Today, we’ll look at the first of two letters written in 1992 by Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye to Earhart researcher and retired Air Force Col. Rollin Reineck. This letter appeared, with much fanfare, as a “Special Newsletter” and comprised the entire November 1992 issue of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter. (Boldface and italic emphases mine throughout.)
Inouye served as a U.S. senator from 1963 until his death in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate from 2010 until his death, making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in American history.
Inouye, a World War II veteran who fought in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, lost his right arm to a grenade wound and received several military decorations, including the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award. Returning to Hawaii, Inouye earned a law degree, was elected to Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives in 1953, and to the territorial Senate in 1957. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Inouye was elected as its first member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. Inouye never lost an election in 58 years as an elected official, and he exercised an exceptionally large influence on Hawaii politics. He died in December 2012 at age 88.
I list Inouye’s more significant bona fides because it’s important to understand this man was no lightweight public official, but a long-sitting U.S. senator and a Democrat who hefted serious weight and was a media favorite, for obvious reasons. Perhaps no other U.S. senator was as well-positioned to effect a real change in the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of stonewall and denial in the Earhart case as was Inouye.
Here’s how Prymak presented his announcement in the November 1992 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter:
“I look forward to celebrating together on November 3rd the joy of a successful campaign honorably waged,” Inouye wrote in the letter’s key sentence, “and the beginning of a new era of accomplishment and promise for Hawaii and our nation, which will include the initiation of legislation to open the secret files relating to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.”
Undoubtedly, Prymak and his AES friends considered this letter from the Hawaii senator a gigantic breakthrough with the strong potential to open the doors to the final resolution of the Earhart “mystery,” as they all still insisted on characterizing it. Under the Inouye letter to Reineck, Prymak was uncharacteristically verbose and enthusiastic in his accompanying commentary, much of which is presented below:
Senator Daniel K. Inouye, senior senator from Hawaii, in a letter dated 28th Sept., 1992, to Colonel Rollin C. Reineck of Kailua, Hawaii, said that he plans to initiate legislation that will open the secret files concerning Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance over 55 years ago, on July 2nd, 1937.
Col. Reineck has been researching the last flight of Amelia Earhart for over 22 years. From his research, he has concluded that the answer to the Earhart mystery does not lie in the Pacific where she disappeared, but rather in the secret files in Washington, D.C. Reineck says that the senator’s action will solve the 55-year mystery.
. . . Col. Reineck believes that she was on a government mission and went down in the Marshall Islands near Mili Atoll. The Japanese picked her up and transferred her to Saipan Island, in the Marianas, and then on to Tokyo. Sometime during WW II, Earhart was moved to the Japanese internment camp at Weihsien, China.
Ten days after the war had ended, an unsigned telegram was sent through State Department channels, from the Weihsien internment camp to Amelia Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, at the Earhart/Putnam home in North Hollywood, California.
The telegram read, “Camp liberated: all well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother.” Although unsigned, Col. Reineck strongly believes that this telegram was from Amelia Earhart. His belief, comes in part, from a 1990 State Department letter to Senator Inouye that says this message was located in 1987 — by a State Department clerk, with a top secret clearance — in the National Archives among other classified Earhart documents.
Although Col. Reineck, as well as other Earhart researchers, have tried to obtain additional information from the State Department and other government agencies concerning Amelia Earhart, their efforts have not produced any results.
Because of this, Col. Reineck has twice briefed Senator Dan Inouye on the Amelia Earhart story and asked for his help in obtaining the truth as to what happened 55 years ago on July 2, 1937. Col. Reineck feels that the information is secreted away in the files in Washington, D.C., and that it will take a presidential directive to free up the information similar to the President Kennedy assassination files.
. . . Colonel Reineck says that such action will be more than welcomed by all serious Earhart researchers as it will put an end, once and for all, to the many unfounded rumors and ridiculous claims that, in the past, have led to false hopes concerning one of America’s great heroines of the 20th century.
As we can see above, little did Prymak know in November 1992 — or anytime within the near future — that the foundational document for Reineck’s approach to the Hawaii senator was itself among the “many unfounded rumors and ridiculous claims” that Prymak was so quick to reference and denounce in his late 1992 commentary.
On January 3, 2017, I posted “Weihsien Telegram: Another sensation that fizzled,” outlining the entire story that had ignited one of the louder of the Earhart false claims. To catch up or re-orient yourself with all the morbid details, please click here.
