Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the erudite writings and analysis of Calvin Pitts, now 88, a remarkable gentleman, probably the last of the “Old School” aviators and this blog’s best friend and advocate. We’re always honored when he gifts us with his formidable knowledge and experience.
Best known for his 1981 world flight, when he and two co-pilots commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Wiley Post-Harold Gatty World Flight in 1931, Calvin’s brilliant, five-part analysis of Earhart’s last flight, “CLUES: Amelia Earhart’s Disappearing Footprints in the Sky,” first published on Aug. 10, 2018, is among the finest pieces of work to grace this blog since its inception in 2012.
Like most of us, Calvin hadn’t known about Elgen Long’s death in late January of this year, but once he saw my last post, he realized he had plenty to say, especially about Long’s long-running circus act, in which he presumed to be America’s semi-official mouthpiece and self-proclaimed expert on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
Here’s Calvin’s educational and entertaining essay on the passing of Elgen Long.
The latest posting of yours sent me back to Elgen Long’s dust-covered book, “The
LONGest Yarn,” err, I mean, The Mystery Solved, giving us the Long-awaited
questions to the answers our government wanted us to believe.
Diversion is a masterful tool when evidence points toward uncomfortable, but meaningful truth.
I made this trip back to The Mystery Solved to remind me of the reasons why I had
rejected LONG’s Faux Final Solution about Amelia in the first place.
Now that I remember, I’ve got to get this off my chest so I can close my notebook
on Amelia’s Mystery Moguls who are more mysterious and vacuous than even her
Capt. Long, the Master of Minutia . . . but not of Truth, called it a “mystery.” But the real mystery is: How could he swim in an ocean of minutia and miss the truth?
For example: (1) On p.15, instead of using a generalized “less than 10 seconds,” he
must nail down gear retraction to exactly “7 seconds.” Fine. That came directly
from the Lockheed Electra Handbook, a “specific” detail. Accepted.
OK, that now becomes our standard. No inaccuracy where such important details as
raising the gear is concerned. Fine. But if we are going to be that nit-picking here,
then “picking is as picking does.” You’ll see. Details are of equal importance, as author LONG was painfully unable to prove.
So, let’s pick our own Blackberries from his thorn bush of sticky inaccuracies.
(2). After takeoff, while still barely above the water of Huon Gulf, AE turned to
exactly “073 degrees direct to Howland,” he said, Long now had her headed directly for jungle and trees while barely above the water. Really? But his factoid was
considerably in error for their new flight plan which had been changed.
“In error?” First is that little detail of a strong crosswind, both forecast and experienced. With a “strong crosswind,” an exact heading of 073 degrees might have taken them directly to the Marshall Islands instead of Howland. But just a small detail.
In fact, the “wind” which LONG labeled “headwind” was actually a “crosswind.” But
not to worry. A mere detail of little consequence.
Since AE and Fred had determined to circumnavigate a massive area of T’storms in
a low-pressure system of very bad weather sitting on their originally planned course,
they elected to fly south directly toward the Solomon Islands, Choiseul to be exact (an important detail), where rested a large volcano, Mount Maetambe (an interesting detail), to still be exact, but not according to Long’s flawed research concerning the new weather. report (a very significant detail).
By contrast, Fred’s new heading toward Choiseul would keep them over water during
those precarious first moments while they were trying to keep a heavy plane in the
air which was perhaps 35 percent over-gross weight (Long guessed 50 percent). Mere detail.
Having been there, some of us know the stress of that first hour of a minimum rate of climb while carrying a maximum load of fuel. A sobering detail.
(3). Long next gives us a groundspeed, not airspeed, of 120.7 kts (i.e., “142 mph
ground speed”). Being low over nothing but water, how did AE determine the
Electra’s ground “speed” without “ground” reference? What wave-tops did she use
for fixes? But his is a “specific” detail, and specific is important, even when inaccurate.
(4). On this first leg of the flight, LONG made much to do about “stronger headwinds
than anticipated” (p.17). With nothing but “crosswinds” forecast for them, and later
reported, he needs to calculate for AE the headwind “component.”
How did he do that? From Lae to Choiseul, according to the latest weather reports,
it was not a “direct” crosswind with a “partial” headwind.
However, from the Solomons to Nukumanu Island, it was almost a “direct” crosswind (he supposed), forecast to be about 25 kts. That would make it 28.75 mph. Long tells us it was “26.5 mph” (p.18), which would make it 22.53 kts. Important details (sic), but not verifiable, of course.
Since we derive those numbers from LONG’s calculations, we will assume he is correct, although he has no way of determining this without input from Fred. And since when did forecast winds remain steady and consistent so that they will remain steady at those half-mile or half-knot increments?
However, it’s easy to overlook one small detail in this search for accuracy. LONG refers to this as a headwind, albeit the weather reports do not show this. Instead, the reports provide the position of the low-pressure areas with arrows indicating forecast winds and speeds.
Since the winds from a low-pressure system flow counterclockwise, and since that reported low was west of the Electra, the winds for that leg flying south to north could have been partial tail-winds instead. Not likely, but possible. What information did Fred give AE about their ground-speed? LONG could have told us.
Further, for his calculations did he change the headwind component for this two-hour leg which included a change of heading at Choiseul from East to NE? Not according to his record, he didn’t.
