Gervais on Japan’s Earhart deceit, “Cooperation”

Earhart researcher and former Air Force officer Joe Gervais, whose important Guam and Saipan witness interviews in 1960 strongly supported Fred Goerner’s Saipan findings, was best known as the creator of the insidious Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, forever immortalized along with other crackpot ideas in Joe Klaas’ infamous 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives

In assessing Gervais’ contributions to Earhart research, I think a fair, even generous verdict might fall somewhere within the mixed” category.  To elevate Gervais’ work to anything more, as some in the Amelia Earhart Society, including his former friend and enabler Bill Prymak, were wont to do, is simply wrong.  Of course it’s only my opinion, but I’m convinced that Gervais did far more harm than good for the truth in the Earhart disappearance.  The Bolam travesty and Joe Klaas’ outrageous Amelia Earhart Lives remain among the most damaging items in Earhart “research” history. 

The holes Gervais dug for himself with his ridiculous ideas in Amelia Earhart Lives and many other false claims were far too deep for him to escape contempt among some researchers, regardless of what his patrons in the Amelia Earhart Society and the The International Forest of Friendship, where he was inducted in 2005, might tell you.

Joe Gervais (left) and Bill Prymak in an undated photo at The International Forest of Friendship, in Atchison, Kansas, The forest, of course, and its current lack of support for the truth as presented in this blog, has been discussed in recent Truth at Last posts.  It was founded in 1976 by the city of Atchison and the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots.  Fay Gillis Wells is credited as founder and original co-chairman.  Prymak was inducted in 1994, Gervais in 2005, and both are probably rolling in their graves these days.   

The following piece by Gervais, “A Chronology of Japanese Denials Interests and Cooperation” [sic] appeared in the February 1995 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  I’ve copied the original AES Newsletter presentation and will follow with comments. 

Let’s review this list of former Japanese officers and civilians who denied having any knowledge about the facts in the Earhart disappearance; we know about Amy Earhart’s highly publicized July 1949 interview with the L.A. Times, which Gervais mentions in this piece.  Other related tidbits here are U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reishauer’s 1963 statement to Muriel Morrissey that the State Department file wasn’t closed, and Adm. Chester W. Nimitz’s 1966 telephone revelation to Fred Goerner that “Earhart came down in the Marshalls and was picked up by the Japanese.” 

The first in Gervais’ series of Japanese lies came in August 1945, when on the heels of its surrender, “The Japanese Government denied ever having the flyers in their custody.”  This requires no comment. 

Gervais’ chronology next states, “Aug. 49 [sic]:  CAPT. HANJIRO TAKAGI of the KOSHU carried out a search SE of the Marshall Islands but no traces of AE were found.”  Of course no search of the Marshalls was done in connection with the Earhart case in August 1949.  

On July 7, 1937, the New York Times reported:

The Japanese Navy’s 2,080-ton survey ship Koshu, Captain Hanjiro Takagi commanding, which is cruising in the area around Howland Island, was ordered yesterday to search for Amelia Earhart.  The orders to the Koshu were radioed after Hirosi Saito, Ambassador to Washington, had reported that the United States Government had accepted an offer of Japanese assistance.  Admiral Mistumasa Yonai, the Navy minister, immediately transmitted instructions to the Japanese commanders in Formosa and the Mandated islands.” 

As we see in in my Nov. 13, 2020 post,Japanese lied about Earhart search in Marshalls,” author and researcher Vincent V. Loomis wrote that the Japanese managed to convince G-2 [U.S. Intelligence] they had searched the Marshalls quite thoroughly when in fact they had not.  The 12th Squadron and the Kamoi were listened as having searched the area when, as found in their logs, they were in port in Japan.  The Koshu was also listed as part of the search, but as having found nothing.” 

The front page of the San Mateo (Calif.) Times, July 1, 1960, reflects Fred Goerner’s Saipan findings and, in the big picture, is as true today as it was then.

