Don Wilson’s bizarre 1994 Earhart encounter

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 Newslettersconcerns 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

Dear Bill,

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.

Undated photo of Donald M. Wilson, from his book, Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend.

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 thisMarine colonelgot 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. BuddyBrennan 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.

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Brennan’s “Earhart blindfold”: Real or imaginary?

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. 

Mrs. Nieves Cabrera Blas, with eyewitness Joaquina Cabrera’s granddaughter Rosa., who assisted Buddy Brennan’s investigation by acting as translator for Mrs. Blas.  (Courtesy Buddy Brennan.)

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.

Sometime in mid-1984, Mike Harris surveys the site on Saipan where Mrs. Nieves Cabrera Blas claimed she witnessed the execution of Amelia Earhart in 1944. 

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 ExecutionBrennan 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 labsperformed this kind of analysis.  Aformal, 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.”

Mike Harris displays the infamous “Earhart blindfold” upon completion of the Saipan dig in mid-1984.  But where are the bones?

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.

T.C. “Buddy” Brennan, circa mid-1980s.

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.)

Marie Castro, a treasure chest of Saipan history, Reveals previously unpublished witness accounts

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.

Left to right: Mrs. Amparo Deleon Guerrero Aldan, Marie S.C. Castro and David M. Sablan. (Courtesy Marie S.C. Castro.)

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 anotherDolores, 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.

Undated photo of Mr. Tomokane, surrounded by family members.  (Courtesy Marie Castro.)

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 1944Who 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.

American soldiers at Japanese crematorium on Saipan, sometime after invasion of summer 1944. (Courtesy Marie Castro.)

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.

Goerner’s December 1961 letter to Leo Bellarts: “Earhart and Noonan were on Saipan”

Today we return to the early 1960s correspondence between KCBS radio newsman Fred Goerner and retired Coast Guard Lt. Leo Bellarts, who as the chief radioman aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, was on hand to hear Amelia Earhart’s last official messages on the morning of July 2, 1937, concluding with her last transmission at 8:43 a.m. Howland Island time.  For Bellarts’ Nov. 28, 1961 letter to Goerner, posted Feb. 6, 2017, as well as the author’s reply, please click hereBellarts Dec. 15, 1961 response to Goerner, posted April 24, 2017, can be seen here.

Many of Goerner’s questions are still relevant today, especially since the American public has been fed a steady diet of disinformation for many decades by a U.S. media that hasn’t shown the slightest interest in learning the facts since Time magazine panned The Search for Amelia Earhart as a book that “barely hangs together” in its 1966 review that signaled the establishment’s aversion to the truth the KCBS newsman found on SaipanGoerner died in 1994 at age 69, Bellarts in May 1974 at 66.  (Boldface mine throughout.)

KCBS
CBS Radio – A Division of Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.
SHERATON – PALACE, SAN FRANCISCO 5, CALIFORNIA – YUKON 2-7000
                                                                                                               December 20, 1961

Mr. Leo G. Bellarts
1920 State Street
Everett, Washington

Dear Mr. Bellarts,

Thank you very much for your letter with enclosures of the 15th.  It was received with a good deal of interest by all of us who have been working on the Earhart story.

I’m sorry if I took on the proportions of a “quizmaster” to you.  I think it must be the reportorial instinct. I learned long ago that if you don’t ask the questions, you very seldom get the answers.

First, let me answer several of your questions.  As far as I know, there is absolutely no connection between CBS and Mrs. Studer; in fact, I have never met her, and I found the article you mentioned slightly on the irritating side.  That article was the first time I was even aware of her existence.

Yet another look at Fred Goerner during his mid-1960s heydays at KCBS Radio in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Merla Zellerbach.)

Yet another look at Fred Goerner during his mid-1960s heyday at KCBS Radio in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Merla Zellerbach.)

As to George Palmer Putnam, I never had the opportunity to meet him.  He died in January, 1950.

The only members of Amelia’s family I know personally are her mother and sister who live in West Medford, Massachusetts.  The mother [Amy Otis Earhart] is now in her nineties, and her sister [Muriel Earhart Morrissey] teaches high school in West Medford.

I was glad to receive the information that Galten was a bona fide member of the Itasca’s crew; however, it leaves me even more at a loss to explain his remarks to the press to the effect that the Earhart [plane] was incapable was transmitting radio signals more than 50 to 75 miles, and that the seas were eight feet with fifteen feet between crests the day of the disappearance.  The Itasca Log indicates as you have that the sea was calm and smooth.

You might be interested in Galten’s address: 50 Solano Street, Brisbane, California.  

