Noted feminist, social critic and author Camille Paglia initially contacted me eight years ago to inform me about her 2014 letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, highly critical of Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR. Now 75, she’s been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since 1984, and says she’s been interested in the Earhart disappearance since the early 1960s, when she was an “Earhart fanatic in high school.”
In 2014 she told me that she’d read Fred Goerner’s book, The Search for Amelia Earhart, and “found it completely convincing about the Saipan connection. I have not varied from that position over the decades since then.”
I hadn’t heard from Paglia until her recent message informing me about a 1974 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson by Adela Rogers St. Johns that she found on YouTube. St. Johns was an American journalist, novelist and screenwriter who penned screenplays for silent movies and was known as “The World’s Greatest Girl Reporter” during the 1920s and 1930s and for her celebrity interviews for Photoplay magazine.
“Although I began researching Amelia Earhart when I was a teenager in the early 1960s, I don’t recall in all these decades ever seeing a reference to Adela Rogers St. Johns, who I knew was a famous journalist of Earhart’s era,” Paglia wrote in a Sept. 21 email. “I recently looked St. Johns up and discovered a YouTube video from 1974 where she’s hawking a new book on the Johnny Carson show. At the very end, she starts talking about how she knew Earhart and also how she knows what happened to her. Unfortunately, she’s on at the very end and is maddeningly talking too slowly to reveal her theory about what actually happened to Amelia — the show is suddenly cut off right at that point.”
To view this fascinating comment from Adela Rogers St. Johns, who died in 1988 at 94, please click here and go to 57:07 for her brief exchange with Carson.
“I try not to jump to conclusions, but I must admit that it’s extremely odd and does seem deliberate,” Paglia wrote regarding the abrupt end to the St. Johns interview on YouTube. “Normally, Johnny would warmly bid good-bye to the audience at the very end, so I don’t believe it happened in the original broadcast. Surely this intrusion happened before or after the first posting to YouTube.
UPDATE Sept. 28: Longtime reader Tom Williams has found another YouTube version of Adela’s interview with Johnny Carson, and this one is not cut off at the end. To view, please click here and go to 58:55 of the video.
“I looked for St. Johns’ book and have found it in our county library system here in suburban Philadelphia,” Paglia continued. “It’s amazing what she says! . . . [I]‘s amazing to stumble on such a solid confirmation of what both you and I have resolutely believed about Earhart’s disappearance for all these decades!”
Below are excerpts from Adela Rogers St. Johns 1974 book, Some Are Born Great (Doubleday), which I do not possess, forwarded by Camille Paglia. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
This is the End of the Search for Amelia Earhart.
Amelia Earhart went on a so-called round-the-world flight as a cover-up to see if she could find out how far along the Japanese were in their plans to drop bombs on Pearl Harbor and/or the Santa Barbara Island and San Francisco Bay.
. . . Amelia was to be “off course” in trying to land at a new airfield on Howland Island of which no one had ever heard before — or since. The Japanese caught her over Saipan, naturally didn’t believe that tale, captured and did what all nations do, have done, and will do world without end as long as there are wars or rumors of wars — they executed her.
Many people have given their lives for their country in many different ways. Amelia was one of them and should be given the glory of and for it in spite of Geneva and International Law and whatever.
This I know from two sources.
One, the secret files of the United States Navy which I saw with my own eyes. Naturally, it was a Marine officer who showed the Amelia Earhart files to me.
Not until I saw the Navy Files did I know she’d received her orders from the Commander-in-Chief himself, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. . .
Somewhere still in the files of the United States Navy is the full complete story of Amelia Earhart.
This the Navy cannot and will not reveal because it breaks all kinds of Codes, Conferences, International Laws and agreements — sending our “lady flyer” on such a mission in the first place, as I said in the beginning.
This Amelia understood full well. (End book excerpts.)
Adela certainly meant well, and she got the big-picture pieces of her Earhart narrative — Amelia’s death on Saipan (not mentioning Fred Noonan), the Navy’s refusal to disclose the truth and FDR’s probable direct involvement in whatever she was doing during the last stage of her world flight –– basically right, but the rest of her story has little in common with the facts as we know them. The true search for Amelia Earhart had begun with Fred Goerner in 1960, and for Adela to think that her snippets of partially informed intel would end it only suggests that she was somewhat naive and uninformed about the Earhart disappearance.
Whatever files she was shown by the unidentified “Marine officer” couldn’t have been the ones Goerner and Ross Game claimed to have seen in 1963, and what was the second source that she referenced? We’re left to wonder whether Adela was aware of Goerner’s work at all, as she never names him or his book in her short Earhart chapter and doesn’t give any other indication that she knew about his 1960s Saipan, Marshalls and Washington, D.C. investigations.
