In the entire history of reviews of the handful of books that present aspects of the truth in the Earhart disappearance, only two are memorable. The first was the Sept. 16, 1966 Time magazine unbylined attack against Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart, titled “Sinister Conspiracy?” and still available online, though you have to subscribe to the source to see it now. My commentary about Time’s hit piece, “The Search for Amelia Earhart”: Setting the stage for 50 years of media deceit,” was posted June 21, 2016; you can read it by clicking here. Goerner, a KCBS radio personality in San Francisco, was the only real newsman to ever seriously investigate the Earhart case.
The only other significant review of an Earhart disappearance work was Jeffrey Hart’s examination of Vincent V. Loomis’ Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, which appeared in William F. Buckley’s National Review in the Oct. 18, 1985 issue, but is no longer available online.
Hart wasn’t an Earhart researcher, and his belief about the reason Earhart reached Mili is the same pure speculation that Loomis advanced. But Hart was a well-known establishment pundit, critic and columnist, and wrote for National Review for more than three decades, where he was senior editor. He wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan while he was governor of California, and for Richard Nixon. Now 88, Jeffrey Hart is professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire. No one of similar stature has ever written a review of an Earhart disappearance book.
I’ll have a bit more to say, but here is Jeffrey Hart’s review of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, originally titled “The Rest of the Story.” Boldface is mine throughout.
AS A BOY I was thrilled with horror when Amelia Earhart disappeared somewhere out over the Pacific during the summer of 1937. She had been the first woman to fly the Atlantic, and now she and her navigator were trying to circle the globe at the equator. She rather disliked being called “Lady Lindy” by the press, because she wanted her own independent identity, but the odd thing was that she looked a little like Lindbergh: thin, with short hair and a wide grin, somehow quintessentially American.
On her last flight she and her navigator Fred Noonan, flew an advanced-model twin-engine aluminum Electra specially designed for the trip. It was known to the press as the “Flying Laboratory.” On July 2, 1937, all contact with the plane was lost, and searches by U.S. ships and planes failed to turn up any trace of Miss Earhart, Noonan, or the plane. As far as anyone at the time knew, they had simply disappeared into that vast blueness, like Hart Crane off the Orizzaba.
It turns out that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were the first casualties of the coming Pacific war with the Japanese. Vincent Loomis, a former USAF pilot with extensive Pacific experience, became fascinated with the Earhart mystery and made it his business to solve it, which he had done. lt is a remarkable, enormously romantic, and heartbreaking story. Loomis went to the Pacific, traveled around the relevant islands, and found natives who had seen the plane crash and had seen Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. He interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved, and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents. The mystery is a mystery no longer.
For all her frame and accomplishments, Amelia Earhart was an innocent flying out over the Pacific. She and Noonan were also incompetent navigators and did not know how to work their state-of-the-art equipment. They were thus more than a hundred miles off course flying right into the middle of the secret war plans of the Japanese empire* when they ran out of fuel and had to ditch the Electra. (Editor’s note: Amelia never claimed to be a navigator at all, but Noonan was recognized as among the best in the world at the time of the final flight.)
By 1937 the Japanese had long since concluded that war with the United States for control of the western Pacific was inevitable. They were hatching plans with Hitler to divide up the British, French, and Dutch possessions that would be vulnerable as a result of the coming European war. The projected Japanese empire, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, would have its large mainland anchor in a China the Japanese were attempting to conquer, and The Pacific islands would be the first line of defense against the U.S. Navy. The Japanese knew that the United States was unlikely to tolerate their geopolitical plans and would be decidedly hostile to any monopolistic co-prosperity sphere run from Tokyo.
The Japanese had acquired control of the key Pacific islands at the end of World War I under a League of Nations mandate. In violation of international law, they were pouring military resources into them. All Japanese military personnel worked in civilian clothes. Newly paved airstrips were marked as “farms” on the maps. Foreign visitors were absolutely excluded. If the local natives obeyed the Japanese rules they were treated fairly, and the Japanese even married some of them. An infraction, however, could mean instant death.
On July 2, 1937, bewildered and lost, Amelia Earhart crash-landed in the middle of all this, putting the Electra down and running into an atoll near Mili Mili a principal military position in the Japanese Marshall Island chain. The Japanese took her and Noonan prisoner and tried to figure out what to do with them. They could hardly release them, not knowing what they had seen. Perhaps the American fliers could blow the whistle on the whole secret operation. They might even be spies. Actually, they had seen nothing.