Galten has also stated that he actually copies the message, “30 minutes of gas remaining”; yet, your record of the messages and the July 5 transcript sent by the Itasca to ComFranDiv, San Francisco, indicates “but running low on gas.”

As you probably well know, there is a vast difference between 30 minutes of gas remaining and gas running low.  Every pilot who has flown the Pacific Area will tell you if you are unsure of your position, are having difficulty in contacting your homing station and are down to four or five hours of gas — the gas indeed is “running low.”

We know as a positive fact that the Lockheed had sufficient gas for twenty-four to twenty-six hours aloft.  The take-off time from Lae, New Guinea, was 10:30 a.m. at Lae, 12:30 p.m. at Howland.  It was possible for the plane to have stayed aloft until 2:30 p.m. Howland time the following day.  The July 2 transmission from the Itasca to San Francisco estimates 1200 maximum time [i.e. noon local time] aloft.

Why then the supposition that Earhart “went in” right after her last message at 0843?

It just isn’t true that Earhart and Noonan began their flight from Lae to Howland with just enough fuel to reach Howland and no more.  They were fully aware of the navigational hazards of the flight. The planning for that 2,556-mile flight is contained in Amelia’s notes which were shipped back to the United States from Lae.  She planned her ETA at Howland just after daybreak.  Daylight was absolutely necessary to locate that tiny speck.  She had figured her fuel consumption to give her at least six additional hours to make a landfall if Noonan’s navigational abilities did not bring the plane dead center to Howland.

The Lockheed Electra 10E, an all-metal, twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with retract-able landing gear, designed as a small, medium-range airliner, and powered by twin Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp S3H1, 600-horsepower engines. The plane was 38 feet, seven inches long with a wingspan of fifty-five feet and a height of about ten feet. The Electra had an empty weight of 7,100 pounds, with a total fuel capacity of 1,151 gallons in ten tanks in the wings and fuselage.

The Lockheed Electra 10E, an all-metal (aluminum), twin-engine, low-wing monoplane with retract-able landing gear, designed as a small, medium-range airliner, and powered by twin Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp S3H1, 600-horsepower engines. The plane was 38 feet, seven inches long with a wingspan of 55 feet and a height of about ten feet. The Electra had an empty weight of 7,100 pounds, with a total fuel capacity of 1,151 gallons in ten tanks in the wings and fuselage.

Is the supposition based on the fact that her voice sounded frantic when she radioed the last message, “We are 157-337, running north and south.  Wait listening on 6210”?  If she were “going in” at that time, why would she ask the ITASCA to wait on 6210? (Caps Goerner’s throughout.)

Your comment that she simply forgot to include the reference point in the final message seems to be negated by the fact the she included “running north and south.”  If Noonan had been able to give her a reference point, there would have been no reason for running north and south courses.  They would have known their exact position and in which direction to fly.

The variance in the two groups of messages sent to San Francisco by the ITASCA is not the result of “faulty press reports.” I’m going to have my copies of the Coast Guard Log photostated and sent along to you.  The amazing discrepancies are clear and incontestable.

Your quotes from TIME magazine are “faulty press reports.”  TIME is wrong that no position reports were received after Earhart’s departure from Lae. The Coast Guard Log indicated a check-in 785 miles out from Lae with a full position report.  TIME was also mistaken in the number of messages received by the ITASCA from the plane.  It varies from your own list.

Yes, I was aware that the COLORADO refueled the ITASCA.  This is indicated in the Navy’s official report of the search.  The Navy report indicates that the COLORADO, on a naval training cruise in the Honolulu vicinity with a group of reservists and University Presidents [sic] in observance when it was ordered to assist in the search and refuel [of] the ITASCA and the SWAN.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to resort to another list of questions.  There is so much that appears to be unanswered in this entire vacation.  I think you are as interested in this as I am, or I wouldn’t bother you.

Was the signal strength of Earhart A3 S5 on all the messages from the 0615 “About two hundred miles out” to the final 0843 message? In your list A3 S5 is not listed for 0615,0645, 0742 and 0800.

Many radio operators have told us that in the South Pacific, particularly near the equator, a voice signal will come in from any distance so strongly that the person appears to be in the next room, then, a few minutes later, it cannot be raised at all even when the transmission station is only a few miles away.  Was this your experience while in the South Pacific?

Amelia’s official flight route from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island totaled 2,556 statute miles and had never been attempted before.  (Map courtesy Thomas E. Devine.)

Did the ITASCA make any contact with Lae, New Guinea to set up radio frequencies before her final take-off?

Did the ITASCA contact Lae to determine the actual time of the take-off?

Was the ITASCA aware of the gas capacity and range of the plane?

