Today we conclude our two-part look at Bill Prymak’s 1997 investigative foray to the Marshall Islands, as seen in the May 1997 issue of his Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. (Boldface and italic emphases are both Prymak’s and mine; capitalization emphasis is Prymak’s.)
We begin with an interview with Teresa Amaron, the little-known daughter of the best known of all the Marshalls witnesses, Bilimon Amaron. Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas does the honors.
“INTERVIEWING THE NATIVE WITNESSES”
by Bill Prymak (Continued)
interviewed by Joe Klaas
In 1937, Bilimon Amaron was a 17-year-old medical assistant for the Japanese Navy, and treated injuries of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at the Japanese seaplane base on Jaluit Atoll. His University of Hawaii graduate daughter, Teresa Amaron, stated this on the last day of the AES expedition, Jan. 29 to Feb. 10, 1997.
“He told me the same thing he told Joe Gervais and Bill Prymak in 1991,” confirmed Ms. Amaron, Judicial Clerk in the Marshall Islands Federal Courthouse. “Many people knew it at the time. A tall, thin woman flying around the world, and her co-pilot or something like that, crashed at Mili Atoll. They were brought to Jaluit on a Japanese ship. My father was taken to the ship to treat their minor injuries. They were brought to him in custody by two Japanese guards. He saw their broken airplane on the back of the ship. Nobody knew at the time who they were, but they obviously were Amelia Earhart and her navigator. Later that night, the ship left with them in custody.”
Bilimon Amaron’s brother at Jabor and other survivors of his generation, verified the story, adding to the long list of more than 60 eyewitnesses quoted by name in AMELIA EARHART LIVES and since, who saw Amelia Earhart alive and at Mili Atoll, Jaluit and Saipan. Not one eyewitness has ever reported seeing her or her Lockheed 10E Electra anywhere near the Phoenix Islands southeast of Howland Island where my 1970 book mistakenly speculated she might have landed. I was wrong, and so is anyone else under that illusion.
Those who said Amelia Earhart went down in the Marshalls include Bill Van Dusen; her mother, Amy Otis Earhart; Adm. Chester W. Nimitz; Adm. Richard B. Black; Cmdr. Paul W. Bridwell; Fred Goerner; Oliver Knaggs; Vincent V. Loomis; Queen Bosket Diklan, of Mili Atoll; Lt. Col. Joseph C. Wright; Randall Brink; Robert H. Myers; Capt. George Carrington; Jim Donahue; Lockheed Historian Roy Blay; John and Dwight Heine, who saw her at Jaluit [Editor’s note: No evidence for this claim that I’m aware of]; Marshallese President Kabua Kabua; Oscar DeBrum; and more.
In addition, 60 people have related that they saw her in 1937 at Saipan. [Editor’s note: Technically speaking, we do not have anywhere near 60 eyewitnesses from 1937 Saipan on record, though it’s possible that many or more could have seen her at or near the Kobayashi Royakan Hotel while she was kept there. An unknown number of eyewitnesses feared Japanese reprisals, even long after the war.]
And last is the tale of two delightful elderly women weaving floor mats while sitting on the grass in the shade of a shack on JABOR. Joe Gervais and I had just come from the home of a native too feeble to tell us of the happenings in 1937. We were told, “this man knew.” “Knew what? was never tested. His eyes told us he had a story to tell, but the voice, and the body, just couldn’t make it.
As we passed these two pleasant, older women, my eyes fixed upon the feet of one of the ladies. Her toes were anchoring three palm fibers leading up to her nimble fingers as she created a masterpiece of weaving; but it was her story that captured our attention. Both women were well into their seventies, and had been on JALUIT before the war. They aptly described Bilimon and how he treated two “American pilot spies” several years before the war. But what made this interview so memorable was that even though no Japanese ships were discussed, one of the gals looked me in the eye (the older natives rarely do that!) and stated, “It was not the Koshu . . . IT WAS KAMOI.” KAMOI, she kept repeating, and I just thought it was extraordinary for an old Marshallese woman to remember the name of an obscure Japanese boat unless its presence connected with a very special event in her life many years ago. Very strange.
“THE CREDIBILITY OF THE WITNESSES”
How credible are these witnesses interviewed during our latest trip to Jaluit? To discredit these people, you’d have to brand them as liars, embellishers, storytellers, fabricators, or worse. The Marshallese are kind, simple, loving people that really don’t have it in their makeup to lie to their (1) priests, (2) schoolteachers, (3) local government officials or (4) the interpreters who translate their experiences to visiting researchers.
I can’t imagine BILIMON AMARON, in failing health and dying, lying to his brother and daughter about his experience that he began telling to Matson Shipping Lines officials in the late 1940s . . . a story he had never wavered on thru all the years.
Why are Chamorro natives of Saipan, a thousand miles distant, describing the same wounds to an American man accompanying an American lady pilot, who were seen on Saipan in 1937, the same wounds as described by Bilimon Amaron? Why did Cmdr. Paul W. Bridwell, USN, in charge of Saipan during the 1960s, state that Earhart & Noonan went down in the Marshalls and were brought to Saipan? Why does every serious researcher — GERVAIS, KLAAS, GOERNER, LOOMIS, BRENNAN, KNAGGS, totally believe in the natives’ experiences, while the armchair critics who never set foot on these islands continue to [attempt to] debunk these witnesses? Why does the U.S. government repudiate their statements?
