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?

Fred Noonan, circa mid-1930s, in his Pan Am uniform. In March 1935 he was the navigator on the first Pan Am Sikorsky S-42 clipper at San Francisco Bay in California.  The following month he navigated the historic round-trip China Clipper flight between San Francisco, California and Honolulu, Hawaii piloted by Ed Musick (who was featured on the cover of Time magazine that year).  “I don’t care what kind of equipment she had in that airplane,” Joseph Gurr told Fred Goerner, “She did not know how to use it.  Noonan, hell, he didn’t know nothing as far as I’m concerned!”

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.”

Amelia Earhart with Harry Manning (center) and Fred Noonan, in Hawaii just before the Luke Field crash that sent Manning back to England and left Noonan as the sole navigator for the world flight.

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.”

Amelia Earhart at the controls of her Lockheed 10E Electra before taking off from New Guinea, on July 2, 1937. She disappeared the next day. (National Archives)

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?”


18 responses

  1. Dave Kapsiak | Reply

    Maybe it is because of the long passage of time since these events occurred, but it is a mystery how there can be so much controversy concerning Earhart and what she knew of radio communication and exactly what equipment she possessed during that fatal flight. But, then again, why not? So much other controversy surrounds this fatal flight.


  2. Quoting Gurr: ” 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.”

    And there in lies the problem. Besides a lot of assumptions and guessing regarding Amelia’s and Fred’s qualifications and radio abilities and exactly what equipment they had on board – even IF Itasca had the equipment, and trained personnel to obtain a bearing on Amelia, and IF they transmitted that bearing to her, Amelia could not have heard them.

    Throughout all of her transcribed transmissions, it is apparent that she was broadcasting “in the blind” because she did not receive any of Itasca’s transmissions. Whether this was because of an aircraft radio equipment malfunction, or her inability to properly use the equipment might always be an unanswered question. The most likely problem was in the aircraft radio’s switching from transmit to receive on her long antenna.

    It does not appear from Itasca’s logs, however, that they ever did obtain any bearings on Amelia.

    On a separate, but related subject: this third portion of Goerner’s interview with Gurr goes into the question about Amelia’s possible ability to transmit from her plane’s radio after it was no longer airborne. The many separately received and reported post flight radio signals (which would argue that she did indeed survive a ditching or crash landing) had to be addressed. Most accounts seem to indicate that it would be possible for her to use her radios if the aircraft was still somewhat intact and the antenna (and battery out of the water).


  3. David Atchason | Reply

    This is not a new thought, but when I read the transcription of the Itasca log, I get the impression that Amelia is hardly ever directly communicating with the Itasca. She never answered the radio message from Lae, I believe. I still think, even in 1937 it’s possible that all her transmissions are recordings. It may have been possible to have a catalogue of standard replies that could be used to “reply” to certain Itasca questions, otherwise she would simply not respond. This would cast doubt on the “all recordings” theory because at times her responses make a little sense, at least. The Itasca radiomen may not have been “in” on this deception, but Galten seems to have had his suspicions that Amelia never intended to land at Howland.

    So this deception allows her to fly directly to Saipan, but what for? I was perusing Henri Keyser-Andres strange book which has Amelia deceived into landing on Nonouti. That’s kind of far fetched I know, but the reason they do this is to learn the technology of Amelia’s plane and especially, engines. If her plane was a new one, and I have contended that with the Gov’t spending millions on her flight and search, why would they skimp maybe $100,000 for a new plane with latest advanced (and more powerful) engines?

    Henri believes that the new “Zero” fighter plane suffers from being woefully underpowered and would be a fine design if only it had a better engine. Wouldn’t they (Japs) like to get their hands on her plane? Especially in perfect condition, not crashed or ditched in a lagoon or on a rough reef so that the engines can be studied without any damage? Is it possible that Amelia made a deal? Or that some entity represented by Baruch and Westover had a part in it? After all, Japan was not an enemy at that time, only a potential one. If such a deal took place, Amelia would certainly not risk a catastrophic result trying to land on an atoll without any known safe landing area. To say nothing of literally risking their life and limb. Of course many would think this plan absurd, but I can’t think of a more sensible reason for her to fly direct to Saipan. To me, it qualifies as “Stagger your imagination.”



