We continue with Part II of our “Earhart Research Page of Honor.” Again, this is an alphabetical list, and I make no claim that this group is complete or sacrosanct. All suggestions for additional honorees will be considered.
If you disagree with any of these selections, you’re invited to express your opinion. Please make your case cogently, succinctly and objectively, and hold the sanctimony and invective.
“Earhart Research Page of Honor” Part II
VINCENT V. LOOMIS: Former Air Force C-47 pilot Vincent V. Loomis and his wife, Georgette, traveled to the Marshalls in 1978 hoping to find the wreck of a plane Loomis saw on an uninhabited island near Ujae Atoll in 1952. Loomis didn’t find the unidentified aircraft he hoped was the Earhart Electra, but in four trips to the Marshalls he gathered considerable eyewitness and witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there. His 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, is the definitive tome in establishing the presence of Amelia and Fred Noonan at Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands on July 2, 1937.
Loomis went to Tokyo in 1981 seeking confirmation of statements contained in a 1949 CIA inter-office memorandum he found in National Air and Space Museum files. The G-2 intelligence document revealed the United States was extremely interested in the Earhart case, and in 1949 had asked Japan to provide any and all relevant information it possessed.
“The Japanese lied quite convincingly both in 1937 and in 1949,” Loomis wrote, “but their statements could not be proven as such until the ships’ movements were determined through research in Japan in 1981. Why did Japan lie about the role of Kamoi in the Earhart search? Though no official explanation will ever be issued, almost certainly they had the fliers in custody when they assured the United States of their cooperation in the search, and merely pretended to be engaged in a goodwill humanitarian mission.”
Loomis died on June 13, 1996 at age 75 in Pensacola, Fla. For more on his significant contributions to the search for Amelia Earhart, please click here and see pages 134-141 and 149-151 of Truth at Last.
BILL PRYMAK: Bill’s selfless contributions to our knowledge of the Earhart matter are legendary. In the erudite, largely unknown circles of Amelia Earhart research – real investigative work, not the fabricated-for-public-consumption propaganda the media has force-fed the masses since the earliest days – Bill left a lasting, indelible mark of excellence that will be always be remembered and honored by those who know and respect the truth about Amelia’s fate that he helped to establish.
Through his networking skills and Earhart expertise, Bill was able to collect, evaluate and disseminate an astonishing volume of information in an entertaining and enlightening format to the Amelia Earhart Society membership. Bill’s AES Newsletters totaled 421 letter-size pages of original Earhart research from countless sources, which he meticulously compiled and snail-mailed – at significant cost to himself — to the AES membership every few months from December 1989 to March 2000.
These priceless documents are among the most important ever produced in the search for the truth in the Earhart case, extraordinary in their variety and wealth of content – true collector’s items that will never be duplicated. Without these remarkable references, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, would have been a far lesser book.
Founder and first president of the Amelia Earhart Society (AES) of Researchers, a giant of Earhart research and a special friend whose generosity of spirit will never be forgotten, he passed away July 30, 2014 in a Louisville, Colo., hospice. Bill had recently undergone surgery for colon cancer; he was 86.
For much more on Bill Prymak’s legacy, please click here.
PAUL RAFFORD JR.: Rafford was the “Elder Statesman” of Earhart research and the last of the original members of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society of Researchers.
Earhart fans will recall Rafford from Vincent V. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story (Random House), wherein he presented his then-current ideas about the Electra’s radio propagation capabilities and Amelia’s strange decisions during the final flight.
In 2006, Rafford’s book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio, was published by the Paragon Agency, and though it wasn’t a commercial success, it remains a gem of invaluable information unavailable anywhere else.
Rafford began his aviation career with Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer in 1940, flying with Pan Am until 1946. He worked with crew members who had flown with Fred Noonan, and talked with technicians who had worked on Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E. After a promotion with Pan Am, he continued to fly as a technical consultant before transferring to the U.S. Manned Spaceflight Program in 1963. During the early space shots he was a Pan Am project engineer in communications services at Patrick Air Force Base, and joined the team that put man on the moon. He retired from NASA in 1988.
Rafford passed away on Dec. 10, 2016 in a hospice in Rockledge, Fla., at 97. Michael Betteridge, Paul’s nephew and general manager of WTHU AM 1450, a talk radio station in Thurmont, Md., said his uncle passed peacefully with his daughter, Lynn, at his side. “We lost a great man on that day,” Betteridge said in an email.
For much more on Paul Rafford Jr.’s contributions to Earhart research, please click here.
ROLLIN C. REINECK: A war hero, retired Air Force colonel and an original, longtime member of the Amelia Earhart Society, Reineck’s passion for Earhart research often produced interesting, informative results. At other times, his unrestrained enthusiasm for the spectacular and bizarre led him into areas populated only by Fred Goerner’s “lunatic fringe,” and these ill-conceived forays have tainted his reputation among top Earhart researchers.
Reineck was among the most avid promoters of the notorious Weihsien Telegram, or Weihsien Speedletter, discovered in U.S. State Department archives in 1987. The unsigned telegram reads, “Camp liberated — all well — volumes to tell — love to mother.” Sent from Weihsien, north China, and dated Aug. 28, 1945, this document created a huge buzz among researchers who speculated it could have been sent by Amelia herself. In 2001, this hot potato was relegated to the dustbin of dead-end myth, when AES researcher Ron Bright definitively disproved the idea that Amelia Earhart had been confined at the Weihsien, China civilian internment camp during World War II.
