Lloyd Royer’s Earhart claim: Truth or fancy?

I’ve seen Lloyd Royer’s name in passing over the years, chiefly mentioned in biographies as one of Amelia Earhart’s favorite early boyfriends, during the early to mid-1920s.  A few crackpots have accused Royer of fathering a child by Amelia, but no evidence has ever accompanied such speculation; if Amelia ever had offspring, we’d certainly know about it.

The question asked in the headline of today’s post is strictly rhetorical, as anyone familiar with this blog will immediately discern once they read it.  Still, I think it’s instructive to understand how many otherwise apparently rational, productive citizens — giving Royer the benefit of the doubt — were clueless when it came to the wicked Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart canard — and a few poor souls likely remain so. 

The following story appeared in the September 1993 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  (Caps emphasis in original AES story; boldface and italic emphasis mine throughout.)

“The Strange Meeting Between Major Joe Gervais & Lloyd Royer”
by Bill Prymak

Lloyd Royer became involved in Amelia Earhart’s life as early as 1921 when AE wrote to Lloyd re: repairs on her father’s equipment, and in 1924 assisted Amelia in selling her truck after she had gone back to Boston.*  Lloyd at this time was a master mechanic at Kinner Field; it was no secret he’d grown very fond of her, having proposed to her in late 1923 with no definitive answer.  Sam Chapman was another suitor who followed her to Boston, but, as history was to later show, both failed to capture this beautiful prize.

Lloyd Royer was a mechanic and friend of Amelia’s in California and, following her return east, he sold the vehicle for her, though payment was slow in coming, according the Doris Rich in her 2013 book, Amelia Earhart: A BiographyFrom Mary Lovell’s Earhart biography, The Sound of Wings(1989): “In the archives of the Schlesinger Library is a photograph of Lloyd Royer with a truck, on which he has inscribed, ‘1923.  While I was breaking in the Moreland truck for Amelia that summer, after Pete Barnes wrecked the Mac and was laid up.’ ” 

Lloyd eventually drifted into the employ of the fledgling Lockheed Aircraft Company in the early 1930s, and his skills focused on installing control pedals and instrument panels on the new Electra Series aircraft.  Thus it must be assumed that he knew a great deal about the Electra airplane and the general operation of the Lockheed plant.

Lloyd Royer’s trail drifts aimlessly into obscurity for many, many years, but in one of the most bizarre twists of fate Royer comes back into the picture nearly forty years later when Joe Gervais receives a telephone call from the now elderly Royer begging him to come to his home in Huntington Beach, Calif.  “Joe, I read your book, and before I pass along, I must tell you about Amelia and the secret shenanigans that went on at Lockheed when I worked on her airplane.”

Researchers like Joe never pass up an opportunity to listen to first-hand experiences, no matter how far the road required to travel, and on July 8, 1977, Joe Gervais visited with Lloyd Royer.  Joe summarizes his meeting:

Before AE’s airplane returned from Hawaii, another Electra 10E with registry R-16020 was already painted on the tail; this brand new airplane was located in a secret hangar called the “skunk works” and headed up by Kelly Johnson.  This building was also called theGinmill because they had made gin there when it was a distillery.  It was located on San Fernando Rd. in 1937 and the same building still exists.

(Editor’s [Prymak’s] Note, July, 1977: AES notes that Paul Rafford describes in interviews with mechanics at Miami that when a new ADF loop was ordered installed on AE’s aircraft, the cabin roof was found to be free of previous mounting holes (READ: this cabin roof, and assumedly [sic] the rest of the airplane was brand new!)

Royer stated that her mission was to fly over Truk and photograph the military installations; the entire operation, according to Royer, was later covered up by Lockheed and FDR.

As their meeting was concluding at the end of the day, Lloyd dropped a bombshell on Joe, unexpectedly placing on the coffee table a copy of Joe’s book AMELIA EARHART LIVES.  Mr. Royer stated that Irene Bolam had recently visited him, leaving a copy of said book and inscribed “TO LLOYD WITH FRIENDSHIP.”  Lloyd further showed Joe a Polaroid photo of Irene and Lloyd together on the front porch.  Joe was unable to persuade Mr. Royer to print a copy of the photo for Joe to keep.

