Monthly Archives: December, 2015

Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV

(Editor’s note: In early 2007 I wrote  Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society,” conceived as an additional chapter for the second edition of  With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart. When the revised edition’s publication was cancelled, I began work on an entirely new book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, though its original title was The Earhart Deception. The Bolam chapter never quite fit in a work that was entirely focused on establishing the Marshall Islands-Saipan truth in the Earhart case, but I’ve finally dusted off one man’s chronicle of the internal unrest that bedeviled the Amelia Earhart Society in the years between 2002 and 2006, effectively ending its existence as a viable entity — if it ever was such. Today I present part one of Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society.”  Your comments are welcome.)

“What is the hardest task in the world? To think.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Amelia Earhart Society of researchers was launched in 1989 by longtime Earhart devotee Bill Prymak in his Bloomfield, Colorado study, to “seek the truth regarding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart,” according to Prymak. Its original members numbered less than 20, but included some of the leading lights in the Earhart community: Joe Gervais, still considered the greatest Earhart researcher by a few misguided souls, who passed away in January 2005; Joe Klaas, Gervais’ close friend and author of the 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, still with us in his 90s; the late Rollin Reineck, retired Air Force colonel and navigator who served on Saipan shortly after the 1944 invasion; and Ron Reuther, who founded the Oakland (California) Aviation Museum in 1981, directed the San Francisco Zoo from 1966 to 1973 and died within a few weeks of Reineck in 2007.

For many years, thanks to his networking skills and Earhart expertise, Prymak collected, gathered, evaluated and disseminated an impressive volume of information in an entertaining and enlightening format to the AES membership. Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, which he diligently compiled and mailed every few months from December 1989 to March 2000, are extraordinary in their variety and wealth of content – true collectors items that will never be duplicated.

AES Cover

Prymak ceased writing the newsletters shortly before the Yahoo! Earhart Group forum went online on August 9, 2000, and though this enhanced communications among the widely scattered membership, his newsletters were sorely missed and often requested. In 2003, bowing to the demands of new AES members clamoring for the unique information contained in the old newsletters, Prymak recompiled the entire collection into two nicely bound volumes titled, “An Assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters,” and offered them at basic cost to AES members only, which makes the two-volume set a rare commodity.

The AES, which never had a strong public presence due to the many different beliefs of its members, is now virtually invisible and of infinitely less consequence than the largely forgotten American icon whose true fate the organization was chartered to discover. With the exception of the annual Amelia Earhart Festival at her Atchison, Kansas, birthplace, where AES members have occasionally made statements or presented books, the group’s public profile has been nonexistent.  

But within the closed confines of this international group of about 75 Earhart aficionados, the years between 2002 and 2006 were anything but uneventful. In fact, the re-emergence of the most preposterous notion ever conceived about the fate of Amelia Earhart, and the bitter internecine conflict that ensued, reduced the AES to little more than a shadowy parody of its former self.

The source of contention was Rollin Reineck’s 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived. Incredibly, what Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais had strongly suggested in Amelia Earhart Lives, pulled from circulation 33 years earlier – that Amelia Earhart, having been held captive by the Japanese since July 1937, had returned to the United States sometime after World War II and assumed the identity of a New Jersey woman named Irene Bolam – Kailua, Hawaii’s Reineck stated as unequivocal fact. “An objective look at all the evidence seemed to point to the one conclusion that Major Joe Gervais had been right, Irene Bolam was in fact Amelia Earhart,” Reineck wrote in Survived. Reineck’s problem, never acknowledged by neither he nor his supporters, was that nobody has ever provided the slighted shred of credible evidence to support this fantastic claim.

The book that started it all: Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America's First Lady of Mystery

The book that started it all: Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, by Joe Klaas, published by McGraw-Hill in 1970.

The intellectual bankruptcy of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam theory (henceforth the “IB theory”) did not dampen the enthusiasm of its devotees.  Although few in number, these true believers loved to preach their gospel at every opportunity, and were equally willing to heap all manner of invective upon those with the temerity to question their false doxies.  This hostility toward non-believers is characteristic of behavior commonly found in religious cults, so it wasn’t surprising that the IB zealots within the AES came to be known as Bolamites by their non-subscribing brethren, and as its biblical tone suggests, the term was not one of endearment.

The Bolamites’ dogmatic insistence upon the reality of the Earhart-as-Bolam fiction violently conflicted with the inconvenient fact that none of the theory’s wobbly underpinnings could stand up to even the slightest scrutiny, and ignited the explosions that drove some longtime members over the edge and out of the AES, some permanently.  Bill Prymak was among them, and though the organization had lost its moorings long before Prymak decided to leave, his departure was a milestone that marked finis to the AES as a viable entity.

