We continue with Part II of Almon Gray’s comprehensive analysis of Amelia Earhart’s radio communications and lack of same during her final flight. Bill Prymak, Amelia Earhart Society founder and president, has called Gray’s analysis of Earhart’s radio problems during her last flight “one of the finest pieces of work ever presented on this subject.”
“Amelia Didn’t Know Radio,” Part II
by Almon Gray
Precisely what happened next remains unknown, but it appears that Earhart conferred with a local aeronautical communication specialist to get information she could use to base a reply to [Richard] Black. A plan was developed that fulfilled her requirements with a minimum of receiver tuning on her part. The Ontario and the Itasca were to transmit on the same frequency but at different times, and each would transmit a distinctive Morse identification signal. The Ontario’s identifier was “N” and the Itasca’s was “A.”
(These were the characters used to identify the quadrants at the four-course radio ranges, then the principal navigation aid in the United States. Hence, Earhart was familiar with them.)
In 1937 it was still common to describe radio emissions in wavelengths expressed in meters, rather than in frequencies expressed in cycles per second. It seems apparent that the specialist did this during his discussions with Earhart and that he suggested that the ships transmit beacon signals on wavelengths as follows:
– Ontario 750 meters (400 kcs)
– Swan 900 meters (333 kcs)
– Itasca 750 meters (400 kcs)
These were excellent choices. All were allocated internationally for aeronautical radio navigation and were ideal for use with the direction finder in the Earhart plane.
Unfortunately, Earhart did not understand the relationship between wavelength and frequency nor how to convert from one to the other. Consequently, when she replied to Black on 27 June, she confused the figures and unwittingly specified incorrect frequencies for the Swan and the Itasca; she was correct with the Ontario.
In the case of the Swan, she apparently confused the wavelength and frequency figures, and specified that the Swan transmit on 900 kcs (rather than 333 kcs). This was a bad error in that 900 kcs was in the broadcast band and not available for aeronautical use. It also was inferior to the intended frequency of 333 kcs for DF purposes. It was not necessarily devastating, however, and fair bearings probably could have been taken on it with the aircraft DF.
In the Itasca’s case, however, it was to have grave consequences when she again apparently reversed the numbers and told Black to use 7.50 mcs (rather than 400 kcs) on the Itasca. The 7.50 mcs frequency was so high that there was practically no possibility of obtaining usable radio bearings on it with the aircraft DF.
Following is the text of Earhart’s reply to Black, sent the day before she left Bandoeng for Koepang and Darwin:
From: Earhart via RCA Manila & NPM Navy Radio Honolulu
To: Itasca (Black) June 27, 1937 [Java Date; it was 26 June on Howland east of the International Date Line]
SUGGEST ONTARIO STANDBY ON 400 KILOCYCLES TO TRANSMIT LETTER N FIVE MINUTES ON REQUEST WITH STATION CALL REPEATED TWICE END OF EVERY MINUTE STOP SWAN TRANSMIT VOICE NINE MEGACYCLES OR IF I UNABLE RECEIVE READY ON 900 KILOCYCLES STOP ITASCA TRANSMIT LETTER A POSITION OWN CALL LETTERS AS ABOVE ON HALF HOUR 7.5 MEGACYCLES STOP POSITION SHIPS AND OUR LEAVING WILL DETERMINE BROADCASTING SPECIFICALLY STOP IF FREQUENCIES MENTIONED UNSUITABLE NIGHT WORK INFORM ME LAE STOP I WILL GIVE LONG CALL BY VOICE THREE ONE NAUGHT FIVE KCS QUARTER AFTER HOUR POSSIBLY QUARTER TO [signed] EARHART
Had normal air-to-surface communications existed with the Itasca as Earhart approached Howland, the homing problem could almost certainly have been solved quickly. The ship could have told her to home on 500 kcs, the frequency already being transmitted (in addition to 7.50 mcs), and she should have been able to get bearings that would have led her to the ship. Unfortunately, she was unable to hear signals from the Itasca on 3105 kcs, although the ship was hearing her well. It was thus impossible for the Itasca and Earhart to coordinate their actions.
THE AIR-TO-SURFACE COMMUNICATION PROBLEM: A report by Guinea Airways Ltd. shows that Earhart’s radio gear was checked at Lae by one of its wireless operators, H.J. Balfour, and found satisfactory. Good two-way communication was maintained during a 30-minute test hop at Lae, although a roughness in the transmitted voice signal made Earhart difficult to understand. Balfour told her that her speech might be more intelligible if she spoke in a higher pitch while transmitting.
