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Amelia Earhart held in Saipan’s Garapan Prison: Was she also buried somewhere nearby?

On the 88th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s solo Atlantic flight, by which she became the first woman and second person to achieve that remarkable feat, we return to a recurring theme in the Earhart saga — the possible location of Amelia’s final resting place.  “THE GARAPAN PRISON . . . Another Incident” appeared in the November 1998 issue of The Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters In his introduction, Bill Prymak wrote, Recently, Don Wilson, author of Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend [Enigma Press, 1994] received a letter from a [person] who had been on Saipan in 1953, long before public interest in the AE disappearance took off in the early 1960s.”  The unnamed person’s letter follows.  Boldface emphasis mine throughout.

I arrived on Saipan in early summer of 1953, for a tour of duty.  Two or three months later, by which time I and others had pretty thoroughly explored the island, the subject of Amelia Earhart came up, probably during a dinner party.  We all remembered the story of Amelia’s disappearance many years earlier, and that she may have been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan, assuming that her plane went down elsewhere than Saipan. A few days later I was talking with a Chamorran  native, a male about mid-thirties in age, and I asked him about Amelia.  He offered to take me and one or two other friends to the prison where she and Fred Noonan had been held.  A day or two thereafter we followed the Chamorran into a fairly heavily overgrown area near where the headquarters of the prewar Japanese sugar and tapioca business was located.

The smaller of the two Garapan Prison cell blocks, often reserved for “special” prisoners and females, according to some reports, where several witnesses reported that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were held after their arrival on Saipan in the summer of 1937.  “It also seems to be a consensus that she [Earhart] was kept in the cell block on the left,” Guam researcher Tony Gochar wrote in July 2015.  “This cell is the closet to the office building and would have been the quickest for the Japanese to have access to her.  After seeing the compound I am convinced she was in the small building and her cell was on the left.”  (Courtesy Tony Gochar.)

The main building was roofless and the walls were in bad shape from the bombings that occurred during the American invasion.  Beyond the headquarters building in the direction of Garapan, but I would guess to be about halfway between Chalan Kanoa and Garapan, we came to a small clearing in which stood the remains of a jail.  As I remember, there were four cells and the second cell from the right was pointed out to us as the one in which Amelia was kept.  Fred was in the one to the far left.

As I recall, the cells were about five by eight feet in dimension so the entire cell block was only twenty some feet long.  The paint on the interior of the cells was faded and chipped and open to the elements because the roof was missing.  There was no floor, just sand and coral.  The wall of her cell had faded writings, scratchings really, which were unintelligible except for those made by an American GI, a corporal, who may have been locked up for a few days for some misdemeanor or, more likely, simply scratched his name and date while visiting the cells as I was.

Father Sylvan Conover with eyewitness Jesús Bacha Salas, a Chamorro farmer who was held at Garapan Prison between 1937 and 1944 for fighting with a Japanese soldier.  Fred Goerner reported that “sometime during 1937 a white woman was placed in the next cell [beside Salas], but kept there only a few hours.  He saw the woman only once but gave a description of her that fitted those given by the other witnesses.  The guards told him the woman was an American pilot the Japanese had captured.” (Photo by Fred Goerner, Courtesy Lance Goerner.)

My Chamorran guide said that Amelia was kept there for an unspecified period of time and then executed and buried in the jungle beyond the cell block fifty yards or so.  Fred met a similar fate, according to him.

Please bear in mind two things: one is that I was not in search of Amelia at that time.  It was just a curious thing that I happened to find myself in a spot on which a very interesting event took place.  I now wish I had spent a lot more time questioning my Chamorran friend and looking farther afield for other natives who might have knowledge.  Second, in 1953 there was no public interest that I was aware of in Amelia’s fate and surely there was no excitement on the part of the native population in the story that would have served to whet their appetites or imagination and produced exaggerated details.

This appears to be the back of the same prison block. Wilson’s photo caption says only, “Amelia’s cell window — the closest one.”

