Earhart and the French Connection, conclusion

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 sankcanard.  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. 

Eric de Bisschop (1891-1958) was a French navigator, known for his sea voyages from Honolulu to Cannes on the Kaimiloa (1937–’38) and from Papeete to Chile on the Tahiti-Nui raft (1956–’58).  He spent much of his adult life in the Pacific, particularly in Honolulu (1935–’37 and 1941–’47), in French Polynesia (1947–’56) and in Chile in the last year of his life.

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
CONFIDENTIAL

Enclosures:
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.

Photo of “RECTO” of bottle message found by Genevieve Barrat at Soulac-sur-Mer, France.  (Courtesy of National Archives and The Earhart Enigma.)

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:

GROUP 4
Down grade at three year
intervals; declassified
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.

Pros:

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’Europeat 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.

Roscoe Henry Hillenkoetter (1897-1982) was the first director of the Central Intelligence Agency created by the National Security Act of 1947.  He also served as Director of Central Intelligence from May 1, 1947, to October 7, 1950, after his retirement from the United States Navy.  Hillenkoetter interviewed Eric de’ Bisschop in January 1939, but learned little additional information since Mr. de Bisschop had visited Honolulu in 1937, and been debriefed by Admiral Harry E. Yarnell as to what he had seen of Japanese defense works in the Marshalls.  Hillenkoetter 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 that was associated with him.

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.

CONS:

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. 

25 responses

  1. Just a few brief comments. “Nippon Nom (?)” probably means simply that the sailor knew that he was on a Japanese ship, but that he did NOT know its name. The word “Nippon” is Japanese meaning “Japan” (the country) the word “Nom” is French (from Latin) meaning “Name”. The fact that he follows it with a question mark would indicate that he did not know the ship’s name.

    Your suggestion that it might have been the Nippon Maru, is a possibility, but there were many ships by that name. “Maru” is a Japanese word which means literally “Circle” or “Round”, but in maritime usage was used to indicate a Merchant Ship, when the word followed another word (which was the actual name of the ship).

    If this sailor had seen any name on the bow or side of the ship, it probably would NOT have included the word “Maru”. For instance, the ship “Nagisan Maru” might have only the word “Nagisan” on its bow – and, if so, very likely it would have been written in phonetic Japanese script.

    All of this goes more toward making the note more authentic. A prisoner below decks employed to stoke coal would likely not have much specific knowledge of the ship’s name or history.

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  2. What a conundrum and another piece to this fascinating true0life puzzle! I have to agree that whomever sent the bottle would not be foolish enough to supply a name as it very well could fall into the wrong hands…what if it had drifted back to shore and picked up by a Japanese soldier or sympathizer? That would have to mean a quick and violent death! i guess we will never know!

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  3. Once again, I am a little confused. Who wrote the “pro and con” comments? Reineck? Was this in the AES newsletter?

    Where did deBisschop actually visit? The Marshalls? Jaluit, or maybe Mili? The Japanese “escorted him?” When was this?

    I have never read or heard anything about Mili being especially secretive as opposed to the other Atolls. This seems like an important point and nobody ever mentions it. Was AE sent to specifically view Mili? What possibly could have been happening there that the Japanese made it off limits even to Japanese citizens? I can’t think of anything like a secret weapon or an airbase. So what could it have been? It didn’t have a large lagoon where forbidden ships could have anchored there, I don’t think.

    Did it have hi-tech DFs? Speaking of which, at the time of Amelia’s flight the Japanese didn’t have radar and Amelia was keeping too quiet for the IJN DFs to get a fix on her, so couldn’t she have overflown the Marshalls with impunity especially if there were really no IJN effective fighter planes in the Marshalls? This still seems a little too bold for what ws probably not anything truly alarming going on in the Marshalls with the Japanese.

    I think if this story was expanded and, for me, clarified a little, it would give me more to cogitate about. Or maybe my brain isn’t on high alert enough today for this story. I think the secretive activities at Mili in relation to her landing there deserves more comment, I hope to hear some. Or maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill.

    Sincerely,
    DAvid

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    1. (From Wikipedia) In July 1935, de Bisschop was detained for two weeks by the Japanese in Jaluit (Marshall Islands) under suspicion of being spies and barely escaped, fleeing towards the Hawaiian Islands. On October 25, they reached, half starving, Molokai Island and were rescued at the Kalaupapa hospital. On the 27th, the Fou Po II was destroyed by a storm, along with all the scientific work done during these years of seafaring. After a while, they flew to Honolulu.

