Five years ago we marked the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, if it’s appropriate to use the word “anniversary” to commemorate such a ghastly atrocity as the barbaric murders of Earhart and Fred Noonan by the prewar Japanese military on Saipan.
The diamond anniversary of Amelia’s loss, as it were, came nearly simultaneously with the June 2012 publication of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, thanks to Sunbury Press publisher Larry Knorr. Now we’ve arrived at the 80th, or “oak” anniversary of the fliers’ last official message, and though nothing in the big picture has changed, I suppose it’s appropriate to write something. A personal retrospective seems manageable, if nothing else.
The near-total media blackout of The Truth at Last continues, but anyone who seeks the truth can find it without any help from a mainstream media that in recent years has distinguished itself only by removing all doubts about its irredeemably corrupt nature, as well as its anti-American agenda.
Dominating the Earhart situation, as I see it, is the overwhelming aversion to the truth displayed by the American and international media, an antipathy that’s never been worse than in recent years. Wikipedia, the Net’s repository of conventional wisdom, refuses to include any mention of The Truth at Last or my name in its Amelia Earhart entry, and relegates the truth to a buried subsection, the old standby, “Japanese capture theory.” Fred Goerner is fleetingly mentioned; otherwise, Wikipedia omits the mountains of evidence presented in The Truth at Last. Wikipedia speaks for the entire establishment when it in sneers, “Many ideas emerged after the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan. Two possibilities concerning the flyers’ fate have prevailed among researchers and historians.” These, the punctuation-and-grammatically challenged Wikipedia declares, are the “Crash and sink theory,” and the “Gardner Island hypothesis.” (Italics mine) The insight is overpowering, is it not?
Fox News, our “fair and balanced” news source, is no better, and excludes all mention of The Truth at Last in its website’s comments section whenever they post their Earhart propaganda, usually in support of TIGHAR’s endless boondoggles to Nikumaroro, but in other cases as well. In fact, not one of the so-called “truth tellers” in our alternative media – not Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin or anyone else who claims moral and ethical superiority in the conservative talk world will go anywhere near the truth in the Earhart story. Amelia Earhart’s fate has turned them all into cowards and liars.
These are just a few of many blatant examples clearly demonstrating that the truth about Amelia Earhart is among the most hated of all sacred cows by the U.S. establishment-media complex. Is more evidence necessary? “What is this truth that’s so hated and avoided by our media?” new readers of this blog might ask. In the Conclusion of The Truth at Last, I write:
Whether it was an intelligence mission that went sideways or for still unknown technical reasons, the fliers landed at Mili Atoll, were picked up by a Japanese fishing boat, transferred to the Japanese survey ship Koshu, and taken to their Marshall Islands headquarters at Jaluit. From Jaluit, they were flown to Roi-Namur on Kwajalein, and later to Saipan, where imprisonment, possible torture, and certain misery were their daily companions until death released the doomed pair from their torments.
Multiple witnesses every step of the way attest to a reality that is transparently obvious to the rational observer, but one that our agenda-driven media despises, refuses to acknowledge and withholds from the public as a matter of policy. The legendary Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, and briefly as acting chief justice in early 1930, might have been seeing into the future and describing the Earhart case when he wrote, “It seems to me that at this time we need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure.”
Nagging questions remain, smaller “mysteries,” if you will, chief among them are why and how the fliers reached and landed off Barre Island at Mili Atoll in the afternoon of July 2. Some are certain Earhart overflew Truk on a mission of “white intelligence,” as Fred Goerner described it more than once, while insisting that “didn’t make her a spy.” Sure, that might well have happened, but we still can’t prove it.
Shortly after The Truth at Last was published, I began contacting every talk radio host in the United States; almost none of them extended me the civility of a negative response – they simply ignored my queries. A few others initially expressed interest, but once they learned the unpleasant truth, they disappeared faster than the Electra on July 2, 1937. I lost track of the numbers, but certainly upward of a thousand of these media types wanted nothing to do with this story; you can find a list of the rare few who actually stepped up to help on my blog’s Media page.
I also developed a stand-up presentation when a women’s group in Knoxville asked me to speak, eventually turning it into a power-point program that’s been well received by the few who have invited me. Over the past four years, I’ve contacted virtually every American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War chapter, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs, men’s and women’s clubs of various types, aviation group, public and private high school, seniors assisted living facility — you name it, within 120 miles of Jacksonville, with anemic results. For these groups it’s just a lack of interest born of ignorance, but allegedly well-educated media people have no such excuse. Their resistance to the Marshalls-Saipan truth is palpable and hostile, and simple ignorance is not what motivates them. I expected serious resistance following publication of With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart in 2002, but I never imagined the depth and breadth of the abject rejection that’s become the dominant feature of the public aspect of this work.
