Brother Gregorio’s letter supports Earhart on Saipan

We return to the early 1960s and the seminal Saipan investigations by Fred Goerner, Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger.  Brother Gregorio, who signed his full name as “Brother Gregorio Oroquieth, Churio, S.J.” in the 1961 letter he wrote to researcher Joe Gervais below, while Gervais was still in the Air Force, was a minor footnote in the Earhart saga, but this is yet another credible account that places Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan soon after their July 2, 1937 disappearance.  

Based on the letter’s date, Gregorio wrote it before Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan in September 1961 for his second investigation, although Goerner apparently learned of Gregorio’s story a year earlier.  We’ll return to Goerner after presenting Gregorio’s interesting missive to Gervais, who was doing respectable research on Guam and Saipan during those early days.

Undated photo Joe Gervais, undated, but probably sometime in the early 1960s, when he was investigating the Earhart disappearance on Guam and Saipan.  Gervais was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars, serving as a highly decorated command pilot of B-24, B-29 and C-130 aircraft with over 16,000 hours of flight time.  He was also the creator of the insidious Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, among the most destructive ideas ever conceived by an Earhart researcher. 

The letter below appeared in the November 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters Boldface emphasis mine throughout.

Translated 17 February 1961 by Roy Sorenson, Spanish teacher, Kubisaki High School, Okinawa

6 February 1961

Dear Captain Gervais, Saipan

I am writing this letter in Spanish rather than English because I feel I can express my reply more understandably for you.  I enjoyed the photos you sent of Father Arnold [Bendowski], yourself, and [Robert] Dinger.  Dinger is certainly a beautiful [sic] Air Force Captain, isn’t he? 

I recall a little over 20 years ago before War was declared during the summer holidays for the children, when they came to the vestry to tell me of the two American spies who were apprehended on Saipan near Garapan.  They mentioned one was an American woman who wears long pants like a man and has a haircut like a man.  The Japanese police have these Americans as spies, and the woman’s companion’s face is very suntanned like Spanish people’s face.  The Japanese take them away to ask questions.  The children were Jesus Rios, Juan Sanches, Jose Sanches [sic, correct spelling for Juan and Jose is Sanchez, according to Fred Goerner, see page 102, 103 The Search for Amelia Earhart], Jose Geregeyo [sic], and the Americans were seen coming from the direction of Lisang near Garapan.

Kumoi [Jesús De Leon Guerrero] spoke to me about them a few days later of these two American Intelligence Spies and says he will show them everything if they give him much money.  I spoke to Father Arnold in 1947, and again in 1960 on Guam about Kumoi, and his story has changed recently from that which was said over 20 years ago, and at the same time of the children’s, as I best can recall.

Fred Goerner, center, on Saipan during his first expedition in 1960, with native witnesses William Guerrero Reyes and Joseppa Reyes Sablan, left, and Monsignor Oscar Calvo and Rev. Father Arnold Bendowske of Saipan Catholic mission.  Photo courtesy of Lance Goerner.

After the invasion of Saipan I went to Intelligence Officer there on Saipan, I don’t remember the Officer’s name, and asked him if they wanted any information of the two Americans, the man and the woman who come to Saipan from Hawaii in an airplane for American intelligence before the invasion.  He said there was no such thing as an American woman in any airplane of any kind for Intelligence that he ever heard of.  He was not interested at all in more talking after saying that, and I left.  Vinciente Guerror [sic, Vicente Guerrero is correct] in 1947 on Saipan — Father [Jose Maria] Tardio (can’t make this out clearly) [sic].

My best wishes to you both, and Father Arnold.  I do not know if this will be of help as I don’t know what became of these two Americans as the vestry was far located from where they were apprehended.  If can be of further assistance please feel free to correspond.

Your friend and servant,
Brother Gregorio, Oroquieth, Churio, S.J.

In his 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart Fred Goerner provided the rest of the known background on Brother Gregorio and what he knew about the presence and death of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan:

As I had learned the preceding year, only one person assigned to the Catholic mission before the war had survived the invasion and the years that followed.  Father Tardio had died in Spain after the war, but one of the lay brothers, Brother Gregorio, was at the church on Yap Island.  During the year, Father Sylvan [Conover] had talked with Gregorio at a gathering of church officials on Guam.  Brother Gregorio remembered the story of the two white people, supposedly fliers, who had been held by the Japanese during 1937-1938, but it was not eyewitness testimony.  The Brother along with the Fathers and Sisters at the mission had been restricted to church grounds by the Japanese during that period, and then had been placed under house arrest on December 8, 1941.  Two young Saipanese, the Sanchez brothers, Juan and Jose, had told Gregorio of the two Americans and what the Japanese had done to them.  The brothers had been in their teens at the time, but Gregorio was certain that they had told him the truth.  He felt that it was extremely unlikely the boys could have invented such a story.