Also in August 1949, Gervais cites the former Japanese Governor of the Marshall Islands, Kinjiro Kitajima [no dates given for his tenure] at Jaluit Atoll found leading a secluded life in a Tokyo suburb, [who] said, ‘He had absolutely no knowledge of a while aviatrix, or one of any other color for that matter landing anywhere among the Marshalls at that time.’ ” 

Our final August 1949 item comes from former Vice Adm. Seichiro Fujimori, “a frequent visitor to the Marshalls in connection with naval matters, [who] said, ‘To his knowledge no American flyers ever landed in the Marshalls.’ ” 

The Kitajima and Fujimori denials Gervais cites must have come from two newspaper stories published in August 1949: “Survey Discounts Amelia Earhart Prisoner Rumors,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 26, 1949 [no byline]; or “The Earhart Mystery: UP [United Press] Tracing of Story Famed Aviatrix Was Nabbed By Japanese Still Proving Futile.” Nippon Times, Aug. 29, 1949, by Ian Mitsu.  Gervais, who never claimed to be a writer — his Air Force officer friend Joe Klaas is the author of Amelia Earhart Lives, but the book is based almost entirely on Gervais’ ideas — can be confusing in his presentation.

Gervais fast-forwards to July 1960, when Fred Goerner, soon followed by himself (Gervais) and Robert Dinger, visited Saipan in search of Earhart eyewitnesses and the truth after Paul Briand Jr.’s Daughter of the Sky trumpeted Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s first-person account to the world for the first time.  Once again Japan offered several responses, consistent only in their uniform dishonesty and deceit. 

Imperial Navy Capt. Zenshiro Hoshina of the 1st Section Naval Affairs Bureau and conservative member of the lower house of Parliment [sic] (no dates given), was first to weigh in, when he stated, “I absolutely deny it.  No such execution could have taken place without my knowledge.” 

Adm. Shegeyoshi Inouye, a wartime member of the Imperial Navy General Staff, chimed in by announcing, “I vigorously deny any knowledge of Earhart incident.” 

The third and final of Gervais’ July 1960 entrees comes from Adm. Hitoshi Tsunoda, a former naval commander-turned naval historian, who declaimed, “Our records show no such incident.” 

Mrs. Michiko Sugita, whose account as told to the Japan Times in 1970 remains the only testimony from a Japanese national that attests to Amelia Earhart’s presence and death on Saipan following her July 2, 1937 disappearance. 

Such were the Japanese falsehoods that Gervais chose to cite, though he could have listed other similar mendacities emanating from the lips of the Emperor’s slaves, past and present.  What else should we expect from the masters of the Bataan Death March, which remains the single greatest atrocity ever perpetuated against American POWs?

What was never expected was the truly shocking revelation that came from a humble Japanese housewife, Mrs. Michiko Sugita, whose amazing courage in stepping forward and separating herself from her entire nation’s shameful history in the Earhart matter probably cost that good woman her life.  

Gervais quotes a November 1970 TOKYO REUTERS dispatch: “Mrs. Michiko Sugita stated that her father, a policeman on Saipan in 1937 stated, ‘It was the Japanese military who executed Earhart,’ and also that it disgusted him after he had learned about it because it was an illegal act under the Geneva Convention.”  (End of Joe Gervais’ “A Chronology of Japanese Denials Interests and Cooperation.”) 

Mrs. Michiko Sugita’s initial media revelation that Japanese military police shot Amelia Earhart as a spy on Saipan in 1937 was to the Japan Times.  The story, headlined “Japanese Woman Says Police Executed Amelia on Saipan,” was released by the Tokyo office of United Press International on November 12.  I don’t have the Tokyo Reuters release.

“Mrs. Sugita, who was 11 at the time, said Japanese military police told her father an American aviator had been shot as a spy,” UPI reported.  “She said she never learned how the woman had been captured or where the execution took place.” 

Sugita’s account remains the only report ever from a Japanese national that supports Amelia Earhart’s presence and death on Saipan in 1937.  Thomas E. Devine, author of Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident (1987), eventually got Sugita’s address from the director of Asian services for the Tokyo bureau of UPI, and he shared a friendly but brief correspondence with Sugita that ended suddenly and without explanation.  More than once Devine told me that he believed Sugita was “disappeared” by the Japanese government for her “treachery,” and as an example to anyone else in Japan with knowledge who might have been considering coming forward to support Sugita’s account.  I can only agree fully. 

For more on Michiko Sugita, please see pages 107-111 of Truth at Last (2nd Edition).

