.
Discerning individuals who examine the popular Earhart “theories” soon find not a scintilla of evidence for either crashed-and-sank or Nikumaroro that doesn’t break down under the slightest scrutiny. Not a single artifact in a dozen trips since 1989 that’s been scrounged up from the Nikumaroro garbage dumps has been forensically linked to Amelia Earhart or Fred Noonan, despite the constant drumbeat of our corrupt media establishment telling us to buy this snake oil. Many of the ignorant and gullible have indeed bought it, much to their chagrin as they realize the Nikumaroro bill of goods is rotten at its core.
Actually, no real “theories” exist in the Earhart disappearance, as the word is properly defined. We have the truth — supported by several dozens of witnesses and documents — that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan crash-landed in the Marshalls, were picked up and taken to Saipan by the Japanese, and died there at some unknown date before the American invasion in June 1944, likely as many as six years before the Battle of Saipan. Several small details remain unknown, but the big picture is lying in plain sight, as clear as the nose on Fred Noonan’s face, obvious to all but the blind and the agenda driven.
And we have enormous, transparent lies. First came the original crash-and-sank myth born in 1937 with the Navy-Coast Guard’s search findings — briefly logical until overcome by the facts — which finally became so ludicrous and unacceptable by the late 1980s that a new deception to distract the sheeple was necessary. Thus was born the current Nikumaroro virus, which continues to be the media’s default position and infects virtually everything Earhart. Even the brain dead are no longer fooled.
The truth is that both of these canards have been glorified and raised to the status of “theories” by a deep-state establishment desperate to protect the checkered legacy of our president at the time of Earhart’s death, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Thus, when this case is discussed by those considered to be knowledgeable professionals, whose names are well known to readers of this blog and need not be mentioned now, normal rules of investigation, including analysis of evidence and the scientific approach, are thoroughly ignored, and truth is the first casualty.
As I constantly stress in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and here on my blog, the truth in the Earhart case has been a sacred cow in Washington since the earliest days of the search. The time is long overdue for the truth to be recognized and accepted, and for the parasites who have made their livings by peddling lies about Amelia’s sad fate to go away and find more honest ways to earn their livings. (End position statement.)
These are the nuts and bolts, the essence of the endless rigmarole about the so-called Earhart mystery, which I write about constantly in what is usually a vain effort to educate those willing to learn about this ongoing American travesty, this stain upon our great nation’s history.
No end is in sight, but even if it’s only here on this blog, I’ll continue to expose the lies and enlighten those who remain unblinded by the panoply of falsehood that currently rules the Earhart matter, an insidious rot that has stripped all vestiges of truth from the Earhart situation, and it’s only getting worse.
If President Donald Trump were aware of the disgraceful 81-year suppression of the facts in the Earhart disappearance, I’m confident he would do his best to effect full U.S. government disclosure of the truth, to slay this sacred cow and put a long-overdue end to this ridiculous spectacle of a bogus mystery that’s been solved since the early 1960s, at the very latest. But who will tell him?
Donald M. Wilson was a veteran of the Battle of Saipan, where he was both a rifleman and a chaplain’s assistant in the 2nd Marine Division, and where he no doubt heard stories about the presence and death of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the pre-war years. He became an ordained minister and served as a pastor and assistant pastor in several churches in Ohio, Michigan and finally in Lake Pleasant, New York, where he passed away on Thanksgiving Day, 2012, at age 86.
Wilson was also an avid student of the Earhart disappearance, and he occasionally corresponded with fellow Saipan veteran Thomas E. Devine. In 1994, Wilson self-published Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend: Accounts by Pacific Island Witnesses of the Crash, Rescue and Imprisonment of America’s Most Famous Female Aviator and Her Navigator, an obscure anthology known chiefly to habitués of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society of Researchers, where he was a respected member.
The following letter, from Wilson to Prymak in April 1994, appeared in the November 1998 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, concerns a strange incident involving Wilson and an unidentified man that occurred at an unknown time and location, and in that regard it is reminiscent of several other accounts of unknown provenance that have been passed down to us through the years. It also reprises some of the more unpleasant possible scenarios of Earhart’s final days on Saipan, and I present it for your consideration. Boldface is mine throughout.
A STRANGE ENCOUNTER BY DON WILSON
Donald Moyer Wilson
One Woods Point
Webster, NY 14580
April 28, 1994
During a book signing recently, a man came up to me and said insistently that Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese and executed by them. He identified himself as a former Marine Corps colonel, who had spent three months at the Pentagon. He pulled out his wallet to show me some identification. Unfortunately, I did not look at it carefully, and do not remember his name.
