Monthly Archives: March, 2015

Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?

The late Rollin C. Reineck was a war hero, retired Air Force colonel and a longtime member of the Amelia Earhart Society, whose passion for Earhart research often produced interesting, informative pieces, one of which you are about to read.  At other times, Reineck’s unrestrained enthusiasm for the spectacular and bizarre led him into areas populated only by Fred Goerner’s “lunatic fringe,” and these ill-conceived forays have somewhat tainted his reputation among Earhart researchers.

Reineck’s authorship of the dreadful Amelia Earhart Survived (Paragon Agency, 2003), his unsuccessful attempt to resurrect and validate the long-discredited Irena Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth, was inarguably his greatest blunder in the Earhart arena. But that story is for another day.

Rollin C. Reineck, circa 1945, served as a B-29 navigator in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star. A true patriot in every sense of the word, Reineck passed away in 2007, but left some very controversial writings about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Rollin C. Reineck, circa 1945, served as a B-29 navigator in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star. A true patriot and war hero, Reineck passed away in 2007, leaving us some very controversial writings about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

During World War II, Reineck’s consistently outstanding performance as a B-29 navigator earned this brave patriot decorations such as the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star, as well as numerous commendations while flying missions in both the European and Pacific theaters, over the Mediterranean, Africa and against Japan from the recently captured Aslito Airfield on Saipan in early 1945.

Reineck  served for 30 years in his distinguished Air Force career, and for 15 years volunteered for the Red Cross whenever he could. Rollin Reineck’s “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection” appeared in the January 1997 edition issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, and as best as I can determine was written sometime in 1996.  Forthwith is his Morgenthau  piece, with additional comments to follow.

“Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection”

Why all the mystery about what happened to Amelia Earhart? A good question without a good answer. However, there was one person, more than anyone else, who probably knew the answer as to what happened on the fateful day in early July, 1937. That one person was Henry Morgenthau Jr., the secretary of the treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Henry Morgenthau was the son of a well-respected Jewish banker who had been the American Ambassador to Turkey.  Mr. Morgenthau Jr. first met Franklin Roosevelt at the outbreak of World War I. He had bought a thousand acre farm near the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park in upstate New York, and had become a gentleman farmer. Over the years Henry became one of Franklin’s closest friends and his wife became an even closer friend to Eleanor. When Roosevelt became the Governor of New York, Henry was brought into the state administration where he was very effective.

Subsequently, when Roosevelt moved to the White House, Henry followed. Within a year after that he became Secretary of the Treasury, and one of Roosevelt’s most trusted friends. He was often given extra departmental jobs which he accomplished with notable efficiency. He gave the president unswerving loyalty and in return the president gave him power and influence as a trusted counselor. Indeed, so close, the Morgenthaus often seemed to be members of the Roosevelts’ immediate family – a status greatly envied by Mr. Morgenthau’s colleagues.

In the dark days before World War II, when Japan was overrunning China, it was Morgenthau who arranged for a $100 million loan to the Chinese government for the FLYING TIGER Operations. The Flying Tigers were a group of so-called volunteers (mostly Americans) that provided badly needed air support to the Chinese leader Generalissimo Chang Kai Shek in his war against the Japanese.

There are many researchers who feel, as I do, that Morgenthau held the financial as well as operational control over the Amelia Earhart-around-the-world adventure in 1937. Although there is little documentation of the Morgenthau effort in support of Amelia Earhart, there is one file that sheds a great deal of light as to the extent of the Morgenthau involvement.

I am speaking here of the relatively recent discovery in President Roosevelt’s Hyde Park Library of a document relating to the Earhart episode. This document is a recorded memo (Dictaphone) between the then Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Mrs. Malvina Thompson Scheider, better known as “Tommy,” who was Mrs. Roosevelt’s personal secretary.

This document first appeared in a book about Amelia Earhart titled “My Courageous Sister” written by Muriel Morrissey, Amelia’s sister and Carol L. Osborne, noted Earhart researcher. The book was published in 1987. Since that time researchers have puzzled over the complete meaning of the memo’s contents. Today, it ranks as one of the most compelling pieces of circumstantial evidence we have in our search for the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart. The memo is unclassified and was probably overlooked when they screened the Morgenthau files that were to be made public and put in the Hyde Park Library. To date, it is the only document concerning Earhart in his archival material.

Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR's treasury secretary and confidante, is captured in a familiar pose in this undated photo taken about the time of his conversation with Malvina Thompson "Tommy" Scheider. We can safely assume that Morgenthau knew everything that FDR knew about the fate of Amelia Earhart.

Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR’s treasury secretary and confidante, is captured in a familiar pose in this undated photo taken about the time of his conversation with Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider. We can safely assume that Morgenthau knew everything that FDR knew about the fate of Amelia Earhart.

In the way of background, on April 26, 1938,  Paul Mantz (stunt pilot and technical advisor for Amelia Earhart), wrote to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and asked that she use her influence to obtain for him the “Official Report” of the Itasca relating to the flight of Amelia Earhart from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island. Mr. Mantz explained that he was told by the Coast Guard that the official report could not be released except through certain channels. In other words, the Roosevelt administration, for reasons unknown even today, had put a clamp on the release of information relating to the flight and disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Mrs. Roosevelt sent the Mantz letter to Henry Morgenthau with a note that said, “Now here comes this letter…I do not know whether you can send the man these documents. Let me know whatever your decision may be.” Mrs. Roosevelt signed the letter, “Affectionately, E.R.” A clear inference can be drawn from Mrs. Roosevelt’s note that there was a veil of secrecy surrounding the Earhart disappearance and that Morgenthau would know what could and could not be released. Whatever Morgenthau decided, Eleanor wanted to know.

On the morning of May 13, 1938, Morgenthau placed a telephone call to Eleanor Roosevelt. Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider,  Mrs. Roosevelt’s secretary, answered the phone. The following is a direct quote of [Morgenthau’s side of the] conversation.

“Hello, Tommy (Malvina Scheider). How are you? This letter that Mrs. Roosevelt wrote me about trying to ge the report on  Amelia Earhart. Now, I’ve been given a verbal report. If we’re going to release this, it’s just going to smear the  whole reputation of Amelia Earhart, and my …

“Yes, I mean if we give it to this one man we’ve got to make it public; we can’t let one man see it. And if we ever release the report of the Itasca on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone, because – and I’d like to – I’d really like to return this to you. 

(Continuing) “Now. I know what the Navy did, I know what the Itasca did. And I know how Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders, and if we ever  release this thing, good-by Amelia Earhart’s reputation. Now, really – because if we give the access to one, we have to give it to all. And my advice is that – and if the President ever heard that somebody questioned that the Navy hadn’t made the proper search, after what those boys went through. I think they searched, as I remember it, 50,000 square miles, and even one of those planes was out, and the boys just burnt themselves out physically and even other way searching for her.