Joe Gervais passed away at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 26, 2005 at age 80.  

5 responses

  1. I think the Burl Ives quote from “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ just about covers my reaction to the continued denial from the Japanese government concerning this atrocity “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity…You can smell it. It smells like death”

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  2. David Billings, our friend from Down Under, sent the below comments to me today that I wanted our readers to see:

    Mike….

    In assessing Gervais’ contributions to Earhart research, I think a fair, even generous verdict might fall somewhere within the “mixed” category.

    My rating would be “lower mixed.”

    To elevate Gervais’ work to anything more, as some in the Amelia Earhart Society, including his former friend and enabler Bill Prymak, were wont to do, is simply wrong. Of course it’s only my opinion, but I’m convinced that Gervais did far more harm than good for the truth in the Earhart disappearance.

    I am with you on all of that….

    The Bolam travesty and Joe Klaas’ outrageous

    and stupid, non-fact-checked

    “Amelia Earhart Lives” remain among the most damaging items in Earhart “research” history.

    …. And then add “Rockin’ Rollin’s” “Amelia Earhart Survived.”

    The holes Gervais dug for himself with his ridiculous ideas in “Amelia Earhart Lives” and many other false claims were far too deep for him to escape contempt among some researchers, regardless of what his patrons in the Amelia Earhart Society and the The International Forest of Friendship, where he was inducted in 2005, might tell you.

    Seconded…

    I personally believe Gervais to have been off his rocker, Klaas also. Klaas never did tell me the name of the airfield “to the north or south of Lae”, where the 10E was exchanged for the XC-35…!! Prymak, well he never should have told me about the lady knowing IB since schoolday’s because he himself should have canned Gervais and the lie, not me……

    David.

    David added that he hopes to return to the New Britain jungle later this year to continue his search for the lost Electra 10, which he believes is the original plane flown by Amelia Earhart on her world flight. He added that the trip depends on whether the “nightmarish (my word)” covid restrictions (among the worst on earth) will allow it. We wish him all the best.

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  3. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    AUG 1949 Vice Admiral Seichiro Fujimori — “To his knowledge no American flyers ever landed in the Marshalls.” Really? How about all the ones during WWII? This lie is so transparent and poorly crafted as to be almost laughable.

    1960 IJN Captain Zenshiro Hoshina — “I absolutely deny it. No such execution could have taken place without my knowledge.” Please note that Capt. Hoshina does NOT say, “Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were not executed on Saipan, or anywhere else by us.” He just denies it. That’s a clear indicator of deception. The second part of his statement, however, about such an execution couldn’t have taken place without his knowledge is most likely true. It’s also a very prideful thing for him say.

    July 1960 Admiral Shegeyoshi Inouye — “I vigorously deny any knowledge of Earhart incident.” Again, Inouye like Hoshina doesn’t say “AE and FN were not executed by us.” He just denies knowledge of it — vigorously. To me this is a clear indication of deception.

    July 1960 Admiral Hitoshi Tsunoda — “Our records show no such incident.” Now THAT I can believe!

    All best,

    William

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  4. I’m surprised, Mike Wallace never attempted to report on Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, or at least take a stab at it? I mean, there was nothing Mike wouldn’t touch.

    If the Japanese, Military police today were asked about this *HISTORICAL event, I wonder what they would say? Nothing as usual, deny it ever took place, tell us they don’t have any records or those records were lost in the war? Wouldn’t you think, if an American Journalist presented them with all the *FACTS & evidence there now is today, someone over there in Japan, would feel obligated to report the *TRUTH? Are the Japanese so blind, that they are incapable of comprehending all this? (MY GOD)

    For the Japanese Military Police to simply say, we screwed up, or those at the time committed an illegal act, under the Geneva Convention and for this, we are deeply SORRY and ashamed of Amelia Earhart & Fred Noonan’s DEATHS, by those hands in our Police Force. I mean it’s that simple and would clear up decades of secrecy.

    I *WISH, somebody would contact the Japanese Military Police and ask, if you’s stand for *TRUTH & JUSTICE, why not ADMIT, you’s executed America’s most *FAMED aviatress on your watch and it’s a LONG OVERDUE admission on your part……………

    Doug

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  5. Joe Gervais did not help us get anywhere in the Earhart story.

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