On the 88th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s solo Atlantic flight, by which she became the first woman and second person to achieve that remarkable feat, we return to a recurring theme in the Earhart saga — the possible location of Amelia’s final resting place. “THE GARAPAN PRISON . . . Another Incident” appeared in the November 1998 issue of The Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. In his introduction, Bill Prymak wrote, “Recently, Don Wilson, author of Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend [Enigma Press, 1994] received a letter from a [person] who had been on Saipan in 1953, long before public interest in the AE disappearance took off in the early 1960s.” The unnamed person’s letter follows. Boldface emphasis mine throughout.
I arrived on Saipan in early summer of 1953, for a tour of duty. Two or three months later, by which time I and others had pretty thoroughly explored the island, the subject of Amelia Earhart came up, probably during a dinner party. We all remembered the story of Amelia’s disappearance many years earlier, and that she may have been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan, assuming that her plane went down elsewhere than Saipan. A few days later I was talking with a Chamorran native, a male about mid-thirties in age, and I asked him about Amelia. He offered to take me and one or two other friends to the prison where she and Fred Noonan had been held. A day or two thereafter we followed the Chamorran into a fairly heavily overgrown area near where the headquarters of the prewar Japanese sugar and tapioca business was located.
The main building was roofless and the walls were in bad shape from the bombings that occurred during the American invasion. Beyond the headquarters building in the direction of Garapan, but I would guess to be about halfway between Chalan Kanoa and Garapan, we came to a small clearing in which stood the remains of a jail. As I remember, there were four cells and the second cell from the right was pointed out to us as the one in which Amelia was kept. Fred was in the one to the far left.
As I recall, the cells were about five by eight feet in dimension so the entire cell block was only twenty some feet long. The paint on the interior of the cells was faded and chipped and open to the elements because the roof was missing. There was no floor, just sand and coral. The wall of “her” cell had faded writings, scratchings really, which were unintelligible except for those made by an American GI, a corporal, who may have been locked up for a few days for some misdemeanor or, more likely, simply scratched his name and date while visiting the cells as I was.
My Chamorran guide said that Amelia was kept there for an unspecified period of time and then executed and buried in the jungle beyond the cell block fifty yards or so. Fred met a similar fate, according to him.
Please bear in mind two things: one is that I was not in search of Amelia at that time. It was just a curious thing that I happened to find myself in a spot on which a very interesting event took place. I now wish I had spent a lot more time questioning my Chamorran friend and looking farther afield for other natives who might have knowledge. Second, in 1953 there was no public interest that I was aware of in Amelia’s fate and surely there was no excitement on the part of the native population in the story that would have served to whet their appetites or imagination and produced exaggerated details.
The attitude at the time amongst all of us including the Chamorros was sort of ho-hum, isn’t this interesting. So I am quite willing to accept the story told to me by the Chamorran. Whether he acquired his story from other credible sources, from stories circulated by the Japanese to suit their own purposes, or saw any portions of the story himself, I don’t know. Nor was a time frame hung on this scenario. Amelia and Fred went down in 1937. I was there 16 years later. My Chamorran friend didn’t say when Amelia and Fred were brought there, from where, or when they were executed. If he did, then I have forgotten that part. I did not scratch around for graves. The undergrowth was much too thick for that. I simply took his word for what he said because he would have had no ulterior motive. I had not offered to pay him, nor did I.
So, Don, that is the extent of my recollection. I realize it offers you nothing new and may only confuse matters even more than they are now. I wish I could have been more useful. I shall now open your book for the first time and read with interest what you have acquired.
Good Luck. (End of letter.)
DON WILSON’s response to this letter, in part, was as follows:
I really appreciate the detailed information you sent me about your experiences on Saipan regarding accounts of Amelia Earhart. You stated that “We all remembered the story of Amelia’s disappearance many years earlier and that she may have been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan.” This statement surprised me because I was not aware that people had been talking very much about her being taken to Saipan until after the investigations began in the 1960’s. As I mention in my book, there were some American servicemen both in the Marshalls and on Saipan who had some information during WWII regarding Amelia. But to my knowledge these accounts were not widely publicized in the ’50s.
