Monthly Archives: January, 2016

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

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

In August and September 2006, David Billings, 76, an Australian researcher who has drawn attention in the United States as well as Down Under with his own controversial Electra-at-New Britain theory (see Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project), took up the baton from Alex Mandel and launched a series of pointed attacks against the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart doctrine. But unlike the conciliatory and diplomatic Mandel, Billings went straight for the jugular, tying his assault to revelations released more than a year earlier in The Atchison Report, to be discussed shortly.

The information was provided by Gertrude Hession, a former friend of Irene Bolam and sister of Monsignor James Francis Kelley, Reineck’s incoherent main witness, and Diana Dawes, another longtime Bolam friend. It all concerned one Mary Eubank, whose association with Bolam could be traced with certainty back to their high school days, through the war and up until Bolam’s death in 1982. This evidence alone was absolute proof of the theory’s falsehood. In a September 2006 message to the AES Forum, Billings addressed the Mary Eubank connection, the redoubtable Monsignor Kelley’s dementia, and made a revelation of his own:

Earhart Group, 

Joseph Klaas and Joseph Gervais compiled a book “Amelia Earhart Lives” in 1970.  I do not know whether you have read it but if you have not, I suggest that you may like to read it.  It costs around $1 on abebooks.com and the postage is $4. That alone should tell you something.

A recent photo of David Billings at his home in Nambour, Australia. (Courtesy David Billings.)

A recent photo of David Billings at his home in Nambour, Australia. (Courtesy David Billings.)

I am at around page 80 in that book and I have tagged all the inaccuracies, inconsistencies and all the plain mistakes that are blatantly obvious in that book written by Joe Klaas. Joe Klaas, it seems to me, should be ashamed that he ever wrote that book. I have not yet got to the part where Gervais “recognized” Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart. Gervais and Klaas and the publisher McGraw-Hill had to pay Irene Bolam as they lost the case.

In 2003, The Colonel, Rollin C. Reineck, goes through the same motions and resurrects the Irene Bolam MYTH. He uses Gervais’ supposed “recognition” of Irene Bolam as AE and he also uses the words of a Catholic Priest, Monsignor James Francis Kelley in support of the myth, the story, the fable, the whatever.

I have here an audio tape of Colonel Rollin C. Reineck interviewing the Monsignor in September 1991. It is not pretty. The Monsignor is obviously suffering from senile dementia at age 90.  

He (the Monsignor) speaks of Eisenhower leaving the troops behind, of his meeting with Emperor Hirohito to discuss Amelia being freed, of Hirohito not agreeing to free Amelia and of the Monsignor finally getting a General Keane to freedom along with Eamon de Valera who was later to become the “Emperor of Ireland.” Amelia appears and stayed at his house at Rumson, N.J., for around three or four weeks, after that she went out and got injured.  He doesn’t say by what. He then rambles on about having to go to Le Bourget field to meet Lindbergh because there was no one else there to meet him. The Monsignor also captured Bruno Hauptmann and when in London helped with the administration of that city for three years. There was more. I take it that you have the tape?  

So, really, Reineck should have stopped the interview but he did not.  Reineck even says on 1st January 1992, that he found nothing “valid” in what the Monsignor said, but in 2003 he publishes the drivel that the Monsignor said in support of his contention that AE returned to the United States.

In 1992, Joseph Gervais and Bill Prymak interviewed Gertrude Hession, the sister of Monsignor James Francis Kelley. Gertrude told them that she had been trying to put the Monsignor away for some time due to his dementia. She also told of a Mary Eubank who had known Irene Bolam from their teenage years and that Joe and Bill should meet with Mary Eubank and discuss Irene. Gervais declined the offer even though the trip back by car from Delaware to New Jersey took them past Eubank’s home town and they had PLENTY of time.  Bill Prymak told me all this himself. You wanna question Bill Prymak, be my guest. 

Undated photo of Monsignor James Francis Kelly

Undated photo of Monsignor James Francis Kelley, who suffered from dementia at age 90 in 1992 and whose incredible statements were quoted by Rollin Reineck in Amelia Earhart Survived Kelly died in 1996 at age 94.

Gervais swore Bill Prymak to secrecy because if it got out that Irene Bolam had been known by any one person since teenage it meant that she could not possibly be Amelia Earhart. This meant that Klaas’s book was false and it also means Reineck’s book is false. There have been many inside mails telling Bill Prymak that he was weak not to face up to Gervais and let the MYTH continue.

Billings should never have been let in and others who question the armchair researchers should never be let in. Someone said some time back, that Bill Prymak would regret recommending me for membership of the AES. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.

Billings and Mandel, those two non-Americans, who question authors of books supposedly written as FACT should NEVER, EVER, question those American authors and should not have the temerity to question senior members of the AES Forum AT ALL. Billings and Mandel have no right to question historical authors.

Forum Members: We do not live in a perfect world, there are things which happen out there over which we have no control whatsoever and there is ZILCH that we as ordinary citizens of our various countries can do in the short term.  However, when we do have the opportunity to correct a wrong, there should be no hesitation on any citizen’s part to do that very thing.

I do not hesitate, you should not hesitate.

Bill Prymak supplied me with information, as did other members of this AES Forum, which made it obvious to me that Klaas, Gervais and Reineck are completely and utterly incorrect in the Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart Theory.

I did broadcast that information with the approval of Bill Prymak.  He repeatedly praised me for outing the lie. Now Bill Prymak has done the dirty on me and wrung his hands and now he and Reineck and Co. are all friends again. Well good on them but it still does not make the whole thing right.

