Reineck proposes “New Scenerio” in Earhart loss
The work of the late Rollin Reineck, the former Air Force colonel who once navigated B-29s launched from Saipan against the Japanese mainland, is well known to readers of this blog. Reineck’s authorship of the dreadful Amelia Earhart Survived (2003), his failed attempt to resurrect the long-discredited Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth, was a sad day in legitimate Earhart research circles, and some of the clueless who signed on to that delusion remain lost to this day.
This undated piece by Reineck appeared in the June 1999 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and based on Bill Prymak’s responding letter, probably was written in April 1999. It presages Reineck’s awful book, published four years later, but also reveals solid insights into the ways of Washington, D.C., where deceit at the highest levels had been a fact of life long before Earhart’s final flight.
As always, the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and Reineck’s conclusion is especially wrongheaded and disturbing, but this doesn’t mean the rest of his thoughts are equally muddled. I’ll have more comment at the close of this post, which is presented in its original AES Newsletter format, which I’ve broken up to place complimentary photos to add to the presentation. This is the first of two parts.
Here we note that as early as 1999, and likely much earlier, Reineck was hopelessly hooked on the Weishien-Irene Bolam nonsense, which led him to write arguably the worst Earhart disappearance book of all time, the 2003 fish wrapper Amelia Earhart Survived.
For those new to this blog or readers who might need refreshing about the Irene Bolam disaster, see Part I of my four-part 2016 exposé, “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society.“
We also see that neither Reineck nor editor Bill Prymak seemed to be in the mood to spell check this article before it was published and sent to the approximately 80 to 100 AES members who would normally receive the latest newsletter. I’ll leave it to you to sniff out the misspelled word or words, but I’ll give you a clue — one of the words is very large! In fact, if this word doesn’t immediately jump out and mug you, you may be among those who still believe Amelia Earhart returned as Irene Bolam. (End of Part I.)
POW submariner becomes another Earhart witness
TM3c (torpedoman third class) Robert W. Lents was aboard USS Perch (SS-176), when its entire crew was picked up by the Japanese destroyer Ushio after being forced to scuttle their badly damaged boat on March 3, 1942. Most of Perch’s crew then endured 1,298 days of captivity without their families ever being told that they were still alive. Of Perch’s 54 enlisted men and five officers, all but five — who died of malnutrition in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps — return alive to the United States after V-J Day.
The amazing, inspirational stories of Robert Lents, Perch and the other six U.S. submarine crews captured by the Japanese during the war are told in Stephen L. Moore’s 2021 book, Presumed Lost: The Incredible Ordeal of America’s Submarine POWs during the Pacific War. Here’s more about the book, taken from its Amazon page:
When submarines failed to return to port from patrol, they were officially listed by the Navy as “overdue and presumed lost.” Loved ones were notified by the War Department that their siblings, spouses, and sons were missing in action and presumed lost. While 52 U.S. submarines were sunk in the Pacific, the Japanese took prisoners of war from the survivors of only seven of these lost submarines. Presumed Lost is the compelling story of the final patrols of those seven submarines and the long captivity of the survivors. Of the 196 sailors taken prisoner, 158 would survive the horrors of the POW camps, where torture, starvation, and slave labor were common.
Robert Lents’ son, Brian Lents, 76, of Great Falls, Mont., recently informed me not only about his father’s incredible survival as a Japanese prisoner of war, but to add Robert Lents’ name to the still-growing list of World War II GIs including Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. Wallack, Earskin J. Nabers and many others who learned the truth about Amelia Earhart’s presence and death on Saipan, either through their own eyewitness experiences, local natives or through the accounts of her Japanese captors.
In a Feb. 7 email, Brian wrote that he’d seen me in an Earhart-related YouTube presentation, and that he wanted to tell me about his father, who was on USS Perch when it was lost in the battle of Java Sea in March 1942. “Wounded twice he and others were picked out of the water by Jap Destroyer and taken to Makassar Celebes to POW camp,” Brian wrote. “One day the ramrod of the Jap guards who could speak some broken English told them that he had dealt with Americans before, in 1937 he was stationed on Saipan and two American prisoners were brought in. Flyers, one was a woman dressed like a man and had short hair other was a man whom was hurt.” Brian continued:
He even said the word Earhart a few times. He had guarded them and they were later executed. Robert was liberated Sept 1945. Shortly after he was being debriefed about his experiences by a young Naval Intelligence Officer and he related this incident to him. The officer seemed to get very interested in this and told Robert to stay put till he returned. Shortly he came back with a senior officer who said, “This is a matter that you are not to discuss again. And that’s an order. Chief.” So the old Navy Chief didn’t talk about till towards the end of his life. For whatever its worth that’s the story.
Brian said his father met the prolific World War II author Stephen L. Moore at a submarine convention several years back, when there still “a few POWs” with us. “Moore was sending Dad his rough drafts of the chapters as he wrote them,” Brian told me in a Feb. 20 email. “So I also got to read them. Lord how wish I had made copies. Moore told Dad the book had to be cleared by Naval Intelligence before it could be published. Well, when I read the book it certainly wasn’t the one I had read. All the vivid details of the torture that was inflicted on these men had been censored out. Kind of like the AE case where the real victim is truth.” For the record, Amelia Earhart is never mentioned in Presumed Lost.
Of all the incredible elements of the Robert Lents story, probably the most amazing is that the former third-class torpedoman lived to the ripe old age of 99 — virtually unheard-of feat among former Japanese POWs — and was married to his wife Carolyn for 73 years!
“Japs took them to Celebes to Pow camp,” Brian wrote in a Feb. 9 email. “Liberation came after 42 months of hell. About a year or so after the war Robert was medically discharged from the Navy as Chief Petty Officer. He then was an Iowa farmer, postmaster and rural mail carrier. He retired and moved to Arkansas. He died in the Vets home at Fayetteville, Ark., in Nov 2020 at the age of 99. He still had Jap iron in his body. The old body was worn out, but his mind was sharp right up to the end.”
To view his obituary, please click here.
For even more on Robert Lents, here’s a profile by Art Randall that appeared in the American Submariner, originally published in 2005: “A Profile of a Submarine POW Veteran: Robert W. Lents.”