    1. The Japanese military certainly was interested in Lockheed aircraft designs like Amelia’s Electra 10 model. In fact, by 1938 they had contracted with Lockheed to purchase a number of Electra 14’s which were the follow-on model very similar to her aircraft, but with more powerful engines.

      They soon began building the same type of plane in Japan and had a small fleet of these transports by the time of their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, and other places in the Pacific.

      I personally don’t think that Amelia and Fred would have flown to Saipan – either by accident or on purpose, unless they had first made a successful landing on an island closer to Howland – AND from which they could refuel and take off under guard by Japanese fighters. The Japanese did do this in 1942 when they forced two captured US Army Air Force pilots to fly US P-40E aircraft from the Philippines to Japan for analysis.

      However, there are too many “what if’s” to make this a feasible scenario in the Amelia Earhart story. It if far more likely that her plane would have been damaged and transported by ship and that she and Fred, if captured, would have been flown to Saipan on a Japanese flying boat type aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water.


      1. William H. Trail


        You wrote, “The Japanese did do this in 1942 when they forced two captured US Army Air Force pilots to fly US P-40E aircraft from the Philippines to Japan for analysis.”

        Wow! To say that my curiosity is peaked is to say the very least. What are the details of this incident? I conducted an internet search, but that didn’t reveal anything more than what can only be categorized as myth, and legend. What is the source for your statement?

        All best,



      2. William,

        Many of the US planes in the Philippines in early December 1941 were fighters planes attached to five US Army Air Corps Pursuit squadrons. There were 26 unflyable P-35A Seversky models and 91 Curtis P-40 B and E models. In addition to these there were 35 Boeing B-17 B and E model Flying Fortresses, and about a hundred other assorted planes like transports, trainers, utility, etc.

        Japanese air attacks against the Philippines commenced almost immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, followed by amphibious landings. The US Army Air Corps fought well with what they had against very tough odds, but by April 1942, most of their aircraft had been destroyed – either in enemy bombings, air to air combat, or in operational crashes. Some remaining flyable aircraft were flown from the main island of Luzon south to the island of Mindanao and other islands. Surviving B-17’s and two US Navy Catalina PBY’s were able to evacuate a number of military personnel from Luzon to Australia by way of Del Monte Field, Mindanao.

        Three new P-40Es, still in crates, were shipped from Brisbane, Australia, by blockade runner on 22 February 1942, but ran aground on 9 March on a reef. Carefully hidden and moved by barge at night, the crates reached Mindanao on 26 March 1942. By 2 April, all three P-40E’s were assembled and flight-tested. One of those P-40E’s was subsequently lost.

        The new P-40Es and the sole remaining P-35 operated out of Maramag Field until 3 May. The P-35 was transferred to the Philippine Army Air Corps and two surviving P-40Es were ultimately captured intact by the Japanese army on 12 May 1942. It was these two planes that the Japanese forced American pilots to fly to Japan.

        33 US Army pursuit pilots were killed in the campaign and 83 surrendered to become prisoners of war, with 49 of those dying in captivity. 95% of US Army Aviation enlisted men became POWs, and 61% of those died before they could be repatriated.

        I did my research on the battle for the Philippines several years ago, and read quite a few books, files and accounts on the subject. I do have the names of the captured pilots who were forced to fly the P-40E aircraft to Japan, but will have to look for them and the sources where I found them.

        One book that I recall off the top of my head was called “The Dyess Story” about William Dyess who served as a pursuit pilot and Commanding Officer of the combined pursuit squadrons during that air war. He became a Prisoner of War and made a successful escape along with several others from the Japanese POW camp at Davao on Mindanao. It was this book and associated news articles written during the war that first brought out the story of the Bataan Death March and other Japanese Atrocities to the American public.

        Here is a link to some very detailed information regarding the US Army Air Corps order of battle for the early operations in the Philippines:


      3. William H. Trail


        Many thanks for the quick response to my question and the Wikipedia link. It is much appreciated. I too have studied the Philippine Campaign. I look forward to your reply about the source of your information regarding the two captured P-40Es flown from the Philippines to Japan, the names of the pilots, and any other pertinent information about this little known episode.

        All best,



      4. William,

        I have been looking, so far unsuccessfully, for the names of the American Army Air Corps pilots who were forced by the Japanese to fly the two Curtis P-40E aircraft captured on Mindanao in May 1942 – first to Luzon, and quite likely further on to Japan, probably with refueling stops along the way.