Joe Gervais, the father of the Earhart-as-Bolam theory, and Joe Klaas, his right-hand man and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a typical news photo from 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation.

Joe Gervais, left, the father of the Earhart-as-Bolam myth, and Joe Klaas, his longtime friend and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a typical news photo from 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation and before Irene Bolam sued McGraw-Hill and the authors for defamation and the book was pulled from bookstore shelves without explanation.

Bill told me — I have the letter here — that Gervais was a very shaken man after speaking with Gertrude Hession and he “made” Bill Prymak promise never to release the information about Mary Eubank and that was in 1992. . . . Gervais was too concerned with himself and that he would be seen as an idiot if the word got out. Of course, Gervais would also be concerned about Klaas, as he had dragged Klaas into the mire with the “recognition” of IB as AE, and Klaas would not be pleased at this new revelation. Bill Prymak said to me, “That’s why” the release never appeared in the AES Newsletters about the interview with Gertrude Hession by Gervais and Prymak. . . . You can paint me as black as you like, but don’t put the lid on the paint pot yet, there are others who need a lick of paint too.

I am already receiving private mail over tonight’s postings to the AES Forum. I should not be receiving private mail, put it on the Forum. If you have something to say, say it.  Spit it out.

Best Regards,

David Billings
Nambour, Queensland
Australia (Sept. 16, 2006)

Billings was ejected from the AES forum by moderator Michele Cervone in late September 2006 for posting third-party e-mails – messages from nonmembers — to the Yahoo! Earhart Group Web site without prior approval. Although that justification may have been technically valid, Cervone’s sanction was, in fact, a case of shooting a messenger who had delivered a most unwelcome message – the unvarnished truth about how the Bolamite falsehood was protected and perpetuated by longtime members of the AES inner circle.

Other members had violated forum rules regularly and with impunity, including Reineck himself. Nearly a year before Billings’ revelations to the group, the 1992 incident that brought Gervais face-to-face with the truth was disclosed by Prymak to several of his AES associates. Moreover, the Mary Eubank-Irene Bolam connection had already been well established in The Atchison Report released to the AES forum and publicly disseminated in July 2005 – with information provided by Prymak.

Mandel, among the scant few voicing support for the beleaguered Billings in the days following his bombshell, characterized the Aussie’s blunt missives as “reasonable, competent, proper and legitimate on-topic questions to Rollin Reineck.” I expressed full concurrence with Mandel’s summary, depicting Billings’ postings as “tough but fair . . . not personal attacks against Rollin, but [against] his theory and his book although many cannot see the difference.” In several on- and off-forum messages to Prymak, Billings and the AES, Mandel expressed his disdain for the pernicious notion, accepted in some quarters, that certain reputations must be protected at all costs, rightly attributing the decline of the AES to the proliferation of this unethical practice. A few others agreed, and after many rancorous off-forum message exchanges copied to a handful of insiders, Mandel’s laconic response to an unfriendly e-mail from Prymak brought the situation into stark focus:

Read my lips. The “collapse of AES” started just in moment when you agreed to be manipulated by Gervais, who wanted to use you for [sic] to hide the information that would discredit his theory.

The Gervais-Prymak-Mary Eubank incident was a paradigm that revealed the true nature of what most “Earhart research” had become, and not only in the AES. Integrity, full disclosure and accountability about the discovered truths or falsehoods are mission statements rarely found, and even less frequently actuated nearly everywhere one finds public discussion of the Earhart disappearance. 

Mantz purchased the Lockheed 12A in 1946. When he purchased it, it was registered as N60775. Mantz was able to secure the tail number of Amelia Earhart's fateful Electra 10E, N16020, and had it assigned to his airplane. The airplane was used for several filming projects in the 1950s. Mantz sold it in August 1961 to an investment group, but it crashed and was destroyed in December 1961 near Barstow with the loss of both crewmembers. The registration number? It is now permanently reserved by the FAA in the name of Amelia Earhart and not available for assignment any longer. (JD Davis photo)

This is the Lockheed Model 12A Electra Junior, also known as the Lockheed 12 or L-12, registration N16020, originally purchased by Paul Mantz in 1946, that crashed into California’s Mount Tiefort (not Tierfort as it was misspelled in Amelia Earhart Lives) in December 1961 with the loss of two crewmembers. This plane was the object of grossly imaginative speculation by Joe Gervais in Earhart Lives, and of scorn by David Billings in his missives to the Amelia Earhart Society in 2006.  (Courtesy JD Davis.)

“Joe Gervais is on your trail, Amelia,” Joe Klaas the mythmaker wrote in the closing sentences of Amelia Earhart Lives. “There’s no use trying to die, for he’ll follow you wherever you go, and as long as he shall live, you shall live.”  Thus began the cult of Joe Gervais,  “the Dean of Earhart research,” according to his acolytes in the AES. But was Gervais’ exalted status an honest reflection of his achievements, or mere hyperbole designed not only to mythologize Gervais, but to enhance the reputations of his associates, as well? A brief review of a few of Gervais’ more notable “contributions” to Earhart research, with thanks to David Billings for his input, should be instructive:

Item:
In Chapter 5 of Amelia Earhart Lives, Gervais implied that an Electra 12A, registration number N 16020, which crashed into Mount Tiefort in California in 1961 could have been Earhart’s lost Electra 10E. Gervais based his belief largely on the fact that the plane’s exhaust manifold had been delivered on May 13, 1937, a few weeks before Earhart began her second world-flight attempt.  Gervais’ suspicions were aroused despite the fact that he knew the plane belonged to Charles Kitchens, who had bought it from Paul Mantz, a director who had planned to use the 12A in a movie about Earhart (thus the N 16020, as close to Earhart’s as possible).  Later in the book, Klaas flatly states, “It was Joe Gervais who climbed a mountain in California to find the wreckage of a plane supposed to be at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.”