      Pros and Cons are Reineck’s, as is all the indented material. My intro and close are not indented for this reason, so that readers can tell who is writing what.

      Nobody has claimed AE was sent to observe anything on Mili. She landed there, off Barre Island in Mili’s northwest section, and was likely picked up by a Jap fishing boat, probably transferred to the Koshu, taken to Jaluit. and likely flown to Kwajalein and later to Saipan. We still don’t know for certain why she landed at Mili, but many think — per Almon Gray — she ran out of gas as she sought to land at known landing strip on Jaluit, as Gray wrote to Cam Warren in a 1994 letter:

      “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.”

      MC

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    2. It would do all of you some good to go to NARA at College Park, Md and make copies of the war crimes investigations in the Marshall Islands. There are native depositions that describe the start of military construction on all of the major bases. What I will point out is that the treaty the Japanese signed had no restrictions on civil construction projects. The main means of aerial transportation in the Marshalls before WW2 was always seaplanes and amphibious aircraft, so the construction os seaplane ramp and hangars to service them wasn’t illegal by any means. The Japanese were extremely paranoid about security right out of the gate. When you install barracks buildings, military infrastructure such as gun emplacements, ammo bunkers, etc, thats when they became in violation. In the native depositions they claim that the first true military infrastructue work started, I believe in 1940 with the building of runways, aprons and hangars for land based aircraft. Was Earhart there? Yes, but for how long I’m not sure, but she was definitely dead before the end of September, 1937.

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      1. Thanks Woody. I’ve been to NARA in College Park a few times out of sheer necessity, and that was many years ago. Even then, the stifling bureaucratic atmosphere and restrictions placed on the public were uncomfortable, at least to me. Now, with the Covid horror being used by the Feds as pretence for all manner of oppression, I wouldn’t recommend NARA to my worst enemy.

        Please tell us more about Earhart’s death “before September 1937,” and cite your source that makes you so sure she left this Vale of Tears so fast after her alleged arrival there in the “summer of 1937” according to Josephine Blanco Akiyama and many other native witnesses.

        Mike

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  4. Stuart R. Brownstein | Reply

    Keep up the great work Mike ! I look forward to the blogs appearing on my device ! Be well and stay safe !

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  5. That clears up some details, but leads to more questions. Somewhere, possibly in Part 1, I think there is a reference to a new concrete? pier to be built at Jaluit. Is this the famous pier in the famous picture which the Marshallese say was built AFTER the supposed 1935 picture in the supposed tourist book which supposedly debunked the famous picture? In other words, was the Marshallese assertion actually very right and further indicated the possibility that the possible photo of Amelia and Fred is most likely genuine? I hope someone can follow this line of reasoning.

    Second point: Almon Gray says there was an airfield on Jaluit which AE was counting on landing upon? I thought some people on this blog say there was NO field capable of handling Jap fighter planes, therefore she couldn’t have been shot down. But if Almon was right, then there was such a field, and why couldn’t there have been fighter planes there?

    Mike, you say “nobody says she was sent to spy on Mili Atoll” well, yes, that’s true, but that misses my point, which is, I have just learned tonight that Mili was perhaps the MOST secret of any Japanese facility and she just happened to land there (or was shot down) and nobody picks up on this marvelous coincidence? Or wants to speculate on the reason for this utmost secrecy?

    So, on this blog, Almon’s word is good as gold, and he says they were homing in on the Jaluit station , therefore, as I said earlier, with this signal and the signal from the Itasca, Fred, being the world’s foremost navigator, could not possibly have been lost as I have said since first commenting on this blog.. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t have flown to Mili, it just means they did it on purpose, for whatever reason, and they chose to keep it a secret , at least on her messages to the Itasca, assuming they are keeping a legitimate log. I’ll let it go at that, I welcome any comments showing where I am wrong.