(5). There’s another prickly detail which is very interesting, relating to Long’s charge that Fred made a “1-hour” mistake in reporting their position at Nukumanu Island. The details border on humorous, but the error was not Fred’s. We’ll leave that for later. It concerns the famous 0718 GMT report, 7-plus hours into the flight.
(6). But enough of picky. Here’s the BIG ONE which really catches our attention. Long
quotes AE giving their position as: “150.7 E. Longitude” (p. 17). OR DID SHE?
Without any adequate explanation, in fact, omit “adequate,” without an explanation of such a significant error, Long merely says: “. . . this was not their position at 0519 GCT” (3:19 pm local). How did he know, and by what means did he determine this?
OK, for the devil-of-details, this is major detail inaccuracy. What really is the explanation? What is it? Long offered none, although inconveniently there is one.
What was reported was not “150.7”. . . BUT rather, “157.” How do we know? Balfour, a Lae weatherman, recorded “150.7” in the log. Long, without analysis, accepted the detail of that report without question. As a professional navigator, why didn’t he correct such a massive mistake of details?
Actually, what was reported from Noonan to Earhart, and what was reported from Earhart to Balfour was NOT “150.7 East,” but rather “157 East.” How do we know?
Because, diverting for the massive T’storms sitting on their original routing, they were flying south of the storms heading directly toward Choiseul, Solomon Islands, and its highly visible smoking volcano, Mt. Maetambe.
That smoking mountain, ironically, sat right on the 157.0 East line of longitude. Does the light begin to come on? That was what they saw, and the position adjacent to it which they reported was the very reason they had to climb to 10,000, a detail about which Long was critical.
Fred was concerned about their position, and their altitude in relationship to the mountain, whereas Long was concerned about the detail of the effect of that higher altitude on their engine performance. No small detail, he must have reasoned.
Furthermore, if “150.7 East” longitude had been correct, then by looking at a map or chart, which a researcher should have done, one would see that the 150.7 East longitude is only about 255 statute miles from Lae . . . (get this) after 5 hours and 19 minutes (0519 GCT) of flight time. Now that is s.l.o.w. Consider:
According to LONG’s “stronger than planned headwind,” they were now flying at only 48.1 mph, using excessive fuel. Yes, that’s a significantly “stronger” headwind than planned, and yes, that would make them quite late in getting to Howland.
Minutia details trumped material details.
According to the Google Earth map, there is about a 430 statute mile difference between the two lines of Longitude. That’s more than 3 hours of flight time for the Electra. Another small detail!
So how did Noonan make such a navigational error? HE DIDN’T. What he relayed to AE was “157.” What she reported to Balfour was “15—7.” What Balfour heard was “150.7.”
Try saying those numbers to yourself: “One-Fifty—-Seven,” with a breath-pause.
Balfour misread the significance of the slight pause between “fifty and seven.”
No problem, except for the fact that, when the “devil is in the details,” the detail-man failed to explain such a critical misunderstanding. How could he let this go while making certain he records “speeds” down to a mere half-mile, as in 142.5 rather than 142 or 143?
Imagine: You catch the “7 seconds” for gear retraction, but you miss the “157
longitude” of a smoking volcano, a 400-plus mile error. Again, just a detail.
It’s no wonder that later, when Long’s agenda-driven government-goal is to place the
Electra in the ocean where no proof is available, that he enables the government to
bury the mystery in a watery grave without evidence, all while “missing” the real
eye-witness evidence which gets buried in denials and mystery.
Unconscionable, but understandable when one is driven by official agendas. The
officials and the government had too much to lose if the Electra was ever found.
Morgenthau and Roosevelt would have had the stain of blood on their reputations if
the Electra was ever found, so, they poisoned the Well of History with expressed
concern over Amelia’s reputation if it was ever discovered that she “disobeyed
government orders.” Another minor detail.
We digress, but out of a desire for honesty and truth in records of history. So,
back to Long and his obsession with goals, awards, truth, details . . . and agendas.
His account of the Earhart Story is more about “pre-supposition” (put the Electra
and its crew in the water under the veil of mystery) . . . rather than about the truth
of a multitude of witnesses who testified to the accident on Mili Atoll and imprisonment in a jail in Saipan, with many local witnesses and at least one Admiral
and three Generals.
Details seem to be important when the concern is about gear-retraction, headings,
groundspeeds, and the distinction between numbers like “161 rather than 160.”
Priorities, my dear Watson, priorities and agenda, but to hades with details when
they contradict a pre-known crash and sinking in the sea.
No amount of evidence and detail can spoil a previously known narrative if the
government’s agenda is ocean water and glorious mystery. Put that expendable
woman and man in the ocean, and let the evidence sink with them.
Unfortunately, the evidence remained with the witnesses, many of whom were actually interviewed, with unwanted details which were then published.
We could fill a book with Long’s other faux factoids, but the government would not
be pleased, and the Awards and Grants might not then be forthcoming.
Elgen Long was a professional pilot with impressive achievements. His solo RTW
navigation over the poles is stunning. Any round-the-world pilot could bow at his feet
over such accomplishments as his. It would be an honor.