After the flight left Lae for Howland, two-way communication with Lae was maintained until about 0720 2 July Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) [now Universal Coordinated Time], when she shifted to her 3105 kcs night frequency. Several times throughout the night she was heard broadcasting at the prearranged times by stations on Nauru Island and the Itasca, but little of her transmissions were intelligible. Nauru, and later the Itasca, called her numerous nines, but there is no indication that she heard any of the calls. At 1515 GMT, the Itasca picked up Earhart calling to say she would listen on 3105 kcs on the hour and half-hour. At 1744 GMT she asked the Itasca for a bearing, to be taken then and given to her on the hour. She then whistled into the microphone on 3105 kcs to create a signal on which the bearing could be taken. The DF operator on Howland heard this signal but was unable to get a bearing. He remarked that the signal had very little carrier and seemed over-modulated. The plane made no response to numerous calls from the Itasca at this time.
At 1815 GMT Earhart again asked the Itasca for a bearing. She wanted it taken then and reported to her in a half hour (at 1845 GMT), and she whistled into the microphone to provide a signal; she said they were about 100 miles out. Again the Howland DF heard her signal but was unable to get a hearing, and again Earhart made no response to numerous calls from the Itasca. At 1912 GMT, Earhart transmitted the following to the Itasca on voice radio:
WE MUST BE ON YOU NOW BUT CANNOT SEE YOU. RUNNING OUT OF GAS. ONLY ONE HALF HOUR LEFT. BEEN UNABLE TO REACH YOU BY RADIO. WE ARE FLYING AT ONE THOUSAND FEET.
The Itasca was on the correct frequency and putting out strong signals at the time — even San Francisco picked them up. In turn, the aircraft’s signals were very strong when the Itasca picked up her transmission; it was obvious that the aircraft’s fixed antenna and its feeder to the transmitter were still intact. Thus Earhart’s transmission “BEEN UNABLE TO REACH YOU BY RADIO” clearly indicates that her receiving system had failed, probably early in the flight. Beyond that there was no clue as to the nature of the failure — but the clue was not long in coming.
After twice failing to obtain a bearing from the Howland DF on 3105 kcs, Earhart tried to home on the Itasca radio beacon using the aircraft’s direction finder. At 1925 GMT she broadcast to the Itasca:
WE ARE CIRCLING BUT CANNOT HEAR YOU. GO AHEAD ON 7500 NOW OR ON THE SCHEDULE TIME ON HALF HOUR.
By “7500” she was referring to 7500 kcs, the radio beacon frequency she had specified for the Itasca. The ship complied immediately and transmitted the specified beacon signal — Morse “A” on 7500 kcs. The transmitter had no voice capability, so it was impossible to talk to the plane on that frequency. Earhart responded at once on 3105 kcs, saying:
WE RECEIVED YOUR SIGNALS ON SEVENTY FIVE BUT UNABLE TO GET A MINIMUM. PLEASE TAKE BEARINGS ON US AND ANSWER THREE FIVE NAUGHT FIVE (3105 intended) WITH VOICE.
This was followed by a series of long dashes. No bearing was taken and there was no reply to the Itasca’s subsequent transmission.
Earhart obviously picked up the Itasca’s 7500 kcs beacon signals on the aircraft’s loop antenna, because she reported being “Unable to get a minimum,” (the indication of a bearing) and she would not have expected to get a minimum except with a loop antenna. That she heard the signal indicates her receiver was functioning on at least one band. It was uncommon for only a single band to fail; usually, if one failed, they all failed, and so it is quite likely that the receiver was also functioning on the frequency band containing 3105 kcs. Under existing conditions, Earhart should have been able to hear both signals on the loop and on the fixed antenna. She did hear 7500 kcs on the loop, where signals went directly from loop to receiver, but she did not hear 3105 kcs on the fixed antenna, where the incoming signals had to pass through the send-receive relay before reaching the receiver. It is probable, therefore, that the relay had been damaged by lightning or static discharge so that the contacts were not closing properly on the receive side, thus leaving the receiver without an antenna.
No more requests for a bearing were heard. At 2013 G.MT Earhart came up on 3105 kcs, gave a line of position, and said she was shifting to 6210 kcs; that was the last time the Itasca heard signals from the plane.