As a serious journalist, Adela also should have known about Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger’s credible 1960 witness interviews on Guam and Saipan, which went by the wayside when the 1970 book they appeared in, the odious Amelia Earhart Lives, was forced off the shelves when New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam sued publisher McGraw-Hill for defamation when she was accused of being Amelia Earhart returned from Japan by the notorious, Earhart-addled “researcher” Gervais, with much help from author Joe Klaas.
Adela’s contention that “Amelia Earhart went on a so-called round-the-world flight as a cover-up to see if she could find out how far along the Japanese were in their plans to drop bombs on Pearl Harbor and/or the Santa Barbara Island and San Francisco Bay,” borders on incoherence. How would an overflight of Truk, the only plausible Earhart “spy” scenario ever advanced — now considered by most researchers as only a slight possibility — reveal anything about Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbor or the American mainland four years later? Any such attacks would necessarily be launched from Japanese carriers within range of its fighters and dive-bombers, not from distant Truck, in 1937 only barely beginning to build up its military capabilities.
Adela then writes, “the Japanese caught her over Saipan . . . captured and executed her,” clearly stating that the Electra was in the vicinity of Saipan, which would have required an unbelievable 90-degree error committed sometime after takeoff from Lae. Nobody except the stubborn, tunnel-visioned Thomas E. Devine ever believed Earhart flew directly to Saipan, but even Devine’s scenario had Amelia landing the plane at Aslito field, where it was discovered in a Japanese hangar in 1944 by U.S. forces and destroyed soon thereafter — as Devine, Earskin J. Nabers and others in the off-limits area watched.
We know the plane didn’t fly directly to Saipan; it taken there by a Japanese ship, as Vicente “Galvan” Guerrero, Antonio Diaz and other Saipanese told Fred Goerner as early as 1960, and Bilimon Amaron told Vincent V. Loomis during his late 1970s and early ’80s Marshalls visits. (See The Search for Amelia Earhart, pages 234, 237).
A variety of witness evidence puts the Electra at Mili Atoll on July 2, and the fliers in the Marshall Islands including Jaluit and Kwajalein, from Adm. Chester W. Nimitz’s electrifying statement to Fred Goerner, to Bilimon Amaron’s visit to treat the injured Fred Noonan aboard a Japanese warship at Jaluit Harbor (probably the Koshu), to the native fishermen’s sighting of the downed fliers and their plane near Barre Island, to W.B. Jackson’s account to Goerner about the woman’s clothes found on Kwajalein, to John Tobeke’s childhood sighting, to Mera Phillip, and much more. (Please see Chapter VII, “The Marshall Islands Witnesses,” of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, for an extensive review.) Adela’s other statements required no special insight or knowledge.
None of this is meant to demean Adela Rogers St. Johns for sharing what she knew about the Earhart disappearance on national TV with Johnny Carson in 1974. It’s a rare event when anyone in the public eye utters a syllable of truth about the wretched, tragic and unnecessary deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan, and Adela distinguished herself in stepping forward.
The cowardly YouTube administrators — and the corrupt policy makers they work for — who cut the final moments of Adela’s interview with Carson so that viewers (less than 6,000 to date) would be left to wonder what Adela had to say about the fliers’ fates again confirms the sacred cow nature of this matter, and are to be reviled.
We thank and appreciate Camille Paglia for her contribution to this blog and hope to hear from her again. Camille carries a special weight and cachet whenever she discusses a subject that moves her. She is a rare example of a celebrity stepping up to speak on behalf of the hated Earhart truth — just as she has on other fronts — and she’s welcome here anytime.
UPDATE Sept. 28: Below is Camille’s response to this post, sent this afternoon, which she gave me permission to publish, and I’m glad to do so. (Bold emphasis mine.)
Thanks so much for the terrific blog post! (I loved the quote you found of me defending men against punitive feminist rhetoric.
About Adela Rogers St. Johns: yes, it’s truly unfortunate that she clearly had never seen the hugely important Goerner book, which would have powerfully supported her views. My guess is that she must have been shown the Navy files at some point just after the war–either the late 1940s or early ’50s. That’s when she would have still had high-level contacts in both the government and media. Her national prominence and visibility gradually faded through the 1950s.
So I think what she’s saying about Saipan as well as Earhart’s execution was coming directly from what people in government as well as the military actually thought and told her at that time. Virtually everyone would have assumed that if Earhart had been captured by the Japanese, she would have probably been executed once war had been declared after Pearl Harbor (when her potential value as a hostage on Tokyo’s chessboard would have been moot). And it’s unlikely that many Americans knew the actual geography and vast distances of the Pacific islands.
It wasn’t, of course, until Goerner’s bold research more than a decade later that hard evidence (via compelling eye-witness testimony) was found for Earhart’s probable fate. If only Adela had seen his book! She might then have written an entire book on Earhart, which would have done a huge amount of good in preventing the endless flow of absurdities and idiocies that constitutes current media treatment of the Earhart saga.