“Gervais, the trained aircraft crash investigator, finds it incredible that exhaust manifolds built in 1937 could last until 1961,” Billings wrote in a December 2006 e-mail. “There is nothing unusual in this at all. The aircraft could have had any number of manifolds fitted in its life and ALL of them could have been made in 1937 and stored.”

Item:
In Amelia Earhart Lives, Gervais said there was no record of what became of the Lockheed XC-35 Electra, the first successful enclosed-cabin, pressurized airplane, capable of altitudes up to 40,000 feet, and suggests it could have been used by Earhart during her last flight.  Klaas then theorized that Earhart could have “switched” from her own Electra to the XC-35 to fly a photographic spy mission, and that Lockheed could have built two XC-35s, one of which Earhart and Noonan flew on their special mission.  In fact, the only Lockheed XC-35 ever built, with commercial serial number 3105 and military serial number 36-353, was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1948, and has remained there until this day. Billings said Klaas was still advocating this idea in recent years, and message records bore out his contention.

“Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais (the two Jo-Jo’s) proposed that Amelia Earhart espied the capabilities of this XC-35 and requested this experimental aircraft for her own use,” Billings quipped. “The Jo-Jo’s, in realizing that the United States Army Air Force and the Unites States Navy had ‘helped’ Amelia at various stages, now proposed that the U.S. Army Air Force would now get into the act and help her out by ‘lending’ her the XC-35.

“Back around 2003,” Billings continued, “Joe Klaas was still peddling the nonsense about Earhart using the XC-35, as he wrote to the AES forum:  ‘The XC-35 was flown to an airfield to the north of Lae and after she took off from Lae, Earhart went to that airfield and exchanged the Lockheed 10E for the XC-35. I have the name of the airfield in my notes.’. . . To the north of LAE there were no airfields and it was very hilly and up to 10,000 feet into the Saraweged Range. So which airfield did he mean?  Klaas could not answer and instead now offered that the airfield must be to the south of Lae but he did still have the name of the airfield. I pursued Klaas for over two years as to the name of the airfield and whether the three aircrew from the XC-35 had caught a Number Nine bus back to the United States or were they still at the airfield together with the Electra 10E? Klaas went silent for some three or four weeks. . . . Rest assured, the one and only XC-35, built at a cost of some $120,000 in 1936 rests at the [Smithsonian’s] Garber facility [in Suitland, Maryland]. Klaas’s postulations about the XC-35 are absolute nonsense and rubbish.”

Item:
In Chapter 9, we see that Gervais claimed a photo of Earhart, anonymously mailed to him in 1980, was taken while she was in Japanese custody. The photo was determined to have been taken in Hawaii, following Earhart’s aborted takeoff at Luke Field on March 20, 1937. 

 Flying in Comfort 75 years ago, the Army Air Corps’ XC-35 launched the pressurized cabin. image: http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/Moments-Milestones-XC-35-1-flash-631.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpg XC-35 The XC-35 (in flight near Wright Field in August 1937) earned the U.S. Army Air Corps the 1937 Collier Trophy for its substratospheric design. (NASM (A-2168-B)) By George C. Larson Air & Space Magazine | Subscribe November 2012 0 0 0 0 20 0 90 0 0 0 200 90 Just 75 years ago, the Lockheed XC-35 made its first research flight, taking off on August 5, 1937, from the Army Air Corps’ Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, thereby launching a series of tests of the airplane’s major innovation: a pressurized cabin. Although it wasn’t the first airplane to feature pressurization, it was the only one until that time with room in the pressurized capsule for a couple of passengers, in addition to the crew of three. (Germany’s Junkers Ju 49 had a pressurized compartment, but only for the crew; France’s Farman F.1000 had one too but with a seat that lifted the pilot up so he could see to take off and land; at high altitude the pilot would be sealed inside the compartment.) The XC-35 test program was so successful that the Army felt confident in specifying a pressurized cabin for the planned Boeing B-29, and later, Boeing’s 307 airliner flew passengers in pressurized comfort (see “Above It All,” Sept. 2009). Early on, aviators learned that the thin air at high altitudes could not sustain them, and if they lingered too long above about 15,000 feet without extra oxygen to breathe, they’d lose consciousness. Face masks to deliver pure oxygen were helpful to a point, but in September 1934, aviation pioneer Wiley Post demonstrated that a full-pressure suit similar to what astronauts wear today would enable pilots to fly to 40,000 feet, well beyond the altitude at which airliners cruised. Airline passengers could hardly be expected to don bulky pressure suits, and military flight crew would be hampered by their bulk. The only answer was to provide the equivalent of a low-altitude environment in the cabin so passengers and crew could work in their shirtsleeves. Advertisement The XC-35, in flight near Wright Field in August 1937, was an Electra 10-A similar to Amelia Earhart’s but reconfigured by Lockheed engineers working with a team from the Army Air Corps

The XC-35, in flight near Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, in August 1937, was an Electra 10-A similar to Amelia Earhart’s but reconfigured by Lockheed engineers working with a team from the Army Air Corps.  According to Joe Gervais and Joe Klaas in Amelia Earhart Lives, another  XC-35 was produced and exchanged for Earhart’s Electra 10E at an airfield north of Lae, New Guinea, shortly after takeoff July 2, 1937, as part of a spy mission.

