Conclusion of Reineck’s 1993 Air Classics story

We continue with the conclusion of Rollin C. Reineck’s “Inside the Earhart Flight: Government Conspiracy?” which appeared in the October 1993 issue of Air Classics magazine. 

Please understand that this and all other articles and “news stories” that are taken from other sources and presented on this blog do not necessarily reflect the truth, the facts as they were later discovered or the opinions of the editor of this blog.  Where appropriate, I try to emphasize and clarify any differences that might lead to serious confusion about my beliefs.  As always, the posts on this blog are presented for the information and entertainment of readers who are interested in learning more about the history of research into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

To bring more realism to the article, I’ve scanned the original pages.  Some may be hard to read, but if you left click on each page, it will enlarge and you can easily read it. 

Editor’s note:  Reineck was among the most avid promoters of the notorious Weihsien Telegram, or Weihsien Speedletter, discovered in U.S. State Department archives in 1987.  The unsigned telegram reads, “Camp liberated — all well — volumes to tell — love to mother.”  Sent from Weihsien, north China, and dated Aug. 28, 1945, this document created a huge buzz among researchers who speculated it could have been sent by Amelia herself.  In 2001, this hot potato was relegated to the dustbin of dead-end myth, when AES researcher Ron Bright conclusively disproved the idea that Amelia Earhart had been confined at the Weihsien, China civilian internment camp during World War II.  

Rollin Reineck passed away at age 87 on Oct. 9, 2007 in Castle Medical Center, Kailua, Hawaii.  For much more on Reineck’s contributions to Earhart research, please click here.

25 responses

  1. Stuart R Brownstein | Reply

    My Friend Down South: Keep up the great work, I am enjoying immensely!

    Your Friend Up North, Stuart.

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  2. Mike- he certainly makes a great case, one that is difficult to dispute. The one point that you have brought up before, is what does “she disobeyed orders mean?” what orders? That statement alone, if true, verifies that she was in fact working in some capacity for the government..did she not keep radio contact as ordered? Was she to land on some other island? It drives you mad just thinking about it.

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  3. David Atchason | Reply

    I find it curious that Reineck speculates that Amelia may have been held at Weihsien and released after the war. When I speculate that, I get scoffed at. Of course I don’t have the stature of Reineck. One would think that if Amelia was at Weihsien somebody would have seen her there. And one or more people might have. What is frustrating to me, all through the AE story, is that if TPTB don’t want a story like that to get out, it won’t get out. That’s my take.

    A detail that doesn’t make much sense to me is that Putnam was supposedly commissioned so that he could enter a combat zone in China to listen for Amelia’s voice as Tokyo Rose. Why China? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go where American troops were stationed? Because, after all, that was were Tokyo Rose would broadcast to in English. Were the Japs broadcasting Tokyo Rose in English to China? It doesn’t seem likely. So Putnam to China story must have been a facade for something else. Does it have a connection to Wiehsien camp? I’m not sure what exact location he was sent to in China. Just another mystery.

    David

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    1. I suggest you carefully read the below post from Jan. 3, 2017, which covers the Weishien myth like a blanket. You need to read more, Dave, with more attention to details.

      “Weihsien Telegram: Another sensation that fizzled”
      https://earharttruth.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/weishien-telegram-another-sensation-that-fizzled/

      Regarding Putnam’s alleged China visit to listen to Tokyo Rose, Les Kinney’s comprehensive research blew that canard out of the water. Please see “Did Putnam search for Amelia Earhart on Saipan?” from May 17, 2021:

      https://earharttruth.wordpress.com/2021/05/17/did-putnam-search-for-amelia-earhart-on-saipan/

      You seem to think you’re the only one who reads this blog who has serious questions about common Earhart myths. What do you think I’ve been doing here since 2012?

      Mike

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  4. Leslie G Kinney | Reply

    Many, many of Reineck’s assumptions are flat out wrong.

    Les Kinney

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  5. As I recall, there was no airstrip at Howland Isl. FDR had to get the CCC to build one. What they built was not worth having.