    Sincerely,
    David

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  6. Greetings to All:

    This evening I went searching online for Daryll Bollinger’s “Two If By Air, Two If By Sea.” I didn’t find it, but I did find a very interesting commentary by Cam Warren on the TIGHAR Forum regarding Eric de Bischopp and the message in the bottle business. See the link below for Warren’s comments at Message #16, dated 21 December 2000. Of course, Warren has a connection to Laurance Safford and Naval Intelligence so he has a vested interest in debunking anything that would place AE and FN in the Marshall Islands as prisoners of the Japanese.

    https://tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Archives/Forum/Highlights101_120/highlights119.html#16

    All best,

    William

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    1. William,

      Cam Warren, probably the best-known crashed-and-sank theorist in the original Amelia Earhart Society, cites no source in his claim that de Bischopp was “traced” as the author of the message. Nobody else that I’m aware of has alleged that de Bischopp was the author of the bottle message, but I’ve always thought he might have been. If he was, where is Cam Warren’s getting this information? Dave Horner, in his 2013 book The Earhart Enigma, has a lengthy subchapter about the message, and offers no mention of Warren or his claim, and never hints that he thinks de Bischopp could have been the author.

      Your fine work is most appreciated, and perhaps Cam Warren’s claim can be further “traced.”

      MIke

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  7. I just reread all these comments and it sounds like the dock was built after 1935 as the Marshallese said, so the famous picture couldn’t have been taken before 1937 and put in a so-called tourist book. But we let Les Kinney’s photo be debunked without a whimper. I think Les and the History Channel were “set up” the photo is most likely genuine.

    I don’t know what makes Almon Gray so sure Fred was monitoring the Jaluit radio station, but if anyone would know it would be Almon. Even though their DF was primitive by modern standards, and assuming they were flying an LOP that would cross Howland, then the signal from Jaluit could have and would have been used to judge their position along the line (157/337) so there wouldn’t have been any mystery of whether they were north or south of Howland.

    They WOULD NOT inexplicably wind up 200 miles north of Howland and then fly due west hoping they would sight the Gilberts. They would know that flying due West would put them on Mili Atoll. It would seem a preposterous gamble to then land on Mili and claim they were there because they were lost. I give the Japanese credit for being as smart as I am.

    There must have been some reason the Japs regarded Mili as their most secret of all installations. If we knew why, we would probably have a better idea why AE landed there.

    Sincerely,
    David

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    1. You now sound as if you’re being contrary just for the sport of it. Les’ photo was not debunked “without a whimper” and plenty of people still believe it’s a genuine photo of the fliers. I’ve said that even if it were the fliers, the alleged AE is so out of focus that “she” could be anyone, even a man. Spectacular claims require spectacular evidence, and the ONI photo doesn’t cut the mustard, not by a long shot.

      Who said the Japs regarded Mili as their “most secret of all installations”? I don’t see that claim anywhere in the posts were talking about, and I know I never wrote it or cited anyone who did.

      Mike

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      1. You’re right, I’m getting carried away and I’m not being scholarly. I mean this document about deBisschop confirms what the Marshallese government said, that the pier was not built until after the date the debunker claimed the tourist book was written and published, so therefore the tourist book was clearly faked as it appeared to be at the time. However, nobody with any stature made a protest. I suppose the NYT or MSM would ever give any coverage to the protest anyway certainly not by me.

        One could hope the History Channel would make a point of publicizing this but that would be futile. I suppose the whole program was a clever disinformation exercise as you surmised. I guess the History Channel is most likely a mouthpiece for the Deep State that most proles never give any skeptical thought to. However, they do show flashes of the truth which a clever viewer can pick up on.

        I am no WW2 buff, but it does seem odd that such secrecy attaches to an otherwise run of the mill atoll. Maybe it was a landing base for UFOs. Or, perhaps, there is some unusual feature with implications for warfare which is still there. Has anybody ever noticed this? Or is it some very plain average atoll? On this post you or somebody mentions the extraordinary process of not allowing Japanese civilians to visit there. Were non-Japanese prisoners being held there? Aliens from a crashed UFO? Or what?

        Sincerely,

        David

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      2. David,

        You raise the question of, “What was so secret about Mili Atoll, and by extension, the rest of the Marshals and Mandated Islands?” The answer is simple — nothing. There was nothing on Mili or anywhere else in the Marshall Islands in 1937 of any military or naval significance warranting the cloak of secrecy imposed. Yes, there was a seaplane ramp, and a radio station. Big deal. So what? Neither could be construed as “fortifying” the Mandates by any reasonable person.

