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

 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 EarhartWhen 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 DeceptionThe 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 I one of Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society.”  Your comments are welcome.)

Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society” Part I

“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, Colo., 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 ever 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 to the AES membership  in an entertaining and enlightening format.  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 Aug. 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, soon 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 non-selling, 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 out 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 reasons that remain 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 (Oct. 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, 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 Guy, 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 75-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 seems, 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, Minn., 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 approvedmainstream 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.

35 responses

  1. WOW, Mike! This is a great story – it amazes me how many zealous, quasi-religious types there have been invested in the Earhart disappearance (and resurrection!) stories! With only the 2-3 photos I can see here, it is a leap of faith (or stumble of logic?) to “see” a direct similarity in these two women’s faces. Obviously The Real Irene Bolam was infuriated with the theory! Looking fwd to Part 2! Happy New Year!


  2. Tell us how you really feel.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story, Mike, and well presented. I see that there are many hard-to-prove theories about AE, and they are at odds with the other seemingly false theories. The difference with your take on her story is that nobody can disprove what you say. They just don’t give it the press it deserves. And it may never be accepted as the truth, unless or until the government releases the relevant documents from the FDR administration, which are now more than 70 years old.

    I also liked the quote from RWE, “What is the hardest task in the world? To think.” It reminds me of a similar question: “What is the most difficult instrument in the world to play?” And the answer: “Second fiddle.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HAHAHA – great reply, Paul!!!!


  4. Good article.

    The idea of AE pretending to be anyone she was not is obscene. If anything, it would have been self preservation, anonymously, in a foreign land, but certainly not after returning home to her own people.

    I get the idea perhaps Irene worked early on as a double for AE; in which case, she asked for scrutiny, explaining to me the vehemence she felt when questioned. Otherwise, she might have just laughed or brushed it off. The lady did not deserve such treatment, in any event.

    Just a thought.

    I enjoy all of your posts, Mike. They bring up ideas and more comments, and each contribution is a step closer. I still think there is some as yet unnamed military file where missing pieces lie. Instead of saying it will never be known, I like to say it will be known. There is such freedom in truth.


    1. Judy,

      Always good to hear from you; glad you like the post and thanks for your kind words. But Judy, wherever did you get the idea that Irene Bolam ever worked as a double for Amelia Earhart? There’s simply no way that ever happened. She was naturally outraged by the incredible allegation in Amelia Earhart Lives, and that was quite enough.

      Happy New Year.


      1. Ideas open things up.


  5. So what is with this Jameson book? Is he conjoined with Kinney and Spink? Is this an attempt at writing a book so silly that it will put the last nail in the Japanese capture coffin? Mike, did you see it coming? I see by the comments from the readers section, most folks are now more convinced than ever that the Jap capture theorists are at best wacko. How long does it take Spink to evaluate the miscellaneous pieces he claims he found? What is with that? What is Hillary’s take on all this? Or Ric’s? He must be annoyed. I better go look at the TIGHAR forum.


    1. Jameson is an old crank who takes information from wherever he can steal it and writes books of the worst imaginable stripe. Look him up on Amazon and you will see what I mean. Dick Spink is pissed about this as well and has nothing to do with it. I wrote the below message to the offending writer at the Daily Mail, Daniel Bates, but of course he hasn’t replied:


      Your new article promoting Jameson’s book is incredible. Instead of getting it right, The Mail pushes a book that has half of it wrong, and never mentions Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, or any of the previous books that present the truth, not long debunked rubbish like the Irene Bolam lie. It’s ironic that your paper would publish this at the same time as I published the first of four parts of this long piece I wrote several years ago:

      “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society”

      Jameson is certifiable, trying to resurrect Irene Bolam again, yet your paper endorses it. Are you in the disinformation business, is that what this is all about? Jameson’s book will not sell, regardless of this Daily Mail article.


  6. I continue to totally believe In Mike’s “Truth at Last”…I was born 3 months before AE disappeared and I hope I live long enough to see what the US and Japanese Governments have kept hidden all these years about the capture and murder of Amelia and Fred. Unless everything was destroyed, it will come out someday. Live people that could tell us are all almost non-existent by now. I only hope that the truth will be told by whatever means.


