I awoke this morning to a telephone message from Earhart researcher and presentation artist Rob Ellos, of Stillwater, Minn., and was quite surprised to learn that Rob was calling to alert me that Yahoo! News had just published a story about a new search for parts of Amelia Earhart’s downed Electra near Barre Island, in the northwest area of Mili Atoll.
I already knew about the search, as Dick Spink, Les Kinney and several high-tech operatives sponsored by Parker Aerospace had departed several days earlier for Mili, with a return scheduled for Jan. 30. I was advised to keep this news to myself, but apparently Parker Aerospace has seen fit to let the cat of the bag, and Yahoo! News, of all agencies, has broken the story.
Here’s the link to the brief but highly significant article, “Search for Earhart plane on remote Marshalls atoll,” which provides very little information other than the statement of Jon Jeffery, Parker’s director of technology and business development, who told Yahoo! News, “We brought more sophisticated equipment to find other parts.”
What is especially surprising is that a mainstream outfit like Yahoo! News would even consider publishing anything that runs counter to the longstanding lies that Amelia either crashed and sank near Howland Island or landed at Nikumaroro in the Phoenix chain. The latter is by far the most well-known myth that’s been perpetuated on a gullible and apathetic American public, and requires no further explanation right now.
Did the recent mention of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and the “mountain of evidence” it presents in the January 2015 Smithsonian magazine cover story signal others in the establishment that it’s now permitted to mention the hated Marshall Islands-Saipan scenario in the Earhart discussion? Up until today, the answer has been a resounding, “No way!”
But if Yahoo! News’ decision to include the statement of Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak is any indication, perhaps matters are slowly changing. “Generations of Marshallese people have known since 1937 that the famous fliers didn’t just disappear in the ocean,” Loeak told Yahoo! News. “The aircraft landed on a small atoll in the Marshall Islands and (Earhart and Noonan) survived.”
Readers new to this blog can find the full background on this development in the search for Amelia Earhart in my two earlier posts, “Recent find on Mili Atoll called “Concrete proof” and “Update to Recent find on Mili story.” Dick Spink, Les Kinney and others are virtually certain that the aluminum plate and Airwheel dust cover found during searches since 2011 came from the Earhart plane, but neither of these parts has a distinct serial number that would rule out all other possibilities. Without absolute proof, no claims about the Electra will be accepted by an establishment that’s dead set against public knowledge of the truth about Amelia’s fate. This again is why I was so surprised to see this story published on Yahoo! News. I can only surmise that Parker Aerospace has some serious connections at this news agency.
Les Kinney has promised to keep me informed about anything new that the search team might uncover at Mili’s Endriken Islands, but it appears that might be unnecessary if Yahoo! News stays on this story. Please stay tuned and check in here often for the latest.
Smithsonian mag throws “Truth at Last” a bone: Says, “it’s possible . . . Campbell is on to something”
In early November 2014, a contributing writer to Smithsonian magazine named Jerry Adler contacted me via email, asking if I’d talk to him for a story about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart he was working on. Adler said the magazine’s editors’ interest in doing the story had stemmed from “Ric Gillespie’s announcement last week of evidence in support of his Nikumaroro theory” [the worst excuse for writing a major piece on the Earhart matter I’ve ever heard], but his piece would “cover the gamut of explanations, including your own.”
Though pleased that someone at Smithsonian, though clearly not this writer, had read Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and found it worthwhile, I was also quite skeptical. I told Adler, “I couldn’t have been more surprised than to hear from a writer for Smithsonian,” whose sister publications, American Heritage and Invention and Technology Magazine have recently featured the erroneous ideas of Tom Crouch, the Air and Space Museum’s senior curator, and TIGHAR’s Ric Gillespie, while the truth has taken severe beatings on the rare occasions it’s not ignored entirely.
Few if any will be writing reviews of Adler’s story, “Will the Search for Amelia Earhart Ever End?,” but even if it drew plenty of media attention, I’d still feel compelled to go on the record about it. After all, where is it written that Jerry Adler and the Smithsonian editors are the ultimate authorities on what you should think about the Earhart disappearance?
Has Adler or the magazine’s staff made the impossible battle to establish the truth among the top priorities of their lives, studied this matter for the better part of 30 years and been rejected as a “paranoid conspiracy theorist” by thousands of the ignorant and clueless? Do they really care about the U.S. government’s position and the media’s failure to do its job in exposing the truth? Not a chance.
According to its own boilerplate content statement, Smithsonian “looks at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution – science, history, art, popular culture and innovation – and chronicles them for its diverse readership.” This trendy descriptor says nothing about the role that truth and the facts should play as it strives to serve its “diverse readership,” code words that reflect the myriad political, cultural and even religious readerships that publications such as Smithsonian, American Heritage and others of their ilk seek to please.
Unlike Smithsonian, where truth is dispensed only in small dollops for the edification of the most discerning readers — on the subject of Amelia Earhart, at least – readers familiar with this blog know that my observations and conclusions are always tied to known facts, and when speculation is offered, it’s labeled as such. This writer, as do we all now or later, answers to a higher authority than the Smithsonian board of directors, and I try to proceed accordingly.
“The Smithsonian’s Straight Skinny” (Part II)
For those who may not be familiar with recent articles published by highbrow magazines, in 2007, Tom Crouch, Ph.D., the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum senior curator, wrote a piece titled “Searching for Amelia Earhart” for Invention and Technology Magazine. You can read it in its entirely, above, but here’s the statement from Crouch that tells us how he feels about the Marshalls and Saipan scenarios:
. . . what are we to make of all the eyewitness testimony placing Earhart and Noonan in Japanese hands? Mustn’t there be at least a small flame of truth flickering beneath all that smoke? Sorry. You don’t have to follow many criminal cases to realize just how fallible witness memories can be. How much less trustworthy are the recollections of events that occurred more than two decades before, gathered from witnesses who speak a different language by interviewers who know what they want to hear?
In a quarter-century of looking, no researcher has produced a shred of hard evidence to suggest that Earhart and Noonan were either spies or victims of the Japanese.