He seemed to be bitter about his experience with the Pentagon. He said that he had worked with G-2 — Intelligence. He claimed that he saw secret documents about Amelia Earhart. He said there were two witnesses to her execution, not just one. He also said that she had been stripped at the time of her execution and previously raped by her guards. He also said (and I neglected to tell you this) something about her fingers or fingernails, that they had been mutilated, or possibly her fingernails had been pulled out. He also said (again I forgot to tell you this) that, as I recall, her body had been removed from the grave later, and cremated (possibly by Americans? — I’m not sure of this).
He said that the Earhart plane had been destroyed — I’m quite sure he said by Americans on Saipan. He was very reluctant to give more details, and when I suggested things like the name of the airfield on Saipan, he would neither confirm nor deny them. I spoke of the Freedom of Information Act, and asked where the materials might be obtained. He implied that the Navy might have them. As I recall, I asked him to get in touch with you,* and I believe I gave him your address. Also, he mentioned another individual briefly who might have the same (or different) information, and I again said I hoped he would supply more information.
A couple of thoughts have gone through my mind. He might be telling the truth and was torn between the desire to give information and the fear of risking retaliation of some sort for giving it. There is a slight possibility that he might have been discharged from the service for homosexual behavior. Or he might have taken information he obtained elsewhere, particularly the Unsolved Mysteries program with Tom Devine and Nieves Cabrera Blas, among others, and built on their stories — for the fun (?) of it. He asked me what my interest in Amelia Earhart was, but walked away before I could give him an answer.
(Signed) Don Wilson
*He Never Did
Prymak note: Don Wilson must sure wish he had collared this guy for subsequent interviews. (End of Wilson letter.)
Wherever this “Marine colonel” got this information in the early to mid 1990s, it didn’t all come from the Nov. 7, 1990 Unsolved Mysteries segment, “New Evidence Points to Saipan,” which featured Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. Wallack, Fred Goerner, T.C. “Buddy” Brennan and even crash-and-sank poster boy Elgen M. Long. Nothing was mentioned in that program about Amelia being stripped, horribly mutilated or her body’s removal from a gravesite, though all these things could well have happened during her captivity on Saipan. For more on this theme, please see my June 12, 2015 post, “Navy nurse’s letter describes gruesome end for fliers, but was it true?”
Many of the smaller details have yet to be learned, but we do know beyond any doubt that the doomed fliers met their tragic ends on Saipan. The U.S. government and its media toadies still do not want you to know the truth about the death of Amelia Earhart, for all the reasons I continue to re-emphasize and present to the few who are willing and able to accept the truth.
Many eyewitnesses and several investigators have established the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan, but only one of these alleged eyewitnesses has ever claimed she actually watched Amelia’s execution. The stunning account of Mrs. Nieves Cabrera Blas, who was interviewed extensively in the mid-1980s by Texas real estate man-turned-Earhart-investigator T.C. “Buddy” Brennan, remains perhaps the most provocative of all the first-person testimonies to have ever been taken on Saipan. (Boldface mine throughout.)
Besides listening to Mrs. Blas’ incredible story, Brennan, author of the 1988 book, Witness to the Execution: The Odyssey of Amelia Earhart, excavated yet another alleged Earhart gravesite on Saipan in 1984. Manny Muna, a child there during the war years, told Brennan several Earhart stories, but nothing approached the blockbuster potential of the alleged eyewitness account of Mrs. Blas, an 83-year-old native who had never been interviewed before Brennan came to her home in November 1983. If her story was true, Amelia lived much longer on Saipan than most researchers have believed.
Initially, Mrs. Blas feared that Brennan was affiliated with the CIA, but he assured her that he only wanted to inform Amelia’s long-suffering family about her true fate. More than once, Brennan had to convince Mrs. Blas that U.S. officials weren’t lurking nearby, determined to send her to an American prison for telling civilian investigators what she knew about the famous pilot’s death.
Before the war, Nieves Cabrera lived on a farm near Garapan, and part of her family’s land was next to a fence the Japanese built to protect their base. One day, she said, they were told Japan was at war with the United States and only her family would be permitted to work in that area. Mrs. Blas’ account as told to Brennan, Mike Harris and Brennan’s son, T.C. Brennan II, is the highlight of Witness to the Execution:
Before the war one day there is great excitement. It is said that the Japanese have captured two spy people. They are holding them in the town. Many of us go there to see the two spies. I saw them in the square where the Japanese police building was. The Japanese guards made them take off all the clothes, everything they had on their bodies.