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    1. William H. Trail | Reply

      Ken,

      Awhile back we had a rather in-depth discussion right here on Mike’s blog regarding whether NR16020 loaded with fuel for Oahu and a small reserve could have successfully become airborne from Howland. Such things as wind, density altitude, aircraft weight, engine power, runway surface composition/condition, etc were all considered. If I’m not mistaken, I think we even talked about tire pressure as it relates to surface resistance/friction and takeoff distance! Based on these factors, as well as the actual takeoff from Lae, New Guinea, our general consensus was that a takeoff from Howland Island would have been a very dicey proposition at best. Could it be possible that it was never intended for Amelia Earhart to land on Howland?

      Former Itasca crewman, Radioman 3rd Class William L. Galten stated to Paul Rafford in 1942 when both were employed with Pan American Airways (PAA), “Paul, that woman [AE] never intended to land on Howland!” Please see TTAL, 2nd Ed., page 35. I agree. However, the airstrip built on Howland did serve a purpose. It, along with the “Itascatown” colonists, served to establish U.S. sovereignty over the island, and it was absolutely vital to maintaining the cover story that concealed the truth concerning the last leg of the R-T-W flight.

      All best,

      William

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      1. Is there a link or approx. date of the Howland Island takeoff technicalities discussion?

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      2. Just do a search on Howland Island in the red box on the front page. That’s all I can recommend. Howland Island discussions are everywhere.

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      3. William H. Trail

        CDA,

        I believe it was in the last year, but I couldn’t recall the exact date of that post, or the discussion it generated if my life depended on it. I do recall that there was a lot of input.

        All best,

        William

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  6. David Atchason | Reply

    What is puzzling to me is how seemingly poorly planned Amelia’s flight was, in the sense of a marginal takeoff from Lae and a marginal at best plan for takeoff from Howland. And then her dependence on radio signals from the Itasca to find an obscure tiny island. Even Eddie Rickenbacker got lost looking for Canton Island years later.

    They could have used Baker I. where an 0.9 mile runway was built later that B-24s used. Wiley Post flew around the world in 8 days in 1931 then 6 days in 1933. True, not at the equator, but apparently well planned and realistic. Why such a dangerous flight plan for Amelia that essentially proved nothing? Plus visiting so many countries? How did she get talked into this dangerous plan with so many opportunities for failure? It’s almost as if it was meant to fail. The only reason I can think of is it gave her some flimsy pretext to mistakenly fly over the Japanese mandates, which the Japanese were not going to believe.

    So, once she left Lae, where else in non- Japanese territory was there a place for her to land? If she wasn’t going to land at Howland, where else could she possibly land? Everywhere else (including a water landing somewere) was going to be certain capture by the Japanese or a death-defying landing in a lagoon or on a coral or sand reef. The danger of doing this seems all out of proportion to anything gained by publicity and the sales of a thrilling book. It hardly seems she was desperate for money. Howland was her best bet out of all her dismal choices. I know, just my opinion.

    Sincerely,
    David

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  7. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    The truth of the matter is that, other than that “hiccup” early on when AE did not listen to FN and ended up landing at St. Louis, Senegal — 163 miles north of her intended landing destination at Dakar, the over all R-T-W flight went relatively smoothly. That does not happen by chance, nor does it happen through wishing, hoping, or crossing your fingers. AE and FN flew most of the way around the earth, keeping as close to the equator as circumstances allowed them, and did so without major difficulties. To me, that is indicative of a lot of very good planning. It’s also indicative of the abundance of AE and FN’s aeronautical skill, courage, and determination. Except for that little detour they made on the last leg, flown at the behest of Uncle Sam (where AE, per Secretary Morgenthau “disregarded all orders”) they in all likelihood would have made it back to Oakland, CA for the Fourth of July in grand style.

    All best,

    William

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    1. Leslie G Kinney | Reply

      William, I have to differ with you. Your first remark regarding St. Lous vs Dakar is correct.

      However, Amelia and Fred (especially Amelia) did in fact “wing it: for much of the flight, and to use your words, flew more by chance with a cross your fingers attitude than by reasonable piloting.

