Goerner blasts “Amelia Earhart Lives” in ’71 letter

Today we present another installment in the fascinating correspondence between Fred Goerner and Fred Hooven.  In this March 1971 letter from Goerner, he treats Hooven to a scathing review of Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, Joe Klaas’ 1970 bid for Earhart glory that will forever live in infamy as the most damaging of all the Earhart disappearance books ever penned. 

Thanks chiefly to Klaas, an otherwise fine writer with nine books to his credit, and his precocious crony Joe Gervais, whose multiple delusions are featured throughout Amelia Earhart Lives, legitimate Earhart research, particularly of the kind that supports and reveals the Marshall Islands-Saipan truth, has been forever tainted in the public mind and more eagerly discredited by the establishment media, already dead set against release of the truth since the earliest days.

The centerpiece of the insanity in Amelia Earhart Lives is Gervais’ “recognition” of Amelia Earhart, returned from Japan, in the person of American housewife Mrs. Guy (Irene) Bolam, who he met on Aug. 8, 1965 at the Sea Spray Inn on the Dunes, in East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y.  If you’re not familiar with the story behind this catastrophe, I wrote a four-part series that will tell you far more than you probably want to know.

It begins with my Dec. 29, 2015 post, Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IVand continues consecutively, describing the entire sordid affair and its incredible aftermath.  But here’s Goerner’s 1971 missive to Hooven, which boils it all down to a neat little dollop.  (Boldface mine throughout.)


Dear Fred,                                                       March 2, 1971

How are you and Martha?  Are you completely recovered from your accident?  Are you ever coming back to S.F.?  Merla has two wall clocks she wants fixed and I am totally incapable.

This letter is months overdue.  The passage of time apparently is accelerating.  Then, too, the longer letters always come last.  Human nature, I guess, to tackle the shorties first.  Give more of a feeling of accomplishment to mail ten short letters rather than one long one.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year, by the way, and since neither of us bother with cards.

Joe Gervais, left, the father of the Earhart-as-Bolam theory, and Joe Klaas, his right-hand man and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a news photo from the Washington Daily News of Nov. 19, 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation.  The book’s stunning success was short-circuited when Irene Bolam sued McGraw-Hill for defamation and the book was pulled from bookstore shelves after seven weeks.  Bolam won an undisclosed settlement that was rumored to be quite substantial.

Amelia Earhart is not alive and well and living in New Jersey — and nowhere else.  Unfortunately.  How those guys thought they were going to get away with that gambit I haven’t yet been able to figure out.  I guess they figured that the truth is so hard to come by these days that it would never really catch up with them.

I think they were both smoking pot when they dreamed up their script.  In case you didn’t get it all, it goes like this:

AE and Noonan are shot down by Japanese carrier aircraft onto Hull Island in the Phoenix Group from whence they are picked up and spirited first to Saipan and then to Japan.  FDR is blackmailed by the Japanese into giving up the plans for the Hughes racing plane which is adapted by the Japanese into the Zero fighter plane.  AE is kept prisoner in the Imperial Palace and during WWII she is forced to broadcast to American troops under the guise of Tokyo Rose.  And the end of WWII, Emperor Hirohito trades AE back to the U.S. with the bargain that he be permitted to retain the Japanese throne.  AE is sneaked back to the U.S. disguised as a Catholic nun whereupon she assumed the identity of one Irene (Mrs. Guy) Bolam.

If it were not for the fact that Mrs. Bolam was outraged, the authors might have achieved their purpose: A bestseller.  Mrs. Bolam scuttled them with dispatch and McGraw-Hill took a black eye.  Yet the human willingness to suspend disbelief always amazes me.  Some people accepted the entire creation and it is no small task to disabuse them of that desire to believe in limitless conspiracy.

Photo taken in Honolulu in 1935 and referenced by Fred Goerner, above, from Amelia Earhart Lives.  The original caption stated, “Kimono-lad Amelia Earhart being served in a Japanese tea room.  This unique photo was planted [sic] and recently found in Joe Gervais’ safe.” Joe Gervais was alive and well at the time of this book’s publication, so the cryptic language about where the photo was found makes no sense at all, like so much of Amelia Earhart Lives. 

Enclosed find a recent epistle from AE’s sister, Mrs. Albert Morrissey, which reveals how the family felt about the disclosures [not available].  The photo Muriel mentions is one the two authors submitted as placing AE in Japanese custody in Japan.  In the photo, AE is wearing the kimono and bracelet referred to by Mrs. Morrissey.  The photo was actually taken in a Japanese restaurant in Honolulu in 1935 at the time of AE’s Hawaii to California solo flight.