“And if – I mean I think he’d get terribly angry if somebody, because they just went the limit, and so did the Coast Guard. And we have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else, what that woman – happened to her the last few minutes. I hope –  I’ve just got to never make it public. I mean, O.K.  Well, still if she wants it, I’ll tell her.  I mean what happened. It isn’t a very nice story.  Well, yes. There isn’t anything additional to something like that. You think up a good one.  Thank you.” (Conversation ends.)

(To Chauncy) “Just send it back.” 

Chauncy:  “Sure.” 

(Morgenthau) “I mean we tried – people want us to search again those islands, after what we have gone through. You (Gibbons) know the story, don’t you?” 

(Gibbons) “We have evidence that the thing is all over, sure. Terrible. It would be awful to make it public.”

Looking at just the substantive words in the memo, here is what it says:

“Now, I’ve been given a verbal report.”

“If we’re going to release this, it’s just going to smear the reputation of Amelia Earhart.”

“If we give it  to this one man we’ve got to make it public.”

“We can’t let one man see it.”

“If we ever release the report of the Itasca on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone.”

“I know now Amelia Earhart disregarded all orders.”

“If we ever release this thing, good-bye Amelia Earhart’s reputation.”

“If we give access to one, we have to give it to all.”

“We have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else.”

What that woman – happened to her the last few minutes.”

“I hope I’ve just got to never make it public.”

“If she wants it, I’ll tell her – I mean what happened.”

“It isn’t a very nice story.”

“There isn’t anything additional to something like that.”

“People want us to search again those islands.” 

“We have evidence that the thing is all over, sure. Terrible.” (Gibbons)

“It would be awful to make it public.” (Gibbons)

Eleanor Roosevelt, Malvina Thompson Scheider and Edith Helm, Washington, D.C. 1941.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Malvina Thompson Scheider and Edith Helm, Washington, D.C. 1941.

On July 5, 1938, Mr. Morgenthau sent a memo to Eleanor Roosevelt and said, “We have found it possible to send Mr. Mantz a copy of the log of the ITASCA, which I think will supply him all the data he asked for in his letter.”  Mr. Morgenthau is telling Eleanor Roosevelt that he has made the radio log palatable for public consumption. It is obvious that he did this by deleting or changing portions of the log that would be damaging to Earhart’s reputation and by deleting portions of the log that may have told what ORDERS Earhart has disregarded.

From the recorded conversation, it is more than obvious that there were additional wireless messages and related information released to Mr. Morgenthau, but never released to the public. For instance, there is nothing at all in the log of the Itasca that has been released that “would ruin her reputation.” Or what orders she disregarded. Nor is there anything in the released log that would indicate “what happened to her in the last few minutes.” Or why, “It isn’t a very nice story.” The log of the Itasca has obviously been expurgated and changed.

The suspect portion of the radio log that was released is the void of communications that runs from 0800 hours to 0840 hours (Howland Island Time). This void comes only 20 minutes after Earhart declared that her fuel was running low. It would seem to me, as an experienced Air Force pilot with a great deal of over water time, that the 40 minute void should have been filled with pleas for help, position reports and an indication of intentions. Perhaps it was. We may never know.

For several years I have tried to get additional information from various sources which would supplement the Morgenthau memo. I felt that there should be other information in the Morgenthau files that would add more insight relating to what he might have known and have recorded. Toward this goal, Senator [Daniel Kahikina] Akaka of Hawaii on March of 1991, signed a letter, that I had prepared, to Mr. Nicholas F. Brody, Secretary of the Treasury under President Bush. The letter reads in part as follows:

“Colonel Reineck advised me that other researchers who are colleagues of his, namely Mr. Merrill D. Magley (deceased) and Mr. John F. Luttrell, have tried through the normal Freedom of Information Act channels to obtain additional information from your department without success. This is true even though they had pinpointed box containers T-33A and T-33B in the basement of the Treasury Department behind a locked metal wire cage as the Henry Morgenthau Jr. files for 1937 and 1938. One of your personnel, Ms. Karen Cameron described the material as relating to Amelia Earhart, but denied access on the basis of it being classified Top Secret.

In March 1991, Senator Akaka (D-Hawaii) signed a letter written by Rollin Reineck to the , Secretary of the Treasury under President Bush, requesting that all classified material relative to the Earhart disappearance be released. Of course nothing more than the original Itasca logs was ever forthcoming from the U.S. government, then or ever.

In March 1991, Senator Daniel  Akaka (D-Hawaii) signed a letter written by Rollin Reineck to the Secretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush, requesting that all classified material relative to the Earhart disappearance be released. Nothing more helpful than the original Itasca logs was ever forthcoming from the U.S. government, then or ever.

“I would like to request that your Department retrieve from your files, wherever they may be, all the classified information concerning Miss Earhart’s last flight. When this is assembled, please contact my office so that I can make arrangements for its review.

(Editor’s note:  Senator Akaka’s effort was met with the typical government stonewalling that has characterized virtually all efforts to penetrate the airtight national security apparatus that surrounds and protects the truth in the Earhart case. In one of the more cogent sections of Amelia Earhart Survived [p. 152-153], Reineck briefly discussed the Treasury Department’s response to Akaka’s formal request:

This letter stayed on Secretary Brady’s desk for ten days without any apparent action. He then sent a memo to Senator Akaka, that said in effect, the Morgenthau files have been sent to the National Archives. This had the impact of putting a tree in the middle of a forest for safe keeping. It worked; we have never been able to find the Morgenthau files. Why Secretary Brady was unwilling to work with Senator Akaka is unknown. It is just one more example of the government’s refusal to cooperate in any way in trying to find an answer to the question of what happened to Amelia Earhart. End of Editor’s note.)

In September of this year (1996), I sent a letter to the Commandant of the Coast Guard and requested a copy of the unexpurgated, official report, including the radio log of the Coast Guard cutter Itasca as it related to the flight of Amelia Earhart on 2 July 1937. I cited the Presidential Directive #12958, dated 17 April 1995, concerning the automatic declassification of documents that are more than 25 years old, as authority. The Coast Guard Commandant advised me that all documents relating to that event were in the National Archives.

With the name of a contact for Coast Guard material in the National Archives, I again requested the original, unexpurgated log of the Itasca. Again I was told that no such document exists in their files. However, they did send me a copy of an index of material that they had relating to Earhart and the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca. Although much of the information in the index is familiar, I did send for some documents that may offer some new light.

Why all the mystery about what happened to Amelia Earhart? It is my judgment Morgenthau knew what happened to Amelia Earhart from “a verbal report and all those wireless messages and everything else.” But, he put a cap on the release of all information about her shortly after she disappeared. I believe he took that action to protect the reputation of Amelia Earhart from that day forward so that people of the world would remember her as a beautiful and courageous young lady who was willing to challenge the concept of a man’s world and would live on as a legend for all to love and admire.

