The late Bill Prymak’s abundant contributions to Earhart research, though ignored and unappreciated everywhere else in our know-nothing media, are gifts that keep on giving to readers of this blog and Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. Bill, the founder and former president of the Amelia Earhart Society, who passed away in July 2014 at 86, was the central hub and repository of the writings, reports, analyses and speculations of a wide variety of Earhart researchers.
This material’s accuracy, also quite variable, must be carefully sifted to separate the wheat from the chaff, and was compiled in his two-volume Assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, covering Prymak’s AES Newsletters from December 1989 to March 2000.
The following treasure appeared in the January 1997 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and concerns a familiar face among the Saipan witnesses, Joaquina M. Cabrera, and a revealing interview she did with Joe Gervais, Capt. Jose Quintanilla, Guam chief of police; and Eddie Camacho, Guam chief of detectives, during their 1960 Guam interviews. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
“THE STRANGE STORY OF INTERVIEW #23”
When Joe Gervais and Joe Klaas presented their manuscript of Amelia Earhart Lives  to McGraw-Hill, it was bulging with some 650 pages of research work. Much good material had to be trimmed to meet the publisher’s mandate not to exceed 275 pages in final form, and it has always bugged Gervais that one of his most profound witnesses had a crucial part of her testimony stricken from the book by the editors. Major Gervais recreates that scene for us, the way it should have been presented in the book:
At Chalan Kanoa, a village on Saipan, the investigators located Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera, fifty-one, who during 1937 and 1938 had been employed as a servant in the [Kobayashi Royakan] hotel.
“l used to have to take a list of the persons staying in the hotel to the island governor’s office each day,” Mrs. Cabrera remembered. “One day when I was doing this I saw two Americans in the back of a three-wheeled vehicle. Their hands were bound behind them, and they were blindfolded. One of them was an American woman.”
Gervais showed her a photo of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. “Are these the two you saw?”
She squinted at the photograph. “They look like the same people I saw, and they are dressed the same way.”
“What happened to them?”
“I only saw them once in the three-wheeled truck. I don’t know what happened to them.”
The threesome, Capt. Jose Quintanilla, Guam Chief of Police; Eddie Camacho, Guam Chief of Detectives, and Capt. Gervais, were shocked when, after finishing the above interview, she suddenly came forward to Gervais and deliberately spat on the ground, in front of his feet.
Capt. Gervais regained his composure and asked Capt. Quintanilla
“Why is this woman so enraged at me? I had never met her before?”
Capt. Quintanilla, in a quiet voice, asked Mrs. Cabrera to explain her actions, and after a lengthy exchange of words in Chamorro, Quintanilla turned to Gervais with an ashen face and slowly, deliberately told him what Mrs. Cabrera had said:
“You Americans are two-faced people! What are you doing here in 1960 investigating what happened to Amelia Earhart 23 years ago when all the time you Americans knew she was here and none of you lifted a finger to help her?
“What kind of people are you?” (End Strange Story of Interview #23)
Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas, who passed away in February 2016 at 95, was a pilot and World War II hero, a POW and a talented writer with 12 books to his credit. But sadly, Klaas fell victim to the insane delusion that Joe Gervais had birthed and spread to other witless sheep over the years, that New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart returned from Saipan via the Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo, determined to live out her life in obscurity and isolation from her family — something Amelia was incapable of doing.
It was a shame, because the eyewitness interviews conducted by Gervais, Robert Dinger and the detectives on Guam and Saipan in 1960, on the heels of Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan, were some of the most compelling ever done. The above incident is another example of important witness testimony that most will never see.
If you’d like to get reacquainted with all the sordid details of the long-debunked, worm-eaten Earhart-as-Bolam myth, I did a four-part series on this dark chapter of the Earhart saga, beginning with “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV,” on Dec. 29, 2015.
Fred Goerner also interviewed Joaquina at length in 1962, and later wrote in The Search for Amelia Earhart, “Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera brought us closer to the woman held at the Kobayashi Royokan [Hotel] than any other witness.” See my April 17, 2018 post, “Revisiting Joaquina Cabrera, Earhart eyewitness“ and pages 101-102 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last for more on Goerner’s interview with Joaquina.
(Editor’s note: “I was surprised to learn what Joaquina did after she was interviewed,” Marie Castro wrote from Saipan just after this post was published. “But I can also understand Joaquina’s reaction to Gervais, it was out of frustration because of the way Amelia suffered as a detainee. Joaquina noticed the bruises around Amelia’s arm and neck, so did Matilde.”)
(Editor’s note No. 2: In an Aug. 21 comment, Les Kinney wrote: “I don’t believe Cabrera’s statement. It’s inconsistent with remarks made to other researchers and out of character for a Chamorro woman to speak in this manner. Sadly, at times, Joe Gervais embellished and flat out lied to further his argument. It’s a shame since some of his reporting was sound. Goerner’s account is probably more credible. Don Kothera and the Cleveland group interviewed Cabrera twice – there is no mention of anything close to what Gervais reported.”
After Marie Castro was told about Les’s comment, she responded with this in an Aug. 22 email: I also believed with Les Kinney, spitting at a person is unheard of in our culture. It is highly unlikely that a Chamorro woman would ever do such a thing. I was really surprised of that reaction on Joaquina. I would rather skip that comment of Joe Gervais, it was a made up story.”
As I wrote to Les, “Gervais, on balance, did far more harm than good for the truth in the Earhart disappearance. Bill Prymak obviously believed it, or he wouldn’t have included the story in his newsletters, but Bill was far too trusting of Gervais, and even kept the lid on the truth in the Bolam case to protect Gervais.” I should have picked this up before posting the story, and expressed at least some skepticism about it, but it slipped my attention. Now you have the rest of the story.)