The official record offers us little about what Amelia Earhart’s sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, thought and did about her older sister’s tragic disappearance. In fact, Muriel was basically AWOL, at least publicly, and her few words and actions suggested that she likely accepted the government narrative.
This letter appeared in the March 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and has been presented on this blog previously, in an Oct. 12, 2015 post titled, “Goerner and Devine reach out to Muriel Morrissey: Did Amelia’s sister know more than she let on?” I present it again because other relevant information, not presented here before, will be added following its conclusion, and it never hurts to re-examine salient clues about the Earhart saga, especially those that concern her family.
Boldface emphasis is mine; italic emphasis is in the AES version, and I assume in Goerner’s as well, though can’t know for sure.
Mrs. Albert Morrissey August 31, 1966
One Vernon Street
West Medford, Massachusetts
Dear Mrs. Morrissey:
Your letter of the 27th meant a great deal to me.
I can’t begin to tell you how I have agonized over continuing the investigation into Amelia’s disappearance and writing the book which Doubleday is just now publishing. I know how all of you have been tortured by the rumors and conjectures and sensationalism of the past years.
I want you to know that I decided to go ahead with the book last December at the advice of the late Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who had become my friend and helped me with the investigation for several years. He said, “it (the book) may help produce the justice Earhart and Noonan deserve.” The Admiral told me without equivocation that Amelia and Fred had gone down in the Marshalls and were taken by the Japanese and that this knowledge was documented in Washington. He also said that several departments of government have strong reasons for not wanting the information to be made public.
Mrs. Morrissey, regardless of what the State and Navy Departments may have told you in the past, classified files do exist. I and several other people, including Mr. Ross Game, the Editor of Napa, California REGISTER and Secretary of The Associated Press, actually have seen portions of these files and have made notes from their contents. This material is detailed in the book. I am sure that we have not yet been shown the complete files, and General Wallace M. Greene Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps in Washington, refuses to confirm or deny the testimony of many former marines that the personal effects of Amelia and Fred and their earthly remains were recovered in 1944.
Please believe what I am saying. If justice is to be achieved, it may require your assistance. You know I have the deepest respect for Amelia and Fred. My admiration for their courage has no limits. They should receive their proper place in the history of this country. A San Francisco newspaper editor wrote the other day that Amelia and Fred should be awarded the Congressional Medals of Honor for their service to this country. I completely concur.
I shall be in Boston sometime toward the end of September or early October. I hope that I can meet with you at that time and bring you up to date on all of our efforts.
My very best wishes to you and “Chief.” *
CBS News, KCBS Radio
San Francisco 94105
I have no response from Muriel in my limited files, but believe she probably did reply to Goerner’s cordial missive. Muriel’s role in the Earhart saga has always been a topic for speculation, especially considering her media silence about the overwhelming evidence Goerner brought back from Saipan. Some have suggested that Muriel could have been informed of the truth by the U.S. government at some point, in exchange for her cooperative silence. I think that’s possible, but we’ll probably never know for sure on this side of the Great Veil.
In a 1970 letter from Muriel to J. Gordon Vaeth, she thanked him for sending her a copy of the little known 1970 book, Before the Eagle Landed, an aviation history by the editors of the Air Force Times. She told Vaeth that she appreciated his “factual, unemotional reporting, which will, I am sure, do much toward debunking the tales begun by Captain Paul Briand [Jr.] and continued with a sad, poorly written, unproven story, Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan  by a Cleveland veterinarian [Joe Davidson].”
If Muriel’s letter to Vaeth, once a staunch Goerner supporter before inexplicably becoming a stubborn, confirmed crashed-and-sanker, is any indication, she clearly wasn’t moved by Goerner’s appeal, nor had she been informed about the truth by the U.S. government or anyone else, at least at that time. Muriel made few public statements from then until her death in 1998, and what she may have learned or believed during the intervening years is anyone’s guess. Her mother, Amy Otis Earhart, was far more forthcoming.
For example, we have Amy’s statement to the Los Angeles Times in July 1949, in which she revealed that she knew almost precisely what had happened to Amelia: “I am sure there was a Government mission involved in the flight, because Amelia explained there were some things she could not tell me. I am equally sure she did not make a forced landing in the sea,” Amy said. “She landed on a tiny atoll – one of many in that general area of the Pacific – and was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, under Japanese control.”
For much more on Amy, Muriel and Thomas E. Devine’s strange encounter with Amelia’s sister, if only as a reminder, please click here.
* “Chief” was Albert Morrissey, a World War I veteran, who Muriel married in 1929 and passed away in 1979 at 81. They had two children, David, now deceased, and Amy Morrissey Kleppner, 88, alive and well in Wardsboro, Vt.