Had Earhart been more familiar with her radio gear and manipulated the antenna selector switch on the receiver to transmit on the fixed antenna, but receive on the loop, she probably would have established two-way communication with Itasca. She apparently did not attempt it.
End of Part II.
It seems foolhardy that Earhart would have undertaken this journey with such scant knowledge of radio..it would seem to some that the absence was due to the fact that she knew what was really planned for this adventure.. she would intentionally appear to get lost and eventually be rescued. I’m not sure this is the case, but it would explain a lot of things that remain a mystery to this day. If this is the case, one can only imagine their feelings of despair when they realized no rescue was coming.
Of course she did not [know] radio. Few people did in those days. She probably understood how important it was to make transmissions short to keep the fuse from blowing.
Greetings to All:
Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan did not miss Howland by chance, nor did they land on Mili Atoll by accident.
The discussions, arguments, and controversies over radios, etc. all boil down to this: Was Direction Finding (DF) and voice communications critical to a safe arrival at Howland?
The bottom line answer is, “No.” It was not. It was nice to have. It made for a comfortable back-up, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary. FN’s navigation was enough to get them safely to Howland. Then, a low pass over the island and Itasca would have given AE the wind direction and approximate speed. The rest would have consisted of simply circling back to set up for approach and landing.
But, that wasn’t the plan.
Hello. For the life of me I cannot understand why so much went into getting ready for this flight. Just buckets of people and efforts to make sure that everything was seamless. Yet, Noonan, instead of saying-Amelia doesn’t have sufficient radio training for a flight such as this….he just goes along. So many technicians on the ground knew she didn’t have an understanding of various aspects of radio communication and many knew that she “couldn’t be bothered,” yet this flight took place. It reminds me of Titanic. It’s like ‘let’s see if we can make sure that Earhart never reaches her destination. What’s the best way to ruin the mission. That’s all we have to do to make it happen? Ok let’s make sure she doesn’t learn Radio.’
Like Titanic. I swear a group of men and/or women stayed up for several nights to see how they could best sink the ship-and they certainly made it happen. In both cases, all could have been avoided. I love Amelia Earhart but I have to say-in this regard-she was a total beanhead and it destroyed her. Further, although I am not a pilot or ground crew aviation expert, I did grow up around buckets of aircraft in the early 1950’s at historic and gone, Hadley Field, NJ. and today I belong to a local aviation club. For my own precaution, I’ve taken on-line classes and local classes so I know what a pilot must do-the checklist-for safe take-off-flight-and landing. What the heck was Noonan thinking?
I would never have got into that plane except maybe to have my lunch! If I’ve offended anyone here, please forgive me. I’m looking at Amelia’s picture and a chip of her Red Vega from the Smithsonian and wondering where her brains were for not doing her job correctly. What a loss. Very sad, indeed. I won’t be insulted if any of you can write back and tell me to go slam my toe in a door because I’d rather be wrong than feel like what a loss this was. Thank you all so much.
I might be wrong but I think this is your first comment here. Welcome aboard. You make some good points, but they stand up only if the fliers were actually trying to reach Howland, and that’s become more dubious as time goes by and researchers and thinkers weigh in. A planned landing at Mili with all the other considerations that go with it seems more likely. This has been the real mystery — how and why did they land at Mili — and remains so.
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One of my favorite hobbies is to come up with new cockamamie theories about what Amelia was really doing, then think about them in my spare time, and eventually shoot my own theories down.
I came up with some new thinking after reading Almon Gray’s description of Amelia’s inexplicable lack of preparation when it came to radio and DF coordination. If Almon was right then it followed she could not and did not home in on the Itasca or the radio equipment at Howland. In fact, no one was even operating the radio on Howland as far as we know. I concluded, correctly, she was not headed for Howland at all.
Reading William’s comment above, I puzzled over his statement that Fred’s navigation would get them safely to Howland. If that were true, then why bother to stage the Itasca there at all? Cipriani’s little set on Howland would do just fine. If Fred’s navigation was so good when he worked at PAA, then why the “Adcock array” whatever that is, to guide him and others to the destination? Then I thought of Rickenbacker’s flight to Canton Island where they got completely lost (in 1942) where there was radio equipment on Canton, but they apparently had a loop antenna and didn’t know which 180 degree heading was the right one. Read it here.