        I did again look at my copy of “The Dyess Story” by LCOL William Edwin Dyess. Unfortunately, Dyess was captured on Luzon in early April 1942 and was not aware of flight operations in Mindanao after his capture. He does name several US pilots whom he sent south with his few remaining aircraft.

        In July 1943, Colonel Dyess escaped and managed to return to the US to tell his story. After some recuperation, he resumed his flying career, but was killed in a stateside plane crash 22 December 1943.

        His book was published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York in 1944.

        I did find a number of interesting websites which discuss Japanese use of Curtis P-40E’s during WW II. I believe the aircraft in a 1945 photo taken at an air field in Japan may have been one of those two captured Mindanao planes (see first link below). This plane was probably used to train Japanese pilots to fly other P40E’s captured at other locations in the Pacific.

        Note that the Japanese red “meatball” is painted directly over the existing pre-war US insignia of a large blue field with a white star and a smaller red circle inside the star. Also note that there are no “sharks teeth” painted on the plane’s engine cowling. Except for the painted over “pre war” US insignia, the plane seems to be in its original paint colors.

        It appears to have some sort of serial number painted under the right rear stabilizer. Perhaps an enhanced image of the original photo might show that number more clearly and it might confirm whether or not this particular plane came from Mindanao.



      5. William H. Trail


        I spoke via telephone some time ago with an Air Force historian at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio about this topic. He was very knowledgeable about the Philippine Campaign, POWs, captured U.S aircraft or other equipment, etc., but he could not immediately confirm or deny that any U.S. POW personnel were forced to fly P-40s or any other aircraft to Japan or anywhere else for testing and evaluation. He promised to do some checking and get back to me.

        Several days after our initial telephonic conversation my contact at the USAF Museum got back to me via email. He said that although there were some cases of U.S. POW personnel cooperating with the Japanese in some matters after the fall of the Philippines, there’s no record of any U.S. pilots cooperating to fly any aircraft.

        Just thinking about all the things that possibly could’ve gone wrong with such an operation, it would have far been smarter, easier, and less risky for civilian Japanese aviation “tech reps” to travel to the Philippines to examine the P-40s and make preliminary tests and evaluations there in the field with Japanese military aviators than to attempt to send the aircraft, piloted by hostile American POW aviators, over a long route to Japan.

        All best,


        Liked by 1 person

      6. William,

        I was able to find the names of the US POW’s who were forced by the Japanese Army to fly captured aircraft. Also, I found a photo of Japanese army personnel fueling a US marked P-40E. Photo:

        Two Curtis P-40E aircraft and a Stearman trainer plane were captured intact by the Japanese Army on 12 May 1942 on Mindanao, Philippines. Those aircraft were flown first to Nichols Field by US POW pilots. Whether or not they subsequently flew them on to Japan is not certain, but the three pilots involved in moving the aircraft were interned at Osaka, Japan throughout the war rather than at Cabanatuan, Luzon or at Davao, Mindanao.

        Captain (later Major) Charles R. Sneed, USAAC, 20th Pursuit Squadron, was taken Prisoner of War on Mindanao and coerced into flying a demonstration or test flight of one or both planes while they were still on Mindanao. He was held at PW Camp #2, Davao, Mindanao until December 1944 when transferred to the prison ship Oryoku Maru which was subsequently sunk in Subic Bay. He did not survive.

        Three other USAAF pilots who had been taken Prisoner of War on Mindanao were forced to fly the captured aircraft from Mindanao to Nichols field on Luzon.

        1st Lieutenant Donald M. “Shorty” Crosland, USAAC, (Service No: O-417944) flew one of the P-40E’s. He was imprisoned at Osaka Main Camp Chikko, Japan and survived the war.

        1st Lieutenant Edward A. Erickson, USAAC, 17th Pursuit Squadron, (Service No: O-417948) flew the second P-40E. He remained a POW for the duration and survived the war.

        1st Lieutenant (later a Lieutenant Colonel USAF) John Jacob Valkenaar, USAAC (1915-1997), flew the Stearman trainer with a US POW mechanic (name not known) in the back seat to Nichols field. Valkenaar was imprisoned at Osaka Main Camp Chikko, and at Rokuroshi POW Camp, Japan and survived the war.