On January 6, 1935, Amelia Earhart planted a Banyan tree in Hilo, Hawaii. (Earhart was in Hawaii preparing for her flight to Oakland.) On August 12, 1937, Secretary of the Treasury for President Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., planted a Banyan tree next to the Earhart tree. They are there today on Banyan Tree Drive, Hilo, Hawaii. (End of “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection.”)

Rollin Reineck’s longtime devotion to the Earhart case notwithstanding, I can’t agree with all his conclusions relative to Henry Morgenthau’s phone conversation with Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider.  Plenty of room exists for varying interpretations of his statements, and without having Mrs. Scheider’s side of it, we can never know for sure exactly what these two were really saying.

Amelia Earhart planted this Banyan tree on Jan. 6, 1935 while she enjoyed a sightseeing flight to Maui. Five days after planting the tree, Earhart he took off from Wheeler Field, Oahu in her Lockheed Vega, nicknamed “old Bessie, the fire horse.” In this this solo flight from Hawaii to California, Earhart became the first person to solo from Hawaii to California. The flight covered 2,408 miles and took 18 hours,16 minutes, and with it, she also became the first person to solo across both oceans, as she had previously flown the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.

Amelia Earhart planted this Banyan tree on Jan. 6, 1935 while she enjoyed a sightseeing flight to Maui. Five days after planting the tree, Earhart he took off from Wheeler Field, Oahu in her Lockheed Vega, nicknamed “old Bessie, the fire horse.” In this this solo flight from Hawaii to California, Earhart became the first person to solo from Hawaii to California. The flight covered 2,408 miles and took 18 hours,16 minutes, and with it, she also became the first person to solo across both oceans, as she had previously flown the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.

Though much about this “Dictaphone” recording remains unknown, I have no doubts about two points relative to it. First, despite the treasury secretary’s thrice-repeated concern about the “reputation of Amelia Earhart” and how he wanted to protect it, he cared only about the reputation of his boss, FDR, and how public knowledge of the truth in the Earhart matter would affect his political future. Secondly, by May 1938 if not much earlier, Morgenthau was fully aware of Earhart’s captivity on Saipan and her possible death in Japanese hands. Based on Morgenthau’s comments to Scheider, many of which make little or no sense without Scheider’s replies, it’s difficult to believe that she was among the few who had been brought into the small circle of those who knew the ghastly truth, which would have been so deadly to the Roosevelt administration’s future.

Perhaps the most important question arising from the Morgenthau-Scheider phone conversation is this: What did Morgenthau mean when he said, “Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders”? Whose orders? To do what?  And how did she disregard them? Some have attempted to explain Morgenthau’s reference to Earhart’s “disregard for orders” as her failure to follow the planned radio schedule and protocols between her and Itasca, but if that was the case, why all the secrecy on Morgenthau’s part?

And what are we to make of Morgenthau’s reference to “all those wireless messages”? Is he referring to some or all of the alleged “post-loss” radio messages that some believe came from Earhart in her downed Electra?

In his aforementioned book, Amelia Earhart Survived, Reineck continued  his discussion of the Morgenthau transcript, and makes several huge assumptions about Earhart’s actions during her flight from Lae to Howland Island.  Reineck tells us, without citing any sources, that be believes Earhart “disregarded all orders” by breaking radio silence and telling Itasca that “she was turning north,” in direct contravention of her prearranged “PLAN B,” to be initiated if she failed to locate Howland Island.  Although the idea that Earhart may have turned northward toward Mili Atoll, where she did indeed land, is very plausible, Reineck’s  concoction — out of thin air — of PLAN B, and his convoluted, bizarre discussion in arriving at this conclusion would leave most readers completely dazed and confused.

Similarly, Reineck cites no sources for his assertion that “it is a documented fact that he [Morgenthau] did travel from Washington, D.C. to Hawaii and did have a private discussion with Commander  Thompson … on 29 July 1937.” After he points out that such a trip would  have taken about 10 days at that time, Reineck asks “what could be so terribly important that a top level Presidential cabinet officer had to be away from his duties in Washington for almost a month, to personally see the Commander of the Itasca.” Reineck makes Morgenthau’s Hawaii trip seem quite sinister and conspiratorial, and alleges that, “as a cover story, [Morgenthau] said that this trip to Hawaii was a vacation for him and his wife.” Again, Reineck offered no sources for his contentions, some of which I included in my discussion of the Morgenthau matter in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last without noticing that Reineck had not sourced his Morgenthau claims.

As I often do these days when I’m stuck or need expert advice on an Earhart question, I asked researcher Les Kinney for this take on the Morgenthau transcript and Rollin Reineck’s ideas about it.  “Now, regarding the sinister overtones of Morgenthau’s travel to Hawaii,” Kinney wrote in an email,  “it’s all bunk.  Morgenthau had been planning a vacation to Hawaii for some time.  His family went along and he stayed there for about a month.  FDR sends him a note and says I am glad you are enjoying yourself, etc.  Morgenthau talks of various things he and his family were doing while on vacation (I have all this).”

“There is no mention of official business,” Kinney continued.  “In other words, Morgenthau was on a planned vacation that had been pre-arranged.  There was nothing sinister about the trip as Reineck suggestsMorgenthau certainly did not travel to Hawaii just to interview Thompson.  Because Morgenthau was head of the Treasury Department, and the Coast Guard was in the Treasury Department, no doubt he might have paid a visit to the CO of the Coast Guard District in Honolulu.  Did Morgenthau specifically wish to meet privately with Thompson?  I don’t know, and I have searched long and hard to find a record of this meeting to no avail.”  

Finally, I don’t share Reineck’s  certainty that “Mr. Morgenthau is telling Eleanor Roosevelt that he has made the radio log palatable for public consumption … by deleting or changing portions of the log that would be damaging to Earhart’s reputation and by deleting portions of the log that may have told what ORDERS Earhart has disregarded.” Although Morgenthau did imply this might have occurred in his memo to Eleanor, does any other credible evidence exist that supports Reineck’s belief that the original logs of the Itasca were “expurgated or changed” by government censors?  

Itasca Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts kept the first three pages of the original flight log until his death in 1974, and these pages reflect the same 40-minute gap in communications from Earhart. Neither Bellarts nor anyone else in the radio room ever reported that the  cutter’s radio logs had been tampered with. Two other logs, the Itasca deck log and Howland Island Detachment radio log, have long been questioned, but for reasons far less ominous than upper-echelon censorship of information that would have revealed Earhart’s actions during her alleged final moments.

Again, without Malvina Scheider’s half of her conversation with Henry Morgenthau to fill in the blanks, we can only continue to speculate about why Morgenthau said, “It isn’t a very nice story,” or what Stephen B. Gibbons, assistant treasury secretary, meant when he told his boss, “We have evidence that the thing is all over, sure. Terrible. It would be awful to make it public.”