The attitude at the time amongst all of us including the Chamorros was sort of ho-hum, isn’t this interesting.  So I am quite willing to accept the story told to me by the Chamorran.  Whether he acquired his story from other credible sources, from stories circulated by the Japanese to suit their own purposes, or saw any portions of the story himself, I don’t know.  Nor was a time frame hung on this scenario.  Amelia and Fred went down in 1937.  I was there 16 years later.  My Chamorran friend didn’t say when Amelia and Fred were brought there, from where, or when they were executed.  If he did, then I have forgotten that part.  I did not scratch around for graves.  The undergrowth was much too thick for that.  I simply took his word for what he said because he would have had no ulterior motive.  I had not offered to pay him, nor did I.

So, Don, that is the extent of my recollection.  I realize it offers you nothing new and may only confuse matters even more than they are now.  I wish I could have been more useful.  I shall now open your book for the first time and read with interest what you have acquired.

Good Luck.  (End of letter.)

This is the inside of the cell at Saipan’s old Garapan prison that is said to have been occupied by Amelia Earhart. Former Marine and Saipan veteran Henry Duda took it during his visit to Saipan for the 50th anniversary of the historic 1944 Battle of Saipan. Note the larger square area at the bottom center of the barred window, which is where the food door was located.

DON WILSON’s response to this letter, in part, was as follows:

I really appreciate the detailed information you sent me about your experiences on Saipan regarding accounts of, Amelia Earhart.  You stated that We all remembered the story of Amelia’s disappearance many years earlier and that she may have been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan.”  This statement surprised me because I was not aware that people had been talking very much about her being taken to Saipan until after the investigations began in the 1960’s.  As I mention in my book, there were some American servicemen both in the Marshalls and on Saipan who had some information during WWII regarding Amelia.  But to my knowledge these accounts were not widely publicized in the ’50s.

It was fascinating to read about your recollection of the jail and the four cells in one of the cell blocks.  It was especially interesting to read that your source indicated different cells for both Fred and Amelia than my source. But that’s OK, and does not discredit the tact that Amelia and Fred may well have been imprisoned there.

You wrote that you wished that you “could have been more useful.”  Actually, your account is significant to me because of the early date — 1953 — in which your experiences occurred.  Many people were interviewed years later, but yours is the earliest account that am aware of where Americans talked with the islanders about Amelia and Fred after WWII.  I would agree that they had no ulterior motive for their accounts.

When you have a chance I would appreciate any comments that you might want to make about my book. You may or may not agree with my conclusions, but I would like to know your thoughts.

Don Wilson provided this photo of a sketching from the inside of the cell that he believed was occupied by Amelia Earhart.  He was told that a Japanese guard was the artist, but not the date of its creation.  Who really can say?  

I would like to be able to share what you have written to me with other members of the Amelia Earhart Society.  A newsletter is published several times a year for the benefit of the 100 or so members who have an interest in the fate of Amelia and Fred, and who from time to time come up with bits of information which they share with fellow members.  Much of my resource material came from the newsletters of the society.

May I have your permission to send the information you sent me to the editor of the newsletter?  An issue will be coming out in a few weeks and your material could be included in that newsletter.  It would also be helpful if you could give your name and your reason for being on Saipan.  But I leave that up to you.

Members of the Society simply are trying to find out what really happened.  They do so at their own expense, and are not engaged in fund raising for any special projects.  The Society does not have an officialposition as to what happened to Fred and Amelia, but welcomes information from any source.  Despite years of work, and extensive travel by some members, there are still many unanswered questions, and many conflicting opinions.

Best Wishes, Don

The 7-by 8-inch steel door through which food may have been passed to
Amelia Earhart while she was held prisoner in Garapan Prison, Saipan, in 1937. Thomas E. Devine observed this door and various inscriptions on the prison wall during the American invasion of Saipan in 1944.  The door was retrieved by a native islander on Saipan, and is now in the possession of Deanna Mick, a pilot who co-owned an inter-island charter service from Saipan. (Photo courtesy of Deanna Mick, circa 1994.)

