Today we conclude the strange and compelling tale of the “Bottle Message” found on a beach in France in October 1938 by a French woman named Genevieve Barrat, a story that has been completely ignored by our esteemed media over the decades.
There’s no doubt that if the bottle message indicated the writer saw or knew of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Nikumaroro or some other non-Japanese held island or territory, the message would be known worldwide to anyone even slightly curious about Amelia Earhart. The Nikumaroro lie has thus prospered, along with the original Earhart falsehood, the “crashed and sank” canard. But since the cryptic message pointed to the fliers’ captivity by the prewar Japanese on Jaluit, which we know to be true, it too became another verboten incident in the long history of censorship of the truth.
We return to Rollin C. Reineck’s “Amelia Earhart and the French Connection,” which appeared in the March 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters:
The Assistant Naval Attaché at the American Embassy in Paris, Lt. Cmdr. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, interviewed Eric de’ Bisschop on 7 Jan. 1939.
[Editor’s note: Hillenkoetter (1897-1982) went on to become the first director of the Central Intelligence Agency created by the National Security Act of 1947, and was privy to virtually all the secrets of the time, including the UFO cover-up that began at Roswell, and we can be justifiably skeptical of anything associated with him.]
There was little additional information to give, since Mr. de Bisschop had visited Honolulu in 1937, and been debriefed by Admiral Harry E. Yarnell and Cmdr. Kilpatrick as to what he had seen of Japanese defense works in the Marshalls. The Japanese had been dredging the harbors and entrance channels, and had completed new charts for Jaluit and other atolls, but were holding their charts confidential.
During his visit, Mr. de Bisschop had to be piloted by an official motor boat when he was sailing in and out of there. He did notice an airplane ramp for hauling out seaplanes, along with an airplane hanger and other repair shops and storehouses. It was mentioned to him that construction on a concrete dock was to begin shortly. They also had radio transmitting and receiving sets on each of the smaller islands that were not shown on any official list of radio stations, except Jaluit.
The building and dredging work on Mili Atoll was so secretive that even Japanese
merchant ships were not allowed to visit there. Coal, munitions, dynamite and other supplies were brought to Jaluit by regular Japanese merchant vessels. From there they were transhipped to Mili on small navy vessels manned by regular officers and men of the Japanese Navy.
As far as the story about Miss Earhart and other people kept prisoners on Jaluit is concerned, Mr. de Bisschop said that while possible, he did not believe it. He said it was much easier to find someone accidentally drowned than to keep them prisoners. The natives told him of an incident before he arrived, where a white man who had visited Jaluit was found drowned one day, but with indication that he had been struck over the head first. He was rumored to have been a spy.
After arrival of this report at the State Department, it was dispatched to the Department of
the Navy on 25 Jan. ’39. The accompanying memo reads as follows:
In reply refer to
Eu 800.7961 Putnam, Amelia Earhart/211
1. From Embassy, Paris, no. 3590, January 4, 1939
2. From Embassy, Paris, no. 3605, January 8, 1939
In the past, many attempts have been made to obtain reformation from the State Department concerning the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Their stock answer has always been that there are no records in the State Dept. as they have forwarded all their files concerning Amelia Earhart to the National Archives.
A brief mention of the bottle incident was made by Fred Goerner in his book, The Search for Amelia Earhart. He states that in April of 1964, he found the Soulac-sur-Mer report in a classified file in the State Dept. It should be noted that report was still classified some 26 years after the bottle was found off the coast of France.
Another researcher, Oliver Knaggs, in his book, Amelia Earhart, Her Last Flight, also makes mention of the Soulac-sur-Mer report. This time in 1984, the papers were unclassified and found in the National Archives. Mr. Knaggs made an effort to find the lock of hair allegedly contained in the bottle, but had no success.
Stamped at the top of the Department of Navy memo is the classification:
Down grade at three year
after 12 years.
No one can explain why so much of the information related to Amelia Earhart’s final flight was classified. Why should the government not want the American public to know about these papers? The reader must draw his own conclusion as to the truth of the enclosures in the bottle found off Soulac-sur-Mer. There was never any additional evidence found in the way of another bottle, or the identity of the author. However, the State Department felt the information should bear a security classification in order to protect the security of the United States, as well as keep the information from the public.
1. The message in the bottle could only have been written by a person with intimate knowledge of the Marshall Islands. He knew the tiny and little known atolls of Mili and Jaluit and knew, too, that the Japanese were building up fortifications there. How many people had heard of the Marshalls, let alone those obscure outer atolls? And of those few, how many would have guessed that the Japanese were erecting military installations? The media were giving a lot of attention to Japan at the time, but this was almost exclusively concerned with the war in China. Again, of the handful who might have known all this, none would waste their time concocting a stupid hoax.
2. The writer included a lock of hair he claimed was Amelia’s and the wording of his note indicated his conviction that this would prove he had met her. True, the hair was described as “chestnut coloured,” but this was not the description of the writer of the letter, merely an opinion of, possibly Henri Hoppenot, the “sous-director d’Europe” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who informed Edwin Wilson about the Mlle. Barrat’s discovery.
3. The writer spelled out the fact that Amelia was an aviatrix. Why? Virtually the whole world knew what she was. Her name had been in headlines for months! But a man who had been out of circulation, a prisoner and a yachtsman sailing around the Marshalls, would not have realized how famous she had become, worldwide.
4. He refers to Noonan as “her mechanic (a man).” Again, Noonan was her navigator and the whole world knew he was a man, so why spell it out unless he felt no one would have heard of the man. I didn’t credit any hoaxer with the sheer brain-power required to include such subtleties into a message.
5. He states he was arrested because he disembarked on Mili. How on earth could anyone have made such a statement unless he had been there? With the scant knowledge then current about Japanese activity in those islands, this is fat more than an inspired guess, as Eric de’ Bisschop’s statement proves
6. He refers to being on the Nippon Nom (?) – sic. The Nippon Maru was operating in the area. Maybe I was stretching it a little to include this because a shipping clerk, for instance, might have known this. Why not then, I argued, come right out with the name? It was possible that a prisoner marched aboard would only have obtained a brief glimpse of the full name.
1. The writer did not give his name. One must always be wary of people who wish to remain anonymous. However. in fairness, he might have feared that the message would fall into the wrong hands, another factor that waters down this point somewhat, is that a hoaxer would be more likely to give a false name than no name at all. But I like to see names so I regarded this as a con.
2. The message being washed up, in a sealed bottle, on a beach is, let’s face it, hard to take seriously. Or rather, I can appreciate the skepticism with which the message was received in the police station at Soulac-sur-Mer. But what other method of sending a message was open to a genuine prisoner, falsely accused?
3. The lock of hair, quoted as chestnut-coloured, could not have come from Amelia’s head. I included this as a “con” as well as a “pro” because it can be argued either way. (End of Rollin C. Reineck’s “Amelia Earhart and the French Connection.”)
As we saw in my Nov. 7 update, William Trail found the Air Classics magazine’s December 2000 edition, which published Rollin C. Reineck’s “Amelia Earhart and the French Connection,” and sent the cover that’s displayed at the bottom of the post. He also said he would photocopy and send the article to me, and if it’s different enough from what we have here, taken from the AES Newsletter version, I will post that here as well.