Your comments are welcomed.

This “Earhart find” on Saipan doesn’t pass smell test

This story originally appeared in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, on Sunday, June 16, 1996, and was republished in Bill Prymak’s July 1996 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter. Of all the eyewitness accounts from soldiers, sailors and Marine veterans of the 1944 invasion of Saipan that revealed the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan – and 26 such accounts were presented for the first time in my 2002 book, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart — this one has troubled me more the most.

Titled “Soldier’s Secret,” it concerns Army veteran Paul Erwin’s claim of finding what amounts to a treasure trove of Amelia Earhart’s papers, writings and other related personal belongings in a cave on Saipan in February 1945, seven months after the island was secured. 

Besides Erwin’s dubious story itself, this piece is an excellent example of how numerous falsehoods have been re-reported and perpetuated through the years by credulous reporters who so often fail to check sources and details. Reporter Jennifer Jacobs probably meant well, but her naiveté about the Earhart story and her bias in favor of Erwin and his weird tale are unmistakable. Let’s take look at this monster first, presented in its entirety and edited only for readibility, and then I’ll have few things to say. I have a feeling most will agree with me this time. (Please note: All boldings are mine.)

This is the photo of Paul Erwin that accompanied the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, on Sunday, June 16, 1996, and was republished in Bill Prymak’s July 1996 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.

This is the photo of Paul Erwin that accompanied the story in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier, on Sunday, June 16, 1996, and was republished in Bill Prymak’s July 1996 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.

Soldier’s Secret”

 C.F. man says he saw missing Earhart’s possessions

CEDAR FALLS: The official story is that aviatrix Amelia Earhart vanished without a trace. Paul Erwin can add a wrinkle to the tale. The Cedar Falls Army veteran stumbled upon what he believes were belongings of Earhart’s that made it through her crash. 

He found them buried in a cave on a Pacific island during World War II. This is a piece of the unsolved puzzle that the 78-year-old has never shared publicly –  51 years ago he was warned by his superiors to keep silent. 

But it’s something he can’t prove. Paul Erwin of Cedar Falls holds a picture of himself while he was in the Army during 1942-45. He says he found the belongings of Amelia Earhart while in the service overseas. He did not pocket one of the airplane parts or ferret away a notebook with the signature “Amelia Earhart” penned on it. Still, Erwin said, each time word of the intriguing pilot pops up on TV or in the newspapers, “I say to myself, “Why, I found those things.’”

The mystery boxes

Since Earhart’ s airplane seemingly melted into the cloudy air somewhere between New Guinea and Howland Island in 1937, speculation about the famous flyer’s fate has fueled imaginations worldwide.

Did her plane run out of fuel and crash into the ocean during this leg of her round-the-world flight? Or was she a spy captured by enemy Japanese forces?

Did she survive and return to the United States under an assumed name? Or was she executed by the Japanese troops? And why are government files that could reveal the truth about Earhart still inaccessible today?

Erwin doesn’t have the answers to all those mysteries, but he has clues that confirm what some researchers theorize: that Earhart did indeed live past the day the U.S. government said her radio trans-mission went dead.

Stationed on the Pacific island of Saipan during WWII eight years after Earhart’s disappearance, Erwin, then 28, discovered boxes of her personal possessions – seemingly intact and without water damage –  in a dirt floored cave.

A few airplane parts and papers were scattered around the isolated cave, Erwin recalls. And in holes 6 inches underground, were two brimming boxes and a third box two-thirds full of what appeared to be Earhart’s personal writings and other belongings.

The Army private didn’t rifle through the boxes to further investigate the contents, but historical accounts mention that in her cockpit Earhart stowed maps, a thermos bottle, a bamboo fishing rod rigged to pass messages to the back seat to Fred Noonan, her navigator (the roar of the engines overwhelmed voices), notebooks, a diary, oceanographic charts and a bubble octant for establishing the plane’s position in relation to the stars while over seawater. 

At Missawa, Ethiopia, in mid-June 1937, Amelia and Fred Noonan busily restock the ElectrSince 1991, it has been part of Eritrea. Massawa is a port city on the Red Sea, and actually occupies two islands just off the coast as well the mainland. The briefcase on ground to her right must have been the one found by Robert E. Wallack in a blown safe on Garapan in the summer of 1944,a and according to Wallack, it contained all the relevant papers she would have needed for her world flight.

For those who may doubt that Amelia had a briefcase with her during her world flight, here she is at Missawa, Ethiopia, in mid-June 1937, with Fred Noonan attending to business around the Electra. The briefcase on ground to her right must have been the one found by Robert E. Wallack in a blown safe on Garapan in the summer of 1944.  According to Wallack, it contained all the papers, passports, maps and other materials Amelia would have needed for her world flight.

According to the government, none of these items were recovered – despite a 16-day, post-crash Navy task force hunt that covered 250,000 miles of ocean, air and land. In public, officials concluded the plucky pilot and her skilled navigator were “lost at sea.”

“Absolutely false”

All Erwin knows is that he retrieved those three boxes from a cave on an island thousands of miles from Earhart’s flight route. He acted on orders from his commanding officers, who told him never to mention the items again. Since that day in 1945, Erwin hasn’t heard anything about them. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. hasn’t, either.

Dorothy Cochrane, curator at the National Air and Space Museum, a bureau of the Smithsonian, said people cite the Freedom of Information Act and demand to see the Earhart goods found on Saipan. 

“It’s easy to send them everything we have,” she said, “’because we just don’t have a thing. People have loved to speculate on this for years,” Cochrane said. “They don’t want to let it go. Nobody really wants it solved – they do and they don’t, you know what I mean?”

The theory that Earhart was a spy shot down and arrested by the Japanese is “absolutely false,” Cochrane said. “We don’t think there is any evidence of that.” (Editor’s note: We’ve heard similar statements from this government shill before. Why do you think she has her job?)

The fatal log

On July 2, 1937, the 39-year-old Earhart and Noonan, a 44-year-old former Pan American Airways navigator said to have a penchant for marathon drinking bouts, were scheduled to take off from Lae, New Guinea. The celebrated pair had already traveled 20,000 miles on their ambitious quest to complete the first flight girdling the globe at the equator. An entranced world followed each leg of their trip on radio. Earhart’s $80,000 twin-engine Lockheed Electra monoplane was fueled with enough gas for 3,000 miles, more than enough to reach Howland Island, a tiny strip of land 2,556 miles away.

After a 21-hour ride in cramped quarters, with a malfunctioning radio system that dispatched Earhart’s traffic to ground crews but failed to transmit their responses, the panicking pilot called out SOS, saying she was near Howland Island but couldn’t see it, and gas was running low. Then she vanished. What happened is anyone’s guess. (Editor’s note: Nothing in the Itasca log indicates Earhart ever “calling out SOS” prior to her last transmission at 8:43 am Howland time, July 2, 1937.)