I had serious problems with Crouch’s illogical analysis, and dissected his weak argument line-by-line in Truth at Last, in a section titled “The Smithsonian’s Straight Skinny” (see pages 376-382). “Crouch’s article, instead of offering readers a possible glimpse of the truth,” I wrote, “actually served as a platform for the latest government-approved talking points in the Earhart matter, masquerading as informed historical narrative from an unimpeachable authority. . . . Since no ‘archival evidence’ of Earhart’s captivity and death has yet to be produced, none must exist, Crouch asserted, which may be true; files can be destroyed or hidden beyond recovery.
“But even the moderately informed could see through Crouch’s flimsy argumentation against Saipan,” I continued, “and the patronizing arrogance that flavored his comments clearly signaled his loyalty to the falsehoods that are orthodoxy in the establishment he serves.”
Five years later, in the summer of 2012, Crouch was back, this time in American Heritage magazine, with “Amelia Found?” On this occasion, the 75th anniversary of Amelia’s loss, the senior curator didn’t bother to even briefly trace the history of the “Japanese capture theory,” as he’d done in “Searching for Amelia Earhart,” but he simply trashed it as quickly as possible:
What are we to make of all the conspiracy theories? Is there a small flame of truth flickering somewhere beneath all that smoke? Most likely not. In three-quarters of a century of looking, no researcher has produced a shred of hard evidence to suggest that Earhart and Noonan were either spies or prisoners of the Japanese.
Crouch’s contempt for the truth was evident in every word he wrote in this travesty, and again I had to respond. I wrote Crouch and the American Heritage editors a letter I knew would never see print, except on my own blog, where “American Heritage, Crouch do it again” appeared on Oct. 17, 2012.
“American Heritage needs to be reminded that their readership is not totally populated by morons and lemmings,” I wrote in conclusion, “so I hope this brief letter will at least accomplish that modest goal. I also know that American Heritagedoes not possess the integrity or intellectual honesty to publish this letter, but I’ll make sure I inform as many as I can about the continuing Earhart travesty and your role in perpetuating it.”
Does anyone out there seriously believe that Crouch would retain his job as senior curator and chief Air and Space Museum spokes-mouth if he were to change his views on the Earhart disappearance and insist that the government release its top-secret files and come clean after nearly eight decades of denial and obfuscation? Please.
Can you blame me for thinking that the Smithsonian, with government apologist Crouch at the helm of the Air and Space Museum, has been among the most truth-averse organizations in the nation when it comes to the Earhart story? Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think Crouch is ignorant or uninformed. On the contrary, he has a doctorate in history from Ohio State on his distinguished Air and Space Museum resume, and is the “author or editor of a number of books and many articles for both popular magazines and scholarly journals.” But when it comes to Amelia Earhart, what are we to conclude? Is it that Crouch just can’t seem to grasp the research that so clearly reveals the truth, or is there something a bit more sinister afoot?
So I asked myself, why would this magazine bother to question me about my views? Did they think that including a few small snippets about the hated “Japanese capture theory” advanced only by a few addled “conspiracy theorists” would convince readers of their tolerance and dedication to “diversity”? Perhaps, but I figured it would be better to play the game with Adler than to insult him and guarantee no mention at all, so I fully cooperated with him.
Adler told me he had “no preconceptions” going into this story, a typical disclaimer offered by all writers at this level, and one that usually means quite the opposite is true. If Adler – or the editors who direct his work — really had no opinions about the Earhart disappearance before he began researching this story, why did it so strongly resemble every other establishment treatment of this subject we’ve seen for nearly three decades?
These puff-pieces almost always emphasize the latest drippings from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), an impressive title for an organization that is consistently unimpressive, has yet recover a single aircraft, and whose ethically challenged director has yet to establish a single probative link between Earhart or Fred Noonan and the scads of trash he brings back from his bi-annual boondoggles to Nikumaroro.
But before I proceed with more on the odious Gillespie, his Nikumaroro cash cow and the Smithsonian’s gentle treatment of perhaps the most effective enemies the truth in the Earhart disappearance has ever faced — with the exception of the U.S. government – readers should be enlightened about one important principle.
The Big Lie: The “Great Aviation Mystery”
This PRINCIPLE, which has become one of my constant memes, is that the very idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is a “great aviation mystery” is itself among the biggest lies in modern American history. So effective has the U.S. government been in inculcating and maintaining this idea into the official historical narrative that it has become a normal piece of our cultural furniture, accepted without question by all but the few who care to closely examine this longtime canard, this straw man our establishment created so long ago to protect its own interests.
Thus, when the Earhart disappearance is analyzed or examined by people we would normally consider intelligent, like Tom Crouch, all the established, traditional rules of investigation, including objective evaluation of evidence, logic and the scientific approach become virtually nonexistent and non-applicable.
Any discerning individual who closely looks at the prevailing Earhart “theories” will discover that not a shred of alleged evidence for either crash-and-sank or Nikumaroro exists that doesn’t completely break down under mere moderate scrutiny, leaving absolutely nothing but smoke and babble. Simple logic will lead any objective investigator to the truth; the problem is that few modern-day “investigators” are either objective or logical relative to the Earhart disappearance.
Both of these falsehoods are based upon assumptions made upon more assumptions, yet in polite circles they are considered far superior to the truth, supported by volumes of eyewitness accounts from citizens of the Marshalls and Saipan, four U.S. flag officers and over two-dozen former veterans of the Battle of Saipan, among others. Clearly, the desire to follow all these signposts that lead to the truth does not exist in the establishment media, nor virtually anywhere else, for that matter. In the Earhart case, the Big Lie has completely replaced the truth.
Knowledgeable observers recognize this, and know that TIGHAR’s Earhart operation, from its inception, has been little more than a well-oiled confidence game with two major goals – to separate the unwary from their money and provide Gillespie with a fat yearly salary. Fred Goerner recognized this early on, wasting his time in an August 1992 letter advising Gillespie not to paint himself into a corner by making claims he couldn’t substantiate. A few of Goerner’s uncanny predictions about Gillespie’s plots can be found on page 420 of Truth at Last.
