“Silver container” recovered on Mili Atoll islet was indeed “hard evidence” in Earhart case (Part 2 of 2)
In my previous post we heard the accounts of Marshallese fishermen Lijon and Jororo as told to Ralph Middle on Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, and passed on to Earhart researchers and authors Vincent V. Loomis and Oliver Knaggs in 1979. The story as related by Middle was that before the war they watched as an airplane landed on the reef near Barre Island, “two men” emerged from the airplane and produced a “yellow boat which grew,” climbed in and paddled to shore.
Hiding in the island’s dense undergrowth, Jororo and Lijon saw the pair bury a “silver container” on the small island, and soon the Japanese arrived. After one of them screamed upon being slapped during the ensuing interrogation, the fishermen realized one of the men was actually a woman. They remained hidden and silent, fearing for their lives.
The existence of the silver container as described in Lijon’s account is supported by a little-known passage written by Amelia herself, in the final pages of Last Flight, her abbreviated 1937 book in which she chronicles her world-flight attempt. On page 223, Amelia wrote that she and Noonan “worked very hard in the last two days repacking the plane and eliminating everything unessential,” to help offset the burden the fully loaded fuel tanks would place on the engines, especially on takeoff from Lae. “All Fred has is a small tin case which he picked up in Africa,” Amelia wrote. “I notice it still rattles, so it cannot be packed very full.”
Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 with a metal detector but without Loomis, hoping to locate Lijon’s silver container, and he soon met Lorok, “who owned the island of Barre and several others,” he wrote. Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon alone had seen the plane come down, but he’d died several years ago. Lorok said he was 11 years old, living on Mili, when he heard Lijon tell his story. How Jororo, a co-witness in the original story told by Ralph Middle, was no longer present in Lijon’s account as related by Lorok, has never been explained by Knaggs, Loomis or anyone else. The accounts as presented in the books by the two authors are all we have on this incident.
Lijon was “out fishing in the lagoon near Barre, when he saw this big silver plane coming, “ Lorok told Knaggs. “It was low down and he could tell it was in trouble because it made no noise. Then it landed on the water next to the small island. He pulled in his fishing line and went quickly to see if he could help. When he got there he saw these are strange people and one is a woman. He hid then because he was frightened; he had not seen people like these. He watched as they buried something in the coral under a kanal tree. He could tell the man was hurt because he was limping and there was blood on his face and the woman was helping him. He waited there in his hiding place until he saw the Japanese coming and then he left. … Later we were told the people who crashed were Americans.” Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon later said, “The Japanese had taken her to Saipan and killed her as a spy. They were making ready for the war. They didn’t want anyone to see the fortifications.”
Knaggs found only one kanal tree when he searched Barre and two small, adjacent islands, and the intense heat and humidity made the going tough for his group. The next day, however, the wife of his native guide led them to another nearby island where she had seen a part of an old airplane when she played there as a child. They found no wreckage, but saw a “large, rotting trunk of a tree that could have been a kanal [years ago] and there was also a small kanal growing nearby,” Knaggs wrote. The detector soon responded, and about a foot-and-a-half down they found a “hard knot of soil that appeared to be growing on the root of a tree. Cutting into it, we discovered a mass of rust and what looked like a hinge of sorts.” Doubting that the shapeless lump could have once been the metal canister buried by the American fliers, Knaggs chipped away at his find but found nothing else.
Knaggs kept the hinge and brought it home to South Africa, where it was analyzed by the Metallurgical Department of the University of Cape Town. The results confirmed that “in section the sample revealed what is described as a pin cover, rivet and body of the hinge. In general the microstructures are consistent with a fine, clean low carbon steel … indicating that good technology was used in its manufacture.” Knaggs regretted not bringing the entire mass back for analysis, but “the hinge could have come from something akin to a cash box and could therefore quite easily be the canister to which Lijon had referred,” he concluded.
