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 asDECLASSIFIED 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 number200.113 (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 theHO 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. 

Fred Goerner with witness Dr. Manuel Aldan on Saipan, June 1960.  Aldan was a dentist whose patients were Japanese officers, who told them of the lady spy in they called “Earharto!”  See page 85 of Truth at Last for more.  (Courtesy San Francisco Library Special Collections.)

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.


4 responses

  1. Interesting Mike! Admiral Arleigh Burke wrote the forward to a book my grandmother wrote. She knew him relatively well, Paul Briand, and Fred Goerner. I wish I could have been able to hear her thoughts on all of this!


  2. One of the most frustrating aspects to this case are the accounts of lost photos found by GIs on Saipan showing Amelia with Japanese officers. Are they stashed away in secret government files, could others be in the possession of relatives of GIs and hidden in attics or even worse, discarded! Here is yet another example of the government coverup being brought to light years later. Isn’t it time to reveal the truth? if it is to prevent an attack on FDR’s reputation, has that not already been done with the disclosures concerning Pearl Harbor? Maybe I am wrong, but I think … retrospect, the public would understand that at that time, the US was not in a position to challenge the Japanese Empire..back channel negotiations to hasten their release??who knows what might have taken place? I guess chances are the Japanese would never have admitted that they held the fliers in the first place. They saw too much at that point.


  3. If those photos could be recovered they would be a “smoking gun.”


  4. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    Here’s an interesting aspect to the memo…

    Although the subject memo is marked “DECLASSIFIED” at the top and bottom of the page, there is no Classification marking — i.e., “CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, or TOP SECRET” — to indicate the original level of classification, and thus the level of protection necessary. Additionally, there are no “portion markings” at the beginning and end of each paragraph to indicate the classification level of that particular paragraph. It is entirely possible that this one-page document was wholly unclassified but was a part of a larger collection of classified documents up for declassification review and was inadvertently marked “DECLASSIFIED” with other material in the review.

    All best,



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