In a Nov. 10, 1970 press conference in New York, an irate Mrs. Irene Bolam, holding an upside-down copy of Amelia Earhart Lives, vehemently declares, “I am NOT Amelia Earhart!”

Unfortunately, Mr. Royer died shortly thereafter, and Joe was never able to secure a copy of the photograph.  However, Joe did ask if Irene Bolam was indeed Amelia Earhart, but Lloyd would only respond: “I’ve known Irene for a long time, and the answer to that question might be found in your book.”

The AES membership might do well to reflect on the above.  (End of Bill Prymak’s “The Strange Meeting Between Major Joe Gervais & Lloyd Royer.”) 

Bill Prymak wrote this story in 1993, a year after he and Joe Gervais were suddenly brought face to face with the undeniable truth that Irene Bolam could not have possibly been Amelia Earhart.  The penultimate incident is discussed in the JOE GERVAIS & MARY EUBANK” subsection ofAmelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality? available to all on Wikipedia

By 1993 Prymak was no longer in thrall to Gervais and his Irene Bolam scam, but he failed to denounce what he knew to be a flat-out lie for far too long, as his closing words in the Lloyd Royer piece reveal.  Prymak eventually came to his senses, too late to suit many who were close to the situation.  Though he eventually regretted this unfortunate chapter in his long friendship with Gervais, he never really denounced him for the unprincipled charlatan that he was, as this paragraph in his 2005 letter to the online Amelia Earhart Society Forum reveals:

I have spent considerable time the last year compiling compelling evidence – some never before made public –  that Joe made an honest mistake in identifying Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart.  I have irrefutable evidence that links Irene Bolam circa 1970 back to World War II and beyond as the one and only same person!  I even have Joe Gervais  involved in the Mary Eubank affair. 

With the exception of Amelia’s mother, the outspoken Amy Otis Earhart, Royer was the only person close to Amelia who claimed that she was engaged on a mission . . . to fly over Truk and photograph the military installations; the entire operation . . . later covered up by Lockheed and FDR.”

Amy Otis Earhart sadly contemplates a painting of her daughter in a photo taken May 21, 1947 at her home in Medford, Mass.  In May 1944, more than a full month before American forces found Amelia Earhart’s plane on Saipan, Amy wrote in a letter to Neta Snook Southern, “You know, Neta, up to the time the Japs tortured and murdered our brave fliers, I hoped for Amelia’s return; even Pearl Harbor didn’t take it all away, though it might have, had I been there as some of my dear friends were, for I thought of them as civilized.”

Royer allegedly made these sensational statements to Joe Gervais, who created the insidious Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart can of worms, and whose credibility in such matters has long been nonexistent in the minds of most objective, rational observers.  To add flames to the fire, Royer strongly implied that Irene Bolam personally confirmed to him that she was indeed Earhart returned from her stay at Japan’s Imperial Palace — she was later relocated to a civilian internment in Weishien, China, thanks to the grossly sensationalized and misunderstood Weihsien Telegram — a scenario that, with our current knowledge of Bolam’s history providing clear perspective, was also patently absurd. 

This is all I have on Lloyd Royer, courtesy of Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais.  Thanks to research by Richard Bergren author of our Oct. 3, 2020 post, “Did top doctors search for Earhart on 1944 Saipan?,” it appears that Lloyd Royer was born on Feb. 21, 1892 and died in November 1978 at age 86.

Another source, however, The Life Summary of Lloyd Geiman Royer,” claims that “Lloyd Geiman Royer was born on 14 September 1896, in Westminster, Carroll, Maryland. . . . He lived in Pasadena, Los Angeles, California, United States in 1930.  He died on 27 October 1981, in Huntington Beach, Orange, California, United States, at the age of 85, and was buried in Sylmar, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States.”

So we have a bit of a conflict, and any help would be appreciated!

