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 Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth, was unarguably 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 happenedIt 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, his concern was solely focused on 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 had been brought into the small circle of those who knew all of the ghastly truth, which would have been so deadly to the Roosevelt administration’s future, though of course she may have been.  How can we know?

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 Earhartdisregarded all ordersby 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.

16 responses

  1. Super thought-provoking article, Mike. So tantalizing to read these quotes from Morgenthau. So obvious something more was known than anything we all know today. So frustrating to think more than a few “someones” knew all about it and went to their graves, lips sealed. I just wonder what it would take to search the archives for those two boxes? Might as well be looking for Atlantis?


  2. Dear Mike,
    Thank you for your new article… just some comments…

    As it seems to me, the Morgenthau’s statement (about “disobeying orders”) does not necessarily confirm some “secret mission”: other, and more simple explanations seems also possible.

    If you remember the R.Gillespie’s book – the Chapter about the night of disappearance, and particularly the evidence of the Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts presented there, you may be impressed how many things went in a wrong way aboard the USCGC Itasca. Particularly about the organization of radio-service: important information about what AE wanted and requested was lost, with some paper notes disappearing, AE’s requested “schedule” of radio-exchange was not followed, etc.

    It all would be easily “forgotten and forgiven” without consequences (most probably wouldn’t “float up” at all) – if AE and FN would, regardless, safely land on Howland that morning.

    But they didn’t – and somebody should bear the responsibility, at least partial one. Naturally AE and FN could not write a report and “complain” about anything: so the report gotten by Morgenthau was the one written by his subordinate – Commander Thompson, who presented the situation in a way like it was AE who was totally incompetent, hysteric, not following the radio-procedures, etc. etc. – and thus guilty herself about what happened… and the release of all this would “ruin her reputation”.

    Then, the man on the top of a “command chain” who carried a responsibility for his service’s and subordinate’s errors, was Morgenthau himself.

    So who should be blamed in situation? Naturally those one who were absent and unable to present their version of the events (AE, FN).

    I tend to think, this is now the “Morganthau’s quote” can be explained – in a quite natural way and without the “secret mission hypothesis” even being involved. As about the Thompson’s report itself, i think it was discussed several times on AES Forum and also on TIGHAR that the report was not objective and the related log records “doctored”.

    About the quoted Eleanor Roosevelt’s phrase (“something fishy going on around here”), it seems just too uncertain to deduct some guesses based on it.

    Saying something like this she could mean almost everything: that she suspects AE met her fate not in the ocean (captured by Japanese?…)… or that she (E.R.) doesn’t have a full trust in how Morgenthau described the situation to her… and/or she also suspected some “tricks” in the Thompson report… and so on and on, we can guess for long.
    Kind regards – Alex


    1. Thanks for your very cogent comments, Alex. As always, your thinking is logical and persuasive — until you get to your allegation that the logs were “doctored.” I assume it’s your contention that Bellarts didn’t go public with the information that the logs were doctored so he could save his reputation and his culpability in the disaster would not be revealed. It’s possible, I suppose, but not everyone who would have known about his alleged cover-up of the fact that the logs were changed had anything at all to lose by going public with that information, and nobody who was in the know and in the inside has ever gone on record to say the logs were tampered with, and we have no proof that they ever were. If I’m mistaken in this, please let me know.



      1. Dear Mike,
        Thank you for your comments. No, it was not my key point that the radio logs were doctored; I just mentioned that this statement was made many times (not by me) during the previous discussions on the AES Forum and TIGHAR Forum too, yet since 1990s (can’t remember the exact date and details now).

        My main point was, that Morgenthau built his opinion about what happened from the evidence and claims that came from just one side – Commander Thompson. AE and FN could say some different and additional things, but they weren’t there to present their side of the story. And, considering how many things were done in a wrong way aboard the Itasca, looks like he certainly did have a motive to present the situation in such a way like AE and FN were doomed anyway because of their own incompetence and mistakes and this outcome anyway didn’t have anything in common with what happened aboard his own ship.