Still, in a war that’s unwinnable before my time down here runs out, we’ve taken a few steps forward, small victories, but enough to keep me focused on this worthy cause. I met the brilliant news analyst David Martin (DCDave.com) about 2005 when I found his 2004 book-length exposé “Who Killed James Forrestal?” in which Martin proves that our first secretary of defense was murdered at Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 22, 1949, and did not commit suicide, as is commonly held as gospel. Since Martin and I share the unenviable mission of trying to slay inviolate sacred cows, I wanted to let him know about my Earhart work. Martin was sympathetic, and agreed to review The Truth at Last, introducing his Aug. 7, 2012 piece, “Hillary Clinton and the Amelia Earhart Cover-Up,” with this snappy limerick:
Few things are more unsettling,
From experience I know,
Than to feel a building shaken
By quaking ground below.
But I’ve felt one discomfiture
Of almost comparable size,
Discovering that our “free” press
Purveys official lies.
About a year after The Truth at Last hit the street, my piece, “The truth in the Earhart “mystery” is a sacred cow” appeared on Veterans News Now, went to No. 1 on the site within three days and stayed on the site’s top 25 for many months. I didn’t post this commentary on my blog, but it’s an excellent primer for anyone with interest in the Earhart story.
As if to confirm my contention about the verboten status of the Earhart truth, in early January 2013, no less an establishment stronghold than the National Museum of the Pacific War, which houses the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, refused to stock The Truth at Last in its bookstore, decreeing that the book’s “subject matter is not part of our mission of WWII in the Pacific Theater at this museum.” Retired Army Maj. Glenn MacDonald, editor-in-chief of the popular military-oriented site, MilitaryCorruption.com, chronicled the Nimitz Museum travesty with a story headlined “Admiral Nimitz Museum Betrays Namesake,” which was also ignored by the Nimitz Museum’s enlightened leadership.
If this weren’t enough, in early 2014, a friend, professional educator and Earhart researcher from Maryland visited the museum, hoping to ask its president and CEO, retired Marine Gen. Michael W. Hagee, why his bookstore refused to carry The Truth at Last. Not only did Hagee refuse to meet with this man, he sent a minion to tell him that Nimitz’s immortal words to Goerner, “Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese,” which once adorned a conspicuous archway in the museum but were removed at some undetermined time years ago, are now suspect because Fred Goerner was “probably lying about what Nimitz told him.” You can read more on this outrage in my April 11, 2014 post, “Nimitz Museum continues disgraceful Earhart policy.”
All was not as bleak. Mrs. Kay Alley, the vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, invited me to address the South Central Section Fall 2014 Meeting of the Ninety-Nines in Wichita, Kan. It was the highlight of my year, and I wrote about it in my Oct. 4, 2014 post, “99s welcome “The Truth at Last” to Wichita.” Unfortunately, no other Ninety-Nines chapter has expressed any interest in learning the truth. Recall this is the group that Amelia herself co-founded in 1929 with Louise Thaden, but based on my experience with the South Central Ninety Nines in 2014, sadly, it appears that the blanket ignorance affecting our general population has infected today’s Ninety-Nines as well.
In early November 2014, Smithsonian magazine writer Jerry Adler sent me an email to request my cooperation for a story about the Earhart disappearance. According to Adler, the magazine’s interest in doing the article had stemmed from the latest Ric Gillespie-Nikumaroro announcement, but he said his piece would “cover the gamut of explanations, including your own.”
Knowing the Smithsonian’s history of propaganda and deceit in all things Earhart, Adler’s request immediately raised my suspicions, but I decided it would be better to cooperate with him, hoping he might be fair with me, as he said he would. My skepticism was well founded, and Adler’s hit piece, “Will the Search for Amelia Earhart Ever End?,” the cover story of the Smithsonian’s January 2015 issue, was anything but fair and honest. Adler deprecated what he thought he could get away with, left out any mention of the massive evidence that supports the truth, strongly suggested that I am a “wild eyed obsessive” and conspiracy theorist, yet in his conclusion was still forced to admit that I was “onto something” after all.
I couldn’t let Adler and the Smithsonian get away with this underhanded attack without at least one good counterpunch, and in my 5,000-word rebuttal, I dissected his trash line by line. I strongly urge anyone who hasn’t read my Jan. 18, 2015 post, Smithsonian mag throws “Truth at Last” a bone: Says, “it’s possible . . . Campbell is on to something“ to do so.
In early May 2016, David Martin returned to review the second edition of The Truth at Last, adding his own unique perspective to the piece. To read Martin’s review, “Amelia Earhart Truth Versus the Establishment,” please click here.
Finally, in mid-May 2017, thanks to Mr. Ben Willingham, a retired Navy pilot, captain and chairman of the Bald Eagle Chapter (www.baldeaglesquadron.org) of the Association of Naval Aviation, I was honored to address this distinguished group at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville Officers Club. Going into this engagement, I anticipated some pushback from a group that included retired admirals, captains and even the executive officer of NAS Jacksonville. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the kindness these former and current Navy warriors accorded me, and my power-point presentation was well received. It was videotaped and produced into an MP4, and I might make it available here at some point.
