Saipan’s Marie Castro is well known to readers of this blog, and I won’t repeat the myriad details of the many stories I’ve posted about this brave woman. Though she was only 4 years old in 1937 when Amelia Earhart came ashore at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor with Fred Noonan as captives of the Japanese military, Marie later came to know and interview several eyewitnesses to the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.
On Nov. 16, Marie, now 87, appeared on “1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories and Mysteries” podcast with Jon Hagadorn. To listen please click here and scroll down to “The Shocking Truth: Marie Castro Recalls Stories of Amelia Earhart’s 1937 Captivity on Saipan.”
“I have been receiving good responses from people who heard the interview about Amelia Earhart,” Marie wrote in a Nov. 17 email. “Thank you kindly for referring me to Jon so we could reach more people in learning what really happened to the two fliers. I tried my best to answer Jon’s questions during the interview although I missed two or three minor details. I am satisfied for bringing out the real truth of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s presence on Saipan in 1937.”
In September 2021, Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. (AEMMI), the group Marie founded on Saipan, will mark its fourth anniversary, but despite its best efforts to educate Saipan’s limited populace, scant progress has been made toward erecting a monument to the famed aviatrix and her navigator who became perhaps the first casualties of World War II during their captivity on Saipan in 1937.
Barely a dent has been made in the estimated $200,000 price tag for the monument, and local officials have yet to designate a small plot of land for the monument’s location. The resistance on Saipan to the monument is overwhelming, and I’ve written about this insidious problem at length on this blog and in the Marianas Variety (Micronesia’s Leading Newspaper Since 1972).
A bit closer on the horizon, in February 2021, another opportunity for Marie and the AEMMI to bring their Earhart Memorial Monument proposal to public attention looms. The 5th Marianas History Conference, co-organized by the University of Guam, Northern Marianas College, Northern Marianas Humanities Council, Humanities Guåhan, Guampedia, and Guam Preservation Trust, will be held virtually from Feb. 19-26, 2021 and will feature on-site venues in the CNMI and Guam for select, conference-related events and presentations. Here’s more about this event, straight from their official online promotion (boldface emphasis theirs):
The 5th Marianas History Conference invites scholars, students, and individuals with oral history knowledge of events and people in the Marianas to submit a brief abstract of a paper or presentation that contributes to the many stories that define the history and identity of one archipelago.
The conference theme, One Archipelago, Many Stories: Navigating 500 Years of Cross-Cultural Contact, calls for participants to examine aspects related to history, cultural heritage, language, political status, demographic change, and the overall process of adaptation of the Mariana Islands and her people following Western contact.
In 1521, half a millennium ago, the people of the Mariana Islands had the first known encounter with people from the other side of the world, through the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan. Those first, complex interactions triggered a number of consequences for our islands: being placed in world maps, the visits in succeeding years by other explorers, and eventually an intense process of colonization that in some respects continues to this day in Guam and in other parts of the Pacific.
I may be biased, but what could be more fitting for this Marianas “History Conference” than to designate the heretofore unacknowledged presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan during the years leading up to World War II as the No. 1 item for discussion? More than likely, however, the eight decades of corrupt politics surrounding the Earhart sacred cow will militate heavily against any meaningful mention of the Earhart case at this “virtual” event, regardless of anything Marie and the AEMMI do to create interest. I hope I’m wrong, but so far I’m batting 1.000 in predicting developments — or lack of same — on Saipan.
“This is the first time also I’ve learned about this event,” the ever-optimistic Marie wrote in a Nov. 23 email. “I told Frances [Mary Sablan, AEMMI vice president] that we need to take any occasion to expose the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument project. The committee is enthusiastic about it. This strategy serves in educating the whole island about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.”
With that in mind, Marie has sent the required 200-word abstract on behalf of the AEMMI to the board and staff of the Northern Marianas Humanities Council for their consideration. I won’t be holding my breath, but as always, will be hoping and praying for a merciful break in the constant flood of irrational resistance to the long-overdue establishment of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan.
To contribute to the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan (see March 16, 2018 story), please make your tax-deductible check payable to: Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc., and send to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950. The monument’s success is 100 percent dependent on private donations, and everyone who gives will receive a letter of appreciation from the Earhart Memorial Committee.
Most observers of the true history of research into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart are familiar with the work of Vincent V. Loomis, the former U.S. Air Force C-47 pilot, who, with his wife, Georgette, made four investigative trips to the Marshall Islands in the late 1970s-early ’80s, finding and interviewing several extremely important witnesses, which led to the publication of his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.
Loomis’ most important findings came in 1981, when he went to Tokyo 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 unstated purpose of the American government’s renewed interest in the case may have been to discredit Amy Otis Earhart’s July 1949 statement to the Los Angeles Times that she believed the Japanese were involved in Amelia’s demise. Attached to the memo were clippings of a July 25, 1949 United Press story, “Mother Tells Fate of Amelia Earhart,” reporting Mrs. Earhart’s statements to the Times, as well as an August 1949 story in Japan’s Nippon Times, “UP [United Press] Tracing of Story Famed Aviatrix Was Nabbed By Japanese Still Proving Futile.”