But there are men in history, good men like Jacob’s son, Esau, who will sell their
inheritance for a mess of pottage. No one knows what they will do when approval,
acceptance, and awards by the mainstream power-brokers make it clear what is
desired for an end result. Awards, acclaim, and public acceptance are sometimes
more powerful than money.
Look, for example, at a current dynamic, where a former President of the United States will align himself with a Leftist power-structure which he once strongly opposed, just to defeat another ex-President in an election. Or consider Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War, or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Atomic secrets to the Communists in the 1950’s.
Small or large, it is shameful, if not for us, at least for the historical record.
And regarding the Life of Amelia Earhart, why, pray tell, will the very hometown of her life, Atchison, Kansas, drink the same Kool-Aid? The AE Museum will not even communicate about the details of historical evidence related to her. We know. We tried. Their silence in the face of monumental evidence is an even greater lie than Long’s conclusions about Amelia’s death-at-sea.
Perhaps that mountain of evidence will prevail in the end. Here’s to the Truth. This
is but a small sampling of a much larger issue in this Book of Solutions.
Thanks for your posting, and the delusion it illustrates. (End of Calvin Pitts’ commentary.)
We extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to Calvin for his thoughtful essay on Elgen Long, an aviation icon for whom record-setting feats and public adulation weren’t enough, and who, for his own selfish reasons, sold his legacy and reputation to the Deep State so that the American public, and thus the world, could be better kept clueless about the sad fates of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.
Some might not appreciate the two pieces Calvin and I have written about Elgen Long, who’s no longer around to defend himself. But if he were, his response would doubtless be no different than it always was — to completely ignore those who present the truth. Regardless, it would be worse if we didn’t acknowledge the event of Long’s passing. His influence was too far reaching, and it would not reflect well on us if we didn’t acknowledge his death.
Someone needs to do this, to get it right for future generations who might actually want to know the long-lost Earhart truth, so despised by today’s establishment historians. If not us, then who? As I wrote to Calvin, “Some might think we’re ‘ganging up’ on Long, but did he ever care about the poor fliers and their unfairly tattered legacies? Not a chance. He was an egomaniac who played the American public for suckers half his life. We’ll do our due diligence in this Long matter, you and I, and then shake the dust off our feet and move on.”
For much more of Calvin’s generous and important contributions to this blog, and to our knowledge and appreciation of our aviation heritage, please click here.
Please forgive the delayed news, but I’ve only recently learned that Elgen M. Long, the famed aviator best known as the public face of the false “crashed-and-sank” theory in the Amelia Earhart disappearance, died in Reno, Nevada, on Jan. 26, 2022, at age 94.
For more than 50 years, Long’s alleged “research” into the last leg of Earhart’s flight produced countless unsuccessful attempts to determine where her Lockheed Electra crashed, and he became the poster boy for the 1937 Navy-Coast Guard verdict that the Earhart plane “crashed on the sea about 120 miles northwest of Howland Island.”
Long’s 1999 book, Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved, co-authored with his wife, Marie K. Long, is quite possibly the most misnamed tome in American history, rivaled only by Amelia Earhart Lives, by Joe Klaas, the infamous 1970 fish wrapper that introduced New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart and forever tainted legitimate Earhart researchers with the dreaded “conspiracy theorist” label.
Long gained worldwide acclaim in 1971 when he flew solo around the world over both the North and South Poles setting 15 world records and firsts, becoming the first to cross Antarctica alone via the South Pole. He was awarded the Federation Aeronautique International Gold Air Medal as the world’s outstanding sports pilot, the Institute of Navigation Superior Achievement Award for outstanding performance as a practicing navigator, and the Airline Pilots Association Award for Outstanding Airmanship.
Not content with these legitimate laurels, Long gained his greatest notoriety as the chief apologist for the U.S. government-media complex’s incessant propaganda efforts in the so-called “Earhart mystery,” directing the uninformed, gullible public away from the truth of her tragic death on Saipan. Whether he actually believed the nonsense he spouted is unknown to this writer, but in practice it made no difference. Through his powerful public podium and slavish media allies, Long spearheaded the feds’ efforts to convince millions to believe their lies in the Earhart case.
Soon after The Mystery Solved was published, Earhart researcher Rollin Reineck issued a scathing critique of its major claims, which are all aimed at putting the Electra in the Pacific before it could reach Howland Island. Long opened his case with Earhart’s first intelligible message to Lae, at 2:18 p.m. local time, when she reported, “HEIGHT 7000 FEET SPEED 140 KNOTS,” which Long says meant that “they were already experiencing stronger headwinds than anticipated. The increased winds had made them recalculate their optimum speed.”
Reineck described Long’s interpretation of the message as “totally wrong,” a mistake that is “the foundation of the Long theory. . . . Long knows, as all pilots know, that when you give a position, you report the speed you are making over the ground, or GROUND SPEED, not TRUE AIR SPEED. . . . It is more than obvious,” Reineck wrote, “that Earhart is talking about GROUND SPEED when she says 140 KNOTS, not TRUE AIR SPEED as Long would like you to believe. . . . Long, by changing certain facts, using poor information and bad assumptions would have the reader believe that Earhart ran out of gas some 20 hours and 32 minutes after she left Lae, New Guinea.”
