Paul Briand’s “Requiem for Amelia” Conclusion

Today present the conclusion of Paul Briand Jr.’s “Requiem for Amelia,” perhaps the best early synopsis of the accounts presented by the original Saipan and Marshall Islands witnesses, based on the interviews done by Fred Goerner and theOperation Earhartduo of Air Force officers Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam and Saipan in 1960.  (Boldface emphasis is both Briand’s and mine; capitalization emphasis is Briand’s.) 

According to other witnesses, the American fliers were blind-folded, taken into custody, and driven away from the crash scene into the nearby village of GarapanJose Basa, who had been stacking gasoline drums for the refueling of Japanese construction equipment, saw the crash, clearly remembers that one of the apprehended pilots was a woman, then saw them blindfolded and driven away by Japanese officials.  Jose Camacho and his wife, also witnesses to the crash in the Sadog Tasi area near the Chico base, stood nearby and watched the Americans being taken away in a vehicle toward the direction of Garapan.

Mr. Antonio A. Diaz, now a distinguished member of the Saipan legislature, was in 1937 the chauffeur for the Commanding Officer of the Japanese Navy Chico Base on Saipan.  One day in the commander’s sedan he overheard a conversation between the commanding officer and another Japanese officer.  The officers were discussing the airplane that had crashed at Sadog Tasi.  Two American pilots were apprehended.  One of them was a woman.

Antonio M. Cepada, a 52-year-old Buick employee at Agana, Guam, was interviewed by Air Force Officers Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam in June 1960.  (From Amelia Earhart Lives.)

Contrary to expectations, the Americans were not taken directly to prison, but to the Hotel Kobayashi-Royokan in Garapan.  Many Saipan natives remember seeing the Americans at the hotel, particularly the woman, because of the name they all called her by and best remember her by.  The name was Tokyo Rosa the American spy girl with the camera up front.

Antonio M. Cepada, then 52, recalls that he saw the American woman on two separate occasions over a period of three months during the summer of 1937.  Asked to explain the term Tokyo Rosa which he was using in his story (because of the connection with Tokyo Rose used later during the war), Cepada said they named the American woman themselves among his people. In 1937 in Saipan, Tokyo Rosa meant American spy girl, and that IS all it meant, nothing else.

I saw her while going to work outside the hotel which is located in East Garapan village, Cepada said.  She wore unusual clothes, belted in the center.  The color was faded khaki, which looked like it had been washed many times. Clothes like pilots wear.  He described the woman as “average height, American girl not short, not extra tall — had thin build.  Chest somewhat flat, not out like other American girls.  Her hair appeared to be reddish brown color and cut short like man’s hair, trimmed close in back like man.  She did not wear powder or lipstick.

The girl looked soft, Cepada remembers, very calm, not expressive, not smile —seem to be thinking far away and not notice her surroundings and people much.  He guessed her age to be about 35, but remarked it was hard to tell age of the American woman.  When shown a photograph of Amelia Earhart, Cepada said, “Looks just like same girl then.”

Commenting on her capture, Cepada did not know how she had been caught.  But the belief then was:she take secret picture with flying suit in front hidden camera.

Carlos Palacious told Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger that she a woman who looked remarkably like Amelia Earhart at the Hotel Kobayashi Royokan twice in a three-month period.  (From Amelia Earhart Lives.)

Another man who saw the American girl under similar circumstances and also referred to her as Tokyo Rosa, was Carlos Palacios, then 48, who in 1937 worked as a salesman in a merchandise store near the Kobayashi-Royokan hotel. Palacios, too, had only seen the woman twice, while going to and from his place of work. The first time was at an open window on the second floor of the hotel.  She had on what seemed to him a man’s white shirt, with short sleeves, and open at the neck. She had dark reddish-brown hair, cut like a man’s hair in back too.  He could not see any make-up or lipstick.

The second time Palacios saw the woman she was standing at the entrance to the hotel. She wore the same white shirt, and a dark skirt and American-type shoes.  “It was the same girl,” he affirmed, “hair cut short, no make-up, slim girl, not fat, not big in front of chest.”

He said he did not know where the woman was caught and does not remember a crash incident – only American spy girl and secret pictures she take.  She was Tokyo Rosa, his people’s 1937 expression for the American spy girl. Like Cepada when shown a photograph of Amelia Earhart, Palacios said, Looks and haircut look like same girl.

