Anyone who’s read extensively about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart has seen various claims that, while in the Lockheed repair facility in Burbank, Calif., following the March 16, 1937 Hawaii crash on takeoff, the Electra underwent special modifications that would allow the plane to accommodate aerial reconnaissance cameras in order to best prepare it for a covert spy mission. Special cameras were allegedly installed, and new, more powerful power plants replaced the standard Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp S3H1, 600 hp engines. While it’s not the purpose of this post to present the various claims that have been made in this regard, I’ve not seen any substantive evidence to support these assertions.
An even more outrageous asseveration came in Joe Klaas’ 1970 bombshell, Amelia Earhart Lives, wherein his friend Joe Gervais said there was no record of what became of the Lockheed XC-35 Electra, the first successful enclosed-cabin, pressurized airplane, capable of altitudes up to 40,000 feet, and suggested it could have been used by Earhart during her last flight. Klaas then theorized that Earhart could have “switched” from her own Electra to the XC-35 to fly a photographic spy mission, and that Lockheed could have built two XC-35s, one of which Earhart and Noonan flew on their special mission. In fact, the only Lockheed XC-35 ever built, with commercial serial number 3105 and military serial number 36-353, was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1948, and has remained there until this day. For more on Klaas, Gervais and the XC-35, please click here.
The following letter appeared in the July 1998 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, from former Lockheed specialist David Kenyon to Amelia Earhart Society President Bill Prymak, and will not silence the fading echoes of the Earhart Electra conspiracy theorists. But Kenyon’s letter does buttress other credible evidence arguing against the spy cameras, souped-up engines and other alleged special “adjustments” Earhart’s Electra supposedly underwent in order to operate at a higher level on a covert mission, one that nonetheless wasn’t good enough to prevent her landing at Mili Atoll, where she was soon grabbed up by the Japanese military and taken to Saipan. (Boldface emphasis is mine throughout.)
Bill Prymak’s note: David Kenyon is our “person on scene” in the Lockheed factory in 1937 during the repairs to AE’s “ship,” as they called it then. We asked poignant question re: his tenure, rumors of a 2nd Earhart Electra 10E and a 2nd XC-35 (see note below letter), the skunks works and his role in the repair of Amelia’s crashed ship in Hawaii.
David H. Kenyon
2165 Greenview Street
Eugene, Oregon 97401-2393
July 13, 1998
Thanks for your letter of the 6th that I will now respond to in the order of your questions:
1. On January 4, 1937 I began my 40 year career with Lockheed Aircraft, retiring in 1977 as a Marketing Director.
My role as an observer of the Amelia Earhart Hawaiian accident repairs was very limited. At the time I was employed as an assembler apprentice in the Wing and Tail Department assembling the Model 10 wing spars and the Model 12 stabilizers.
I was not qualified to repair the AE empennage when it came to our department. I simply observed a lead man cutting and removing damaged Alclad skin for reconstruction of the frame in the jigs. I managed to secure a piece of the upper stabilizer’s skin which I still have. I don’t recall whether I saw the plane in the final assembly department later.
2. I recall being able to walk thru the various departments of the factory to visit friends and see what was going on during a lunch break as in those prewar days there really weren’t many secrets in the 1,000 employee work force. In 1937 the Model 10 hit a high of 44 planes built tapering off before the Model 12 and 14 planes were produced.
I really doubt that a covert Model 10E was built since the employees would have known about [it] given the above circumstances. No section of that small plant was hidden from casual view. If a second XC-35 were produced it certainly would have had to go thru most of the Model 10 assembly jigs. *
I remember being able to walk through the separate enclosed area where the XC-35 finishing work proceeded. The L.A. Times referred to it as a SECRET plane when they photographed it upon quiet roll out on our open ramp. To obtain a covert additional plane it would have been easier and less expensive to have bought a used plane from some other operator. However, after all these years it seems logical that some trace of the first plane would have surfaced.
3. The Lockheed Skunk Works probably did not come into existence until the XP-38 was constructed in 1939 in a closed area of the factory.
4. The XC-35 was the product of a one plane contract, see enclosed excerpts from Lockheed reports nos. 1650 and 9374 and Master Schedule chart delineating the single XC-35 dated 1963.
