Researcher Woody Rogers recently forwarded an old newspaper story I’d not seen before, from a paper whose pages lacked any datelines or folios for easy identification, but which could only have been the Charleston (South Carolina) Evening Post, the only Evening Post operating in the United States in 1939. *
This provocative screed, published as early as July 1939 but possibly later that year (based on other stories on the page), would have the local South Carolinians, and by extension, the entire world, believe that Amelia Earhart’s Electra had “washed up” on Canton Island in the Pacific, minus Earhart and Fred Noonan, of course, during the July 1937 Navy-Coast Guard search, and that the Navy kept the news from the public.
Here’s the story, presented as best I can to retain some of the original, while adding some informative images (boldface emphasis mine throughout; caps emphasis in original; please click on images for larger views):
message was suppressed, but never denied. A few days afterward, the navy abandoned the search that cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Take Over Island
And by a rare coincidence, the United States government over the indignant protestations of European powers, TOOK OVER CANTON ISLAND A FEW WEEKS LATER.
Why should America want this insignificant island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Why should this country have risked certain diplomatic relationships for the right to possess this deserted bit of land?
And why, above all, was the order given to send virtually the entire Pacific fleet on an extensive manhunt when the Oriental situation was ready to boil over at any moment?
What About Data
Was Miss Earhart’s mission as innocently scientific as the world was led to believe? And what was the nature of the scientific data she hoped to gather ostensibly for Purdue university? Exactly what she and Noonan were after has never been revealed. The purpose of her journey was cloaked simply with the mysterious phrase, “scientific observations.“
Why did the government permit her to take off in the first place, inasmuch as the department of air commerce [sic] publicly frowned on the flight and doubted its scientific value? And why, then, did the government immediately order most of its Pacific fleet, along with scores of navy fliers, to seek the missing plane when word was first received that it was lost?
Search First of Kind
Never before in the history of transoceanic flying had such a search been ordered?
Why? the world new asks.
The public may never know the real answers. We may only guess the exact fate of
(Continued from page one)
If the Earhart flight were an innocent scientific excursion, why should the navy want to keep secret the fact that the airplane was beached in this this lonely island in the middle of the Pacific? What was there to be gained by such secrecy?
On the other hand, if Miss Earhart had in her possession important diplomatic information picked up on her tour of the globe, would it not be to the great advantage of this country to remain forever silent on the discovery of the airplane? And if silence was so important, wouldn’t it be logical that the island which contained the only evidence of Miss Earhart’s tragedy be taken over and held by the United States government?
May Not Be Answered
The entire situation is rife with questions. Questions which will probably never be answered officially.
It must be borne in mind that at the time of the Earhart flight, conditions in the Orient were none too secure. Most Americans took an aloof stand on the Sino-Japanese war. America will never war with Japan, it was said. But the navy knew better. The navy was taking no chances. There were Americans in China, and they were there because there were extensive American holdings in the Orient
The entire Pacific fleet was hovering in Oriental waters at the time. It left the danger zone ONLY LONG ENOUGH TO SEARCH FOR MISS EARHART’S PLANE [sic].
Let’s study a purely hypothetical case.
An American flier has won the hearts of the world. The flier is better beloved because she is a woman, and her soul is in aviation. She has been successful in a number of previous flights. And now she is contemplating a round-the-world flight.
In various capitals of the world, agents of the government have obtained secret military information, valuable to American authorities. It is sometimes difficult to get such information safely back to the state department [sic] without interference by outside countries.
Suddenly the government sees and ingenious way of obtaining the information, bringing it back for expert study in Washington. What could be more innocent than a round-the-world flight by one of America’s most popular heroines? Who could possibly suspect such a woman of ulterior motives?
So arrangements are made. The government officially frowns on the flight but issues the license. All part of the plan. It is announced that the mission is a scientific one, but it is never deemed necessary to announce precisely what the nature of the scientific investigation is.
No Embarrassing Papers
As the flier speeds around the globe, she is greeted by hundreds of persons wherever she stops. She is cheered all along the way. There are no embarrassing papers to be filled out. No questions to answer, passports a mere formality. That is one of the courtesies governments extend to daring fliers of another nation.
But in some of the crowds are secret government agents. With absolute safety, they slip her maps, charts, notes bearing important military secrets, obtained in devious ways known only to agents.
Meanwhile. her own nation is watching with keen interest the success of the flight. Everyone hopes she succeeds, but state department officials have a double reason for praying for the success of the undertaking.
The flier is on her last long hop. She has everything she wants. Everything her government is waiting for. And then, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, something happens. There is a frantic flash from her radio. Something has gone wrong. She is overdue. Nothing more is heard.