Truth at Last presents an overwhelming, undeniable case for the Marshalls and Saipan presence of our fliers. Simple logic, something sorely missing in most Earhart discussions, tells us that if the fliers actually went down in the Pacific or landed and died on Nikumaroro, such a book, like those that preceded it, with its many hundreds of separate threads of evidence and testimony, would simply have been impossible.
Among the few true Earhart researchers active today, none has ever been accused of such craven, mercenary motivations as Gillespie. To my knowledge, the two researchers currently doing the most important work are Dick Spink, who says he’s $50,000 in the hole after four trips to the Marshall Islands, and Les Kinney, who’s never quoted a figure, but is also well in the red after numerous trips around the country in search of many pieces of major new evidence he’ll someday reveal in the book he’s writing.
These men tread honorably on the narrow trail blazed by Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Don Kothera, Thomas E. Devine and Bill Prymak, their overriding motivation only to lay this false “mystery” that is the Earhart travesty to rest. Sadly, the real and continuing tragedy of the Earhart saga is that nothing short of the discovery of the Earhart Electra or Amelia herself returning from the grave would put an end to the status quo that 77 years of propaganda has created.
The last time Smithsonian magazine engaged the Earhart story was about three years ago, when it published a shameless promotion of then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s public support for Gillespie’s tenth trip to Nikumaroro, in a March 20, 2012 piece by one K. Annabelle Smith titled, “The Search for Amelia Earhart Resurfaces, 75 Years Later.” Even for Smithsonian, this story reached new lows, which might explain why its editors finally deigned to include a brief mention of the hated Marshalls and Saipan scenarios for its January 2015 issue.
Here’s a sample of the insipid pabulum Smithsonian offered its readers in 2012:
And while new interest in Amelia Earhart’s disappearance has resurfaced as of late, Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum says “Lady Lindy’s” legacy has always held a place in the Smithsonian Institution. “Everybody has a theory, some more serious than others, but it’s still the greatest mystery of the 20th century,” she says, “and looks like it’s heading into the 21st century.”
Note the clueless Dorothy Cochrane’s insufferable insistence that the Earhart disappearance remains not only the greatest “aviation mystery,” but the “greatest mystery of the 20th century,” period. It rarely gets worse than this.
The Smithsonian’s Cover Story
Adler’s Earhart piece is the cover story for Smithsonian’s January 2015 issue. In the cover photo of Amelia, she is particularly striking as she glances at us across 80 years, goggles raised over her brow, impeccably geared up for takeoff in elegant white aviator’s togs. Set against a black background, the photo seems almost perfect, unlike the story itself.
“New Clues, New Controversy,” punctuate Amelia’s photo in bright red headlines, by when even moderately knowledgeable students of the Earhart case open the magazine and start reading “Will the Search for Amelia Earhart Ever End?” they will immediately realize they’ve been taken for another ride on the Earhart disinformation express.
To begin, the lead in Adler’s story is, quite frankly, incredible, as he travels to Gillespie’s “Pennsylvania farmhouse” to fawn over a piece of scrap aluminum that’s long been exposed as worthless junk, breathlessly telling us, “If he’s right, this is one of the great historical artifacts of the 20th century, a piece of the airplane in which Amelia Earhart made her famous last flight over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937.” This is news?
Adler’s story presents no “new clues” whatever. These “new clues,” which Adler was told were this story’s very raison d’être, are nothing more than recently debunked, false interpretations of the provenance of a piece of aluminum scrap that’s been one of the centerpieces of the TIGHAR scam since its earliest days. I fail to see why Adler or one of the many researchers on staff at Smithsonian couldn’t have easily found two current newspaper stories that present the real “new evidence,” which emphatically exposes Gillespie’s aluminum claims as pure rubbish, or just asked somebody who doesn’t subscribe to TIGHAR’s latest talking points. But after 25 years of failed trips to Nikumaroro, Gillespie not only gets a pass, he still gets top billing from a magazine believed to represent enlightened thought by many.
Amelia Earhart Society (AES) researcher and pilot Gary LaPook talked to reporters Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald and Bruce Burns of the Kansas City Star about the aluminum sheet, which Smithsonian editors displayed on a full page, as if readers would somehow be more impressed by the importance of the sheet of scrap aluminum if it was blown up into such a huge photo – talk about overkill. Garvin’s Oct. 30 story, “Investigators search for Amelia Earhart’s ghost in old Miami Herald,” was the second he’d done on Gillespie’s new claims, and he saved the most important fact – the “money quote,” so to speak, for the end of the story:
The most important evidence, however, is the linkage of Gillespie’s scrap to Earhart’s plane through study of the photo. And it’s on that point that LaPook and other of his other critics insist most adamantly he’s wrong. They says [sic] telltale evidence on Gillespie’s scrap of wreckage prove it wasn’t manufactured until several years after Earhart crashed. The scrap bears a visible stamp of an A and a letter D — probably part of the label 24ST Alclad, the type of aluminum its [sic] made from.
But, LaPook says, Alcoa Inc., the company that manufactured the aluminum, didn’t start stamping it with the 24ST Alclad designation until 1941. Before that, it used the abbreviation ALC. “There are hundreds of photos of aluminum pieces stamped ALC,” LaPook said. “It’s just beyond doubt.”
Brian Burns’ story, “Has the key to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the Pacific been found in Kansas?” was a more unbiased treatment of Gillespie’s phony claims than the Miami Herald ran. Besides presenting LaPook’s information in a way that laymen could easily understand, Burns interviewed Louise Foudray, curator of the Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kan., who was very kind to Gillespie. But Burns also asked for my opinion, and unlike the politically correct Foudray, I was in no mood for vaporous platitudes. I also wrote my own story, “LaPook destroys Gillespie’s latest false Earhart claim,” and posted it on my Truth at Last blog on Nov. 2, just a day before Adler contacted me.