What struck me about this was just how bad an idea a water landing really was. Luckily they had a mattress on board (really?) to cushion the landing and even then some got injured even though it was an ideal water landing.
So, in our new scenario, Amelia sets off for Mili Atoll or somewhere in the Marshalls, right? Well, where is she supposed to land? Almon went with Gervais to search Mili for a good landing spot and they never found one. They are both pilots and they couldn’t find a landing spot, so how is Amelia, less skilled, going to find one? Is there a lagoon? If she can’t land on the atoll, will she attempt a risky water landing? No way, I say. OK, so she is not headed to Howland, she is headed to Japanese territory with her Micky Mouse radio equipment. There is nowhere even remotely safe to land in the Marshalls when she gets there. Are they crazy? My answer is NO.
Then I thought about Devine’s sighting of her plane on Saipan. The USN knew it was there. His story always troubled me. He claims he witnesses her plane flying around even though it crashed on Mili Atoll and the Japanese must have towed the plane to Saipan and fixed up a “totalled” wreck of a plane. I have never ever thought of a logical reason the Japs would do that. Now Nabers didn’t see the plane flying and another Marine said it never left the hangar. Who to believe? I believe Devine. Why? Because Amelia landed her plane on Saipan, the only safe accessible spot on Japanese territory she could get to and land on a proper runway. That’s the answer that satisfies Gray and Devine both. Why did she do that? If we knew, it would stagger our imagination.
I rest my case.
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I commend your effort, but your result is nonsense. A thousand facts militate against the Electra landing on Saipan. I won’t even bother to list them here. I’ve done too much already in that regard, as have others before me.
BTW, it wasn’t Almon “Gray who went with Gervais to search Mili for a good landing spot and they never found one,” but Bill Prymak. Details, Dave.
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David, I’m not brainy enough in the radio and aerial mapping world to comprehend to the extant of the rest of you, what you all are able to discern and explain or even toss ideas around, about. But I know one thing and that is, that she should have never been given a plane with or without a radio, nor should she have been given clearance to take it off to go anywhere except down the runway for a press clip. She needed more time and an exam to pass for any and all radio equipment before that trip. Was Putnam hoping she’d kill herself and Noonan, too? Again, I’m not trying to be harsh. Amelia is very very important to me. But as I sit here reading these accounts, I’m also talking out loud to her (don’t worry-I cannot hear her or see her answering back!) and I’m saying “What the h— were you thinking? Why were you such a ninnyhammer? Just too sad.
In December 1934, Amelia Earhart was licensed as a Third Class Radio Operator.
On 14 March 1937, just three days before taking off from California for Hawaii to begin what was to be an East to West R-T-W flight, AE passed her written and practical radio tests to renew her radio license.
Since 29 March 1929, AE held Transport Pilot’s License No.#5716 issued by the Aeronautics Branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Her Lockheed Electra 10E Special was, in it’s day, a very sophisticated airplane — complex (retractable landing gear and controllable pitch propellers) and high performance (550hp engines). It also had, as was unusual at the time, “conventional” landing gear, that is to say the Electra had two main landing gear and a tailwheel. Pilots today who have not logged pilot-in-command (PIC) time in a tailwheel airplane before 15 April 1991 are required to obtain training and a Certified Flight Instructor’s (CFI) endorsement in their logbook to legally fly a tailwheel airplane.
Bottom line, AE was an accomplished aviator with proven skills. The lady was no slouch, and hardly a “ninnyhammer.” AE also had a lot of courage.
Let me echo Mike’s sentiments and say, “Welcome.” Glad to have you here. Keep up with your aviation studies. Study history as well. We live, learn, and hopefully, grow.
Greetings to All:
In my above comment the word “unusual” should be “usual.” Proof reading error on my part. No excuse!
I might add, that’s what Morganthau was talking about.
We still don’t know what Morgenthau meant when he said, “She disregarded all orders.” This has opened the door to speculation that continues to this day. What we do know is that she landed at Mili.
Yes, I have read TAL more than once but that was almost 10 years ago. I know there is lengthy material that shows she did not land on Saipan. I know there are accounts of Bilimon Amaron and the two fliers. Of course my thinking is “What if those accounts are not accurate?”