Lijon’s eyewitness account, as reported by Ralph Middle to Loomis and by Lorok to Knaggs, and reportedly supported by Mili’s Queen Bosket Diklan and Jororo, is among the most compelling ever reported by a Marshall Islands witness. The profoundly realistic description of the “yellow boat which grew,“ combined with Knaggs’ recovery of the deteriorated, rusted hinge in a place where nothing of the sort should have been buried, lend additional credibility to Lijon’s story. Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon had spoken the truth about what he saw, and what could better explain the presence of a metal hinge on the tiny, uninhabited island, buried near a dead kanal tree?
The hinge wasn’t much to look at, of course, and will certainly never attain “smoking gun” status in the Earhart case. It wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t Amelia Earhart’s Electra, her briefcase that was found in a blown safe on Garapan by Marine Pfc. Robert E. Wallack in the summer of 1944, nor even one of the many photos of Amelia and Fred in Japanese custody reportedly found by American soldiers on Saipan. Regardless of its appearance, its provenance qualified the old, rotted hinge as solid, hard evidence of the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on a small island near Barre Island, Mili Atoll in July 1937. I have no idea what has happened to this artifact, nor do I even know if Oliver Knaggs is still alive. Anyone with information is kindly asked to contact me through this blog.
The Marshallese people have never forgotten the story of the woman pilot, and it’s become a part of their cultural heritage. In 1987 the Republic of the Marshalls Islands issued a set of four stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia’s landing at Mili Atoll. (See earlier posts: “Frank Benjamin: ‘We are brothers in pain!’” Jan. 28, 2014; and “Dave Martin to the rescue,” Aug. 11, 2012.) Thus, in the Marshall Islands, the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan is far from the “great mystery” it’s constantly proclaimed to be in the United States and most of the Western world. To the Marshallese, the landing of the Electra at Mili, the Japanese pickup and transfer to Saipan are all stone, cold facts known to all.
“No hard evidence” in Earhart case? Knaggs’ find on Mili refutes skeptics’ claim (First of two parts)
Even casual observers of the Earhart case know that the major weapon used by skeptics and critics of the truth, the blind crash-and-sankers, the Nikumaroro morons and the rest who refuse to accept the obvious about Amelia and Fred Noonan’s Mili Atoll landing and deaths on Saipan is their never-ending cry, “Where is the physical evidence? No hard evidence has even been found!”
Forget the many dozens of witness accounts from natives, Saipan veterans and other sources that so clearly points to the truth. Only when the Electra is finally discovered, they say, will the Earhart puzzle be solved. Until then, all theories are acceptable – except the hated Saipan truth, of course, which is a “paranoid conspiracy theory” and is far too “extremist” to have any validity. These bozos are quite happy to keep Amelia and Fred in cold storage for eternity, floating out there in the unfathomable ether where the world’s great mysteries abide.
They’re wrong, as usual; hard evidence has been found and analyzed, and it tells us a compelling story. Most of the doubters are unaware of this evidence, but it makes little difference. Even if the Earhart plane was somehow miraculously found underneath the Saipan International Airport’s tarmac amid hundreds of tons of wartime refuse, where, as Thomas E. Devine has told us, the plane has been since it was bulldozed into a deep hole several months after it’s torching in the summer of 1944, the naysayers wouldn’t accept it. And our corrupt media, which has been so invested for so long in perpetuating the big lie that Amelia’s fate remains a mystery, would take all pains to thoroughly ignore and suppress news of the discovery, as they always have.
But that’s for another time. This post is the first of two that will present and discuss the hard evidence that was found at Mili Atoll, evidence that all but proves the reality of our heroes’ presence at Mili Atoll in July 1937. So that readers can best understand the sequence of events that led to the discovery of this artifact, a bit of background is in order.
Amelia Earhart: The Final Story among best ever penned
Former Air Force C-47 pilot Vincent V. Loomis and his wife, Georgette, traveled to the Marshalls in 1978 hoping to find the wreck of an unidentified plane Loomis saw on an uninhabited island near Ujae Atoll in 1952. Loomis never located the wreck, which he fervently dreamed was the lost Earhart plane, but in four trips to the Marshalls he obtained considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, was praised by some at a time when big media’s rejection of information supporting Earhart’s survival and death on Saipan had yet to reach its virtual blackout of the past two decades, and is among the most important Earhart disappearance books ever written.