5. No unorthodox repairs could have been made to A.E’s plane since they would have to reflect conformance to existing blueprints and repair manuals. The enclosed copy of a Lockheed 3-3-37 blueprint clearly shows the 6 fuselage tank fillers. The enclosed photo depicts these openings as well. The photo on page 28 of your March 1989 Newsletter clearly shows a rectangular tank under the A.E. plane. So all the evidence seems to rule out a singular circular tank. (Editor’s note: I don’t have the March 1989 Newsletter, as it’s not among those in the Assemblage of AES Newsletters, which covers issues from Fall 1990 to June 2002, nor was the referenced “Lockheed 3-3-37 blueprint” included with Kenyon’s letter.)
6. During Dick Merrill’s EAL [Eastern Air Lines] Electra flight from London to New York with the coronation films in 1936, he may have utilized extra tanks.
7. I have no knowledge of the numbers painted on Electras delivered to Australia and New Zealand. Suggest writing to Pat Donovan, Lockheed Aircraft Owners Club, as he has some lists of current A/C.
Bill, I look forward to your visit this summer and given some advance notice can arrange to be on hand to extend full hospitality.
With best regards,
* From Wikipedia:
The Lockheed XC-35 is a twin-engine, experimental pressurized airplane. It was the second American aircraft to feature cabin pressurization. It was initially described as a “supercharged cabin” by the Army. The distinction of the world’s first pressurized aircraft goes to a heavily modified Engineering Division USD-9A which flew in the United States in 1921. The XC-35 was a development of the Lockheed Model 10 Electra that was designed to meet a 1935 request by the United States Army Air Corps for an aircraft with a pressurized cabin.
The XC-35 was delivered to Wright Field, Ohio in May 1937, made its first performance flight on August 5, and was involved in an extensive flight testing program for which the Army Air Corps was awarded the Collier Trophy. The lessons learned from the XC-35 played a key role in the development of the Boeing 307 Stratoliner and the B-29 Superfortress which was to be the first mass-produced pressurized aircraft.
The Air Corps brass were so confident in the new technology that they allowed the XC-35 to be used as an executive transport for Louis Johnson, the Assistant Secretary of War and future Secretary of Defense. The XC-35 was donated to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in 1948 and remains there in long-term storage.
I received an email from Guam researcher Tony Gochar (see p. 263-264 Truth at Last) recently that I wasn’t expecting, about something that’s been sitting in plain sight for so long without being addressed that I had taken it for granted. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
Most readers of this blog are familiar with the so-called “Truk overflight” theory, by which Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, instead of flying east toward Howland Island, first headed north to Truk Lagoon, now part of Chuuk State within the Federated States of Micronesia. During World War II, Truk was Japan’s main base in the South Pacific theater, a heavily fortified base for Japanese operations against Allied forces in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, serving as the forward anchorage for the Japanese Imperial Fleet.
The long-theorized “Truk overflight” was initially described by Fred Goerner in the final chapter of The Search for Amelia Earhart:
When Amelia and Fred took off from Lae, New Guinea, they did not fly directly toward Howland Island. They headed north to Truk in the Central Carolines. Their mission was unofficial but vital to the U.S. military: observe the number of airfields and extent of Japan’s fleet servicing facilities in the Truk complex, and prove the advantages of fields for land planes on U.S. held islands on the equator.
Flight strategy had been carefully developed during the around-the-world trip. A point-to-point speed of not more than 150 miles per hour had been maintained throughout.
In 1937, U.S. intelligence would have been extremely interested in the status of this naval base, once known to Allied forces as Japan’s “Gibraltar of the Pacific,” and Amelia might have been asked to observe and possibly even take some photos with her small, hand-held Kodak camera. The Electra would have arrived over Truk at about 7 p.m. local time, with plenty of daylight left, or so I believed the basic theory held. Of course, we have no proof that Amelia attempted to perform such a mission, but her actions during the final flight suggest something very strange was afoot, and she had two meetings with top U.S. officials during April 1937, according to Margot DeCarie, her personal secretary. (See Truth at Last for more.)
For more background on the Truk overfly theory, please see my post from Dec. 14, 2015, “Bill Prymak analyzes Earhart-as-spy theories” and Jan. 2, 2019, “Art Kennedy’s sensational Earhart claims persist: Was Amelia on mission to overfly Truk?”
Tony Gochar’s recent message, which he began with, “Just a few thoughts about the Richards Memo,” went immediately to an entirely different subject:
One of the basic thoughts I had about Earhart going to Truk to take pictures was daylight. Google Earth Pro has a feature called sunlight slider. You can locate where you are interested in daylight –Truk, pick a date (the year should not make a difference), and slide a scale which will give a time of day and the amount of sunlight at the location.