Along with that small flaw, nothing else in the book bears scrutiny, either.  For instance, Hull Island was populated with several hundred persons in 1927 under British administration.  U.S. Navy planes landed in the Hull Island lagoon in the week following the AE disappearance, and no sign of AE or the Japanese had been seen by anyone.  As Hull is a very tiny coral atoll, there was no mistake.  The authors, however, produced a photo supposed taken from a U.S. Navy plane above Hull Island which shows the wreckage of AE’s plane on a beach with a Japanese flag planed beside it.  The picture also shows some rather large hills in the background.  This provides some embarrassment because the highest point of land on Hull rises only nine feet above sea level.

Ah, but they have really muddied the waters.  I despair at reaching anything like the complete truth at this point.  But I will keep trying simply because my nature is such that I don’t know how to do anything else.

This front-page story that appeared in The News Tribune Woodbridge New Jersey) on Dec. 17, 1982 illustrates the depths of insane speculation that Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais unleashed with their 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives, unarguably the most damaging of all Earhart disappearance books, in that its outrageous claims forever tainted legitimate Earhart research in the public’s mind.  The negative repercussions of this book continue to be felt in the Earhart research community, or at least what’s left of it.    

(Editor’s note: So compelling was the siren song of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth that some otherwise rational souls remained in its thrall even after the overwhelming evidence against this pernicious lie became well known.  Soon after Amelia Earhart Lives hit the streets, Irene Bolam filed a defamation lawsuit against McGraw-Hill that forced the publisher to pull all copies of the book bookshelves nationwide, and Bolam reportedly settled for a huge, undisclosed sum. 

In 2003, retired Air Force Col. Rollin C. Reineck, a charter member of the Amelia Earhart Society, self-published Amelia Earhart Survived, possibly the worst Earhart disappearance book ever, in a vain attempt to resurrect the odiferous corpse of the Bolam theory.  To this day, there are some who continue to push this insidious nonsense upon the unwary.)

We never have gotten launched on that final Pacific jaunt.  One thing after another after three others has always emerged.  Now I’m shooting for this summer with some Air Force cooperation.  Canton Island, which has air facilities and close to the area we wish to search, is currently under Air Force-SAMSO (Space and Missile Systems Organization) control.  I addressed the Air Force Academy Cadets and their faculty two weeks ago on the Credibility Gap, and I believe we have an arrangement forged for the necessary cooperation.  If you have changed your mind with respect to a little light adventure, let me know. [See Truth at Last pages 174-175 for more on Goerner’s expedition that never got under way.]

Within the last few weeks there has been an interesting development: A Mrs. Ellen Belotti of Las Vegas, Nevada, came forward with some reports from the Pan American Airways radio direction finder stations at Wake, Midway and Honolulu which deal with the Earhart case.  Mrs. Belotti was secretary to G.W. Angus, Director of Communications for Pan [sic] in 1937, and she was given the task of coordinating the reports.  She states that one day several U.S. Navy officers who identified themselves as from the Office of U.S. Naval Intelligence appeared at the office (PAN AM) and confiscated all of the reports dealing with Earhart.  She says the Pan Am people were warned at the time not to discuss the matter with anyone, and that the reports were to be considered secret and any copies of the reports were to be destroyed.

Mrs. Belotti says she decided not to destroy her copies of the reports because she believed the Navy did not have the right to require that of Pan Am.  She also felt a fair shake was not being given to her idol, Amelia.

She did, however, keep silence over all the years, but now she thinks the truth should be told.

The reports really don’t tell very much except for the fact that some signals were picked up by the three Pan Am stations which they believed came from Earhart.  The bearings place the location of the signals in the Phoenix Island area between Canton and Howland Island.  Strangely, the time of the reception of the signals matches up with reports of amateur radio operators along the West Coast who stated they had received signals from the AE plane.

The only reason I can think of that the Navy would want to quash such information is that Naval Intelligence Communications were not anxious for the Japanese to learn that we had such effective high-frequency DF’s in operation in the Pacific.  Much valuable intelligence information was gained between 1938 and 1941 by DF’s monitoring Japanese fleet activity in the Pacific area, and particularly within the Japanese mandated islands.

I have also enclosed copies of the Pan Am reports for you to peruse.  I’d love to hear your opinion of them.

Merla is doing great.  Still turning out her column for the S.F. CHRONICLE.  She joins me in sending warm, warm, warm, warm, warm, best wishes to you both and in issuing a permanent invitation for you to come and be our house guests for as long as you like.

Completely cordially,


Fred Goerner died in 1994, Joe Gervais in 2005, and in 2016 Joe Klaas passed away at age 95.  It’s a shame that Klaas should be remembered chiefly for writing history’s most notorious and controversial Earhart book, as he led a remarkable life distinguished by more admirable achievements.