Worse than Long’s inability to accurately calculate fuel consumption and mileage capabilities for the Electra in The Mystery Solved, however, was his abject failure to acknowledge the gigantic elephant in the room that defined and dominated true Earhart research long before The Mystery Solved was published — the mountain of eyewitness accounts and other evidence that placed the doomed fliers in the Marshall Islands and Saipan, where they died miserable, lonely deaths, ignored and slandered by the feckless Franklin D. Roosevelt and his minions.
Not a single sentence mentioning this overwhelming evidence can be found in The Mystery Solved. By completely ignoring the definitive work of Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner, Thomas E. Devine, Vincent V. Loomis, Donald Kothera and others, Long loudly and irrevocably proclaimed himself as an enemy of the truth in the Earhart case, as well as the primary mouthpiece in the Deep State’s ongoing Earhart disinformation program. His success in committing such literary malpractice was ensured by a mainstream media devoted to perpetuating all manner of lies and deceptions as it protected and nurtured the Sacred Cow that is the truth in the Earhart disappearance.
If Long had wanted to leave behind a respectable, untainted legacy, he should have avoided Earhart altogether. Besides his aviation feats, he had other worthwhile entries on his résumé. From Wikipedia, we learn:
While working as a commercial-flight navigator for Alaska Airlines in January 1949, Long received a telegram from company headquarters issuing instructions to make for a British Royal Air Force base in Aden, a port city in Yemen. There, his crew took part in a daring rescue mission Operation Magic Carpet that would come to be known as On Eagle’s Wings’ — a reference to Exodus 19:4 — that airlifted tens of thousands of Yemenite Jews facing persecution and death out of Yemen and into Israel.
Using one aircraft with seats removed to maximize space, Long and his crew completed seven days of non-stop transport from Aden to Tel Aviv. They rested for one day, and then they made five more runs, clocking 12 trips in total. “On Eagle’s Wings,” also known as “Operation Magic Carpet,” saved 49,000 Yemenite Jews.
As it is, for those with any knowledge of legitimate Earhart research, Elgen Long’s name became synonymous with “sellout” decades ago. Not only was Long a sellout of the first magnitude, he was almost certainly a government agent of disinformation — if he wasn’t, he performed that function free of charge.
Long can no longer recant his treachery in the Earhart matter. Those of a similar odious ilk — people like Ric Gillespie, Robert Ballard, David Jourdan, Susan Butler and all the rest who hate the truth in the Earhart disappearance — still have time to renounce their errors and get on the right side of history. But does anyone expect that to happen?
In a March 2, 2015 post titled “Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga,” I introduced the late Jim Golden, a close friend of Fred Goerner and, in the day, a near-legendary figure in Earhart research circles. Golden remarkable career included eight years as a Secret Service agent in the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, two years as Howard Hughes’ chief of security in Las Vegas, and several years as a top U.S. Justice Department official, from where he tried to help Goerner search for the elusive top-secret Earhart files that President John F. Kennedy had allowed Goerner and California newspaperman Ross Game to view briefly in 1963, just before JFK’s assassination in Dallas.
Among the Earhart-related information Golden shared with Goerner was the revelation that Earhart and Fred Noonan were brought to the islands of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll by air from Jaluit Atoll by the Japanese in 1937, a fact he learned from Marine Intelligence officers during the American invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.
The below story appeared in the Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune, on Oct. 4, 1977.
“Prober says Amelia Earhart death covered up”
By Richard Williams, Tribune Sun Writer
A high-level Washington official claims the disappearance 40 years ago of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and the mystery shrouding the matter may have been President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s own “Watergate.”
In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, James Golden, director of the Enforcement Division of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), said his years of study of the Earhart case led him to believe Roosevelt knew of her whereabouts and did nothing about it on purpose.
Golden, in Albuquerque to watch city police make arrests in connection with an LEAA-funded storefront operation Friday and Saturday, said all evidence points to Miss Earhart’s being held captive for a year and a half by the Japanese on the South Pacific Island of Saipan.
“And the Japanese reportedly executed her copilot, Fred Noonan, by chopping off his head,” Golden said. “Miss Earhart died the following day of dysentery, the Japanese said, even though she was seen by Saipan natives walking in a compound the day before.”
Golden, who was a Marine intelligence officer when he landed with the fourth wave of Marines in the Marshall Islands in January 1944, said he personally read native accounts of Miss Earhart’s and Noonan’s presence in the islands. [Ed. note: Golden was not an officer, but an enlisted Marine combat photographer assigned to independent duty with the intelligence section of the 4th Marine Division in 1944.)
Miss Earhart, a world-famous pilot, disappeared on July 2, 1937, on a flight from Lea, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the South Pacific. Golden said the subsequent years of his interest in the case and talks with other intelligence officers closely involved with the islands during and after their capture from the Japanese have indicated that Miss Earhart may have been on a spying mission for the U.S. government.
Golden said he used to be an employee of Lockheed Aircraft, which built Miss Earhart’s plane and outfitted it for the flight on which she disappeared. [Ed. note: Golden told me that this was absolutely false. He had never worked for Lockheed.]
“I learned that the aircraft’s regular engines, capable of cruising at 160 miles an hour, were replaced with engines which gave the plane capability of cruising at 220 miles an hour,” Golden said. [Ed. note: To my knowledge, we have no evidence to support this.]