As conspiracy theories rank, Amelia Earhart as Irene Bolam stands among the all-time whoppers, calling its supporters to extremes of credulousness that make the tenets of the Flat Earth Society seem reasonable. As a book, Amelia Earhart Survived was a resounding failure – a nonselling, badly written, poorly edited presentation of a slanderous series of allegations against one of the greatest American women of the 20th century. This may seem harsh, but how else should we characterize the charge, made of whole cloth, that Amelia Earhart, well known for her loyalty and integrity, would forsake her husband, mother, family, friends and country, as well as her own past, to assume the identity of another woman for a reason that remains unknown?

To credit this idea as even remotely possible boggles the rational mind. Consider the logistical and security nightmare of returning Earhart to the United States from either Japan or China, depending on the myth’s latest iteration, and all that would entail. Once in the states, establishing her new identity, home, job and circle of friends would have required a conspiracy of hundreds, if not more, sworn to eternal secrecy – an oath no one has yet violated.

AE Survived Cover

Unlike most fables handed down from murky, indistinct origins in the distant past, the IB theory can trace its lineage to one specific event in fairly recent times. Had Joe Gervais not been in East Hampton, Long Island on August 8, 1965, he would not have met Irene Bolam at the Sea Spray Inn, and Earhart researchers would have been spared the onerous task of attempting to undo the grave mistake Gervais made that day.  But Gervais, who had been invited to address several hundred members of the Early Fliers Club, saw Bolam wearing what he mistakenly thought was a Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon and miniature major’s oak leaf (which Gervais erroneously believed was presented to Earhart), and became so sure Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart that two years later he wrote Bolam a letter begging her to prove she was not the lost aviatrix.  

Bolam’s written denial to Gervais and Klaas, “I am not she,” was apparently too short and unassertive to convince them of her veracity. For the record, Irene Craigmile Bolam (October 1, 1904 – July 7, 1982) was a New York banker and resident of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey, no more, no less, but this prosaic fact seemed always to evade the Earhart-addled Gervais, who never accepted it, at least publicly. 

Thus the Earhart-as-Bolam heresy was born, and persists, like a mutating virus, to this day, though currently it seems relatively dormant. In fact, the countless transformations the IB theory has undergone since the day Joe Gervais met Irene Bolam are its only constants – other than its pure whimsy – as its proponents have been forced to fabricate new and ever more bizarre scenarios to explain the unending contradictions and overwhelming illogic of their theory.

Shortly after publication of Amelia Earhart Lives in 1970, Irene Bolam held a well-attended but brief news conference in which she spoke only a few sentences, although these were most emphatic, according to observers. Holding an upside-down copy of the source of her consternation, she labeled it a “cruel hoax,” slammed the book on a table and roared, “I AM NOT AMELIA EARHART!” and left the room.  Seven weeks later, McGraw-Hill ceased sales of Amelia Earhart Lives and pulled it from shelves nationwide; no official explanation was ever given.

This is the famous Sea Spray Inn photo of Irene Bolam, with her husband John, that launched the 1970 book "Amelia Earhart Lives," by Joe Klaas, and created a sensation among so many who actually believed the ridiculous claim that Amelia Earhart had returned to the United States as Irene Bolam.

This is the famous 1965 Sea Spray Inn photo of Irene Bolam, with her husband John, that launched the infamous Amelia Earhart Lives and created a sensation among so many who actually believed the ridiculous claim that Amelia Earhart had returned to the United States as Irene Bolam. (Photo courtesy Joe Klaas.)

On May 26, 1971, Irene Bolam and attorney Benedict Ginsberg filed suit against McGraw-Hill, Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais for defamation. The suit quoted extensively from Amelia Earhart Lives, saying it was false and defamatory, and requested $500,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Researchers Ron Bright and Patrick Gaston traced the official record of the lawsuit to the New York County Courthouse in New York City.   TIGHAR’s Richard Gillespie visited the courthouse, copied the file and posted a brief synopsis of the suit’s highlights on TIGHAR’s public Website on February 15, 2004.  Gillespie’s review of Bolam v. McGraw-Hill was among the final entries of what he then titled “An Ongoing Discussion with Col. Reineck,” an online exchange of e-mail messages between Reineck and Gillespie “in the interest of open-minded consideration of all theories regarding the fate of Amelia Earhart.”