Item:
Perhaps the most preposterous idea among many presented in Amelia Earhart Lives – other than Earhart as Bolam – is that the location of Earhart’s final landing could be determined by the discovery and breaking of a secret code, which Gervais decrypts in Chapter 18, “The Code.” Billings discussed this legendary contribution to the annals of Earhart research in a colorful essay he coined, “The Blind Leading the Blind,” which he wrote, on the spot, during our private online discussion, and sent me in December 2006:

According to Joe Klaas, Joe Gervais called him on the telephone from Las Vegas in March 1967 and excitedly told Klaas that he would show Klaas a picture of the Earhart wreck, and where it went down. Presumably, this time Gervais was actually referring to the Lockheed Electra 10E, Construction No. 1055.  Gervais, on the telephone added that he had “broken” something called The Earhart Code.

Klaas and Gervais arranged to meet at Gene Autry’s Continental Hotel in Hollywood. Klaas took his son Tony along to the meeting. Tony, who was 16 years of age, was taken along so that he could record the conversation during the meeting between our two “experts.” If that tape, recorded by Tony Klaas still exists, its value is priceless for what you are about to read. If [it’s] on tape, it would be concrete evidence of the insanity which evolved during the meeting, if Klaas’s book has recorded the freakish content of that conversation correctly.

Gervais began by informing Klaas that he knew that the 1943 RKO Movie Flight to Freedom had been produced by Floyd Odlum, whose wife Jackie Cochrane was a friend of Amelia Earhart’s. The flight in the film taken by a character bearing a similarity to Earhart, named “Toni Carter” (played by Rosalind Russell), had ended on a fictitious island named in the film as “Gull Island.” Gervais then produced a film of Hull Island in the Phoenix Group of islands in what is now Kiribati. This film had been taken by the U.S. Navy during the search for Earhart and Noonan in July 1937. Gervais now proclaimed Hull Island to be Gull Island, the fictitious island from the film. Gervais proceeded to pull the film through a projector so that each frame in the film could be examined one by one.

The object in this action was to introduce to Klaas and his son (who it is presumed had managed to stay awake so far) to one frame in the film where it appears a similarity to a Japanese “meatball” flag is flying over the beach on Hull Island in the U.S. Navy black and white film.  The Japanese flag that Gervais insists is shown is a complete white background with a red circle (a so-called “meatball”) in the centre of the white background field. In fact the naval ensign of Japan in 1937 was the same basic design, i.e., a white background with the red circle, but it also had 16 “rays of the sun” radiating out from the central or offset circle which went equally spaced out to the edge of the flag. Whatever Gervais thought he saw in the single frame was not the Japanese naval ensign. 

Now, let us suppose, if the Japanese did go to Hull Island for whatever reason, those Japanese would have been naval personnel in naval ships, and therefore if a flag had been left behind it would have been a naval flag and at the time the naval ensign had the representations of the sun’s rays (16 rays), which would have not shown up in a photograph or film frame as a white flag with a red blob on it.  If the Japanese had gone to Hull Island for whatever reason, it is extremely unlikely that they would advertise their presence there by leaving a Japanese naval ensign. Hull at that time in July 1937 was populated by Gilbertese plantation labourers with a Captain Jones as an overseer.  Jones did have a radio and the first thing he would have done would have been to contact Tarawa, the headquarters of the British Colonial Service in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands as the Phoenix Group was British territory.

Another of the many provocative headlines from the Wood

One of the several provocative headlines published by the Woodbridge (N.J.) News Tribune during its December 1982 series of investigative stories about the false Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart allegation, conceived solely by Joe Gervais, who some still mistakenly lionize as the “Dean of Earhart research.”

Gervais, Klaas and Klaas Junior then can see something else on the film frames as they were drawn through the projector.  Amazingly, they can see aircraft wreckage and murmur that they can see a wing section, a tyre [sic], an engine and incredibly they can see a “salvage hook.” Now hallucinatory drugs were not banned in 1967 to the extent that they are now, and one has to wonder whether these two gentleman had discovered a new line in potent licorice at pharmacies or whether it was a new line in “magic spectacles” in that they and they alone could see aircraft wreckage on the beach at Hull Island where Lieutenant [John] Lambrecht and his fellow experienced aviators had not seen anything at all, and had in fact landed on the lagoon at Hull to ask Captain Jones if he had seen anything. Neither Lambrecht or the other aviators from the USS Colorado or Captain Jones had seen wreckage on Hull Island or any sign of Earhart and Noonan.

We now come to the most weird outpouring from a supposed expert on Earhart that defies all logic and surely must be classed as one of Gervais’ best faux pas. The “breaking” of what he called The Earhart Code. This supposed code is related to the use of the name Guy Bolam in a sequence which defies logic, for Amelia Earhart never did know Guy Bolam, the husband of Irene Bolam.  How could Earhart compose a code using Guy Bolam’s name if she did not know him and the names of the islands in the Phoenix Group of islands? The short answer is that she could not.

This is how the imaginative brain of Gervais received a mind-compelling injection of fantasy which resulted in derived figures which represent the latitude and longitude position of Hull Island, or, I should say, the figures derived roughly locate to within a few nautical miles, the position of Hull Island. This is why Gervais torturously managed to come up with Hull Island as Earhart’s final landing place. . . . This is how Gervais came upon what he called The Earhart Code. 