Kleppner, a 1952 graduate of Smith College, continued her education while working various jobs, earning both masters and doctoral degrees. She taught philosophy at several universities and later taught English at Walt Whitman High School, in Bethesda, Md., and has never spoken out on behalf of the truth about her famous aunt’s tragic fate.
In a November 2018 interview by David Ching in Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts THINK Magazine, “Purdue students help Earhart’s niece explain aviator’s feminist legacy,” Amy explained her lack of interest in the Earhart disappearance:
“(Solving the mystery) never seemed that important to me,” said Kleppner, who only met her famous aunt a couple of times as a small child before Earhart’s disappearance. “I know that lots of people are much more intrigued by it. I have good friends who are really intrigued by it and really want to get to the end of it. It hasn’t bothered me because, as I say, I think her legacy was her life and what she accomplished. She was very lucky, but she seized the moment. She had the opportunity and she did something with it, which had nothing to do with making money or being famous. It had to do with promoting the causes that she thought were important.”
Amy’s evasion in the THINK Magazine article is nothing more than a cop-out by a woman who apparently lacks the fortitude to deal with the Earhart problem in any forthright way. While there’s still time, someone should ask Amy why she has so little interest about how, where and why her aunt died, and why she doesn’t seem to care that Amelia herself would certainly want the world to learn the ugly, unfortunate truth, which has been hiding in plain sight for decades. I seriously doubt that will ever happen.
As researcher Dean Magley referenced in his June 1992 letter to Joe Gervais, today we present Magley’s strange account of his brief encounters with famed astronaut Wally Schirra, beginning in 1979. The following item appeared in the August 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Bold emphasis is mine throughout; underline emphasis is in the AES entry.
“WALLY SCHIRRA AND AMELIA EARHART”
(From the personal memoirs of Dean Magley.)
In October 1979, the Rockford Airport Authority held a public “Airport Appreciation Days” [sic]. In addition to static displays of military and airline planes, Wally Schirra one of the original seven astronauts was asked to appear and give a short talk.
Representing my employer, WREX-TV, I was one of a handful of local people asked to go to Milwaukee on a Coleman Airline plane to pick up Wally. He had just completed a public appearance for his new employer, Realty World. You recall he made TV commercials for them having retired from NASA earlier.
On the return flight Wally sat across the aisle from me. I asked my favorite question, “What do you hear from Amelia?” He laughed and said, “I suppose you mean Amelia Earhart?” I nodded yes. He added, “Some people think she is alive and living on the east coast.” [sic] I told him I am one of those. He laughed again and our conversation ended.
After his talk at the airport, Realty World offices in this area gave a reception for him at the motel where he spent the night. On my way there I stopped to pick up my wife so that she might meet him. As we approached him he had a big smile on his face and was shaking hands with everyone. When it was our turn, he looked at me, wiped the smile off his face and in a very serious voice said, “You’re the fellow who was on the plane this afternoon and asked about Amelia Earhart.” I admitted it was me. He said, “I can tell you that as of yesterday, or at the most two days ago, she was alive. I can’t give you proof, as such — but, as of no more than two days ago she was alive.”
With that he turned away, put on the big smile and greeted others. Later I phoned and wrote to him at his home. He would not acknowledge any communication.
In June, 1986, Wally returned to Rockford for a speaking engagement. I accompanied our news crew which was to interview him. When they finished, I asked that the cameras keep rolling.
I introduced myself and reminded him of our 1979 conversation. He turned on the big smile and said he recalled our meeting because few people bring up the topic. He stated that just a few days prior (in 1979) he had been in Florida and someone had given him that information. He was very gracious but would not supply the name of that person. (End of Magley account.)
What, if anything, can we take from Magley’s story? Did the famed astronaut really have inside information about Amelia Earhart? Clearly Magley thought it was possible, but this was 1979 and much that we know now was not widely disseminated.
The fact that Magley knew Joe Gervais well enough to write him a fairly lengthy summary of the 1982 Earhart Symposium tells us that he was likely sympathetic, at a minimum, with Gervais’ contention that Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart returned from Japan’s Imperial Palace following World War II, as was presented in the infamous 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives. If Magley could believe this all-time whopper from Gervais, he could believe anything. We should all know better by now.
We continue our retrospective on the Smithsonian’s 1982 Amelia Earhart Symposium, which was the last time a group of informed individuals — and many that weren’t — gathered for the purpose of presenting and discussing salient and important aspects of the Earhart disappearance.
