Jim Golden and FDR’s Amelia Earhart “Watergate”

In a March 2, 2015 post titled Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga,” I introduced the late Jim Golden, a close friend of Fred Goerner and, in the day, a near-legendary figure in Earhart research circles.  Golden’s unique career included eight years as a Secret Service agent in the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, two years as Howard Hughes’ chief of security in Las Vegas, and a stint in the U.S. Justice Department, from where he tried to help Goerner search for the elusive top-secret Earhart files that President John F. Kennedy had allowed Goerner and California newspaperman Ross Game to see briefly in 1963, just before JFK’s assassination in Dallas.

Among the secrets Golden shared with Goerner was the revelation that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were brought to the islands of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll by air from Jaluit Atoll by the Japanese in 1937, a fact he learned from Marine Intelligence officers during the American invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden read a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit about a native on Roi-Namur who told them of two white people, a man and a woman, brought by Japanese airplane to Roi, the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men's pants.

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden saw a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit that remains hidden in top-secret government files. 

During several telephone conversations I had with Golden in the summer of 2008, he recalled his experiences as a 19-year-old enlisted Marine photographer in the intelligence section of the 4th Marine Division during the Kwajalein campaign.

“The Marines wrote up a detailed report capturing the info that related that in 1937 two white persons, a male and female were brought by plane to Roi,” Golden told me, “the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men’s pants, who were taken across a causeway to the Namur Admin building.  Three days later taken out to a small ship in the lagoon, which then departed.  I read the report myself.  This report would routinely be forwarded to 4th Div. Intel, then on to the U.S. Navy.  This report must have been the first sighting [sic] of her capture by the Japanese by U.S. forces at that time.

The following story, “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate,’ by one Leon Freilich, was published in the Jan. 3, 1978 issue of the Midnight Globe tabloid newspaper, which at some later date changed its name to the familiar Globe that adorns check-out racks in supermarkets and other retail stores nationwide, along with its better-known rival, the National Enquirer.  The story later appeared in the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter’s June 1992 issue.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

“FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate’”

The late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt covered up the truth behind aviatrix Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance and created his own Watergate — nearly 40 years before Richard Nixon.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.  She tried in 1937 to fly around the world and disappeared into the Pacific.  Now a top-level Justice Department official, James Golden, charges that FDR withheld the facts of her disappearance for his own ends.

This is the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe story on Jim Golden's

This is the headline of the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe story on Jim Golden’s bold charges of cover-up in the Earhart disappearance by Franklin D. Roosevelt as well as every subsequent administration to protect FDR’s checkered legacy, which would have never survived public knowledge of his failure to come to the aid of Earhart and Fred Noonan when they were in Japanese hands in 1937.

Amelia Earhart was killed in the line of duty, and President Roosevelt refused to let it get out,Golden, director of enforcement for the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in Washington, D.C., told MIDNIGHT GLOBE.

She was a spy for the Navy. She didn’t justdisappear, as Roosevelt led the press and public to believe. Amelia Earhart was taking reconnaissance shots of Japanese naval facilities when her plane was forced down.  She died at the hands of the Japanese.

Similar accusations of a cover-up have been leveled in the past, and a book [Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart] detailed some of the charges several years ago.  However, this is the first attack on Roosevelt’s credibility by a top figure in the federal government.

Why did FDR stonewall the facts?  “Amelia Earhart was a glamorous aviatrix and America’s favorite woman adventurer,Golden said.  For some reason, she’d agreed to use her round-the-world flight as a mask for a spying operation.  In those days spying was considered the lowest of the low in this country. So when she lost her life, Roosevelt was afraid he would lose millions of votes in the next election. Consequently, he stifled the truth.”

How does the high-level government prober know this? There’s a top-secret file with all this information in the White House, he revealed to MIDNIGHT GLOBE. “It can’t be released, except by the President. “But two of my friends in the intelligence community have seen it. I consider them wholly reliable. They told me the file includes a four-page summary of Japan’s secret report on the Amelia Earhart case.

This summary relates that she and her €co-pilot [sic], Fred Noonan, were captured by Japanese forces on July 2, 1937, near Saipan, the Central Pacific headquarters for Japanese ships.  The Japanese took the two there and kept them under heavy interrogation for a year and a half.  Then they beheaded Noonan. Amelia Earhart died the very next day.  The records said the cause of death was dysentery, but even if that’s true, the blame belongs on her captors, who kept her penned up in primitive conditions.”