March 4 update:  Reader Pam Boardwell has checked in and tells us:  “Lloyd Royer was my great uncle. . . My grandmother’s brother.  The correct date of birth for him is 14 September 1896 and date of death is 27 October 1981.”  So our linked source above must the correct.  Thanks Pam!

A website that deals in sales of autographs, photos and memorabilia offered an “Amelia Earhart Autograph Letter Signed with Cover Addressed in Her Hand.”  The undated letter’s envelope is postmarked from West Medford, Massachusetts, on November 22, 1924.  Addressed to Lloyd Royer of Santa Monica, California, the famed aviatrix writes regarding the sale of her automobile, in part: If the offer for $1500 cash is real, I think we’d better take it. You have the necessary papers.  From the fact that the hunting season is due for its slack time soon and from what I gather of conditions in building in Calif.  I should imagine this is a good time to sell.  The last letter was mailed before I put the number in so you may not get it promptly. I am writing in much haste. Adios, [signed] Am. E.’ ” 

 

20 responses

  1. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but I do believe that small details account for a lot. Case in point: Royer (as summarized by Gervais) stated, “Before AE’s airplane returned from Hawaii, another Electra 10E with registry R-16020 was already painted on the tail; this brand new airplane was located in a secret hangar called the “skunk works” and headed up by Kelly Johnson. ” That’s interesting because Clarence “Kelly” Johnson and his successor, Ben Rich, both assert (source: Wikipedia) that the date of origin of the “skunk works” was June 1943. A small detail, but it speaks to credibility.

    All best,

    William

    Like

  2. The misdirections never seem to end in this case. I wonder how many copies of the Irene Bolam fiction were sold.. why do I have the feeling many more copies than legitimate researchers like Mike have to date. Sensationalism always seems to win out over solid research, even though the true facts of this case are like a mystery story in themselves. If there is a buck to be made..did i hear THIGAR?

    Like

  3. I’m well acquainted with a Royer family here in NH, I will have to ask Steve if he’s related to Lloyd, he may have some AE mementos lying around. My first observation is that looks like a heavy truck she had in CA. Sold for $1,500? In 24? That’s a lot of bucks in today’s money, $10,000? Maybe more? For cash? What did she need such a heavy truck for anyway? Maybe it’s in her biography, which of course I haven’t read.

    So Lloyd told Bill they had a new L10 waiting for her when she got back from Hawaii? What did Prymak think of that observation? Doesn’t say, does it? It’s similar to the story of the “discredited” Randall Brink. Brink says he knew someone at Lockheed to ask and they told him that it was more like an L12. Mike you and I a while ago tried to compare old and new picturesof Amelia’s plane to see if the telltale discolored aluminum panel on the rudder was the same and it looked like it was.

    Not a very scientific examination though. Could Lockheed have simply used discolored panels from the same batch lying around the factory on both planes without even attempting deception? Then what did they do with her old damaged plane? Why not just fix it up and sell it back into service with someone else? Then, contrary to TIGHARS assertion that all L10s are accounted for, this would produce an extra L10. C/N 1055 in fact. What if somebody found it in New Britain? Who knows who Lockheed sold it to, of course Lockheed knew at the time. That would throw a monkey wrench in everybody’s favorite theories, wouldn’t it? Yet perfectly plausible under my scenario.

    So Lloyd thought she flew over Truk? That could very well have happened. Maybe that was her only mission at the time. Despite the stories about Fred waiting to get the time exactly right, maybe they timed it so that they would be flying over Truk at the exact last daylight to get good photos and then she would be flying over the Marshall Islands in darkness with her lights off. She would have to fly in that general direction to get to Howland. Yet there was probably little or nothing strategic to see on those tiny islands so darkness didn’t matter. Why FDR would attach such importance to Truk as to mount an overflight by AE I can’t answer, but it certainly is a strong possibility in my opinion.

    All Best,
    David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David,

      Yes, $1500.00 was quite a lot of money in 1924. At a 1429.7% rate of inflation it would equate to $22,945.79 today.