A resident of the hotel, Antonio G. Cabrera, then 62, now a farmer, who lived downstairs and owned the land on which the hotel was located, remembers that in 1937 an American man and woman lived at the Kobayashi-Royokan and were under the custody of the Japanese.  The Americans lived at the hotel for only a short while and then were taken away by the Japanese.

When asked to examine some photographs, Cabrera positively identified the man as Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart as a woman who looked just like the woman who stayed at the hotel.

Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera [relationship to Antonio G. unknown], then 49, employed as a servant at the hotel in 1937, recalled seeing the two Americans and that as part of her duties she took a list of the guests to the governor’s office every day.  On one particular day while carrying out this duty, Mrs. Cabrera saw the two Americans in the rear of a three-wheeled vehicle.  They were blindfolded and their hands were bound behind them.  One of them was the American woman.  When she looked at a newspaper picture of Amelia and Fred, Mrs. Cabrera said they looked like the same people, and they were dressed in the same manner as the people she saw in the truck.  She never learned what then happened to the two Americans.

Undated photo of Earhart eyewitness Joaquina Cabrera.  She passed away in 2004 at age 92.

Living next door to the hotel was Mrs. Matilda Ariola Saint Nicholas, then 47, perhaps the last woman to see the woman flier alive.  The American woman visited Matilda and her younger sister on two different occasions in a one-week period while she was still living at the hotel.  On the first visit the American girl wore a trench coat, and appeared very pale, as if she were sick.

The Nicholases offered her some food; the woman accepted, but ate very little, only some fruit.  When the American woman visited the second time, she was noticeably changed in appearance, for although still pale and sick-looking, she now had bruises or burns on the right side of her neck and had her left forearm wrapped in bandages.  It was on this visit, Mrs. Saint Nicholas remembers, that the American girl, despite her pain and sickness, helped the sister with her geography lesson, guiding her as she drew correctly the location of the Mariana Islands in relation to the other islands in the Pacific.

Matilda Saint Nicholas did not see the American girl again, nor did she hear about her again until a busboy from the hotel told her he had learned that the American girl had died.  Lately he had noticed how often she had to use the outside toilet and how, most recently, he saw that the bed she slept on was soaked with blood.  It was later, Mrs. Saint Nicholas said, that the same busboy asked her to make two wreaths for a burial.

From the hotel the American fliers were taken to the prison in Garapan.  An Insular policeman and prison guard for the Japanese at the time was Ramon Cabrera, then 41, who saw the pi1ots, bound and blindfolded, brought to the prison.  They both wore khaki-colored flying clothes. One had a beard with thick whiskers.  The other, he noticed, was strange looking, with no whiskers and a smooth face, smaller in height than the other, and slender in build.  But both had short haircuts.  The fliers were kept in separate cells, but were permitted to exercise out in the main prison yard for short periods during the day.  There were approximately 200 prisoners in the prison at the time, composed of Saipanese, Carolinians and Guamanians.  But the two pilots were the only Americans there.

For the first few days, Cabrera recalls, the Americans could not eat their prison food — breadfruit and other bits thrown in.  But by the fourth day they began to eat, although they still did not like the food, because they only received one meal a day, served in thirds three times a day.  Like other Saipan natives in 1937, Cabrera used the expression Tokyo Rosa, and in addition he used the term “driver” as it was meant by the Japanese then to refer to an American woman as a driver of a car, boat, or airplane.

Ramon Cabrera claims he does not know what happened to the American prisoners after they were taken from the Garapan jail.  He guessed they were either deported to Japan or executed.

On Guam in 1960, Joaquin Seman, left, and Ben Salas, told Joe Gervais and Police Sergeant Eddie M. Camacho that the “American spy woman” was executed at the “main Chico Base” on Saipan, and that she was buried in the Liyang cemetery south of Garapan.  (From Amelia Earhart Lives.)

If the Japanese were convinced that the Americans were spies, that the cameras found in the crashed aircraft, or the camera carried by the girl, or both, were used to photograph the fortifications being built in the Pacific contrary to the terms of the League of Nations man- date, then they had but one recourse to silence this discovery by two Americans . . . death.  If the Americans were executed as spies, however, there is no witness who is willing to come forth and confirm what can only be inferred.