If the ITASCA arranged frequencies with Earhart at Lae, or at least firmed them up, why didn’t the ITASCA know that Noonan could not use cw [sic, i.e., Morse Code] on 500 kcs because of a lack of a trailing antenna?

The “Organization of Radio Personnel” Photostat indicates that in the event of a casualty the ITASCA was to block out any other station attempting to communicate information.  What other station was near the ITASCA that might transmit information contrary to fact?  When the plane was lost, did the ITASCA block out any other transmission of information?

Do you know of the whereabouts of [RM2 Frank] Ciprianti [sic, Cipriani is correct], [RM3 Thomas] O’Hare, [RM3 Gilbert E.] Thompson, Lt. Cmdr. F.T. Kenner, Lt. (j.g.) W.I. Stanston or Ensign R.L. Mellen?

This is aside from the Earhart matter, but is certainly of interest.  What was the eventual fate of the ITASCA, ONTARIO, and SWAN?

In closing, Mr. Bellarts, let me say that we sincerely appreciate the opportunity the [sic] with you.  Let me assure you that we will keep your confidence, and will in no way quote you without your permission.

I, personally, have been working on this investigation for nearly two years.  It has nothing to do with any stamp that might be issued with her image, or some nebulous entry into a hall of fame.  This is a news story, and we intend to pursue every possible lead until a satisfactory conclusion is reached.  I [sic] happy to say we have the blessings of both Amelia’s mother and sister.  They have suspected for many years that the disappearance was not as cut and dried as portions of our military have indicated, but no one, including that military, has ever put together a concerted effort to tie together the loose ends.

I believe with all my heart that Earhart and Noonan were on Saipan.  I saw the testimony gathered by the Monsignor and the Fathers.  I know the witnesses were telling the truth.  There was no reason for them to lie, and such a story could never have been invented by simple natives without the appearance of serious discrepancies.

However, I believe with you that Earhart and Noonan never flew their plane to Saipan.  They must have been brought to the island by the Japanese.

The search for Earhart has been a joke for years.  I think that’s because the military has dogmatically maintained that the pair went down close to Howland; yet, that contention appears to be based solely on the belief that the strength of signals before the last received transmission indicated the ship was probably within two hundred miles of the ITASCA.  Where did they fly on the four to five hours of gas we know remained?

A view of Howland Island that Amelia Earhart never enjoyed. The island, a property of the United States, remains uninhabited, but is quite poplar among various wildlife that nests and forages there.

A view of Howland Island that Amelia Earhart never enjoyed. The island, a property of the United States, remains uninhabited, but is popular among various wildlife that nest and forage there, especially goony birds and terns.  Note the outline of the original airstrip that was cleared in anticipation of Amelia’s landing.

Mr. Bellarts, if you know anything that has not been made public that will shed more light on this enigma, please give us the information. If not to CBS, to Amelia’s sister:

Mrs. Albert Morrissey
1 Vernon Street
West Medford. Mass.

No one, certainly not CBS, has the idea of castigating individuals, the Coast Guard, the Navy or the Air Force or even Japan for something that happened so long ago.  The important thing is to settle this matter once and for all, and bring a modicum of peace to the individuals involved.

Earhart and Noonan fought their battle against the elements.  If they later lost their lives to the aggrandizing philosophy of a nation bent on the conquest of the Pacific, the great victory is still theirs.  Their story should be told, and they should receive their nation’s gratitude and a decent burial.

Would you ask less for your own?

Best wishes for a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

I’ll be looking forward to your next communication.

Sincerely,

Fred Goerner
CBS News
KCBS RADIO
San Francisco 5,
California (End of Goerner letter.)

I have more of the fascinating correspondence between Fred Goerner and Leo Bellarts, two of the most interesting people in the entire Earhart saga, and will post more at a future date.

Revisiting Joaquina Cabrera, Earhart eyewitness

In our most recent post, we met Matidle F. Arriola, later known as Mrs. Matilde Shoda San Nicholas, a native Saipanese eyewitness who shared her fascinating personal encounter with Marie S.C. Castro on at least two occasions, and whose later interviews by researchers Joe Gervais, Robert Dinger and Fred Goerner are presented on pages 102-103 of Truth at Last.  Needless to say, Matilde is among the most important of the Saipan eyewitnesses, her story well known to Earhart enthusiasts. 

Closely associated with Matilde’s reports are those of Joaquina M. Cabrera, because both eyewitnesses encountered Amelia Earhart in or in close proximity to Saipan’s Kobayashi Royokan Hotel, where other Chamorros also saw her in the months following her July 2 disappearance.

