Dean Magley, Wally Schirra and Amelia Earhart

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.

Astronaut Wally Schirra graces the cover of the May 16, 1967 issue of Life magazine.  Schirra was an American naval aviator, test pilot and NASA astronaut.  In 1959, he became one of the original seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury, which was the United States’ first effort to put human beings into space.  On Oct. 3, 1962, he flew the six-orbit, nine-hour, Mercury-Atlas 8 mission, in a spacecraft he nicknamed Sigma 7.  At the time of his mission in Sigma 7, Schirra became the fifth American and ninth human to travel into space, and was the first astronaut to go into space three times.  According to Dean Magley, Schirra also possessed inside knowledge about the fate of Amelia Earhart.  Schirra died in May 2007.

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.

Joe Gervais (left), the father of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam theory, and Joe Klaas, his right-hand man and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a typical news photo from The Washington Post in late 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation.

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.

10 responses

  1. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    My sense is that Wally Schirra, naval aviator, fighter pilot, test pilot, and one of NASA’s Original Seven Project Mercury Astronauts, was having big laugh at Dean Magley’s expense.

    All best,

    William

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  2. Sorry Wally- not buying it!

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  3. David Atchason | Reply

    There seems to be some context missing from this story. Why would Dean Magley think Wally Schirra would have any answer to his question? If Dean wanted to get any sort of a story from Wally why would he annoy Wally by asking such an off-the -wall question? Yes, it’s always possible that Dean was sort of a jerk and this was Wally’s way of brushing him off. Or it may have been that something came over Wally and he blurted out the truth only later to regret it and he clammed up to Dean.

    It would not look good to have a revered American such as Wally to reveal a very inconvenient truth. All his lucrative appearances career would have quickly gone down the drain. I just happen to think Wally was a smart guy and would not have had a laugh at Dean’s expense with an answer like this. The Information was too sensitive to use to have a laugh. But, anything’s possible.

    This Wally story if true, does vindicate my hypothesis that Amelia was not seen as a spy by the Japs, but was a relatively well treated asset to them to the point that a Japanese soldier might even keep her picture on his person.I am not familiar enough with Tokyo Rose stories to posit that she was involved with propaganda broadcasts, but maybe under duress she was. How many American ladies did the JApanese hold to do their propaganda? Probably very few.

    As I said before I have come to believe that there would have been nothing to gain by sending AE on a spy flight. There was nothing of any importance for her to see. No secret advanced technology, no armadas of JAp warships or planes, so what was she supposed to report? THat the Japs were installing prohibited military installations? So what? That was FDR’s plan anyway.

    And no, I don’t believe FDR created the war with Japan so he could win another election. American military industrial complex craved a war with JApan. I also find it very curious that Amelia and Fred as valued prisoners were not put to any use that I know of. They were merely secretly held by the JAps. I doubt it was any secret at all to those in power in America, but what that entailed is probably in the legendary “secret files.”

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    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      David,

      Nothing “came over” Wally Schirra to make him “blurt out the truth.” The idea that Amelia Earhart survived Japanese internment during WWII and was secretly repatriated back to the United States to live out the rest of her life as an obscure housewife in New Jersey is so utterly preposterous as to be ridiculous in the extreme. No. Wally Schirra was well known within the Astronaut Corps and NASA for his sense of humor and love of practical jokes, which he played upon his fellow astronauts and support personnel. Wally loved a “gotcha.” I believe it’s a safe bet that Schirra was just having some fun at Dean Magley’s expense.

      All best,

      William

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I was wondering why Dean would ask that question also; found this explanation on the irene-amelia website… “In two separate interviews he conducted with original seven Astronaut, Wally Schirra, pictured above, Merrill Dean Magley was told by Schirra that he had “met” the former Amelia Earhart at NASA before. During a filmed-interview Magley later conducted with him, the famous astronaut calmly described how he knew the woman he met at NASA was the former Amelia Earhart, responding to him on camera by saying, “people I considered reliable had advised me who she was.” If all of that is true, who would have told Wally he met the “former” AE?