Various authors have written that they tracked down evidence to prove Earhart was taken to Saipan. One claims to have found her shoe there, another interviewed natives who remember seeing her, another witnessed her plane being torched there by the then-Secretary of the Navy.

(Editor’s note:  Nobody has ever claimed to have found a shoe belonging to Amelia Earhart on Saipan.  Jacobs is convoluting the Cat’s Paw shoe heel found by TIGHAR on Nikumaroro in 1991 that was later shown to have come from a shoe size too big for Earhart.)

In one of the most recent works of nonfiction, the 1994 book “Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart,” author Randall Brink tries to document Earhart’s role in a covert government mission. It all stemmed from President Franklin Roosevelt, Brink writes. Earhart’s request for the Navy’s help with an air-to-air refueling operation over Midway Island inspired Roosevelt to consider the military advantage. Japan was warring in China and expanding its frontier in the Pacific island by island. Howland Island, long claimed by the British, was a key strategic location. Earhart’s flight was a good excuse to build an expensive airfield there. Navy staff took over the planning of her trip; Earhart’s longtime staffers were cut off, Brink said.

Evidence of espionage

According to Lockheed staff Brink interviewed, aerial cameras for photographing Japanese outposts were mounted in the belly of Earhart’s plane. It was a model that could fly twice as fast as the public knew – making it capable of zipping off course and returning to the publicized route with no one the wiser.

Witnesses told Brink that Japanese troops patrolling the seas north of Howland Island picked up Earhart’s SOS calls. They fired a warning signal at her plane, then opened fire. Brink said Earhart made an emergency landing on an atoll northwest of Howland Island and continued sending radio messages heard by operators on Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. A Japanese warship picked up Earhart, Noonan and their plane, and took them to Japanese Pacific Central Command on Saipan.

Because the Navy’s massive search never turned up a sliver of wreckage, a single scrap of paper, an oil slick, human remains or other tangible evidence of an ocean crash, Brink believes Earhart lived.

This is Bill Wallack's conception of the briefcase his father, Robert E. Wallack, found in a blown safe on Garapan, the capitol city of Saipan, in the days following the American victory in July 1944. Robert Wallack's find was known among many of the troops, and he told his story to thousands of avid listeners, including Connie Chung of the CBS program "Eye to Eye."

This is Bill Wallack’s May 2007 conception of the briefcase his father, Robert E. Wallack, found in a blown safe on Garapan, the capitol city of Saipan, in the days following the American victory in July 1944. Robert Wallack’s find was known among many of the troops, and he told his story to thousands of avid listeners, including Connie Chung of the CBS program “Eye to Eye.” This briefcase was not among the “personal possessions” that Paul Erwin told an Iowa newspaper — in 1996 — that he found on Saipan in 1945. 

 

(Editor’s note:  In her subsections “The Fatal Log” and  “Evidence of Espionage”,” Jacobs repeats several false ideas presented by Randall Brink in his error-riddled Lost Star, which doesn’t help her own credibility. We’ll leave the countless misstatements in Lost Star for another time, but not even Brink could have stated that “Japanese troops patrolling the seas north of Howland Island picked up Earhart’s SOS calls,” to track and shoot her plane down, as Jacobs writes.  Even Earhart hobbyists know that Earhart never sent Maydays or SOS signals before she went off the air permanently.)

A telegram Earhart’s husband received from Weishien, China, via the American Embassy in Chungking in August 1945 (reprinted in Brink’s book) says: “Camp liberated; all well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother.” The U.S. government didn’t declassify and release this telegram until the week of July 2, 1987, when newspapers ran stories on the 50th anniversary of the disappearance.

(Editor’s note: Researcher Ron Bright’s investigation into the telegram determined that it originated with a friend of G.P. Putnam, Ahmad Kamal, and not Amelia Earhart. For details, see page 130 of With Our Own Eyes.)

In the years after the crash, no one entertained such notions of espionage and conspiracy. But Erwin, along with virtually everyone in America, had definitely heard of Earhart and her disappearance.

As a child, his mother read aloud newspaper articles about the media sweetheart: Amelia modeling her own fashion designs, Amelia marrying millionaire publisher George Palmer Putnam, Amelia hobnobbing with the rich, Amelia cozying up to FDR and his wife Eleanor, Amelia speaking on the women’s equality, Amelia hopping from continent to continent in daring record-setting solo flights.

The disappearance of the “First Lady of the Air’’ only added to the myth of the woman, described by the press as shy and modest but pegged as a bullheaded prima donna by her friends and co-workers.

Earhart’s round-the-world flight and presumed death occupied front pages worldwide for two months. But no one seemed to question the government’s conclusions, and America’s attention was soon distracted by World War II.

A Redfield boy

Saipan fell to Allied forces on June 15, 1944. [Editor’s note: June 15 was the day of the initial assault. Saipan was declared “secure” on July 9.] Erwin, after spending 17 weeks in basic training at Camp Roberts, Calif., and several months assigned to a heavy weapons unit on New Caledonia, a flee French island east of Australia, was ordered to Saipan in February 1945. Army officials read in Erwin’s records that he’d taken first aid courses, so he was sent to a unit called the 39th General Hospital.

On free time from nursing soldiers wounded in various battles, including Okinawa, the Redfield native explored the 14-mile-long island. The other soldiers advised against it: there could be leftover mortars off the beaten paths or Japanese hiding in the hills. Erwin was cautious. One day, walking along a narrow path on the side of an out-of-the-way cliff, the sun shone down in the doorway of a small cave.

“Inside, I found two boxes and two-thirds of another,” he said. “They were Amelia’s belongings from her crash.” The discovery stunned Erwin. “I thought she was down to some other islands,” he said, “but here I found these, and I was very amazed at them being on Saipan.

Three well-dressed men

Erwin said he excitedly carried a few things to his department head, including [sic] 1st Lt. Charles Mauer. “They didn’t pay much attention to me,” he said. Later, “three well-dressed men” possibly Office of Naval Intelligence staff, told him to “go back and dig up this cave.”

Former Marine Capt. Victor Maghakian, who earned both the Navy Cross and Silver Star during for heroism at Makin Island in the Gilberts and Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, both actions coming in 1942. Maghakian was also named by Fred Goerner as a witness who supported the claim by Marines on Kwajalein of findings several items belonging to Amelia Earhart during the invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Former Marine Capt. Victor Maghakian, who earned both the Navy Cross and Silver Star during for heroism at Makin Island in the Gilberts and Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, both actions coming in 1942. Maghakian was also named (though his name was misspelled) by Fred Goerner as a witness who supported the claim by Marines on Kwajalein of findings several items belonging to Amelia Earhart during the invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Erwin scraped away the soil with his hands to get to the boxes. “They were in pretty good condition,” he said. After that, “it was all hush, hush,” Erwin said. “They wanted me to keep quiet about it.” But Erwin doesn’t assume anything. Earhart might have crashed, he thinks, although she was a highly experienced flyer. As for the Japanese, “they might’ve got her, I don’t know.”