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa mid-1970s. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman's unsuccessful search for the elusive, top-secret files that would finally break open the Earhart case. During his amazing career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon's Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa mid-1970s.  As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman’s partially successful search for the elusive, top-secret files that might have finally broken open the Earhart case.  During his unique career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon’s Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

The file confirmed what Golden had learned first-hand during World War II.  “I was a Marine intelligence officer [actually a private first class] and landed on Saipan [actually Kwajalein] in January 1944,” he said.  “Some of the elders described to me in minute detail how a white woman and man had been seized from a fallen giant bird.

“That would be their plane.  And the pair were kept on the island as prisoners until the Japanese chopped off the man’s head.  The woman — Amelia Earhart, of course — was never seen again.

The natives’ testimony plus the secret file fit together too neatly to spell anything but the full story.  I’m telling you this not to embarrass the U.S. government.  My motive is simply this: Amelia Earhart gave her life for her country, and it ought to have the good grace to thank her for it.”  (End of Midnight Globe article.)

In an October 1977 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune story on Golden, Prober says Amelia Earhart death covered up, Golden, then with the U.S. Justice Department, told reporter Richard Williams that President Franklin “Roosevelt hid the truth about Miss Earhart and Noonan, fearing public reaction to the death of a heroine and voter reaction at the polls. . . . What really bothers me about the whole thing is that if Miss Earhart was . . . a prisoner of the Japanese, as she seems to have been, why won’t the government acknowledge the facts and give her the hero’s treatment she deserves?” Golden asked.

Sadly, Golden passed away unexpectedly at his home on March 7, 2011 at age 85.  As I wrote in closing Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga, in 2015, We’ll never see the likes of Jim Golden again, and I hope someday we’ll meet in a much better place.

More on Jim Golden’s amazing life and contributions to the Earhart saga can be found in the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. 

21 responses

  1. Wow!….really good stuff, Mike…..is it possible that perhaps more documents can be uncovered from the government now that President Trump is in the White House?


  2. The truth has finally come out. That is the good news. But the bad news is that nobody cares anymore.


  3. After this short, but insightful post, my mind says “Case Closed.” This sums up the conclusion I have been arriving at since I first became interested in the AE mystery maybe 6 years ago thanks to Ric Gillespie and his front, TIGHAR. The truth of the matter is that FDR swindled AE into an ill-advised spy mission that was almost certainly bound to fail. Whether that was the intention all along, I can’t say for sure. It wasn’t just the abandonment of AE by FDR, which after all is supposed to be what every country does with their spies when they are caught, but the sordid details of the case which would be embarrassing for FDR. I’m sure the moment the Japs captured AE and examined her plane which was full of recon equipment, to say nothing of the trove of info which she and Fred tried to bury on the beach, the negotiations started. I would bet the Japs made some reasonable offer which FDR turned down because the stage was already set by TPTB for War. And I would also guess that FDR had no use for AE anyway, what with her close friendship with Eleanor whom FDR only tolerated for political purposes.

    Did the plot involve multiple planes and spurious previously recorded messages purportedly sent by AE, hey, why not? Was the AE debacle intended as “Point #11” in FDR’s 10 point plan for war with Japan? Who knows? Was AE’s treatment “primitive” or something much worse? You bet it was.

    I feel guilty that all my research has been done from the comfort of my armchair and not by any actual legwork. But I have learned a lot about the way of politics in the years since I became fascinated by this story. My cynicism has grown by leaps and bounds. Many truths about audacious tricks played on the proletariat by our exceptional government will never be revealed because the truth will benefit no one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The *TRUTH has been out since 1960. It’s the MEDIA’s denial, refusal and avoidance to address the FACTS. We also have to understand, the serious consequences, that would jeopardize the networks, who try to expose the TRUTH; by our government’s intelligence apparatus. This is no different, than the Kennedy Assassination.

    We have so much to THANK Jim Golden for, in exposing FDR’s cover up, and shining a *light for Amelia & Fred.

    Mike Campbell’s books, websight & blog are the only testaments of the *TRUTH, which are credible & readily accessible, for those who *WISH to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Golden sure looked the part of a “no-foolin’-around” intelligence guy. What is the probability that any hard copies with this kind of documentation have – by now – simply been destroyed with no hope of ever revealing it? I mean, to me many politicians and their mignons seem incapable of regarding anything verifiably historically accurate as sacred unless they have an ulterior purpose for it, and even then . . .