Gillespie, of course, has his own erroneous ideas, but he was well prepared, evidence in hand, to systematically expose the falsehoods Reineck championed in Survived. Though it was difficult to muster any sympathy for Reineck and his scandalous ideas about Earhart, the ease with which Gillespie skewered and surely embarrassed him during this spectacle was almost painful to watch. Shortly after Reineck’s last entry, in which he complained that Gillespie had “invalidated our agreement by making statements in the form of questions reflecting pre-conceived answers,” Gillespie focused on Reineck’s patently false statement in Survived that Bolam had dropped her lawsuit when asked to produce her fingerprints by the judge. Gillespie asked Reineck if he knew the case file was available to anyone, implying that Reineck had not even read it, and then proceeded to review the court’s ruling in the suit – that there were “triable issues” in the case – which was later upheld by the appellate court on May 4, 1976. At that point the file ends.

“There is nothing about a settlement offer, nothing about ordering fingerprints, nothing about Bolam dropping the case,” Ron Bright told me in a September 2006 e-mail.  “The file ends there, but obviously there was some kind of out-of-court settlement. And I believe IB was awarded a substantial amount. Probably sealed. No one really knows how much she got. Irene Bolam, the sister-in-law [a different Irene Bolam], thinks it was substantial.”  Gillespie said much the same thing, and told Reineck, “It’s fine to repeat your friends’ stories but don’t present them as fact without checking them for accuracy first.” Reineck had no response for Gillespie, as he had disappeared from the discussion.

In a Nov. 10, 1970 press conference in New York, an irate Mrs. Irene Bolan, holding an upside-down copy of Amelia Earhart Lives, vehemently declares, "I am NOT Amelia Earhart!"

In a Nov. 10, 1970 press conference in New York, an irate Mrs. Irene Bolam, holding an upside-down copy of Amelia Earhart Lives, vehemently declares, “I am NOT Amelia Earhart!”

Curious to learn if Reineck had finally accepted the inescapable reality that his fingerprint claim had been exposed as yet another Bolamite myth, I asked him about it in October 2006. His response was unsurprising. “What I say on page 180 is basically and fundamentally accurate,” Reineck told me in an e-mail. “Mrs. Bolam dropped the legal suit and settled out of court when she became aware that she would be required to submit her fingerprints.  In other words she was not willing to go ahead with the suit so it was dismissed.  There are no inaccuracies in my book.”  (Italics mine.)

So, which is it? Was Bolam’s lawsuit settled out court, or dismissed? Reineck, the author and expert, flatly states that his book contains no errors, but can’t seem to elucidate the correct answer to the most basic of questions about the outcome of Bolam versus McGraw-Hill. This incoherence typified the disorder inherent in the IB theory. Contrary to Reineck’s assertions, his entire disquisition comprised one falsehood after another – none more egregious than his reaffirmation of Gervais’ infamous blunder in mistaking Irene Bolam for Amelia Earhart in 1965, the hollow foundation upon which the entire fantasy is built.

In the final chapter of Survived, Reineck unveiled his coup de grace, “forensic science methodology” by way of “transparent photographic overlays” – high-tech sleight-of-hand designed to convince the suggestible that Earhart and the “Gervais Irene” i.e., the Irene Bolam that Gervais met at the Sea Spray Inn, were identical. Reineck then introduced Tod Swindell, his photo technician, whose “tireless efforts have successfully produced outstanding results that are acceptable to the scientific community as proof that Irene Bolam and Amelia Earhart were the same person.” Reineck continued his campaign by invoking the imprimaturs of forensic anthropologists Walker H. Birkby and Todd W. Fenton, who, said Reineck, had evaluated Swindell’s photo overlays, and found it “hard to disagree” with his astounding conclusion: “The case of the missing person Amelia Earhart, surely has been solved by virtue of forensic science,” Reineck wrote.

At this point, readers seeking visual confirmation of the Earhart-Bolam confluence were greatly disappointed, as no trace of these revealing photo overlays could be found in Survived.  But even cursory inspection of the many photos of Bolam and Earhart on display in the book leaves no doubt that these were  two distinct individuals bearing little resemblance to one another. As for high-tech imagery, Reineck actually presented only a police forensic artist’s imaginary, computer-generated portrait of a seventy-five-year-old Earhart displayed side-by-side with a similarly aged Bolam, leaving us with the same verdict: not even close.

Joe Gervais, left, and Rolling Reineck, circa mid-1990s, overlooking Honolulu, Hawaii. Still esteemed by some as the greatest of Earhart researchers, Gervais can count among his contributions the vile and false Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart theory, which his friend Reineck unsuccessfully tried to reprise in his 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived.