Following is the conclusion of Dean Magley’s letter to Joe Gervais as presented in the July 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, in which Magley describes the people and events that defined the one and only Earhart symposium that the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has ever sponsored, or ever will, barring a completely unexpected change in the establishment’s policy of denial and deceit in the Earhart disappearance. Boldface is mine and in the AES original.
“THE GREAT DEBATE of 18 June 1982
at the SMITHSONIAN, WASHINGTON, D.C.” (Conclusion)
(A letter from Dean Magley to Joe Gervais, who could not attend.)
Elgen Long was introduced by his wife. He had a canned slide presentation complete with audio track describing why he thinks A.E. crashed just west of Howland. He is setting up a non-profit organization to raise five million dollars to locate the plane in 16,000 feet of water. He hopes to have found same, and promised to return to Air & Space Museum in 1987, to describe the proceedings.
Fred Goerner was smooth and professional, proving his radio background. He referred to your book twice in his talk but would not mention your name nor, do I think, the actual title of your book. At one point he said, “Those two guys who wrote a book in the early 70s.” He was very sarcastic as he said it. I guess there isn’t much love lost between you two — Ha!
He claims the Department of Defense funneled money through two people who gave to Purdue to purchase the Electra. He also said A.E. knew about the H. Frequency D.F. on Howland as per a letter to F.G. by Admiral? He waved the letter to us. He said A.E. had been directed to test D.F.’s. According to Admiral Winger [sic, probably Vice Adm. Joseph Wenger], the Japanese had better D.F.’s than us and were probably able to track her better than we could.
F.G. said General [Alexander A.] Vandergriff [sic] told him A.E. probably was on Saipan at one time. He referred to a “Smith’s Weekly Journal” of the 1938 article congratulating the U.S. on A.E.’s flight. He told of finding out on 6/17/82 that the F.C.C. conducted a study of A.E.’s communications and gave the results to the Navy. He didn’t say how he learned this, nor if he knew how to get ahold [sic] of the findings.
He claims a Professor [Fred] Hooven installed a D.F. in the Electra and says the Navy replaced it before the flight. He spoke of locating Lt. [John] Lambrecht (who led the three plane flight to Hull Island), and was informed by him that their original objective was to check three reefs southeast of Howland.
F.G. said Joe Gurr installed the radios in the plane and that Amelia could transmit even if in the water (while it still floated). He also told of Paul Mantz being removed as flight technical director before the flight, and being replaced by Mr. [Clarence I. “Kelly”] Johnson, of Lockheed, who later designed the U-2. F.G. claims he learned this fact in 1968.
Johnson told F.G. that A.E. trained for the flight in two (2) planes, and that he never saw photography equipment in the planes. A Tom McKean claims to have talked to the Japanese officer who interrogated A.E. as a prisoner.
Fred ended by saying that because of a personal health problem [cancer diagnosis?], he will bow out of the search and give all his reference material to Admiral Kent Carroll, head of Military Air Command.
[J.] Gordon Vaeth was the weakest link of the day. His main statement was that he feels the government has not tried to hide anything about A.E.! He used 20 minutes of the hour allotted, and could have been done in 5 minutes. He kept repeating that F.G. got him into the search but that this was all done in the ’60s.
Mr. and Mrs. Long left the theater as Vaeth was introduced. Mrs. Long did return 10 minutes into his talk. Vaeth quoted, H. Manning, an ex-editor of “Flying,” as saying A.E. was not on a government flight. Vaeth did say G.P.P. toured Saipan after the war, asking natives about A.E.
Vaeth’s biggest statement was telling that “According to the Japanese aircraft authority at the Air and Space Museum, the Zero is not a copy of the Hughes racer plane!!”
Claudia Oakes ended the meeting with the announcement that we could inquire of her in about one month, and audio tapes of the Symposium should be available. (This will prove if I misunderstood any of the information I’m passing on to you.) [See comment by Les Kinney, who has audio tapes of all presenters.] They also video taped the entire affair, but nothing was said of copies being available. It was also announced that Ann Pellegreno had been invited, but that she was having a porch installed on her home, and because of bad weather the previous week she had to stay home and supervise the installation!
At the lunch break I managed to talk to Muriel Morrissey and her daughter [Amy Kleppner]. They were ready to leave the theater, but did give me enough time to tell my Wally Schirra story. (Prymak’s note: see August 1994 Newsletter.) Amy sneered “Hrmph!” and turned away. Muriel took a couple of quick, short breaths, her eyes widened, then flicked sideways and then she sort of sagged, but said nothing. Amy then took her by the arm and they left. I intended to tell the story to Fay Wells, but decided that since she loudly proclaims A.E. to be dead, that in order to stay on her good side in hopes of getting additional information in the future, I decided not to mention it.