    1. Thanks Bob, good to hear from you again, Old Timer! Happy New Year to you and your family!


  7. I posted a very brief comment on FOX News website – they are promoting this book (W.C. Jameson’s Amelia Earhart Beyond the Grave) today. They deleted it.

    !! Obviously, the majority of commenters who passed FOX’s criteria (?) think the theory is goofy.

    Go to the book’s comments on – Ric G was the 1st commenter – gave it 1 star.

    Honestly – Amelia shrunk 2″ while in China between 1937 and 1945? And became “curvier”??? This blog may be the single online source (maybe ANY source) for literate and rational discourse remaining on the Earhart topic.


  8. Happy New Year Amelia Earhart


  9. Mike,
    Woody Rogers’ discovery of the news-story reporting Amelia Earhart’s mysterious visit to Rochester, NY in October of 1936, “…to inspect special photographic equipment designed by Eastman Kodak engineers…,” is, without a doubt, highly intriguing evidence that she was involved in an espionage mission for the US Government.

    The public really needs to know more about this- David Bowman’s webpage is the only online reference I’ve found… help get the word out on this…. your book sales will soar.
    “….Below is an article discovered by researcher Woody Rogers which documents that steps were taken in the fall of 1936 to install cameras in Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. It also may explain why the Japanese might have detained Earhart, as their intelligence people must have seen this article.”

    From the 1937 newspaper article…

    “Her last visit to Rochester was made Oct. 8, 1936, when she motored through, stopping only to inspect special photographic equipment designed by Eastman Kodak engineers for her “flying laboratory,” now the object of a frenzied search by the United States Navy.”

    Yesterday I found this short ‘news-tip’ story in the Oct. 12th, 1936, Rochester Journal [page 13, found in Google’s Newspaper Archive.]

    The unexpected visit to Rochester of Miss Amelia Earhart, America’s ace woman flier, proved profitable to two alert men who split the first prize of $20 in the thirty-eighth week of the Journal-American news tip contest. Half of the first prize goes to the man who furnished the information that Miss Earhart was coming to this city and the other half is awarded to the man who spotted Miss Earhart’s car in East Avenue and relayed the information to this office.”


    1. Fly,
      Thanks for pointing us to this old article, and though “intriguing,” as you say, that’s about all it is. The story isn’t even bylined, no sources are named, and it’s nothing more than a suggestion at bottom. So far we have nothing solid that puts any special photographic equipment aboard the Electra, at least as far as I know. We’re always open to new research findings, of course, and I have no doubt something was afoot that didn’t include landing on Howland.


  10. I just read a few days ago the New Yorker magazine article about AE from 2009. Of course it gives the establishment version of the events under our consideration. My take on the article is that it paints a picture of a more egotistical and erratic woman than we are conventionally led to believe. This fits in with my conjecture that the Truk and Marshalls overflight might possibly have been a plan hatched by her and Putnam. Despite the insinuation I have read that she was some kind of a “peacenik” that would never involve herself in such an outlandish mission, I’m not so sure.

    Now while it’s true that the article(s) in the previous post are skimpy on attribution, I think we can safely say that she really was at Kodak headquarters. Why would that be? Didn’t she know as Prymak asserted that there was no room for an aerial camera in her plane or that it would surely be spotted by inquisitive eyes? If the US Navy was promoting this subterfuge, why would she need to visit Kodak? It would seem that she would rather be ignorant of the process except for the operation of the cameras. What I’m saying is I’m very skeptical of some of Prymak’s inherently questionable declarations.

    So, I will repeat my opinion that the most plausible reason or the only plausible reason that they took off from Lae instead of Rabaul was to facilitate the flight to Truk. Otherwise they are making a clearly logistical miscalculation. One that nobody seems to want to speculate on. I do believe the Japs noticed what she was doing. When she got to Mili Atoll I do believe she was shot at by one or more Japanese planes. Maybe that is why she landed on a rough beach instead of the more forgiving lagoon. Quickly they hide the footage they took in the famous little metal box. It takes a few days for the Japs to retrieve the box and subsequently develop the film, and when they do our intrepid flyers are no longer the rescue propaganda scoop of the Japanese but now they are caught red-handed spies.