Some researchers suspect that after World War II, the truth about Earhart was withheld because of the tenuous peace with Japan and concerns for national security. Government documents that would prove this aren’t necessarily hidden, but buried in unmarked files. 

Some buy the government’s story that Earhart’s plane – with her and Noonan inside it – rests at the bottom of the sea. Don Whitnah, a retired University of North  Iowa history professor who did research in Washington while writing his 1967 book, “Safer Skywards: Federal Control of Aviation, 1926-1966,” falls in the second category. “There are all sorts of rumors of all sorts of effects of Earhart’s that have been found and parts of airplanes,” he said, “’but we just don’t know. I hate to scotch ideas, but it’s like in any other mystery. You get all sorts of conflicting reports. I’m skeptical.”

Next year, during the centennial of Earhart’s birth, scholars expect people will emerge from the woodwork to tell their Earhart-related stories. But until something definitive breaks through, the Earhart mystery will remain like the Bermuda Triangle, the lost city of Atlantis, the missing tribe of Roanoke, or the UFO at Roswell – just another historic riddle.

There you have it. For all the bluster and buildup, there’s very little substance to this story, very little beef in this burger. In describing Erwin’s claim, Jennifer Jacobs quotes him directly only once, when he tells her, “Inside, I found two boxes and two-thirds of another. They were Amelia’s belongings from her crash.”

Besides this, Erwin apparently told Jacobs that he found a few airplane parts, a notebook with “Amelia Earhart” penned on it, and papers were scattered around the isolated cave, but she doesn’t directly quote this information, nor does she directly quote Erwin whe she writes, “in holes 6 inches underground, were two brimming boxes and a third box two-thirds full of what appeared to be Earhart’s personal writings and other belongings.” 

Is that so? I seem to recall similar claims by former GIs that are far more credible than Erwin’s.  In January 1964, a Pampa, Texas radio station manager told Fred Goerner that W.B. Jackson, a Marine who served in the Marshall Islands in 1944, knew three unnamed Marines who had found some of Earhart’s things in a barracks room that was “fitted up for a woman, with a dresser in it.” Among the findings was a suitcase containing woman’s clothing, newspaper articles about Earhart and a “locked diary engraved 10-Year Diary of Amelia Earhart,” according to Jackson, who ordered the Marines to turn over the articles to intelligence and never heard about it again.

Jackson’s account was corroborated by former Marine Captain Victor Maghokian, who told Goerner that one of his men had “found a diary and personal belongings that were supposed to belong to Amelia Earhart,” according to Maghokian. Goerner learned that Maghokian had never heard of Jackson, though Jackson told Goerner he vaguely remembered a captain named Maghokian. 

Further research has revealed that Goerner misspelled Maghakian’s name, and this mistake has been repeated for decades by too-trusting writers including this one.  From Wikipedia:  “Victor Maghakian, also known as Captain Victor “Transport” Maghakian (Dec. 30, 1915 – Aug. 17, 1977), was an Armenian American member of the United States Marine Corps during World War II. Having received over two dozen medals and awards, he is considered one of the most decorated American soldiers of the war.” 

Saipan veteran Robert E. Wallack, whose claim of finding Amelia Earhart's briefcase in a blown safe on Saipan in July 1944 is among the best-known Earhart-on-Saipan testimonies, pauses in his Woodbridge, Connecticut, home during a November 2006 interview. The mediafriendly Wallack appeared on several national television specials, including Unsolved Mysteries and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung.

Saipan veteran Robert E. Wallack, whose claim of finding Amelia Earhart’s briefcase in a blown safe on Saipan in July 1944 is among the best-known Earhart-on-Saipan testimonies, pauses in his Woodbridge, Connecticut, home during a November 2006 interview. The media-friendly Wallack appeared on several national television specials, including Unsolved Mysteries and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung.

We also have the eminent claim of former Marine Pfc. Robert E. Wallack, who along with Thomas E. Devine, is the best known of the Saipan GI witnesses. Wallack, who lived in nearby Woodbridge, Conn., a 15-minute drive from Devine’s West Haven home, contacted Devine in 1987 soon after hearing about his book, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident  Wallack’s notarized statement was published in the December 1987 issue of 6th Marine Division magazine, and over the years became among the most prominent features of the Earhart-on-Saipan scenario.

The details of Wallack’s find of Amelia Earhart’s briefcase in a blown safe in the ruins of a Japanese administration building in Garapan are well known to all Earhart observers, but for newcomers to this blog, below is an extract from Wallack’s signed deposition that partially describes what he found after a Japanese safe was blown open during a souvenir-hunting party he and a few of his fellow Marines had had embarked upon a few weeks after victory on Saipan was declared:

The contents were official-looking papers all concerning Amelia Earhart: maps, permits and reports apparently pertaining to her around-the-world flight. I wanted to retain this as a souvenir, but my Marine buddies insisted that it may be important and should be turned in. I went down to the beach where I encountered a naval officer and told of my discovery. He gave me a receipt for the material, and stated that it would be returned to me if it were not important. I have never seen the material since.

Wallack’s account never changed, and the media-friendly veteran shared it with countless listeners, including millions in a 1990 Unsolved Mysteries segment with Robert Stack, a 1994 appearance on CBS’s Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, and a 2006 interview for The National Geographic Channel’s Undercover History special on Amelia Earhart. For more  on Wallack and the Earhart briefcase, you can begin on pages 204 to 206 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.

Wallack never located any of the Marines who with him when he found the briefcase, but Saipan veteran Bob Everett, of Indianapolis, wrote to Devine and endorsed Wallack’s story in 1991. Everett told Devine he was the only demolition man left in his battalion at the time and was assigned to a group rounding up stragglers. He and a group of Marines entered a building in Garapan that appeared to have served some sort of governmental function. There he applied the explosives that blew open the safe Wallack described, but in the ensuing commotion Everett didn’t see the contents of the briefcase retrieved by Wallack, who died in July 2008 at eighty-three.

So, we might ask, just how many boxes of “personal writings” and other “belongings from her crash” were left in a shallow hole discovered by Erwin in a  Saipan cave, after we consider the two preceding, far-better-documented finds on Kwajalein and Saipan? Earhart’s obsession with conserving fuel and making the Electra as light as possible for the critical flight to Howland is chronicled throughout a vast array of books and news articles; to suggest that she stored three extra boxes of her scribbles and personal papers aboard NR 16020 – in addition to her briefcase and diary – is beyond ridiculous. 

Erwin’s description of the “three well-dressed men is equally absurd; Saipan was still in a war zone, and ONI agents would have been dressed in Navy khakis without insignia, as was the man who appeared to be in charge of the disposition of the Electra on Saipan, who former Marine Earskin J. Nabers identified as James H. Nichols.