The name GUY BOLAM has eight letters and each of the islands in the Phoenix Group contains one letter of the name Guy Bolam In Gervais’ convoluted mind, the positioning of those letters within the island name is then given a number according to the position. … Therefore if as Gervais does we lay out the numbers horizontally we get: 1, 7, 2 (or 6), 1, 3, 4 (or 3), 2 and 1. Looking at the alternatives we can get 17213421 or 17613321.  Gervais said in 1967 that this first string of numbers, 17213421, represents the longitude and the latitude of Hull Island by saying this string represents 172° 13′ W, 4° 21′ S. The latitude and longitude of Hull Island is 4° 30′ S 172° 10′ W.  So, The Earhart Code has Hull Island 3 nautical miles to the West and 9 nautical miles to the North of where it actually is. Now what of the other possibilities in the other string of numbers? The alternative is 176° 13′ W, 3° 21′ S.  This would put the position way to the west of the entire Phoenix Group by close to 200 nautical miles.

Orona atoll, also known as Hull Island,[1] is one of the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati.

Satellite view of Hull Island, known as Orora Atoll since 1979, one of the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati, and the object of one of Earhart researcher Joe Gervais’ most imaginative fantasies, The Earhart Code.

What of this Earhart Code? Does it exist? The answer is no, it cannot possibly exist and is a very weird figment of Joe Gervais’ imagination, and Klaas swallowed it. Amelia Earhart did not know Guy Bolam. She did know Irene Craigmile Heller, but she did not know Guy Bolam. He did not enter Irene Craigmile Heller’s life until 1957, so how could Earhart have possibly made up a code before she disappeared in 1937 incorporating Guy Bolam’s name into a sequence which also had the Phoenix Islands names in that very sequence? The answer is that Earhart did not make up this supposed code and it is sheer fantasy and absolute rubbish.  It just so happens that the numbers as Gervais brought them out using Guy Bolam’s name fell into a sequence which very closely matches the position of Hull Island, nothing more, nothing less, just sheer coincidence.

Gervais says, through Klaas, that he did spend three years of his spare time trying to discover a code.  He also discovered not only the supposed tripe he called The Earhart Code but fostered and encouraged the finding of a thousand and one conspiracies mainly perpetrated by the United States Government and its agencies.  There are those who spend their whole lives inventing conspiracies and myths which are always there to confuse and confound genuine people trying to research the truth and to discover the fate of the two American aviators.  

Gervais and those of his ilk would have been far better off and more gainfully employed planting turnips in their spare time. That occupation would have been more suited to the level of intelligence displayed in that dreadful book which, in all honesty, should never have been published. (End of “The Blind Leading the Blind.”)

It’s doubtful that any reviews of Amelia Earhart Lives were more amusing than the foregoing by David Billings.  Joe Klaas, a talented writer with 12 books to his credit, wove an enchanting spell in the latter chapters of Amelia Earhart Lives, but he fell victim to the absurd delusion that struck Joe Gervais and, amazingly, spread to many others over the years. It was a shame, because the eyewitness interviews conducted by Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam and Saipan in 1960, on the heels of Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan during his own investigation, were some of the most important ever done.

In our final installment of Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society, we will continue with yet more of the Joe Gervais Follies, and conclude by attempting to put the whole sordid mess into some kind of coherent perspective, a daunting prospect in itself.

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

(Editor’s note: Some of the more perspicacious readers of this blog know that the very same day Part I of  Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society was published, Dec. 29, 2015,  the UK’s Daily Mail, followed by Fox News ran stories promoting a new book that, unbelievably, attempts to re-resurrect the absurd Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart lie, as if this is something new and important that the world needs to know about! “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous,” is a statement attributed to Albert Einstein, and I suppose it’s more poignant than simply saying, “There are no such things as coincidences.”  Could anyone be so clueless as to write a book in 2015 based on 50-year-old, discredited garbage, unless this is the latest government disinformation effort in the Earhart case, mixing the Marshalls-Saipan truth with the Bolam falsehood in order to discredit all three elements?

The Daily Mail will not allow anyone to post a comment that names this blog, my book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last or even my name, and with one recently reported exception, Fox News has been equally exclusionary, so determined are they to keep readers ignorant about the truth, and this has been going on for many years. This should tell even the minimally observant where the truth can actually be found, and it’s nowhere near the “fair and balanced” place on your cable TV news lineup. With that said, I present Part II of Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society for your information and entertainment.)

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

Those of us concerned about the damage that might accrue as a result of the National Geographic Channel’s revival of the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart canard didn’t wait long to see our fears realized. Less than a month after the Earhart special’s first airing, a glance at the Internet site Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia that’s not always credible, revealed the first ripple in the new wave of media attention that the National Geographic Channel had instigated. In late December 2006, the Wikipedia entry for Amelia Mary Earhart featured a new subhead, “Planned disappearance and paranormal explanations,” wherein Wikipedia informed readers:

In November 2006, the National Geographic Channel aired … the theory that Earhart survived the incident near Howland Island, moved to New Jersey, changed her name, remarried, and became a person named Irene Craigmile Bolam and lived the remainder of her life in relative peace and quiet (a book published in 1970 called  Amelia Earhart Lives by Joe Klaas detailed this theory). Bolam denied being Earhart and filed a lawsuit requesting $1.5 million in damages. One source stated that five years later, the book’s authors offered to settle for the requested amount if Bolam would agree to provide her fingerprints to establish her identity in front of the judge. Bolam declined and later dropped the suit. This source also stated that Bolam died in 1982, was cremated, and that her death certificate listed her parents as “unknown.”