      7. William H. Trail


        Like Clara asked in the old 1980s Wendy’s commercials, “Where’s the beef?” I’ve opened and examined each link you provided. Nothing goes straight to the heart of the matter to unequivocally substantiate the claim that U.S. POW personnel were coerced into or otherwise flew Curtiss P-40s, or any other aircraft at the behest of their Japanese captors after the fall of the Philippines.

        I’ve conducted my own research into this matter, even to consulting with a professional Air Force historian who is well versed in the Philippine Campaign of 1942 and it’s aftermath — someone who should surely know of such events. He checked as well. We’ve both come up with negative results. In the absence of clear, to-the-point, chapter and verse documentation that this actually happened, I can only conclude that these alleged accounts of US POWs flying under Japanese control are nothing more than the stuff of shadowy myth and false legend. They’re campfire stories.


        Liked by 1 person

      8. As with the case of Amelia Earhart, documentary evidence of what happened is fragmentary and even contradictory from one account to another regarding Japanese capture and use of American P-40E pursuit planes.

        If the Japanese had detailed records on each of the several (perhaps 20 or more) P-40’s that they captured, examined, tested, transported, and actually used in combat – they have been lost or destroyed by now, if not before the end of the war. Even if the US managed to obtain such records, very few were translated before being microfilmed and the originals returned to Japan in the early 1950’s.

        US records regarding Americans who were taken Prisoner of War (POW) were all classified as “Secret” during WW II and public statements regarding POW’s were heavily censored. This can be seen in reading “The Dyess Story” if you can find a copy of it. Ed Dyess related in interviews following his escape in July 1943 of the ground fighting and air war on Bataan, and of the fate of some pilots whom he names prior to the fall of Bataan. However, any mention of POW’s (following the fall of Bataan) excludes their full names.

        US government officials certainly questioned Dyess and the others who escaped with him about what he knew regarding the Philippine situation and the fates of Americans that he knew to have died or been taken POW. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given a flight assignment following his recuperation, but he was forbidden to speak publicly about the Death Marches or the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army.

        Publication of his book was held up by US government censors until after his death in December 1944, when it was considered politically prudent to make it available to the American public.

        Dyess’s book is only one example of US government censorship and classification of information regarding military and POW matters. Japanese troops massacred 140 of 150 American POW’s on the island of Palawan by gasoline fire and machine guns on 14 December 1944. Ten men managed to escape and their US debriefings were classified as “Secret” and not declassified until the 1970’s. How many other POW debriefings were so classified and later destroyed?

        How many of those American servicemen and women were cautioned to NOT talk about their experiences? How many of them preferred to put their wartime misery behind them and get on with life?

        And think of the loss of information about any wartime subject when so many POW’s were killed or died in captivity.

        While the Japanese people are today a polite and civilized society and their nation is now a great friend and ally of the United States, times were very different in 1937 and 1942. The magnitude of their hatred and aggression against America and the Allied Nations in the Pacific was unchecked and pure evil. There is nothing they would not do to a captured American – whether on a whim or to achieve a military objective like getting information about a captured air plane.

        That does not “prove” that they did any one specific thing (like forcing US pilots to fly a captured plane) – but lack of information on such an alleged incident certainly does not disprove it or make it a “myth”.

        It has been some 30 years or more since I did my research on the fall of the Philippines, and during that time, I have made two moves. Locating my files and notes has been a challenge, but if I find my original source(s) of the story about these P-40E captured aircraft, I will pass it on.


      9. William H. Trail


        I think we’ve reached a point in our discussion where further exchange on this topic would be unproductive. I respectfully remain skeptical of the claim, and unconvinced by your argument. I wish you all the best in finding your misplaced notes, files, papers, etc.



    2. The IJNAS purchased an L-10 Electra for evaluation and gave it the designation KXL1. There was no need for a nefarious scheme to obtain one. The IJNAS apparently passed on buying more or producing their own version under license in favor of the L-14 Super Electra, a much improved nearly “clean sheet” design.