It was fascinating to read about your recollection of the jail and the four cells in one of the cell blocks. It was especially interesting to read that your source indicated different cells for both Fred and Amelia than my source. But that’s OK, and does not discredit the tact that Amelia and Fred may well have been imprisoned there.
You wrote that you wished that you “could have been more useful.” Actually, your account is significant to me because of the early date — 1953 — in which your experiences occurred. Many people were interviewed years later, but yours is the earliest account that am aware of where Americans talked with the islanders about Amelia and Fred after WWII. I would agree that they had no ulterior motive for their accounts.
When you have a chance I would appreciate any comments that you might want to make about my book. You may or may not agree with my conclusions, but I would like to know your thoughts.
I would like to be able to share what you have written to me with other members of the Amelia Earhart Society. A newsletter is published several times a year for the benefit of the 100 or so members who have an interest in the fate of Amelia and Fred, and who from time to time come up with bits of information which they share with fellow members. Much of my resource material came from the newsletters of the society.
May I have your permission to send the information you sent me to the editor of the newsletter? An issue will be coming out in a few weeks and your material could be included in that newsletter. It would also be helpful if you could give your name and your reason for being on Saipan. But I leave that up to you.
Members of the Society simply are trying to find out what really happened. They do so at their own expense, and are not engaged in fund raising for any special projects. The Society does not have an “official” position as to what happened to Fred and Amelia, but welcomes information from any source. Despite years of work, and extensive travel by some members, there are still many unanswered questions, and many conflicting opinions.
Best Wishes, Don
Note that the person who wrote this letter to Don Wilson, apparently a former member of the U.S. military — he mentions a “tour of duty” — and almost certainly a male, did not want Wilson to know his name. This is not a rare phenomenon in Earhart research.
I still haven’t posted my story about a fourth U.S. flag officer — another admiral, this one on active duty in the early 1980s — who stated that Earhart and Noonan died on Saipan. The man who provided the information to me — a retired Navy officer himself — refuses to have his name associated with the Earhart story, or what he obviously considers to be the wrong side of it.
His fear is real, but entirely unfounded. This man and other former high ranking officers I’ve encountered who refuse to lend their names to this cause don’t inspire my faith in humanity, or my hope that our deeply corrupt establishment will ever do the right thing in the Earhart case. Although the relatively scant numbers of those who care about the Earhart disappearance continue to dwindle as I write, this sacred cow has long been among the Deep State’s most revered, and the documents that reveal the truth will stay out of public hands unless and until a U.S. president decides the time has come.
The unidentified letter writer wasn’t the first to suggest that Earhart might have been buried near the prison, but most of the native witnesses pointed to other locations on Saipan, most often the Liyang Cemetery, south of Garapan, where Marine Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks were ordered by Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold to excavate a gravesite several feet outside of the Liyang Cemetery in late July or early August 1944. This incident is detailed in Chapter 13 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, titled “Griswold, Henson and Burks.”
In late October 2017, Ms. Carla Henson, daughter of the late Everett Henson Jr., contacted me about her father’s experience on Saipan. To read more about Carla, her father and the Saipan gravesite incident in 1944, please see my Dec. 26, 2017 post, “KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”
For extended discussions on several of the more prominently alleged Earhart gravesites on Saipan, please see pages 219-231, 233-240 and 245-249 in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. Other suggested locations include Arlington National Cemetery and the basement of Amelia’s birthplace museum in Atchison, Kansas.
And let’s not forget the real possibility that Amelia may not have been buried at all, but cremated and her ashes scattered to the wind, as Saipan eyewitnesses Matilde F. Arriola, Joaquina Cabrera and others were told. In May 2018, Marie Castro presented Jose Sadao Tomokane, who claimed to have been an eyewitness to Earhart’s cremation.
For more about Tomakane and other witnesses, please see my May 18, 2018 post, “Marie Castro, a treasure chest of Saipan history, Reveals previously unpublished witness accounts.”