The Final Story’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review. After gushing that Loomis “interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents,” Hart flatly stated, “The mystery is a mystery no longer.” Of course, the U.S. government disagreed completely, and continued its abject silence on all things Earhart.
On his first flight to Majuro, Loomis met Senator Amata Kabua and Tony DeBrum, commission officials seeking Marshallese independence from the United States. Kabua, a descendent of the first king of the Marshalls, Kabua the Great, said Earhart had come down in the islands and that her plane was still there. DeBrum told Loomis, “We all know about this woman who was reported to have come down on Mili southeast of Majuro, was captured by the Japanese and taken off to Jaluit. Remember, the stories were being told long before you Americans began asking questions.”
Among the witnesses Loomis interviewed at Mili Mili, the main island at Mili Atoll, was Mrs. Clement (Loomis provided no first name), the wife of the boat operator Loomis had hired. Mrs. Clement said her husband knew nothing, but she recalled that she had seen “this airplane and the woman pilot and the Japanese taking the woman and the man with her away.” She pointed out the area – “Over there … next to Barre Island” – as the spot where the plane had landed, but she offered no other information.
Loomis next sought out Jororo Alibar and Anibar Eine on Ejowa Island, hoping to confirm the story he heard from Ralph Middle on Majuro. Middle’s story was that two local fishermen, Jororo and Lijon, told him that before the war they saw an airplane land on the reef near Barre island, about 200 feet offshore. “When ‘two men’ emerged from the machine, they produced a ‘yellow boat which grew,’ climbed aboard it and paddled for shore,” Loomis wrote. “Jororo and Lijon, only teenagers, were frightened, crouching in the tiriki, the dense undergrowth, not quite knowing what to do.” Shortly after the men reached the island, the fishermen saw them bury a silver container, but the Japanese soon arrived and began to question, and then slap the two fliers, Middle said. When one screamed, Jororo and Lijon realized it was a woman. The pair continued to hide, watching in silence, because “they knew the Japanese would have killed them for what they had witnessed.”
The natives’ description of “the yellow boat which grew” is especially compelling for its realism, as it reflects their relatively primitive understanding of what only could have been an inflatable life boat produced by Earhart and Noonan after the Electra crash-landed, possibly on a reef. No inventory of the plane’s contents during the world flight is known to exist, but several sources support the common-sense idea that the fliers would not have departed Lae without such a vital piece of emergency equipment.
Amelia, My Courageous Sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey and Carol L. Osborne’s 1987 biography, contains a photocopied story from the March 7, 1937 New York Herald Tribune, “Complete Navigation Room Ready to Guide Miss Earhart.” Discussing emergency items the Electra would carry on the first world flight, the unnamed reporter wrote, “In the fuselage will be a two-man rubber lifeboat, instantly inflatable from capsules of carbon dioxide.” In the July 20, 1937 search report of the Lexington Group commander, under “Probabilities Arising from Rumor or Reasonable Assumptions,” Number 3 states, “That the color of the lifeboat was yellow.”
In September 1979, South African writer Oliver Knaggs was hired by a film company to join Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search. The Knaggs-Loomis connection is well known among Earhart buffs, but neither Loomis, in The Final Story, nor Knaggs, in his little-known 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight (Howard Timmins, Cape Town, S.A), mentioned the other by name. In Her last flight, a collector’s item known mainly to researchers, Knaggs recounts his 1979 and ’81 investigations in the Marshalls and Saipan.
Knaggs wasn’t with Loomis when Ralph Middle told him about Lijon and Jororo at Majuro in 1979, and wasn’t there when Loomis interviewed Jororo. Knaggs wrote that “our leader [Loomis]” had told him of Lijon’s story, which he didn’t believe initially, but later, when a village elder repeated it, Knaggs became interested. Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 without Loomis but armed with a metal detector in hopes of locating Lijon’s silver container, and establishing his own claim to fame in the search for Amelia Earhart.
In part two of this post, we’ll look at what Knaggs found, what the experts said about it and what it means in the continuing search for Amelia Earhart.