By now a collector's item, this is the back of the booklet Rollin Reineck sent to those who bought Amelia Earhart Survived to so that they might be kept current on the latest insanity ton the Irene Bolam

By now a collector’s item, this is the back of the booklet Rollin Reineck sent to the few, including this observer, who bought Amelia Earhart Survived,  several months after publication of the book. By then it was clear that Reineck had become thoroughly unhinged over this ridiculous idea.

Note that unlike National Geographic, which exposed the photo overlays purporting to prove that Bolam and Earhart were the same person, advanced by Reineck and his associate, Tod Swindell, as bogus junk, Wikipedia simply repeated the original theory without mentioning that it had been thoroughly discredited many times. Ukrainian researcher Alex Mandel, Ph.D., contacted the owner of Wikipedia’s Earhart page in December 2006, and urgently needed counterbalance was soon added to the Bolam material. By February 2007, much to Wikipedia’s credit, the entire Bolam entry was rewritten in a shorter, more concise form under a new subhead, “Assuming another identity.” The false claim that Bolam dropped her suit over the fingerprint issue was deleted, as was as the dubious statement about her “unknown parents” on her death certificate. In Wikipedia’s new version, its conclusion was emphatic, succinct and most importantly, accurate:

Bolam’s personal life history was thoroughly documented by researchers, eliminating any possibility she was Earhart. Kevin Richlin, a professional criminal forensic expert hired by National Geographic, studied photographs of both women and cited many measurable facial differences between Earhart and Bolam.

Beginning in late 2002 and continuing until about mid-2006, the growing Bolamite wing of the AES, by far its most vocal subgroup, became increasingly more emboldened in its asseverations against those who dared offer solid research findings that questioned their dogmas.  In early 2005, Reineck’s literary misadventure reached its final frontier, culminating in the publication of “The Last Chapter, also known as “Chapter 13, a small booklet produced as a supplement to Amelia Earhart Survived, an update, as it were, of the latest “innovations” in Bolamite thinking. 

In “The Last Chapter,” Reineck levels the most outrageous allegation yet conjured against Earhart – that she secretly gave birth in 1924 at the age of 27 to a girl he identifies as “Irene Jr.,” whom, he says, was adopted by Irene Bolam’s aunt, attorney Irene Mary O’Crowley, and O’Crowley’s mother, Sara Rutherford O’Crowley, who “became the little girls [sic] childhood Nanny” in Sara’s Newark, New Jersey home

Are you following this? As evidence for this incredible claim, Reineck cites a 1984 letter from family friend Lucy McDaniels, 83 at the time, to Diana Dawes, a close friend of Irene Bolam, recalling that in 1928 she “saw a baby in a crib” at Sara’s apartment. According to McDaniels, Irene Senior, i.e., Irene Mary O’Crowley, told her the baby was the child of her deceased sister, at which point Reineck interjects an author’s note informing us that Irene Senior did not have a deceased sister. “Of course I don’t know who the baby in the crib grew up to become,” McDaniels wrote, according to Reineck.  As if to lend credence to this bizarre fantasy, Reineck presents an inscrutable diagram on the booklet’s next-to-last page, purporting to illustrate the family tree into which Earhart’s imaginary child was adopted. Needless to say, the person “Irene Jr.” never existed.

In mid-December 1982, the Woodbridge (N.J.) News Tribune published a series of investigative stories by Lois DiTomasso, News Tribune managing editor, that fully exposed the obvious truth about the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth. Irene Bolam herself died of cancer earlier that year, in December 1982.

In mid-December 1982, the Woodbridge (N.J.) News Tribune published a series of investigative stories by Lois DiTommaso, News Tribune managing editor and other staff members, that fully exposed the obvious truth about the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart lie. Irene Bolam died of cancer earlier that year, in July 1982.

In the booklet’s opening pages, Reineck credits the “investigative efforts” of Tod Swindell for this latest revelation, which isn’t the only new discovery he unveiled for befuddled readers. Inside “The Last Chapter” Reineck inserted a four-by-five slip of paper, titled “Preface,” in which he advises, “For ease of understanding ‘The Last Chapter’ (13),” there were “three Irene Craigmiles, two of them became Irene Craigmile Bolam.” The third Irene Bolam, Reineck wrote, was “the face on the 1982 [Irene Bolam] Memorial Dinner cover. . . . We can only speculate who she really was.” In fact, Reineck’s third Irene Bolam is none other than the first and only such woman, photographed at a younger age.

The torturous logic through which Reineck declaims the existence of two Irene Bolams, the first of whom vanished without a trace to be “replaced” by Amelia Earhart, is already far beyond our ken. But in “The Last Chapter,” Reineck asks us to take complete leave of our senses and accept three such discrete persons. Further exploration of the preposterous Bolamite delusions advanced in this absurd addendum would be pointless.

Sad indeed was the state of affairs within the AES in the years following the release of Amelia Earhart Survived. If the Bolamites weren’t busy launching vitriolic attacks and accusations of “intolerance” against non-believers, they were ignoring the most recent submissions in the ever-growing mountain of evidence laying waste to their claims. I experienced my own rude introduction to this “collegial” group in late 2002, when, before publication of With Our Own Eyes, I sent the forum its most important chapter, “More GIs Step Forward,” which presented the never-before-published accounts of two-dozen Saipan veterans that revealed the presence and deaths of Earhart and Noonan there prior to the 1944 invasion.