Thirty-six years earlier, as a lowly enlisted journalist working on the base newspaper at Cecil Field, Fla., just down the road, I never dreamed that someday I’d return to speak to such a distinguished gathering of Navy aviators. Contrary to my expectation that some of these Navy types might take offense when I revealed to them the depth of the Navy’s role in the Earhart cover-up, no one protested, and more than a few approached me afterward to shake my hand and express their appreciation – a rare good day in the Earhart wars, one that I’ll always remember.
The Big Lie: The Great Aviation Mystery
Since publication of The Truth at Last, a few more might have accepted the truth that the Earhart disappearance is not the “Great Aviation Mystery” that’s been forced down our throats for eight decades. Make no mistake, this enormous falsehood has taken its place among the pantheon of great American lies that would be the envy of Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, and became an immovable piece of our cultural furniture very long ago. I devoted a subsection to summarizing this theme, “The Big Lie: The Great Aviation Mystery,” in the conclusion of the second edition of The Truth at Last (pp. 322-324), and it cannot be overemphasized.
An American public that has been thoroughly deceived for 80 years about Amelia Earhart is completely ignorant of the fact that there is no “mystery” and no real “theories” in the Earhart case. We have only the truth, which is surrounded and buried by glorified lies masquerading as theories. Neither crashed-and-sank nor Nikumaroro has any semblance of plausible evidence to connect the fliers or the Electra to the Pacific floor or the former Gardner Island, and both ideas dissipate into smoke upon the slightest scrutiny. Neither of these lies has a single eyewitness to lend it even the slightest credibility.
Some have suggested that our new president might be the one who will finally declassify and disclose the top-secret Earhart files. Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, N.Y., a longtime supporter of the truth and prolific local op-ed writer, was among them. His letter, “Next president should disclose Amelia Earhart’s fate,” appeared in the Aug. 23, 2016 online edition of the Daily Messenger, and appeared a month later in the Sept. 21, 2016 online edition of the Atchison (Kansas) Globe, the newspaper of Amelia’s birthplace.
I’ve always kept politics out of this blog, except as it relates to Earhart. But it’s no secret that the America’s Fourth Estate is also its Fifth Column, and for decades our media have been the most effective appendage of America’s worst internal enemy, the Democratic Party, and recently we’ve seen far too many establishment Republicans silently standing by and thus silently endorsing the radical, statist, poisonous ideology that is now threatening to tear apart the very fabric of our society, once the envy of the civilized world. Considering this current zeitgeist, the chances for government disclosure are virtually nonexistent.
Under different circumstances, Donald Trump, more than any president in recent memory, appears to be the ideal outsider to break down the 80-year Earhart stonewall. But Trump has too many enemies on both sides of the aisle, and infinitely more pressing issues on his plate to bring off a sea change in the Earhart matter. And who among Trump’s inner circle would possibly bring this historical travesty to the president’s attention, as something worthy of his consideration? His liberal daughter, Ivanka? Or perhaps her young husband, Jared Kushner? Pigs will fly.
The Ugly Bottom Line
In the conclusion of Chapter XIV, “The Care and Nurture of a Sacred Cow,” in The Truth at Last, I address the biggest Earhart question of all as directly as possible:
FDR knew his sanitized legacy as the New Deal savior of the American middle class, the commander in chief who saved the world from the Nazi and Japanese menaces, could never withstand public knowledge of his abandonment of America’s First Lady of Flight, not to mention Fred Noonan, an accomplished navigator and well-known figure in his own right. FDR’s cowardly failure to initially confront Earhart’s captors, and his subsequent decision to keep the truth from the world, cemented his own culpability in their tragic, unnecessary ends. Roosevelt had no stomach for the national outcry and endless questions that any revelations after the fact would have spurred, and his alleged secret executive order that permanently embargoed the truth was his best solution to a situation that should have consigned him to a prominent position in history’s all-time rubbish heap of betrayal. The world has been left with the phony Earhart “mystery” ever since.
If protecting Franklin D. Roosevelt from the infamy he justly deserves might no longer be enough to ensure that the Earhart secrets stay secure under lock and key, we also have our friends in the Pacific, the Japanese, to consider, and this factor has, obviously, sealed the deal, very possibly forever.
In September 1951, when the dust had cleared from the phony war trials, the United States and Japan signed a Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with 48 other nations that became known as the San Francisco System, and this arrangement has defined relations between the two nations ever since. Would the San Francisco System have proceeded as smoothly if President Harry S. Truman had stepped up and broken ranks with his deceased former boss and revealed Japan’s guilt in the deaths of Earhart and Noonan, as well as Roosevelt’s gag order to permanently kill public knowledge of it?
“Japan and the United States are strong allies sharing basic values and strategic interests, with the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements at the core,” Steven K. Vogel wrote in the introduction to the 2002 Brookings Institution-published U.S.-Japan Relations in a Changing World. “Under such a strong alliance, both countries are closely working together and sharing roles and responsibilities not only on bilateral issues, but on regional issues in the Asia-Pacific and global issues as well.”
