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.