    Naturally the Japs save and protect the plane as Exhibit #1 in their case. Perhaps the mission was concocted without the implicit blessing of FDR. Maybe someone in the Navy in cooperation with AE thought they were doing a patriotic deed.Or FDR didn’t “need to know” at the time. When he finds out what she has done he is truly on the spot. Denial is the only workable plan. His hands are tied. No wonder he is pissed.

    So now comes 1944 on Saipan. FDR is notified her plane is there. Really? Yes in perfect condition, we even flew it around. It even still has all that fancy camera equipment. Has anybody got on board and seen that? No, we’re keeping everybody away from it, even Forrestal. Only a few of the guards know it’s her plane. OK, you tell those guards they didn’t see nothin’. Blow it up before the stories spread. We won’t worry about the Cold War coming up with our soon to be Japanese allies. That’s 5 years in the future. We don’t want a few malcontents right now spreading the story that AE was a prisoner. If they do, a handful of men selling books won’t be believed. That’s how we take care of this…..

    Aye, aye Sir!


    1. David,
      You’re always thinking, my friend, but your thoughts are not always cogent. Think about this: If AE and Fred were really going on an espionage mission, it would not have been something they dreamed up on their own. Not a chance, the flight was too risky on its own merits and FDR had already stuck his neck out to prepare Howland with a landing strip at no small expense and political capital. These two simply would and could not have taken the initiative of spy mission upon themselves, without higher direction. It’s just could not have happened like that.

      Next, if they were preparing for a spy mission, why would those directing such a mission allow AE to be seen and publicized in a visit to Kodak? Was this The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, or was she going to Kodak for a more prosaic reason? Woody Rogers also has furnished the model number of the small Kodak hand-held camera that Amelia was known to have taken on the trip. Perhaps she went to Kodak at their behest as a goodwill visit, and there was presented with the camera, which didn’t make the story because it simply wasn’t sexy enough.

      No byline, no sources, nothing much at all, as I said before. This story is entirely unconvincing of anything as far as I can see.

      Not to throw cold water, David, your ideas are always appreciated here. Keep the mill grinding.



  11. If FDR put Vincent Astor to work spying on the Japanese in the Pacific in 1936, it is likely he would have asked Amelia to do the same in 1937.

    “….in 1936 Fred Dearing wrote Roosevelt from his post in Peru that Astor planned to cruise off the Pacific coast of Latin America. “I understand that Vincent Astor is going back to the Galapagos Islands again with a few visitors, but I expect he might pick up some scraps of information for you while he is there.” Though anxious to have Astor check rumors that Japanese ships were surveying the Galapagos to locate a site for an advanced base, Roosevelt was more concerned to learn what the Japanese were doing on their far distant islands in the South Pacific held since World War I as League of Nations mandates. Conveniently, Astor and Kermit Roosevelt planned a scientific expedition to the Marshall Islands as a cover for other investigations.”


    1. So what happened to the Kermit/Vincent expedition? I’m guessing it never happened. What happened to the Kodak camera? Is this the one that purportedly was being sold a year or so ago?

      You’re right, I don’t really think AE planned a spy mission all on her own. Just throwing the question out there to see if it sticks to anything. Evidently it didn’t.

      Something I noticed tonight which is a little far fetched. If AE followed her original flight plan I’m assuming it was going to be Howland I. to Lae. Or was it? Did anybody ever document what it was? Did she promulgate such a flight plan? Or was it originally Howland to Rabaul? So after the Hawaii crash the direction is reversed. To take off from Howland and then fly over the Marshalls would imply incompetence beyond anyone’s belief. So that was out. But to fly from Lae and wind up at Mili Atoll could possibly be within the realm of possibility. Just sayin’.

