A timeline of key events in the disappearance and search for Amelia Earhart, second of two parts

We continue with our list of significant developments that have shaped and defined the modern search for Amelia Earhart through the years.  As I wrote in the opening of this timeline, this is but one man’s opinion, and I make no sweeping claims as to its comprehensiveness.  As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome and will be considered for inclusion.

November 1966: Retired Marine Gen. Graves B. Erskine, deputy commander of V Amphibious Corps during the Saipan invasion, visits the radio studios of KCBS in San Francisco for an interview with Fred Goerner.  While waiting to go on the air, Erskine tells Jules Dundes, CBS West Coast vice president, and Dave McElhatton, a KCBS newsman, “It was established that Earhart was on Saipan.  You’ll have to dig the rest out for yourselves.”

June 1967: The ONI Report is declassified and transferred from the Naval Investigative Service (formerly the ONI) to the U.S. Naval History Division.  From the day of its declassification, this document has been Exhibit Number One on the evidence list that reveals the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.  Moreover, the ONI Report  offers a clear glimpse into the actual workings of the U.S. government’s longstanding practice of denial and deceit in the Earhart disappearance.  Despite the mendacity, half-truths and misdirection that flavor its pages, the ONI Report remains the only official government statement ever released that indicates its knowledge of Earhart and Noonan’s presence on Saipan.  Thus far, it is the closest thing we have to a smoking gun in the Earhart search.

General Graves Erskine was advanced to four-star rank upon his retirement in 1953.

Gen. Graves B. Erskine, deputy commander of V Amphibious Corps during the 1944 Saipan invasion, was advanced to four-star rank upon his retirement in 1953.  Erskine is well known among Earhart researchers for his 1966 statement to two of Fred Goerner’s associates at the KCBS radio studios in San Francisco: “It was established that Earhart was on Saipan.  You’ll have to dig out the rest for yourselves.”

November 1967 to April 1968: Donald Kothera and his so-called “Cleveland Group” visit Saipan twice in search of evidence supporting Earhart and Noonan’s presence and death there.  Kothera’s interview of native Anna Diaz Magofna, who claimed to have seen the beheading of a tall white man as a 7-year-old on Saipan in 1937, is among the most compelling of the Saipan witnesses’ accounts.   Kothera excavated a site that some believe is the same one Griswold, Henson and Burks exhumed in 1944.

1969: Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (First Edition) by Joe Davidson, is published by Davidson Publishing Co., Canton, Ohio.  Davidson’s book chronicles Don Kothera and the Cleveland Group’s activities in 1967-1968 on Saipan and their return to the states.  The book, though often overlooked and poorly written, contains a wealth of important eyewitness material.

1970: Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, by Joe Klaas, is published by McGraw-Hill (New York).  This is the notorious book that introduced the disastrous Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth to the world.  Irene Bolam, a New Jersey housewife mistaken for Amelia Earhart in 1965 by the delusional Joe Gervais, sued McGraw-Hill for defamation.  A settlement was reached and the book was pulled from the shelves after seven weeks, but not before great damage was inflicted on all legitimate Earhart research, then and to this day.

Nov. 12, 1970: Japanese citizen Michiko Sugita tells the Japan Times that military police shot Amelia Earhart as a spy on Saipan in 1937.  Sugita was 11 years old in 1937, and her father, Mikio Suzuki, was a civilian police chief at Garapan, Saipan’s capital.  She learned about the execution of the American woman from military police at a party given by her father.

Mikio Suzuki, the district chief of police, poses with his family on Saipan circa 1938. Mikio’s daughter, Michiko, is standing to his immediate left, and was about 12 years old in this photo. Michiko became Mrs. Michiko Sugita, and remains the lone Japanese national to come forward with the truth about Amelia Earhart’s death on Saipan. (Courtesy Thomas E. Devine.)