He said that although Miss Earhart’s flight path was originally to avoid islands such as Saipan and Tinian, held by the Japanese since World War I, the greater flying speed could allow her to have made a photographic sweep over the heavily fortified area and still arrive at Howland in the same time it would have taken her to fly direct at the lower speed.
“What really bothers me about the whole thing is that if Miss Earhart was on such a mission and was a prisoner of the Japanese, as she seems to have been, why won’t the government acknowledge the facts and give her the hero’s treatment she deserves?” Golden said.
The reason, Golden has determined, is that Roosevelt hid the truth about Miss Earhart and Noonan, fearing public reaction to the death of a heroine and voter reaction at the polls.
Golden said he bases his feelings on his own knowledge of the affair and the subsequent revelations dug up by Fred Goerner, a freelance investigative reporter from San Francisco, in years of interviews.
As he related the actions of high-level military and government officers in the time around Miss Earhart’s disappearance, it sounded like a cloak-and-dagger story of the first magnitude.
Two Marines [Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks] ordered to dig up the remains of two persons near a hotel in Garapan, a town on Saipan, there remains placed in yellow containers and sent back to the U.S.
A Marine general who personally pulled an airplane from a Japanese hangar on one of the islands and set it afire in the middle of the night after the island was captured from the Japanese. An extensive file, of which Golden read a part, which contained Japanese accounts of the Earhart capture — a file which has floated through several government agencies and “gets thinner every year” and the whereabouts of which are unknown at the moment, Golden said.
“And how about the fact that two of the men who donated $25,000 to Purdue University to fund Miss Earhart’s flight were members of Roosevelt’s National Security Council?” Golden asked. “And how about the fact that the last person to walk Miss Earhart to her plane before the flight was a Navy intelligence officer?”
Golden said his information is that Miss Earhart over-flew Howland and was forced to crash-land on an uninhabited dot of land far from her target. “Apparently, the Japanese had homing devices better than ours, and they captured her and Noonan and the airplane before we could find her,” Golden said.
Golden said he personally read translated native accounts from the island of Roi-Namur in the Marshalls which said the natives recalled a “woman dressed like a man with her short blond hair cut like a man’s and a man with a bandaged head” being held prisoner there for a short time by the Japanese.
The natives said the two were placed on a Japanese freighter and sent away later, apparently to Saipan, Golden recounted.
“The natives said the Japanese referred to the two prisoners as ‘American flier-spies,'” Golden said. Golden said he cannot understand why the government would continue to hide the facts behind the disappearances. “I just hope that someday justice is done, and the woman receives the honor due her for her service to her country,” Golden said. [End of Albuquerque Tribune story.]
Golden passed away suddenly at his home on March 7, 2011 at age 85, though he had encouraged me to hasten my efforts to publish the first edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last (2012), because he felt his time was coming soon. As I wrote in closing “Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga,” in 2015, “We’ll never see the likes of Jim Golden again, and I hope someday we’ll meet in a much better place.”
More on Jim Golden’s amazing life and contributions to the Earhart saga can be found in the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Today we present the conclusion of Fred Goerner’s examination of the Pearl Harbor disaster, which appeared in the Dec. 1, 1991 “This World” Sunday supplement of the San Francisco Chronicle. Not only was Dec. 7, 1941 a day that lived in infamy, it remains an enigma that defies clear answers to the troubling questions that still surround it.
The photo of William F. Friedman, the Japanese pilot’s view, Frederick Joseph Rutland and the Navy map of the ships at Pearl Harbor just prior to the attack have been added to the original content. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
Questions on Codes
The same year, 1967, I began a friendship with Colonel William Friedman, the legendary cryptologist who headed the U.S. Army team that penetrated Japan’s diplomatic code in 1940. A small, trim man given to wearing bow ties, he was both brilliant and delightfully egocentric. There was scarcely a subject about which he did not have a determined opinion.
Though Friedman was restricted by security regulations from discussing codes, including those that had preceded Pearl Harbor, he stated without equivocation that he did not subscribe to the Roosevelt conspiracy theory and believed that Kimmel unfortunately would always wear a mantle of ignominy. Friedman told me of a lengthy classified Pearl Harbor report he had prepared for the National Security Agency some years before, and he suggested that if I could someday engineer its release, the answers would be there.
Friedman died in 1969, but his secret report, written in 1957, has only recently been declassified. His conclusions about Pearl Harbor in many respects parallel those of Admiral Nimitz, though the two had never spoken about the matter.
Friedman believed it was fortunate Kimmel had not been warned before the attack and had not attempted to meet the Japanese force at sea. “Not only would that have been a greater loss of American lives,” he wrote, “but none of our battleships could have been raised and repaired.” Friedman also thought the Japanese had made a massive strategic mistake by failing to attack the American submarine base, fuel depots, dry docks, machine shops and other repair facilities.
With respect to the Japanese diplomatic code, known as Purple, Friedman confirms that the code was first “cracked“ in September 1940, and that American military intelligence continued reading Japanese diplomatic traffic through the end of the war. He also declares without reservation that at no point in any of the intercepted messages was there mention that the initial Japanese target would be Pearl Harbor, nor was there mention of the date or time hostilities were scheduled to begin.