By itself, the United States’ paternal attachment to its former hated enemy might have been enough to keep the secrets of the Earhart disappearance buried in the deepest recesses of our national security apparatus. But since the FDR factor preceded our permanent Japan protectorate policy, we’ll never know for sure.
Ask yourself this: Why has no establishment journalist of any repute – or any kind at all, for that matter – ever attempted to do a serious story or investigation into the Earhart case since Fred Goerner’s 1966 bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart, was panned by Time magazine as a “Sinister Conspiracy?” If I’ve shown that anything is true since The Truth at Last was published in 2012, it is that Goerner was the last and only public figure to honestly search for Amelia Earhart. But when he found her on Saipan in the many eyewitnesses and witnesses whose accounts he presented, he was severely marginalized following the Time attack of his book. Goerner passed away from cancer in 1994 at age 69, all but forgotten, never realizing the great potential of “solving the Earhart mystery” that his book so richly promised, and that he so badly wanted to fulfill.
But it wasn’t Goerner or his book that failed to deliver; the entire American government-media establishment declared war on him, his book and everyone else with the temerity to follow up on the KCBS newsman’s groundbreaking Saipan investigations. The word came down that the Marshalls-Saipan truth was off-limits, and so nobody went anywhere near the sacred cow, and this quarantine continues to this day. An Amazon.com search for Amelia Earhart will bring more than 1,350 results, but more than 99 percent of these are biographies, novels, fantasies and all manner of children’s books, by far the top sellers in the Earhart market. Of all these books, no more than about 10 are legitimate investigations into the truth, and but Goerner’s were written by obscure individuals who ignored the establishment boycott of the truth for their own intensely personal reasons.
Former Air Force C-47 pilot Vincent V. Loomis and his wife, Georgette, traveled to the Marshalls in 1978 hoping to find the wreck of a plane Loomis saw on an uninhabited island near Ujae Atoll in 1952. Loomis didn’t find the unidentified aircraft he hoped was the Earhart Electra, but in four trips to the Marshalls he gathered considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there. His book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story was hailed by some at a time when big media’s rejection of information supporting Earhart’s survival and death on Saipan had yet to reach its virtual blackout of the past few decades. The Final Story’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review. Gushing that Loomis “interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents,” Hart then announced, “The mystery is a mystery no longer.” Obviously, Hart’s declaration failed to elicit the faintest response from an indifferent establishment.
Thomas E. Devine was not a writer; he was a sergeant in the Army’s 244th Postal Unit on Saipan who saw the Earhart Electra three times, once flying overhead, actually climbed onto a wing to inspect it and finally saw it in flames, burned beyond recognition by Marines on Saipan. Devine’s 1987 book, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, is among the most important disappearance books ever penned. In Eyewitness, many years in the making, Devine told of his amazing Saipan experiences, and in its conclusion he reached out to his fellow Saipan veterans, urging them to report their own eyewitness stories that reflected the presence and death of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan in the years before the 1944 U.S. invasion. Twenty-six former GIs heard and responded to Devine’s plea, and their stunning accounts were presented for the first time in With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, our little-known 2002 book.
“I saw the [Earhart] plane,” Devine told me in February 1991 during my first visit to his West Haven, Conn., home. “I know all about the plane. The plane was there. No matter what anyone would ever say, that plane was Earhart’s plane—positively, absolutely, 100 percent. I can drop dead right now if it wasn’t so. Nobody can change my mind about it, because it was her plane.” It’s there that the remains of Electra NR 16020 can still be found, Devine said, bulldozed into a landfill with the assorted rubble and refuse of war, and buried under the tarmac of what eventually became Saipan International Airport.
A few others wrote valuable books that are virtually unknown today, such as South African Oliver Knaggs, whose Amelia Earhart: Her last flight (1983), strongly supports Loomis’ Marshalls findings; Joe Davidson’s Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (1969), presents Don Kothera and his Cleveland Group’s interviews with Anna Diaz Magofna and other Saipan eyewitnesses for the first time; and Dave Horner’s The Earhart Enigma (2013) is the most recent addition to the thin collection of works that present the unpleasant truth, none coming from an establishment journalist.
Since Goerner’s Search brought down the ire of a government-media complex caught with its figurative pants down, only Amelia Earhart Lives (McGraw-Hill, 1970), written by Joe Klaas but actually Klaas’ creative transcription of famed-but-seriously-flawed researcher Joe Gervais’ delusional claim that New Jersey woman Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart returned from Japan, made any real noise. The reason for all the commotion was transparently obvious. Although the book offered solid new research that further established Earhart’s presence on Saipan in 1937, its outrageous assertion about Irene Bolam overshadowed all else, elicited a defamation lawsuit from Bolam, and forced McGraw-Hill to pull the book from circulation.