Joe Gervais, left, and Rollin Reineck, circa mid-1990s, overlooking Honolulu, Hawaii. Still esteemed by some as the greatest of Earhart researchers, Gervais’ legacy includes many false claims, including the vile Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart theory, which his friend Reineck unsuccessfully tried to reprise in his 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived.

The unconvincing photos spoke for themselves, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not so the pesky reality soon brought to bear on the colonel’s claims of professional validation for his overlays, when Gillespie, in the final stanza of their online discussion, announced he had cornered Doctor Birkby at a February 2004 forensics association meeting in Dallas. Birkby told Gillespie he wasn’t aware that his name was being invoked to bolster Reineck’s contentions; moreover, Birkby said he wasn’t even familiar with Reineck’s book. “You can’t prove anything from photos,” Gillespie said Birkby told him. “He showed us a bunch of overlays but the photo quality is so poor and they’ve been blown way up – you can almost make anybody look like anybody.”

“Once again, Col. Reineck, the facts appear to be very different from the information presented in your book,” Gillespie told the long-departed colonel in concluding their one-sided conversation. “It’s one thing to present folklore as fact, but falsifying the endorsement of respected professionals is serious business.”

Eighteen months after Survived was published, Birkby and Fenton reportedly issued their report on Swindell’s photo overlays of Earhart and Bolam. Reineck, who had assured AES members he would produce the document in its entirety, never did so, but in May 2005, he acknowledged that the forensic specialists had refused to confirm, officially or unofficially, that any exact similarities exist between photographs of Amelia Earhart and Irene Bolam. It was the only time Reineck would make such an admission, and he soon returned to insisting that Earhart and Bolam were the same person. But it wasn’t only Reineck who remained steadfast in his Bolamite faith when confronted by clinical rulings against its heresies, and despite productive research efforts that further revealed the IB theory’s fraudulence, newly energized and ever-more-devout IB zealots were seeking and gaining admission into this once-respected group of researchers.

In late November 2006, the National Geographic Channel dragged out the Bolam theory as a segment in its Undercover History series, a program simply dubbed Amelia Earhart,  which its producers likely believed would be a ratings grabber. After Reineck and Joe Klaas completed their on-camera bloviations, National Geographic presented detective and criminal forensic expert Kevin Richlin, of the Sunnyvale, California Police Department. Richlin, needless to say, doesn’t play in the same high-end league as Doctors Birkby and Fenton, but National Geographic’s budget allotment for forensic specialists may have been more limited than Reineck’s. Salaries notwithstanding, the street-smart Richlin eviscerated the Bolamite deception far more effectively than the doctors had apparently done, and Richland’s report was available to the public, not stashed way in their private office in Hawaii.   

Amelia Earhart in 1935, and Irene Bolam in 1970. How could anyone believe these two were the same woman?

Amelia Earhart in 1935, and Irene Bolam in 1970. As incredible as it may seem, many believed these two were the same woman, and it’s quite possible that some still do.

“In comparing Bolam and Earhart there are numerous differences,” Richlin began.  “The age line on Earhart starts at her nose, proceeds down past the edge of her mouth, and there is a second groove that goes from her mouth down. In Bolam, the age line starts at the nose, but only goes down part way, and stops well short of the edge of her mouth, and there is no second groove.” Richlin went on to show how Earhart has a mole and freckles, whereas Bolam has no mole and no freckles. “Furthermore, their eyebrows are different, their noses are different, and their mouths are different,” he continued, illustrating these distinctions by using a pointer to trace them in the comparison photos. “These are two different people,” Richlin stated emphatically, and completed his brief by saying that if someone came to him with these photos and said they were the same person, “They should find work elsewhere, as this is not where their talents lay.”

“They built the Bolamite stuff up like a straw man, and then cut it down at the very ankles,” said Rob Ellos, whose passionate embrace of the truth presented by Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. Wallack and Earskin J. Nabers earned him an invitation to speak at the annual Midwest Regional Conference of the Ninety-Nines in Duluth, Minnesota, in the fall of 2007.  The group later withdrew their offer, citing internal administrative problems, but in early March 2007, Ellos filled a 30-minute, late-night segment on the number one talk-radio station in the Twin Cities with the facts about Earhart’s presence on Saipan, much to the chagrin of the program’s cynical host, who couldn’t accept the idea that the American or Japanese governments would ever withhold this information from their people.