      So let’s stipulate she is actually just of average piloting ability. Average enough so she accidentally crashes the plane in Hawaii. At this point it looks like her revels are over. Her whole flight idea was only marginally daring to begin with. It looks like the expense of repairing her plane and starting over is just not worth it. Might as well sell it for parts they think. FDR is disappointed that he has spent all that dough on Howland I. for nothing. He wants to salvage something out of the fiasco so he invites Amelia to the White House. He offers her the deal, he will foot the bills and enable a new flight, but he needs a little favor. It means flying the wrong way,but who will notice that. We will just say weather conditions have changed. And don’t worry, we’ll see that you get a much improved plane, faster and longer range.

      It will mean that your flight times point to point earlier in expedition will be considerably faster than what your original plane was capable of, but the only people who will take notice of that are cranks like Randall Brink. Nobody will question that. So what choice does Amelia have? She has to do what FDR wants or her career is about over, ending on an ignominious note, at that. No wonder she acts bummed out if we can believe some of her acquaintances. I’ll leave it at that and stand by to take evasive action while I get shot down again.


      1. David,
        This is from Truth at Last, page 11:
        The original plan called for an Oakland-to-Oakland flight via Honolulu; then on to Howland Island; Lae, New Guinea; and Port Darwin, Australia. “Part two, a lengthier stretch over fabulous lands,” as Earhart described it, “extended from Australia to the west coast of Africa by way of Arabia.” Part three would take the Electra over the South Atlantic to Brazil, and from there northward to the United States. Noonan would go as far as Howland and return to Hawaii by ship. Manning would stay until they reached Australia, and she would fly the rest of the way alone. (End of TAL excerpt.)

        It has been solidly documented that Putnam paid for the repairs on the Electra, which helps shoot down the direct government complicity in an aborted takeoff from Luke Field. SO it’s not a simple thing to prove she was on a mission, though we do have her bizarre radio behavior during the last flight, and of course Art Kennedy’s unsupported quotes that some buy, some don’t.


      2. I gotta say, Dave, I like your thought process. Makes for a much more interesting story than any competing hypotheses from others. Mike is The Expert, so when he says it’s not likely, I know he knows whereof he speaks. Even so, your ideas make wonderful sense in terms of “what if” – would make a splendid screenplay to portray a fictional end to the story. Since it’s fiction and you may take poetic license, forget Putnam paid for repairs – say it was someone else. Maybe the US govt and even Putnam agreed to the ruse. Bet it would make a lot of money – just make sure the word “Fictional” is prominently displayed. All the weird little details presented so thoroughly in Mike’s work and Prymak’s annals just scream for a major screenplay with a constructed ending that stimulates conversation. FDR and the govt might even be shown to be responsible, and include a cover-up as part of that plot! Makes me want to look up what a story board is and how to use it!


  12. I just contributed a little money to Kickstarter I think it is, for David Paulides new movie. Maybe I/we can initiate that. I am puzzled that so many files were apparently opened about Hitler’s escape to South America and yet AE remains classified. It seemed obvious to me for quite a while that Hitler did escape, the US govt Knew that and they let him be. Maybe it was the deal they made with Werner Von Braun and his rocket scientists to leave Adolf alone. Yet AE’s misfortune is concealed. You wouldn’t think if she simply got lost that there would be such a coverup continuing, Or even spying, so what? It makes little sense. I just hope President Trump gets to the bottom of this story.


    1. From your pen to God’s ears, David. I hear you about Hitler, but the Earhart story is in a class by itself. If the truth were ever revealed, the American lib historians (meaning all “historians”) would have to rewrite their history books about their precious FDR, and he would henceforth be known as the coward and liar that he was. That would make letting Hitler off the hook look like a Boy Scout picnic.


  13. David,
    The Kermit/Vincent expedition to the Marshall Islands did take place… AFTER Earhart had vanished I believe. The Japanese refused to give them permission to land. See below.

    Further information about that visit Earhart made to Eastman-Kodak in Oct. 1936 appears not to exist, which may speak volumes. I don’t think she was there to just stock up on film.

    “…Astor made elaborate preparations, including establishment of a recognition code word for the Nourmahal, tie in with the United States Navy radio network and a briefing by Director of Naval Intelligence Ralston S. Holmes. “Admiral Holmes (O.N.I.) told me he believed the Japs had a lot of Radio stations in the islands,” Astor advised FDR. “I should think that it would be interesting to know their exact location,” and “Nourmahal has a Radio Direction Finder”.