The public image of legitimate Earhart research has yet to fully recover from the damage Amelia Earhart Lives inflicted on all who have painstakingly pursued the truth – “crackpots, conspiracy theorists and nut jobs” — are a few of the more polite labels you will see and hear applied to the few of us who continue this work. Although I complain ceaselessly, I can’t even imagine what I’d be doing now if this story hadn’t found me in 1988.
The foregoing should give you a good idea about where the Earhart disappearance currently stands in our upside-down society. Although I’m sure Amelia is in Heaven enjoying this spectacle playing out beneath the celestial choirs — her patience may still be wearing thin with the fools who continue to dishonestly seek fortune and fame at her expense. Amelia and Fred were probably the first American casualties of World War II, and they deserve better than to be kicked around in national and international gutters as political footballs, or used as decoys for boondoggles and scams to line pockets already filthy will ill-gained lucre.
I’ve been taking all this quite personally since meeting Thomas E. Devine in 1988. I saw firsthand the emergent TIGHAR plague’s insidious effects on this long-suffering soul, how it gradually wore him down as TIGHAR increasingly dominated nearly all media coverage of the Earhart case. Ironically, the first Earhart story I ever wrote was for publication in Navy and Marine Corps newspapers at sea and around the world. You can’t keep the Navy out of the Earhart story, no matter how hard you try.
David Billings recently returned from his seventeenth trip to East New Britain in search of the Earhart Electra, and again he was unable to find the hidden wreck that he believes is the lost Electra 10E that Amelia Earhart flew from Lae, New Guinea on the morning of July 2, 1937.
Billings’ New Britain theory is the only hypothesis among all the various possible explanations that vary from the truth as we know it, that presents us information and poses questions that cannot be explained or answered. Unless and until the twin-engine wreck that an Australian army team found in the East New Britain jungle 1945 is rediscovered, this loose end will forever irritate and annoy researchers who take such findings seriously.
Readers can review the details of Billings’ work by reading my Dec. 5, 2016 post, New Britain theory presents incredible possibilities. Billings’ website Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project and subtitled “Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain: Second World War Australian Patrol Finds Tangible Evidence” offers a wealth of information on this unique and fascinating theory.
Billings has sent me a detailed report on the events of the last three weeks, and it’s presented below. I wish he had better news, however, as this aspect of the Earhart search is one that screams for resolution, unlike the others, which are all flat-out lies and disinformation, intended only to keep the public ignorant about Amelia’s sad fate.
SEARCHING FOR THE ELECTRA AND FOR AMELIA AND FRED
Our last expedition started on Friday, June 2, when the six members of the Australian team met at the Brisbane International Motel on the Friday evening prior to the flight out of Brisbane for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on the morning of Saturday, June 3.
We flew from Brisbane for three hours and went into transit at Port Moresby, then on to the flight which is “nominally” to Rabaul but actually Kokopo and arrived at Tokua Airport after an hour and 20 minutes, on time, and then by mini-bus to the Rapopo Plantation Resort just outside of Kokopo, which was the base for our “equipment and rations” gathering over the next two days.
The hired HiLux vehicles arrived and Sunday and Monday was spent on shopping for the major items from prepared lists and boxing all the goods up and storing them in the rooms. Money changing at the banks in Kokopo and final shopping was Tuesday for odds and ends.
The U.S. team members arrived at the Rapopo on Monday, June 5, and after their hectic flight schedule relaxed on the Tuesday ready for the road trip on Wednesday.
The Journey to Wide Bay
The road trip with all 10 members was carried out in three Toyota HiLux Dual Cab 4WD’s with diesel engines. We had walkie-talkies for contact during the drive. The road we had planned on was to be approximately 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) and we expected to be able to do this in about four and a half hours. The actual time was seven hours over very rough roads and with a planned one major river crossing and several minor river crossings. In the event, due to finding one road impassable, we were forced to ford a quite wide and substantial river which we know from previous trips can be in flood quite rapidly as it has a large watershed area stretching up into the Baining Mountains.
The supposed “sealed” roads out of Kokopo through small villages towards Kerevat town were a nightmare with potholes every few yards and the daily multitude of vehicles were weaving in and out of the potholes and wandering all over the road to avoid the holes.
A good 10 kilometers out of Kerevat town, a turnoff towards the village of Malasait brought us onto the very rough tracks that we were to use for the rest of the journey. This rough track constitutes the major part of what is euphemistically called the “East New Britain Highway.” For a detailed look at the Gazelle Peninsula in relation to the Billings search, please click here.
On the Highway
All went well over the awful rough roads until about the halfway point whereupon we came across a gigantic mudslide over a stretch of the “highway” on a downslope about 100 meters long, with ruts in the mud about 500 millimeters (19.6 inches) deep. There was a truck there which they had shed the load off of it and copra bags littered the drains as they had strived to get the truck through and they were picking the bags up on a long pole when we got there. Rain water had gone completely over this section and washed the road out. After throwing rocks into the deepest rutted sections and pushing the loose mud down also, we managed to get through this area in four-wheel drive. We had to remember this section of “road” and prepare for it for the return journey.