That there was an execution can be inferred from the testimony of two natives, who claim they know the exact location of the unmarked graves of the American man and woman pilots, but who are unwilling to point them out for reasons fearful and mysterious even twenty years after the fact.  If they continue unwilling, the jungle will finally reclaim the graves and the signs of the crosses, now broken and mute to the outrage committed.

The two men are Joaquin Seman, then 48, a sugar mill worker on Saipan in 1937, and Ben Salas, then 43, a carpenter at the Japanese Chico Navy Base at the same time.  They are good friends.  When they were interviewed [by Gervais and Guam Police Sergeant Eddie M. Camacho] they both stated that they remembered the two Americans on Saipan in 1937, and that one of them was the American spy woman, Tokyo Rosa.  The executions, they said, were performed not at the Garapan prison, but at the main Chico base.

Salas and Seman were in complete agreement that there were only Americans killed before the war by the Japanese — an American man, and an American woman.  They were buried in unconsecrated ground in the Catholic cemetery at Liyang on Saipan, near the quarry and lumberyard, one mile south of the main prison.

Perhaps the one native witness who could reveal the certain identity of the American man and woman on Saipan in 1937 is the one man whose story does not agree with the testimony of all the other witnesses.  The man is Jesus De Leon Guerrero, then 51, alias “Kumoi,” who in 1937 on Saipan was chief investigator on the police force for the Japanese.  (He gave a negative response to the civilian administration in Saipan in the official report.)  Although today he has no official connections with either the American or Japanese governments — he is a dealer in scrap metal — he is still greatly feared and respected on Saipan as the man who could extract confessions out of anybody.  For this reason he was very useful to the Japanese authorities on Saipan in dealing with the natives and getting necessary information out of prisoners.

Guerrero denies any knowledge whatever about two American fliers taken prisoner.  He has said, however, there was an American-born Japanese woman who was hanged as a spy in 1938.  She was beautiful, he was quoted as saying,and about 25 years of age.  She appeared to have been part American and would have been mistaken for one. She was born in Los Angeles, California.

The woman had come to Saipan from Japan apparently to look for work, Guerrero recalled.  But she didn’t look like a worker because she was well-groomed and spoke very good English.

Back and forth through almost thirty years, the story of Amelia Earhart has unfolded, not clarifying the mystery of her disappearance, but deepening and complicating it by hearsay evidence and the conflicting testimony of natives who should know, and be able to tell, the truth.

Paul Briand Jr., circa 1959, whose 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky, presented the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama and initiated the modern-day search for Amelia Earhart.

Amelia Earhart was not on a spy mission for her government, she did not crash-land on Saipan; she was not taken as a prisoner; she was not executed as a spy or allowed to dieThese are the conclusions of the Navy in the official report I was allowed to read Considering their evidence, they could reach no other conclusions.

Most interestingly, there is no villain in the piece.  The U. S. Navy was not trying to suppress or hide information.  On the contrary, the Navy was trying as hard as I was (or anybody else) to uncover the truth. [Editor’s note:  In this statement, Briand could not be more mistaken.  Clearly, he fell victim to a convincing Navy propaganda effort.]

What, then, are my conclusions about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, after having conducted research about her almost continuously for the nine years since 1957 when I decided to write her biography?

I believe, now that I have examined all my latest evidence, that Amelia Earhart accidentally crash-landed on Saipan, that she and Fred Noonan were taken prisoners by the Japanese, were imprisoned on Saipan, and later — perhaps even many years later — were executed or allowed to die either on Saipan or in Japan. I do not believe she was on a deliberate spy mission, but I think the Japanese did believe Amelia was a spy because of the evidence of cameras on her person and in the airplane.  

The Japanese, of course, could not reveal that they had found her, for she had discovered what they had been trying to hide — preparations for war against the United States.  Unwittingly and without a plan on their part, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan had been mistaken as spies.  If they could have brought home evidence of a Japanese military build-up in the Pacific, they would have been rewarded as heroes. Fate, however, dealt them a contrary hand.

How can anyone explain why stories from widely scattered sources support each other in broad outline and even, at times in small detail?  Natives are naturally hostile to or afraid of established authority and will say almost anything not to get officially involved.  Witnesses like Jesus Guerrero, for example, would have much to fear from official sources.