Mikio Suzuki, the district chief of police, poses with his family on Saipan circa 1938. Mikio’s daughter, Michiko, is standing to his immediate left, and was about 12 years old in this photo.  Michiko became Mrs. Michiko Sugita, and remains the lone Japanese national to come forward with the truth about Amelia Earhart’s death on Saipan.  (Courtesy Thomas E. Devine.)

Aug. 10, 1971: In a letter to Fred Goerner, Retired Marine Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, the 18th commandant of the Marine Corps, writes: General Tommy Watson, who commanded the 2nd Marine Division during the assault on Saipan and stayed on that island after the fall of Okinawa, on one of my seven visits of inspection of his division told me that it had been substantiated that Miss Earhart met her death on Saipan.” 

1978 to 1982: Former Air Force pilot Vincent V. Loomis made four trips to the Marshall Islands, two to Saipan and one to Tokyo in search of witnesses and Earhart-related evidence.  Loomis interviews witnesses to the Electra’s crash-landing in the waters off Barre Island, and is generally credited with solidifying the Marshall Islands landing scenario.

September 1979: South African Oliver Knaggs is hired by a film producer to join Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search.  In Knaggs’ 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight, Knaggs recounts his 1979 and ’81 investigations in the Marshalls and Saipan.  Her last flight corroborates much of the witness testimony gathered by Goerner and Loomis, and is the first published book to present the eyewitness account of Bilimon Amaron, who tended to Fred Noonan’s knee wound at Jaluit in July 1937.

June 1982:  After years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged radio receptions, famed inventor Fred Hooven presents his paper, Amelia Earhart’s Last Flightat the Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum.  This was the genesis of the false Nikumaroro Hypothesis, which has so dominated public discussion since The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery’s (TIGHAR) first trip there in 1989.  Later, Hooven reportedly changed his mind and fully embraced the Marshall Islands landing scenario, made famous by Vincent V. Loomis in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story after Fred Goerner laid its foundation in The Search for Amelia Earhart.

1983: Amelia Earhart: Her last flight, is published by a South African firm.  A collector’s item, Knaggs’ book is worth the price for researchers interested in learning more about details of Vincent V. Loomis’ work in the Marshalls, and offers new evidence never revealed elsewhere.

Oliver Knaggs, author of Amelia Earhart: Her final flight, at Garapan Prison, Saipan, circa 1981.

Oliver Knaggs, author of Amelia Earhart: Her final flight, at Garapan Prison, Saipan, circa 1981.

June 1985: Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, by Vincent V. Loomis and Jeffrey Ethell, is published by Random House, a huge mainstream outfit, and recounts the aforementioned investigations by Vincent V. Loomis.  The book’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review.  After gushing that Loomisinterviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents, Hart writes, The mystery is a mystery no longer.”  Neither the U.S. government nor the entire establishment media got Hart’s memo.

April 1, 1987: Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, by Thomas E. Devine, is published by Renaissance House Publishers (Frederick, Colo.).  Eyewitness is Devine’s first-person account of his Earhart-related experiences in the summer of 1944, which included his personal inspection of Electra NR 16020, Earhart’s plane discovered at Aslito Field.  Also chronicled is Devine’s return to Saipan in 1963 with Fred Goerner, when he located the gravesite of a white man and woman who had come from the sky before the war, according to an unidentified Okinawan’s account to him in 1945.

July 1988: Witness to the Execution: The Odyssey of Amelia Earhart, by T.C. “Buddy” Brennan is published by the same Renaissance House that released Eyewitness a year earlier.  During three trips to the Marshalls and Saipan in the early 1980s, Houston real-estate executive Buddy Brennan interviews several Marshallese and Saipan natives with knowledge of the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.  One alleged eyewitness. Mrs. Nievas Cabrera Blas, claims to have seen a white woman shot and buried near her home just prior to the American invasion in 1944.  Brennan’s excavation produces a rag that he claims is the blindfold worn by Amelia Earhart, an impossible-to-prove theory.