Friedman reveals that two of the ultra-secret Purple code machines — intricate electrically driven rotor devices that were used for decoding Japanese diplomatic messages — had been given to England in January 1941, but none had been sent to Pearl Harbor. While Kimmel believed this to be part of a great conspiracy, Friedman stated that the product of the Purple code would not have provided any insight to Kimmel that had escaped those who were studying the intercepts in Washington, D.C.; thus simple wartime priorities, and no cabal, accounted for the fact that Pearl Harbor did not have the Purple code machines.
Friedman, however, was as puzzled as most Americans as to why the commanders at Pearl Harbor had not been better prepared for an air attack, secret sources notwithstanding.
“U.S. war plans,” he wrote in his secret report, “took into account the possibility that the Japanese might begin a war without a preceding declaration, that is by surprise attack, and although this possibility was placed first on the list of contingencies, with Pearl Harbor as the focal point of the attack, and although the war plans even envisioned that such an attack could come from aircraft flown from carriers, it is an almost inexplicable fact that all of this was forgotten by the end of the same year (1941).”
Inexplicable indeed. Yet neither Friedman nor Nimitz would accept any charges that Roosevelt betrayed his country.
“If Roosevelt was so clever a politician and so Machiavellian in his strategy as to think up a way of maneuvering the Japanese into firing the first shot,” Friedman continued in his report, “should one doubt he lacked the intelligence to have gone one step further?”
If Roosevelt had had such advance knowledge, Friedman reasoned, he could have alerted Pearl Harbor commanders to Japanese intentions and set a powerful trap for the Japanese carrier force. Every available American plane and warship would have descended upon the Japanese and destroyed the entire force before the Japanese carriers could launch their planes. The fact that a Japanese carrier strike force had been caught red-handed within a few hundred miles of Pearl Harbor would have convinced the American public of Japan’s intended surprise attack, and it would not have mattered who fired the first shot. With the heart of the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed as the war began, the capture of Wake Island and the Philippines might have been averted and ultimate victory achieved in a much shorter time with far smaller loss of lives.
Yet Friedman felt there was enough blame for everyone.
“I think Kimmel and Short were not as culpable as I first thought there were back in 1941-1942,” he wrote in his secret 1957 report. “The Washington authorities were culpable, too — maybe a lot more culpable that were these two officers. I think the intelligence services came off rather easily — too easily in the fixing of responsibility and pointing out derelictions. I think the intelligence staff might have used more imagination but this was not because they were staffed with obtuse officers or persons of low-grade intelligence. As a matter of cold fact, they were badly understaffed because in both the Army and Navy intelligence didn’t count. This raised the question: Does it count for more today in the Armed Services?”
Friedman’s 1957 question is still unanswered in 1991, as Congress attempts to chart the future for the Central Intelligence Agency and the dozen other military and civilian intelligence operations charged with providing early warning to American forces.
Almost every month new additions are made to the Pearl Harbor historical record. After three trips to Japan, I finally found the Japanese records that confirmed what had long been rumored. The Japanese violated their own security 16 hours and 10 minutes before the first bombs exploded at Pearl Harbor — by shooting down a British flying boar that had been shadowing the Japanese invasion fleet headed for the Malay Peninsula and Singapore. Thus the first shots of the Pacific War were fired by one Ensign Eiichi Ogata, who first sighted the British plane about 20 miles from the southern tip of Indochina.
Earlier this fall, James Rusbridger, a retired British MI6 secret agent, and Captain Eric Nave, who was a major figure in Britain’s code-breaking efforts against the Imperial Japanese Navy before the Pacific War, published “Betrayal at Pearl Harbor,” in which they allege, with considerable evidence, that the British cryptographers had full command of a top-secret Japanese naval code known as JN-25 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and that Churchill knew the Japanese carrier fleet had sailed toward Hawaii. Churchill, they maintain, did not share that intelligence with Roosevelt. This revelation recalls Nimitz’s admonition, “Particular attention should be paid to what the British knew.”
It may be some time before the world knows what Churchill actually did with his secret intelligence. His records for November and December 1941 carry a 75-year classification, and the records of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters Japanese naval code intercepts prior to Pearl Harbor remain secure behind Britain’s Official Secrets Act.
Rusbridger and Nave believe evidence regarding the British and JN-25 may lie in still-classified American record, but it may be some time before these are released. In 1980, I discovered a huge cache of top-secret records at the U.S. Navy Storage Depot at Crane, Indiana. Many of them deal with the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor.
After seven years of frustrating struggle to gain access to the records, I enlisted the aid of an old friend, Caspar Weinberger, who was then U.S. secretary of defense. Even he could not free then. He wrote to me that there are 14,000 reels of microfilm containing U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps cryptology records in the Crane storage depot, and that each reel holds thousands of documents that will have to be examined page by page. It will be at least 1997 before the Naval Security Group determines whether any of these documents can be declassified.
[Editor’s note: Nothing of substance relative to the Earhart disappearance or Pearl Harbor has ever been found or released from the alleged files at Crane, to my knowledge. I think it’s clear that Goerner was led down the garden path by Vice Adm. Joseph Wenger, who in fact had no intention of helping him during his investigation, and only pretended otherwise. See Truth at Last pages 173, 174, 265-268 for much more on Wenger.]