The weight of my evidence adds up to Saipan, a crash-landing, imprisonment and death.  Josephine Blanco, J. Y. Matsumoto, and Thomas Blas confirm a crash-landing on Saipan; Jose Blaza, and Jose Camacho and his wife saw a man and a woman pilot being driven away by Japanese officials; Antonio M. Cepada, Carlos Palacios, Antonio G. Cabrera, and Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera confirm that the pilots were held in custody; Ramon Cabrera saw the fliers, bound and blindfolded, brought to prison; Jesus Guerrero undoubtedly knows of any execution; and Joaquin Seman and Ben Salas most probably know the location of the graves.

“Courage,” Amelia Earhart once wrote, “is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”  She paid the price, and all of America is ennobled because she was willing to pay it — all of her life, and up to what must have been its bitter end.  May she at last rest in peace.  (End of “Requiem for Amelia.”)

We now know beyond any doubt, based on a massive assemblage of credible evidence, not to mention common sense, that Amelia did not fly to Saipan from Lae, New Guinea, which would have been a nearly 90 degree mistake, virtually unthinkable for even the most incompetent aviators of her day

Remember that Briand was writing in 1966, when we knew about 10 percent of what has been learned since, and had no knowledge of the fliers’ Mili Atoll landing off Barre Island.  But with the seminal work of Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner and yes, even the creator of the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart lie, Joe Gervais, we would have had precious little to guide us, and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart might still be correctly called a mystery.

18 responses

  1. Why would her plane crash in Saipan when her destination was Howland? Why would it crash at all? She would still have plenty of fuel after leaving Lae? It seems every islander from Mili Atoll to Saipan saw her crash but these locations are over a thousand miles apart? Does this make sense to anybo?

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    1. Although there is no physical evidence linking Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan to a crash landing in Tanapag Harbor there are numerous eye witness accounts describing a crash landing of a two engine plane occurring at this site in late 1937 or more likely in 1938. Mike’s telling recount in this current blog are irrefutable.

      But was Earhart and Noonan pulled from the plane and taken into custody by the Japanese? Quite likely, although there is little current evidence supporting this theory. On one of my research trips to Tokyo, I attempted to locate records of all plane crashes at Saipan during this period. Unfortunately, even if such files exist, the filing system at the Japanese Defense Archives make it all but impossible to locate the records.

      Here’s what I think happened. Earhart and Noonan were being transported to Saipan in a twin engine Japanese seaplane sometime in late 1937 or 1938, more than likely they were being flown from Kwajelain via Pohnpei. As has been mentioned, Aslito Field on Saipan was just wrapping up construction at this time and no fixed wing land based planes operating out of Kwajelain or Pohnpei were capable of transport to Saipan except for seaplanes. My guess is Earhart and Noonan had been told they were going to be released into American custody at Guam 110 miles to the south of Saipan. As they approached the Northern Marianas, Noonan realized they were not approaching Guam (which he had navigated to on several occasions while with Pan Am) but were about to land at the Japanese Seaplane Base at Tanapag. At that point, Noonan and Earhart attempted to take control of the plane which resulted in the plane skipping into the jungle 300 yards north of the seaplane base.

      Antonio Diaz, who became good friends of Don Kothera during the Kothera Group’s research expedition to Saipan in 1967 and 1968 recalled being part of a team tasked by the Japanese to build a coral road and remove the plane from the jungle after it thrashed through underbrush beyond the beach. Diaz drew the Kothera Group a map of the location where the plane skidded to a stop. He added the plane suffered little damage.

      Aware that Diaz had given a conflicting account to Fred Goerner several years earlier, Kothera asked Diaz about his discussion with Goerner. Diaz said he never actually talked to Goerner and that Goerner came to his home with a translator. Diaz said his English was very poor then, and it was his “foreman” that actually talked to Goerner.

      Unfortunately, Kothera, like Tom Devine, and a few others believed the plane that crash landed north of the Chico Navy Base was Earhart’s Lockheed Electra.

      Les Kinney

      Liked by 1 person

      1. William H. Trail

        Les,

        Let me say right up front that, I like the idea of Fred Noonan as the fearless, square-jawed, two fisted, All-American hero in the tradition of Terry and the Pirates or Smilin’ Jack who slugs the Jap guard and then, with Amelia at his side, attempts to wrest control of the aircraft from their captors and make good an escape. It’s great good rollicking stuff. However, I seriously doubt if things actually played out that way.

