Goerner’s ’68 appeal to House members, conclusion
We continue with the conclusion of Fred Goerner’s July 1968 presentation to a group of Republican House members, which was, inexplicably, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn.
During his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility—Truth in Government,” Goerner succinctly laid out the facts that revealed the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan that he’d found during his four investigative forays to Saipan during the early 1960s, a remarkable story that made The Search for Amelia Earhart a bestseller. Goerner did his all he could to win the assembled Congressmen, most of whose names remain unknown, to the cause of securing justice for the doomed fliers. It remains the closest thing to a fair hearing the truth in the Earhart disappearance has ever received by a U.S. government group of any kind.
We continue with Fred Goerner’s transcript:
With a copy of that memorandum in hand, I polled the members of the Government information Subcommittee, and found shock and disbelief. Not one of the Congressmen or any member of their staffs had communicated or even intimated such an attitude to the Navy Department. The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld of Illinois and The Honorable John E. Moss of California, Chairman of the Committee, vowed to get an answer.
Three months ago the matter reached a confrontation in the office of the Secretary of the Navy where apologies were issued to me and to the members of the Government Information Subcommittee and the offending memorandum was withdrawn from the file. During the process two Navy officers accused each other of being the source of the wretched character assassination.
How and why such a spurious document reached the head of a file being declassified after thirty years for the edification of my fellow journalists still has not been explained. I am now considering a legal suit to be filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco to determine that fact.
But what of the justice of truth for Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan. At this moment two high-ranking former military officers and two highly-placed civilians (the names are in the hands of Congressman Rumsfeld) stand ready to reveal the truth if long-standing security restrictions which bind them can be removed. In spite of this testimony, the Navy Department maintains there are NO restrictions; however, the Navy’s cognizant authority will not issue a letter to that effect to free the men. Why such deception after thirty-one years? What possibly about Earhart and Noonan could be that important?
The following quote is from a man who a dozen years ago served in one of the highest and most responsible positions in this country/is top intelligence gathering department: “It was well known within high ranking intelligence circles that Miss Earhart, at the time of her disappearances was under government instructions to fly over and observe suspected Japanese military developments in the islands of the Pacific. There were some serious blunders made by the Navy in their attempt to provide Miss Earhart with proper guidance following the completion of her observations and the Navy was determined to conceal their participation and failure in this part of the operation. The concealment of errors is congenital with the armed services and particularly so in connection with any covert type of operation such as this was. The mission was not specifically for the United States Navy, but rather was ordered at the request of the highest echelons in the government.”
In other words, when the full truth regarding Earhart and Noonan is known, a new view of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the years before Pearl Harbor will emerge.
Should that be classified because of “national security”? I believe not.
I would like to ask you to make the obtaining of justice for Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan the business of the Republican Party this year, but I will not be that foolish. I do ask, however, (The Scripps League of Newspapers joins me) that the Republican platform reflect a constructive concern for the American public’s right to know.
Listen to our youngsters cry, “Tell it like it is.” They have seen our hypocrisies and they want better from us. There is a great yearning in our country for a clean, emancipating wind of truth. And the political party that first fully realizes that fact will, in the vernacular, have it made! Continually one hears today the question, “What has happened to patriotism in America?”
Trust, belief and confidence are at the heart of patriotism, and those American strengths have been severely shaken in recent years by literally hundreds of incidents of news manipulation, deception, double-talking and double-dealing by the executive branch of our government. The spirit of patriotism must be restored in this country, but it cannot be rekindled by propaganda or simply by telling Americans they should be patriotic because it’s the thing to do. It will only be regenerated when Americans are convinced their government is making every effort to truthfully inform them in every area of national concern and when they once again believe their national leaders are pursuing with dedication the principles of human behavior upon which the Constitution of The United States was created.
“Foul!” many will cry. “My God, what about secrets of state and national security. If we have to tell everything we know, you might as well hand the country over to our enemies.”
“Nonsense,” is the answer to that.
The protection of information vital to national security must be maintained. What must be eliminated is the temptation to use “national security” as a cover to manipulate facts or hide information in the interest of vague political and diplomatic pragmatisms which are intended to protect individuals or organizations from the consequences of responsibility.
What can be done to diminish the gap and improve relations between government and the public?
Increase the purview and investigatory ability and authority of the Foreign Relations and Government Information Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations of The House of Representatives.
Insure [sic] by legislation that control of that Committee always remains in the hands of the Minority, so the ability to investigate cannot be frustrated by partisanship. Plug the loopholes in the Freedom of Information law by establishing a board with a representation of security-cleared journalists who can determine what is and is not being served by the label, “national security.”
(These suggestions and many more are contained in a new book titled, CRISIS IN CREDIBILITY, written by Bruce Ladd, Jr., of Washington, D.C. It should be read by every person who seeks public office.)
My appearance before this committee is a clear tribute to the degree of freedom we enjoy in America and I am grateful. The best way we can protect that freedom is to make sure we are told the truth. All of it.
Thank you. (End of Goerner presentation.)
Goerner’s riveting presentation to the lawmakers produced nothing of significance; the sacred cow was sacrosanct, then and now. None of his suggestions were ever acted upon and the serious allegations he made about the Navy’s key role in Earhart’s alleged secret mission remain unproven but quite possible.
