“Only surviving” 2nd Earhart World Flight Cover
Today’s post is devoted to stamp collectors, also known as philatelists, and everyone else who’s interested in stamps honoring Amelia Earhart in all corners of the world. First, from the opening pages of Volume 1 of the collected Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters (December 1989 to March 2000), we have:
THE ONLY SURVIVING FIRST DAY FLIGHT COVER OF THE 2nd AMELIA EARHART WORLD FLIGHT ATTEMPT OF 1937. Margot DeCarie Miss Earhart’s secretary did not return it in time to be placed aboard the Lockheed Electra aircraft when it departed Oakland, California for Miami, Florida on May 19, 1937 [sic, correct date was May 21]. Miss DeCarie age 83 who died in N. Hollywood, California on March 13, 1983 presented the cover to Major Joe Gervais for his extensive Pacific research [sic] into the Earhart Mystery. The flight cover displays 10 years of U.S. Airmail postage from the period of 1927 to 1937.
Author David K. Bowman offers more about the Earhart flight covers. In Bowman’s 2015 book, Amelia Earhart Philately, “The World’s First Book on Amelia Earhart Philately,” (in 2016 an enlarged second edition was published), he presents an image of the “only autographed souvenir envelope known to survive from Amelia Earhart’s 1937 round-the-world flight. . . . Autographed by Earhart and addressed to Mr. E.H. Dimity, a parachute manufacturer who was her unofficial business manager, the stamped flight cover was among approximately 10,000 sole by Gimbel’s in Manhattan to raise money for the first attempt at a world flight. 6500 [sic]of them were consigned to Earhart to take on her flight.” Bowman continues:
During the takeoff attempt in Honolulu, the plane went into a loop (type of fishtail), its landing gear gave way and it crashed. When the plane was sent back to Burbank for repairs, the mail was placed in the custody of the Honolulu postmaster. A cachet was added to the envelopes reading, “Held over in Honolulu following Take-Off Accident of March 20, 1937.” An additional 1000 covers were also subsequently sold with the cachet “2nd TAKEOFF.” The covers in Honolulu were later returned to Oakland, but before they were loaded into Earhart’s plane in May, Elmer Dimity removed his envelope and part of a joke he planned to play when Earhart returned. He said he had hoped to meet her with the envelope in hand, saying the mail had arrived before she did. On May 2, 1937, Earhart took off on her ill-fated flight [sic, correct date was May 21]. The final number of covers carried on the flight was 7500.
“Mr. Dimity sold the envelope in the 1960s on behalf of the Amelia Earhart Foundation to a dealer,” according to Scott. R. Trepel, a Christie’s consultant, who organized the auction house’s sale. “The collector who bought the envelope from that dealer is the unidentified seller of the Earhart memento, which was sold with an affidavit from Mr. Dimity, bringing in between $20,000 and $30,000.”
Editor’s note: We’ve just been informed of the sad passing of David K. Bowman. Details are unavailable, but for much more on Dave’s life and work, please see my Jan. 18, 2017 post, “The Psychic World of Amelia Earhart.”
May 23 update: There was a good reason by I put quotes around “Only surviving” in the headline for this post, as I wasn’t sure if the claims being made in the pieces from the AES and Dave Bowman were entirely accurate, as I’m no Earhart stamp expert myself.
On May 22, researcher Les Kinney wrote, “For your information, a second flight cover turned up and was sold at auction many years ago. Its provenance is strange; but no doubt it was the real thing. George Putnam and Amelia were less than honest about the flight covers and their trip around the world.”
Next, Woody Rogers, a longtime collector of Earhart memorabilia, checked in with an even more weighty and complex correction:
I have all 3 types of the last flight covers. The one that Dave Bowman posted of the second takeoff is mine. As I heard and have read bits and pieces of, there were 10,000 covers produced. Type 1 has AROUND THE WORLD FLIGHT in the bottom left of the cover. Type 2 has the same words with stars in between around the world and type has “second take off” under around the world flight, as evidenced in the photos that I’ve attached. As far as a total on the plane, nobody has those numbers. You could purchase the covers over the counter at either Gimbels location, with or without her signature. You could also opt to have the cover franked and mailed to you. The last option was to receive your cover carried on her plane by mail after she completed the flight.
The numbers I found were 3500 type 1s, when Gimbels ran out, 3500 more type 2 covers were made with the stars on them. After the disaster in Hawaii, 3000 2nd takeoff covers were made, because of time constraints, all but 12 of the type 3s went on the plane. Those 12 Amelia gave to her mother and told her she would give them to her for good luck and sign them after she completed the flight. Amy eventually gave them away. There weren’t actually 10,000 on the plane because of the over the counter and mailed covers sold before the flight, so there’s no accurate count of what was actually put on the plane. I bought all of mine on eBay starting in 2002. The signed type 1 was $1250, the type 2 was $142 and the Second Take Off cover was $785. A few weeks after I bought it, I saw one sold at auction for $32,000, so mine was a great deal! I have a few pre and post flight documents and letters from Gimbel’s that I’ll send you copies of later today. Enjoy! You may use these photos as you wish.