      You may want to check Mary S. Lovell’s, “The Sound of Wings” (1989) St. Martin’s Press, pages 44 and 45. In a nutshell, the Earhart family invested in a gypsum mining operation that was wiped out in a flash flood. The truck, used in the mining operation, was sold to recoup the Earhart family’s loss in the venture.

      All best,

      William

      Like

      1. An interesting comment with a link received Feb. 24 from William Trail, with thanks:

        Mike,

        I know you’re not an “aviation guy,” but I thought you might nonetheless enjoy this look around inside the cockpit of this 1930 Pitcairn PA-S7. It is much like the one AE flew to 18,415 for an autogyro altitude record in 1931, and flew around the country for Beech-Nut later in the year. This airworthy autogyro in the EAA Museum collection is equipped with a few items AE’s lacked. These items include a transponder, navigation/communication radios, a Telex intercom and a velcro attached push-to-talk switch on the stick. Note that the aluminum seat is built to accommodate a “seat-type” parachute. That is to say that the parachute pack serves as the seat cushion.

        One thing I noticed right away is that unlike modern “gyroplanes” as they are called today, the Pitcairn’s instrument panel only had a single RPM gauge for the engine and nothing to indicate rotor RPM. A little primitive by today’s standards, but you really had to know your business to fly one safely.

        Enjoy!

        1930 Pitcairn PA-7S Sport Mailwing – NC95W | EAA Aviation Museum | Oshko…

        Like

  4. William,
    That makes complete sense. I never heard of Moreland trucks, but they were pace setters out West in those days I learned.

    The Irene Bolam plot got me wondering. It never made much sense to me that the Japs would lock up Amelia in a crummy cell in Saipan and let her die of dysentery. She was such a high value asset why would the Japs not take advantage? Possibly FDR had his eye on the 1940 election. The Japs must have negotiated with him. But how could he reveal, in a colossal blunder, that he had facilitated AE falling into Japanese hands? There goes his chances in the election. So, he claimed to the Japs he didn’t know her, she was just a bad pilot.

    Even though I would think by then she had spilled the beans to the Japs. So when he wouldn’t negotiate, maybe they held her, and nearing the election, the Japs said Mr. FDR, we are going to reveal we have her in an Oct. surprise unless you do this for us, blah, blah. Maybe they kept her in Tokyo and had her make a few broadcasts as a Tokyo Rosa, which some in Saipan learned about. Now the Japanese really had no reason to execute her, so maybe they did send her to the “Wushian” camp to keep her safe. After the war they sent her home. It was imperative that this not be discovered.

    So when somebody thought they saw her at the Brigham’s ice cream shop in Medford Square they had to take action with a reverse psychology method. The Irene Bolam story was cooked up and when that was discredited with ample publicity, the general public would think going by that example that it would be preposterous for anyone to think Amelia could have possibly been sent home to USA. Same principle as the Jaluit picture special which most likely was Amelia and Fred but now that has been shot down in the eyes of the public and FDR’s reputation and his handling of the war are above reproach again. Far fetched, I know, but there is no rational limit to what they will do to preserve the conventional wisdom. Whoever they are.

    A. B.
    David

    Like

    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      David,

      One of the great pitfalls of military planning is assuming that your adversary (in this case, the Japanese) thinks as we Americans do. They don’t. Japanese think like Japanese. Germans think like Germans. Russians think like Russians. Arabs think like Arabs, and so on. It’s a matter of history, culture, environment, religion, etc. So, when you say, “It never made much sense to me that the Japs would lock up Amelia in a crummy cell in Saipan and let her die of dysentery. She was such a high value asset why would the Japs not take advantage?” I know what you mean, but it’s not a valid argument. What makes sense to them may not make sense to us.

      “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle….” — Sun Tzu

      All best,

      William

      Like

  5. Is the “found her plane in Saipan”
    In the letter, or is this statement a form of fake news?
    Also, the Japs at that time were not inclined to treat anyone good, no matter who it was.

    Like

  6. The truck was used in Amelia’s failed gypsum mine venture that she used her inheritance money from the Otis estate to start. Somewhere in my magazine collection, I have the summary of Lloyd Royer’s life up into the 1930s, but it’s buried in storage until my rental warehouse is available. That’s all for now!