Speaking of reviews, in contrast to what normally could be expected after the home team suffers a severe thrashing, the mood on the AES forum was decidedly upbeat in the days following the National Geographic Channel’s dismantling of the IB theory. Anyone familiar with Bolamite behavior, however, would have been surprised by anything other than the barely controlled glee punctuating the online message traffic. Indeed, for the Bolamites, inclusion of their ideas in a legitimate venue such as the National Geographic Channel, alongside those of approved “mainstream” theorists such as Elgen Long and Richard Gillespie, was a stupendous achievement. In the deluded minds of the Bolamites, it marked their de facto resurrection from the ashes of the McGraw-Hill settlement debacle three decades earlier. Most importantly, this attention from the heretofore esteemed National Geographic Channel filled the Bolamites’ deepest need – it gave them validation.

The fact that their manifesto was exposed as rubbish was merely an insignificant detail. In typical happy talk a day after the program’s premiere, Reineck told one well-wisher, “It was a good show. They presented both sides of the theory.”  Several showings of the Earhart special were scheduled in the weeks following its November 29, 2006 debut, and even more potential converts and recruits would be exposed to the Bolamite delusions. The program continues to be aired periodically.

In Part II of “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society,” we’ll look at some of the most incredible contortions of logic and fact imaginable as the Bolamites build the IB myth into a full-blown travesty, one that dragged many otherwise intelligent people into the Bolamites’ bottomless swamp of delusion.

Bill Prymak analyzes Earhart-as-spy theories

To anyone familiar with this blog, the late Bill Prymak needs no introduction. Prymak the founder and first president of the Amelia Earhart Society (AES) was a great researcher and good friend whose significant contributions to the repository of Earhart knowledge continue to resonate.

For those new to this blog, this page of posts will give you an idea about Prymak’s legacy, which included three trips to the Marshall Islands, where he interviewed Bilimon Amaron in 1989 and found a previously unknown witness on Enajet Island, Joro, whose knowledge of the July 1937 landing of Amelia Earhart and Electra NR 16020 off Barre Island was considerable.

As one might imagine, Prymak had some very definite opinions about what happened to Amelia Earhart, and he wasn’t shy about airing them when asked. Today I present a previously unpublished commentary, from February 2011, in which he looks at perhaps the most popular of the so-called “conspiracy theories” that have attached themselves to the Earhart phenomena. The opinions expressed in the following essay are not necessarily those of this blog’s owner, but they do make sense. 

Bill Prymak, a veteran pilot with more than 6,500 hours in private aircraft since 1960, studied the messages for years before presenting his conclusions in his December 1993 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter analysis, titled Radio Logs - Earhart/ITASCA."

The late Bill Prymak, founder of the Amelia Earhart Society, was a veteran pilot with more than 6,500 hours in private aircraft since 1960.

“A DISSECTION OF EARHART SPY THEORIES”
By Bill Prymak

I wish to put to rest the following spy theories that have been circulating around for so many years, to wit:

  • Was she on a spy mission?
  • What did the government want her to do?
  • Was there a second Electra involved in her around-the-world flight?
  • Was the engine changed at Bandoeng?

(To save space, I will hereafter call U.S. government intelligence “GI.”)

The Spy Mission

Did GI put surveillance cameras on board, in violation of her granted permission to fly over 14 countries if she possessed no cameras other than a hand-held?

If GI did install cameras, where? There are only six inches between the floorboards and the belly skin. No surveillance cameras circa 1937 existed to fit those dimensions. Besides, a camera-control panel would of necessity be in the cockpit or on Fred’s table — pretty obvious to customs or mechanics working the aircraft.

So what could she photograph on her 1,800-mile-flight Hawaii to Howland??  The nearest Japanese Mandated island, Mili Atoll, was 2,250 miles direct Hawaii to Mili, then another 800 miles back to Howland for her necessary landing there.  Mili Atoll in 1937 had no military fortifications to photograph, and, in that time period, only Jaluit Atoll, some 100 more miles farther away, had something for the camera– the seaplane base at Emidj. 

Kwajalein, 250 even miles farther, could not be considered in range for her aircraft. I have hydrographic maps of Mili and Majuro entitled SKETCH SURVEY FROM THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT CHART of 1928 — plenty of details, non-military of course, and certainly available to GI. This was much more detailed than what any aerial photos would show. 