“He tells me he’s ‘98 percent’ sure the piece came from Earhart’s plane,” Adler writes of Gillespie’s absurd estimation of the chances his Nikumaroro flotsam is connected to Amelia or the Electra and will bring him unanimous worldwide acclaim as the man who solved the Holy Grail of Aviation mysteries. Adler squanders nearly a third of his 3,500 word essay on Gillespie’s drivel, but at least he comes away quite dubious, as he should be. He closes his section on Gillespie by quoting one of the few intelligent sentences Tom Crouch has ever uttered in the Earhart discussion: “I think if Ric proved anything, it’s that [Earhart and Noonan] never were close to that island.”
Mercifully, Adler foregoes another episode of Tom Crouch’s crashed-and-sank advocacy, otherwise known in enlightened circles as “defending the indefensible,” but he does direct readers to Elgen and Marie Long’s discredited polemic, Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved. This book “remains the simplest explanation,” Adler writes, “but for that very reason, has attracted derision from those who prefer their history complicated.” He’s wrong, of course. Crashed-and-sank wasn’t dismissed by coherent researchers long ago for the very reason of its simplicity, but because it’s simply flat wrong, and there’s never been a sliver of evidence to support it.
In fact, I’m convinced that it was because of the absurd nature of the crashed-and-sank theory that the establishment selected TIGHAR’s not-quite-as-ridiculous Nikumaroro “hypothesis” as its preferred avenue of disinformation in 1989, with Elgen and Marie Long’s defunct Navy and Coast Guard verdict relegated to backup status as a secondary diversion for the confused.
For some unknown reason far beyond my ken, someone at the magazine also decided to include the ideas of one Bill Snavely, who, up until his mention in this story has been a total unknown in Earhart circles. Do a google search, combining his name with “Earhart,” and you will find absolutely nothing.
I’d never heard of Bill Snavely and his Bouganville claims, nor has any other Earhart researcher I’ve asked, but the fact that Travel Channel featured his crackpot ideas, along with Australian David Billings and his New Britain theory, and Gillespie, of course, in a two-hour documentary Jan. 8 was simply further confirmation that the establishment has no room for the truth, but will happily put any kind of nonsense out there to distract and misinform the public.
“This was a complete waste of a serious Earhart enthusiast’s time,” an AES member wrote in its online forum. “It compares to Geraldo Riviera’s search for Capone’s artifacts in Chicago many years ago. Can you imagine searching for downed aircraft in the jungles of New Britain with flash lights at night? Gillespie’s comment of 100 percent got me all shocked up.”
A Crack in the Door
From the beginning of our correspondence, I felt that Adler planned to include some discussion of Truth at Last only because he was told to do so. Sure, the former Newsweek reporter names Truth at Last in his piece, but he has little good say about it, other than admit I present “a mountain of testimony from American servicemen and Pacific Islanders to show that an American man and woman landed in the Marshalls in 1937 and were taken to Saipan, although apparently they never introduced themselves by name (italics mine).”
Adler does well when he introduces the history of Saipan research by spending more than a paragraph on Thomas E. Devine’s eyewitness account presented in his 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, and he calls Devine’s story “riveting.” A pretty good start, I thought, but one that failed to deliver on its promise.
As our email conversations proceeded (we never actually spoke on the phone), Adler said he had “skimmed” Truth at Last “for my own purposes” in researching his story, and wrote that he found its argumentation “persuasive.” He also asked a few intelligent questions that indicated he’d spent at least a few minutes thinking about what he’d read. But in his story, the best he could manage was to write, “it’s possible to come away thinking Campbell is on to something.” Thus do Adler and Smithsonian magazine engage in the literary equivalent of throwing a bare bone to the poor, starving dog in the back yard that was abandoned by its owners when they moved. I exaggerate only slightly.
Adler did grant my request to include my statement, ”FDR could never have survived public knowledge that he failed to help America’s No. 1 aviatrix of the Golden Age of Aviation,” a pleasant surprise. Editors also displayed the four Amelia Earhart 50th Anniversary Commemorative stamps issued in 1987 by the Republic of the Marshall Islands, thereby proving at least one solid fact about the Earhart case – that Amelia’s landing at Mili and pickup by the Japanese is accepted as fact by the people of that free country. The few Westerners who will ever visit these remote islands can be sure they won’t be subjected to any local media shilling for the latest phony discoveries in the “Earhart Mystery.” The Marshallese people don’t wonder about what happened to Amelia; they already know.
Otherwise, Adler finds ways — all questionable or flatly illegitimate — to deprecate nearly everything about Truth at Last he thinks he can get away with. He also strongly suggests, by his tone, that he considers its author to be among “a group that includes serious historians as well as wild-eyed obsessives, who pile up scraps of evidence into conspiracies reaching right up to the White House” – and it’s clear it’s not among “serious historians” where he thinks anyone should be looking for me.
A close examination of the paragraph that ends with Adler’s grudging admission that I might be “on to something” could easily lead readers to wonder why he even bothers, as he cherry picks what he sees as the easiest targets and attempts to discredit them. First of all, I fail to see how he can write that Truth at Last “is filled with mysterious disappearances, cryptic warnings from sinister strangers and suspicious deaths,” without providing a single example or even explaining the significance of this baseless observation.
He casts a negative pall on Adm. Chester Nimitz’s statement to Fred Goerner – never denied or disputed by Nimitz after Goerner presented it in his 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart – because it was in a phone conversation and Goerner was the “only source,” but he overlooks the statement of Gen. Graves Erskine, former V Amphibious Corps second in command during the Saipan invasion, to CBC West Coast President Jules Dundes and KCBS reporter Dave McElhatton: “It was established that Earhart was on Saipan.”
Adler asserts that much of the evidence in the book is “second- or third-hand,” as if such testimony is unworthy of our consideration. But he conveniently ignores the many direct eyewitness accounts from unimpeachable native witnesses such as Josephine Blanco Akiyama, Anna Diaz Mogofna, Bilimon Amaron, Dr. Manual Aldan, Louis Igitol and John Tobeke, among others, as well as Americans including Erskine, Jim Golden, Robert E. Wallack, Erskine Nabers, Jerrell H. Chatham, Arhur Nash, Henry Duda and many others.