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      1. Though I rarely go to the “Irene-Amelia” site, I’m quite familiar with most of its content, and know that anything you find there is suspect, to say the least. Nothing referencing “two separate interviews” or a “filmed interview” of Schirra by Magley can be found in Prymak’s AES Newsletters, a far more reliable source of information, or anywhere else that I’m aware of. I don’t accept the premises that you use to ask your final question. Of course, I could be wrong and am open to correction. Let’s see these interviews — or some solid evidence of such — Magley allegedly had with Schirra, before we go off half-cocked.

        Mike

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      2. I agree with you Mike regarding content on that site being “suspect”, that’s why I asked “IF all of that is true” (I do occasionally go to some of those “other” sites…as the saying goes, keep your friends close, your enemies closer). In fact, that site is it’s own worst enemy….their “evidence” which largely consists of photos of Irene and Amelia is their own undoing…they look NOTHING alike. I didn’t see anything in there regarding the source of that story.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. William H. Trail

        Tom,

        It would be great to view Dean Magley’s interview with Captain Schirra for the purpose of actually hearing Schirra’s words and observing his body language. Does a copy of the video exist? I looked on YouTube, but didn’t find anything.

        I agree with you about the irene-amelia website.

        All best,

        William

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      4. William,

        I have no idea if there is any record/video of Magley’s alleged interviews; I was just searching his name and a link came up to the irene-amelia website, and I simply copied/pasted the story into my post. I also looked but didn’t find anything else online.

        Tom

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  4. David Atchason | Reply

    In reading these posts I come away a little confused. It seems like Wally made remarks about AE being alive more than once. Why does this subject come up with Wally to begin with? If I were interviewing a celebrity at the height of his fame I would not ask him a completely off topic and mildly silly question. Perhaps Dean had heard a rumor about AE associating with the astronauts and thought Wally would know an answer. Like, would any reporter, in the middle of an interview, ask Walter Mondale where was Amelia? Also, to be a celebrity you have to learn how to avoid those topics which are “The truths that must not be spoken about.” Of course this was before these days of all out disinformation about AE but Wally probably knew this was a touchy subject and he better not make jokes about it. So I believe there was a slight chance he was just being honest.

    What keeps coming into my mind is the famous case of Rudolph Hess who made the audacious flight to Sotland, I think, with a peace proposal just before WW2 started. He was not popular with anyone. He was imprisoned after the war for life, so the story goes if true. On what charges,I have not learned. I’m not sure how realistic his proposals were. Germany wanted back its former colonies, I believe that meant the mandates among them.

    So, possibly AE was trying that stunt, (actually, AE was the inspiration for Hess) to avoid a costly (read: profitable to some) war. Anyway, no wonder Morganthau was peeved. So she purposely flew over at least the Marshalls (or maybe not. She might have just landed on Saipan.) I don’t know how dangerous it was to purposely ditch your plane on the beach or in the lagoon at Mili, but I think it was something you would not do unless you had to. I have to think her mission was not a success diplomatically and the JAps did not quite know what to do with her. They probably decided to keep her on Saipan awaiting developments. While there, she might have become a sort of local celebrity to the Japanese there in the know and maybe even a heroine to some.

    It’s no wonder Forrestal wanted her plane destroyed, if it were known she had apparently landed there, the public might be wondering how come? He might have even come there himself to accompany Amelia on her ride home. Of course his records would be tampered with to make sure nobody would suspect his presence on SAipan. He may even have had sympathetic leanings to Amelia”s cause or movement. It’s events like these that make me take seriously the question raised by some if WW2 was even necessary. Or was it fought for obscure reasons that are covered up in characterizing it as a great patriotic war? So to conclude my meandering speculations, I can easily envision AE and maybe Fred as consultants to NASA. Wally would encounter them occasionally at the local Piggly Wiggly market. Who knows, maybe Amelia was helping out in the production of the fake moon landing films. She was given the choice on Saipan of turning into a Florida housewife who kept her mouth shut or being disappeared permanently.

    Maybe she visited her sister Muriel occasionally or they met up in Florida, so Muriel and her visitors were monitored closely. My apologies for being so cynical but in reality I am not cynical enough. Now I will attempt to post this. Yesterday with a similar opus, when I posted there was a message on the screen which said, “Sorry, this cannot be posted at this time.” And my writing was vaporized. Gone.

    Liked by 1 person

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