The following article was written by Bill Prymak but came largely from the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, It appeared in the July 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Following Prymak’s piece, I’ll have some additional comments.
JAPANESE CAUGHT RED-HANDED IN A LIE?
By Bill Prymak
Was or was not the KAMOI at Jaluit during the period July 2, 1937? In a memo to James Golden dated 14 October 1976, Fred Goerner referred to documents that fuel the fire: “Interesting point: The comments of the Japanese officers in 1949 are the exact opposite of the same officers in 1971. In the enclosed documents, the officers maintained the KAMOI searched for AE in 1937.
In an article in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings in 1971, the same officers maintained that the KAMOI had nothing to do with the search in 1937; indeed, they claimed the KAMOI was in Japan at the time of AE’s disappearance.” (Preceding boldface emphasis Prymak’s, remaining boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
Were the Japanese lying the first time, in 1949, or were they covering up on 1971? You decide from the following:
Vincent Loomis, author of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, describes how during a visit to Japan in 1981, he found a G-2 document on Amelia Earhart, dated Aug. 4, 1949:
“After the war, U.S. Intelligence (G-2) was ordered to investigate the Earhart disappearance from the Japanese side,” Vincent V. Loomis wrote in his introduction to the above document, which he labeled “Central Intelligence G-2 Memorandum — 1949.”
“The resulting report, reproduced here for the first time, is remarkable in that the Japanese managed to convince G-2 they had searched the Marshalls quite thoroughly when in fact they had not. The 12th Squadron and the Kamoi were listened as having searched the area when, as found in their logs, they were in port in Japan. The Koshu was also listed as part of the search, but as having found nothing.
“The Japanese lied quite convincingly both in 1937 and in 1949, but their statements could not be proven as such until the ships’ movements were determined through research in Japan in 1981.”
Far from being uninterested in her loss, the U.S. government had pressed the Japanese for as much information as they could obtain. American intelligence agents were unable to find any Japanese Navy records pertaining to Earhart, but interviews were carried out with Japanese personnel who had supposedly searched for the Electra after it was lost on the way to Howland.
According to the document, the Japanese Navy’s 12th Squadron, assigned to the Marshalls in 1937, was instructed by Tokyo, after a request from the U.S. government, to send the Kamoi, a seaplane tender, and several large flying boats, using the sea to the south of Jaluit as a central search point. Later the survey ship Koshu was ordered into the area. Both ships were listed in Japanese news releases of the day as primary search vessels. The Japanese testified that the Kamoi led the rescue effort, but no traces of Earhart were found. The investigation was closed.
. . . Once settled into a marvelous hotel (nothing like my wooden barracks of 1945), I was interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper about my quest for Amelia Earhart. Other journalists and a television station heard of my efforts, and before long I had a number of allies among these newspeople. One reporter told me that he had tried to interview Japanese veterans who had served during the period of Earhart’s loss, but there was a loud silence on the subject. The new generation of Japanese wanted to know the truth, many actively searching out contacts on my behalf.
The next day my Japanese interpreter, Ty Yoneyama, and I started to dig into the history of the Kamoi and the Koshu. We found a recent book on naval ships by a Japanese civilian publisher, which listed the Kamoi docked in Japan by July 10, 1937. Because Earhart had gone down on July 2, we suspected the Kamoi could not have taken part in the search as reported to American intelligence in 1949. The Koshu was listed as a coal-burning ship of over 2000 tons, assigned to the Marshalls in July 1937. My first thought was of Tomaki [Mayazo] loading coal aboard the ship he described to me. Had it been the Koshu?
Jyuichi Hirabayashi, a veteran who had served aboard the Kamoi from early 1936 through July 10, 1937, had responded to the ad we placed in several Japanese newspapers asking for Kamoi personnel. After my arrival in Japan, we called him and he came to meet us with the ship’s log entries, numerous papers and an extensive collection of photos from his tour. We quickly got down to business.
Hirabayashi confirmed that the Kamoi, contrary to the U.S. intelligence report, was nowhere near the Marshalls when the Electra went down. The day Amelia was lost, the ship was docked in Saipan, leaving on July 4 for Ise Bay, Japan, where it docked on July 10. All of this was shown to us from the Kamoi’s official records.
Clearly the Japanese had lied to the United States in 1949. What were they trying to hide, and why had they gone to so much trouble to make the Kamoi appear as if it were on a search mission?
Hirabayashi then described the two types of seaplanes operated from the ship. Both were craned onto the water and retrieved with canvas slings, a method that was short-lived in favor of lift points on the aircraft. Bilimon Amaron had recalled seeing canvas slings around the silver aircraft on the fantail of the ship he boarded at Jaluit. Though he was more intent on treating the wounded white man with blue eyes, Bilimon had not missed this important detail. The Electra would have been recovered in the same way the Japanese picked up their seaplanes.