Yes, statements do vary, and witnesses sometimes contradict other witnesses. But considering the deleterious and noxious effect 60 years has on one’s memory, variations will manifest themselves. For example, the half-dozen or so witnesses interviewed on Jaluit have stated:
Lady pilot went down between Jaluit and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between the Gilberts and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between Ebon and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between Arno and Mili.
But everybody states that BILIMON AMARON was called out to treat Noonan’s wounds. And the locus of all touchdown areas is MILI. All witness experiences are told to researchers from memory; there is no written word, no photograph.
Why the ceaseless and incessant denial by the U.S. Government? Why all the official secrecy about the Earhart Flight? Let me put forth one possible rationalization: Suppose that the Navy had been monitoring the Japanese communications and ship movements in the Pacific sufficiently to have learned, or at least to have gotten a pretty good idea, that the Japanese had abducted Earhart and Noonan. What could they have done?
They could not have taken action short of a military intervention to recover the flyers, and they could not have announced the fact (even if they were certain of it) without revealing the extent of their coverage of Japanese communications and operations, and therefore, their source of knowledge. It would also have raised an enormous storm of protest and indignation, as well as being a national humiliation that we could ill afford, if we did not take bold action to recover the flyers. It could also be that we were pretty sure, but not sure enough to raise an international incident about it.
This would explain all the secrecy, the strident insistence that the messages received from the plane were all hoaxes, and the equally strident insistence that the plane had fallen into the sea. It would explain the tampering with the ITASCA log to read “one-half hour of fuel left,” the male/chauvinistic references to Earhart sounding “hysterical,” etc. Since no such policy could have been decided without White House consultation, it would even explain the White House interest in the situation. (End of Bill Prymak’s 1997 “Interviewing the Native Witnesses.”)
“Interviewing the Native Witnesses” is not all Prymak produced in the wake of his 1997 trip to the Marshall Islands. Already seen on this blog is “An interview with Marshalls icon Robert Reimers: ‘Everyone knew’ of AE’s landing, tycoon said”; yet to be published here is a photo essay devoted to the “The Great Naval Seaplane Base at Emidj,” which we’ll get to at some point.
We rejoin the saga of Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye’s attempt to release the secret Earhart files by drafting Congressional legislation in 1993. Longtime Earhart researcher and author Col. Rollin Reineck (U.S. Air Force, retired) was far from a single-minded devotee of the truth, as we’ve already seen in several posts, but we also must give the colonel his just due. (Boldface and italics emphases mine throughout.)
If not for Reineck’s diligence, Inouye would never have become informed and motivated enough about the Earhart disappearance to actually step out from the establishment mob and risk his proverbial neck for the truth.
I find it beyond ironic that Inouye was not just the only U.S. senator to ever actively advocate for total disclosure of the secret Earhart files, but that he was a Japanese-American citizen who narrowly escaped internment during World War II. With 50 more like him, we might write “Case Closed” to the Earhart disappearance.
Inouye was one of only seven members of the U.S. Senate to be awarded the Medal of Honor; five of those were cited for their valor during the Civil War. Sen. Robert J. Kerry (D-Nebraska), whose actions came in Vietnam in 1969, shares the 20th century senatorial distinction with Inouye, whose story is an inspiring chronicle of selflessness, courage and devotion to duty and comrades.
Born in Honolulu in 1924 to Japanese parents who had emigrated from the mainland, Inouye was surrounded by anti-Japanese sentiment during his childhood, graduating from high school in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor.
Inouye immediately tried to enlist in the military, but was rejected with a draft classification 4C, which stood for “enemy alien,” unfit for duty, but after more than a year, the Army finally dropped its enlistment ban on Japanese-Americans. He quickly enlisted and volunteered for the storied 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese-American combat unit that fought in southern France and Germany.
Promoted to sergeant in his first year, and after a major battle in the Vosges Mountains of France in the fall of 1944, Inouye received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. During that offensive, he was hit by a German round right above his heart, but two silver dollars he had stacked in his shirt pocket stopped the bullet. He carried those coins with him through the rest of the war, but the worst was far from over.
On April 21, 1945, Inouye was near San Terenzo, Italy, leading his platoon on an attack on a mountain ridge against enemy troops who were guarding an important road junction when they were ambushed by three close-range machine guns. During the attack, he was shot in the stomach, but Inouye was undeterred and destroyed the first machine gun position by himself with grenades and gunfire. He and his squad then attacked the second machine gun nest, successfully destroying it. For the rest of the late Senator Daniel Inouye’s Medal of Honor story, please click here.
We come now to possibly the highest point of the 12 years Bill Prymak invested in producing the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter (1989-2000) for his friends and fellow researchers. As we can see below, Prymak’s February 1993 newsletter trumpets the news that his friend Rollin Reineck had persuaded Sen. Inouye to write legislation that would, if approved and enacted, end 56 years of government denial and deceit, as reflected by Inouye’s letter to Reineck, followed by the bill that he would soon introduce.