      The first instance was the flight to Caripito, only the second leg after leaving Miami. You already mentioned Dakar. Then there is the dangerous take-off at Calcutta. Except for dumb luck, they should have perished at Akyab. The take-off at Darwin was within a couple of feet of being a disaster. The flight from Darwin through the mountain passes of New Guiena was stupid when they could very well have skirted the New Guinea coast with no problem. Amelia’s luck finally ran out on the way to Howland Island.

      Les Kinney

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      1. William H. Trail

        Les,

        Sometimes there’s a big difference between what is planned and what is actually executed. Field Marshal Helmut Graf von Moltke (The Elder) probably said it best. “One cannot be at all sure that any operational plan will survive the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.” Today that is simply boiled down to “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

        The basic tenet of this military maxim can just as easily be applied to aviation as to warfare. Whether it is with the first shot downrange or the opening of the hangar door, the plan is always subject to change to meet the immediate exigencies of the situation. Now, were there some “sporty” moments and “dicey” situations that came perilously close at times to becoming what I euphemistically call, “fun and educational” on AE and FN’s R-T-W flight? You bet! As you said, Caripito, Dakar, Calcutta, Akyab, Darwin, the mountain passes of New Guinea — all very fasten-your-seatbelt thrilling. It’s all there in “Last Flight.” High adventure to be sure. Winging it where necessary to meet the demands of the situation? Absolutely. No one can dispute that.

        It also can’t be disputed that Amelia Earhart successfully circumnavigated almost the entire globe in a twin engine, tail-wheel airplane, all without many of the bells, whistles, gizmos, and gadgets we take for granted today — all while keeping the flight as close the the equator as possible. What a feat! And she did so, as we say in aviation, “without altering the appearance of the aircraft.” AE additionally demonstrated her ability to successfully fly solely by reference to instruments in the foulest of weather. And FN? “By uncanny powers, Fred Noonan managed to navigate us back to the airport [Akyab], without being able to see anything but the waves beneath our plane.” (See “Last Flight” by Amelia Earhart (1937) Crown Trade Paperback Edition. 1988, page 116.) BRAVO ZULU, Fred! Hardly the performance of a washed-up, fired-from-Pan-American-Airways drunkard. On page 102 is an example of AE’s good aeronautical sense and ability to adapt to a situation where she wrote, “I understood that unfavorable winds might make the field at Aden difficult for heavy take-off, and so took on a full load of fuel at Assab, deciding to push through at least to Gwadar, and perhaps to Karachi if all went well and daylight lasted long enough.” A smart, savvy move.

        Having “slipped the surly bonds of Earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings” more than a few times myself, I freely admit that I’m biased. Guilty-as-charged. I look at all of this through the eyes of an aviator. And I say “aviator” as opposed to “pilot” as Captain Elrey B. Jeppesen (Yes, that Jeppesen) understood and defined the difference as a pilot being simply a manipulator of the controls and an aviator being one who is in love with flight.

        I fervently believe that there was a hidden agenda attached to the flight. US Government support for the R-T-W flight did not come for free. My suspicion is that Laurance Safford played a major role. AE and FN did not “splash and sink,” nor were they marooned on Nikumororo Atoll only to be consumed by ravenous, giant, flesh-eating land crabs. They weren’t shot down after being intercepted by carrier-launched Japanese fighters after a reconnaissance flight over Truk. AE and FN were also not kidnapped from the Gilberts by a covert IJN task force. By the same token, they also weren’t abducted by extra terrestrials, nor taken up and whisked off to Munchkin Land by a Kansas tornado. Sometime on 2 July 1937, Lockheed Electra 10-E Special NR16020 came to rest on Barre Island, Mili Atoll in the Japanese Mandated Marshall Islands. I also believe that actually landing in Japanese controlled territory and being captured was exactly what Secretary Morgenthau was talking about when he said, “She [AE] violated all orders.”