I presented Erwin’s account in Truth at Last (see page 222) as if it were just another of the more than two dozen we’ve received from former Saipan GIs, though I did characterize it as “perhaps the strangest Earhart-related account to come from a Saipan veteran.” Erwin didn’t step forward to share his story with Devine as the others did when Devine asked for help in the conclusion of Eyewitness, however; he waited until 1996 to tell his story to an uncritical reporter from a small Iowa newspaper. I now sincerely regret taking Erwin’s story at face value and not seriously questioning it, as I’m now doing. Better late than never.

Is Erwin’s story just another piece of the “historic riddle” of the Earhart disappearance, as Jacobs so naively asks, or is this just a phony story concocted by a dying old man desperate for attention? I think the real puzzle here is Paul Erwin himself, and what motivated him to concoct this yarn about finding Amelia Earhart’s papers, writings and other effects in the dirt floor of an open cave on Saipan, seven months after the Japanese garrison of 30,000 was wiped out by U.S. forces in the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War.

We’ll assume that Jacobs rendered Erwin’s account accurately, and that she didn’t simply fabricate or imagine that he said these things. In either event, Erwin’s story is extremely weak, and quite suspicious as well. Left unanswered are several obvious questions, which the credulous Jacobs failed to ask, including:  Why didn’t Erwin “rifle through the boxes to further investigate the contents”? Why did he wait until 1996 to tell  his story to the media? Did he ever tell anyone else about this, someone who might step forward and perhaps support his contentions? And so forth. The answers to these questions are uniformly negative,

At this point I’ll dispense with any more formalities.  Quite frankly, I think Erwin’s story stinks worse than a week-old kettle of dead cod, and never should have been published, at least not the way the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier presented it, as if it were real news.

Once I applied minimal scrutiny to this tale, which should have been done long before finalizing the manuscript of Truth at Last, its bogus nature became fairly obvious, and I’m embarrassed that this sorry yarn was included in Truth at Last I was temporarily blinded by the all the other credible accounts from the dozens of former GIs who didn’t fabricate tales about their Saipan experiences, but that’s a pathetic excuse.

Moreover, nobody else in the media picked up Erwin’s story until Bill Prymak decided to include it in his newsletters, which in itself tells us something. Considering the magnitude of Erwin’s claim, this is a strong indication that virtually no one the normally gullible and apathetic media believed Erwin’s whopper, or at least found it unworthy of publication for a variety of reasons related to its credibility, or lack of same. 

Finally, fish tales about phony Earhart discoveries on Saipan like this one have not been helpful to the cause of the truth that serious Earhart researchers have labored so hard to present over the decades. As a result of stories like this and many others, the general public has a severely jaded attitude about the truth in the Earhart disappearance.

Erwin passed away in 1999, so the opportunity to cross examine him about this fish-wrapper is long gone.  Admittedly, I was fooled, but this is an occasional occupational hazard in Earhart research. If anyone out there disagrees with me, please let me know, but only if you can provide one or more good reasons why Paul Erwin’s story should be believed.

Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga

I don’t remember the first time I heard the late Jim Golden’s name; of course, it was in some way connected to the Earhart story. But I’ll never forget the reverent tones of respect that often punctuated mentions of his name.

Within the closed confines of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society in the 1990s and early 2000s, before the AES lost several notable researchers to the grim reaper and began its descent into oblivion as a viable entity, Golden enjoyed a special status as an iconic character, a mystery man who, some suspected, might have possessed unparalleled knowledge about the Earhart case. Nowadays, one would now be hard pressed to find more than a few in the AES who have heard of Golden, and fewer still that understand and appreciate his contributions.

In the May 1997 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, which I didn’t see until about 2005, when Prymak offered all his original newsletters to newer AES members in a collection of two very thick, bound volumes, he spelled out many of the whispered suspicions that often accompanied mention of Golden’s name. 

Prymak’s lengthy article, titled “The Search for the Elusive ‘Hard Copy’ Continues: Maybe, just maybe via Jim GOLDEN? drew heavily from a number of letters between Goerner and Golden, mainly from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s that can be found in Goerner’s files at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Most of Prymak’s eight-page piece is accurate in describing several intriguing exchanges between the pair, though it presents no smoking guns.  But these conversations between Golden and Goerner strongly hinted that if anyone knew where the “bodies were buried” so to speak, Golden knew who they were and where to find them. (For more, see Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, pages 342-347.)

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa 1975. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman's unsuccessful search for the elusive, top-secret files that would finally break open the Earhart case. During his amazing career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon's Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa 1975. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman’s search for the elusive, top-secret files that would finally break open the Earhart case. During his amazing career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon’s Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

Golden initially contacted Goerner after reading The Search for Amelia Earhart in 1966, offering to help the KCBS radio newsman in his Earhart investigation, and together they pursued the elusive, top-secret Earhart files in obscure government locales across the nation.  Although they didn’t find the elusive top-secret Earhart files, Golden’s exploits became legendary in the Earhart research community.

The man whose fascinating career included eight years as a Secret Service agent assigned to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard M. Nixon indeed knew much about the Earhart case. Among the still-classified secrets he shared with Fred Goerner was the early revelation that Amelia and Fred Noonan were brought to the islands of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll by air from Jaluit Atoll by the Japanese in 1937, a fact he learned from Marine officers during the American invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Sometime in the late spring of 2008, since no one else seemed interested in doing it, I decided to contact Golden and perhaps find out the truth for myself about what he really knew about the Earhart case. Much to my surprise, Golden welcomed my initial interest and soon we became friends, bound by our mutual interest in the Earhart matter.

From his Las Vegas home, Golden recalled his days on Kwajalein, where he was a 19-year-old enlisted Marine photographer in the intelligence section of the 4th Marine Division. There he learned that Marine intelligence personnel were sent into the Marshalls to interview natives about their knowledge of the two American fliers who landed or crash-landed there before the war. On Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden, who headed the criminal conspiracies division at the U.S. Justice Department from 1973 to 1982, was told by Marine officers about at least one Marshallese who confirmed Earhart and Noonan’s presence on Roi-Namur, though he couldn’t remember a name.

“The Marine Corps were very apparently assigned the effort to search for evidence of AE, being the first to retake the Marshall Islands,” Golden, who didn’t like writing emails, told me in his most extensive written message. “The Marine 4th Div. Intelligence Section, 24th Marines Intel Unit, interviewed a native who worked for the Japanese on Roi Island air strip in early February 1944 after it had been captured by that unit.

“The Marines wrote up a detailed report capturing the info that related that in 1937 two white persons, a male and female were brought by plane to Roi,” Golden continued, “the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short cut hair wearing men’s pants, who were taken across a causeway to the Namur Admin building. Three days later taken out to a small ship in the lagoon, which then departed. I read the report myself. This report would routinely be forwarded to 4th Div. Intel, then on to the U.S. Navy. This report must have been the first sighting of her capture by the Japanese by U.S. forces at that time.”