And then there is the matter of Frederick Rutland, a double agent who spied for Britain’s MI6 against Japan. Recruited by the Japanese in 1937, Rutland moved to Los Angeles and ostensibly became a stockbroker. Actually, he gathered intelligence for Japan about developments in America’s aircraft industry and other military-related businesses and organizations.
Ten days before the Pearl Harbor attack, Rutland suddenly left Los Angeles and made his way to Canada, where he was flown to England aboard a British military aircraft. Upon arrival, he reported to the admiralty. He was held in protective custody during the remainder of the war, and he never returned to America. There are many in England who believe Rutland brought word of Japanese intentions in the Pacific, but his information only buttressed what was already known from Japan’s JN-25 secret code.
Japan, too, is still greatly concerned with the historical record of its 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese government and military seem bent on convincing the uninitiated that Japan intended to officially declare war upon the United States before dropping the bombs.
Lieutenant General Masatake Okumiya, Japan Defense Force (retired), was a 1930 graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and one of the first dive-bomber pilots for the Japanese navy. He participated in the sinking of the U.S.S. Panay in 1937 and served in the diversionary force for the attack on Midway. Okumiya has just published an article, “The Japanese Perspective,” in the Pearl Harbor 50th Anniversary Commemorative Issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History, in which he alleges that the Imperial General Headquarters decided in a December 4, 1941, meeting that Japan must adhere to the international treaty it had signed at The Hague in 1907, and submit a declaration of war to America before attacking Hawaii.
According to Okumiya, it was originally decided to give America one hour’s notice. This was then reduced to 30 minutes. Japan’s ambassadors Kichisaburo Nomura and Saburo Kurusu in Washington, D.C., were ordered to deliver the declaration at a specific time, but because of decoding difficulty at the Japanese Embassy, Nomura and Kurusu were late with the message. Thus, says Okumiya, Japan should not be blamed for a “sneak attack.”
The problem with Okumiya’s rationalization is that the message delivered by Nomura and Kurusu was not a clear declaration of war — late delivery or no. The final lines read more like an ultimatum.
“The Japanese Government regrets to have to notify hereby the American Government that in view of the attitude of the American Government it cannot but consider that it is impossible to reach an agreement through further negotiation.”
Even if the Japanese leaders considered that a proper declaration of war, they must have known that a declaration delivered as your planes are within minutes of their target in not within the spirit of the treaty.
Okumiya also states, without citing any evidence, that “President Franklin Roosevelt had set a trap for Japan: If it were to strike the first blow against the United States, he could use this as a pretext to enter World War II.”
The truth is, for more than a decade Japan had plans for an attack upon Pearl Harbor and a subsequent invasion of the Hawaiian Islands. The Japanese trained for the Pearl Harbor operation for almost a year, and they rejoiced as a nation that America had been caught by surprise.
The Imperial Japanese Navy accomplished what it had set out to do. It temporarily immobilized the American Pacific Fleet. But just as surely, it plunged a dagger into its own and its nation’s heart.
As Admiral Nimitz told me, “In those falling bombs at Pearl Harbor, Japan was hearing the sound of its own defeat. Perhaps nothing could have brought Americans together so completely.”
Readers of this blog know that since its inception in 2012, concurrent with the publication of the first edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, I have focused exclusively on the Earhart disappearance, and virtually all of the 285 posts here deal with Earhart and closely related subjects.
Today we move away from the Earhart case, but only slightly, as we feature a Dec. 1, 1991 San Francisco Chronicle Sunday supplement article about Pearl Harbor by Fred Goerner, the bestselling author of The Search for Amelia Earhart (1966), the foremost Earhart researcher of his or any day, who was also intensely interested in the Pearl Harbor “debacle,” as he called it, and its possible relationship to the Earhart mess. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
I’ve tried to reproduce the original look of the “This World” Sunday supplement, but it’s better to type out much of copy because the multi-column layout doesn’t allow for easy presentation. This is the first of two parts.
tary strategists who had been predicting such an attack for 20 years? If the U.S. military had broken Japanese secret codes, why didn’t somebody know what Japan was going to do?
Six investigations during World War II, and two inquiries in the year after the war, including a joint congressional probe, failed to produce satisfactory answers. Argument continues, and vicious accusations still abound. Hundreds of books and articles have been written about Pearl Harbor trying to assign responsibility to individuals and/or departments of the American government and military. For some the subject is extraordinarily bitter and larded with vituperation.
There are many who allege President Franklin Roosevelt withheld vital intelligence from Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and General Walter C. Short, commander of U.S. Army forces at Pearl Harbor, to allow the attack to occur as a means of branding Japan as an immoral aggressor and to being America into World War II on a time of passionate patriotism. Roosevelt was at once one of the most loved and most hated of America’s presidents. Even 50 years later, dozens of authors and scholars are trying to establish that FDR was somehow a traitor to his country and to the U.S. Navy he loved so much.
And a recently published book alleges that Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew the Japanese carrier fleet was sailing toward Hawaii but, in order to bring the United States into the war, did not share that intelligence with President Roosevelt.