        Strangely enough, what the Japanese desperately wanted to keep secret was the very fact that the Mandates weren’t fortified. There was much distrust between the U.S. and Imperial Japan. Each nation viewed the other as an adversary whom we would eventually fight. They believed that if the United States knew for certain that the islands were essentially undefended, we would invade and take the Marshall Islands from them. Japan did not have unlimited resources, manpower, and money to militarize the Mandates. Japanese blood and treasure was, since 1931, largely expended on their military adventure in China.

        Of course, there’s more to it, but that’s essentially the salient points in a nutshell. My source for this is the late Dr. Mark R. Peattie’s, “Nanyo The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945” (1988) University of Hawaii Press — in particular, Chapter 8, A Question of Bases The Japanese Militarization of Micronesia, pp 230-256.

        David, I also highly recommend to you Edwin P. Hoyt’s excellent, “Japan’s War The Great Pacific Conflict 1853-1952” (1986) McGraw-Hill Book Company. There are 21 chapters before you even get to the attack on Pearl Harbor, but it’s a good read and I think you’ll get a lot of benefit from it. Another good book is Gordon L. Rottman’s, “World War II Pacific Island Guide A Geo-Military Study” (2002) Greenwood Press.

        All best,

        William

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      3. William,
        Thanks for pointing me to those books you mention. So far, in my half hearted approach to seeking some reason for Amelia to overfly the mandates, I came up with…..nothing. There were no secret weapons or astonishing naval fleets, their ships were not superior and their airbases few and far between if they even existed at all. I would think FDR was aware of that. so it seems futile to send Amelia on an extremely dangerous mission to spy on the Marshalls.

        Yet, to believe she was so lost as to end up 600? miles from Howland doesn’t compute either. Especially when she could have at any time simply broadcast her plight and the measures she was taking on her radio with the objective of getting rescued. I know it appears frivolous for me to speak of UFOs, but since no other logical explanation for her actions has materialized in 84 years, I am getting a little desperate. When I come up with a better explanation (not that I rule out UFOs completely) I will let everyone know.

        Sincerely,
        David

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      4. Once again, this is why the real mystery in the Earhart disappearance is how and why she landed at Mili. Even great minds like yours have failed to solve it to the satisfaction of rational observers.
        MC

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  8. Maybe I have regained my senses. Or at least stabilized. I was just surfing around the internet to find articles about AE and Marshall Islands. I learned that Mili Atoll is the second largest atoll in the Marshalls, I had a mistaken image in my mind that it was tiny. Evidently it is not. There were around 4,000 Japanese troops on the island when it was attacked by U.S. forces, most of whom didn’t survive. So, evidently it was an important base for the Japanese and I would surmise had been fortified with thousands of men perhaps as early as the 1930s.

    So it’s possible that it may have been of great interest to U.S. intelligence and the Japanese at the time may have known that. It could have been frowned upon as a violation of the Treaties by Allied forces and the Japs would have tried to conceal this by not letting civilians, even Japanese, see what was going on. In fact, and I am just guessing, it may have been one of the largest Japanese installations in the Marshalls at the time. Where they were all housed, I don’t know. You would think there would be remnants of barracks all over the place, but I haven’t heard about that. Maybe they were bombed into sawdust. I also found this article which is quite informative, although old.
    https://www.infomarshallislands.com/amelia-earhart-marshall-islands/ For some reason Parker Aerospace declined to identify any of the pieces Kinney and Spink found on Barre Island as belonging to the Electra.

    Sincerely,
    David

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  9. I thought I would add this since Wally’s version is a litle different than TAL.
    https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/2009/oct/31/cousin-japanese-captured-amelia-earhart/

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    1. I did a post on Wally Earhart’s claims on Feb. 20, 2014. See “Wally Earhart, Amelia’s “fourth cousin,” speaks” out at https://earharttruth.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/wally-earhart-aes-fourth-cousin-speaks-out.

      Mike

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  10. Today on my cell phone was an ad for an excursion to Mili Atoll. The Internet knows everything I have ever discussed on this forum. It doesn’t sound like an appealing destination, but there was a short history of Mili Atoll in the offer. It said there were about 4,000 Japanese military personnel stationed there. It makes me wonder why so many? What were the Japs defending, anyway? What was the point of defending an atoll with no resources except a few fish and coconuts?