Shortly after this, we crossed the Sambei River No. 2, in a wide sweeping arc with water just over the wheel hubs which allowed us to stay on the shallowest parts and then continued on the way.
At this river crossing we had met up with a local man who said he was going to the Lamerien area and we followed him along a newly cut forestry road which joined up with the old road near to the turn-off to Awungi then we entered the steep descending curves down into the Mevelo River Valley and expected to turn off to the right to follow the track through the Mumus and Yarras River Valleys. However, our guide drove straight ahead to a security guard post leading into the Palm Oil Plantation, sited on the northern side of the Mevelo River. On realizing that we were being led into the Palm Oil Plantation the expectation then was that the bridge over the Mevelo which we could see “not completed” in Satellite views must then be “completed,” which would mean we could cross the wide Mevelo River with ease.
The Mevelo River
After driving through the Palm Oil roads for about 40 minutes we came to the Mevelo River and our hopes were dashed! There was no bridge. We had seen a bridge with a very nearly completed driving span in the satellite pictures with but one span to be completed. What we were now looking at was a damaged bridge with no roadway across the pylons. The Mevelo River is a very fast flowing river in flood and an earlier flood had obviously caused the bridge supports to move and the bridge had collapsed.
The bridge was down, destroyed by the “mighty” Mevelo at some time in a flood. Several of the old shipping containers that had been used as ballast cans for rocks to hold and support the concrete bridgeworks had been moved out of position by the strength of the flow of water down the Mevelo River and now we were left with a choice — we must now ford the river or turn back.
Luckily, while we had a rest stop close to the access road to the river, I had seen two Toyota Land Cruiser troop carrier vehicles come out of the track entrance to the river and sure enough when we arrived at the river, there were the wet wheel tracks of these vehicles left behind on the steep entrance into the river, so we decided to go across, fording the river in the HiLux in H4, in four-wheel drive. I went first and kept a straight line across and the water was deeper over on the far side of the river and estimated to be just at wheel height. The second vehicle came across and then Matt took a different wider line and we could see water up to the bonnet before the front end of the vehicle reared up out of the water onto dry land. A sigh of relief went up from all watching!
The Old Track
What we now know is that the former old track (part of which I have previously walked) which leads out of the Mevelo Valley and up to the Mumus and Yarras River Valleys, our planned route, is totally overgrown and cannot be used. It is a seven-hour 166 kilometer (106 miles) drive from Kokopo to Lamerien over very rough roads with what we thought were two major river crossings. We had three large rivers to cross, only one of which was bridged.
Change to the Planning
The crossing of the Mevelo River by the ford, which was forced upon us by the closure of the now “overgrown road” out of the Mevelo Valley meant that we had to rethink our carefully laid plans on several aspects: The Americans had appointments to keep on their return so had to get back for their flights. We got to the campsite on Thursday, June 7 and managed to get the tents up before dark. That left a maximum for them of six nights in the camp but in the light of the river fords (particularly the Mevelo River ford) we had to gauge intervals in the rain to get back over the Mevelo River, which was accessed as the biggest obstacle.
1. The American participants had a maximum of seven nights/six days at Wide Bay and had to return to Kokopo, the seventh day had been planned as the “return to Kokopo day.”
2. Originally it had been planned for two vehicles to return with the American participants and then one vehicle return to Wide Bay on the same day. It was now deemed too dangerous for one vehicle to make the trip back due possible breakdown on the rough roads or getting bogged on the mudslide. This planned return trip would take two days if carried out.
3. The drive cannot be done Kokopo to Wide Bay (Lamerien) and back in one day, it had been planned as a one-day trip because “if the river crossings were possible on that day in the morning” then they would still be able to be crossed later in the day. The two-day return trip negated that idea.
4. More importantly, we would have to ford the Mevelo River on a return journey and to that there was no alternative, the Mevelo River had to be crossed in order to get back to Kokopo with the vehicles, that meant the surety of a day when the river ford was at a low point.
5. We also had to make a contingency for the 100-meter-long mudslide in the road at roughly the halfway point, after the Sambei River, which doubtless would not have been repaired by the time of our return. This meant that lengths of logs had to be carried both for ballast in crossing the two main river fords and as fill to drop into the ruts on the mudslide section. The chainsaw also had to return with the vehicles in case of the need for more wood.
Secondary Jungle Visited Three Times
It rained the first night (Thursday) and Friday afternoon we made it up the hill. Since 2012 it has become just a tangled mess up there, the old bulldozer tracks are barely visible and the tree roots across the ground hold pools of water making it treacherous.
The climb up to the top of the hill can be quite steep in places and with the rain it was very slippery and some assistance was needed in paces and the willing hands of the young men of the village gave that assistance. The hill height is around 420 feet and the start level is 150 feet, so it is a tough climb over 270 feet of elevation.
It rained the second night for three hours with lightning and thunder rolls and lashing rain from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m., and then more rain during that new day. June is supposed to be the “drier” month of the year. We went up the hill three times, it rained while we were in there.