Reineck’s authorship of the dreadful Amelia Earhart Survived (Paragon Agency, 2003), his unsuccessful attempt to resurrect and validate the long-discredited Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth was his greatest blunder in the Earhart arena. Reineck was among the most prominent and vociferous of those who continued to believe in and promote Joe Gervais’ absurd idea, introduced to the public in Joe Klaas’ 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives.
Incredibly, what Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais had strongly suggested in Amelia Earhart Lives, pulled from circulation 33 years earlier – that Amelia Earhart, having been held captive by the Japanese since July 1937, had returned to the United States sometime after World War II and assumed the identity of a New Jersey woman named Irene Bolam – Kailua, Hawaii’s Reineck stated as unequivocal fact.
For much more on this unfortunate aspect of Reineck’s legacy, please click here.
Reineck was a also prolific letter writer and Freedom of Information advocate, and he sometimes got real results. In March 1991, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) signed a letter written by Reineck to the Secretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush, requesting that all classified material relative to the Earhart disappearance be released. For more details from my March 31, 2015 post, “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?” please click here.
Like Joe Klaas, Reineck was a genuine World War II hero, amassing an outstanding record as a navigator with B-24s in the 8th Air Force over Europe, and later in B-29s on Saipan, flying missions against mainland Japan. Reineck’s awards included the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster.
RON REUTHER: An original member of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society, Reuther was perhaps the most cerebral and historically erudite of all. Reuther often provided previously unknown background information that brought new perspective to heated discussions, and was known to introduce new and enlightening topics to enhance learning.
Reuther founded the Oakland Aviation Museum in 1981, directed the San Francisco Zoo from 1966 to 1973, and helped to catalog and prepare Fred Goerner’s papers for their placement at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.
While director of the San Francisco Zoo, Mr. Reuther took a sickly baby gorilla named Koko into his home and, with his children’s help, nursed her back to health. A few months later, a Stanford psychology graduate student who had been studying the zoo’s apes asked for permission to work with Koko. Mr. Reuther agreed and the student, Penny Patterson, began a life’s work teaching American Sign Language to Koko and researching apes’ capacity for language.
In 1978, Koko gained worldwide attention and was pictured on the cover of National Geographic magazine. The cover photo was an image of Koko taking her own picture in the mirror. Koko was later featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 with a picture of her and her kitten, All Ball. At the preserve, Koko also met and interacted with a variety of celebrities including Robin Williams, Fred Rogers, Betty White, William Shatner, Flea, Leonardo DiCaprio, Peter Gabriel and Sting.
ROBERT E. WALLACK: Although he wasn’t a researcher or writer in the sense of the others on this page, Robert E. Wallack’s contributions to our knowledge of the Earhart truth are more than enough to earn him a place among them.
Wallack was the best known of all the former GIs who came forward to share their eyewitness experiences relative to the presence and death of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan after the 1987 publication of Thomas E. Devine’s Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident.
I first met the amiable Wallack on the phone in 1992, as he took me back to July 1944 Saipan, when Fate intervened to change his life forever. The former Marine machine-gunner told of his hellish experience on the Saipan beach, watching helplessly as his comrades of the 29th Regiment were cut down during the early stages of the invasion, as if he was recounting the gruesome opening scene from Saving Private Ryan.
A few weeks later, as if Providence were directing him, the Marine private discovered Amelia Earhart’s briefcase, dry and in perfect condition in a blown Japanese safe, containing “official-looking papers all concerning Amelia Earhart: maps, permits and reports apparently pertaining to her around-the-world flight,” Wallack wrote in a notarized affidavit. “I wanted to retain this as a souvenir, but my Marine buddies insisted that it may be important and should be turned in. I went down to the beach where I encountered a naval officer and told of my discovery. He gave me a receipt for the material, and stated that it would be returned to me if it were not important. I have never seen the material since.”
His story never changed, and the outgoing veteran shared it with countless listeners including millions in a 1990 Unsolved Mysteries segment with Robert Stack, a 1994 appearance on CBS’s Eye to Eye with Connie Chung and a 2006 interview for The National Geographic Channel’s Undercover History special on Amelia Earhart
Over the years Wallack generously sent me all manner of fascinating memorabilia, including copies of his honorable discharge papers, maps of Saipan, battle photos taken during the invasion, letters from other GIs with their own stories to tell, videotapes of his TV appearances and news articles.
Robert E. Wallack passed away in a Branford, Conn., hospice on July 7, 2008, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 83.
For much more about Wallack’s important role in the Earhart saga, please click here.
Though MARIE S. CASTRO is alive and well on Saipan at 87 despite recent health setbacks, she too occupies a unique place in the Earhart pantheon. Marie is the last living link to two of the major Saipan eyewitnesses to the presence of Earhart on Saipan, Matilde F. Arriola and Joaquina Cabrera, and she founded the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. group in September 2017, determined to honor the brutal deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan at the hands of the Japanese military.
To read much more about Marie S. Castro and her ongoing and significant contributions to the truth in the Earhart disappearance, please click here.
This list of unique researchers, authors and other important contributors to what is now a wealth of knowledge about the Earhart case is respectfully submitted for the information and entertainment of all. Within a week or so, I’ll combine Parts I and II and post them as one piece at the top of this blog’s front page under the heading, “In Memoriam,” so that all who visit this blog will have quick and easy access to this gallery of those who played the vital roles in bringing us the truth about the Earhart disappearance.