    Like

  7. This story covers two “trucks”–An old pick-up truck and a flight over truk island. I thought the skunk works place had to do with UFOs and stealth planes? If true, this story makes you wonder what happened to AE’s original plane?

    Like

  8. Moreland Trucks was founded in Burbank in 1920, they had a factory there until 1929 and closed up after the stock market crash. The built tandem wheel 1 ton trucks and larger and buses. The buses were critical during the 1920s boom years before public transportation commenced. People were bussed enmasse to factories all over the greater LA area. There’s a book about the transfer location everywhere called ” The Stairs of Los Angeles”. Plenty of Gogle pages and photos about the brand. Here’s one of many.

    https://genealogistjournal.com/2017/01/14/the-brief-bright-history-of-the-moreland-motor-truck-company/

    Like

  9. Thanks, Woody. I just looked on Wikipedia which didn’t have much info about Moreland. I spent 45 years as a truck driver and I still occasionally learn new things about old trucks. One big regret I have is I didn’t take lots of pictures of old trucks and old companies and old roads and truck stops. I would be able to open a museum. Or fill a couple books.

    Now, back to Amelia. The story is, from my reading of TTAL, is that the Japs picked her up, decided she was spying, and kept her secretly locked up until they executed her or she died and were extremely careful to prevent the U.S. from finding this out forever, even to this day. Because they hated spies, especially American spies, and that was simply the nature of the Japanese. Unlike the Russians in the U2 spy plane incident, because they were a different natured enemy.

    William, do you actually believe that is how they treated Amelia, and you think that the Americans only found out where Amelia was by clandestine methods and we never let on to the Japs we knew where she was? Or did we know? In other words do you believe there was never any negotiation whatsoever between the two countries over the AE issue? I grant that it’s possible. Just wondered what you thought.

    A.B.
    David

    Like

    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      David,

      Based on what I sincerely believe to be the circumstances that took AE and FN to Mili Atoll, yes. I believe that the Japanese came to regard them as “spies” in very short order, and treated them as was their custom — brutally. I’m also sure that it wasn’t long before those in the USG/Navy who were “read-on” to the operation and true nature of the last leg of the flight put two-and-two together realized what happened. And, as I have said before, some U.S. sub commander may have seen the Electra on the beach at Mili through a periscope.

      Of course, we could not reveal that we knew. We had to act as if AE and FN were legitimately “lost” and proceed accordingly; hence, the largest air/sea search in naval history. Those conducting it believed they were really searching for AE and FN. However, to those “in the know,” the effort was simply to maintain the cover story. Likewise, the Japanese weren’t going to reveal to us that they had AE and FN. Basically, it became a staring contest to see who’d blink first. The Japanese didn’t blink, and neither did we. Therefore, I’m sure there were no negotiations between the U.S. and Imperial Japan vis-a-vis AE and FN.

      All best,

      William

      Like

      1. David Atchason

        William,
        I have pondered my own speculations and came up with some thoughts. I tried to find out, without too much trouble, what the Versailles Treaty meant to the Japanese (they didn’t like it, obviously). What were the penalties for violation by building up military installations? It seems they were paranoid about military activities being discovered.

        It makes me wonder why they were so restricted when they were on the “winning” side in WW1. I read that the Japs had airfields on Truk, but I don’t know when they were built. Pre 1937? Did they have fighter planes like the Zero there? When AE possibly overflew Truk? If she did, and that was the plan all along, why was her flight changed from East to West to the opposite presumably more difficult direction? What I did conclude was that camera or no camera, if she observed Truk and other secret bases, the Japs would never let her free because she had “seen too much.”