This part of the world does not have those long summer days. At 7:00 p.m. you can see almost total darkness at Truk on July 2. The other concern I had was weather. The best I could come up with is the attached Monthly Weather Review. It doesn’t cover the area of Truk, but it would if a big storm was heading across the Western Pacific. For Earhart to go to Truk is not something I take seriously.
For the other comments about Japanese radio intelligence I have a few sources. They had the capability to RDF (radio direction finding) her flight. They had the capability to listen to her broadcasts. Since I did that very kind of work in the USAF I am very certain they followed her track. I can’t describe the details of what I did, but I would have certainly listened for her. The U.S. radio direction finding stations in the Pacific followed her. I will provide details in a later email.
As we have discussed many times some of these documents are still classified and who knows when they will be declassified.
I’ve doubted little, if anything, that the experienced, detail-oriented Gochar has told me, but as a non-tech type, I found the Google Earth Pro “Sunlight Slider” a bit user-unfriendly. But William Trail, a retired Army officer, aviator and longtime contributor to this blog, soon found and sent the Sunrise and sunset times in Puluwat Atoll, Chuuk, Micronesia, which confirmed Gochar’s claim that the Sunset Slider revealed darkness at Truk on July 2 at 7 p.m.
Sunrise, sunset and twilight end, on July 2 at Puluwat Atoll, Chuuk, among other readings on the Sunrise-sunset.org site, are 5:50:52 a.m., 6:23:31 p.m., and 6:46:14 p.m. respectively, which makes it dark indeed at 7 p.m. on July 2 of any year. Further, the World Time Zone Map shows that Lae, New Guinea and Chuuk Lagoon, formerly Truk Atoll and now part of Chuuk State within the Federated States of Micronesia, are in the same time zone.
As seen in the map above, found on the now-defunct Mystery of Amelia Earhart website, created by William H. Stewart, a career military-historical cartographer and foreign-service officer in the U.S. State Department and former senior economist for the Northern Marianas, the distance from Lae to Truk is 888 nautical miles, or 1,022 statute miles, (another source says it’s 1,620 kilometers, 1,006 miles per a-kilometers-to-miles converter), but who’s quibbling? The total distance from Lae to Truck to Howland Island is 3,250 statute miles, compared with 2,556 miles when flying direct from Lae, and indeed pushes the range limits of the Electra, said to be 4,000 miles in the absence of headwinds, though that was certainly possible.
After receiving Gochar’s message, the Truk overfly theory, as I had conceived it, was suddenly on its deathbed, at least in my own mind. But before administering Last Rites, I decided to check a few more numbers, just to be sure. I was surprised to see that for a flight leaving Lae at 10 am, it would have to average 114 mph for a nine-hour trip that arrives at 7 p.m. Why had this 7 p.m. arrival time been stuck in my mind in such a sacrosanct way? I don’t know, perhaps many online conversations on the Amelia Earhart Society forum had implanted it, but I can’t find a solid reference for it, and I no longer have access to the AES website, which has been all but defunct for years.
Far more likely, the Earhart Electra would have been maintained at an average speed of 135 mph, or even 150 mph, over the trip to Truk, a speed that had been common throughout its world flight. An average of 135 mph would have covered the 1,022 miles in 7.57 hours, and put the plane over the Japanese-held atoll about 5:30 p.m., with enough light to do whatever she might have been “asked” to do. A higher average speed, of course, would have brought Earhart and Fred Noonan over Truk even earlier in the day.
Like Gochar, William Trail doesn’t put much stock in Fred Goerner’s 1966 theory. “I understand that it must remain a possibility until it can absolutely, positively be ruled out, but no, I’m not an advocate of the Truk overflight theory,” Trail wrote in an Oct. 1 email. “Flying from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island by way of Truk for the purpose of taking aerial photos would have been a very long flight that would have taxed the capabilities of crew and aircraft to the max. The potential for failure, and disaster, was great. The odds for pulling it off and getting away with it were short. There was very little room for any error, or anything to go wrong, and we know that “Murphy” always tags along on the manifest. In my opinion, there was too just much risk for too little potential reward.”