Note that the person who wrote this letter to Don Wilson, apparently a former member of the U.S. military — he mentions a tour of duty”   — and almost certainly a male, did not want Wilson to know his name.  This is not a rare phenomenon in Earhart research. 

I still haven’t posted my story about a fourth U.S. flag officer — another admiral, this one on active duty in the early 1980s — who stated that Earhart and Noonan died on Saipan.  The man who provided the information to me — a retired Navy officer himself — refuses to have his name associated with the Earhart story, or what he obviously considers to be the wrong side of it.

His fear is real, but entirely unfounded.  This man and other former high ranking officers I’ve encountered who refuse to lend their names to this cause don’t inspire my faith in humanity, or my hope that our deeply corrupt establishment will ever do the right thing in the Earhart case.  Although the relatively scant numbers of those who care about the Earhart disappearance continue to dwindle as I write, this sacred cow has long been among the Deep State’s most revered, and the documents that reveal the truth will stay out of public hands unless and until a U.S. president decides the time has come.  

The unidentified letter writer wasn’t the first to suggest that Earhart might have been buried near the prison, but most of the native witnesses pointed to other locations on Saipan, most often the Liyang Cemetery, south of Garapan, where Marine Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks were ordered by Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold to excavate a gravesite several feet outside of the Liyang Cemetery in late July or early August 1944.  This incident is detailed in Chapter 13 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Lasttitled “Griswold, Henson and Burks.”

Japanese crematorium on Saipan circa 1944. (Courtesy Marie Castro.)

In late October 2017, Ms. Carla Henson, daughter of the late Everett Henson Jr., contacted me about her father’s experience on Saipan.  To read more about Carla, her father and the Saipan gravesite incident in 1944, please see my Dec. 26, 2017 post, KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”

For extended discussions on several of the more prominently alleged Earhart gravesites on Saipan, please see pages 219-231, 233-240 and 245-249 in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at LastOther suggested locations include Arlington National Cemetery and the basement of Amelia’s birthplace museum in Atchison, Kansas.

And let’s not forget the real possibility that Amelia may not have been buried at all, but cremated and her ashes scattered to the wind, as Saipan eyewitnesses Matilde F. Arriola, Joaquina Cabrera and others were told.  In May 2018, Marie Castro presented Jose Sadao Tomokane, who claimed to have been an eyewitness to Earhart’s cremation.

For more about Tomakane and other witnesses, please see my May 18, 2018 post, “Marie Castro, a treasure chest of Saipan history, Reveals previously unpublished witness accounts.”

Morgenthau papers could reveal Earhart truth

Today we return to the matter of the “one-way” phone conversation between Henry Morgenthau Jr., U.S. treasury secretary and confidante of President Franklin D. Roosevelt,, and Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider,  Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary, on the morning of May 13, 1938.  Via Dictaphone, we have long had Morgenthau’s side of this conversation, which is interesting indeed.  The document first appeared in the 1987 book Amelia: My Courageous Sister, by Muriel Earhart Morrissey, Amelia’s sister, and researcher Carol L. Osborne. 

The late Col. Rollin Reineck’s distinguished Air Force career spanned 30 years, and his work is well known to readers of this blog.  The mercurial Reineck served with great distinction as a B-29 navigator flying from Saipan in action against mainland Japan.  In his Earhart work, Reineck was at times brilliant, at others less than coherent (see my Dec. 29, 2015 series of posts, starting with Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV).

During a patch of clarity, Reineck wrote at length about the Morgenthau incident in a piece titled “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection,” which appeared in the January 1997  edition issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  “Today, it ranks as one of the most compelling pieces of circumstantial evidence we have in our search for the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart,” Reineck wrote.  The memo is unclassified and was probably overlooked when they screened the Morgenthau files that were to be made public and put in the Hyde Park Library. To date, it is the only document concerning Earhart in his archival material. . . . [T]here was one person, more than anyone else, who probably knew the answer as to what happened on the fateful day in early July, 1937.  That one person was Henry Morgenthau Jr., the secretary of the treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” 

My own take on the Morgenthau phone conversation, Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?appeared on this blog on March 31, 2015.  The below letter from Joe Gervais was presented by Bill Prymak in the October 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society NewslettersBoldface, italic and caps emphasis both mine and in original AES Newsletter article.