I did manage to meet Claudia Oakes in her office on June 17, and related the [Schirra] story [to be posted here in near future]. She had no reaction. She was so intent on watching something outside her office door, I’m not sure she heard anything I said.
At your suggestion I asked the proper person at WREX-TV (where I work) to ask for the revised episode on A.E. of the “In Search of . . .” series. We were turned down for that specific tape. Of course, they would have been happy to send their demo tape, but we declined.
About a month ago, Grace McGuire was interviewed on Good Morning America (ABC). I missed seeing the program, so I went through proper channels and asked for a tape of it to use in a news story. We were foiled again, even though we are the ABC outlet here.
I have listed on separate paper some questions. I would appreciate it if you would answer on the same paper and return in the envelope I am enclosing.
Please let me know if there is anything further I can do. I will contact Bobbie Trout and some of the others I met in D.C. I will let you know what results. I am also enclosing names and addresses of some of these people in case you wish to reach them.
If you ever have occasion to be in Chicago — even if for just a layover — please advise. I would like to meet you. Rockford is only a 1.5 hour drive from O’Hare, and I arrange my own time.
MERRILL DEAN MAGLEY
5216 Village Ct.
Rockford, IL 61108
Since the close of that event nearly 40 years ago, we’ve seen and heard little more than mainstream media infomercials masquerading as news stories that advertise and support the latest trending disinformation and deceit from the conga line of phony Earhart “experts.”
The major goals of these miscreants are to extract as much money as possible from the gullible and uninformed, while keeping that same public eternally ignorant about the Earhart disappearance. Worse, there appears to be no end to this shameless contempt for the truth, lying in plain sight since the early 1960s, and the chances that another Earhart symposium will be held within our lifetimes are slim to none. When it comes to the Earhart case, the news is almost never good, despite the best efforts of the faithful.
As we continue our trek through these ever-more interesting times, perhaps the most significant public discussion about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the June 1982 Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum, continues to fade from sight and memory.
Only the most well-informed even recall this event, or that it occasioned the great inventor Fred Hooven, after years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged post-loss radio receptions, to present his paper, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight,” the first academic, objective analysis of the Earhart post-flight transmissions.
Hooven’s thesis became better known as “The Hooven Report” and established him as the creator of the McKean-Gardner Island landing theory, soon to become TIGHAR’s infamous “Nikumaroro hypothesis” that continues to haunt us to this day, long after Hooven abandoned it. For more on Hooven’s work, see Truth at Last pages 56-57, 303-304 or click here.
For reasons clear to those of us who understand the truth, the symposium was not covered by Smithsonian Magazine or any other publications that I’m aware of, nor do I have a transcript or audio tape of it. The only significant mention of the event that I have can be found in the July 1998 edition of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, which contains the below letter from little-known Earhart researcher Dean Magley to Joe Gervais, who needs no introduction to readers of this blog.
Forthwith is the first of two parts. Boldface emphasis mine throughout, underline emphasis in original AES article.
“THE GREAT DEBATE of 18 June 1982
at the SMITHSONIAN, WASHINGTON, D.C.”
(A letter from Dean Magley to Joe Gervais, who could not attend.)
Dear Joe, 6/25/82
I thought I should bring you up to date concerning my attending the symposium on A.E. in D.C. on 18 June 1982.
I did make contact with Bob Jones and we were together the entire day. Nice fella. He is also very interested in the Lindbergh kidnapping, and a fellow named Olson, whom Bob had written but received no answer from, sat right in front of us for one session. Bob was so excited he could hardly concentrate on the speaker.
The audience totaled around 400. The first 5 or 6 rows were reserved for various preferred
people. I never learned how they were selected, but Bob and I weren’t included. Those who [attended] were, included the afternoon speakers: Sally Chapman, granddaughter of G.P.P. [George Palmer Putnam] who is writing a book on G.P.P.; Grace McGuire, A.E.’s look-alike who is to complete A.E.’s flight plan this year; Don Kothera and wife; Paul L. Rafford, Jr., who claims to be a close friend of Bill Galtin, the radio operator on Itasca; Milton R. Shils, an insurance man from Philly who had a picture taken of him at age 13 with A.E. and 4 or 5 others; Amy Kleppner, Muriel Morrissey’s daughter; [Evelyn] Bobbi Trout, charter member of the 99’s and her companion, Carol Osborne, who inherited some large collection of flying memorabilia; [William] Polhemus, the navigator on Ann Pellegreno’s [June-July 1967] duplicate flight; Cmdr. H. Anthony who was in charge of the search for A.E. (who relieved [Itasca Cmdr.] W. K. Thompson?); and possibly 30-40 others who were not introduced and I did not learn their names. One of these was a young lady of about 30 who had short cut hair like A.E., actually resembled her, and wore a new, shorter version of the leather coat A.E. wears in the first picture of your book. She also audio taped the entire program. She got out of the hall before I could talk to her. Darn!