Due to the available time for the Americans in the team, the rain, the rising rivers to cross and the vehicles to be got across the rivers, we had to consider getting out at an opportune time with the biggest obstacle, the Mevelo River, at a low point. We watched the Mevelo on a daily basis. The Mevelo went down a bit and we took the opportunity to get out on Monday, June 12. Seven hours later we were back in Kokopo.
“East New Britain Highway” is Atrocious
Back to the mudslide! Yes, the mudslide was still there and still about 100 meters long, but this time on the return, on an upslope. We had to remember that stretch for going back so we cut some logs the length of the HiLux tray and took two layers of 5-foot round logs back with us both as ballast for the river crossing and to patch up the road when we got to the mudslide. When we got there a big truck was bogged in, but luckily off to the side, so we gave them a shovel, then we filled in the deeper parts of one rut with the logs we carried and I went first with one wheel side in the rut and the other on the center “heap of slime,” and in H4 we all got through but it was close-run thing. All the villagers that were working on the road cheered! Most of the road is laterite where a bulldozer has shaved off the top soil and exposed the rock underneath but this section was just mud. The roads must be terrible on the HiLux suspension and most of the journey is in first and second gear with occasional third being used.
Where do we go from here?
It is obvious that we cannot use vehicles again until the roads improve and bridges are built, that means use and reliance on a helicopter again, for “in” and “out,” with additional expense.
The idea was that by using vehicles we could cut down the expense and carry as much as we liked to make the camp comfortable. We had also intended to go down to the Ip River where a World War II wreck had been reported about 10 years ago and to which no one has been to identify, so we had thought that we would do that, but the villagers told us that the coast track was impassable.
All the film taken will now be used to make a documentary concerning the search for the aircraft wreck seen in 1945, which I am convinced on the basis of the documentary evidence on the World War II map and the visual description by the Army veterans, is the elusive Electra. We shall have to wait and see what interest is generated by the documentary.
Queensland, Australia (June 20, 2017)
Billings’ next trip to East New Britain will be his eighteenth, if he indeed makes it, and if persistence means anything at all, perhaps he will finally locate the wrecked airplane he believes was Amelia Earhart’s bird. I wish him the best of luck, as he will surely need it. If you’d like to contribute to his cause, you can visit his website, Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project for details.
Regular readers of this blog know that defenders of the truth in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart are few and far between, and that those who have done so publicly are rare indeed. The old generation of Earhart researchers has passed away — names like Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Thomas E. Devine and Bill Prymak, to whom we owe so much. Despite the efforts of these intrepid souls, the sad truth about the tragic deaths of Amelia and Fred Noonan on Saipan remains a sacred cow in Washington and throughout the American establishment, never to be discussed publicly unless to deprecate as the delusion of “conspiracy theorists.”
Few know this better than Rob Ellos, 66, of Stillwater, Minnesota, a self-styled presentation artist who knows that the best way to overcome the media’s hostility to the truth — at least locally — is to take it directly to the people, bypass the fourth estate filter and forget about getting establishment approval. As a result, countless seniors have become educated about the facts in the Earhart case — “Earhart travesty” is another, more appropriate term for this phenomenon, arguably the most misunderstood and misreported event in American history.
If not for the efforts of Rob Ellos, these now-enlightened souls would most probably have never learned the truth, unless they were looking for it on Amazon.com, where they can find Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. But in the Twin Cities area, as in nearly every other in this nation, who else would have told them the truth about Amelia’s sad end?
To my knowledge, it’s a public service that only Ellos and this writer are currently providing, although Ellos has generated far more interest in the better-educated, more genteel Twin Cities area than I’ve managed in Jacksonville, Fla., where securing speaking engagements is harder than pulling teeth. Ellos even attracted local media attention last summer, when he was featured in the St. Croix Valley Area Lowdown in a June 21, 2016 article, “Stillwater researcher seeks the truth about Amelia Earhart.”
Ellos has presented his signature program, “I know what really happened to Amelia Earhart,” at assisted living centers, senior centers, airline pilot groups, church banquets and libraries since 2005. Using a model of Amelia Earhart’s Electra Model 10E, a recording of her voice, large graphic maps and many other props including over 100 photos that he allows his audience to “pass around,” Ellos has entertained and enlightened thousands of fortunate seniors since 2005. Some can still remember sitting with their families, glued to their radios in their living rooms, hoping against hope that their beloved Amelia would be found in those desperate days of early July 1937. Today’s 90-year-olds were 10 in 1937.
“Since I started giving ‘AE DISAPPEARANCE’ talks (my first was on February 28, 2005), I have given 129 programs to seniors and aviation groups,” Ellos wrote in a recent email. “Also, I have 25 repeat sites so far that have had me in at least twice.” One facility has had Ellos eight times. (Italics mine.)