        In short, it seems to me that Morgenthau built his opinion on the base of incomplete and one-sided information, and then possibly deepened this deviation from the truth in his own presentation of the events – being motivated by a pragmatic desire to protect his own subordinate governmental service much more the by an idealistic aspiration “to protect the reputation of Amelia Earhart”.

        If you really would want so much to “protect somebody’s reputation”, you would not say it again and again several times, just because of it would produce a directly opposite effect. It makes people thinking that something was really not so good since the reputation needs some “protection”.

        I see something very fishy in such a behavior of Morgenthau. It doesn’t look as a behavior of a “protector”, it looks to me rather a behavior of a statesman trying to get rid of the trouble caused by mistakes in his own subordinate service and waving by a “protection of reputation of AE” using it as a pretty convenient argument in order no to talk about some things unpleasant for himself.

        Kind regards – Alex


  3. Dear Mike: Another excellent blog. I did asked the deceased Bill Prymak of the Amelia Earhart Society, what he thought of the “Morgenthau statements,” and he Emailed me that the best he had was that, ” perhaps Amelia had disreguarded Roosevelt’s orders to not approach the Marshall Islands.” And these are MY thoughts reguarding Bill’s idea. IF indeed FDR had given AE orders to NOT approach the Marshalls, and, being lost, IF Noonan headed towards the Marshall islands in general trying to hone in on the powerful radio signals/messages from JALUIT, as he had done in the past, maybe when they landed at Mili Atoll, Morgenthau, FDR, and others thought she had disreguarded orders to not approach the Marshalls.

    If FDR thought AE HAD disreguarded orders, then got into trouble with the Japanese, as I feel FDR KNEW by fall of 1937, it could help explain the strange comment overheard by David Finlayson that, “they found the bitches airplane,” by FDR in 1944. Amelia, FDR, and Eleanor had been close friends. FDR may have been VERY ANGRY at AE for the disreguarding orders to not approach the Marshalls, and now, public release of knoweledge of that could theaten his present AND future presidency and political aims. Sincerely, Rob Ellos


    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Rob. Because we know so little about how and why she landed at Mili, anything is possible by way of explaining what Morgenthau meant when he said she “disregarded all orders.” But since her bizarre radio behavior seemed to suggest that she wasn’t really trying to locate Howland, I tend to think the Marshalls may have already been involved with her plans, whether as flyover territory or as an alternative if she failed to locate Howland. Who can really say?


  4. Gentlemen –
    The Mysterious Morgenthau was doing something, and I don’t think he went all that way to Hawaii for a sun tan?

    What about the search and possible [gathering of data] after Amelia doesn’t show up on Howland Island? What about the CRISIS at hand and Amelia in Japanese Territory? Now what do we do? How do we proceed? Do we try and rescue her? Do we just sit tight?

    Les believes it was nothing more than a vacation, according to the information he had seen & read. (The U.S. government isn’t about to divulge what Morgenthau was actually doing on Hawaii)

    Reineck may have jumped to conclusions and understandably so. I understand Mike’s comments & questioning Reineck. It’s an intriguing article that creates more questions than answers. That’s my take on this material.



  5. See if this might fit somewhere:

    She was to make a landing on another island along the way, per military orders, but would not know details (need to know basis) until being ordered, via radio, by someone on the ground who was directing her to a hidden airstrip, purportedly on US soil. At the last moment, close to landing, she became suspicious of the operator’s identity, pulled up, and turned south, headed for Howland. There was just enough fuel to complete the trip from that point.

    Defying orders compromised “other” plans for that area. She messed up their plans, and of course had to be blamed for ruining their brilliant strategy. At that point, she was fair game. Her consideration may have been – what kind of trap are they leading me into, are they lying, and will I “disappear”?

    I think she was used to accomplish something else. Why else would military work so hard and Purdue spend so much on a plane like that, for a civilian. Future war was already in the making. This was only strategy to set it up.

    For what it’s worth.


  6. Judy –

    I think Amelia was asked by FDR/Naval Intelligence to keep an eye out for Japanese ship activity, in the Pacific, as she was crossing the ocean. We know she was very low on fuel, on a EASTERN course with the Marshall Islands & Hawaii. I believe she never intended to land on Howland Island, which was further away & too isolated & small of a landing strip.