The two Americans were shipped to Japanese military headquarters on Saipan and jailed. The conditions were miserable, but not unusual for that time and place. The jail was not set up to serve food to the prisoners, mostly natives, whose meals were brought to them by relatives. But the jailers did provide the two Americans with soup, fish, and so forth, though of very poor quality, and with medical treatment. When an exasperated Fred Noonan threw a foul bowl of soup at a Japanese jailer, he was forced to dig his own grave and was immediately beheaded. Japanese culture was not especially permissive in 1937.
After a while, Miss Earhart was allowed a limited amount of freedom and made friends with native families, some of whom Loomis interviewed. She was permitted visits to these friends, and her diet and spirits improved. In mid-1938, however, life in the tropics proved too much for her and she came down with a severe case of dysentery, weakened rapidly, and died there on Saipan. She does not seem to have grasped the significance of what she had stumbled upon and witnessed; ironically enough, she was a philosophical pacifist. The Japanese military asked the natives to provide a wreath for her, and she was buried with Noonan.
One curious footnote to the story is that the present Japanese government, democratic and pro-Western as it supposedly is, has been covering the whole thing up. Today’s Tokyo will not admit, in the face of absurdly obvious proof, that the imperial government was violating the terms of its mandate by militarizing the islands, claiming that everything the islands, claiming that everything going on had to do with “culture” and fishing — no one here but us Japanese Margaret Meads and a few fishing boats. Nor will today’s Tokyo admit that the imperial government lied fifty years ago when it covered up the Amelia Earhart matter. Of course no U.S. Navy search vessels were allowed anywhere near the Marshall Islands. The Japanese claimed that they themselves were doing all the necessary searching. Loomis shows that the “search ships” were in Tokyo Bay at the time. It is odd that the present government cannot admit to the demonstrable facts; it must represent some sort of face-saving. But Tokyo has run out of luck on this one. Vincent Loomis has the documents, the testimony of the Pacific islanders, local Catholic nuns, Japanese medics and seamen.
It is all very poignant. One sees that the Japanese military among whom Amelia Earhart lived for about a year could not begin to comprehend her, this woman pilot, this . . . American. But the evidence is that the Japanese who knew her, if from a very great cultural distance, nevertheless bemusedly admired her. (End of Hart review.)
Hart wrote an accurate, unbiased review of The Final Story, but neither the U.S. government or anyone else in the media got his memo that “the mystery is a mystery no longer.” Not only did they disagree, and still do, but Hart’s review has been expunged from the Internet, where the hard copy I have is taken from Encyclopedia.com in 2007. I don’t know when the review was removed, but there’s no doubt about why it’s gone, and I’m not going to repeat here how sacred cows get even better with age.
Within the past year, plugging the name Amelia Earhart into the Amazon.com search engine has resulted in over 1,500 results for books; recently, for some unknown reason, that number has fallen to “over 1,000” in the same category. Nevertheless, many books have been penned about our ageless American heroine, but of these thousand or so, only about 10 actually present aspects of the truth about the Earhart case. The rest, 99.9 percent, are biographies, novels, children’s books (the biggest sellers) and assorted fantasies — all except the good biographies only muddle the picture and further obscure the truth.
The indisputable fact that this phenomenon exists tells us something is very wrong with the media’s relationship to the Earhart story. For the most recent example of media propaganda and malfeasance, we need only turn to our trusted Fox News and its June 27 non-news piece, “Amelia Earhart signed document discovered in attic box.” Moreover, Fox News has never allowed my name or the title of Truth at Last to stand in the comments section of any of its Earhart stories, to my knowledge.
As I wrote at the top of this post, Fred Goerner was the only newsman to ever publicly advocate for the Saipan-Marshall Islands truth in the Earhart disappearance. When you consider the few important books written about the so-called “Earhart mystery,” consider also the authors of these works. Obscure non-journalists such as Thomas E. Devine, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Joe Davidson and T.C. “Buddy” Brennan produced the important tomes about the Earhart matter. Paul Briand Jr., who authored the seminal work of the genre, Daughter of the Sky, in 1960, was an English professor at the Air Force Academy. Bill Prymak, an engineer by trade, was not an author, but his assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters is as important as any but a few of the books, though the newsletters are unavailable to the public.
Why hasn’t any newsperson, author or journalist except Fred Goerner ever investigated the Earhart story? The question is rhetorical, of course, as the few who read this blog know, but its answer reveals the real problem.