March 16, 1992: at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, announces that the Amelia Earhart mystery “is solved.”  The evidence Gillespie presents includes a battered piece of aluminum, a weathered size 9 shoe sole labeled Cat’s Paw Rubber Co., USA, a small brass eyelet and another unlabeled heel the group found on Nikumaroro during TIGHAR’s highly publicized second trip there in October 1991.  These items, elaborately displayed and labeled in a glass case, all came from Earhart or her Electra, according to Gillespie.  All this material is later thoroughly and scientifically debunked, and nothing that Gillespie and TIGHAR have brought back from Nikumaroro in 11 trips has ever been forensically linked to the fliers.

1993 to present: Australian aircraft engineer David Billings, working in Papua New Guinea, has an interest in locating World War aircraft wrecks there.  In 1993 he reads of the possibility that Earhart’s Electra aircraft might have been seen by some Australian army soldiers while on patrol in the jungle on New Britain Island in 1945.  After contacting the actual veterans, he learns that they have apatrol map from their wartime patrol, during which they saw the aircraft wreck.  In 1994, one of the veterans, Donald Angwin, preparing the map for Billings to view, finds some writing on the map which came into view after Angwin removed some old tape on the border. 

Billings finds a reference written as “600 H/P S3H1 C/N1055” which together form identifiers for Earhart’s  Electra aircraft by identifying the horsepower rating of the engines, the Pratt & Whitney designation for the engines she used and, last of all, the actual Electra aircraft serial number, expressed as a Construction Number: “1055.”

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

David Billings at his home in Nambour, Australia, who is still hopeful he can locate the wreck of the plane found in Papua New Guinea that he believes is the Earhart Electra.  (Courtesy David Billings.)

These letter and number codes matches Amelia Earhart’s Electra NR 16020.  The letters and numbers given as a reference on the map border are believed to be the same string of letters and numbers seen by the patrol warrant officer on a small metal tag that he removed from the engine mount tubing of one engine at the crash site.  This written evidence and the description of the wreckage given by the veterans gives rise to the New Britain theory, the theory that Earhart had carried out her contingency plan to return to the Gilbert Islands.  The theory posits that on finding the Gilberts, Earhart took stock of her fuel remaining and then attempted to make Rabaul on New Britain.  According to Billings, Amelia’s choice was simple: crash-land on the Gilberts or continue on with the possibility of safe landing or the same crash-landing later in the day.  The wreck seen in 1945 is some 45 miles from Rabaul.  (Courtesy of David Billings.)  We will have much more on the New Britain theory in a forthcoming post.

Sept. 13, 1994: Fred Goerner dies at age 69 in San Francisco.

June 13, 1996: Vincent V. Loomis dies at age 75 in Pensacola, Fla.

May 2001: The infamous “Weishien Telegram” a speed letter sent from the liberated Japanese internment camp at Weishien, China, on Aug. 28, 1945, once believed to have been sent from Amelia Earhart to George Putnam, is proven to have originated with Turkish author and world traveler Ahmad Kamal by researcher Ron Bright.  Putnam had agreed to look after Kamal’s aging mother when Kamal left for China, thus the Love to Mother close that, misunderstood as coming from Amelia, created sensational speculation.  Bright’s findings are initially published in the May 2001 edition of TIGHAR Tracks newsletter.

Sept. 1, 2002: With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, by Mike Campbell with Thomas E. Devine, is published by a small Ohio company.  With Our Own Eyes presents the eyewitness accounts of the 26 former GIs who served during the Saipan Invasion, and came forward to advise Thomas Devine of their own experiences on Saipan that indicated the presence and death of Amelia and Fred on the Japanese-controlled island in the prewar years.

Sept. 16, 2003: Thomas E. Devine dies at age 88 in West Haven, Conn.