  4. David Atchason | Reply

    I was aware the IJNAS had purchased an L10. I don’t know when that was, or if it was an earlier less sophisticated model. I’m just repeating Henri Keyser-Andre’s story about Japanese intentions to get a hold of her plane because of the latest engine design whether different from the standard L10E or not. He has the Japanese initiating a rather outlandish scheme to get her to land on Nonouti where somehow they managed to capture her and take the plane away. Maybe Amelia just had some advanced plans for a newer design, kept in her briefcase, which she was selling to the Japanese. After all, FDR wanted the Japanese “sneak” attack on Pearl Harbor to be as effective as possible. If they needed longer range or faster planes, I’m sure FDR was willing to help out and perhaps make the Japanese think they had gained an advantage by stealing better engine designs.

    I was just reading tonight that the architect of the beginning of WW2 in Europe was Churchill, not Hitler. This agrees with my opinion, having read other books describing Hitler’s reasonable proposals to remedy the unduly harsh conditions imposed on Germany by the peace treaty of 1918. As we all have understood, FDR needed the war with Japan to finagle the American public into joining the war in Europe. Perhaps Amelia’s flight to Saipan was part of this larger scheme, as described in “Day of Deceit”



  5. David Atchason | Reply

    Just rereading this post with the latest comments. To go back to “Would the plane float” I would say yes, indefinitely, with empty fuel tanks. But I also believe Prymak when he say the plane would nose down 54 degrees because of the heavy engines with the tail probably sticking up. Since my son told me, or I learned somewhere, the dynamotor was the critical piece of equipment, and was located in the nose of the plane. If the cover of the dynamotor was not waterproof, (and why would it be?) the water would come in and it wouldn’t matter whether the batteries were dry or not, the dynamotor would quit. Then, no radio.

    It makes me believe there were no legitimate post-loss transmissions by Amelia. This endless radio conjecture is a red herring, in my view. Somewhere above, somebody points out that landing in even 5-6 feet swells which are ever present in the Pacific would make a water landing something to be avoided at all costs if the pilot (Amelia) valued her life and limb and simply would not choose to chance it. Probably landing on a coral atoll would be equally hazardous unless you lucked out and found a level spot which is just a roll of the dice. Nobody was paying Amelia and Fred enough to attempt this in my opinion.

    Would the Japanese shoot her plane down if she was landing on Saipan? I doubt it. The war was not on. According to the book William directed me to read, the Japanese were incensed about what they perceived as insulting treatment by the Western Nations, but they would have let her land OK and taken possession of the briefcase. If she had been refitted with the latest technology engines they would be very interested.


    1. In my opinion, Amelia and Fred, as experienced aviators, would have stopped looking for Howland Island when they were approaching a certain level of fuel on board, and would have proceeded to an area where they might find other landing or ditching sites.

      Given any kind of island, atoll or reef, they would have made a determination as to the best way to approach for a landing, probably making a few approaches first to check out the site.

      The water inside an atoll is shallow and calm, and a good place for a wheels-up controlled landing. Of course there are sometimes coral heads submerged to watch out for.

      A long sand beach might be a place to land with gear down. Again watching for obstacles or pot holes. Each different option would have its hazards.

      Planes that dip nose down the most in water are those with single engines. Those with two engines further back on the wings would dip less. If in shallow water like at an atoll, the plane might be almost level because the nose can only go down so far before hitting bottom.

      In the event of a beach or shallow water landing it might have been possible for Amelia to transmit on her plane’s radio. Night time transmissions would travel farthest. While it cannot be stated with certainty that the radio signals believed by some to have been genuine, it is my opinion that if she made a successful landing or shallow water ditching, she certainly would have tried using her radio.


      1. David Atchason

        Henri Keyser-Andre thinks she landed on Nonouti. Alan Hiatt has what he says are Google Earth photos of her plane sitting in about 14 ft. deep water about 2.75 miles from the Southwest corner of that Island. Bill Prymak, an engineer, I believe, calculated that angle using Center of Flotation not Center of Gravity which are much different than a conventional plane because of the additional fuel tanks. I disagree that the plane would sink at all but that would depend on if and how seawater would get into her fuel tanks, a subject I have never seen anybdy speculate on with any accurate knowledge of the construction of any of her tanks.

        Of course if she were headed to or landed on some isolated Pacific Island she would be on the radio constantly discussing her plan, and upon approach would give a running account of her landing or ditching plan and she would name the island so she could be rescued but she did no such thing. A different breed of pilot, I would say. Unless she headed to and landed on an island under Japanese control where she was not supposed to be because it was a secret plan known only to higher command of the USN.

        Sincerely, David


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