It is then we can see that one of the spies is a woman. Both of them were wearing trousers and I had believed both were men. I had never known before a woman who wore men’s trousers. The man seemed to be hurt and had a bandage on his head. The woman was wearing a watch, and some rings and some kind of medal. They take these, then put her back in the cells. We learn in the village the woman’s name is Amelia Earhart and she was a flyer and an American spy.
Realizing he might be onto something big — “an eyewitness placing Earhart and Noonan on Saipan, a source never before contacted by anyone!” — Brennan asked Mrs. Blas if she saw Earhart again. “Not for many years,” she told him, but she heard Earhart had been kept in “the little prison building . . . and never brought outside the fence again.” Through Rosa, their native interpreter, Brennan learned it wasn’t until several years after the war had started that Mrs. Blas and her family were “surprised to be bombed by ships and airplanes.” She said the Japanese told them it was the Americans and ordered her family to seek shelter in the caves. The Cabrera family eventually returned to their farm, where she picked up her story:
Then one day I am working . . . and I see three Japanese motorcycles. Amelia Earhart is in a little seat on the side of one motorcycle. She is wearing handcuffs and she is blindfolded. I watch and they take her to this place where there is a hole been dug. They make her kneel in front then they tear the blindfold from her face and throw it into the hole. The soldiers shoot her in the chest and she fall backwards into the grave.
Mrs. Blas said she “ran from that place so the soldiers do not see me. Later, I go back to see if they bury her, and they had.” An unidentified local had informed Mrs. Blas that Brennan was a “good person,” so she acceded to his pleas and led the group to a spot below a huge parking lot surrounded by a seven-foot security fence.
Brennan and Harris returned to Saipan several months later, sometime in mid-1984. Brennan wasn’t precise with his dates, but he and Harris calculated that Mrs. Blas watched the alleged Earhart execution on a day between the February 1944 U.S. naval and aerial bombardment of the island and the June 1944 invasion. The day after their arrival, Brennan and Harris excavated the site with the assistance of a native equipment operator, a front loader, and two additional hired hands as Mrs. Blas and Rosa looked on. When the digging was finished, a “trench roughly four feet wide and about 12 feet long,” according to Brennan, and at least five-and-a-half-feet deep yielded nothing of interest until a strange piece of cloth suddenly appeared.
“It was not a random scrap of torn cloth,” Brennan wrote, but was “cut to a distinct pattern, portions of a stitched hem were faintly discernible. The top was cut straight and measured slightly over 24 inches in length. It was the bottom portion that puzzled us. The center segment was a uniform width of about six or eight inches, but on each side it had been cut in even arcs to form thin bands at the top.” As Brennan and Harris stood in the ditch looking over their find, Mrs. Blas peered down on them with no doubt about its provenance, as Rosa translated. “She believes that is the blindfold Amelia was wearing,” Rosa said. “The soldiers removed it and threw it into the grave just before they shot her.”
Though he needed only the parking lot manager’s permission to dig, Brennan had agreed to complete the job on a Sunday, a condition he would later claim seriously compromised their efforts. “We could have been within a foot of our artifacts,” Brennan told Harris afterward. “Until we get permission to cover at least a 10- to 15-square-yard area we can’t prove or disprove anything. . . . I believe we came within inches of finding human remains out there today. And I believe that when we do find them they will be those of Amelia Earhart.”
In closing Witness to the Execution, Brennan said efforts to “validate the blindfold developed into a real Catch-22 situation,” without explaining his use of that term, and that “publicly funded crime labs” performed this kind of analysis. A “formal, signed, official report would have to wait for the future,” Brennan wrote, and claimed the blindfold was “made of cotton fiber, consistent with fabrics in general use during the early ’40s. There is nothing to indicate it was woven more recently than fifty years ago. Yes, it could well have survived that length of time underground.”
Mrs. Blas told a fascinating story, but it’s been contradicted by many who place Earhart’s death within months, or a few years at most, of her arrival on Saipan. Her gravesite’s location, relative to any known community or landmark, was never described by Brennan, but it was not the site revealed to Thomas E. Devine by the unnamed Okinawan woman in 1945, nor was it the gravesite outside the Liyang Cemetery excavated by Marine Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks under the direction of Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold sometime after the island was secured on July 9, 1944, and to which an entire chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last is devoted. Devine offered an alternate scenario that he thought could explain Mrs. Blas’ story, while preserving the integrity of the Okinawan woman’s site, which he never doubted was the true Earhart burial place.
