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
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