Henry Morgenthau Jr., FDR’s treasury secretary and confidante, is captured in a familiar pose in this undated photo taken about the time of his conversation with Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider.  We can safely assume that Morgenthau knew everything that FDR knew about the fate of Amelia Earhart.

EDITOR’S [Prymak] NOTE: The following reveals that secret papers relating to the Earhart mystery, are still cached in the basement of the US TREASURY DEPARTMENT, labelled ‘TOP SECRET’ after 62 years!  Why can’t the papers be released?  Do we need to send Harrison Ford or Rambo to retrieve these papers’?  Are these papers being denied because they could damage US-Japanese relations?  Far Fetched?  Read and judge for yourself.

Dear Bill,

Reference the below page of Senator [Daniel] Akaka’s report of March 1991.  Gervais, [Randall] Brink, [John] Luttrell, [Dean] Magley, [Rollin] Reineck, Senator [Daniel] Inouye, and Senator Akaka have all been denied access to those 12 boxes.  This cover-up by the executive branch of government is similar to the [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower/Gary Powers affair.  This is a case of international magnitude between the U.S. and Japan.  We have received no help from our ambassadors to Japan, such as [Edwin] Reischouer, [Douglas] McArthur [II], [Michael J.] Mansfield, [Walter F.] Mondale, etc.  Why not put this on the Internet?

Joe [Gervais]

[Below is from Sen. Daniel Akaka’s (D-Hawaii) March 1991 report]

Senator Henry Morgenthau Jr.:

I’ve been given a verbal report.  If we’re going to release this it’s just going to smear the whole reputation of Amelia Earhart. . . . and if we ever release the report of the ITASCA on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she has is gone. . . . and I know now Amelia Earhart disregarded all orders. . . . What happened to her the last few minutes.  I hope I’ve just got to never make it public . . . I mean what happened.  It isn’t a very nice story. . . . And, we have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else.

After reading the referenced memo of Secretary Morgenthau and comparing it with what we know today about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, I can certainly understand Col. Reineck’s assertion that there is a great deal more Amelia Earhart material in Secretary Morgenthau’s files or in the Treasury Department that has not been released and is still being withheld from the public.

In this regard, I also understand why Col, Reineck believes it is strange that of all the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. papers in the F.D.R. library at Hyde Park, only this one — albeit very significant, makes any reference to Amelia Earhart.  Col. Reineck wonders whether this material was somehow accidentally overlooked when the Secretary’s papers were screened for public release by the government.

Col. Reineck advised me that other researchers who are colleagues of his, namely, Mr. Merrill D. Magley and Mr. John F. Luttrell, have tried through the normal Freedom of Information Actchannels to obtain additional information  from your department without success.  This is true, Col. Reineck informed me, even though they had pin-pointed box containers T-33A and T-33B in the basement of the Treasury Department behind a locked metal wire cage as the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. files for 1937 and 1938.  One of your personnel, Ms. Karen Cameron, described the material as relating to Amelia Earhart, but denied access on the basis of its being classified “TOP SECRET.”  (End of Akaka report.)

Eleanor Roosevelt, Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider and Edith Helm, Washington, D.C. 1941.

As I said in my March 31, 2015 presentation, plenty of room exists for different interpretations of Morgenthau’s statements as recorded on the Dictaphone.  Without having Mrs. Scheider’s side of it, we can never know for sure exactly what these two were really saying.

I have no doubts about two points relative to it, however.  First, despite the treasury secretary’s thrice-repeated concern about the “reputation of Amelia Earhart” and how he wanted to protect it, I am convinced that Morgenthau cared only about the reputation of his boss, FDR, and how public knowledge of the truth in the Earhart matter would affect FDR’s political future. 