OK, maybe Fred Noonan didn’t need any aids to fly to any flyspeck island he wanted to, but I don’t think that’s the case in the sense that I think I read long ago in some military handbook that those 1937 methods would work about 90% of the time. And mind you, he HAD to get it right because they would be out of fuel if he missed one of those 10% times. See the Rickenbacker example.
In our previous posts here concerning Almon Gray and Amelia’s radio equipment, we perspicacious few established that in light of her insipid preparations for the Howland destination, she was obviously not headed for Howland but was headed for Mandates territory because there was nowhere else for her to land besides Howland. Now, if I were them, I would not opt for a suicide mission. Landing anywhere in the Marshalls offered NO decent opportunities for a safe landing, they are all coral atolls and Prymak and Gervais searched diligently and could find no such spot. Even if there were one, and Fred knew about it, how in the world was Fred going to find it? I claim they did know of a safe spot, Aslito Field, built in 1934.
When I think it all over, this is a scenario I come up with. A & F head out for a clandestine landing in Japanese territory. Anywhere in the Marshalls should do, we’ll just sight some coral atoll and plunk ourselves down even if it’s a clone of Howland Island before the airstrip was graded. Miraculously they find that spot on Mili even though 30? years later two experienced pilots attest that it’s not there anymore. But they achieve the miracle and escape with only a boo-boo on Fred’s head. Likewise, the plane survives with only cosmetic damage.
So, the emperor decides it would be a clever idea to salvage the plane, restore it to showroom condition and mothball it in a hangar on Aslito Field. Then after Japan’s victory in the upcoming war, they can show it off like it’s in Jay Leno’s garage. Later. Loomis or somebody can incite a stamp printing to corroborate the tale. Complete with the wrong Japanese ship on the stamp (as I have pointed out before) but that’s “artistic license.”
To me, this account has always been hard for me to swallow, partially because I have never thought of even the faintest plausible reason for them to be anywhere near Mili in the first place. However, the Saipan landing “fits like a glove.” Whatever her all orders might have been. Morganthau claimed she violated them, knowing very well she was alive and well on Saipan at that moment. Maybe he was being disingenuous for the sake of posterity. Whatever the story actually was, I have always wondered why a Japanese soldier would keep a photo of Amelia in his wallet or pocket. Do American soldiers keep treasured photos of enemy spies upon their persons? There was something happening here (on 1937 Saipan) and what is was ain’t exactly clear.
In 1944, FDR and Forrestal knew that publicity about the discovery of her plane on Saipan would result “in a lot of ‘splaining to do” hence the pressure on Devine. Maybe Forrestal was actually present as the destruction of her plane would be a critical project at the highest levels. The Mili landing scenario to deflect attention (I can’t stop myself from thinking “limited hangout” shame on me) had not been concocted yet.
Yes, I know “This time I have gone too far.” Maybe I’ll need to be sent to a re-education camp. I hope it’s a nice one.
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I was just rereading the August 22, 2014 post on this blog about Lijon and Jororo. When i first read it, I’m sure I took as ironclad evidence of the Mili Landing. However, the story is far more convoluted than I recalled. Lijon told Lorok who told Ralph Middle (a true middleman) Jororo was initially there but then faded out by the time Lorok told Knaggs. Knaggs and Loomis selected Mili because Loomis thought he heard a plane had crashed there, right? I’m not saying the story is wrong, but if one were a skeptic, as I am becoming lately, I would start thinking like Wikipedia does:
Evidence of this actually occurring, however, is largely based on unreliable eyewitness testimony rather than conclusive physical evidence; most historians believe Earhart and Noonan would have had no reason to attempt to come to Mili, and if they had, they would have run out of fuel before making it in any case
Of course I don’t want to belabor this point, I’m just noting how my thinking is evolving. Now, if Prymak and Gervais actually visited Mili Atoll, didn’t they know the landing supposedly took place on Barre Island? Did they ever comment on what they thought about Barre Island as a landing site?
I have believed for many years now, that there is much more to Amelia’s story than she got lost in Japanese territory and they captured her and accused her of being a spy and consequently were mean to her. I have said if the were the case, our govt would most likely have revealed this kind of a story by now.