    1. Wolfy,

      We simply don’t know if this evidence still exists. If it does, you can bet very, very few people know about it. Goerner saw top-secret files in 1963, since then, it’s anyone’s guess what happened to those files, as well as the other evidence.



  6. As was mentioned earlier, our new Fearless Leader might be put up to releasing all available info about AE & FN that the govt presently holds. If nothing else, he might be jump into this with abandon if someone points out to him that doing so would let him trash the reputation of a former Democratic president.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Now that Fearless Leader got elected he no longer needs to threaten anyone with revealing any inconvenient truths like poor Jeb. That’s not the way the game is played. Nobody benefits when the rug is picked up to see what’s swept under it. That’s why whistle blowers are skating on thin ice.


  8. My father in law visited Saipan many times. He often recounted that he met a man there many many years ago who said he was an eyewitness to Amelia Earhart’s imprisonment. My father in law said he wrote to the US government to try to get them to look into it but never heard anything in return. Unfortunately, he died two years ago at 87 years old. I recently saw a story in the news that evidence of Earhart having died as a castaway on a remote island in the pacific had been found. So I googled Earhart and Saipan to see if anyone had written anything like my father in law’s account instead. And here you are.


    1. Welcome to the truth, Barbara, better late than never. Any more details on the eyewitness your father knew would be greatly appreciated. These people have become quite rare over the years, as time marches on.

      Mike C.


      1. It seems that Earhart’s husband was very involved in promoting Earhart’s endeavors but has anyone ever linked any government money to this round the world flight. I know companies like Bendix were flying some new systems on the Lockheed, could there be a tie in with government funds there?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The government was involved overtly in the construction of the landing strip at Howland and the arrangement with the Itasca to help bring her in at the end of her flight. Nothing controversial in any of that. No evidence that the government paid for the repairs after the Luke Field debacle, however.


  9. Just from AE’s Flight plan across the pacific it is obvious AE was not just looking for a flight stunt record. Up until that time all around the world flights were northern polar flight plans. Even Howard Hughes flew around the world in 1938 around the polar region.

    AE had Fred Noonan who was an experience navigator with PAN AM and worked on their clipper flights across the pacific. Pan Am flew these routes From Hong Kong to Manila to Guam to wake island to Midway island to Honolulu. Why you have to ask yourselves did AE not fly this well established route, if she was only interested in a publicity stunt? No instead she chose to venture south into the Japanese presence islands. She never would have chosen that route without some ulterior motive.


  10. Does someone have the entire article from Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe story?


    1. The entire article is transcribed in the post.


  11. Interesting the witnesses all speak of a heavy Japanese presence in the area, this is probably why the Japanese never allowed Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan to leave because they would have reported the extensive Japanese presence in a place where they were not supposed to be, that intelligence alone was damning.


    1. Fred,
      The fliers landed at Mili Atoll, which was off-limits to Westerners. Regardless of their mission, which we still don’t know for sure, the Japs took them for spies, just as Michiko Sugita was told on Saipan by her father, the civilian chief of police. Others referred to her as “Tokyo Rosa,” which meant “Spy Lady” on Saipan. From the moment they were seized, their fate was sealed.


      1. Knowing the off limits to westerners of this area, AE and Noonan never would have planned a flight any where near those islands. Aviators are very cautious people, they never just haphazardly do something, they are always looking for solutions to just in case scenarios. Earhart spoke about her round the world flight being an equatorial route. The safe Pan Am Clipper route, which Noonan had flown many times which was a nearly equatorial route.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Mike, you have so many good articles and I don’t have enough time to read. Keep up the good fight!


  13. jerry hoekstra | Reply

    WORTHINGTON — Worthington [Minnesota) is set to welcome a bronze statue of Amelia Earhart, following the approval from the Worthington City Council during their Monday night meeting and pending a 30-day public review period.


    There will be a gathering of anyone who cares to attend. June 27, 2022 is the date listed in the Globe article linked above.


    1. Thanks Jerry. This is nice, but there’s no big deal about a city in Minnesota honoring Amelia Earhart. Too bad the officials on Saipan are not similarly disposed.



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