Another popular theory making the rounds: GI orders her to “get lost so U.S. planes can scour the area, including the Japanese Mandates, for much-needed intelligence information.”  But everybody believing this loses sight of the fact that this order is a virtual death warrant! In the vast Pacific Ocean, there is very rarely a Captain Sully-Hudson River dead-calm water landing available, and no beaches, no flat, open land areas anywhere in range.  Pacific open waters are nearly always rough, too rough for a safe airplane landing.

This section of the "Sketch Survey" of Mili Atoll taken from U.S. and Japanese charts focuses on the northwest quadrant of Mili Atoll, where Barre Island is clearly noted. Witnesses saw the Electra come down off Barre, and Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were seen embarking the Electra and seeking shelter in the tiny Endriken Islands just off Barre, where the current search in ongoing.

This section of the “Sketch Survey” of Mili Atoll taken from U.S. and Japanese charts focuses on the northwest quadrant of Mili Atoll, where Barre Island is clearly noted. Witnesses saw the Electra come down off Barre, and Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were seen disembarking the Electra and seeking shelter in the tiny Endriken Islands just off Barre, where the current search in ongoing.

(Editor’s note: Chesley BurnettSullySullenberger III, 63, is a retired airline captain and aviation safety consultant. He was hailed as a national hero in the United States when he successfully executed an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan, N.Y., after the aircraft was disabled by striking a flock of Canadian Geese during its initial climb out of LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009. All 155 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft survived.)

Would Fred Noonan, Harry Manning and Amelia approve of such a PLAN? Would [her husband] George [Putnam] and Mother [Amy Otis] Earhart approve?

We can’t compare Capt. Sully to Amelia. He was fresh, beginning a new day, highly skilled while Amelia was some 18-plus hours  in the air and dog tired — not a good candidate for a much-needed precision water landing, if they could find some flat water. I personally have compelling evidence of where she did land, but that issue is not within the province of this report.

And if the GI plan was to get her “lost” and scour the area with U.S. search planes, why wasn’t the USS Lexington deployed earlier to Hawaii instead of laying in shore leave mode on the west coast?

Outside of the usual request to international pilots to LRR — LOOK, RECORD, REPORT — not considered spying,  I see no merit or need for AE being on a spy mission, and I will prove it in the next segment.

The Hawaii Crash 

This event has engendered more hype, speculation and fantasy tales than any other aviation mystery.  Let’s for the moment assume that she really was on a spy mission, totally planned and controlled by GI. First scenario: She gets to the airport on March 20, ready to go, when she receives a phone call from GI: ABORT, RENDER AIRCRAFT INOPERABLE.  She is furious and shouts over the phone, “This is crazy!! We’ve planned this trip for months, have cached thousands of gallons fuel all over the world with spare parts, and now you tell me not to go?”

Amelia Earhart's Electra 10E, March 20, 1037, following her near disastrous ground loop that sent the plane back to the Lockheed plant in Burbank for months of costly repairs,

Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E on March 20, 1037, following her near disastrous ground loop that sent the plane back to the Lockheed plant in Burbank for months of costly repairs.

Bottom line: Obey orders, tell the press that the flight crew is unfit or the aircraft un-airworthy. She certainly would not have fired up the engines.

Second scenario: She fires up the engines, and while taxiing for takeoff, receives the same order to abort.  So she ground loops the aircraft, rendering it un-airworthy.  So much easier (and safer!) to run a wingtip into a truck, run a wheel into a ditch, or a dozen safe ways to inop [sic] the aircraft. 

The above scenarios never happened. What proves this is the fact that both Amelia and George, after the crash, scratched, clawed, begged and borrowed the $30,000 to pay the repair bill. These efforts are well chronicled in various research books (see Elgen Long’s book, Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved, for details of their efforts.)

If this was a spy mission, George Putnam, ever the astute businessman, would have written to GI, stating, “It was your order to abort, causing the crash. Bill from Lockheed herewith attached. Please take care of it.”

What really happened is what Harry Manning stated: ”SHE SIMPLY JOCKEYED THE THROTTLES AND LOST IT.” A bad day like this happens to every good pilot once or twice in his/her lifetime.  Happened to me once. Amelia Earhart was destined to have two bad days.

In conclusion I must add my personal experiences with Art Kennedy. I spent a week with him in Portugal, in 1992, he telling stories about his experiences in the aviation world.  Art showed me test cell papers proving that AE had more than six hours reserve when she called near Howland — six hours plus if the engines were flown properly.

Amelia Earhart with Harry Manning (center) and Fred Noonan, in Hawaii just before the Luke Field crash that sent Manning back to England and left Noonan as the sole navigator for the world flight.