        Maybe they thought initially that she had flown into Mili Atoll from the East because she was headed to the Giberts because she was lost. Maybe they figured out eventually that it was she who had flown over Truk and so surprised the Japs that they could not immediately respond. Anyway, I have to agree that the USA had to keep up the pretense that they had no clue what happened to her. Maybe the Japs could not ever negotiate her release because again, “She knew too much” at that time. I don’t recall ever hearing the story about the U.S, sub sighting her through the periscope. What was a sub doing off Mili in 1937? Was the US patrolling Japanese waters with subs back then? This seems a little audacious. Or maybe FDR was already planning the for the war he had in mind.

        So, I was not easily able to find answers to the above questions (on Google) and I’m not too keen to peruse volumes of history because it would just lead to more informed speculations, but no final answer to the mystery. I think I’m too Lazy.

        A.B.,
        David

        Like

  10. William H. Trail | Reply

    David,

    There was no “story” about a U.S. sub sighting her [AE] through the periscope. In previous comments I have offered my theory that after ditching near, but not in, the Japanese Mandated Marshall Islands AE and FN were supposed to be picked up by a U.S. submarine. I further speculated that it was possible that the Electra may have been observed on the beach at Barre Island, Mili Atoll by the very same sub that, had AE not “disregarded all orders,” was supposed to have picked her and FN up after ditching in the ocean. That’s all that was about.

    Yes, the Japanese were among the Allied nations in WWI. However, they did little except to take advantage of Imperial Germany’s preoccupation with military operations on the Western Front, Northern Italy, and East Africa by seizing the Kaiser’s Pacific island possessions in 1914.

    According to “Truk Lagoon A Cultural Geography” by Robert Evans (2014) Page Publishing, Inc, development of military/naval facilities and infrastructure, including airfields, anchorages, etc on Truk began after 1932, and neared completion in 1937.

    The Mitsubishi A6M fighter (Allied Codename: “Zero”) did not enter service until 1940. The Mitsubishi A5M (Allied Codename: “Claude”) was the top-of-the-line Japanese fighter aircraft in service 1937.

    All best,

    William

    Like

    1. David Atchason | Reply

      William,
      Didn’t the Japanese also take control of German possessions in China? I just read that recently, I wasn’t aware the Germans held any Chinese territory. And you say the Japanese seized the Pacific Islands as early as 1914? Then they were given their mandate in the Versailles treaty along about 1919? Because, I suppose, they already had taken possession?

      I was wondering if there were any aircraft on Truk that could have confronted AE if she actually flew over Truk. Evidently from what you say there were. At least a few “Claudes” However, it doesn’t seem like there were any other bases for planes along her route to over Mili that could have challenged her and the Claudes would have to have flown 1350 miles and then returned to Truk so that’s not likely.

      As for the sub sighting her plane, the way you wrote it sounded to me like this might have actually happened but it’s more like a speculation as I understand you. At least now I have a better picture of why the Japanese would hold Amelia indefinitely and not ever notify the US that they had captured her,

      A.B.
      David

      Like

      1. William H. Trail

        David,

        Have you ever heard of Tsingtao Beer? The Chinese are not well known for their beer, but the Germans are. Tsingtao was an important coaling station in China for the Imperial German Navy (Der Kaiserliche Marine). Yes, the Japanese seized Germany’s Pacific island possessions in Fall 1914, and yes, they were later formally mandated to Japan.

        Truk was developed into a major naval facility. As opposed to Robert Evans’ claim in “Truk Lagoon A Cultural Geography”, Gordon L. Rottman in his “World War II Pacific Island Guide A Geo-Military Study” states that Truk’s development began in 1939. Because of Japanese resources being allocated to the ongoing war in China (since 1931), I’m more inclined to go with Rottman’s account. Still, Truk was the main effort in the Pacific. The other mandated islands were developed as time, resources, funding, manpower, and circumstances allowed.

        The Mitsubishi A5M “Claude” had a range of 746 miles.

        Sorry if I caused you any confusion about any possible sighting of the Electra on the beach at Barre Island by a U.S. submarine. That was was just speculative musing on my part.

        All best,

        William

        Like

  11. Lloyd Royer was my great uncle… My grandmother’s brother. The correct date of birth for him is 14 September 1896 and date of death is 27 October 1981.

