Electra 12 mystery photo raises perplexing questions
The below photos and brief narrative appeared in the February 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, with little explanation as to the provenance of the plane photo other than its discovery by researcher Joe Gervais, and the headline, “COVERUP . . . part of a larger scheme?” Otherwise, readers are left with little else but bewildered questions. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
JOE Gervais comes up with the darndest stuff sometimes, to wit the intriguing photograph from the Lockheed Archives shown above, a model 12 Electra mournfully laying in a ditch at the end of the runway at Burbank, date of accident established [sic] as May 7 or 8, 1937, about two weeks before AE’s departure on her second attempt around the world.
QUESTIONS: Who stonewalled the press, with such an incident certain to raise nationwide attention? Why was this accident not reported to the CAA? All incidents sustaining major structural damage such as seen above were mandated by law to be reported to the federal aviation authorities. No report was filed.
Compare photo below to person(s) standing in front of the Electra . . . sure looks like George and part of a bell bottom trouser, such as seen on AE.
[TAL Editor’s note: I don’t see any “part of a bell bottom trouser” in the photo above.]
The aircraft had a checkered history, passing through at least six ownerships, at one time showing the experimental registration X 17342 [sic]. Strangely, official CAA documents show Las Vegas Gas Co. as the owner of X-17342 for a period of time, and yet Joe, one to never leave any stone unturned, could not find, even in spite of dogged research, such ownership in any of the records of the Las Vegas Gas Co.
WHO would stand to gain the most from this cover-up? George Putnam? Lockheed? The U.S. government? Certainly Amelia dodged a fusillade of bad press, which couldn’t have come at a worse time in her career had this crash been splashed across the national newspapers.
In his February 1994 newsletter, the late Amelia Earhart Society president and founder Bill Prymak offered his limited membership yet another puzzling entry, and now I’m passing this strange item to the readers of the Truth at Last blog, with the hope that this little mystery can be solved. Can anyone tell us more about this photo and the story behind it?
******Oct. 23 Update******
Reader Blake K. Baxter has sent in a comment with information that partially clarifies our little mystery, albeit taken from a February 1995 edition of TIGHAR Tracks.
All interested readers should click on the link to the TIGHAR Story, found on page 8 of
Once again it appears that we have a case of Joe Gervais rushing to speculate and make another sensational claim before finding the available information.
Bill Prymak is also culpable for writing that the “date of accident established [sic] as May 7 or 8, 1937, about two weeks before AE’s departure on her second attempt around the world.” Where did he get that date, and what made him so sure? The Feb. 28, 1995 TIGHAR Tracks story doesn’t have all the answers, but it appears to have more than Bill Prymak had when he posted this photo in February 1994.
Almon Gray: “Earhart landed in the Marshalls”
Almon A. Gray was a pioneer in aeronautical communications, a Navy Reserve captain, flew with Fred Noonan in the 1930s and was an important figure in the development of the Marshall Islands landing scenario.
Upon expiration of his Navy enlistment he signed on with Pan American Airways, in 1935 Gray helped build the bases to support the first trans-Pacific air service, and was first officer-in-charge of the PAA radio station on Wake Island. After the San Francisco-Hong Kong air route was opened in late 1935, he was a radio officer in the China Clipper and her sister flying boats. Later he was assistant superintendent of communications for PAA’s Pacific Division.
The following letter, to confirmed crashed-and-sank researcher Cameron A. Warren, appeared in the February 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. It was written on Sept. 1, 1994, just over three weeks before Gray’s death at 84 on Sept. 26, 1994 at his home in Blue Hill, Maine. Boldface emphasis mine throughout.
[Editor’s comment] From a man who flew with Fred Noonan and who was considered to be one of the top radio men in his day.
HC 64 Box 270-207
Blue Hill, ME 04514
Sept. 1, 1994
Cameron A. Warren
P.O. Box 10588
Reno, NV 59510
Dear Mr. Warren,
I greatly appreciate your letter of Aug. 20th and certainly agree that in naming Keats Reef as the theoretical point of Earhart’s touch down I made a poor selection. As I mentioned in the article, I was unable to obtain any significant information about the reef. I believe however that the basic theory is sound. Briefly, I envisage that Earhart was homing with the DF in a general westerly direction on the signals from the broadcast radio station at Jaluit. Her gas tanks were virtually empty. She sighted land close to her track and made an emergency landing on it. Beyond reasonable doubt the land was in the Marshall Islands.
The landing was made about mid-afternoon of July 2, 1937, Howland date. The Radio equipment in the aircraft was started up later in the afternoon and was used intermittently for at least three days without molestation. Many radio listeners at numerous sites reported hearing distress signals from the plane but were not taken seriously. (In retrospect I believe that most of them were genuine.) The quality of the transmissions was very poor and virtually no useful information was passed in all that time. However the peculiar characteristics which made the transmitted voice signals unintelligible, were unique and served to identify the signals as coming from the Earhart plane whenever they were heard.
With what I have here plus what I consider as very good bearings from the PAA Adcock RDFs at Wake and Midway, I feel quite comfortable in believing that Earhart landed in the Marshalls. The homing track to the Jaluit Radio Station makes me believe that the most likely locale would be the very northern part of Mili Atoll.
I had hoped that during my lifetime we would know precisely what happened to the Earhart flight and where. I now would be delighted to merely get general acceptance of the notion that Amelia and Fred were alive and reasonably well in the Marshalls as late as a week after they disappeared.
Again, thanks for your letter!
Almon A. Gray
copy: Bill Prymak
For a comprehensive review of all that’s been presented on this blog about Almon Gray, please click here.