Jim Golden's no-nonsense comments about FDR's role in the cover-up of the truth in the Earhart disappearance were the subject of this story in the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe. Headlined "FDR's Amelia Earhart 'Watergate' the tabloid story was sloppy with the details. but got the basic story right, thank to the straight-shooting, politically incorrect Jim Golden's love for the truth.

Jim Golden’s no-nonsense comments about FDR’s role in the cover-up of the truth in the Earhart disappearance were the subject of this story in the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe. Headlined “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate’ “ the tabloid story was sloppy with the details. but got the basic story right, thanks to the straight-shooting, politically incorrect Jim Golden’s love for the truth.

Golden’s recollection of a native witness report of a white male and female being taken to a “small ship” in the lagoon, “which then departed,” is likely accurate, and doesn’t necessarily mean the ship took them to Saipan. Since the evidence suggests Earhart and Noonan left Kwajalein by plane, they could have been taken aboard the ship for any number of reasons, and later flown off the island. (See Truth at Last, pages 162-163.)

During the next three years, this American patriot shared much of his unique past with me, revealing many still-classified stories including a bizarre, possible Soviet assassination attempt on Nixon during his visit to Moscow in 1959. Although he seemed quite open and quite willing to talk about his days in the Secret Service, Golden was always tight-lipped about his brief stint in the early 1970s as head of security for the eccentric Howard Hughes. I never pressed him to explain his reluctance to discuss his time with Hughes.

In an October 1977 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune story on Golden, “Prober says Amelia Earhart death covered up,” Golden, then with the U.S. Justice Department, told reporter Richard Williams that President Franklin “Roosevelt hid the truth about Miss Earhart and Noonan, fearing public reaction to the death of a heroine and voter reaction at the polls…. What really bothers me about the whole thing is that if Miss Earhart was … a prisoner of the Japanese, as she seems to have been, why won’t the government acknowledge the facts and give her the hero’s treatment she deserves?” Golden asked.

Shortly after the Tribune story broke, Golden was spotlighted in a front-page story in the Midnight Globe tabloid, headlined “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate’ “ that appeared Jan. 3, 1978. The story took many liberties with facts and even fabricated some of his quotes, Golden told me in June 2008, but he stood by his closing statement: “Earhart gave her life for her country, and it ought to have the good grace to thank her for it.”

In these two news stories, Golden joined Fred Goerner to publicly finger President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the major culprit in the Earhart problem. “Amelia Earhart was killed in the line of duty, and President Roosevelt refused to let it get out,” Golden told Midnight Globe writer Leon Freilich. “She was a spy for the Navy. She didn’t just ‘disappear’ as Roosevelt led the press and public to believe. Amelia Earhart was taking reconnaissance shots of Japanese naval facilities when her plane was forced down. She died at the hands of the Japanese.” More than once during our many phone conversations, Golden said that after those two stories came out, “many people in Washington, mostly Democrats,” were not pleased with his statements to the press, and began to treat him differently.

Shortly after Golden called Goerner in 1966 to offer his help to Goerner,  he was soon contacted by a former Marine who told him he “helped to wheel Electra NR 16020 out of a locked and guarded hangar on Aslito Airfield” on Saipan in July 1944. “He wouldn’t give me his name or any further info,” Golden said in an e-mail, “so Fred and I could not proceed to use the info at that time.”

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden read a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit about a native on Roi-Namur who told them of two white people, a man and a woman, brought by Japanese airplane to Roi, the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men's pants.

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden read a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit about a native on Roi-Namur who told them of two white people, a man and a woman, brought by Japanese airplane to Roi, the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men’s pants.

In 1975, Golden told Goerner that Robert Peloquin, a former federal prosecutor and then president of Intertel, Inc., an elite organization composed of former FBI, CIA and IRS agents that provided internal security for private clients – was also a former Office of Naval Intelligence officer who claimed he had seen the top-secret Earhart files and confirmed that they reflected her capture by the Japanese and her death on Saipan. Golden set up a meeting between Goerner and Peloquin “sometime in the mid-’70s,” but when Goerner got to Washington, Peloquin backed out of the meeting because he “feared for his career,” according to Golden.

In June 2008, Peloquin, 79 and retired in Fairfield, Penn., agreed to a phone interview with me after Golden called him and they spoke for the first time in 30 years. Peloquin told me he was a beach master during his active-duty Navy years, from 1951 to 1960, then he attended law school and became a Navy Reserve Intelligence officer between 1960 and 1980. He said he’d seen several classified Earhart files while at ONI, was familiar with the 1960 ONI Report, and was sure that the files he viewed were not those declassified in 1967.

“It was the general consensus among Navy intelligence people that Earhart died under the aegis of the Japanese,” Peloquin said, “whether by execution or disease.”  But he wouldn’t or couldn’t  provide any details about the documents or the circumstances in which he viewed them, claiming he had taken “an oath” that was still binding, and he also claimed he didn’t “remember much” about their specific content.

In mid-June 2009, Golden was, incredibly, one of only five American veterans of the Battle of Saipan who returned to the island for ceremonies commemorating its 65th anniversary — events completely overlooked by an American media focused solely on the June 6 D-Day observances in Normandy, France. 

At a campfire held for the ex-servicemen on June 18, Golden and the others shared their Saipan memories with local officials, historians, and students. Golden, who didn’t bother to keep any record of the attendees’ names, challenged the skeptics’ claims that no documentation exists to support Earhart’s prewar presence on Saipan, citing Goerner’s work, the native eyewitnesses on Saipan and the Marshalls, and his own experience with Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in early 1944. His moving speech brought a standing ovation from most in attendance. I found it so very moving and appropriate that, more than anyone, Golden was the face and voice of the forgotten Saipan veteran 65 years after the key U.S. victory of the Pacific war.

Golden was extremely interested in everything related to the Earhart case, and he avidly read each new chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last as I completed and sent them for his review. This fine man constantly encouraged me in my work, understood the establishment’s aversion to this story better than anyone I’d met, and was among the best friends I’ve ever had, despite never meeting him face to face.

Sadly, Golden passed away unexpectedly at his home on March 7, 2011 at age 85. His father had lived well into his 90s, and he was in good health and not suffering any serious illnesses at the time. Still, he had told me he wasn’t expecting to match his father’s longevity, and urged me to hurry in my efforts to find a publisher for Truth at Last.  It wouldn’t be until that summer that I found Larry Knorr and Sunbury Press, and yet another year before the book was published in June 2012.

I like to think that Jim watched it all from a comfortable spot on the Other Side, and perhaps he even had a hand in making it happen. We’ll never see the likes of Jim Golden again, and I hope someday we’ll meet in a much better place. For now, my dear friend, may you Rest in Peace.  

 

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