Klaas began his World War II service by flying British Supermarine Spitfires as an American volunteer in the Royal Air Force.  After Pearl Harbor, Klaas transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force and fought in the North African invasion of Morocco, as well as the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, where he was shot down and captured by Arabs who sold him to the Nazis for $20.  Klaas spent 25 months in German prison camps, escaped to be recaptured and worked for the X-Committee that planned “The Great Escape” from prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III.  

For more on Klaas’ life and World War II exploits, please click here.

10 responses

  1. David Billings | Reply

    OH ! My Goodness ! All those memories of the days and weeks after I joined the “Amelia Earhart Society Forum” in 2002, only to find it populated by “Bolamites” led by Joe Gervais and the text of the forum littered with Red Herrings perpetrated and cast by Joe Klaas. Plus there were a plethora of other weird contributrs (Including me, I guess).

    I lost count of the times I challanged Joe Klaas to produce evidence to back up his claims, many of which centred around Earhart exchangig the Electra Model 10E for the pressurised Lockheed XC-35 “somehwere on an airfield north or south of LAE”…and his other pet subject “The Weishen Concentration camp” in China, where Earhart was supposedly held by the sons of Nippon. Klaas never did produced anything which smacked of evidence at all to back anything that he said about Earhart’s disappearance.

    Then there was the guy who was on a U.S. aircraft carrier that stood off Hull Island (?) and only he could see the Electra and Fred’s navigation table through the open back fdoor… He also saw the missing Sikorsky S42 flying boat there and both aircraft being winched abourd Howard Hughes ‘Glomar Explorer’…. Finally, there was Colonel Rollin Reineck and his fantasies which culminated in a book which he just had to write and get vanity published as mentioned by Mike… Earhart supposedly crashing on Ni’hau Island in the Hawaiian Chain, where it rests to this day! I have an audio file somewhere of Reineck’s phone interview with Monsignor JF Kelly about Earhart being returned from Japan after being released by the Emperor and haing her head shaved to check for microchips… the audio tape is a roll on the floor event…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I met Joe Klaas on a tour to Jaluit with Bill Prymak and his AE Group in late 1990’s. It was a wonderful tour, with 9 other AE investigators, on the vessel “Charles Angel”. Only sadly interrupted by angry occasional commentary by Joe related to the loss of his grand-daughter Polly Klaas, as the trial had recently ended. Even with this horrible background, his AE commentary was wonderful, as was bill Prymak’s, which only made me more amazed he could write such an off-the-wall AE book, which had little logical historical merit on sooo many levels. He should of just smiled and claimed it was fiction, then everyone would have laughed and moved on. Never did understand his basis for his book.

    But he could sure get angry in his eyes, and I would have gladly helped him get the back door open to the courtroom…and now, due to a super liberal California Governor, Polly’s killer, Marc Davis, still alive today, has gotten a pass…https://www.kron4.com/news/california/watch-father-of-murder-victim-polly-klaas-speaks-out-after-newsom-halts-death-row-executions/1845880472

    What a world.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have heard the b.s. story about Hughes helping to develop the zero. I never knew that the b.s. was ever extended into the A.E. disappearance. I guess garbage attracts garbage. What a story though…made for Hollywood. God help us that it never makes it to the silver screen. Disinformation through movies is very hard to counter with truth.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. *Great piece Mike!

    These two yarn spinners join the long list of hokum & comic sublimity.
    (it’s not even good nonsense)


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you, Mike, for reprinting Fred’s letter here. It serves to continually rebuff those who would resurrect this old chestnut and who are not privy to the truth. Hang in there, Mike, and continue to fight the good fight. Be well, my old friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To Matt Holly: I had no idea that Joe Klaas was related to the young girl, Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped and murdered. Thank you for making the connection here. It is certainly a shame that her murderer, Richard Allen Davis, remains on death row in California, apparently to never be executed now.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mike,

    You’ve done it again.

    Thanks for sharing this historical tid-bit. Sharing your research so incredibly done helps keep the historical record honest. Glad to be associated with true professionals. Also, thanks to David Billings and the others for sharing their insights.


  8. OMG!- I had no idea Joe Klaas was related to Polly Klaas and her kidnapping. That case was very prominent here in the San Francisco bay area for many months. Hard to believe anyone would swallow that story of Amelia returning to the US after the war. Although, you can imagine those people who wanted to believe that their beloved Amelia did not crash into the ocean, but survived to live on.


    Liked by 1 person

  9. William H. Trail | Reply


    I have always found it absolutely astounding that three seemingly well educated, reasonable and rational men — Reineck, Klass, and Gervais ( a Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and a Major no less) — could concoct and promulgate such incredible and utter nonsense. One can only wonder at their true motivation.

    All best,


    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reading, Writing, Rhythm & Blues | Reply

    Well written! Good info.


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