Secondly, by May 1938 if not much earlier, Morgenthau was fully aware of Earhart’s captivity on Saipan and her probable if not certain death in Japanese hands.  Based on Morgenthau’s comments to Scheider, many of which make little or no sense without Scheider’s replies, it’s difficult to believe that she was among the few who had been brought into the small circle of those who knew the unhappy truth, which would have been so deadly to FDR and his administration’s future.

Perhaps the most important question arising from the Morgenthau-Scheider phone conversation is this: What did Morgenthau mean when he said, “Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders”?  Whose orders?  To do what?  And how did she disregard them?  Some have attempted to explain Morgenthau’s reference to Earhart’s disregard for orders as her failure to follow the planned radio schedule and protocols between her and Itasca, but if that was the case, why all the secrecy on Morgenthau’s part?

And what are we to make of Morgenthau’s reference to “all those wireless messages”?  Is he referring to some or all of the alleged “post-loss” radio messages that some believe came from Earhart in her downed Electra?  Or others that remain undiscovered in top-secret files?

For more, see Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?” 

 

Smithsonian rejection letters to Briand Jr., others: Classics of sophistry in the Amelia Earhart saga

In an April 3 comment  Les Kinney sent in response to my post of that same day,Revisiting the ’82 Smithsonian Earhart Symposium,” Les wrote: “Joe Gervais, Don Kothera, and Vincent Loomis all asked to speak at [the 1982] symposium.  All were denied.  Only Fred Goerner represented the Japanese capture theory.”  (Boldface and italic emphasis mine throughout.)

Three weeks later Les sent me a copy of a June 1982 letter from Ms. Claudia Oaks, then curator of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, to Paul Briand Jr.  In her June 6 missive, dripping with condescension, Oakes deigned to inform Briand that he wasn’t important enough to stand and deliver the truth about Amelia’s tragic end to the sophisticates who would be populating the peanut gallery at the Smithsonian’s Earhart Symposium later that month.   

Recall that Briand’s 1960 book Daughter of the Sky sparked the real modern-day search for Amelia Earhart, and that without it, Fred Goerner’s famed 1966 epic, The Search for Amelia Earhart, would never have been written.  Les has a similar Oakes letter to Kothera; Gervais and Loomis must have also received them. 

The Smithsonian has long been a central repository of Earhart disinformation — ground zero, as it were, for the establishment’s ongoing commitment to keeping the ugly truth hidden from those of the unwashed incurious enough to rely on government institutions to tell them the truth about America’s history, which is about 99.99 percent of the populace.  Oakes’ letter, below, is a prime example of the carefully crafted mendacity we’ve come to expect from the revered Smithsonian.

Oakes begins her litany of deceit by informing Briand that “half the program [will be] devoted not to her disappearance but to her life. . . . We want the day to be more devoted to Amelia Earhart, the person and the pilot, than to the mystery of her disappearance.”  Does anyone know the precise origin of, or who planted the seed that bloomed into the Smithsonian’s 1982 Earhart symposium?  After 45 years and hundreds of magazine stories, biographies, movies, documentaries, billboards and ads, all celebrating and trumpeting Amelia Earhart’s amazing life, are we to believe that the Smithsonian brain trust actually thought their symposium was needed to preserve Amelia’s legacy? 

Does anyone buy that?  My guess is that the initial impetus for the event was created by the growing, annoying realization among the anointed that Briand Jr., Goerner, Gervais, Loomis and Kothera had all found aspects of the same truth, which would soon be further disseminated to the masses by Loomis’ 1985 book Amelia Earhart: The Final Story and Thomas E. Devine’s Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident two years later.  More than likely, the Smithsonian elites felt something needed to be done to derail this train of Earhart enlightenment before it sped out of control and exposed their sacred cow to danger.  They needn’t have worried.  Besides being dishonest, they were also quite paranoid, failing to understand how effective many decades of government and media propaganda had been in keeping nearly everyone either ignorant or disinterested about the so-calledEarhart Mystery.” 