    In early 1938 Astor sent a lengthy report to the president reviewing his voyage with Kermit to the South Pacific. “On my return, I shall of course make a proper report to O.N.I.,” he explained. “However in the remote possibility of trouble between now and then, you might consider the following conclusions of mine concerning the Marshall Islands worth forwarding to Naval Operations & O.N.I.” In his message to the president, Astor admitted that when the Japanese refused to grant permission to land he had become a bit of a coward and had left the area. However, through intercepted radio messages and interviews with British intelligence people on the nearby Gilbert and Ellice Islands he had gathered some important data. Astor observed that Eniwetok, not Jaluit or Wotje, seemed to be the principal Japanese naval base, since large docks, fuel stores and ships had been observed there for several years.

    “Bikini Atoll, Astor confided, abounded in suspicious activity and was off-limits to local natives. In addition, Roosevelt’s man had learned that trucks and tractors worked to clear an air strip on Wotje, while six Japanese submarines lurked in a nearby lagoon. Astor performed one valuable service by correcting the common impression in Washington that Japan had fortified the Marshall Islands, insisting that the concrete platforms on one island comprised floors for warehouses not emplacements for guns. “I feel moderately certain that there are none [forts] in the Marshalls,” he wrote FDR.”


  14. I received a phone call from a neighbor that Fox news had talked about a Japanese capture of AE. He was aware I had asked Gov Jindale –In Orange City Iowa –about putting AE on a federal reserve note. My neighbor had told me that if I wanted attention I should talk about UFO.s instead of AE. But Fox news has helped. AE is known in this area as the only chance Worthington MN had of claiming a cultural icon as one of their own — she has had her own shelf in the local war museum for some time.

    Because of the Fox coverage, local people feel comfortable in talking about a Japanese capture — and not just noting that her family spent summer vacations at Lake Okabena.



    1. I’m quite aware of this “FOX coverage,” Jerry, and it’s not at all what you think. The book they promoted in their AP story is among the worst ever published, in that it promotes the Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart lie, which has been thoroughly debunked in plain national and international sight via Bolam’s lawsuit against McGraw-Hill and the subsequent removal of the book Amelia Earhart Lives from bookstore shelves in 1970, to begin with. In 2003 Rollin Reineck tried to resurrect the corpse with his awful book, Amelia Earhart Survived, which was the subject of another thorough dismantling on the National Geographic Channel’s Undercover Series. NOBODY believes this nonsense, yet here is yet another old crank producing yet another fish wrapper, another despicable, horrid book, without sources, index or anything resembling scholarship, in an attempt to sell this ridiculous idea yet again.

      The only reason FOX has promoted this travesty is that the book also promotes aspects of the hated Truth, the Marshalls-Saipan destinies of Amelia and Fred Noonan, so that these true aspects of the Earhart saga can be TIED to the Bolam myth and thereby become discredited as well. There can be no other reason such a book would ever be recognized.

      FOX has always been among those who carry water for the false theorist Ric Gillespie, and has never even allowed the name Truth at Last to be mentioned by anyone posting comments. Put simply, Jerry, FOX hates the truth and will do whatever it needs to discredit it. The local people you reference, who need moral approbation from such an unreliable establishment organization as FOX should grow backbones, learn the truth for themselves and quit looking for answers where none will be found.


  15. Mike,
    Here is another brief newspaper report about Earhart’s October, 1936 visit to Eastman-Kodak and a “special camera” to be installed on the Electra.

    Rochester Evening Journal and the Post Express
    October 8th, 1936, page 32

    “Unraveling the News of Eastman Kodak”

    “…Amelia Earhart Putnam, who visited Kodak two days ago to inspect a special camera to be installed on her “aerial laboratory” airplane, is to act as a judge at the national snapshot contest in Washington, October 19.”


    1. Interesting, Fly, interesting. Nobody has ever proved that any special cameras were installed on the Electra. This is about as close as I’ve seen anything in black and white. I don’t buy it yet.