I would think that by hanging out with the Roosevelts, Amelia would have gathered a lot of info that would be embarrassing to to FDR. Perhaps even the plans for the imminent war which I can’t help but believe was promoted by FDR and the Bankers. Perhaps plans for the American aid to the Chinese who were victims at that time of Japanese aggression. Maybe Amelia was acting on behalf of the “isolationists”, notice how the anti-war faction gets a pejorative label. If she were representing some group who opposed FDR’s plans, maybe the Saipan gambit was her best method to tip off the Japanese without being prosecuted for treason. My imagination is working overtime here, in fact it’s “staggering.” FDR’s overheard comment about Amelia when he heard she was “captured” does demonstrate that Amelia may not have been a good buddy of his. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Amelia was taken to Tokyo to confer with officials and then given a nice condo at Sasebo as one story has it.
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I thought I might as well read the July 31, 2014 post which refers to Devine having “tunnel vision” because he firmly believed Amelia landed on Saipan due to an inexplicable brain cramp of Fred Noonan. Of course I am now a Devineophile with tunnel vision with a twist, I believe they purposely flew to Saipan, a concept that Devine, being a patriotic marine, would never consider AE to be capable of. Previously, I thought Devine’s account sounded wacko, and I was skeptical, but now I know it was not wacko at all, but completely accurate.
However, to me, the concept that A & F would say, “Oh lets fly to the Marshalls and land there, we will surely find a good place to land, no problem”, would be similar to her saying “Let’s fly to the Phoenix Islands and we’ll most likely be able to land on one of them (Howland)” before there was an improved airfield there. Of couse they couldn’t and wouldn’t do that, neither would they take a suicidal flight to “The Marshalls” where there was also nowhere to safely land that anyone has yet discovered. (At least on Mili)
Now, my question is, did she make this decision completely on her own or was this part of a larger scheme aided and abetted by other parties unknown to us? Could it have been FDR himself that put her up to it? I wouldn’t rule that out completely. The history of all wars, written by the victors, makes them sound as pure as the driven snow, when in reality they are mostly for the benefit of those in power, not the ordinary citizen who pays for it in lives and tax money.
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Good to see you’ve finally found a position you’re comfortable with, Dave. It matters little that it’s absurd, as long as you’re happy.
A lot of people once believed the sun revolved around the earth, too, at least in the Middle Ages, but then Copernicus demonstrated that the earth revolved around the sun. I’m sure the Pope called his ideas absurd. Heretical would be a better word. I can extend my heretical concept and answer two questions which are intertwined.
a) Did Amelia plan her excursion to Saipan alone?
b) Why did they change the direction of her flight purportedly around the world?
I’ll answer in my next comment if you will guarantee to regard my answers as absurd. I’ll answer in my next comment either way so I won’t keep the readership in suspense.
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Saludos a todos,
I have always felt the direction reversal had something to do with facilitating Amelia’s flying to somewhere besides Howland, which clearly was her intention. The obvious choice, Truk, doesn’t fit. I was reading “Eyewitness’ lately to see what Devine said, since I am now a Devineista. Something about the monsoons weather which didn’t make a lot of sense to me. She did fly through the monsoon, I think, evidently that was not a big problem.
However, what does make sense is flying to Saipan. On the original path, she would fly from Hawaii to Saipan. That’s 3858 miles. Scanning around for her range, Johnson said 4,500 miles with 1200 gallons fuel. On her flight from Lae, I read she carried 950 gallons. Somewhere else I have read 1100. I don’t know why the discrepancy. If we use 950 at Lae, with 950 gallons, we get 3,563 miles range. Plenty for the 2556 to Howland. However, if we use 950 at Hawaii then we come up with 3858-3563=295 miles short. Not a good plan. After her crash at Hawaii they come up with the Saipan plan. It’s only 2438 miles Lae to Saipan. Amelia agrees and it’s a GO. Only hitch is she has to fly the opposite, more difficult way, into a headwind. They have to come up with this vague plan that nobody can argue with since it’s so vague. Something about changes in weather patterns, monsoon factor, blah blah. It has never made any sense but the government said it and it’s important so it must be true.
Her handlers also agree that it’s a much more plausible story that she gets lost on the difficult leg to Howland that makes sense to everybody. A win-win. The details can be worked out like recordings of her voice played near Howland, the Itasca log cooked up months later, this will keep everybody guessing on into posterity. A minor glitch is that in a few decades it will become apparent to the world she wound up on Saipan so a cover story is invented about Mili Atoll. That story, to be blunt, would be hearsay evidence in a court of law. One can choose to believe it, of course, and many do.
Therefore, there can only be one logical possibility, that is flight from Lae to Saipan, even though some say that is absurd. They’re certainly welcome to their opinion.