Joaquina, who was born on October 4, 1911 and died July 22, 2004 according to recent information from Marie Castro, told researcher Joe Gervais in 1960 that she worked in the hotel in 1937 and ’38, and that each day she had to take a list of the people staying at the hotel to the island governor’s office.  “One day when I was doing this I saw two Americans in the back of a three-wheeled vehicle,” she said.  Their hands were bound behind them, and they were blindfolded. One of them was an American woman.”  Cabrera said a photo of Earhart and Noonan that Gervais displayed “look like the same people I saw, and they are dressed the same way,” adding that she saw the Americans only once, and didn’t know what happened to them.

Undated photo of Earhart eyewitness Mrs. Joaquina Cabrera, who passed away in 2004 at 92.  (Courtesy Marie Castro.)

Contrast this with her account to Goerner in 1962, when he wrote in The Search for Amelia Earhart, “Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera brought us closer to the woman held at the Kobayashi Royokan [Hotel] than any other witness.”  At the Cabrera home in Chalan Kanoa, Goerner and several others including Fathers Arnold Bendowske and Sylvan Conover, and Ross Game, editor of the Napa (California) Register and longtime Goerner confidant “crowded into the front room . . . and listened to her halting recital.”  Cabrera said nothing about delivering daily lists of people staying at the hotel, describing her job as that of a laundress for the Japanese guests and prisoners kept there:

One day when I came to work, they were there . . . a white lady and man. The police never left them. The lady wore a man’s clothes when she first came.  I was given her clothes to clean. I remember pants and a jacket. It was leather or heavy cloth, so I did not wash it.

I rubbed it clean.  The man I saw only once.  I did not wash his clothes.  His head was hurt and covered with a bandage, and he sometimes needed help to move.  The police took him to another place and he did not come back. The lady was thin and very tired.

Every day more Japanese came to talk with her.  She never smiled to them but did to me.  She did not speak our language, but I know she thanked me.  She was a sweet, gentle lady.  I think the police sometimes hurt her.  She had bruises and one time her arm was hurt. . . . Then, one day . . . police said she was dead of disease.

Joaquina said the woman was kept at the hotel for “many months. Perhaps a year.”  She heard the man had also died, though she didn’t know the cause of his demise, and she thought the woman was buried in the cemetery near Garapan, long since reclaimed by the jungle.  Though Joaquina offered two different stories, both may have been true.  Her testimony to Goerner seems more credible, however, considering the presence of the priests and the rich details in her recollection, than the brief, rather stiff account she rendered Gervais.  Joaquina passed away in July 2004 at 92.

Without a penny in my Pocket: My Bittersweet Memories Before and After World War II, Marie Castro’s moving 2013 autobiography.  In a 2014 review for the Saipan Tribune,  William Stewart wrote, “Today’s youth would be well-advised to learn from the experiences of the author and her family and friends, of the heartbreak and suffering the people of Saipan endured and the faith they all exhibited to overcome such adversity. . . . She is an inspiration for all who aspire to make a contribution by helping others through education and good deeds.”

Along with Marie’s recollections of Matilde F. Arriola, she also wrote briefly of Joaquina Cabrera in Without a Penny:

In 1937 Joaquina M. Cabrera, a young woman, worked in the laundry at the Kobayashi Royokan Hotel.  Joaquina was our neighbor and a relative.  One day a number of years later, Joaquina, accompanying her mother  on a regular visit to our house, mentioned a leather jacket that had turned up in the laundry to be washed.  Suddenly she remembered seeing the lady pilot wearing the jacket.  Joaquina handled the leather jacket with care.  In Saipan’s warm climate Amelia wouldn’t be wearing it.  So what happened to her jacket?  No one ever knew!

The puzzle that remains unsolved regarding the location of Amelia Earhart’s final resting place should focus on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands.  I believe that — based upon the fact that during her exile as a political detainee of the invaders, Saipan is the island where she was known to have last lived — by taking advantage of today’s sophisticated technology, it should be possible to finally uncover the place of her mysterious burial, unknown to the world for the past 75 years.

Is it possible that after all these years the solution of one of the most vexing mysteries of the last century will finally be solved?  We can only wait and see. 

Once again, I ask everyone who cares about the truth to donate whatever you can to the planned Amelia Earhart Memorial on Saipan (see March 16 story, Saipan architect unveils planned Earhart Memorial.”  Please 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, like the one below, from the Earhart Memorial Monument Committee. Thank you.

Anyone who contributes to the Earhart Saipan Memorial Monument will receive a letter similar to this one from Marie Castro, the vice president of the memorial committee.  It is destined to become a collector’s item, and I’ve already framed it.

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