        First, the Japanese in general, and the Kempai Tai (Tokkeitai was a smaller, IJN version) in particular, were brutal, ruthless, and efficient. They’d have taken absolutely no chances transporting two very important and possibly dangerous prisoners such as Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan. Also, rather than feeding them the transparent, cheerful lie that they’d be released to U.S. custody on Guam to keep them pacified, which I believe the worldly wise Fred Noonan would have seen through immediately, the two would have been bound, blindfolded, and possibly, even gagged for the flight.

        Second, had Fred and Amelia actually seized an opportunity to make an attempt to take control of the aircraft, and wrecked it on Saipan in the process, I seriously doubt that the Japanese would have then taken them to the Kobayashi Royakan Hotel afterward. More than likely, the Japanese would have been so incensed at AE and FN’s defiance — and blind with uncontrollable rage at the inexcusable loss of one of the Emperor’s seaplanes and possible injury to Japanese personnel, to say nothing of the incredible loss of face with everyone from the local natives to their superiors in Tokyo and to the Emperor himself — that AE and FN would most likely have been executed by beheading on the spot.

        I think a better explanation is that if there even was a “crash” at all, and I’m not 100% convinced that there was one, the Japanese pilots botched the landing all by themselves. Also, I’ve consulted a number of sources, including Mark R. Peattie’s excellent, “Sunburst The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941” and am hard pressed to find any pre-WWII, twin-engine Japanese seaplane/flying boat. In fact the only twin-engine seaplane I’ve found in Japanese Naval service is the Aichi H9A (Navy Type 2 Training Flying Boat). Designed in early months of 1940 as a seaplane trainer, the first production aircraft rolled out in September 1940. Very similar in appearance to the Grumman Duck amphibian, it was so obscure that it was not encountered by Allied forces until spring 1945, and consequently was never assigned an Allied reporting name.

        Les, if you know of an IJN twin-engine seaplane/flying boat/amphibian that fits the bill please let me know. Although I am a certified “aviation geek,” I am by no means omniscient or infallible.

        All best,

        William

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      2. William,

        You’re right, it’s mighty slim pickens when it comes to IJN twin engine seaplanes in 1937. There is one, Yokosuka H5Y which was first built in 1936…looks like a PBY. Who knows what they had their hands on at that time…maybe it wasn’t Japanese at all.

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  2. Mike – Thanks for putting Dad’s ‘Requiem for Amelia’ out there. I am Paul L. Briand III, son of author Paul L. Briand Jr. I am also custodian of some of Dad’s research material on Earhart, though certainly not all. The bulk of it was donated after his death in 1986 to his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH. He was a 1948 graduate, I am a 1975 graduate of UNH, and I make my home in Durham with my wife. I am retired after 30-some-odd years in the newspaper business, primary as a reporter, editor, and director of operations. My post-retirement work includes freelance writing for the local newspapers. As another footnote in the long-running Earhart saga, I wrote a story (https://www.fosters.com/news/20170716/elusive-truth-behind-amelia-earharts-disappearance) after the History Channel piece that was so controversial … and outright wrong. I went to the UNH archives to dig around a little. Your readers might find it interesting. Best, Paul Briand

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    1. Paul,

      Thanks so much for checking in with us. The story you wrote in response to the History Channel debacle of July 9, 2017 is well done, and I urge those who follow this blog to read it.

      We’re honored to have you as a guest, and hope you will be a regular here. You’re welcome anytime!

      All Best,
      Mike

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike, I need no more convincing of AE final days, you’ve got it, but the bigger picture has to be why was AE there in the first place, not that she crashed. Gary

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  4. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    The Hiro H4H (Navy Type 91) Maritime Reconnaissance/Bomber Flying Boat was not only a twin engine aircraft, but had twin vertical stabilizers / rudders similar to the Electra. It’s in TTAL (Second Edition) on page 94.

    See, I told everyone I’m not omniscient or infallible!!!

    All best,

    William

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  5. A bit off topic but I came across some footage titled “Aslito Airfield as it appeared when ground men of the 318th Fighter Squadron arrived on 18th June, 1944, Saipan Island” (prior to Tom Devine’s arrival). Destruction with a capital D.

    https://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675047536_Demolished-buildings_dud-shells_aviation-engineers

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    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Tom,

      Great video. Thanks for sharing it. Much appreciated. There was a brief glimpse of a damaged, yet still standing hangar and all I could think was, is the Electra in it?

