Did Amelia Earhart’s secretary send the mysterious letter found at Jaluit Post Office in November 1937?

With the recent passing of my dear friend Bill Prymak at age 86, we can write finis to a great era of Earhart research.  Bill has joined a host of Earhart researchers whose myriad contributions have made an enormous impact in establishing the facts about Amelia’s tragic end on Saipan, and although our current national zeitgeist stands in vehement opposition to their findings becoming widely known anytime soon, the truth will stand the test of time and will someday be revealed to all when the U.S. government finally finds the fortitude to do so.  Bill’s death leaves only Paul Rafford Jr., 95, the former Pan American Airways radio flight officer and author of Amelia Earhart’s Radio: Why She Disappeared (2008) and Joe Klaas, 94, Joe Gervais’ close friend who penned the infamous 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives as the only surviving old timers.

Beginning with today’s post, as a tribute to Bill and his formidable contributions to the Earhart saga, I will republish some of the great research articles that graced the pages of his remarkable Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, which he produced, without fanfare or remuneration, and solely for the limited membership of the Amelia Earhart Society in his Broomfield, Colo., office from December 1989 until March 2000.  I know Bill would be happy that his fine work, and that of many others, is honored and shared with the remaining few who continue to seek and value the truth.

This issue of Pacific Islands Monthly is from May 1934. Four years later, the magazine presented missionary Carl Heine's report of finding the strange letter to Amelia Earhart at the Jaluit Post Office.

This issue of Pacific Islands Monthly is from May 1934. Four years later, the magazine presented missionary Carl Heine’s report of finding the strange letter to Amelia Earhart at the Jaluit Post Office.

Due to the columnar format of this blog, it won’t always be possible to exactly reproduce the letter size that comprised Bill’s newsletters, but I’ll do everything possible to present these entries as close to their original look.  I’ll also make it clear when the material presented is taken directly from Bill’s AES Newsletters.  Today’s article is taken from the May 1991 issue of the newsletters, and looks like this:



From: Mr. Carl Heine a special correspondent and German missionary in the Marshall Islands, Jaluit Atoll, March 17, 1938

Here is a curious thing.  On November 27, 1937 in the Jaluit Post Office, in the Marshall Islands (Japanese), among the unclaimed mail a certain letter attracted my attention.  In its upper left corner was printed Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood California.”  A little lower down appeared the postal date stamp withLos Angeles, California, October 7, 10 pm,within the circle, L ower down in the usual place appeared the following stating address:

“Miss Amelia Earhart (Putnam); Marshall Islands (Japanese); Ratak Group, Maloelap Island, (10); South Pacific Ocean.

Written diagonally across one corner was this, “Deliver Promptly.”  On the back of envelope Incognitowas penciled in very small, fine handwriting.  The letter was unopened, and consequently I have no idea of its contents.  Now, it seems to me that anyone in U.S.A. writing as late as October, ought to be well aware that Amelia Earhart had been given up as lost long before.  Hence, it would appear that the letter may have been written by some one desirous of hoaxing the public.  Still, it is just possible that such may not be the case at all.

Certainly, the writer of the address on the envelope, while making some errors such as anyone at a distance might make, displays a little more geographical knowledge of these parts than one would expect of the average individual, but which one would certainly expect of anyone about to traverse the Pacific, and would be passing this group at a distance of a few hundred miles.

It is conceivable that Amelia Earhart may have told some trusted friend in America, before setting out on her ill fated journey, that she intended to take a look-see in at the Marshalls en route or that she might possibly do so if in any danger as she passed by.  And it is possible that this hypothetical friend in Hollywood might think that Amelia had reached this group, and might be lying low for some reason or other at Maloelap.  It seems curious that anyone without specific interest in the group should know the name of that particular atoll which is of no great importance.  What the number (10) might mean in connection with that island I have no idea.  (End of Carl Heine’s original narrative.)

HISTORICAL NOTE: “Maloelap Island” (Bill Prymak’s comments follow.)

Prior to WWII in the Pacific the Japanese built its first military operational airfield among the Marshall Islands Group on this island.  During the invasion of the Marshall Islands by the U.S. Forces during WWII, Maloelap Island was bypassed and not occupied.  The Japanese on this island did not surrender until after the signing of the surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Editor’s noteIsn’t it coincidental that Margot DeCarie, AE’s personal secretary, was living in the Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel during Sept-Oct. 1937?  It is stated that with her death in 1983, the true answers to the AE mystery were buried with her . . . (End of entry.)

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, circa 1937, where Margot DeCarie, Amelia Earhart's personal secretary, was living during the September-October 1937 time frame, when the mysteries letter to Earhart was delivered to the Jaluit Post Office.