He also fails to mention that the 1960 Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) Report has been thoroughly ignored by the entire media since its declassification in 1967; instead he focuses on a single hearsay statement that was included in this report. Citing Devine’s extensive argumentation from Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, I rebutted this revealing yet still unknown document’s findings at length in Truth at Last, which Adler also decided wasn’t worth mentioning.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s infamous scarlet “A” long ago ceased to be a symbol of shame in America, as adultery became a mainstream pastime; now it’s the “C” word, for the despised “conspiracy theorist” that so cruelly taints those smeared by it, fairly or unfairly. It’s a tool of Adler’s trade, but not once throughout our 11-day email discussion did I use this word to describe anything about the Earhart story – most of which he was hearing, or more accurately, reading for the first time.
But in his story, he uses the “C” word not once, but twice in references to me, an undeserved cheap shot by which he signals his readers how they should regard my work. This postmodern aversion to the word is itself absurd, as if no conspiracies have ever existed, and anyone who believes differently is to be assiduously avoided.
Adler cites not a single instance in Truth at Last where I engage in any speculation resembling that of the “wild-eyed obsessives” he describes in the opening of his story. When I quote Fred Goerner’s ideas about why President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely prevented release of the truth about the Japanese capture of Earhart and Noonan in a subsection titled “Roots of the Cover-Up” (pages 353-358), or quote from numerous sources about their knowledge of secret files and a concerted government effort to conceal the truth, does this make me a conspiracy theorist?
Apparently so, but virtually everything I present is labeled appropriately, and the reader understands that this information isn’t about what I think, but about what many of this story’s key characters knew, found and believed through the years that strongly suggested and even sometimes clearly illustrated active government participation in suppressing the truth about what happened to Amelia Earhart.
This use of the “C” word is just another way Adler tried to undermine my work, but it also tells discerning readers that the truth has once again received short shrift, this time from the trusted Smithsonian magazine. If he was really trying to “fairly represent” my work, as he stated during our correspondence, he failed miserably.
“In Earhart’s fate,” Adler writes in conclusion, “we see a reflection of our own deepest fears – the laughing, carefree young woman taking off on a grand adventure, and never coming back.” Perhaps, but anyone with eyes and without an agenda can also see, on regular display, the mendacious work of sophists and propagandists such as Gillespie, Crouch and Long, aided and enabled by writers such as Adler, many lesser talents and the rest of the dubious cast of characters who populate this sordid drama.
The condescension and pervasive relativism that characterize this piece, and which are especially pronounced at its close, are emblematic of the zeitgeist that rules today’s Earhart media coverage. Adler doubtless believes he’s been fair to me and the conspiracy theorists, and he’s now onto his next assignment, all thoughts of the Earhart story behind him. He knows he’s done his job, to maintain the status quo, and keep the myth, the template, the narrative, the conventional wisdom and the Big Lie about the “Earhart Mystery” alive and well, and he’s led readers to as few of the facts as possible while retaining a semblance of credibility in the eyes of the uninformed.
The aging elephant in the room, the Marshall Islands-Saipan Truth, has again been effectively marginalized while not being completely ignored, but the far more respectable and acceptable Earhart “theories” continue to rule the day. All is well; move along, sheeple, there’s nothing more to see here.
A few friends have offered congratulations on my work finally being recognized in such a prestigious publication. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, and being included is far better than being ignored. Adler’s narrative on aspects of the Marshall Islands-Saipan scenario, slanted though it is, is still more than Smithsonian or any of its elite relatives have recently managed, at least to my knowledge. But though Adler named Truth at Last, putting it on the map, so to speak, he didn’t recommend it or describe it in such a way that any but a precious few will to seek it out. I remain curious about who at the magazine decided that Truth at Last should be included in this story. It clearly wasn’t Adler, so if anyone should be thanked, it would be this person, likely the story’s chief editor.
Finally, I think the most unfortunate aspect of the Smithsonian article lies in a profound cynicism that prevented Jerry Adler from understanding and appreciating Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
This longtime veteran of the information wars is apparently unable to recognize and appreciate the many years of dedication, hard work and a love and respect for the truth that went into the creation of this book, and he missed a real opportunity to make a difference. Either that, or he did see these things in whole or in part, and was able to overlook them, in compliant duty to the establishment he serves.
Researcher Les Kinney recently forwarded the above photo, provided by Dick Spink, of two very old, rusted steel wheels attached to axles that were found by Spink on the same Endriken Island where he found the plate and the dust cover (see Nov. 25 post). The axles, according to Kinney, are about 4 to 4.5 feet long, and the wheel diameters are about 20 inches. Nothing more specific or detailed about these wheels is currently available, and they are now believed to be in the possession of the Marshallese government.
Of course we wonder what these artifacts were doing on such a remote, otherwise unsettled spit of land in the Marshalls, but at this time we’ll leave any speculation for later. Anyone who has any ideas about the origin, provenance or function of these axles and wheels is encouraged to contact us.
It appears that the story of Dick Spink’s fascinating discoveries on the tiny Endriken Islands in the Marshalls has only just begun.
In my last post we briefly looked at the mostly forgotten, sketchy biography of the multi-talented mariner and aviator Fred Noonan up until the time of Amelia Earhart’s March 20, 1937 Luke Field, Hawaii crash on takeoff on the second leg of her first world-flight attempt. Noonan’s fateful decision to stay with Amelia as her sole navigator throughout her next world flight attempt came after her first choice, Harry Manning, quickly withdrew from the team following the near-disastrous Luke Field debacle. The unfortunate mishap, which could have been much worse in terms of injuries or loss of life, did little to bolster Amelia’s reputation as a pilot, despite the official verdict that the ground loop was an unavoidable accident.