“Mrs. Blas may have been confused by prior events that have taken place on Saipan,” Devine wrote:
I recall the ONI Report, I was allowed to read at their office in Hartford, Connecticut, stating white women were not a rarity on Saipan, since a Russian woman writer had arrived on the island in the early 1930s. But there is no report of her departure. And since Vincente Taman had bragged about burying a white woman in the Tanapag village area, as did Jesús Salas, it could very well have been the Russian woman writer. Mrs. Blas, as well as other residents of Saipan, no doubt recalls the existence of a cemetery in the Tanapag area, where burials took place.
When I observed this piece of rag, I recalled rags such as these were used as sweat bands by prisoners, as well as civilians, working at labor in the hot sun on Saipan. But I cannot imagine Brennan coming along with a rag saying it was in there since that time, when the bones are gone and the teeth are gone and the rag survived. The Brennan- [Ray] Rosenbaum [ghostwriter] book is a repeat of prior misinformation; the exhibition and interpretation of a piece of rag is extraordinarily bizarre.
Devine’s critique of Brennan’s blindfold claim was valid, but the Texan interviewed three significant witnesses for the first time ever — Lotan Jack, Manny Muna and Nieves Cabrera Blas. The “prior misinformation” Devine referenced was undoubtedly anything suggesting a Marshall Islands landfall by the fliers—the accounts of Oscar deBrum, John Heine and Queen Bosket Diklan, for example. Devine’s aversion to Earhart’s Marshalls landing was among his greatest flaws as a researcher, and prevented him from developing a true vision of the events that led to her arrival on Saipan.
Whether Mrs. Blas witnessed the execution of Amelia Earhart or not, and regardless of Brennan’s dubious blindfold claim, Witness to the Execution is a valuable contribution to Earhart research. The witnesses it presented further established the most important truth about the fliers’ fate, a reality that the American and Japanese governments continue to ignore — that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan died on Saipan. Brennan recognized this, and concluded his book on that note:
That Earhart and Noonan were incarcerated in Garapan Prison is no longer open to speculation. They were there. People like David Sablan, a highly respected businessman, and Manny Muna, an ex-senator, as well as members of their families remember the appearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan. (Italics Brennan’s.)
In the March 28 edition of Marianas Variety, my post about Marie S.C. Castro appeared under the headline, “Marie Castro: An iron link to Saipan’s forgotten past,” and an extended version, “Marie Castro: Iron link to Saipan’s forgotten history,” was published here April 2.
The stories presented Marie’s accounts of her experiences with Matilde Arriola, one of the best known of the Saipan eyewitnesses, introduced by Fred Goerner in his 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart. When I wrote, “If Marie is correct that all the Saipan elders who were eyewitnesses to Earhart’s presence are gone . . . she is the strongest link to Saipan’s pre-war heritage now living,” little did I realize the understatement that really was.
Marie, 85, is the prime mover, the leading light of the grass-roots movement to erect the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument at the Saipan International Airport. She is likely the repository of other, still undiscovered witness accounts attesting to the presence and death of Amelia and Fred Noonan on Saipan. I feel truly blessed to be associated with this unique woman, and recently she sent me a photo that seems to capture the human essence of the situation there.
“The man in the picture is David M. Sablan,” Marie (center) wrote when she sent me this photo in early May 2018. “The woman in red is Mrs. Amparo DLG [Deleon Guerrero] Aldan, my classmate in the 3rd grade in Japanese school before WWII. Her brother, Pedro Deleon Guerrero and my cousin’s husband Joaquin Seman came to my house one evening to visit in 1945. The conversation was all about Amelia Earhart. I heard them describing what Amelia wore when they saw her. In our culture, a woman should wear a dress not a man’s outfit.”
Marie also confirmed that Mrs. Aldan’s husband, the late Frank Aldan, was related to one of Fred Goerner’s thirteen original witnesses, the dentist Dr. Manuel Aldan (see Truth at Last, p. 85).
David M. Sablan is a well-known local personality who founded the Rotary Club of Saipan in 1968, and in 2017 published his autobiography, A Degree of Success Through Curiosity: True Story of a Young Boy Eager to Learn and Find His Calling in Life. According to its description on Amazon.com, the book is his account of “living under the Japanese regime before and during WWII on a remote Pacific island, who grew up under hardship but made something positive out of his life.”