In late October 2017, Ms. Carla Henson, daughter of the late Everett Henson Jr., contacted me for the first time, completely out of the blue. You will recall Pvt. Henson, who, along with Pvt. Billy Burks, was ordered by Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold to excavate a gravesite several feet outside of the Liyang Cemetery on Saipan in late July or early August 1944. This incident is chronicled in detail on pages 233-253 in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
When the pair had removed the skeletal remains of two individuals and deposited them in a large container that Henson later described as a “canister,” Henson asked Griswold what the impromptu grave-digging detail was all about. Griswold’s reply, “Have you heard of Amelia Earhart?” has echoed down through the decades and continues to reverberate among students of the Earhart disappearance.
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.”
Richard Bergren, 70, a retired naval flight officer with whom I once worked on a story as a Navy civilian at the Navy Internal Relations Activity in Alexandria, Va., in the late 1980s, has recently done some research that sheds more light on the 1944 search for Amelia Earhart on Saipan, and brings more insight to the Griswold, Henson and Burks saga. I thought some would be interested, and so present his findings forthwith. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
“Did top doctors search for Earhart on 1944 Saipan?”
by Richard Bergren
A number of books and articles have mentioned efforts to locate and recover the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan, as well as on other Pacific Islands. Most of those attempts were “rush jobs” which were conducted with questionable expertise and methods and often under arbitrary time constraints. If any remains were actually recovered, they have yet to be officially and publicly identified as the bodies of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.
Starting in July 1944 with the U.S. takeover of Saipan, and beginning again with renewed interest in the early 1960’s, excavations of potential gravesites were made based on sketchy stories, and human memories which were 25 years old. Searches for burial sites were made in areas significantly changed since 1937 and World War II.
Eyewitness stories vary widely in details, but all seem to agree that the Japanese held American aviators prisoner and that they buried more than one in the years and months prior to June 1944.
Rather than sort through and evaluate the details of the conflicting eyewitness stories, I wanted to see what might be in World War II era U.S. records regarding the recovery of aviator remains on Saipan in 1944. This was the first time that the U.S. had access to Saipan since Amelia and Fred were declared missing.
Operation Forager began on 22 February 1944 with U.S. Navy (and later Army Air Force) air strikes carried out on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. This was in preparation for all out amphibious attacks which began the invasion of Saipan on 10 June 1944. Fighting on Saipan was savage and it continued even after the island was officially declared secure on 10 July 1944. Casualties of killed, wounded, and missing were high and the U.S. Army hospital and graves personnel were very busy in the days which followed the fighting.
“The largest number of casualties handled over a short period of time by the Central Pacific Area general hospitals occurred following the Saipan, Guam, and Tinian battles,” according to the U.S. Army Office of Medical History, Chapter 11. These casualties were evacuated from the islands by hospital ship and landed at Kwajalein for care and transshipment to the hospitals on Oahu. These casualties numbered 2,900 during June and July of 1944.” While U.S. casualties were high, Japanese losses were much higher, totaling close to 30,000 killed on Saipan alone. As fighting continued sporadically on Saipan in mid-July 1944, the invasions of Tinian and Guam had just begun.
Where do Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan fit into this picture? They had gone missing on July 2 1937, seven years earlier. Exactly what intelligence the U.S. government may have had prior to the 1944 capture of Saipan is not publicly known, but starting in 1944, a number of Armed Forces personnel (Army, Marine Corps, and Navy) came to learn from various sources that Amelia and Fred had been imprisoned on Saipan, and had met their deaths there.
A number of books mention efforts to locate graves of Amelia and Fred, but the earliest account is probably that of Fred Goerner in his book The Search for Amelia Earhart. In it he relates the story told by Marines Everett Henson, Jr. and Billy Burks who claim that they were ordered by a Captain Griswold (USMC) in “late July or early August” 1944 to dig up two graves in or near a civilian cemetery on Saipan in an effort to find the two missing aviators. Allegedly some bones were found and taken by this Captain Griswold, with no further information regarding their final resolution or destination.
The story may be true, although vague as to exactly when and where the dig took place; unfortunately there seems to be no official resolution to the account because there was no definite confirmation that the remains were those of Amelia and/or Fred. And no information as to what was done with those alleged remains.
Remains recovery was not normally the job of the U.S. Marine Corps. It was a task specifically assigned to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, Graves Registration Unit. In fact, the U.S. Army had established the 27th Division Cemetery on Saipan for interment of the U.S. dead who were killed or died of wounds in the recent battle and there was a whole unit of those specially trained Army personnel on Saipan.