    She may have been told, to pretend that she was lost, and land on a different island, not controlled by the Japanese. This would have given our Navy, a reason to have a closer look at Japanese activity. Also the idea of updating the older & outdated mappings.
    I suspect that she simply was too low on fuel, had no other choice but to land in the *Marshall’s and out of fear of ditching in the open ocean.

    Unfortunately the Japanese authorities on Saipan were not as understanding and could not conceive that Amelia Earhart was simply out of fuel and had no other choice but to land in the Marshall’s.

    I am not a supporter of the spy theories and alittle too far fetched for a woman who is trying to cross, the largest body of water in the world and get from point A to point B.


  7. Doug, I believe you are correct. She was not spy mentality. To make the trip at all, she was conscripted, as were so many others. Fred was already in.
    Classroom training was private and cursory, and may possibly have been conducted at Seal Beach. They promised protection so long as she made a little detour and took photos along the way. The trip was hers until Lae. Once military took over, she did not matter so long as the job was done. She what she said she would. They got their photos.

    (Not stating this as fact, but for places to look)


  8. Judy – thanks –
    I read that in ’38 FDR asked Lindbergh to do some aerial surveilencing of the English, French, German & Russian air fields – get an ideal of what they had? or their strength?

    Lindbergh posed with Herman Goering (DEVIL) and he gave Lindbergh a German *baton. Lindbergh supported the German’s and their expansion of land in the east – or taking of Russian territory. Of course this only upset FDR.


  9. Hi Mike et al.,

    I am firmly in the conspiracy camp, as you know. I believe the number TWO may be significant. Two planes in play and two sets of conversation taking place – one private and one public.

    As MC will agree, I have struggled mightily with the concept of a second plane to try to explain away the mystery of a crash site in PNG. In the course of posting on David Billings’ website, another reason occurred to me as to why two planes might be more useful than one.

    It is supposition, fanciful even, but here goes anyway…

    My starting point is that Truk was the target for the mission. This is the significance of “I know what the Navy did”. Having snapped away at Truk we can imagine the order was to disappear as quickly as possible before anyone has a chance to react. On the map, Jaluit and Mili Atoll look like a natural progression towards Howland. This, is significant, I think, but not part of AE’s orders. Jaluit, we are told, would have been dark by the time they crossed, so not much chance of good pics.

    Additionally, I believe the Government had two ideas in mind, something akin to ‘plausible deniability’ and a favourite saying of the Masons, ‘hidden in plain sight’. In other words, whilst they wanted the intel, they would not have been too sad if the plane ditched in the open sea, i.e. in international waters. The last thing they wanted was for AE to end up where she did, with them fully implicated!

    The ‘hidden in plain sight’? An elaborate ruse was cooked up. In order to give time for AE and FN to get to Truk in secret, they needed the world to be listening to her transmissions as she continued on her intended course. Then, once they safely touched down, they would claim that the overflight of Truk was nothing to do with them and how could it be when everyone listening will have heard the transmissions of their progress?

    To accomplish this, they needed a second long-range Electra, i.e. the original Lady Lindy. She was to be flown, possibly out of Rabaul, along the the path AE and FN were supposed to take, broadcasting away, whilst AE and FN were headed for Truk. Then, for the sake of argument, once she reached the area of mid-way, i.e. USS Ontario, she turned back and tragically crashed in East New Britain, giving rise to the David Billings theory.

    Meanwhile, AE and FN are headed for Howland. Two conversations are now taking place – “I know what the Itasca did”. There is the very public one where they masquerade as being on the course they are supposed to be on, never staying on air longer than necessary so that their actual location cannot be given out. This accounts for the oddness in tone and nature of some of the public log, and possibly the sudden shrinkage from 200 miles out to 100 miles. It was all fake! Then there is the private conversation taking place. How this was done, I can’t say for sure. Many suspect the presence of a military radio. Certainly, the implication is that whilst the government might not have known exactly where they were, they knew the general vicinity and it worried them considerably!