        Was Amelia Earhart the world’s greatest aviator? Maybe not, but she demonstrated great aeronautical sense, skill, daring, courage, and determination that placed her in the top tier.

        Les, I look forward to your book with great anticipation.

        Respectfully, and with all the very best,

        William

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      2. Leslie G Kinney

        Trust little that’s in Last Flight.

        Les Kinney

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      3. William H. Trail

        Les,

        As “Last Flight” is composed of AE’s raw notes and letters mailed home along the way, I don’t doubt that there was a fair amount of deft editing, and maybe even some outright fiction writing, by Putnam. However, it is indisputable fact that AE and FN took off from Akyab (perhaps unwisely) into Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), and safely returned later. Despite the poorly taken decision to fly in the first place, it nonetheless stands as a triumph of AE’s flying, and FN’s navigating skill, not to mention the cool and calm of both, that they not only found their way back to Akyab, but landed safely. You can’t argue with success.

        Your comment about William Galten recanting his 1942 “off the cuff” and “meaningless” remark to Paul Rafford about AE not intending to land at Howland Island is most interesting to say the least. I, and I’m sure everyone else here on Mike’s blog, would like to know more about this.

        All best,

        William

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  8. David Atchason | Reply

    Salutations to All:

    Over the years I have learned a lot about flying skills especially in the early days of aviation. From my perspective, Amelia and Fred did just fine, I certainly intended no criticism of their flying skills. What I meant was that it was difficult and risky for no particular reason at first glance. Post almost certainly took no risks like she did. I think you were agreeing with me that the purpose was to get a glimpse of some part of the Japanese Mandates. In order to do that,

    I felt that they took a much longer route over Truk? perhaps and that accounted for what I felt was an inordinately lengthy flight time Lae/Howland. So Calvin Pitts tried to talk me out of that view, he contends it wasn’t unusually long, but I still think she overflew some part of the Mandates. I also think she had a problem finding Howland and I am very skeptical that the Itasca log contains the real conversation they had. Since Galten probably was present to listen to all conversations Itasca had with Amelia, his remark to Safford that she never intended to land at Howland doesn’t lend itself to any interpretation at all. William, do you have any clue what his remark was supposed to mean?

    It looks like we are going to have to wait for Williamson’s book to come out to learn what Galten’s remark meant.
    Sincerely,
    David

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    1. What makes you think that this new book will have the answer to what Galten meant by his cryptic remark?

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      1. Leslie G Kinney

        Galten was blowing smoke and admitted it later. His off the cuff remark is meaningless.

        Les Kinney

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      2. This is new to me, Les, and of course I believe you. But please tell us where and when Galten “admitted” blowing smoke in his comment to Paul Rafford Jr. that Earhart never intended to land on Howland.

        Thanks,
        Mike

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    2. When it comes to just about anything to do with his service with OP-20-G, and Amelia Earhart in particular, it should not be presumed that Laurance Safford was an honest broker.

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      1. Leslie G Kinney

        Spot on!

        Les Kinney

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  9. David Atchason | Reply

    Why, he will just consult one of his “experts.” It’s supposed to be humor.
    Hehe

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    1. Sorry, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes around here. I’m a bit slow on the uptake in this summer heat.

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  10. David Atchason | Reply

    If Amelia never intended to land at Howland, she must have then intended to land on some other island/atoll obviously without a landing strip. I can’t think of any reason she would want to do that, although there might have been one but that’s far fetched.

    I still think her flight was way too complicated and risky for whatever purpose she was really doing it for. Also, flying west to east when the opposite way would have been better. Maybe due to pressure from Putnam, from FDR, she was in “way over her head.” Wiley Post may have been a far more competent pilot.

    FWIW, my opinion is she simply couldn’t find Howland and had to ditch somewhere else. If Galten heard her complete conversation with the Itasca, and knew that the ship’s log was heavily doctored, he might be motivated to say what he did as part of the coverup he was involved in. Then again, he might not have said it, as it makes no sense. Safford would certainly know there was nowhere else to land and wouldn’t just let a comment like that go unquestioned.
    Sincerely,
    David

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