    Like

    1. Thanks Pam, much appreciated. If you have any good photos of Lloyd, I’d be glad to post one or two if you send to my email address. Can’t post in comments, but can update the original post anytime.

      All Best,
      Mike

      Like

  12. Dale Comer sent the below comments and asked me to post:
    MC

    I wrote the following as a comment to the recent blog post about Lloyd Royer. It seemed excessive for a comment so I’m sending it this way. The next time I’m in Burbank I want to look for some of the locations mentioned.

    The Wikipedia article titled “Skunk Works” also includes an account by a Lockheed employee dating the origin of the “skunk works” modus operandi to the development of the P-38 fighter starting in 1938. Interestingly, that account includes the temporary relocation of at least part of the P-38 effort to the former Three G Distillery which was located on N. Buena Vista St. about a mile south of the original Lockheed factory in Burbank in order to construct the first YP-38. That would have been in 1939 or early ’40.

    The Wikipedia article also refers to the personal accounts of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich. Ben Rich wasn’t hired until the early Fifties so he would have had no first hand knowledge of the origin story. In theory, the best source would be Kelly Johnson or another senior Lockheed employee who was there at the time. I was disappointed when I read Kelly Johnson’s account in his co-authored autobiography. It seemed like a corporate PR approved version of the history. When Gervais interviewed Royer in 1977 there would have been enough Lockheed oldtimers still around to check Royer’s story. Kelly Johnson was still alive.

    I read a somewhat different account in the L.A. Times years ago concerning the “skunk works” nickname although it doesn’t change the timeline. It involved using an old army tent to create some additional storage space for equipment, parts, and materials in a lean-to arrangement alongside the building where they were working on the XP-80 in 1943. In the warmer months the old tent would reek and the odor would be noxious for those working underneath the tent and in the building when the doors or windows were open.

    I recently had an article pushed to my Google feed which stated that Lockheed used a building located north of San Fernando Rd not far from Turkey Crossing for work on the P-80 during WWII and that the building still stands although Lockheed is long gone from Burbank. That building may be the last remnant of the Lockheed B-1 Plant where Amelia’s Electra was built and reconstructed. The main property has been redeveloped into an office park, a large shopping center, and a Costco store.

    A charitable assessment of Royer’s story might be that he conflated times and places. The Skunk Works almost certainly did not exist in name or function in 1937. I believe Kelly Johnson probably conceived of the special advanced projects organization while they were working on the P-38 and used it for the XP-80.

    “R-16020” would not have been a valid U.S. registration number. Could there have been a typo or a misprint somewhere? Amelia’s Electra was originally registered as N16020. The ‘N’ prefix denotes U.S. registration. N16020 became NR16020 when passenger seats were removed and extended range fuel tanks installed. If there was a backup or replacement aircraft it would have to have had the same or similar modifications.

    The story about the second plane seems possible. If there was a national security aspect to the flight which originated directly from the White House, it makes sense to have a backup aircraft. An aircraft that is as badly damaged as Amelia’s Electra was in the crackup on Ford Island often doesn’t fly entirely right after being repaired. Lockheed also had their reputation at stake. Something they must have considered when they sold the Electra for its stated purpose and Amelia seems to have received much more support from Lockheed, especially from Kelly Johnson, than the typical buyer of a single Model 10 or 12 might expect.

    It makes little sense to have had Amelia and Fred overfly Truk for reasons often stated. That was one place in the mandated islands where there might have been some risk of interception.They were neither trained nor properly equipped for it as far as we know and the necessary route diversion would have been far too circuitous.

    Interesting story involving Lloyd Royer:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Coupe

    Even if he had a faulty memory or suffered delusions in his old age, Lloyd Royer was definitely a minor figure in the aviation community in Southern California in the years during which it was becoming the world center for aviation and later space technology. It would be interesting to know how much interaction Royer had with Amelia, if any, during the time the Putnams were involved with Lockheed.

    A further thought on Mr. Trail’s mention of remote viewing: Until the USG comes clean or there is some other significant revelation, technical remote viewing could be an interesting option possibly to guide further research.

    –d.

    Like

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