Fifty-two years later, Fred Goerner told a Pennsylvania television executive, “It is not correct to blame a tire blowout for the [Luke Field] incident. Harry Manning was in the right hand co-pilot’s seat on the attempted Honolulu takeoff. Manning wrote to me and then told me in tape recordings that the crash was the result of Earhart’s jockeying the throttles on takeoff as she was having trouble controlling the takeoff. The blown tire was a result rather than a cause. Manning said, ‘One second I was looking at the hangars, the next second the water. I was ready to die. It was phenomenal that none of us was injured. She simply lost it. That’s all. I decided then and there that was it for me. I’d been ready to leave anyway because of [George Palmer] Putnam. ’ ”
Manning was likely referring to the publisher’s micro-management of his famous wife’s publicity campaign for the world flight, and his tyrannical insistence that the spotlight remain focused only on Amelia, as if she were the only person in the Electra. Putnam imposed the same conditions on Noonan, but Fred needed the flight so badly, and so filled with promise did the great opportunity appear that he readily accepted the overbearing Putnam’s demands without complaint.
But as we continue our focus on Fred Noonan, we won’t further analyze Amelia’s questionable performance at Luke Field or second guess the decision that cost Noonan his life. Fairly or not, Noonan will always be remembered as the problem drinker who Amelia Earhart trusted with her own life, if he’s remembered at all. By hearing from those who knew Noonan or were close to those who did, and from others who have carefully studied the matter, perhaps we can get a better answer to the questions that will probably never be completely put to rest: Was Noonan an alcoholic, and if so, how bad was his drinking? Most importantly, did Noonan’s drinking have any negative effects on the final, ill-fated flight that terminated at Mili Atoll?
We began with the late Almon Gray, a Navy Reserve captain and Pan American Airways China Clipper flight officer, who flew with Noonan in the 1930s and later brilliantly analyzed Earhart’s radio problems. “Fred obviously was sober at 8 a.m. [July 2],” Gray wrote of his former colleague, “and with all the rush of getting ready to take off he would not have had an opportunity to get drunk before 10 a.m. without someone of the Airways staff knowing about it. I am very confident that Fred was sober and in all respects capable of performing his duties on the Lae-Howland flight.”
Another man who knew Noonan well, at least on the professional level, was Captain Marius Lodeesen, the legendary Pan American Airlines pilot and former naval aviator. In Captain Lodi Speaking: Saying Goodbye to an Era (Paladwr Press, 2004, the second edition of his 1984 book), Lodeesen briefly addressed Noonan’s drinking. Recalling his first meeting with Noonan at Alameda Airport in Oakland, Calif., as the Dutch immigrant began his “adventure of Pan American’s Pacific Service” in 1933, Lodeesen described him as “tall and slender and looking a little like movie star James Stewart,” and said he and Noonan “operated on the same UHF band.”
“Much has been made of Noonan’s drinking,” Lodeesen wrote. “He has been accused of being an alcoholic. He wasn’t one, at least not then.” Later in his page-long narrative, however, the “Flying Dutchman,” as Lodeesen was known, wrote that “his drinking did become an issue” and concluded that Noonan was “of a gentle nature and addicted to drink,” implying though not actually stating that Noonan “found himself out of a job” as a result.
TIGHAR’s Ric Gillespie, well known as “an internationally recognized authority on the Earhart disappearance whose writings have appeared in the Naval Institute’s Proceedingsand Naval Historyand in LIFE Magazine,” according to his Amazon.com profile, has blamed Fred Goerner for fueling the public’s perception of Noonan as a drunk. “The stories about Noonan’s drinking seem to have begun in 1966 with the publication of The Search for Amelia Earhart by Frederick Goerner and are totally without documentary support,” Gillespie declaims on his TIGHAR site. “It is one of the tragedies of the Earhart Legend that an aviation pioneer whose contributions to modern air travel are considerably greater than Earhart’s, is primarily remembered as Amelia Earhart’s drunken navigator.”
But what precisely is this “documentary support” Gillespie says is so lacking in Noonan’s case? Is this just another of his weasel phrases, such as “consistent with,” which we’ve seen can apply to virtually anything that “might have come” or “could have come” from the Earhart plane or even Amelia or Fred themselves, too-clever-by-half dodges that provide convenient escape hatches should the thrust of his latest contention prove to be false, as is virtually always the case?
In fact, Goerner wrote little about Noonan’s drinking. I may have missed something in my quick review of Goerner’s 1966 bestseller, but I found only two relevant passages. On page 30 of the first edition of Search we find this:
“Fred Noonan was a talented and handsome man. Only one major flaw disturbed the image. He could drink a bottle of whiskey in the afternoon, and get through the better part of another in the evening. ‘Boozer,’ ‘drunk,’ ‘lush’ – are hard words, and none of them fit Fred. He was hooked on liquor, yet somehow he always managed to function. He fought his adversary with courage and conviction, but sometimes he lost, and those defeats were costly. One of them caused Pan American to let him go.”
Goerner didn’t elaborate on the “defeat” that caused Pan American “to let him go.” His only other reference to Noonan and booze came on page 33, where he wrote that after Noonan and Mary B. Martinelli were married in Yuma, Arizona, in late March 1937, “their car smashed head-on into another automobile on a highway near Fresno. The investigating police officer cited Fred for driving in the wrong lane. A notation at the bottom of the traffic ticker said: ‘No injuries. Driver had been drinking.’” We’re left to wonder why Noonan wasn’t arrested if he caused such a potentially deadly accident while drinking, but this is all Goerner wrote.
Scottish researcher Jackie Ferrari, about as close to a Noonan biographer as this observer knows, claims Noonan was “let go” at Pan Am in late 1936 as a result of his heavy drinking, although no official announcement was made. “He simply disappeared from the payroll,” Ferrari writes, so that the image-conscious PAA would “not lose face by admitting they had employed Fred when he was in this state.”
Noonan’s life had come undone, Ferrari wrote in her Jackie Ferrari’s Blog on Fred J Noonan, and he was “almost suicidal, according to his friend Marius Lodeesen. There are others who say that something had gone wrong in his life. His marriage was finished and his career effectively ended.” Noonan remarried shortly before leaving for the world flight with Earhart, and the timing of the incredible opportunity seemingly could not have been more fortuitous for the 44-year-old navigator.
