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.
“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 kept 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.