Cover one (below), which is signed, has no stars in around the world flight. Cover two has the stars. Cover 3 is imprinted with 2nd Take Off. Cover 4 is a cover from a stamp club that was franked and mailed by the stamp club to their member after the crash in Hawaii. On the back of that cover is a stamp from the Treasure Island Exposition, 1938-1939. Paul Mantz gave plane rides in his Sikorsky amphibian during the 2 years of the Exposition. My dad was there with his Boy Scout troop, Paul Mantz was out with his plane, my dad started asking him questions about the plane, Paul handed him a blank ticket with a photo and gave him a ride that morning. This was my dad’s start in a love of flying that eventually led to a 31-year military career in with 23 years of that as a Marine Aviator.
1965 State Dept. memo belies official Earhart line
The below document appeared in the February 1995 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and is aptly titled, “A U.S. STATE DEPT. MEMO DATED FEB. 8TH, 1965.” It contains references to former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke and GI Earhart witnesses on Saipan, and appears to have a direct relationship to author and researcher Fred Goerner’s early 1960s Earhart investigations on Saipan. Click on image for larger view.
This document has been marked as “DECLASSIFIED” at its top and bottom borders. It’s impossible to determine when this declassification occurred, but it was likely later than early 1965, when it was created. The memo may have been included in the package of 1967 declassified Navy files, which I do not have in its original form.
Herein we learn here that the State Department’s Earhart file “complete jacket” is identified as number “200.113 (1960-1),” and that “the copy of Adm. [Arleigh] Burke’s letter of Dec. 24 1960 to Assistant Secretary Parsons“ as well as Parson’s reply of Dec. 30, 1960 have been sent to the recipient(s) of this letter, identified as “EA/J – Mr. Knowles and P/HO Richardson Dougall.”
The only reference about John F. Knowles an Internet search found was as a State Department official listed in a Memorandum of Conversation of Dec. 4, 1962 on State’s Office of the Historian website. The subject was “Japanese Copper Ore Purchases; Trade Liberalization by Japan; Trade Expansion Act.”
Much more can be found about the other addressee in the memo, Richardson Dougall. In a 1985 interview with the Minnesota Historical Society, we learn that Dougall was a retired State Department Historian (thus the “HO” in the address line) and organist, 68 years old, living in Portland, Ore. A search of Amazon reveals he wrote at least seven books, most relating to his State Department position, all quite obscure and non-selling. Clearly, Knowles and Dougall were inside players in the State Department’s Earhart cover-up during the mid-1960s.
Adm. Arleigh Burke was Chief of Naval Operations from 1955 to 1961, distinguishing himself during World War II and the Korean War, and this is the first time I’ve seen his name connected in any way to the Earhart disappearance.
The “references to photographs [and presumably, accounts] in the Game-Goerner article” of the two individuals described in No. 4, “a former member of Army Intelligence from New York, who took a ‘photograph from a Japanese officer during Saipan’s 1944 invasion showing Earhart before Japanese aircraft,’ ” and an “ex-Marine from Virginia, who fought across Saipan’s Red Beach One in 1944 and ‘tore a snapshot of Amelia Earhart, shown with a Japanese officer, off the wall of a house the Japanese had occupied’ ” were included in Fred Goerner’s 1966 bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart.
The Saipan GIs were Sgt. Ralph R. Kanna, of Johnson City, N.Y., and Robert Kinley (rank unknown), of Norfolk, Va., respectively. Their accounts, as well as other finds of Earhart-related photos, can be found in my March 13, 2020 post, “Veterans recall seeing Earhart photos on Saipan.”
Below the negatively exposed memorandum, AES President and newsletter editor Bill Prymak offered the following comments:
QUESTIONS: Why should the State Dept. still be interested in Earhart in 1965 if they took the official position in 1937 that she was simply lost at sea?
Who is RM/R? Why the interest in the photos from Saipan?
Is the above mentioned file part of the same Earhart file(s) that Col. [Rollin] Reineck has been trying to get released?
STAY TUNED. . . . . we may have more coming.
Conclusion of Goerner’s interviews with Joe Gurr
We continue with the conclusion of our retrospective look at the Amelia Earhart Electra’s radio capabilities via interviews of radio expert Joseph Gurr by Fred Goerner as compiled by researcher Cam Warren and appearing in the February 1999 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.
Fred: “[Are} 9.3, 15.45, and 21.7 mc that you referred to back in 1937 as being the ranges or the capabilities of that Bendix direction finder that was in the aircraft [considered] pretty high frequencies?”
Gurr: “Oh boy, I tell you it was. Initially those frequencies were not used too much. Today, they are commonplace.”
Fred: “Where would 7500 [i.e. 7.5 mc] fit in there?”
Gurr: “Oh, that would be wonderful. That is one of the real good ones. That is what you call the 40 meter band. It is a real good general band. Day time, up to a thousand miles generally with relatively low power. At night, you can whip around the world. Again, it is subject to a certain amount of skip.”
Fred: “[Was] Amelia capable of sending CW [Morse Code], or was Noonan capable of CW?”
Gurr: “I don’t know about Noonan but I don’t think Amelia was.”