“In 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were on one of the last legs of their attempt to fly around the world at the equator,” Ellos writes in his current Earhart Disappearance Flyer. “Leaving Lae, New Guinea on July 2nd, flying across the ocean, they had U.S.-held Howland Island as their destination. They never arrived. One hour after their last radio transmission, the U.S. Navy began a huge air, sea, and land search that spanned 18 days. They did not find anything, and concluded that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan crashed and sank in the ocean somewhere near Howland Island, and drowned.”
Next, taken directly from Ellos’ flyer, he spells out the bottom line, the dirty little “secret” in the Earhart disappearance, which the public never hears from our trusted media:
“Though it is only hearsay,” Ellos wrote in a recent email, “it does strengthen our case to mention the ‘casual’ [military member] from Hopkins, Minnesota, who was on layover to Okinawa that heard that Amelia’s plane had been found on Saipan; the GI from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, that stood up at the end and said, ‘All that Rob has been telling us is true. I was on Saipan and was told that Amelia’s plane had been found there,’ and the man last week in Maplewood, Minnesota, who said that he was steaming through the Marshall Islands on a troop ship in World War II, and someone pointed to an island, and said, ‘Amelia Earhart was there,’ although he could not recall which island it was.”
In 2005, shortly after he contacting me for the first time, Ellos called Robert E. Wallack, among the most important and vocal of the Saipan GI witnesses, who, ironically, lived in Woodbridge, Conn., just a stone’s throw away from Thomas E. Devine’s West Haven home. (For more background on Wallack’s role in the Earhart saga, please see our Sept. 28, 2015 post, “Son Bill tells Robert Wallack’s amazing story.” Just as the friendly old Marine had welcomed me, so did he gladly receive Ellos’ attention, and the two developed a fast friendship.
“Robert was not Internet savvy, so we spent lots of time on the phone,” Ellos recalled, “and sent lots of mail back and forth. Robert sent me Marine Corps photos from Saipan, which I put in my program, and one of himself and one of his soldier buddies. He also sent a large magazine front page from the Amity (Connecticut) Observer, which I still use in my talk about Amelia’s disappearance. Robert is in the headline and a large photo of him on the cover as well. He also sent me a glossy photo of him and a Marine buddy crawling ashore, on the beach near Chalan Kanoa, Saipan, from Leatherneck magazine, and I use that in my talk as well. They were crawling as Japanese bullets were flying just over their heads, as well as shrapnel, and mortar strikes nearby
Robert was fun to talk with as he was friendly and passionate about spreading the fact that he found Amelia Earhart’s briefcase from the Electra,” Ellos continued, “with all her official papers in it — passports, flight itinerary maps, certificates to get in and out of countries, etc. I have an-over-the phone-taped interview from him to me. He said that the safe was about six-feet tall and about four-feet wide. They were in a collapsed building in Garapan city looking for souvenirs, when they noticed that something solid was blocking part of the roof from totally collapsing. It was the safe.”
In his presentations, Ellos uses a briefcase similar to the one Wallack described finding in the safe on Saipan, and even simulates the explosion and discovery of the incredible evidence that revealed the presence of Amelia Earhart on Saipan in the years preceding the 1944 Battle of Saipan.
Ellos doesn’t confine himself to telling seniors the unpleasant truth in the Earhart saga; in fact, these programs are a very small part of the menu he offers local residents. By his most recent count, Ellos says he’s given an astounding 6,131 presentations over the last 30 years on a variety of subjects including science, nature and technology, as well as about 100 presentations of “Amelia Earhart: America’s Most Famous Woman’s Pilot!” which he offers to elementary and even pre-school children. His presentations, “Remembering the Challenger & Columbia Space Shuttle Disasters: A Tribute to Their Crews” and “Apollo to the Moon” are audience favorites, and his programs on “Amazing Sharks,” “Florida’s Manatees” and “The Octopus” have also been well received.
“I started by giving school assemblies, these were two or three programs at a school in the morning. K-2, grades 4-6,” Ellos explained. ” Also, sometimes I gave assemblies at an entire school district, eight different elementary schools, two to three programs in the morning, two to three programs at another school nearby in the afternoon. I also gave residencies at one school at a time, where I would set up a ‘Space Lab’ for one to two weeks, and different grades would come to the Space Lab, all day long to hear my talks/demonstrations. Also, I have been giving preschool programs for many years, often two or three in the morning (toddlers, preschool . . . and sometimes, also, school age [in the summer]). I also gave after-school programs, school-release day programs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, libraries, family night programs, etc.”
Ellos lived near the Johnson Space Center, has a master of science degree from the University of Houston and had Space Shuttle astronauts as neighbors. He knew Ron McNair, a mission specialist on Challenger’s last flight, Jan. 28, 1986, and spoke for McNair and the Challenger astronauts at the dedication of the Challenger Memorial Sculpture in New Brighton, Minnesota.
Discerning readers have probably gleaned that Ellos is a friend of mine, and though that’s true, I wanted to keep that element out of the story until now so that I could maintain a certain level of objectivity in this presentation. But Rob Ellos is a rare individual, and I’m honored to call him my friend. I’m sure Amelia will say the same thing to him someday.