Goerner’s ’68 appeal to Republican House members
In July 1968, Fred Goerner appeared before a Republican platform subcommittee, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn, in a heretofore undisclosed Miami location. Through his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility—Truth in Government,” Goerner laid out the facts he had presented in The Search for Amelia Earhart, appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, and did his utmost to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. It remains the closest thing to a fair hearing the truth in the Earhart disappearance has ever received.
Goerner traced the Navy’s history of denying it held classified Earhart files until late 1964, when the State Department’s disclosure of their existence forced the Navy to admit it possessed such information. “What was ultimately shown to us [in 1967] answered none of the major questions and the Navy still maintained publicly that no files existed,” Goerner told the committee. The ruse continued when the Navy, reacting to the popular outcry following publication of Search, claimed it had released all its Earhart files in 1967. “I will not attempt to describe my disgust when I viewed the files,” Goerner said. “Missing was information we had been shown. Included was information we had NOT been shown. But in all cases it added up to nothing.”
Goerner’s presentation, “Crisis In Credibility — Truth In Government” appeared in the November 1998 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Bold emphasis mine throughout; capitalization emphasis is Goerner’s. This is the first of two parts.
Presentation: “Crisis In Credibility — Truth In Government”
By Mr, Frederick Goerner, San Francisco, California
1:50 P.M. EDST, Monday, July 29, 1968
National State and Local Relations Subcommittee of the Republican
Platform Committee, Miami, Florida
Distinguished Members of the Committee:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I’m going to tell you a story in the next few minutes that is representative of one of the greatest dangers America faces today. It represents a behavior, largely on the part of the executive branch of our government, which in recent years has reached such destructive proportions — it threatens to destroy the confidence of the American People in the integrity of our leaders, the wisdom of our goals, and the strength of our principles.
It is a behavior which engenders disenchantment, distrust and disgust. It frustrates our journalists and turns trusting, loyal citizens into disillusioned skeptics.
This behavior is known by many names, but perhaps it is most familiar as the CREDIBILITY GAP . . . the techniques by which news is managed, information is hidden and truth is perverted to disguise unsavory privilege and vested interest.
Many of my fellow journalists refer to this story as, “The classic example.”
You be the judge.
My involvement began in 1960 with my work as a newsman-broadcaster at KCBS Radio in San Francisco, but the event itself dates back more than thirty-one years.
On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart, America’s most famous woman flyer, together with her navigator, Captain Frederick Noonan, disappeared in their specially equipped twin-engine Lockheed Electra airliner during a flight from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. In the month that followed, the U.S. Navy spent more than a million dollars on a search but to no apparent avail. Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan were listed as “lost at sea.”
There were rumors though that the flyers might have been captured by the Japanese, who had closed their mandated Pacific islands to outside inspection and who reportedly, were busy at work preparing those islands for war. There were rumors, too, strongly denied by the U.S. Navy, that Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan had been on some sort of mission at the time of their disappearance.
During World War II, rumors persisted that evidence concerning Earhart and Noonan had been found by U.S. Military forces during the invasions of the Marshall Islands and later the Marianas. Again denials by the U.S. Navy, and in 1946, after the end of World War II, U.S Navy spokesman said, “There is no classified information in regard to Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan and as far as the Navy is concerned, they are strictly a civilian affair.“
So, seemingly, ended the matter. Then, in 1960, fourteen years later, a native woman from the island of Saipan in the Marianas testified this country for the first time that an American man and woman, supposedly flyers, had been held by the Japanese on Saipan during 1937.
I was drawn into an investigation which has spanned more than eight years and occupied the time and talents of many fellow-workers and friends at KCBS Radio, The Scripps League of Newspapers, The Associated Press, and now the United States Congress. From 1960 to 1964, four expeditions were made to the Mariana Islands and one to the Marshalls. More than three-thousand natives of the islands were questioned along with hundreds of former servicemen here in the United States. Testimony began to pile up. An American man and woman had crash-landed an airplane in the Marshall Islands in 1937, and had been taken by the Japanese to Saipan. The same information, according to a number of former U.S. servicemen, had been collected in 1944 and was well known to U.S. Intelligence. Two former U.S. Marines [Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, see Dec. 26, 2017 post, “KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”] even testified they had assisted in the recovery of the remains of Earhart and Noonan from a shallow grave on Saipan in July of 1944.
Still, in 1964, the U,S. Navy Department repeatedly denied it possessed any classified files on the matter. It was not until the U.S. State Department revealed late in 1964 the existence of restricted Navy files that an admission was privately made by the U.S. Navy, but what was ultimately shown to us answered none of the major questions and the Navy still maintained publicly that no files existed.
In 1966, with the hope an aroused public would help produce justice, I wrote the book titled THE SEARCH FOR AMELIA EARHART, detailing the then six years of investigation. Hundreds of interested Americans did write their congressmen and senators, but it was not until June of 1967 that the U,S, Navy Department notified the nation’s press that after thirty years it was at last releasing the classified files on Amelia Earhart,
“The files, however,” said another Navy spokesman, “only show that Earhart and Noonan were lost at sea and there was no involvement with the U.S. Navy.”
I will not attempt to describe my disgust when I viewed the files. Missing was information we [he and Ross Game] had been shown. Included was material we had NOT been shown. But in all cases it added up to nothing.
Near the top of the file, however, was a U.S. Navy internal memorandum which stated, “The Government Information Subcommittee of the House of Representatives is now convinced that Mr, Goerner is guilty of yellow journalism for alleging the Navy Department has withheld information on the Earhart matter.” (End of Part I.)