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, circa 1937, where Margot DeCarie, Amelia Earhart’s personal secretary, was living during the September-October 1937 time frame, when the mysteries letter to Earhart was delivered to the Jaluit Post Office.

This is all we know about the letter.  Carl Heine obviously respected privacy rights — even of those believed deceased — too much to open and read its contents, and no one else has ever indicated what became of it.  It’s quite possible that the letter was confiscated by U.S. intelligence assets soon after they learned of its existence, and it’s joined Robert E. Wallack’s briefcase and the photos of Amelia and Fred reportedly discovered by Seabee Joe Garofalo and other GIs on Saipan, deep in top secret archives where nobody can get to it.

We do know that DeCarie wasn’t shy about expressing her ideas about what happened to her boss in July 1937, but we can also wonder whether she told people like Fred Goerner all that she really knew.  In a phone interview sometime in the early 1960s, she told Goerner that she had promised secrecyto an unknown party, but still gave him plenty to think about.  “Do you really think Purdue University bought that plane for Amelia,” she asked, “and do you think that it was intended for some kind of vague experimentation?  Second, if the whole thing was a publicity stunt . . . why did the government assign some of its top experts to the flight, and why did President Roosevelt have an airfield built for her?  Last, do you believe the President ordered the Navy to spend four million dollars on a search for a couple of stunt fliers?”  DeCarie was sure Earhart died a long time ago,and that the Japanese captured her within moderate range of Howland Island. . . . President Roosevelt knew everything,she said. He knew the price Amelia paid.”  Margot DeCarie passed away in North Hollywood, Calif., in 1983 at the age of 79.

In his 1997 book, Where Nets Were Cast: Christianity in Oceana Since World War II, John Garret wrote that during the war, Carl Heine was given the option to leave the Marshalls, but he chose to stay.  He was detained, along with his wife, at times in isolation by the Japanese.  In January 1944 US bombing became heavier at Jabor, preceding the full counter-attack on fortified positions, Garret wrote.  Many Marshallese – but few, if any Japanese – died in the most intensive bombardment in March.  In April, Carl R. Heine was beheaded and his body burned at Enijet, Jaluit.  (Garrett was clearly in error about the location of Heine’s beheading, as Enijet is an island on Mili Atoll, not Jaluit Atoll.)

Heine’s grandson John would later tell Earhart researchers about the barge with the silver airplane with the broken wing he saw at Jaluit as a child.  “It was the plane an American lady had been flying when she crashed,” Heine told T.C. “Buddy” Brennan in 1983, and he believed that after leaving Jaluit the ship “went on to Kwajalein . . .  then on to Truk and Saipan.”

18 responses

  1. The letter was one of many clues she left behind. I wonder why they did not send it. I doubt anyone was trying to hoax because in those days who would know where she was and at what time period. They did not think like that there.


  2. It is very sad that Margot DeCarie did not give up her “promised secrecy” before she died. This woman knew much more about the secret dealings of the Roosevelt administration. This was her opportunity to tell the American people the truth about what really happened to this beloved flyer and her navigator It is obvious that the Roosevelt family to this day can suppress the truth to protect the family legacy.


  3. I agree. To me this is a smoking gun pointing towards the fact that there were living Americans as late as the 1980s who very well knew where Earhart went down (approximately) and that she did not just crash or drown at sea. I would love to see some super sleuth dig through the federal archives, looking at “private” notes, etc., and find some breadcrumbs pertaining to Earhart’s prep for this flight and the weeks following her “disappearance”.
    Mike, when did the Nikumaroro expeditions start? An online search says the 1st archaeological expedition of TIGHAR’s was 1989 – curious that they “waited” until DeCarie was dead before stirring up the waters (so to speak).


    1. Wolfy,
      Thanks for your perceptive comment. I think there’s little doubt that TIGHAR’s notoriety that began in 1989 was either a direct or indirect response to Thomas E. Devine’s Saipan claims in his 1987 book Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident. Fred Goerner was also still alive and doing what he could to get out the truth. The establishment needed another answer other than the old, tired, ridiculous “Crash and sank” canard. so it adopted the old, third-hand Gardner Island idea for lack of anything else that they could sell to an apathetic public, which has now grown even more apathetic after 25 years.