Marie’s second-person revelations of Pedro Deleon Guerrero and Joaquin Seman have not been published before. Pedro Deleon Guerrero’s name was new to me, but he might have been related to Jesús De Leon Guerrero, also known as Kumoi, a sinister character who collaborated with the Japanese police during the war, an enforcer whose job was to “keep the rest of the natives in line and his methods hadn’t been gentle,” according to Goerner. Joaquin Seman was mentioned by Goerner (see pp. 91, 103 in Truth at Last), but Marie’s account cites an entirely different scenario than Goerner’s.
Newly revealed evidence supports Earhart’s cremation
An even more compelling story came just a few days later. In a May 11 email, Marie suddenly ended discussion of a relatively mundane subject, and out of the blue, she introduced another previously unpublished piece of the ever-continuing Earhart saga:
I have the photo of Mr. Tomokane. He told his wife one day the reason for coming home late. He attended the cremation of the American woman pilot. Mrs. Tomokane and Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes were neighbors during the Japanese time. They often visited with one another. Dolores, daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, heard their conversation about the cremation of an American woman pilot. These two wives were the only individuals who knew secretly about the cremation of Amelia through Mr. Tomokane.
Had it not been for the daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, who heard the conversation of the two wives, we would have never known about Mr. Tomokane’s interesting day. And David M. Sablan, after I showed the PP [power point presentation] at my house last month, he got up after the presentation and told the group that he heard about Amelia being cremated according to Mr. Tomokane.
This was all brand-new to me, and Tomokane’s name has never been seen in any Earhart literature, to my knowledge. One of the true mysteries in the Earhart saga is how Amelia died and how her remains were treated. Was she shot, as Josephine Blanco and Michiko Sugita were told as children, and Mrs. Nieves Cabrera Blas later told Buddy Brennan in 1983, or did she die of dysentery, as Matilde Arriola, Joaquina Arriola, José Pangelinan and others were told by Japanese officers? Was she buried or cremated? A variety of witness evidence supports each contention, but none is conclusive.
I devoted an entire chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, “Griswold, Henson and Burks” (see pp. 233-253) to the compelling accounts of Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, Marine privates who believed they were ordered by Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold to excavate the skeletal remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan outside a native cemetery on Saipan in late July or early August 1944. Who did the Marines really dig up? Was it Amelia and Fred, as Griswold indicated to the Marine privates in 1944, or was the captain misled about the gravesite? We may never know.
In answer to several questions about this new revelation, later on May 11, Marie replied:
I also questioned about Mr. Tomokane of this information why Fred Goerner did not question him. Remember that Mr. Tomokane was a Japanese himself. We don’t know how loyal he was to his Emperor. I went to his house to talk to him or anyone in the family few months after I came back from the States on Dec. 2016. I learned that the only child living today is the youngest son, Mitch Tomokane. He is suffering from a bad heart problem.
My first question to Mitch was, do you know how your father came to Saipan? Answer: He came from Japan as an agricultural instructor during the Japanese era. He stayed on Saipan, got married and built his family. 2) When did he die? He died in 1956 on Saipan. I found another interesting thing was the location of the house today. The house Mitch is living today is just very close to the Japanese crematory. The only remain of the crematory is the base of the crematory statue. I will research next week how they settled on that very spot.
Mr. Tomokane was dead four years prior to Goerner’s trip to Saipan. I was a nun then, here on Saipan. We would have known about Goerner. However, Goerner’s purpose at the time was strictly private. Saipan was still strictly under the U.S. Navy control. I remember from reading his book that he had a problem trying to enter Saipan because it was used by the CIA and the Navy Technical Training Unit (NTTU).
Who knows what other little gems Marie is harboring in her still-nimble mind, which might require only slight prodding to pour forth more recollections of the days when many Earhart eyewitnesses were alive and well on Saipan, when it was commonly known and accepted that the great American lady flier had met her untimely end there.
Please consider making a donation to the planned Amelia Earhart Memorial on Saipan (see March 16 story for more). You can make your tax-deductible check payable to: Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc., and send to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950. The monument’s success is 100 percent dependent on private donations, and everyone who gives will receive a letter of appreciation from the Earhart Memorial Committee, suitable for framing. Your gifts are the only way the memorial can become a reality, and anything you give is greatly appreciated.