Today we return to the matter of the “one-way” phone conversation between Henry Morgenthau Jr., U.S. treasury secretary and confidante of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary, on the morning of May 13, 1938. Via Dictaphone, we have long had Morgenthau’s side of this conversation, which is interesting indeed. The document first appeared in the 1987 book Amelia: My Courageous Sister, by Muriel Earhart Morrissey, Amelia’s younger sister, and researcher Carol L. Osborne.
The late Col. Rollin Reineck’s distinguished Air Force career spanned 30 years, and his work is well known to readers of this blog. The mercurial Reineck served with great distinction as a B-29 navigator flying from Saipan in action against mainland Japan. In his Earhart work, Reineck was at times brilliant, at others less than coherent (see my Dec. 29, 2015 series of posts, starting with “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV”).
During a patch of clarity, Reineck wrote at length about the Morgenthau incident in a piece titled “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection,” which appeared in the January 1997 edition issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. “Today, it ranks as one of the most compelling pieces of circumstantial evidence we have in our search for the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart,” Reineck wrote. “The memo is unclassified and was probably overlooked when they screened the Morgenthau files that were to be made public and put in the Hyde Park Library. To date, it is the only document concerning Earhart in his archival material. . . . [T]here was one person, more than anyone else, who probably knew the answer as to what happened on the fateful day in early July, 1937. That one person was Henry Morgenthau Jr., the secretary of the treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
My own take on the Morgenthau phone conversation, “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?” appeared on this blog on March 31, 2015. The below letter from Joe Gervais to Bill Prymak was presented in the October 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Boldface, italic and caps emphasis both mine and in original AES Newsletter article.
EDITOR’S [Prymak] NOTE: The following reveals that secret papers relating to the Earhart mystery, are still cached in the basement of the US TREASURY DEPARTMENT, labelled “TOP SECRET” after 62 years! Why can’t the papers be released? Do we need to send Harrison Ford or Rambo to retrieve these papers’? Are these papers being denied because they could damage US-Japanese relations? Far Fetched? Read and judge for yourself.
Reference the below page of Senator [Daniel] Akaka’s report of March 1991. Gervais, [Randall] Brink, [John] Luttrell, [Dean] Magley, [Rollin] Reineck, Senator [Daniel] Inouye, and Senator Akaka have all been denied access to those 12 boxes. This cover-up by the executive branch of government is similar to the [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower/Gary Powers affair. This is a case of international magnitude between the U.S. and Japan. We have received no help from our ambassadors to Japan, such as [Edwin] Reischouer, [Douglas] McArthur [II], [Michael J.] Mansfield, [Walter F.] Mondale, etc. Why not put this on the Internet?
[Below is from Sen. Daniel Akaka’s (D-Hawaii) March 1991 report]
Senator Henry Morgenthau Jr.:
I’ve been given a verbal report. If we’re going to release this it’s just going to smear the whole reputation of Amelia Earhart. . . . and if we ever release the report of the ITASCA on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she has is gone. . . . and I know now Amelia Earhart disregarded all orders. . . . What happened to her the last few minutes. I hope I’ve just got to never make it public . . . I mean what happened. It isn’t a very nice story. . . . And, we have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else.
After reading the referenced memo of Secretary Morgenthau and comparing it with what we know today about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, I can certainly understand Col. Reineck’s assertion that there is a great deal more Amelia Earhart material in Secretary Morgenthau’s files or in the Treasury Department that has not been released and is still being withheld from the public.
In this regard, I also understand why Col. Reineck believes it is strange that of all the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. papers in the F.D.R. library at Hyde Park, only this one — albeit very significant, makes any reference to Amelia Earhart. Col. Reineck wonders whether this material was somehow accidentally overlooked when the Secretary’s papers were screened for public release by the government.
Col. Reineck advised me that other researchers who are colleagues of his, namely, Mr. Merrill D. Magley and Mr. John F. Luttrell, have tried through the normal “Freedom of Information Act” channels to obtain additional information from your department without success. This is true, Col. Reineck informed me, even though they had pin-pointed box containers T-33A and T-33B in the basement of the Treasury Department behind a locked metal wire cage as the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. files for 1937 and 1938. One of your personnel, Ms. Karen Cameron, described the material as relating to Amelia Earhart, but denied access on the basis of its being classified “TOP SECRET.” (End of Akaka report.)
