1982 Smithsonian Earhart Symposium Conclusion

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.

Elgen M. Long has, for many decades, been among the most well-known public faces for the anachronistic, discredited “Crashed-and-Sank” theory in the Earhart disappearance.

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 Journalof 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.

Amelia with radio guru Joseph Gurr at Burbank, Calif., before her second world flight attempt in June 1937.

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.

Undated photo of J. Gordon Vaeth, noted airship historian and author who wrote to Fred Goerner in 1964 to offer his assistance in “getting to the bottom of the Earhart story.”  Vaeth, who once wrote to President Ronald Reagan’s national security assistant, William Clark, practically demanding that the U.S. government reveal the truth, later became a convinced “crashed-and-sanker.”

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.

Grace McGuire and her 1935 Lockheed L-10E Electra, at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, Calif., circa 2012.  (Photo courtesy Eduardo Contreras, San Diego Union Tribune.)

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.


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. 

16 responses

  1. Where have we heard that line about “the government has not tried to hide anything?” Does JFK assassination, 911, Pearl Harbor ring any bells? It never changes, and the media is always right in step with them.


  2. If I’ve learned anything, from the media/news about Amelia Earhart’s fate, It’s absolutely NOTHING…………………..nor do I expect to. Years ago. I stumbled across Mike Campbell’s online information & email. He was the only one, who was focused on the *TRUTH and provided *F*A*C*T*S*. I don’t expect, the U.S. Government to miraculously devoldge the truth one day. As I have learned, the media is joined at the hip with our government. The media will never expose the government’s secrets……………… If I want to know the *TRUTH about Amelia Earhart’s demise, Mike Campbell’s websight is just that and more, look no further…………………………


    Liked by 1 person

  3. More interesting details in this post, too bad they don’t solve the mystery of what was her purpose. It was what I thought, AE could use the radio without running the engine. It sounds like it was a known fact that the plane would float and it was made so that in its floating position the seawater would not enter to the point it would interfere with the operation of her radio. I once figured using high school physics that the batteries would run the radio at least an hour (that’s ONE battery, maybe she was able to utilize more) so it leaves open the possibility that she could ditch in the ocean and radio out to a rescue ship(s) as long as needed to be picked up. It still sounds very risky to try that, but at least this makes it sound feasible. When I first took an interest in AE story it was through TIGHAR forum and book.

    I was ridiculed on the forum for asserting the plane would float never mind still radio for help while floating. So Gillespie has his tortured hypothesis of landing and running an engine to use her radio. I thought he was some kind of aviation accident investigator, I would think he would be very knowledgeable about these details. Perhaps he knows all, and he has been directed to spew his Niku theory for the disinformation of the general public. Come ro think of it, didn’t he get a large donation from Chevron for one of his Niku trips and who is footing the bill for the Ballard boondoggle? Maybe same entity that slipped the money to Purdue for the gift of her plane. Of course Chevron and the National Geographic make good cover stories for what could be direct government finance.

    So I’m picturing the Japanese listening to every word she says on her radio and tracking her flight with their superior DF. They must have been mystified . Wouldn’t she know that she would be tracked and listened to if she flew over Marshalls and/or Truk? But if she truly was in vicinity of Howland, why not just land in the water and radio for help until she was picked up? Or get in her yellow raft? If she was near Howland what point would there be to fly to Mili? Mili is the second atoll she would come to after Knox, and she would see absolutely nothing of any interest in the Marshalls. Not that there was much to see anyway.

    Before now, I thought it impossible for her to ditch close to Howland and get picked up, but this information indicates that was doable. So once again I have failed to solve the mystery but now. my questions are on a higher level.


  4. So, what is the “Schirra story?”


    1. Stand by, it’s coming up in the next post!


      1. Looking forward to it.


    2. “Que Schirra, Schirra, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see”….no?


  5. David Atchason | Reply

    To answer my own question, Knox Atoll was uninhabited in 1937 as far as I know. AE could have noticed that, possibly. Knox and Mili were once joined and now separated by the Klee Passage which is shallow. So I suppose she could have pushed on to where she saw some habitation on Mili and decided to ditch there. But as Wikipedia says, she would have no plausible reason to land on Mili unless perhaps she was flying there from the direction of Howland and Mili/Knox was the first land she sighted. Which would suggest that they might really have been lost, but I doubt it. I’m still just going around in circles.


  6. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    In his letter to Joe Gervais, Dean Magley briefly comments that Fred Goerner claimed “the Department of Defense (not created until the National Security Act took effect on 18 September 1947) funneled money through two people who gave to Purdue to purchase the Electra.” Could this be a reference to David E. Ross and Josiah K. Lilly who, with about $25,000.00 each, launched the Perdue Research Foundation (a legally separate entity from PU) in December 1930? Possibly.