Only now, 50 years later, are historians beginning to understand what really happened on the morning that changed the world.
World War II took more than three years of my own life as I served with the U.S. Navy Seabees in the Pacific, and I had often wondered about the Pearl Harbor debacle. It was not until 1961, however, that a CBS documentary I was writing brought me into contact with Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who commanded U.S. Pacific naval forces during most of the war. It began a friendship that lasted until the admiral’s death in 1966.
Nimitz had been ordered to Pearl Harbor to replace Admiral Kimmell, who would receive the bulk of the blame for American unpreparedness, just days after the attack. Roosevelt directed Nimitz to “get the hell out of Pearl and stay there until the war is won.”
On Christmas morning, 1941, the U.S. Navy flying boat carrying Nimitz circled Pearl Harbor. He could see most of the main anchorage, which was covered with black fuel oil and floating debris. The capsized battleships Oklahoma and Utah were clearly visible, and farther down the harbor he could see Arizona, West Virginia and California sunk in deeper water with only the topsides exposed. Dozens of small power boats were circling in the harbor, picking up the bloated bodies of dead sailors who had been blown off their ships by Japanese bombs and torpedoes. There were 2,403 Americans killed in the attack, including 68 civilians.
Nimitz found Kimmell a disheartened man. A spent bullet had struck Kimmell during the attack, but he had not been wounded. He told Nimitz he wished the bullet had killed him.
Kimmell returned to the U.S. mainland in what many considered to be disgrace. Nimitz restored American confidence, projected American forces across the Pacific and accepted the final Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945.
To my surprise, Nimitz did not consider the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor to be a complete disaster; in fact, he believed it to have been a Japanese strategic failure. He pointed to the inflexibility of the Japanese plan, with its emphasis upon attacking battleships (most of which were later repaired and saw war action) and ignoring Navy storage tanks, which contained 4,500,000 barrels of fuel oil. Had those been destroyed, the U.S. victory in the Pacific might have been delayed six months or more.
Nimitz also felt Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the Japanese attacking force commander, had missed the opportunity to truly disable American forces by limiting the attack to two air strikes. Had the Japanese plan been more bold, an invasion and occupation of the Hawaiian Islands might have succeeded. That would have been a complete disaster for the United States.
As to Kimmel’s responsibility for American unpreparedness for the air attack, Nimitz would not assign it. He called it a “hazard of command“ and he indicated it could have happened to anyone, himself included. He stressed that almost everyone in the U.S. military had believed the Japanese would strike at Malaya and probably Guam and the Philippines. That was a fatal estimation. Instead of stretching its imagination — planning for what the Japanese could do — American military intelligence was busy speculating about what the Japanese would do.
Nimitz felt it might be considered a blessing that Kimmel had not gotten brief notice of the true Japanese intention. He might have commanded the American fleet to sail for open water, and had the Japanese planes bombed and torpedoed the ships there, they would have been lost forever in deep water and the human casualties would have been much greater.
Nimitz also believed that ignorance and arrogance — both American and Japanese — played major roles in Pearl Harbor. In 1941, Americans were generally ignorant about Japan and its people, believing America completely superior in leadership, equipment and fighting ability. The prevalent military and civilian attitude was that Japan would not dare attack America.
At the same time, many in Japan saw America as a weak and divided nation that could never match Japan in spirit and willingness to sacrifice. Japan believed it could overwhelm American forces early in a war, and that America would ask for peace on Japan’s terms.
Nimitz did not accept any of the theories about a Roosevelt conspiracy to withhold information obtained through secret Japanese codes, but he believed it would be many years, perhaps several decades, before highly classified records dealing with American cryptology activities prior to Pearl Harbor would be released and the full truth known. When that day arrived, he admonished, historians should pay particular attention to what exactly the British cryptologists knew before the attack.
In the winter of 1967, I journeyed to see Admiral Kimmel at his home in Groton, Connecticut. It was a cold, snowy day, well matched to his attitude. He was brought into the small living room in a wheelchair. His balding head glistened in the overhead light, and he squinted at me as if trying to determine whether I was friend or foe. At 85, the fire still burned.
To call Kimmel bitter is an understatement. He raged at me. He called Roosevelt a “damned traitor,” and put Adm. Harold Start, the chief of naval operations in 1941, in the same category. “Stark picked me up when I returned to D.C. from Pearl Harbor, and he lied about everything,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel believed that Roosevelt, Stark and Army Chief George Marshall had purposely withheld vital intelligence that would have given him a chance to prepare for the Japanese air attack, and then they had made him the scapegoat, ruining his career and abandoning him to be scorned by history. He told of vile letters he and his family had received over the years and said lies had been told about him and repeated as truth by the media. In anecdote, Kimmel’s wife, Dorothy, was supposed to have returned from Hawaii by plane, mumping wounded Americans so her furniture could accompany her. The truth was, Dorothy Kimmel has not been at Pearl Harbor. The entire story was fabricated.
For more than two hours, Kimmel wove an intricate scenario of disappearing records, reluctant witnesses, deceit and chicanery.
His voice became a shout as he said, “That’s why I’m still living. I’m going to be vindicated! Some people are working on it right now.”
Kimmel died five months later, without the vindication he so wanted. (End of Part I.)