In her blog post, titled, The Cincinnati Division, Ferrari, who also owns the Fred Noonan Society Yahoo! discussion group, was adamant about why Noonan lost his job at Pan Am. “Fred Noonan was ‘let go‘ at the end of 1936 for drinking,” she wrote. “He was in the words of a fellow crew member sent to the Cincinnati Division. I am assured by a former PAA navigator that that was the euphemism for ‘getting the boot.‘ What is my evidence for this and how credible it that evidence?
“In the archives of PAA, in Miami,” Ferrari continued, “there exists a series of transcribed interviews between John Leslie, a former PAA executive and several crew from the pioneering days of the Clippers. Two of that crew flew with Fred. They are Victor Wright and Harry Canaday. Both, but particularly Wright tell in no uncertain terms what happened.“ Ferrari goes on:
Fred developed a severe drink problem after Acapulco where the Clipper stopped during its transfer across country from Miami to Alameda. He suddenly found fame according to Wright and it went to his head. Before this he had been “rock steady” with no sign of a “crackup.” He “did a beautiful piece of work.” Then in Acapulco everyone was shaking his hand. Overnight he became a celebrity, invited to all the parties where he regaled the company with seafaring tales. H e was very much in demand and the partying habit continued in Honolulu, Wake, Guam and Manila.
One day he had to be sought out by Wright, who had to get into some “interesting situations” and proceeded to sober him up before his flight. This resulted in a fall in the bathtub which knocked out his front teeth [in Honolulu]. Canada navigated on the way back. One might say that this was “normal behavior” for the aviators of the time. Maybe for some, but not for PAA. Andre Priester, Pan Am’s chief engineer, was known to instantly dismiss anyone under the influence of alcohol. It is a measure of the esteem in which Fred was held that he was tolerated for almost two years.
Wright says that the “Old Man” covered up for Fred. Was that Ed Musick? Or Priester? Or Juan Trippe, Pan Am’s president? They knew he did a faultless job and he was indispensable for the proving flights. But by the time regular passenger carrying service was set up and other navigators were trained his value waned and he became a liability. The company carried very high class personages from heads of state to movie stars.
It simply would not do for them to see the plane’s navigator carried aboard comatose. He had to go. But according to Wright, PAA could not lose face by admitting they had employed Fred when he was in this state. They had too much to lose so he simply disappeared from the payroll. That is why there is no official record of him having been dismissed.
For more of Ferrari on Noonan, please click here.
Earhart biographer Mary Lovell, whose 1989 book, The Sound of Wings, is among the better-known accounts of Amelia’s incredible life, flatly disagreed with Ferrari’s contentions, at least in the 1989 edition of her book. Lovell wrote that Noonan was not dismissed from Pan Am because of his drinking, but “because as a navigator and not a pilot, he could go no further in the company ranks. He had recently married and felt that his navigator’s salary was insufficient for his new needs; he was then 44 years old and wanted to make a new start.” Lovell based this statement on a 1988 interview she had with Elgen and Marie Long.
Later in her book, Lovell wrote, “The stories of his heavy drinking seem too widely based to have no foundation; his contemporaries in the aircraft scene in California all ‘knew’ about this problem of Noonan’s. . . . Noonan was a heavy drinker not an alcoholic but it is ironic that Amelia should once again place her trust, and the success of her flight, in the hands of a man with a reputation as a drinker.” I always wonder how those untrained in clinical diagnosis of alcoholism and far removed in time and place from the subject under discussion can so blithely pass judgment on the status of another individual’s drinking habits.
“A great deal of emphasis has been placed on reports of Fred Noonan getting drunk on the night of their arrival at Lae [June 29] after an argument with Amelia,” Lovell also wrote in The Sound of Wings, citing Ann H. Pellegreno’s 1971 book World Flight as her source. “These reports vary in description and reliable witnesses who were present that night do agree that he got ‘very drunk’ but only after Amelia and Noonan had already taken the decision not to fly on the following day.” In fact, they didn’t fly until the third day, July 2, after Noonan’s June 29 “bender.”
Next, Lovell again turned to her 1988 interview with Elgen and Marie Long, who tell us the following about Noonan’s drinking at Lae:
The argument that caused Noonan to get drunk was over nothing very much. AE had been invited to a dinner party. Noonan was not personally invited though I think this was merely an oversight. Anyway he came down to the bar of the Cecil Hotel to find Eric Chaters [sic] and Jim Collopy all smartened up and ready to go for drinks. When asked if he was going Fred said, “No, but AE is . . . ” leaving no doubt that he was disgruntled, and when asked what he’d have to drink he said “whiskey.” The other guys were all drinking beer but he stayed on whiskey and got very drunk. Next day AE watched him like a hawk to make sure he didn’t drink again.
Twenty years later, in Lovell’s 2009 St. Martin’s Press reprint edition of The Sound of Wings, in a new entry, she quotes Noonan’s boss during his days with Pan Am’s transpacific operations, Clarence L. Shildhauer:
Noonan developed a bad habit of going on a bender and getting lost among Manila’s whorehouses. Before takeoff he’d have to be hunted down and ”poured” aboard the airplane. . . . Noonan was given several warnings about his behavior because, as [his boss] reasonably pointed out, ”it would not inspire confidence among the customers if they were to see the navigator being carried aboard in Manila.”
“Noonan did not wait to be fired, however; he resigned,” Lovell concluded in her 2009 edition, which, at the end, is really not much different from “being let go” without the attendant publicity, fuss and paperwork, is it?
Photos taken just before takeoff at Lae, New Guinea’s primitive airstrip reveal what appears to be a fit and sober Noonan. In a 1985 letter to Fred Goerner, Bob Iredale, a Vacuum Oil Company representative at Lae, offered eyewitness evidence that Noonan was not drunk or hung over on the morning of July 2, an allegation that still lingers. During the fliers’ first night at Lae, Iredale invited Noonan, who was staying with him and fellow Vacuum employee Frank Howard in a large bungalow known as “Voco House,” to join them in their customary evening drink. “I’ve been 3 parts around the world without a drink and now we are here for a couple of days,” Iredale recalled Noonan saying. “I’ll have one. Have you a Vat 69.”