As I said in my March 31, 2015 presentation, plenty of room exists for different interpretations of Morgenthau’s statements as recorded on the Dictaphone. Without having Mrs. Scheider’s side of it, we can never know for sure exactly what these two were really saying.
I have no doubts about two points relative to it, however. First, despite the treasury secretary’s thrice-repeated concern about the “reputation of Amelia Earhart” and how he wanted to protect it, I am convinced that Morgenthau cared only about the reputation of his boss, FDR, and how public knowledge of the truth in the Earhart matter would affect FDR’s political future.
Secondly, by May 1938 if not much earlier, Morgenthau was fully aware of Earhart’s captivity on Saipan and her probable if not certain death in Japanese hands. Based on Morgenthau’s comments to Scheider, many of which make little or no sense without Scheider’s replies, it’s difficult to believe that she was among the few who had been brought into the small circle of those who knew the unhappy truth, which would have been so deadly to FDR and his administration’s future.
Perhaps the most important question arising from the Morgenthau-Scheider phone conversation is this: What did Morgenthau mean when he said, “Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders”? Whose orders? To do what? And how did she disregard them? Some have attempted to explain Morgenthau’s reference to Earhart’s “disregard for orders” as her failure to follow the planned radio schedule and protocols between her and Itasca, but if that was the case, why all the secrecy on Morgenthau’s part?
And what are we to make of Morgenthau’s reference to “all those wireless messages”? Is he referring to some or all of the alleged “post-loss” radio messages that some believe came from Earhart in her downed Electra? Or others that remain undiscovered in top-secret files?
Smithsonian rejection letters to Briand Jr., others: Classics of sophistry in the Amelia Earhart saga
In an April 3 comment Les Kinney sent in response to my post of that same day, “Revisiting the ’82 Smithsonian Earhart Symposium,” Les wrote: “Joe Gervais, Don Kothera, and Vincent Loomis all asked to speak at [the 1982] symposium. All were denied. Only Fred Goerner represented the Japanese capture theory.” (Boldface and italic emphasis mine throughout.)
Three weeks later Les sent me a copy of a June 1982 letter from Ms. Claudia Oaks, then curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, to Paul Briand Jr. In her June 6 missive, dripping with condescension, Oakes deigned to inform Briand that he wasn’t important enough to stand and deliver the truth about Amelia’s tragic end to the sophisticates who would be populating the peanut gallery at the Smithsonian’s Earhart Symposium later that month.
Recall that Briand’s 1960 book Daughter of the Sky sparked the real modern-day search for Amelia Earhart, and that without it, Fred Goerner’s famed 1966 epic, The Search for Amelia Earhart, would never have been written. Les has a similar Oakes letter to Kothera; Gervais and Loomis must have also received them.
The Smithsonian has long been a central repository of Earhart disinformation — ground zero, as it were, for the establishment’s ongoing commitment to keeping the ugly truth hidden from those of the unwashed incurious enough to rely on government institutions to tell them the truth about America’s history, which is about 99.99 percent of the populace. Oakes’ letter, below, is a prime example of the carefully crafted mendacity we’ve come to expect from the revered Smithsonian.
Oakes begins her litany of deceit by informing Briand that “half the program [will be] devoted not to her disappearance but to her life. . . . We want the day to be more devoted to Amelia Earhart, the person and the pilot, than to the mystery of her disappearance.” Does anyone know the precise origin of, or who planted the seed that bloomed into the Smithsonian’s 1982 Earhart symposium? After 45 years and hundreds of magazine stories, biographies, movies, documentaries, billboards and ads, all celebrating and trumpeting Amelia Earhart’s amazing life, are we to believe that the Smithsonian brain trust actually thought their symposium was needed to preserve Amelia’s legacy?