A number of Saipan eyewitness statements allude to the burial of “aviators” on Saipan prior to the June 10, 1944 invasion. Some of these accounts state that it was a single burial and others say there were two. Some accounts claim that it was a man and a woman who were so buried. Seldom, if ever, do those eyewitnesses identify the “aviators” by name or provide specific information regarding when or where the burial(s) took place. One Saipan witness states that he was pressed into service to bury an aviator on or about Feb. 23 or 24, 1944. This would most likely have been a U.S. Navy pilot killed in the opening air attacks of Operation Forager.
World War II historian Ted Darcy has compiled a website featuring U.S. aviation casualties. Like many other such efforts, it is not a complete listing of casualties, but it does contain a lot of very interesting information. Through his efforts, some previously unidentified/unknown servicemen, killed in World War II, have been positively identified and returned home for burial.
One veteran so identified was Navy Lieutenant Woodie McVay, a Naval Aviator killed on Feb. 22, 1944 while flying a mission with his wingman, Lt. (junior grade) Arthur Davis off the carrier USS Yorktown. Both men were lost over Saipan and initially declared missing in action.
Here is an excerpt from Ted Darcy’s website, Pacific Wrecks, about the effort which led to the 2009 eventual identification of Lt. McVay:
On July 17, 1944 during the American occupation of Saipan, Col. Elliott G. Colby and Lt. Col Richard C. Wadsworth (both U.S. Army Medical Corps) visited the Catholic Cemetery at Garapan to recover the remains of three aviators that had been reported buried there on February 23 or 24 1944. The remains were exhumed and taken to the 369th Station Hospital for an autopsy.
During that examination the following findings were made: One body was clothed in a one-piece, greenish-khaki coverall type of uniform; the buttons on the uniform contained the words “U.S. Navy”; a plain silver ring was found on the left hand; and on the underwear, marked in two places appeared the name W. L. McVay. It was determined that the injuries were caused as a result of an aircraft accident, not a war crime.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Army doctors had no records with which to compare their findings in an effort to identify this victim. The body was removed to the 27th Division Cemetery and buried as Unknown (Saipan X-35) in plot 3, row 11, grave 1132. In March 1948, these remains were moved to a mausoleum on Saipan. During October 1948, the remains were buried as an unknown at the Manila American Cemetery for “final burial” as unknown X-35 in section F, row 12, grave 2.
Lt. McVay was officially declared dead on Jan. 15, 1946. He posthumously earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), Air Medal and Purple Heart.
Through the research of Ted Darcy, it was found that the height and dental records of unknown X-35 matched with MIA/KIA McVay. The results were forwarded to Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii. In February 2009, the grave in Manila was opened and the remains shipped to the Central Identification Lab, where they arrived on Feb. 25, 2009. The identification was confirmed in May 2009, and Elizabeth Huff was notified that X-35 was positively identified as her grandfather, Lt. Woodie McVay.
McVay’s remains were transported to Mobile, Ala., for internment. On July 13 2009, McVay was laid to rest at his existing memorial marker, next to his parents in the Pine Crest Cemetery at Mobile, Ala. U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings published a lengthy story on McVay by historian Bruce M. Petty in its June 2015 issue. (End of Darcy excerpt.)
I located more information on both Army Doctors, Col. Elliott G. Colby and Lt. Col. Richard C. Wadsworth. Colby was the commanding officer of the 369th (Army) Station Hospital on Saipan in July 1944. Wadsworth was also a medical doctor and pathologist, possibly attached to the same command, but I have not found him on any rosters to prove that. Dr. Colby died in 1960 in San Diego, CA, and Dr. Wadsworth died in 1980 in Bangor, Maine — both after long and distinguished medical careers.
Goerner mentions an unnamed Department of Commerce person who contacted him in 1964, and suggested that an unnamed medical doctor may have taken remains to Washington D.C. Goerner associated that information with the name Griswold from his previous research and located a doctor by that name who had served on Saipan in 1944. Goerner did not specify, but he was likely an Army doctor, since it was an Army hospital on Saipan.
[Editor’s note: In a March 1968 letter to Fred Goerner, Tracy Griswold informed him that he had learned from his brother-in-law about a Major E.K. Griswold, of Santa Ana, Calif., who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. “It is further recalled that this particular Major Griswold spent time in the Pacific during World War II,” Tracy Griswold wrote. “This becomes rather remarkable in as much as you were told, as I recall it, by Marine Corp headquarters that there was not another Griswold in the Pacific Theatre [sic] during World War II, in the Marine Corp. [sic] I was sure that you would want to contact this party, particularly since he is in California in the event that there might possibly be a further clue to the Saipan incident.” Nothing further is contained in Goerner’s Griswold file.]