    The other interesting thing the promotion mentioned was that the ordnance and guns, etc. was all cleaned up by the Peace Corp in the 60s? What for? Isn’t this the work of specialized bomb squads, not recent college grads? I think this point has been discussed here before. Did they pick up all the stray metal junk lying around? Did they pick up pieces of Amelia’s plane? I’m sure all the metal junk just went into a Dumpster. This strikes me as a little strange. Did the Peace Corp clean up all the Marshalls? Nothing I knew about the Peace Corp when it was formed ever indicated that I could join and possibly be sent to an isolated Pacific atoll to work as a glorified junkman. Maybe I was just naive. Still, it all strikes me as very odd. It probably means nothing.

    Sincerely,
    David

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  11. Mili had an airstrip and was a part of the Japanese air defense/aggression system. It was attacked a number of times, but a great many of the Japanese casualties there occurred as a result of starvation and disease after it was cut off from resupply.

    Following World War II, there was a great effort to sell and remove metal scrap from all the islands and Japan was one of the main buyers of that scrap. I find it hard to believe that Peace Corps volunteers would have been asked to perform Explosive Ordnance removal duties there or anywhere else, although it is a fact that there was – and still is – a lot of unexploded ordnance on all of the Pacific islands.

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    1. Richard,

      Thanks for addressing this curious issue. The promotion on my phone simply declared that Mili, at least, had been “cleaned up” by the Peace Corps. A quick Google search revealed nothing or no mention of any such activity. If the Peace Corps didn’t clean up Mili, then who did? When Dick Spink under the auspices of Parker Aerospace went to comb the atoll for artifacts of Amelia Earhart, I don’t remember him mentioning the island had been already “cleaned up.” so what bearing would this have had on their search? I suppose at the time the possibility of any debris from AE’s landing there was not an issue, or was it?

      When I think about it, I still don’t understand what strategic value the Japanese attributed to all those Pacific Islands they held and defended at considerable expense. The USA empire doesn’t seem to attach any great value to them except for an isolated very few. What bearing all my pondering on these issues has on her landing on Mili, I don’t know. Maybe no bearing at all.

      Sincerely,
      David

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  12. David,

    The US had to choose what islands to take and which to “bypass” in the war. Certain areas were chosen to take and build up, while others were left to “wither on the vine”. With US in control of the area, no Japanese resupply ships could get through to bypassed islands and only a submarine could get through from time to time.

    Mili, Jaluit, and a few other Marshalls Atolls were among those which were bypassed. As a result, not only the Japanese garrisons, but also the Marshallese Islanders on them suffered from lack of food – and also from periodic air attacks.

    In April 1945, the US Navy made a number of attempts to evacuate native islanders (and even those Japanese soldiers who wished to escape). One US Naval officer was killed during these operations and a Japanese machinegun post was taken out by ship’s gunfire.

    Clearly the Japanese had a higher regard for the value of Mili prior to (and after) their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. What exactly their plan was for the Atoll, I do not know. But they were very much concerned about any kind of perceived reconnaissance or “spying” in what they considered Their territory.

    In September 1942, two Jesuit priest missionaries and 14 Gilbertese islanders were attempting to transit from one atoll to another when their outrigger canoe was becalmed. A Japanese Cruiser took the two priests aboard and interrogated them. They eventually put them back aboard their canoe without any drinking water, and set them adrift. In November 1942, their canoe drifted to Mili Atoll, where the Japanese army captured them. The two priests were tied to a tree and bayonetted to death.

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    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Richard,

      Indeed the Japanese maintained a long standing, pervasive culture of secrecy vis-a-vis the Mandated Islands.

      According to Gordon L. Rottman’s “World War II Pacific Island Guide A Geo-Military Study” (2002) Greenwood Press, pages 370-371, “Mille Atoll is about twenty miles long and about ten miles across. It’s thirty islands are distributed around most of the atoll’s rim with the east side being open. A large X-shaped airfield, with a third runway connecting the arms of the “X” on one side, was built on the main Mille Island. This was the only airfield in the Marshalls that was within Japanese fighter range of the Gilberts to the southeast. It was from there that some of the strikes were flown on Tarawa and Makin during the Gilberts campaign.”

      Note: “Mille” is how Rottman spells it.

      Interesting story about the two Jesuit priests and the Gilbetese natives.

      All best,

      William

      Like

    2. There were a lot of atricities cmmitted in the Marshall Islands, it’s all in the War Crimes files at NARA.

      Like

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