The wall of silence that greeted this important new evidence told me all I needed to know about the AES and its so-called search for the truth.” It was then that I realized any findings associated with Devine’s eyewitness account would be roundly rejected by this agenda-driven group, which, with few exceptions, is populated by non-contributing pretenders and aging cynics unwilling or incapable of adding anything of substance to their decades-hardened biases. During the 14 years since I freely shared the new chapter of eyewitnesses in an open spirit of cooperation, that opinion has been borne out in spades.

"Pat O'Brien, Wiliard Reineck (father of) and Maj. Rollin Reineck at Columbia Pictures Studios soon after WWII. Willard was an Assistant Director on over four dozen films; Rollin was 25 here."

On the last page of “The Last Chapter” booklet, Rollin Reineck brings out this treasure in an apparent attempt to lend credibility to his Irene Bolam fantasies. The cutline reads, “Pat O’Brien, Willard Reineck (father of) and Maj. Rollin Reineck at Columbia Pictures Studios soon after WWII. Willard was an Assistant Director on over four dozen films; Rollin was 25 here.”

Soon after Reineck’s posting of his Chapter 13 on the AES forum in late February 2005, Alex Mandel wrote a rebuttal of the latest despicable allegations laid at Earhart’s feet. Mandel called it, Amelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality? and it later became known as The Atchison Report, the most comprehensive deconstruction of the IB theory extant.  Mandel’s paper, nine single-spaced pages of unassailable logic, was met with abject silence on the forum, a certain indication of its efficacy. From the first rumblings of the IB theory’s baneful resuscitation in early 2002, to its unfortunate materialization in Survived, Mandel, trained in rigorous scientific logic, untiringly and enthusiastically deconstructed the steady stream of irrational Bolamite claims.  More than anyone in the AES, Mandel did the hard things necessary to keep the IB myth in its proper perspective, inspiring others, who, while not in sympathy with the Bolamite faith, lacked the will or resources to confront it directly.

In addition to the The Atchison ReportMandel’s other contributions to Earhart research include  “Amelia Earhart: Unusual Celebrity,” a meticulous day-by-day timeline of Earhart’s activities from mid-1928 through May 1937, which Mandel composed in 2006 by drawing upon his near-encyclopedic knowledge of Earhart biographical literature; and his 2004 essay, “Amelia Earhart: The Mystery of the Queen of the Air: Dispelling the Myths.” Throughout the protracted conflict fueled by the Bolamite ascension, Mandel, who speaks and writes English as a third language, continued to tread the ethical high ground he has held since joining the AES in 2002, always respecting his ideological opponents despite constant provocations and frequent insults. He also retained a wry sense of humor, as this message to Reineck suggests:

You wrote, “Some researchers believe that Amelia entered the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston sometime in late July and gave birth to a daughter which she subsequently turned over to Denison House for foster care.” Dear Rollin, generally – please why are you using at all this unclear and a bit foggy formula. “Some researchers believe” – as it is pretty well known that it is Tod Swindell’s theory, that Tod presented to the Forum several times? About the theory itself – sorry, but am forced to repeat that it is purely artificial invention, created specially for to “support” in some way the IB theory. Please see above for argumentation.

  … Mainly, as I can see, this theory is supported now rather by the ‘power of faith’ of the people who are reluctant to abandon this belief, against many already presented arguments conclusively showing that it is baseless.

At Amelia Earhart Airport, Atchison, Kansas, in July 2004, Alex Mandel, Ph.D., stands near the 1935 Lockheed Electra 10E piloted by Linda Finch during her “World Flight ’97,” in which she successfully retraced Earhart’s ill-fated final flight. A leading light in the Earhart community since 2002, Mandel’s significant contributions to Earhart research include The Atchison Report “The Atchison Report,” a complete debunking of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth; “Amelia Earhart: Unusual Celebrity,” a virtual day-by-day timeline of Earhart’s activities from mid-1928 through May 1937; and “Amelia Earhart: The Mystery of the Queen of the Air: Dispelling the Myths.” (Photo courtesy of Michele Cervone.)

At Amelia Earhart Airport, Atchison, Kansas, in July 2004, Alex Mandel, Ph.D., stands near the 1935 Lockheed Electra 10E piloted by Linda Finch during her “World Flight ’97,” in which she successfully retraced Earhart’s ill-fated final flight. A leading light in the Earhart community since 2002, Mandel’s significant contributions to Earhart research include The Atchison Report, a complete debunking of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth; “Amelia Earhart: Unusual Celebrity,” a virtual day-by-day timeline of Earhart’s activities from mid-1928 through May 1937; and “Amelia Earhart: The Mystery of the Queen of the Air: Dispelling the Myths.” (Photo courtesy of Michele Cervone.)

Mandel’s thorough dismantling of Chapter 13″ was ignored by IB partisans on the forum, nor could a single expression of agreement or support be heard, which also wasn’t surprising. For the most part, I had been observing the spectacle silently, in near-helpless wonderment at the return of this long-slain monster from the pit of obsolescence, while privately praising and encouraging Mandel in his yeoman efforts. But Mandel’s devastating critique and the stony silence that greeted it inspired me to go on the record on his behalf in this March 3, 2005 message:

Rollin, Alex and Forum members,

The silence on the forum following the introduction of Rollin’s Chapter 13″ and Alex’s lengthy rebuttal is deafening. With so much material to discuss, I wonder why this could be? Is the polarizing nature of this issue such that some are compelled to hesitate in expressing their thoughts because they may offend one or the other parties, who have staked out such dichotomous positions?  We’ve all been watching this circus for several years – most, like me, mainly from the sidelines – as the AE as IB idea rose from the ashes to dominate the forum.   Nature abhors a vacuum, so I’ll jump in now since no one else will.