The next morning, Noonan “confessed to Amelia” that he “had a bit of a head and her comment was, ‘Naughty boy, Freddie,’” Iredale wrote. “That was the only drink session we had and to suggest he was inebriated before they took off is mischievous nonsense. I can assure you or anyone he had no drink for at least 24 hours before taking off.”
But Lae radio operator Harry Balfour’s 1970 letter to former Itasca Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts, who led the cutter’s 1937 radio crew in its desperate attempts to establish contact with Amelia, tells a different story. “Noonan did not arrive back in Lae until the morning of the takeoff,” Balfour wrote, “and he could not have done any flight planning and also he had been up in the hills at Bulolo – all the time hitting the bottle and she also knew that I had a navigator’s ticket.” Balfour’s claim that he “was asked if I would have liked to go along with her [Amelia] and that was the night before the takeoff” — though he didn’t specify by name who made the strange request — may indicate a tendency to exaggerate.
Alan Vagg, the radio operator at Bulolo, which was 40 miles from Lae, in an interview in Tokyo sometime before publication of the Joe Klaas’ infamous 1970 tome, Amelia Earhart Lives, told Joe Gervais a story that seemed to support Balfour’s contentions that Noonan was busy getting drunk on the evening of July 1. According to Klaas, Vagg told Gervais that Noonan and Jim Collopy, district superintendent of the Australian civil aviation agency in New Guinea, had “hit it off from the first meeting [June 29] and while there had one hell of a good time” while the fliers awaited their last takeoff.
“At 7:30 A.M. on the day of their takeoff from Lae, Jim and Fred had just returned to the local hotel after being out all night living it up,” Vagg told Gervais. “At 8:15 Amelia Earhart arrived at the hotel and knocked on Fred’s door. Jim answered because Fred was asleep.” Thus, according to Vagg as told to Joe Gervais, “Noonan had an absolute maximum of forty-five minutes to sleep off a night-long fling.”
Vincent V. Loomis, in his 1985 book Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, is among those who reported Amelia’s alleged statement to Putnam in a June 26 phone conversation from Bandoeng, Indonesia, as told by Putnam to his friend Van Campen Heilner. According to Heilner, Amelia began the conversation with the remark, “He’s hitting the bottle again and I don’t even know where he’s getting it!” Loomis also echoed Harry Balfour’s questionable story of Noonan’s reckless behavior on the eve of the final flight:
On the evening of July 1, the night before the takeoff from Lae, the two fliers were to retire early, but Fred decided to spend the time drinking with his friends. The next morning, July 2, Fred made it back to his hotel room only 45 minutes before Amelia came pounding on his door to announce they would take off in a couple of hours. According to his drinking cronies of the previous night, Fred had complained of the strenuous pace set for him by Amelia, and found that as good a reason as any for seeking the comforts of the bottle.
So who are we to believe, Balfour via his letter to Chief Leo Bellarts and Vagg via Joe Gervais, or our own eyes, as we consider the photo, as well as a 37-second YouTube video of Amelia and Fred boarding the Electra on July 2, taken just before the pair left Lae, with Noonan appearing especially chipper and well?
It need not come to that. Balfour’s recollection of Noonan’s whereabouts on the evening of July 1 simply cannot be trusted or verified, and is directly contradicted by more than one source. At the request of William Miller, U.S. Bureau of Air Commerce, Eric Chater, general manager of Guinea Airways at Lae, wrote a July 25, 1937 letter detailing events as he recalled them during the American fliers’ stay at Lae.
“At 10.20 p.m. [July 1] a message was heard from all Australian coastal stations requesting all shipping to keep silence for a period of ten minutes during the transmission of the Adelaide time signal which was being awaited by Miss Earhart,” Chater wrote. “Complete silence prevailed during this period and a perfect time signal was received by Captain Noonan, and the machine chronometer was found to be three seconds slow.”
“It was difficult for Noonan to be in two places at the same time, in the radio shack at Lae and at the same time at Bulolo which is 40 miles away from Lae, there were no roads so the only way in and out was by air,” researcher Gary LaPook wrote in an April 24, 2012 message to the Earhart Yahoo! Online discussion group. “Did they fly at night through the mountains in New Guinea in 1937?
“On the night before their departure,” LaPook continued, “Collopy is quoted by [Ann] Pellegreno at page 194 [of her 1971 book, World Flight]. ‘Both were in bed early that night.’ At page 192 [Elgen] Long [author of Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved] also states that after the time check they returned to their hotel and were in bed by 11:00 p.m., July 1. ‘The clerk knocked on their doors at 5:30 Friday morning, July 2,’ Long wrote. ‘Collopy was having morning tea with Fred when Amelia came down.’”
Finally, in a taped 1988 interview with Fred Goerner at his home in Australia and reported in Dave Horner’s 2013 book, The Earhart Enigma, Vagg said neither Noonan nor Amelia visited Bulolo while they were at Lae. “While at Lae,” Horner wrote, “Amelia stayed with the family of Eric Chater, general manager of Guinea Airways at Lase, while Noonan stayed at the hotel there, Voco House, with Iredale and Frank Howard of Vacuum Oil Company.”
I hope the preceding is enough to satisfy the curiosity of those who might have wondered, from time to time, what Fred Noonan was really up to in the days and hours before the final flight. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Fred Noonan was a drunk who was guilty of irresponsible, even fatally bad judgment on the eve of the most important flight of his life, or whether he behaved as any other responsible professional would have done when facing such a daunting challenge, regardless of his drinking history.
I have no doubt, based on the personal accounts and other evidence we’ve just seen, that Noonan was sober, alert and fit when the Electra left Lae at 10 a.m., July 2, just as I’m certain that he would never have consciously put Amelia at risk. Of course, those who disagree are free to do so, and it certainly won’t be the last time in the Earhart saga that compelling evidence and common sense came out on the short end.