  16. Yes, very interesting I’d say.
    Just about one month after her visit to Kodak, she wrote her well known letter to FDR, detailing her ‘plans’, and requesting assistance from the Navy with in-flight re-fueling. She wrote,

    “…This matter has been discussed in detail by Mr. Putnam with Admiral Cook, who was most interested and friendly. Subsequently a detailed description of the project, and request for this assistance, was prepared. It is now on the desk of Admiral Standley, by whom it is being considered.”

    I’m trying to find out more about “Admiral Cook.” This must be the guy….
    [Note photo of Eugene L. Vidal with Cook in 1934.]


  17. I still say, and I have thought for a long time, that if the secrecy about AE was entirely to protect FDR’s reputation, there must have been a lot more to the story than it being the case of a daffy broad aviatrix getting herself lost because she “screwed up.” To me, at the very least it was a case of the gov’t or Navy taking control of the whole scheme and footing the bills even if the repair money was covered out of Putnam’s checking account.

    You can’t convince me he wasn’t reimbursed. And after reimbursement she had a job to do. At the very least she had a high powered camera and she probably flew over Truk before heading to the Marshalls. Obviously if the public learned she was picked up by the Japs it would be understandable in the context of the coming war that his hands were tied and restraint was the best course. Then if the Japanese held her, it would be very good propaganda against them. But if the Japanese sent out pictures of the camera and other spy equipment it would be most embarrassing. It would make FDR look like a warmonger and the isolationists would have won the 1940 election.

    There was probably even more incriminating evidence that would come out if the whole story were told. So us people who can think critically know and intelligent people in government know how FDR instigated the war. But just as LBJ’s role in the Kennedy assassination is ignored, so we must ignore FDR’s plots for the good of the USA. I also suspect that AE had a different plane to use, I mean if she was being sent on this spy mission why would she use the old cracked up original plane? Forrestal probably wanted the plane preserved, and after he lost that battle with FDR his goose was cooked.

    I have to say more and more I find Prymak’s assertions that No, she couldn’t possibly have a different plane and No, she couldn’t possibly have an aerial camera to be more like strong intentionally intimidating opinions rather than open minded reasoning. Just my feeling. With these latest posts there seems to be evidence that she very well could have received from Kodak some spy cameras which evidence Prymak didn’t ever have. Of course I have never done any research except from my armchair so I respect anybody who put as much time into the investigation as Prymak did.

    My very first thought upon learning of the new book and the reaction to it in the Daily Mail from readers was that it had to be a new effort to discredit in advance any new evidence of the Japanese capture, now that Gillespie is losing his mojo.


    1. David,
      I don’t buy the recent news clips as evidence that she was planning a spy mission using special Kodak cameras, despite the implications in the brief quotes taken from the stories. A “spy mission” was and remains something that is covert and not publicized in local American newspapers. I can’t recall now who it was who claimed to have installed special cameras on the Electra, but said claim was shown to be bogus. Will look into it.


  18. Just from the heart. I am Jerry’s Fox News source and I hear you are not a big advocate of Fox News reporting, therefore I presume unfortunately that you get your news from NBC or CNN. All I can say is too bad. Dean A. Ramsey

    Mike see what kind of red necks I hang out with.



  19. Who is Dean A. Ramsey? Never heard of the guy? I wouldn’t waste my time watching Fox farce News. People actually pay for this televised drama?

    Come on Jerry, we all know why Fox won’t report on “Amelia Earhart the *TRUTH at Last,” by Mike Campbell. It’s all SHOW BIZ to you’s at Fox and nothing more…


  20. I had been holding off on giving a copy of Campbell’s to a military officer I know. After the Japanese capture story on Fox, I gave him a copy. I do not think he is risking his job if he talks about the book — I could be wrong. I heard that when it comes to pr, it does not matter what the papers say, just so they spell your name right.


  21. There are no shortages of opinions of what happened to Amelia and while the Bolam theory might seem strange, I do wonder why she was so angry and insulted to be mistaken for such a well loved woman and furious enough to file a lawsuit. Anyone else would be amused or flattered.


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