    2. Another smoking gun would be to find that document in the archives where Roosevelt gave the order to destroy her plane on Saipan. Also, in Mike’s book there was some documentation about several Japanese soldiers and officers who had their pictures taken with A.E; if just one of those photographs was found today, that would be another smoking gun. Family members might even have them in their possession and don’t even realize what they have. And today’s technology could validate their authenticity. I have a shoebox of stuff I inherited from my Dad who served in the Marines in the Pacific in WWII. There are a lot of old black and white photos in there with his marine buddies. I don’t have a clue who they are but they are pics of real people who lived and died.


      1. Excellent point, Sandy! You know even the Japanese whose pictures were taken with her would never destroy them – too valuable! Almost more so, when they lay unbeknownst to the rest of the world! I just have to believe that someone who is an Ace at navigating FOIA requests with federal archives – although this would take quite a while – might eventually unearth a fragment that is incontrovertible evidence. Based on Mike’s book, there were mentions from Eleanor R in her personal letters, maybe there are other personal correspondence and items that are minute enough the PTB do not realize what they have ….


      2. Sorry Wolfy, but when it comes to the Earhart case. it’s the Freedom FROM Information Act. All this has been tried before. The briefcase Robert Wallack found, as well as the photos are buried as deep as the feds can put them, never to see the light of day, or at least in our lifetimes. This is my best guess, anyway.


  4. The OSS/Army Air Corps was ended after WWll and a new one begun – and now, when someone searches via FOIA, do they look at that earliest group or the later one? There would be found a steno pad with debrief notes and also photos of Ft. Bragg soldiers walking with a female. Might also try a search in the Question Mark records, as AE was invited to that dinner where they discussed the trip.


    1. Judy,
      Nothing of substance in the Earhart case has ever been released as a result of a FOIA, as I said before. I’ve never heard Fort Bragg mentioned either. Her meetings with Bernard Baruch and Gen. Oscar Westover allegedly took place at March Field in Riverside, Calif. What are the “Question Mark records”?


  5. There was a group gathered for dinner to go over plans for long distance flight during which a plane would be refueled inflight. AE attended, and there is a photo. The documents at Westovers feet was that night’s agenda. A lot of key players there. I wonder if anyone has checked those archives.


    1. The inflight refueling idea was among the original proposals that were shot down either by FDR, the Navy or Amelia herself. I don’t recall and don’t think it’s important anyway. This was before the first flight, going west, and before the Luke field crash. Everything changed after that, most importantly the direction of the flight.


      1. Correct. AE said no first, very early in the game, if the date on that photo is correct. That is not the point. Could there be more data from the men at that meeting.


      2. Judy,
        I would guess you could search archives forever and never find anything related to that meeting, or any future meetings where anything covert was discussed, if it was discussed with AE. We have plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that she was doing something else besides trying to locate Howland Island, evidence that suggests she was doing some very strange stuff. But you won’t find anything official in the archives, not a chance. The government has its story and it’s sticking to it. What people should be screaming about is the ONI Report of 1960, declassified in 1967, which actually states that AE was probably taken to Saipan after coming down in the Marshall Islands, according to some of the local natives testimonies. This is an official statement that was NEVER publicized by our media, except by Fred Goerner and Thomas Devine in their books. The document was declassified and I have it at the back of both of my books. But no one pays any attention to it. Incredible.


      3. You are right. It is incredible and you are right that she was doing strange stuff which makes it all the more confusing. Just keep on pulling the thread and I think if everyone stopped agreeing it is too mysterious to know, you will have it.


  6. What an intriguing line of thought, Judy!!……..not to change the subject, but Mike do you still have your speaking engagement scheduled this month at the annual 99s conference?….I hope you will keep all of us informed.


    1. Yes Sandy, thanks for asking. I did write about it several postings ago, but thanks to Kay Alley, the vice chairperson of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, I will be speaking to their annual sectional conference at the Wichita Marriott on Sept. 27. Members from eight states will be in attendance, and I have a 143-slide power point I’ve been working on for many months. They’re giving me 90 minutes, and I hope to do my best to change some hearts and minds. We hope this can be the long-awaited breakthrough, because the Ninety-Nines are about as pure an establishment organization as there is, an elite group of women aviators who elected Amelia their first president in 1929. It’s quite appropriate therefore, that this should be the first such group that’s actually recognized the existence of Truth at Last. I’ve been anticipating it greatly.


  7. Well thanks for the update, Mike. This could be a major breakthrough for the book…..I would like to attend also….will look into it for non-members.


  8. Dr. Bradsher, The Japanese cooperation that you allude to in your essay, The Japanese Government’s Offer of Assistance to Help Find Amelia Earhart, July 1937, is nonsense. The Japanese had no intention of allowing U.S. warships search for the missing aviators nor did they conduct a search themselves. I have found official documentation to prove the Japanese offer of assistance was a charade.


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