April 2005: Legerdemain: Deceit, Misdirection and Political Sleight of Hand in the Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by David K. Bowman is published by AuthorHouse.  Legerdemain is notable in that it brings together, for the first time, many of the strangest and most obscure Earhart tales, clearly demonstrating the extent to which the Earhart case has been stigmatized by fantasists since its earliest days. Legerdemain is republished in June 2007 by Saga Books of Canada, and in e-book format by Vaga Books in March 2014.

2011 to January 2015: Dick Spink, of Bow, Washington, travels five times to Mili Atoll’s Barre Island area, where many believe Earhart crash-landed her plane on July 2, 1937.  Working with Australian Martin Daly and groups of locals armed with metal detectors on the tiny Endriken (Marshallese for little) Islands, about a mile east of Barre, the group’s discoveries included a small aluminum plate and a circular metal dust cover from a landing-gear airwheel assembly that appeared to be consistent with an Electra 10E.  According to Spink, Daly found both the plate and the circular metal dust cover in the same area during different searches. The artifacts have no serial numbers, thus they cannot be attached solely to the Earhart Electra.

Dick Spink stands on the rocky beach near Barre Island where he believes Amelia Earhart landed her Electra 10E on July 2, 1937. Spinks' compelling discoveries on Mili's Endriken Islands have been met with abject silence by a media that refuses to face the truth in the Earhart disappearance.

Dick Spink stands on the rocky beach near Barre Island where he believes Amelia Earhart landed her Electra 10E on July 2, 1937.  Spink’s compelling discoveries on Mili’s Endriken Islands have been met with abject silence by a corrupt, politicized media that refuses to face the facts about the Earhart disappearance. 

Summer 2012: TIGHAR’s Ric Gillespie meets and is photographed with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  prior to embarking on trip number 10 to Nikumaroro.  Discerning observers know this photo is compelling evidence that the U.S. government continues to be actively engaged in the business of disinformation in the Earhart case, and at this point was dropping all pretense that the official Navy-Coast Guard 1937 verdict has any validity whatsoever.

June 2012: Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, by Mike Campbell, is published by Sunbury Press (Mechanicsburg, Penn.). Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last presents many new findings, eyewitness accounts and analysis, and never-before-published revelations from many unimpeachable sources including famed U.S. generals and iconic newsman and Earhart researcher Fred Goerner’s files that reveal the truth about Earhart and Fred Noonan’s deaths on Saipan, as well as the sacred cow status of this matter within the American establishment.  The book is blacked out by the mainstream media.

April 2013: The Earhart Enigma: Retracing Amelia’s Last Flight, by Dave Horner, is published by Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, La.  The Earhart Enigma presents another comprehensive and compelling case for the Marshalls-Saipan scenarios in a different literary style than Truth at Last, and is an important addition to the small but growing collection of works that present aspects of the truth about Amelia’s tragic loss.

March 2016: Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, Second Edition, is published by Sunbury Press.  The new edition adds two chapters, a new foreword, rarely seen photos, and the most recent discoveries and analysis to the mountain of overwhelming witness testimony and documentation presented in the first edition.

19 responses

  1. The numerous facts, substantiated evidence and witnesses that Mike has clearly pointed out, can no longer be ignored by the media & press. Any news organization, with it’s eyes half closed, couldn’t miss these facts, so why aren’t they reporting the TRUTH?


  2. Did William Casey (CIA Director) really say, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”?


    1. Apparently, so Jerry. Do a simple google search and he’s credited with this by multiple sources. I think there’s no question about it.


  3. I’m irritated now because I have received nothing from Ric Gillespie pertaining to his T-shirt offer. I hope that was not another scam because I’m counting on those T-shirts for Christmas presents. They will be collector’s items someday I’m certain. It’s now common knowledge that the body found on Gardner Island in 1940 was certainly Amelia’s as my latest clicking on the Internet demonstrates. Ric told me he has no idea how these stories make the news, somebody must be reading the TIGHAR forum he says. He should know.

    Inquiring minds would like to know, Will the Trump disinformation be different disinformation than the Clinton variety? Should I write to Trump to appeal for a new rendition of the AE legend? I will also enclose my resume seeking an executive position in his disinformation cabinet.