AND IMMEDIATELY ALMOST THE ENTIRE PACIFIC FLEET IS DISPATCHED TO FIND HER.
Wouldn’t that be logical? Might not those secrets be more important than keeping a full patrol in Chinese waters?
Wouldn’t it be exceedingly dangerous for a vessel of another power to come upon whatever documents her plane contained?
Word came once that a message had been received from Miss Earhart, giving her position after she was forced down. It was some distance north of Howland Island where she was expected to land. But navy officials must know that this message DID NOT COME FROM MISS EARHART BECAUSE HER RADIO COULD NOT SEND MESSAGES IF IT WAS AFLOAT.
That both Miss Earhart and Frederick Noonan are dead the world has little doubted. THE NAVY KNOWS. There was apparently no sign of either flier when the ship [sic] washed up on the beach of Canton Island.
Whatever happened, whatever information Miss Earhart was carrying back to her government, the world may never know. But a few people know that Miss Earhart’s craft was found. And for them the mystery only becomes deeper, less fathomable. (End of Evening Post story.)
The best the Evening Post could to do identify its source for this potentially world-changing story was to write, “The wireless message was seen by a member of one of the crews who said it was never denied.” Thus, anyone vaguely familiar with the Earhart disappearance and able to read at a high school level — which should be all readers of this blog — can easily discern the bogus nature of the Canton Island claim.
This story is pure disinformation, rife with innuendo and wild speculation meant to confuse readers, sell papers and, most importantly, further obscure and hide the Marshall Islands-Saipan truth. Earhart’s Saipan fate was almost certainly known to Navy Intelligence and thus FDR and those closest to him, possibly within the first few months of the fliers’ disappearance — though how this information first came to them remains uncertain. The story itself tells us the government knew the truth, and it’s so poorly written than its stink is impossible to ignore.
It was all to no avail, as this particular Earhart propaganda operation was a miserable failure. The Canton Island claim got no traction, and wasn’t picked up by any other newspapers, books or publications that I’m aware of. A search of websites for Canton Island has yet to uncover any mention of the idea that the Earhart Electra “washed ashore” there in July 1937, or any other time.
The story was so transparently bad that FDR’s central planners didn’t dare put in the New York Times or The Washington Post, instead opting for a trial run in the relatively obscure Charleston Evening Post. Further, a web search for the writer of this travesty, one Norman Arthur, produces zero results, which strongly suggests he never existed.
Attempting to dig deeper, my sincere, good faith query to the local Charleston librarian who has access to the old Evening Post archives was rudely ignored — frustrating but not unusual in this line of work — but I believe Norman Arthur was a fake name attached to this fake story. This phony claim ranks among the lowest scrapings in a still-growing 84-year-old trash bin of “Earhart mystery” bilge, and made absolutely no dent in the public consciousness, then or ever.
Nonetheless, the 1939 Evening Post story is notable, even remarkable, for one important reason. More than any reports about the disappearance up to that time, just two years after Earhart’s loss, it emphatically demonstrates that the U.S. government was actively engaged in media manipulation, disinformation and propaganda, despite the fact that virtually no one publicly questioned the government’s crashed-and-sank verdict at that time. The truth was known in the White House, and FDR wasn’t about to let the public know of his perfidy in the Earhart matter, when he abandoned America’s beloved First Lady of Flight, leaving her to the barbaric mercies of the Japanese on Saipan.
As I wrote in Truth at Last (pages 322-323):
If the American public had learned of the abandonment of Amelia Earhart— one of the most admired and beloved figures in our history—on Saipan by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, his transformation from popular president to national pariah would have been instantaneous, his political future reduced to ashes.
[*Editor’s note: March 10, 2022 update: The Charleston Library archivist has informed me that the foregoing story, which I was so sure came from the Charleston Evening Post, actually did not. She performed a thorough search of the paper’s archives to determine that fact, as well as that no record for Norman Arthur existed in the paper or in any Charleston listings in 1939. I appreciate and accept her findings, and also apologized for my impatience.
This doesn’t change anything else about the story, except to tell us that the Charleston Evening Post is off the hook for committing gross journalistic malpractice, at least in this case. I’ll keep you updated on any new information that can shed light on who actually was responsible for this travesty.
March 11 update: Woody Rogers replied and said the page he sent came from the Minneapolis Star, sometime in 1939. I searched the online archives and can’t find the page at this time. I asked Woody, whose files aren’t available right now, to let us know where the story came from as soon as he can, if possible.]
March 12 update: As requested by Les Kinney, below is the front page of the publication from which the above story came, minus the folio or banner at the top, which normally identifies the newspaper or publication. The page-wide headline also appears unusual. We await further developments.