In contrast to the tiny, parochial and extremely politicized atmosphere of the AES forum where the IB/AE theory has been resurrected and enjoys a thriving existence, acceptance in the “real world,” which after all is the goal of the Bolamites (to use a clever AES researcher’s term), has not proceeded apace. Indeed, another deafening silence has intruded itself into our awareness – that of the media and the reading public in the year following publication of Amelia Earhart Survived.  (Full disclosure time: The book I co-authored with Mr. Thomas E. Devine, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, hasn’t made too much noise or sold many copies either, but it has received several excellent reviews and is the partial basis for Rich Martini’s movie in the works – “EARHART.”)

The abject failure of Amelia Earhart Survived to impress or move anyone in the literary marketplace is compelling evidence of the academic and intellectual bankruptcy of its propositions. Although the ideas it presents have been consistently and convincingly debunked within our closed society by Alex Mandel and Ron Bright, their dedicated and protracted efforts weren’t necessary to condemn this book to obscurity in the real world, where it failed miserably due to its own lack of any redeeming merit.

There is no light in the IB theory, which to those who love and can discern truth, is an extremely revealing attribute that identifies and marks it as blatantly false in virtually all its claims.  Dark and ugly in its vile allegations against a defenseless Amelia Earhart, the IB theory, if its proponents had their way, would forever stain and besmirch the Earhart legacy to the point that her name would become a national embarrassment and an international joke.  If the Bolamites are to be believed, AE is guilty of so many amoral and treacherous acts that her infamy would rank her among the most sociopathic personalities of the 20th century.  Are we to believe this is what the “best evidence available” has to tell us? Please. (To Fred Goerner and Thomas E. Devine, not to mention AE herself: Don’t bother to roll over in your graves. It will never get that bad.)

Longtime researcher Ron Bright, of Bremerton, Wash.,

Longtime Earhart researcher and retired Office of Naval Intelligence agent Ron Bright, of Bremerton, Wash., along with the late attorney Patrick Gaston, of Overland Park, Kansas, located the 1971 defamation lawsuit filed by Irene Bolam against McGraw-Hill, publishers of Joe Klaas’ Amelia Earhart Lives, requesting $1,500,000 in actual and punitive damages.

The absurd and ridiculous speculation they engage in – which has been granted currency by many within the forum – defies credulity. Ironically, despite the grave serial depravity the book falsely accuses AE of engaging in, Amelia Earhart Survived was doomed from the start by its own sheer weightlessness.  Like its creators and adherents, who grasp at every wispy straw to support their delusions but refuse to recognize, admit or correct even their most obvious, egregious errors as they build their house of cards, “AE Survived” is an utterly unserious book, a parody of academic inquiry, laughable in its pretentiousness and pathetic in its presentation. 

Alex Mandel’s comprehensive and erudite rebuttal of Rollin’s “Chapter 13” is a clear reflection of his ongoing passion, attention to detail and unselfish willingness to do the hard things necessary to produce true research and oversight based on established biographical and historical facts, irrespective of the outcome.  Alex is also a serious, highly respected academician with a Ph.D. in physics (a rigorous science with little or no tolerance for speculation), an author of several Russian books about the U.S. Navy, and a longtime Earhart devotee and bibliophile with no horse in this race. His ideological opponents will downplay and deprecate his achievements while extolling their own, but along with Ron Bright, Alex has been a beacon of reason and light who performs an invaluable service for all in the AES forum who are solely interested in searching for and discovering the truth about the fate of AE. The success of that search, by necessity, also means the abandonment of falsehoods, regardless of who is perpetrating them – or how long they may have been engaged in such counterproductive pursuits.

Of course this letter, like Mandel’s extensive trashing of the latest IB cant, also fell on deaf ears. Soon the relentless Bolamite gibberish resumed, utterly impervious to reason. Any random scan of message traffic on the forum during virtually any period between late 2002 through 2005 would likely reveal a sampling of the anti-intellectual, invective-laden discourse that was common fare in the AES during the height of the Bolamite incursion. Since the group site is accessible only to AES members, it’s not possible for most readers to see these shabby missives; however, though apparently no longer available, in early 2007 three pages of the most refined sophistry yet spun in support of the Bolamite movement was available to the public on John Stossel’s Message Boards at ABCNews.com, under the heading, “New controversial material sparks more Earhart interest.”

The “controversial material,” of course, was the IB theory, and its main expositor was Reineck’s associate and technical advisor, Tod Swindell. On June 14, 2005, Swindell posted a message regarding the Joe Gervais Memorial Dinner that several AES members, including Prymak, were planning for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on June 25.  Swindell ridiculed the event, and called it a “mock lionizing tribute” to Gervais, because some of those in attendance, notably Prymak, did not embrace the IB theory, despite the fact that it was solely Gervais’ creation and Prymak was a close friend of Gervais. 

For Prymak, Swindell’s characterization of the memorial dinner for his longtime amigo was reportedly the last straw, though five full months would elapse before he sent his official notice of resignation to the AES forum. In his letter, Prymak called Swindell’s remark “truly shameful and disgraceful,” and reminded Reineck and the Bolamites that the Amelia Earhart Society name was his creation and remained his property.

In my next post, we’ll continue our Irene Bolam retrospective and delve more deeply into the rotten core of this absurd canard, and pile plenty more facts on the growing heap of evidence that leaves no doubt as to its falsehood.  I’ll also present some of the most humorous missives ever penned about the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart fantasy. Be sure to tune in!

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