      All best,

      William

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      1. Some of the related clips are interesting as well; the link below has aerial footage of Aslito taken from a flight of P-47’s returning from a raid on Tinian; if you look at still shot #67 (if you click on a photo there is a photo # in the bottom right corner and a “next” button), in the top center of the photo is a hangar which looks undamaged…to the left of it there is even an airplane which looks like it has a twin tail, but also appears to be a high wing design. The only date listed is July 1944 (no specific day).

        https://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675047552_P-47-Thunderbolt-planes_P-47s-returning_landing_dispersal-area

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    2. William H. Trail | Reply

      Tom,

      I finally got a good look at the photo you referenced. There’s a good possibility that the twin-tailed aircraft is a B-24. We’ll have to check on B-24 units on Saipan (if any) in July 1944.

      All best,

      William

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      1. William,

        You’re probably right about the B-24 (high wing); regarding your earlier post referencing the P-47’s; the first time I heard the phrase “Jug” was from a co-worker of mine (about 35 years ago) who flew them in the war…he raved about it!

        Thanks,

        Tom

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      2. William H. Trail

        Tom,

        The Germans called the P-47 a “Jabo” which is short for Jager-Bomber, or Fighter-Bomber — literally, “hunter-bomber.” I’ll bet your co-worker had some interesting stories to tell! Unfortunately, we’re losing our WWII vets at a rapidly accelerating rate. The youngest are now in their early nineties.

        Many, many years ago when I was a Civil Air Patrol Cadet I had the opportunity to speak with a P-51 Mustang pilot who flew through a thunderstorm over Germany. One minute he was flying the aircraft, and the next, it broke apart around him and he found himself falling through space. He spent the rest of the war as a reluctant guest of Der Deutches Reich at Stalag Luft III.

        All best,

        William

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  6. William, let me say, I not only appreciate your thoughtful analysis, but enjoyed your piece of writing. Well done!

    Your points are well taken and you may be correct, i.e. Earhart and Noonan were not involved in hijacking a Japanese seaplane on approach to Saipan. Yet, I keep harking back to Chester Nimitz’s message to Fred Goerner. “You’re onto something that will stagger your imagination.” Those are powerful words. A high ranking naval officer said of his close friend, “Chester Nimitz wasn’t prone to exaggeration.”

    In 1937, the U.S. Navy was routinely monitoring Japanese naval messages and must have known Earhart and Noonan had been captured by the Japanese. During the Pacific War, a U.S. Marine officer read an intelligence report noting Earhart and Noonan had been moved from island to island. If Earhart and Noonan had hi-jacked a Japanese sea plane, couldn’t that scenario be described as staggering your imagination?

    Several Saipanese witnesses reported that the white man and woman were surrounded by naval soldiers at the Chico Navy Base at Tanapag Harbor and then whisked away in the Japanese Admiral’s vehicle to Garapan. But they also said something equally important. The white woman with the short hair had suffered some sort of burn injury to her arm and there was a burn on her cheek. Later, other Chamorro witnesses described the slender white woman with short hair being held at the Kobayashi Royakan Hotel as having some type of burn marks on her arm and cheek. Both injuries could be indicative of injuries suffered in a plane crash.

    I must disagree with your assessment or possible role of the Kempeitai or Kenpeitai in the scenario you described. For the most part, the Kempeitai was the arm of the Japanese Army. A few units were later assigned to Navy installations under navy command. The Japanese Navy was never enamored with the presence of the Kempeitai in naval jurisdictions. In 1937, the Japanese Navy was not nearly as militant as the Army. In fact, the Japanese Navy governed more to western standards. The Army on the other hand was ruthless and the Kempeitai’s role in China well documented. In 1937, Saipan was governed by a civilian official reporting to the Naval Minister. At that time, the Navy presence on Saipan was small. I have a photo of the Navy unit from 1937 and they seem to be no more than a company in size. I am not even sure if there was a Kempeitai presence on Saipan during that time. The Saipan prison was administered by civilian and navy personnel. In all of the oral histories that I have read, there is no mention of the Kempeitai. As Japan edged closer to the Pacific War, that all changed. You cited, Mark R. Peattie, who also wrote “Nanyo, the Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia.” Peattie doesn’t mention the Kempeitai once in his book although he mentions Willard Price, an American author saying that he was followed by the Japanese police during a visit to Micronesia in 1935.
    Would Japanese Navy officials on Saipan been angry if Earhart and Noonan had wrestled control of one of their sea planes in a bid to escape to Guam? Sure they would. But at the same time, they would have respected the American’s “Bushido.” Once on Saipan, Earhart and Noonan weren’t going anywhere and no one knows what orders were being sent from Tokyo. Remember, the Japanese knew they were dealing with one of the most famous women in the world. Interest in Earhart’s flight was immense in Japan. Amelia was on the front pages of Japanese newspapers for weeks.