There were basically three types of people represented: Those who say A.E. was taken by the Japanese but is now dead; those who agree with you that she still lives; those who say she was lost in the drink. One young man age 20-25, raised four or five questions with reference to your book. I did not get his name.
Muriel Morrissey spoke first. She spoke mainly of their childhood. Muriel is getting a little senile, I think. She did say “the Lindberghs didn’t get along too well.” I don’t know how she got on that topic. She also said, “We should have a true answer soon” (as to A.E.’s disappearance). This brought a murmur from the crowd. Questions from the audience asked for an explanation of her “true answer” statement. She flustered, then looked down at the front row of the audience and asked Elgen Long if she should say anything further. He indicated ‘no.’ She then said more would be told in the afternoon session.
Fay Gillis Wells — quite robust — speaks with authority. She had her entire talk on 3 x 5 cards and read it word for word. It was very well written and delivered. She was a foreign correspondent in 1933 in Russia, and handled the logistics for Wiley Post on his world flight. She also accompanied Nixon on his trip to China. She said there will soon be three new books on A.E. She vehemently denies that A.E. is alive. You recall when I spoke to her on the phone a month previously and mentioned there are some who think A.E. lives, she broke in almost before I could finish my statement said, “THAT’S PREPOSTEROUS! That poor woman in New Jersey should be left alone.” I have just realized that Fay was asked if she knew Irene Craigmile by the young man I mentioned earlier. Her reply was to the effect that she didn’t know what he was talking about but no, she didn’t know any Irene Craigmile. The young fellow then said Irene Craigmile is now Mrs. [Irene] Bolam and is pictured in your book, “A.E. [Amelia Earhart] Lives.” Fay said, “Oh, I’ve never read that book!”
Twice in her talk or in answering questions, Fay said, “A.E. would not throw her life away on a crazy spy mission.” She also said a TV series “distorts history,” and blasted an NBC three-hour production. I’m not sure what she was referring to on the NBC bit. She also stated that A.E. was born in 1897, and that Muriel Morrissey was here to back her up. Mrs. [Florence] Kothera asked her about her letter to Gen. [Wallace M.] Green asking about Privates [Everett] Henson [Jr.] and [Billy] Burks. Fay said she had never written to Gen. Greene. Mrs. Kothera then opened her scrapbook and said, “I have a copy of his answer to you, and if you would like me to read it, I will.” Fay then said, “Oh well, if I wrote a letter to the Marine Commandant, then I guess I did.” (Nothing had been said about his title by Mrs. Kothera!!) The Kotheras (who did the bulk of the research for “Amelia Earhart Returns From Saipan”), told me before the sessions started that they had letters from Henson and Burks stating that the government had NOT contacted them to ask about A.E.
Fay indicated throughout her talk that there is no way A.E. is alive, and tried to let on that she has not actively looked into her disappearance. Fay called Amelia “A.E.” and G.P.P. “Gyp.”
Fay also said A.E. paid for publishing the 99’s Newsletter. She mentioned Clara Livingston as helping Fay set up the 25th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp. I asked her if she believed in ESP as did A.E. and Jackie Cochran. Her answer was negative. She announced that May 22-24, 1983, would be a super big get-together in Atchison, Kansas. I can’t recall why she said it would be rated so highly though.
[Retired] Admiral [Richard B.] Black was introduced as having been given a medal for the Saipan-Tinian assault. (This means he may have been privy to firsthand information.) He said the H. Frequency D.F. [high frequency direction finder] was offered to him by a young lieutenant whose name he can’t recall (or I may have misunderstood) on Oahu. He told of the Itasca circling Howland on July 1 to calibrate it. It worked free. It was battery powered and they did lose some of their power so they were not at their best when they were needed. His opinion is that she crashed in the ocean after running out of gas about 10 A.M. He was on the Itasca until 5 A.M., when he went ashore to be with the H.F.D.F.
At the end of his talk (which seemed to be one he has given several times), he said: “And now for the first time I have an addendum.” He then stated that a Capt. Carter (whom he cannot now locate) told him a Japanese ship entered Jaluit* Harbor (with a white man and woman as prisoners). Black now believes they were A.E. and Fred Noonan. He offered no further information.
* The AES visited Jaluit and harbor in 1997. (End of Part I.)