Did she plan this on her own? Of course not, this flight required a lot of planning that she couldn’t do on her own. This was a grand scheme that required extensive high level planning in order to stagger our imagination.
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I enjoy Mr. Atchason’s “flights of fanciful creative theories that staggers the imagination” and his latest theory of Lae to Saipan is no exception. But how does one explain witnesses of AE and FN on Mili Atoll and Jaluit prior to being seen on Saipan? Why would they want to land on a Japanese-mandated island? Japan prohibited anyone entering Japanese territory. Even if they head toward Saipan to land, refuel and then proceed to Hawaii, Hawaii is 6,209 km (3,858 miles) from Saipan. That would be pushing into the range limit of the Electra and still maintain safety fuel reserves.
Given U.S.-Japan deteriorating diplomatic relations at the time, the Navy warned AE not to go anywhere near Japanese occupied islands if they couldn’t find Howland. When Morganthau learned AE and FN wound up on Mili Atoll, perhaps that’s what he was thinking when he stated “That woman disregarded all orders.”
Of course, that begs the question, why did AE head toward the Marshall Islands. Wasn’t there a radio station on Jaluit that she was homing in on and given the existence of said radio station, she would land there and a message could be sent out so she can be rescued? Only the Japanese intercepted the message, got there first and later took her and FN to Saipan for interrogations.
While conventional thinking is AE headed south after failure to find Howland, only to either run out of gas and crash into the ocean or land on one of the Phoenix Islands, the idea of flying north toward Marshall Islands, landing there and eventually winding up on Saipan was unthinkable and would certainly “stagger the imagination.” The Navy, at Top Brass and FDR’s direction NOT to find AE and FN and rescue them that would otherwise disclose and compromise the Navy’s ability to monitor Japanese radio transmissions, and subsequent efforts to cover up and classify the event also “staggers the imagination”.
What a “tangled web of deception we weave” to sacrifice AE and FN in order to preserve the reputation of the U.S. Navy and FDR during those strange prewar times as Japan and U.S. charted a course toward war.
I was attencing a birthday party last weekend which a lawyer friend of mine also attended. I got to ask her this legal question: THat is, in a court of law, if you give hearsay testimony, and you are lying, can you be charged with perjury if your testimony is proved a lie?? She said, the hearsay testimony would bever be allowed in the first place, which is the evasion I thought she would use. So, I got nowhere with that. However, in a general sense, what this means to me is, if you want to say, for example, Koror told Bill Middle that he saw the plane land in the water and Middle told me……blah blah, this would be meaningless in court, and YOU could not be lying because what you are saying has no validity one way or the other. What I am getting at, if you can understand my tortured logic, is there is no consequence whatsoever if a native Marshallese gave this kind of testimony to a investigative reporter.
I am presently making my way through “Eyewitness” by Thomas Devine. It is slow going. there are so many details which would interest only a devoted Earhart researcher. When he tells of Marshallese stories, he points out that Japanese collaborators could get into trouble even in the 60s if they admitted to “war crimes.” Possibly, and so these people would want to make up stories and you don’t know who the collaborators are. This fits in with Devine’s skepticism of Mili Atoll accounts. He thinks one or more collaborators on Saipan made the Mili story up to deflect some blame on themselves. This is the trouble with the narrative we go by on this blog. I;m not saying it’s not true, but there are no records, no documents, no artifacts except a dust cover (in Gillespie’s case, an aluminum panel) so we may all be talking through our hats, me included. I do choose to believe the Saipan accounts, though.
I just looked it up and yes, there were radio stations on Jaluit, Truk and Sipan in 1937. I was hoping that this article contained that info, the headline did, but here it is.
https://text-message.blogs.archives.gov/2017/07/20/captain-alfred-parker-on-jaluit-atoll-march-april-1937/ What that means is Noonan could have homed in on the Saipan station as he could with the Jaluit station, in fact, by triangulating on all three, should have had a coordinates fix. Saipan is a big island, they should have sighted it with ease.
Quoting from the Bradsher article, “In 1937, when the United States Government requested permission for the United States Navy auxiliary ship USS Gold Star (AG-12) to visit Truk, Palau and Saipan, the Japanese refused.” Ofcourse, Goldstar was an intelligence platform in the guise of a mild-mannered auxiliary. The Japanese probably knew that.