    1. Dave,
      I understand you’re a funny guy and appreciate your humor, as well as your thoughtful and imaginative contributions to this blog. But really, can’t we give Trump a chance before we go throwing him into the same bag as the vile, wretched Beast who almost seized the presidency of this once great nation? Trump has done nothing to make us believe he wasn’t dead serious about “draining the swamp” that Washington has become, and I fully expect him to try to make good on as much of his agenda as he can. Down the road, we can hope someone catches his ear about the Earhart case, and perhaps he might look into it. I wouldn’t hold my breath, however, and waste energy placing my hopes that he might finally give us “full disclosure.” Sacred cows have shown they’re quite capable of surviving any president throughout history.



  4. I think I was being cynical and a little silly in my projection of a D. Trump disinformation matrix. I have read that there are many uncomfortable truths in American History that he knows, they know and we know are lied about for convenience and respect for the victims such as 9/11, Pearl Harbor and various assassinations. Otherwise we would learn that our revered leaders are capable of devious and evil schemes and would shake our faith in our “exceptional” American system.

    So it becomes a grave offense on the part of the politician to speak these truths. Do you suppose if Trump had enumerated the actual crimes committed by the Clintons or the arrangements whereby their enemies were eliminated that he would have gotten to first base even? He knows better. He is close enough to the establishment power structure to know where the bodies are buried. So he has nothing to gain by revealing truths shocking or not. I’m afraid he would be advised to keep his mouth shut even about Amelia Earhart. Can you think of any scenario where revealing the truth would benefit him? It would leave him open to ridicule when the ONI/CIA/NSA comes back with documents showing that the Japanese capture was a wacko theory long disproved and discredited according to The Smithsonian at the very least.

    He would be better off opposing the deep state if he can, I have hopes that at least he will avert the next senseless war which Hillary/Obama was beginning to promote so that it would be ready to go when they continued in power. So if they actually ever do take the lid off her story, I am sure the part where she was USED by FDR will certainly be left out.


    1. “Can you think of any scenario where revealing the truth would benefit him? It would leave him open to ridicule when the ONI/CIA/NSA comes back with documents showing that the Japanese capture was a wacko theory long disproved and discredited according to The Smithsonian at the very least.”

      Most of your new comment makes good sense, but I must take issue with your statement above. First, there is no ONI anymore. Secondly, what documents could the CIA or NSA have that show that Amelia’s death on Saipan is a “wacko theory”? Any documents these agencies might have that they haven’t yet disclosed would reflect the truth, not its opposite. Thirdly, the Smithsonian is well known to be a politicized organization dedicated to parroting and maintaining official government positions that have long been discredited. The Smithsonian would be laughed off the stage if they tried to rebut a presidential disclosure in the Earhart matter. Here’s my rebuttal to their Earhart cover story of January 2015:



  5. I remember reading a story where someone from the Smithsonian commented on Ric’s latest howler about the body on Gardner Island. They presented his story as plausible, but finished by commenting there is no way to prove or disprove his story. Then if I remember right, they finished by saying at least it’s not one of those “wacko” (they didn’t use that word) theories like the “Japanese Capture” story. I never made a copy of that because I had no idea it would show what their attitude is on this forum. So I am not correctly “citing my source” as Ric would demand. Maybe I could find it. What I mean is if Donald was to declare that the Saipan story is the correct one, how would he know? Unless he was able to demand the records or knew where they were in advance before somebody could “lose” them as I understand the Smithsonian has been known to do. It would take a lot of work on his part and what would he gain? I didn’t know the ONI was gone, who has taken over their mission?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. http://www.oni.navy.mil/

      Sorry, I was wrong about the ONI, was of the wrong opinion that it became NIS and then NCIS, but it’s not the case. See above for their official website.