Amelia Earhart with Harry Manning (center) and Fred Noonan, in Hawaii just before the Luke Field crash that sent Manning back to England and left Noonan as the sole navigator for the world flight.

Art was a lonely man, and privately admitted that his manuscript, given to JoAnn Ridley (a sweet lady who died last year [2010], and who knew nothing about aviation) was rife with bursts of imaginative stories, all to be included in their book [High Times: Keeping ’em Flying, 1992] to boost his recognition and sell copy. Some of his imaginative tidbits that ran wild:

1. Amelia suggested to him that she was on a spy mission

2. He helped Amelia adjust the broken landing gear before the CAA inspector arrived.

3. He stated that Lockheed engine installers Firman Grey & Carl Leipelt and a crew went to Bandoeng to install fresh engines. (See below.)

A Second Airplane Involved in the RTW Flight?

I can only state no such airplane ever existed, and I have absolute irrefutable photographic proof that ONLY ONE AIRCRAFT, NR 16020, was used for the entire flight.  Discussion on this issue ends right here.

The Infamous Engine Changes (How Silly Can You Get?)

First, AE arrived at Bandoeng with less than 120 hours on engines that were overhauled to new factory specs rather than service limits (Art told me this) — engines barely broken in and good for some 500 hours. Did some brain trust at GI feel these engines were inadequate for the Lae takeoff? Did they claim that [Pratt 7 Whitney] S1H1 engines with 12:1 blowers [an aircraft engine compression ratio] instead of the typical 10:1 blowers would reduce the risk, thus sending out the order to change engines?

A chronology of this entire circus act blows the claim apart, to wit:

1. AE was on American soil until June 1. It is quite apparent that GI would have wanted these engines installed on U.S. soil by American technicians. So decision date on new engines had to have been made after June 1.

2. Art stated that bigger blowers alone (for more horsepower) would be very difficult to install in the field because of the complex internal changes on the engines. Further, bigger blowers meant bigger cowlings.

3. Everything and everybody had to be in Bandoeng by the third week of June, her estimated time of arrival. Those big engine crates could not fit and be carried in any known air carrier of the day, so they had  to be shipped by tramp steamer. Pratt & Whitney engines from Hartford factory to Boston, catch a freighter to Lisbon, then through the Suez Canal, on to Singapore, then by mule or truck to Bandoeng. Run a time frame on the above and you see it is impossible to meet the schedule. And when and how did the new cowlings from Lockheed (West Coast) arrive at Bandoeng?

Art Kennedy, Alverca, Portugal, circa 1991. According to Bill Prymak, who knew him well, Kennedy fabricated stories about what Amelia Earhart told him after she crashed the Electra on takeoff from Luke Field in March 1937. These tales from Kennedy have been cited by some as strong evidence that Amelia was ordered to ground loop her plane, change directions of her world flight and even embark on a spy mission.

Art Kennedy, Alverca, Portugal, circa 1991. According to Bill Prymak, who knew him fairly well, Kennedy fabricated stories about conversations he had with Amelia Earhart after she crashed the Electra on takeoff from Luke Field in March 1937.  Kennedy’s statements have been cited by some as strong evidence that Amelia was ordered to ground loop her plane, change directions of her world flight and even embark on a spy mission for the U.S. government.

4. To clinch the fantasy, my very good friend Dave Kenyon, now living in Eugene Oregon, worked on her repair  at the Lockheed factory, and ultimately rose to rank of vice-president of engineering. We spent many pleasant evening discussing Earhart and her final voyage, and every time the engine-change story came up, he made the same statement: “[Carl] Leipelt and Firman [Gray] could never have left for such a lengthy time as they were the only ones at Lockheed who installed, fine tuned and signed off on the engines coming off the production line. I believe they were the only ones with CAA certification to do this.”  Ed Cooper and Art Kennedy certainly would have been called in to fill the gap.  They never mentioned this issue. Art Kennedy’s imagination just out-finessed himself on this one.

Conclusions

To all the pundits out there who claim AE was on a spy mission, I ask the questions: What were her orders from GI? What were the GI agency’s mission objectives?  I haven’t the slightest clue towards answering any of the above.

Let’s try, “Get lost, dump into the ocean, and a sub or surface vessel will pick you up.” Impossible. The precise navigation (GPS) tools required for such a rendezvous did not exist in 1937.

The GI (knowing how the government works) must have comprised a sizable group of men dedicated to successfully completing her “spy mission.” And yet there has never been a single peep out of anybody claiming to be part of this unique group. Amazing, when you consider the tabloid value (millions, in today’s dollars) that one could reap if he were part of this group, revealing a crucial part of America’s greatest aviation mystery. (End of Prymak analysis.)