    The fact that, while still in the grip of the Great Depression, Perdue University would shell out $80,000.00 to purchase a Lockheed Electra 10-E for Amelia Earhart makes absolutely no fiscal sense. There’s no way to rationalize this purchase. And, calling that airplane a “Flying Laboratory” and using it to take air samples and catch bugs is a real stretch.

    What does make sense is for the War or Navy Department, or a combination of both, to covertly provide the funds to purchase the Electra for AE to use on behalf of the U.S. Government, and use a couple of wealthy, rock-solid, reliable, patriotic citizens at Purdue to act as cut-outs.

    If you want to get to the bottom of things, follow the money.

    All best,



  7. I was curious to find the “Smith’s Weekly Journal” article referencing Gen. Vandegrift; I did find archived copies of the paper on the National Library Of Australia website, but found only one article about him dated March 3, 1943 titled “We Land At Dawn” (no reference to AE). There were, however, some other interesting articles related to AE including:

    “USA does Australia a Secret Service” dated October 16, 1937; this states the US Navy (under the guise of the AE seach) overflew Mandated areas including the Carolines and Marshalls and reported findings to the Australian Defence Dept.

    “Again “Smith’s” Proves It So!” dated January 1,1938; this references the prior article and states “Australian Dailies acknowledged Smith’s scoop in the usual way-by silence!”. It then mentions their story was supported by a New York Times article which also mentions the Kamoi and the Koshu.

    “Army Medical Move” dated January 15,1938; the last paragraph says Japanese “agents” wanted copies of the Smith’s (original) article and found them at the N.S.W. Library and forwarded them to Tokyo.



    1. Great find.


    2. William H. Trail | Reply


      Thanks for sharing that great link. Much appreciated. Although I do not believe the Japanese shot down AE, and anything of importance she and FN may have seen would have been subsequent to their landing on Mili, I did find the reference in the Smith’s Weekly Journal (copied below with spelling cleaned up by me) to the photo album most interesting. With Naval Intelligence diligently collecting up everything on Saipan connected to AE how did Smith’s Weekly Journal find out about an album of photos of AE on Saipan? From whom? When?

      “Smith’s Weekly Journal”

      Saturday, 29 July 1944

      The discovery at Saipan
      (Marianas) of an album
      of her pictures, lends color to
      the suspicion held at the
      time that Amelia Earhart,
      aviatrix, saw too much in
      her flight across the Pacific
      and was shot down by Japs.

      All best,



      1. Bill,

        I think the answer must be that someone at Smith’s Weekly became aware of the July 8 INS wire service story that I reference in beginning Chapter IX of Truth at Last:

        In July 1944 a small wire service story appeared in newspapers nationwide. Datelined Saipan and unnoticed by most, the story portended a major avenue of investigation looming just over the horizon in the Earhart search.

        SAIPAN, July 8 (Delayed) (INS) — The mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart, famous American aviatrix, popped up again today—this time on Saipan. The discovery of an album filled with Amelia Earhart pictures here on this battle-torn island revived the search for an answer to the seven-year mystery of the fate of America’s number one woman flier. Some marines reported finding the album filled with pictures of Amelia Earhart clothed in sport togs. There were no other pictures in the album.

        I wasn’t aware of the Smith’s Weekly story until you referenced it tonight. Great find by you and Tom Williams.



  8. Jackie Cochran stated on occasion that she and her husband, Floyd Odlum, had “helped” Amelia and G.P.P. without going into details. Floyd Odlum is believed to have been one of the richest persons, if not *the* richest person, in the U.S. at the time. I believe that he lived vicariously through the aerial exploits of his wife while managing a substantial financial empire. It was also completely consistent with his style to do a big favor for the Roosevelt Administration.

    Jackie and Amelia seem to have had something of a symbiotic relationship. Jackie was the pilot Amelia could only hope to be one day. Her friendship with the far more famous Amelia could only raise her prestige in the aviation community and the world at large. As for Amelia and G.P.P., the Odlums were exceptionally generous to their friends.


    1. And recall that Jackie Cochran was sent to Japan in 1945 on what was officially a fact-finding mission to examine the history of Japanese women in the Japanese Imperial Air Force. While there she said she saw several files and photos of Amelia Earhart, but she never disclosed what they contained. They were likely the same files seen by Col. Donald Kennedy, also in 1945, which he described as showing Amelia in Japanese custody. See pages 181, 280 of TAL for more.



    2. Jackie Cochran was in a big hurry to get to Japan at the end of the war. She used her AF connections to get there: Press credentials from Liberty Magazine even though she admitted she was no writer, travel orders cut by the office of Gen. H.H. Arnold, flew in on the plane of the general who was tasked to survey Japanese airfields for use by the USAAF, delayed only by her tendency to hobnob with the AF muckety mucks she encountered along the way. I believe they all believed Amelia might have been alive in captivity somewhere in Japan. Guess the Navy didn’t tell the Air Force what they knew.


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