    By 1937, the Japanese had established sea plane bases throughout Micronesia. One was at Mili Atoll; others were at Jaluit, Ponape, Palau, and on Saipan and there were two large sea plane ramps at the Chico Navy Base. Those ramps are still there by the way. Twin engine and later four engine Japanese sea planes began carrying passengers to Saipan and Palau as early as 1935. I have a travel advertisement for these flights with a picture of a Japanese sea plane on the cover. One of the larger Japanese Seaplanes in production at that time was the Kawanishi H6K Type 97 Flying boat, another was the Yokosuka H5Y1. As you mentioned in a later comment, the Hiro H4H Navy Flying Boat was introduced into service in 1933.

    I don’t believe its fanciful thinking to believe Earhart and Noonan tried to wrestle the yoke away from a Japanese pilot as the plane sped across Saipan. There was so much discussion of this “crash landing” incident by so many Saipan natives that I believe it has to be given serious consideration.

    Les Kinney

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    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Les,

      Thank you for your reply, and very kind words. It is much appreciated. I especially appreciate your valuable insights regarding the extent of any pre-war Kempeitai operations in the Mandates and other Japanese possessions, including Saipan, as well as any role they may or may not have had vis-a-vis Amelia and Fred’s captivity and death.

      No, I’m not convinced that AE and FN attempted to wrest control of a Japanese seaplane from the crew while on approach for landing in Tanapag Harbor to make good an escape. At least, not yet. I do however, keep an open mind. None of us can say with absolute, 100% certainty what happened. Landings are the most critical part of flight, and the standard by which aviators are judged. It is entirely possible that the Japanese pilot-in-command may have simply lost control of “needle, ball, and airspeed” and made a hash of the landing all by himself.

      Admiral Nimitz’s message to Fred Goerner, “You’re on to something that will stagger your imagination” is absolutely key and something that no researcher or student of the Earhart disappearance should ever forget. I keep it at the forefront of my mind. I also don’t doubt the admiral’s high-ranking naval officer friend’s comment about him not being prone to exaggeration. It fits with everything I’ve read about the man. And for that reason I firmly believe that Admiral Nimitz was speaking in terms of something much greater than just Fred Noonan making a bold strike for freedom by attempting to gain control of the aircraft and escape when he spoke of the “something that will stagger your imagination.” I believe Admiral Nimitz was referring to no less than the real reason that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan did not land at Howland Island, but radically departed from the published flight plan and ended their flight on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

      As I’ve stated previously on Mike’s blog, I believe the plan was for AE and FN to bypass Howland and take up a heading toward the Marshall Islands where they were supposed to ditch in an area close enough to get the Japanese excited, but still in an area where our Navy could rescue them. The purpose was not to give the Navy an excuse to search the Marshall Islands, a la the 1943 Warner brothers film, “Flight for Freedom,” but simply to get the Japanese chattering in code on the radio about a known subject, thus providing Laurance Safford’s people a lot of good material to use to break, or at least better understand, the Japanese codes.

      All best,

      William

      Like

  7. William H. Trail | Reply

    Tom,

    Thanks for the additional video footage of Aslito/Isley Field. Great shots of Republic P-47s landing. They said that, the Mustang was the airplane you had your picture taken with, but the Jug was the airplane that brought you home from a mission. I believe it.

    Unfortunately, I had difficulty identifying the still photo with the twin-tail aircraft you mentioned.

    All best,

    William

    Like

  8. William –

    This rough and tumble landing in the Tanapag Harbor always seemed fishy to me and the harsh treatment of Amelia & Fred received soon after. WHY? Les injects some *interesting thoughts to ponder. You would have thought, the Japanese would have been far more careful, with treating a world famous aviator/Amelia Earhart like this. Why so brutal of a treatment, after a minute or so, from stepping out of an airplane. Something isn’t right about that?

    The logic to this, needs to be questioned, at least in my mind.

    Doug

    Like

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