Does anyone buy that? My guess is that the initial impetus for the event was created by the growing, annoying realization among the anointed that Briand Jr., Goerner, Gervais, Loomis and Kothera had all found aspects of the same truth, which would soon be further disseminated to the masses by Loomis’ 1985 book Amelia Earhart: The Final Story and Thomas E. Devine’s Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident two years later. More than likely, the Smithsonian elites felt something needed to be done to derail this train of Earhart enlightenment before it sped out of control and exposed their sacred cow to danger. They needn’t have worried. Besides being dishonest, they were also quite paranoid, failing to understand how effective many decades of government and media propaganda had been in keeping nearly everyone either ignorant or disinterested about the so-called “Earhart Mystery.”
Oakes, in her officious gibberish, was actually saying that the Smithsonian could handle Fred Goerner, whose ideas, though generally accepted by many if not most of the 400,000 who had made Search a bestseller in 1966, had been vilified and rejected by virtually the entire literary and historical establishment. Goerner by himself was tolerable, but things could get very uncomfortable if truth tellers such as Briand, Gervais, Loomis and Kothera were to chime in with their findings in support of the unhappy facts Goerner uncovered in four visits to Saipan in the early 1960s.
Thus nobody should be surprised that Oakes tells Briand, “Therefore, there are only two spaces on the program for speakers who will talk about her disappearance. These two [Goerner and the silver-tongued Elgen Long, the poster boy for the government’s crashed-and-sank verdict of 1937, rapidly becoming an anachronism by 1982] were selected after much consideration and with the knowledge, of course, that not everyone would agree with our choices.” And where was it written that only enough time would be allotted for these two to speak about Amelia’s disappearance, one of them the best-known and most vocal of the double-talking proponents of the false government narrative? (TIGHAR would not appear on the Earhart scene for several more years.) Never mind.
“Our aim, however,” Oakes continued in the same mendacious vein, “was not a public debate on theories as to her ultimate fate but a program that would highlight her life, her flying career, and her contributions to aviation, with some attention to, but not emphasis on, her disappearance.” The emphasis, of course, was on obscuring, deflecting and ultimately burying the truth about Amelia’s Saipan death with enough sugar-coated glorification, distraction and nonsense to keep the majority of the sheeple content, and that’s what happened: Another stage-managed Earhart disinformation production sold and in the can.
I have my own brief but inglorious history with the Smithsonian and its confreres, as my posts of Jan. 18, 2015, “Smithsonian mag throws “Truth at Last” a bone: Says, “it’s possible . . . Campbell is on to something“ and Aug. 6, 2019, “After five days and publication of this blog post, Smithsonian mag approves my Earhart comment“ clearly attest. Nothing in the Smithsonian’s behavior with me or anyone else invested in the truth has ever given me the slightest reason to trust them in any way when it comes to the Earhart matter.
Included in the former of the two Truth at Last posts cited above, “Smithsonian mag throws “Truth at Last” a bone,” are several paragraphs from my Earhart Disappearance Position Statement. Because this truth cannot be over-emphasized and has yet to be accepted by more than a scant few, I present the below excerpts, as these are more than appropriate for this particular post.
The Big Lie: The “Great Aviation Mystery”
This PRINCIPLE, which has become one of my constant memes, is that the very idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is a “great aviation mystery” is among the biggest lies in American history. So effective has the U.S. government been in inculcating and maintaining this idea into the official historical narrative that it has become a normal piece of our cultural furniture, accepted without question by all but the few who care to closely examine this longtime canard, this straw man our establishment created so long ago to protect its own interests.
. . . Thus, when the Earhart disappearance is analyzed or examined by people we would normally consider intelligent, like Tom Crouch [who replaced Claudia Oakes and retired as Air and Space curator in 2018], all established, traditional rules of investigation, including objective evaluation of evidence, logic and the scientific approach, become virtually nonexistent and non-applicable.
Les Kinney ended his April 3 comment with another fascinating nugget, this one concerning researcher Don Kothera and former Marines Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, whose story was the subject of my Dec. 26, 2017 post, “KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”
“As part of their June 1982 trip to Washington, D.C., the Kotheras tried to get Marines Headquarters to interview Billy Burks and Ev Henson on the record about their grave digging episode on Saipan [in 1944] directed by Marine Captain Tracy Griswold,” Les wrote. “The Kotheras even had signed affidavits from Henson and Burks. The Marines refused the Kothera request. I wonder why.”