The names of the four ships in the Japanese Navy’s 12th Squadron were provided by Hirabayashi – Kinoshima for mine-laying, Kamoi for seaplanes, Yunagi and Asanagi, which were light cruisers. Not only was the Kamoi not involved in the search, but the entire 12th Squadron, which was supposed to combing the seas south of Jaluit, was actually docked in the home islands. The Koshu had not been a part of the squadron.
On July 2, 1937, the Koshu was anchored at Ponape, where it received orders to proceed to the Marshall Islands and “search” for Amelia Earhart. By July 9, it was on its way, while the Kamoi and the remaining 12th Squadron boats steamed for Japan.
Only the Koshu, capable of retrieving small floatplanes, took part in what the Japanese promised was a search, but its log entries revealed no search effort. With a specific mission to perform, it went straight to Jaluit and anchored there on July 13. While loading coal, Tomaki had been told by the ship’s crew that the ship had arrived seven to ten days after the aircraft came down. Though July 13 was eleven days after the crash, the time frame was very close. The Koshu left for several days, and then returned to Jaluit. At this point Bilimon Amaron would have boarded the vessel to treat Noonan. After Bilimon and his commander left the ship, it sailed for Truk and Saipan on July 19, the date the Japanese government officially gave up its search for Earhart. Hirabayashi remembered the Kamoi having two ship’s doctors, while the Koshu had none. It was quite clear why Bilimon and his superior had been called aboard to treat Noonan.
Thus the words of Vincent Loomis. If the KAMOI and the rest of the 12th Squadron were [sic] in Marshallese waters, the cover-up by the Japanese suddenly becomes enormous, involving the forging of many Japanese Naval vessels’ official logs.
To strengthen the presence of KAMOI and the 12th Squadron in the Marshallese waters we have interviews by witnesses seeing this fleet described by Fred Goerner, Buddy Brennan, Captain [Alfred] Parker (who was in Jaluit in 1937), and other serious researchers. Joe Gervais and I, during our trek to Jaluit in 1997, found two elderly ladies who had been on Jaluit in 1937, and they emphatically insisted that it was the KAMOI that brought the American lady pilot to Jaluit. Mr. Hatfield, in our 1991 interview at Jaluit, also insisted that (principally thru Mr. Lee, who had just died) it was the KAMOI!
WHO SHOULD WE BELIEVE? (End of Prymak article.)
Those paying attention to the foregoing could be forgiven for questioning Prymak’s intent after reading his closing paragraph, in which he inexplicably seems to argue for the presence of Kamoi and the 12th Squadron in the Marshalls after Loomis had all but proven that scenario was well-nigh impossible.
There’s nothing in Buddy Brennan’s Witness to the Execution that qualifies for Prymak’s endorsement of witnesses that “strengthen the presence of KAMOI and the 12th Squadron in the Marshallese waters,” as he wrote in his close.
We know about Captain Alfred Parker, English-speaking skipper of the Swedish Motorship Fijian, bound from San Francisco to New Guinea and other south sea ports in March 1937, from a 1993 letter from Fred Goerner to J. Gordon Vaeth. “The FIJIAN exploded on March 25, 1937 near the Marshall Islands,” Goerner wrote [caps emphasis in original]. “It burned and sank after the explosion, but Parker and his crew members were rescued by the Japanese ship SJIKO MARU and taken to Jaluit in the Marshalls. Parker and his crew were kept at Jaluit for 28 days, and were finally put aboard the Japanese ship KASAGI MARU and shipped to Yokohama, Japan, with stops at Kasai, Ponape, Truk and Saipan. . . . Parker testified to U.S. authorities that the Japanese seaplane carrier KAMOI had arrived at Jaluit mid-April, 1937, with three supporting destroyers. The ships commenced bombing exercises, and one of the Kamoi’s planes crashed, and the two occupants were killed.” The dates Parker reported for the Kamoi‘s presence in the Marshalls do not establish her in the search area during July 1937. For more, see Truth at Last, pages 172-173.
The witnesses Prymak himself interviewed on 1991 and 1997 trips to the Marshalls “two elderly ladies” and Mr. Hatfield, are really all he has, which, frankly, are not much when compared to the other side of the discussion. Their accounts are sketchy at best. See “Conclusion of Bill Prymak’s “The Jaluit Report,” posted Nov. 2, 2019 and “Bill Prymak’s ’97 Marshalls witnesses, Conclusion” of Feb. 28, 2020 for details. What else can explain why Prymak would take the other side of the discussion, which hardly qualifies as an “argument” at all. It’s quite possible that Prymak was just playing devil’s advocate, taking the other side in the Koshu debate, simply for the sake of argument. If I’m wrong about that, someone will surely let me know.
A few years after Loomis’ revelations, Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki confirmed the Koshu’s movements in July 1937, though the agenda-driven Aoki would concede nothing else. “Looking at the navigation logs of the Koshu,” she wrote, “it is clear that on the 13th [of July] she entered port at Jaluit and 6 days later, on the 19th turned back toward Truk and Saipan. Looking at all of this, even though the special assignment ship Koshu took part in the search, there is absolutely no evidence that she rescued the American woman pilot.”
Vincent V. Loomis passed away in June 1996 at 75.