Today we return to the halcyon days of the summer of 1966, when Fred Goerner’s classic, The Search for Amelia Earhart, was brand new and just a week away from publication by Doubleday & Co., and the story of the KCBS newsman’s six-year Earhart investigation was about to become the only New York Times bestseller ever penned about the Earhart disappearance. Although Goerner didn’t find Amelia Earhart on Saipan, he interviewed enough witnesses who either saw or knew of her presence there to convince any jury of that fact — with the exception of one composed of members of the American political establishment.
It’s not clear where the following promotional essay first appeared, but I found it in the July 1996 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. It’s presented today to remind readers, young and old, exactly when the real modern-day search for Amelia Earhart began, and that there was once a time when it appeared that the “solution” to the so-called Earhart mystery might be imminent. Who knows when that time might come again?
THE EARHART MYSTERY
by Fred Goerner
“Go ahead with the book. Fred, it should bring them the justice they deserve.”
The advice came from Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. He was referring to Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan and my six-year investigation into their mysterious disappearance during a flight across the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
The search had included four expeditions to the Mariana and Marshall Islands, the questioning of hundreds of witnesses and unfriendly confrontations with several high-ranking members of the U.S. military and government in Washington, D.C.
The search had also brought me the friendship of the legendary Admiral. It was late 1965 and we had been waiting for months for answers to pertinent questions regarding disposition of certain classified material in Washington. The conclusion long ago had been reached that Earhart and Noonan were keys to an incredible series of events which involved with the United States and Japan and the tense years preceding the 1941 Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
“It’s possible you won’t be too popular in some quarters in Washington,” Nimitz continued. “’But you will gain respect for your research. It’s obvious no one wants to accept responsibility for what was done.”
It appears the Admiral will be proven correct. When “The Search for Amelia Earhart” is published by Doubleday on Sept. 2 (1966), I will probably achieve a high rank on the displeasure charts of the CIA, Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.
Japan will evidence her unhappiness, too. She will not savor being forced to admit the illegal use of the mandated islands of the Pacific prior to World War II, a violation of international law.
The U.S. Marine Corps will be embarrassed as it tried to explain what happened to the human remains recovered from an unmarked grave on Saipan Island in July, 1944, or what happened to the personal effects of Earhart and Noonan recovered by Marines the same year.
The U.S. Navy may attempt to maintain silence when asked why $4 million were spent on an apparently bogus search for Earhart and Noonan in 1937 and why highly secret equipment was made available for their flight. There may also be several coughing fits when questions are posed regarding classified files, especially one labeled “Amelia Earhart, Location of Grave Of.”
The U.S. State Department will also have difficulty explaining why it has maintained a classified file on the matter for more than 29 years while denying to the public the existence of such a file.
The U.S. Department of Commerce won’t like explaining the activities of a man named William Miller, who was responsible in 1937 for “Aeronautical Survey of the South Pacific Ocean.” Miller spent much time with Amelia Earhart and also served Naval Intelligence.
The Central Intelligence Agency will try to avoid comments regarding its activities on Saipan Island from 1952 to ’62 and how one of this nation’s best kept post-World War II intelligence secrets blended with the Earhart investigation.
Is the pen mightier than government’s desire to cloak embarrassments of the past?
It is my contention, supported by those who have assisted in “The Search for Amelia Earhart,” that Earhart and Noonan were the first casualties of World War II. Their story pales fiction.
The most important fact I learned during six years of research is that American newsmen are still free to pursue answers to questions which involve major departments of government and even the presidency. As long as that remains true, our basic freedoms are relatively secure. (End of Goerner’s preview.)
Editor’s note: Goerner’s final asseveration, that “our basic freedoms are relatively secure,” was written with great optimism 50 years ago, but much in our once great nation has changed for the worse since then. Even Goerner’s early access to the secret Earhart files, granted partially by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, had been ripped away by LBJ, and soon, following Time magazine’s scathing, game-changing review of The Search for Amelia Earhart, Goerner’s findings would be relegated to the popular file marked “paranoid conspiracy theories,” and deemed unfit for conversation in polite circles. Since then, nothing substantial has changed in that regard.