The possible Truk Lagoon scenario

One possible Earhart-as-spy scenario not mentioned by Prymak has been suggested by some: Earhart overflying Truk Lagoon to observe “the number of airfields and extent of Japan’s fleet-servicing facilities in the Truk complex,” as Fred Goerner wrote in the closing pages of The Search for Amelia Earhart.

Before and during World War II, Truk Lagoon, now known as Chuuk Lagoon, part of Chuuk State within the Federated States of Micronesia,  was the Japan’s main base in the South Pacific theatre, a heavily fortified base for Japanese operations against Allied forces in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, serving as the forward anchorage for the Japanese Imperial Fleet. 

In 1937, U.S. intelligence would have been extremely interested in the status of this naval base, once known to Allied forces as Japan’s “Gibraltar of the Pacific,” and Amelia might have been asked to observe and possibly even take some photos with her small, hand-held Kodak camera. The Electra would have arrived over Truk at about 7 p.m. local time, with plenty of daylight left.  Of course, we have no proof that Amelia attempted to perform such a mission, but her actions during the final flight suggest something very strange was afoot, and she had two meetings with top U.S. officials during April 1937, according to Margot DeCarie, her personal secretary. (See Truth at Last for more.)

Stewart Map

As seen in the above map, found on the Mystery of Amelia Earhart webpage, created by William H. Stewart, a career military-historical cartographer and foreign-service officer in the U.S. State Department and former senior economist for the Northern Marianas, the distance from Lae to Truk is 1,022 statute miles, from Truk to Jaluit 1,223 statute miles, and from Jaluit to Howland (via Great Circle), 1,010 miles.  While shorter, this route would require Earhart to be in Japanese airspace and over several populated islands in the Marshalls for a longer period of time, which would give the Japanese more time for interception should the flight be discovered.  The total distance is 3,255 statute miles as compared to 2,556 miles when flying direct to Howland from Lae, and indeed pushes the range limits of the Electra, said to be 4,000 miles in the absence of headwinds.

“The only serious problem with such a supposition,” Stewart, the author of the 1993 book, Saipan in Flames: Operation Forager: The Turning Point in the Pacific War, wrote, “is that a position report received from Earhart while in flight occurred at 5:18 p. m. (Lae time) and indicated her position as “4.33 SOUTH 159.7 EAST HEIGHT 8000 FEET OVER CUMULUS CLOUDS WIND 23 KNOTS,” which would place the aircraft in the vicinity of Nukumanu Island, northeast of Bougainville and in the area where it should have been assuming the original flight plan was being followed. This fix would place the aircraft on a track from Lae to Howland Island some 742 nautical miles [854 statute miles] or about one-third the distance between the two points which are separated by 2,227 nautical miles [2,563 statute miles].

“This radioed position is far to the southeast of Truk and almost due south of Ponape (Senyavin Island, now Pohnpei) and north of Guadalcanal,” Stewart continued. “That the transmission was picked up in Lae is strange indeed, since the Electra’s radio range was said to be (although not confirmed by this researcher) not much more than 400 miles. If this was in fact true, how is it that the signal was picked up from almost twice the distance? Was it a hoax? Was it a deceptive position directed to confuse any Japanese radioman at Truk who might have been monitoring the much publicized flight path (presumed to be from Lae to Howland) and the radio frequency of 6210 KHz? If so, the report was received at Truk only a short time before the aircraft could have roared over the encircling reef at Truk to carry out its assignment of aerial espionage before turning east to fly toward Jaluit and thence southeast to Howland.”

Was Amelia Earhart  on some kind of intelligence mission that went wrong? Goerner later changed his mind about the mission to Truk he proposed in Search, instead adopting the idea that Amelia had been asked to simply collect what was known as “white intelligence,” meaning that “she simply observed things during the course of her flight,” according to Goerner, who could hardly have been less specific.  Goerner also changed his mind about the Mili Atoll landing scenario he proposed in Search, and made other serious misjudgments as well, so despite his great contributions to the Earhart saga, Goerner’s work is no longer the ultimate source for answers in this and other areas.

Like many things about the Earhart disappearance, the answers are buried deep within top secret, eyes-only federal archives, where only a scant few even know of their existence. Until the contents of these files are revealed to the public, the question of whether Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were lost while engaged in an intelligence mission for FDR will continue to be discussed and argued about by those who seek the truth.

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