A report by an Army medical officer on conditions in the Marianas immediately following the U.S. takeover described the huge amount of medical work being done on Saipan (see above). The hospital dealt with hundreds of surgeries and hundreds of other treatments daily — and yet the locating and disinterment of three graves by these two high ranking Army doctors took a higher precedence.
It might follow that the remains of the other two “aviators” disinterred with McVay’s body on 17 July 1944 were also buried as unknowns in the 27th Division Cemetery on Saipan — and might have followed a similar documented path to Manila either as “Saipan Unknowns” or under names yet to be found. If they were NOT buried in the 27th Division Cemetery, what became of them and why?
Whether or not the other two bodies were Amelia Earhart and/or Fred Noonan is not stated in anything I have seen to date. It is a possibility. Regardless of who those two bodies were, it seems likely that they were disinterred and autopsied by these two medical doctors on the premise that they might be Amelia and Fred.
What are the chances that these two high ranking medical officers (Colby and Wadsworth) with their credentials and qualifications would just happen to be attached to a forward area army field hospital, temporary cemetery, or refugee camp? And on their own initiative go digging up a civilian cemetery?
The July 17, 1944 disinterment and subsequent autopsy begs several questions:
– Why was it so important to send two high ranking officers to a civilian cemetery at a time when the service of medical officers was so critical? Even though Saipan had been declared “secure” a few days before, fighting was continuing, and there were thousands of wounded military and civilians to care for.
– Who ordered these disinterments?
– How was intelligence of their location obtained?
The stated purpose at the time was that they were looking for downed military aviators, yet even when evidence obtained from the grave indicated one body was that of Navy Lieutenant McVay, it was stated that the doctors did not have Navy information to compare/confirm his identity and so he was buried as an “Unknown.” Clearly they were NOT looking for him specifically, nor did they identify the other two bodies as being military aviators.
The autopsy report goes out of its way to state that Unknown X35 (McVay) died as a result of injuries received in a crash rather than due to a “war crime.” This indicates that they may have been looking for bodies of Americans taken prisoner, tortured, and killed during a war crime — perhaps by beheading?
With all of the work to be done on Saipan in the way of securing the Island, caring for the wounded, bringing in supplies, and building hospitals, roads and airports, why was this disinterment of such high importance? It is highly doubtful that the two senior medical doctors on Saipan would on their own initiative go digging in a civilian cemetery.
(Editor’s note: I’m not an expert on the location of all the cemeteries on Saipan, either in 1944 or now, but the Catholic Cemetery discussed in this piece was not the same place as the Liyang Cemetery on Saipan, as far as I can tell. Liyang was south, outside of Garapan, while the Catholic cemetery was within the city limits, according to Everett Henson Jr., Billy Burks, Anna Diaz Magofna and others who knew of these events. See Les Kinney’s comments below for more clarification.)
What became of the other two “aviators” disinterred at the same time as Unknown X35 (Lt. McVay)? In light of the careful cemetery record keeping of the Army Quartermaster Corps (as seen in the McVay case) it might follow that the other two bodies were also autopsied and buried in the 27th (Army) Division Cemetery as unknowns and later also transferred to Manila for reburial.
Note: There were a number (perhaps as many as 20) of U.S. Navy and Army Air Force aviators declared Missing in Action (MIA) during and prior to the Saipan invasion. Except for Lt. McVay, none of them have ever been recovered and identified.
It is quite possible that the other two “aviators” were also military pilots. If so, they were never identified as such.
Could it be that the two doctors had been specifically tasked to locate the bodies of Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart? (End of Richard Bergren’s piece.)
Richard Bergren retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994 after 22 years as a naval flight officer (NFO). He flew in the Lockheed P-3B Orion, the Lockheed EC-130 Hercules, and numerous types of trainer planes. Piloted Pioneer unmanned air vehicles (UAV’s) from the Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) and USS Shreveport (LPD-12). He earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University, Troy, Ala. He is a graduate of the Naval War College and took postgraduate courses in Japanese, German, and history at various colleges.
He is a military historian, writer, teacher, musician and competitive rifleman. He’s married, the father of six and grandfather of 12.