    This is the possible meaning of “I know what the Itasca did. And I know how Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders.”

    If I am correct, her instructions would have been to ditch outside the territorial waters of the Mandate Islands. Unfortunately, the ‘re-assuring’ words of ‘don’t worry, we will be keeping tabs on you and will come to get you immediately’ didn’t cut much ice with a seasoned pilot like Amelia. She may well have agreed to them before setting off, but I am inclined to think she never ever had any intention of following these instructions. She was, after all, a pilot first and a spy second. No pilot wants to ditch at sea if they have a chance to beach. I think she purposefully kept the other Mandate Islands within range, just in case…

    Part of this so-called backup plan, if she was going to run out of fuel, was to publicly tell everyone “WE ARE ON A LINE OF POSITION 157/337. WE WILL REPEAT THIS MESSAGE ON 6210 kc. RUNNING NORTH AND SOUTH.”

    This mysterious message was designed to persuade the Japanese that they could not be anywhere near their territories but were, in fact, on completely the other side of their published flight path. A wide search would then have been launched to include the international waters near the Mandate Islands where they should have been and might have been able to be picked up – along with the precious film. No need to ask permission from the Japanese because there was technically a 3 NM exclusion zone, I believe, around each island.

    But, the Navy’s worst nightmare came true instead. You could say, she did the one thing that a good pilot would do, and a trained spy would not! She followed her instinct for self-preservation against orders. Her spymasters would have known that any overflight of Japanese territory (when you supposedly have said you are somewhere else) combined with washing up near one of the said territories could only result in one thing – which, of course, it did.

    Hence the words ‘the report of the Itasca on Amelia Earhart’



  10. Amelia was not a professional flyer with a regular career but essentially a hobby pilot who became famous because of circumstances, including her gender and her recklessness. She made many mistakes as a pilot. On one occasion during the fateful last record attempt she thought she knew better than her very experienced navigator, and because of her bad judgement they ended up in the wrong African city. At another point she wrecked their plane so badly it took three months for Lockheed to repair it. Her radio communication skills were far from impressive. There is a good deal of evidence she was headstrong and impulsive as a person. “If we ever release the report of the Itasca on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone.” Surely Morgenthau was trying to be as honest as he could with “Tommy” without telling her just how badly it had all ended?


    1. A hobby pilot”? When did any other “hobby pilots” cross the Atlantic alone in an open cockpit without a radio, or set eight world records for distance flight between 1930 and 1935? I think she was just a bit more than a “hobby pilot,” Henrik, and most with any knowledge would agree.

      As for Henry Morgenthau Jr.’s comment to “Tommy” (Malvina Scheider, Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary), in that infamous one-way phone transcription, we can only speculate. But it’s my belief that the only reputation Morgenthau was worried about protecting was that of his boss, FDR, who had good reason to be concerned, after leaving Amelia to the tender mercies of the Japanese on Saipan a year earlier.



  11. So, what happened to her those last few minutes that wasn’t a very nice story?! Who was there to see what happened? We have evidence that it’s all over. What evidence? To me, this sounds like it was a murder with at least one witness that reported it to the US Government somehow. Will we ever know? Thectruth is sometimes hidden in plain view. You just have to know what you’re looking for to have a chance of finding it.


    1. Woody,

      And just what is this “truth” that you so cryptically allude to? Come on, we can take it!

      This from Henry Morgenthau Jr. to Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary, Malvina “Tommy” Scheider in a phonecon that was recorded on Morgenthau’s end has always been a favorite of the big speculators and even the dreaded “conspiracy theorists.” He said she “disregarded orders.” And so we ask, “What orders?” He also said if the truth got out it would “destroy her reputation.”

      She may have had orders that she disregarded, but the only reputation Morgenthau cared about, other than his own, was that of his boss, FDR, so we know he was lying to Eleanor through her secretary. That’s just for starters.

      I know only that Morgenthau was a liar and that I never liked him nor his ilk. The rest I’ll leave to the smart guys.



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