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. (Editor’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 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.