Prymak’s closing comment: “The above, hopefully, will be the fruition of many years of hard, dedicated effort to break down the doors of the State Department, where the Colonel is certain that files on Amelia Earhart never seen before by the American people lay sequestered. Everybody owes him a debt of gratitude for his untiring efforts and perseverance in what we all hope will be a major breakthrough in the Earhart mystery. GOOD SHOW, COLONEL.”
Nothing more was ever heard of Inouye’s proposed bill, and the AES Newsletters are silent as well. Thus has been the fate of all efforts aimed at breaking through the stone wall erected by the U.S. government and its agencies that protects the secrets of the Earhart disappearance from the public. Even an important, highly placed U.S. senator’s actual proposed legislation was dead on arrival, with no chance of passage whatsoever.
Congress has yet to do anything approaching a real investigation of the Earhart disappearance. When Fred Goerner’s bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart, rocked the nation in 1966, selling over 400,000 copies in an age when far more Americans actually read books, untold numbers of congressmen and senators from coast to coast were besieged by constituents demanding that they get to the bottom of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Nothing happened.
In an event that appears to have been completely suppressed from the public, in July 1968 Goerner appeared before a Republican platform subcommittee in Miami, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn.
In his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility — Truth in Government,” Goerner laid out the highlights of the mountain of facts that put the fliers on Saipan and appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, doing his utmost to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Nothing eventuated, of course. I have the record of Goerner’s congressional encounter only because I briefly had access to his 900-plus files, housed at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, which continues to ban Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last from its bookstore.
In 1997, Rollin Reineck took another shot at it — an extreme longshot, to be more accurate — and wrote an excellent letter to President Bill Clinton in hopes of achieving a miraculous breakthrough in the Earhart case. This time Reineck had no inside connection, and his missive probably never got past a GS-11 screener. This has been the fate of all attempts to reveal the truth about the Earhart disappearance — among the most sacrosanct of the U.S. government’s sacred cows — to the American public. And so it goes.
Super Bowl Sunday morning dawned with the sad news of the passing of Jimm Crowder on Jan. 29. Below is Jimm’s obituary, as published in Feb. 2 Star Tribune of Minneapolis. No cause of death was given, but his health had been failing in recent years.
Crowder, Jimm age 72 of St. Paul passed away January 29th, 2020, peacefully at home. He spent his career traveling the globe and visited over 100 countries as the Director of International Admissions at Macalester College. Through his deep knowledge of global issues and passion for international education he created a far-reaching community of students, colleagues, and friends. A true renaissance man, he was a baseball aficionado, world class chef, and a brilliant storyteller. Perhaps above all else, he was a dedicated humanist, optimist, and lover of life. He saw the best in all those he met and had a profound impact on countless lives. He is survived by his wife, Jutta and children, Max and Anja. May he travel well.
In late July 2015, Jimm presented new witness information to the Amelia Earhart Research Association (AERA) online discussion group, recalling his work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia in his early 20s, from 1970 to 1972, where he lived on Majuro and Saipan and taught middle school.
Jimm also learned plenty about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, beginning at Majuro in 1970 where he was befriended by Senator Amata Kabua, also known as the “Iroj,” or King of the Marshalls, who later became the first president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Through Kabua he met many of the leading players and witnesses in the Earhart saga, including Bilimon Amaron, the powerful and influential Robert Reimers, Tony and Oscar deBrum, and the Heine brothers, John and Dwight.
Amaron, a successful and respected businessman, was Jimm’s landlord on Majuro, and John Heine supervised his work. “He [Bilimon] and his workers joined me in building my modest plywood and tin ‘shack’ on his property,” Jimm wrote:
I saw him multiple times per week at his store where I bought my provisions. On a couple of occasions Bilimon knocked on my door with a big smile and a large chunk of freshly caught tuna, which he readily shared with me and other members of our village. All of these people and others, some with firsthand observations and others with credible secondhand information, spoke to me, often at length, about Earhart and Noonan. Every one of them offered evidence that AE and Noonan landed in the Marshalls.
After his Peace Corps job took him to Saipan in 1971, Crowder’s friendship with Amata Kabua continued, as the senator often visited on official business and introduced Crowder to numerous American and Micronesian government officials. “AE’s time on Saipan seemed to be a given and was commonly discussed among government professionals,” Crowder recalled. “Everyone knew the story and most accepted that it was true.”
For much more on Jimm’s important contributions to Earhart research, please see pages 164-167 of Truth at Last.
“My heartfelt condolences to Jimm’s family,” Les Kinney wrote in the Star Tribune’s Guest Book. “I have never met such a kind, soft spoken man. A true friend with a vibrant intellect. A friend who would go the extra mile to make you welcome and comfortable.
“He served in the Marshall Islands and Saipan,” Kinney continued, “and is the only person to have had discussions with two witnesses who had seen Amelia Earhart on both Saipan and the Marshall Islands. He truly will be missed.”
I echo Les Kinney’s sentiments, and hope the Angels have already flown Jimm to his Heavenly abode, where Amelia Earhart welcomed him home.