Fred: “That is why she never made any attempt to use it?”
Gurr: “I was really concerned. In using the radio direction finder; that is if you are homing in . . . if [you] haven’t got a range and you want to work a problem, you have to know at least an “a” from a “n.” I’m sure she didn’t know the code. As far as Noonan is concerned, I don’t know.”
Fred: “Unless Noonan was in the cockpit, he couldn’t have worked any radio anyway, could he?”
Gurr: “No. The way the thing was set up, we had a key — oh, about that key. Now, let me see if I can think about that once. We had a key installed on the navigator’s table in the back. It was installed when I got into the picture. The idea was that you would send code. Code gets out far more distance. That was great, but then, I have a very hazy recollection that that key was removed. I don’t remember just when, but some place along the line, I heard that they had removed it. It might have been in Florida. Nobody knew the code anyway.”
Fred: “Manning did. It was there to begin with and I suppose it was there for him to use. Neither Amelia or Noonan knew how to use it then?”
Gurr: “That was it then.”
Fred: “It was of no use to them anyway. They were going to depend upon their 3105 or 6210 channels, and their direction finder.”
[End of radio remarks. The balance of this interview discusses various people such as Vidal, Miller, Pearson, et al.]
[PART TWO: Interview recorded Aug. 14, 1987]
Gurr generally concurred with his earlier story. He reiterated his fondness for the [direction finder] that “the Navy sent out,” again remarking that “the receiver was an all-band job” that “they can even listen to ham radio on this one.” (Later in this interview he enlarged on the statement, saying “it went from 200 to somewhere around 15,000 kc because it also covered the 20 meter amateur band, which is 14,000.”) (If he recalled correctly, this would likely indicate the [Bendix] receiver covered five bands, as did the RA-1B.)
Gurr felt the equipment was fine, but had reservations about the operators. “I don’t care what kind of equipment she had in that airplane, she did not know how to use it. Noonan, hell, he didn’t know nothing as far as I’m concerned!” Gurr told Amelia that she didn’t have much transmitting power, but to use 6210 during the day, 3105 at night, and “just press the button. Just say, ’Itasca, this is me!’ Just press the button and Itasca would get a bearing — assuming that the Itasca had the equipment and that they knew how to use it far better than Amelia Earhart. That was the answer to the whole thing — they would give you a compass heading to take, and you’ve got it made.”
Harry Manning had Gurr’s full admiration: “He was good. He was a nice guy personally, but on top of that he was qualified. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be captain of a big ship like that [the SS America]. He was really good. I thought, [Amelia] you’ve got it made. I hate to go on record to say this, but when Noonan showed up — aw, golly!”
“I don’t know but there was just something that happened to all of us [in Burbank] — to
everybody around there, all the people that were working around on the airplane. Like, if I may say this, the reputation he [Noonan] gave Amelia, and that caused her to take him, was that he was the original navigator for the original trip of Pan American to fly over the Pacific and so on. Well, I immediately said, ’O.K., so how come he is out of a job now?’ In those days, we were using navigators. United [Airlines] was using navigators on their trips to Honolulu. In fact, we don’t anymore, but in those days that is how it was done. Navigators were — heck he could get a job anytime; I’m sure he could. Something happened fight there. I never talked to Amelia. I never talked to Noonan. His reputation as a man who imbibed a little once in awhile came with him.”
Earlier, Goerner had asked Gurr that, considering the radio installation, if it would have been possible to use the transmitter if the plane was afloat in the pacific. Gurr said he knew the plane wouldn’t sink for awhile “if they could somehow dump those big motors.” But the transmitter would operate “especially for a little while. They couldn’t do it for long because now your engines are stopped and you are running on storage batteries. It takes power. Now let us say, under some conditions, if she was able
to land that airplane so that it was floating, even for 5 or 10 minutes, yes, she could transmit because the antenna was in the clear and the transmitter was not in the water because it was up pretty high. You know, above the navigator’s table. Now this is all an assumption. If the airplane was floating at all, yes, she could transmit. She could really get on that mike button and really transmit.”
Fred: “How severe would the drain be on those batteries if she were trying to transmit on 3105 or 6210?”
Gurr: “Not severe. It was not that big a transmitter. They were 12 volt batteries, and I would say, [the transmitter would draw] probably 10 amperes when she pressed the button. Ten amperes would be about right. I never measured it.”
Fred: “So you would have what? In terms of amount of time available from those batteries.”
Gurr: “Oh, she could transmit for an hour off and on. But, if that airplane was afloat, it wouldn’t be afloat for long. It wouldn’t be afloat any three days; those engines would pull them under.” And further, “I can conjecture what could happen to Amelia’s airplane. I knew the airplane, all those big tanks, the heavy motors and the skill. Not only that, I know the Pacific Ocean. A lot of people seem to think that it is a big flat pond. It isn’t. It’s always rough out there. And you take waves 5 or 6 feet high with little white caps and you try to land an airplane in that, and believe me boy, you just hop, skip, and so on and finally you just plunk! If you did a good job with your gear up.”
End of “What Radios Did She Really Have?”