      IF Trump were ever to officially disclose the truth — and “officially” is the only way he would do it — he would produce the long hidden Earhart files that Fred Goerner and Ross Game were allowed to see by JFK in 1963, but were not included in the 1967 declassified files that included the ONI Report. There were probably other files as well that Goerner and Game didn’t see. Soon after their visit, JFK was murdered.

      The Smithsonian is mainly a museum of various kinds, such as Natural History and Air and Space, and it is not a repository for any official files of any kind. That function is for NARA — National Archives Records Administration. But don’t look there for any of the hidden Earhart files, because you won’t find them.



  6. Mike, I am finally catching up on your posts, now that I am done with my writing chores. These last two are SO good, I printed them and am keeping them with my 2 copies of your books!

    A sad and unpleasant thought occurred to me while reading this. I know you are but a spring chicken, Mike, but when that day does come and our generation passes on to the next adventure . . . unless some definite headway is made on this Earhart cover-up and demise pretty soon, who will pursue this after you? As fascinated as I and others [here] are by the possibility of producing three-dimensional proof that confirms at the very least AE’s presence in the Marshalls around the 2nd of July 1937, or on Saipan by the early 1940s, I have my doubts that the most recent generations (1-2 of them) will care one whit about any aspect of this topic.



    1. Wolfie,

      Thanks for your kind words. I share your concern about the future of Earhart research. I don’t know any 66-year-old spring chickens, nor am I aware of anyone doing any serious Earhart research or writing who’s younger than I. Our recent generations have been dumbed down by our leftist government schools, as well as many private schools, to the point where few are literate at all anymore, much less curious about their nation’s past. We can only hope things might begin to change in the coming years, but at this point it doesn’t look promising. We do what we can and hope for the best. What more can I say?



      1. Hmmm . . . Maybe this would be a great history project for Barron. Usually good moms & dads help with homework . . .


  7. I am trying to track down the book written by a former military officer, maybe OSS, who says that when they went into Siapan and entered the Japanese officers quarters they found a safe that contained a leather satchel or briefcase that has the initials A.E. on it. Why is this account not included anywhere.
    Thanks Robert Hyman
    Missing Aircraft Search Team


    1. It is in Mike’s book – 2nd edition, p. 182 (at least that page in my PDF version) – about Robert Wallack finding it. Corresponding footnote #9 in that chapter: Notarized statement of Robert E. Wallack, Woodbridge, Connecticut, June 13, 1987. Mike? Is this the right page?


      1. Correct Wolfie. Thanks for your help!


      2. Thanks so much. My wife met his daughter a few years ago and discussed this find and relevant evidence or story. I may try to follow up with her.

        Robert Hyman
        Missing Aircraft Search Team (MAST)


      3. wolfspecter13

        My pleasure, sir! I love to support truth seekers. Mike’s books are chock full of not only facts but references for many details, in case anyone wants to dig more deeply! Your discussion with Wallack’s daughter might turn into an important benchmark for evidence all on its own! Who knows – what if he managed to shoot a couple of photos before he handed over the vault contents and never thought much about it, as the years wound on down? Keep us posted.


      4. OK, here are the details…Mary Wallack Smith is Robert’s E Wallack’s daughter and she lives here in Washington, DC. Her sister in law, Marion Smith, is also here in DC. My wife’s friend went to school (Holten Arms) with both of them and has kept in touch. My wife sat next to one of them, still not sure which one but I think Marion Smith, at a luncheon and discussed this case with her. My wife explained that I was one of the founding members of MAST (Missing Aircraft Search Team) and the conversation turned to the brief case found in the safe. I am asking my wife’s friend to put me in touch with both ladies. I want to interview them regarding Robert’s insistence in this story. I suspect they will both have great insight as to Robert’s mental condition, war history, reliability and may be able to shed light on how extended family members viewed Robert’ claims and maybe much more. We will see and I will report back. If you have any specific questions you would like me to ask send them along to me. Regards…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow – good luck! That will certainly be an interesting chat! Do keep us posted!


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