Father Sylvan Conover with eyewitness Jesús Bacha Salas, a Chamorro farmer who was held at Garapan Prison between 1937 and 1944 for fighting with a Japanese soldier. Fred Goerner reported that “sometime during 1937 a white woman was placed in the next cell [beside Salas], but kept there only a few hours. He saw the woman only once but gave a description of her that fitted those given by the other witnesses. The guards told him the woman was an American pilot the Japanese had captured.” (Photo by Fred Goerner, Courtesy Lance Goerner.)

Father Sylvan and I traced the brothers Sanchez and found them working as mechanics for the mysterious entity known as NTTU [Naval Technical Training Unit].  They were surprised and disturbed when Father Sylvan asked them about Brother Gregorio’s statement, but admitted they had some knowledge of the incident.  Both felt they would like to refresh their memories before making a definite statement and promised to come to the church mission house the next day and give us the details.  Only one Sanchez appeared the following morning, and his attitude had completely changed.  He claimed neither he nor his brother had any information that would help us.  “Brother Gregorio does not remember correctly,” he said.  “We know nothing of what he says.” 

Father Sylvan questioned hard and long but to no avail.  The Sanchez brothers were obviously frightened and were not going to say a thing.  Another full year passed before we learned the two Saipanese had been told by the Navy or NTTU not to cooperate with the people who were asking questions about the missing fliers.  Father Sylvan and I had suspected as much in 1961.

Brother Gregorio’s 1961 account added another voice to the ever-growing chorus attesting to the presence and deaths of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan.  The incident between Father Sylvan Conover and the Sanchez brothers as recounted by Fred Goerner is yet another example of the U.S. government’s ongoing commitment to controlling and covering up the truth about the fliers’ Saipan deaths — as if we needed any more proof.   

9 responses

  1. And yet again-what more evidence do we need? Another story from someone who most people have never heard of, and who had absolutely nothing to gain, adding credence to the Saipan imprisonment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a little to say about this, having read most of the books, newspaper articles, eyewitness reports and document I can find specifically dealing with Amelia and Fred’s presence on Saipan. Obviously, Amelia never made it home alive, despite the AE/IB theory that doesn’t hold water under scrutiny. There are claims that she died of dysenetry, or was shot by firing squad and a few other means that I can’t remember. How about a murder done be a most henious means possible, done by one pissed off Naval pilot with thehelp of a few of his friends, that was so horrible those last few minutes? I isn’t a big government conspiracy from the US government, but a post death agreement between Japan and the US because the means of her deimse was so henious. I also believe the perpetrators committed this crime because they knew she was going to be sent home, so the clock was ticking on their plot being able to be consumated. It’s all out there, the pieces have been on the table for many years and I love a good mystery!

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  3. Fred however, may have come home, if Walter McNameny and Art Kennedy are telling the truth, which I believe they are, about meeting and talking to him many years after the war. He discussed items with both of them that only he could have known.

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    1. Where did you get this information, Woody? Please enlighten us. Without a decent source, this is just another wild speculation.
      MC

      Liked by 1 person

  4. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    When previously willing witnesses/sources start changing their story, suddenly can’t remember details, dummy up altogether, or in extreme cases, disappear it’s a sure sign that you’re on to something. Of course, there was going to be some resistance to Fred Goerner’s pursuit of the truth regarding AE and FN. However, the presence and clandestine training activities of the NTTU on Saipan only served to add an extra layer to the suspicion and distrust of FG’s motives.

    All best,

    William

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  5. The U.S. Government needs to admit the failure of Amelia Earhart’s flight and why the Japanese took her & Fred Noonan as prisoners. It’s FLAWED history and a continuing FANTASY to believe, Amelia Earhart flew off course and plunged into the ocean, never to be seen again…..

    I’ve lost all respect for Bob Ballard, who was on PBS some nights back, saying he would find Amelia Earhart. As far as I am concerned, Bob Ballard is a HOAX or a PROFESSIONAL ONE at that! I’m going to start telling all my friends, Bob Ballard’s ship sank, somewhere in the Pacific, never be found………….but keep looking?

    Doug

    Liked by 1 person

    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Doug,

      I know what you’re saying. I’m disappointed in Dr. Ballard. I had the utmost respect for him prior to the NatGeo/Nikumororo nonsense. You would think he’d know better.

      All best,

      William

      Liked by 1 person

      1. William –

        Bob Ballard is Naval Intelligence’s eyes & ears. He’s not about to throw it all away and side with the *TRUTH. When access to the *BEST technology money can buy, truth isn’t worth much, at least not in his eyes. Isn’t this what it’s all about?

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  6. Another example of the truth is stranger than fiction in the Earhart story.

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