Not content with the above comments, Bill Prymak, obviously in a rare, joyful mood of celebration, next presented readers with the longest, most comprehensive biography of Col. Rollin Reineck to be found in the AES Newsletters — or anywhere else, for that matter. I present large portions of this below:
“WHO IS THIS MAN, COLONEL ROLLIN REINECK?”
Colonel Rollin C. Reineck was 17 years old when Amelia Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the world in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra. He recalls the excitement that the trip generated and the suspense created when she was reported lost on the way to tiny Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
However, Col. Reineck’s interest in the fate of Amelia Earhart really ignited when he was assigned, in January 1942, to the Army Air Corps Navigation School at Kelly Field, Texas. His class was instructed by Army Air Corps officers that had been trained by Pan American personnel.
During the celestial phase of the instruction, the students reviewed, in detail, the Amelia Earhart flight and theorized the various possibilities as to her fate. Subsequently, a training flight was scheduled to simulate the “single line of position (LOP) technique” of locating a destination. Col. Reineck modestly says, “I hit the destination area within a mile and got an A for the flight.”
Col. Reineck’s interest in Amelia Earhart’s last flight has continually grown since those cadet days of early 1942. However, the pressure of his military career kept him from getting heavily involved,. When he retired in December of 1970, Col. Reineck was able to devote more of his time to this project. He has worked closely with [former] Major Joe Gervais and more recently with Bill Prymak in trying to sort out the available evidence. Col. Reineck is not writing a book [at that time] and has never solicited a single penny to carry out his work. He says his total objective can be summed up in three words: Facts and Truth.
Col. Reineck is quick to point out that no one, as yet, has any direct evidence or sufficient circumstantial evidence to conclude what really happened on July 2nd, 1937. However, he adds that there is a tremendous amount of quality circumstantial evidence that supports the theory that Amelia Earhart was not just on a stunt flight, but was some kind of government mission and that she did survive her flight, WWII and returned to the United States after the war with a new identity as Irene Bolam.
“I strongly believe,” says Col. Reineck, “that the solution to the Earhart mystery does not lie in the Pacific where she disappeared, but in the secret files of the various departments and agencies in Washington, D.C. And until those files are declassified — by a presidential directive, similar to the JFK files — and made available to the public, the Earhart last flight and related events will remain a mystery. Possibly forever.”
. . . Colonel Reineck USAF (Ret.) is a graduate of the University of California. In January 1942 he became an Army Air Corps Navigation Cadet and [was] assigned to Kelly Field Navigation School, Texas. Upon graduation in June 1942, he went immediately overseas with the 93rd Bomb Group (B-24) as part of the 8th Air Force. He completed his first combat tour in April 1943 and was assigned as staff navigator for the Second Air Division, 8th Air Force.
In June 1944 Col. Reineck volunteered for B-29s and was assigned as chief navigator for all of the B-29s on Saipan Island, in the western Pacific. After the war, Col. Reineck completed pilot training. He subsequently served in the Strategic Air Command Hq., the Far East Air Forces Bomber Command Hq., Air Force Hq., The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pacific Air Force Hq., and the Minuteman Missile Systems Program Office. Col. Reineck also took an active part in the Korean War, but says that although he was willing to go to Vietnam, there wasn’t much of a requirement for an old colonel.
Col. Reineck’s awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster. Col. Reineck retired in December 1970 and now resides in Hawaii with his wife Esther. (End of Prymak’s tribute to Reineck.)
Rollin Reineck’s outstanding service record was indeed that of a true war hero — honorable, courageous and accomplished. His record of achievement in the most stressful and demanding of combat environments makes his later advocacy of some of the most far out of the fringe Earhart conspiracy ideas all the more puzzling.
In addition to Reineck’s active promotion of the Weishien telegram canard, we also see that Prymak alluded to Reineck’s devotion to the false Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth. Reineck was among the most prominent and enthusiastic of those who continued to believe in and promote Joe Gervais’ absurd idea, introduced to the public in Joe Klaas’ 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives. For much more on this unfortunate aspect of Reineck’s legacy, please click here.
In our next post we’ll see Inouye’s second letter to Reineck, as well as the actual legislation that the Hawaii senator presented to Congress.