Oakes, in her officious gibberish, was actually saying that the Smithsonian could handle Fred Goerner, whose ideas, though generally accepted by many if not most of the 400,000 who had made Search a bestseller in 1966, had been vilified and rejected by virtually the entire literary and historical establishment.  Goerner by himself was tolerable, but things could get very uncomfortable if truth tellers such as Briand , Gervais, Loomis and Kothera were to chime in with their findings in support of the unhappy facts Goerner uncovered in four visits to Saipan in the early 1960s.

Thus nobody should be surprised that Oakes tells Briand,Therefore, there are only two spaces on the program for speakers who will talk about her disappearance.  These two [Goerner and the silver-tongued Elgen Long, the poster boy for the government’s crashed-and-sank verdict of 1937, rapidly becoming an anachronism by 1982] were selected after much consideration and with the knowledge, of course, that not everyone would agree with our choices.”  And where was it written that only enough time would be allotted for these two to speak about Amelia’s disappearance, one of them the best-known and most vocal of the double-talking proponents of the false government narrative?  (TIGHAR would not appear on the Earhart scene for several more years.)  Never mind. 

Former Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Curator Claudia Oaks appears in a June 2012 Rome (Ga.) News Tribune story about her retirement from Chieftains Museum, also known as the Major Ridge Home, a log house of 1792 in Cherokee country, within present-day Rome, Ga.  It was the home of the Cherokee leader Major Ridge.  “Retiring Chieftains Director Claudia Oakes is donating commemorative swatches of original aircraft for auction,” the cutline reads.  “Here she is shown with a swatch from a Curtiss NC-4, one of the group of planes commanded by native Roman John H. Towers in his attempted Transatlantic crossing in 1919.  (Doug Walker / RN-T.com).”

Our aim, however,Oakes continued in the same mendacious vein, was not a public debate on theories as to her ultimate fate but a program that would highlight her life, her flying career, and her contributions to aviation, with some attention to, but not emphasis on, her disappearance.”  The emphasis, of course, was on obscuring, deflecting and ultimately burying the truth about Amelia’s Saipan death with enough sugar-coated glorification, distraction and nonsense to keep the majority of the sheeple content, and that’s what happened:  Another stage-managed Earhart disinformation production sold and in the can. 

I have my own brief but inglorious history with the Smithsonian and its confreres, as my posts of Jan. 18, 2015, Smithsonian mag throws “Truth at Last” a bone: Says, “it’s possible . . . Campbell is on to something and Aug. 6, 2019, After five days and publication of this blog post, Smithsonian mag approves my Earhart comment clearly attest.  Nothing in the Smithsonian’s behavior with me or anyone else invested in the truth has ever given me the slightest reason to trust them in any way when it comes to the Earhart matter.

Included in the former of the two Truth at Last posts cited above, Smithsonian mag throws “Truth at Last” a bone,are several paragraphs from my Earhart Disappearance Position StatementBecause this truth cannot be over-emphasized and has yet to be accepted by more than a scant few, I present the below excerpts, as these are more than appropriate for this particular post. 

The Big Lie: The “Great Aviation Mystery”

This PRINCIPLE, which has become one of my constant memes, is that the very idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is a “great aviation mystery” is among the biggest lies in American history.  So effective has the U.S. government been in inculcating and maintaining this idea into the official historical narrative that it has become a normal piece of our cultural furniture, accepted without question by all but the few who care to closely examine this longtime canard, this straw man our establishment created so long ago to protect its own interests.

. . . Thus, when the Earhart disappearance is analyzed or examined by people we would normally consider intelligent, like Tom Crouch [who replaced Claudia Oakes and retired as Air and Space curator in 2018], all established, traditional rules of investigation, including objective evaluation of evidence, logic and the scientific approach, become virtually nonexistent and non-applicable.

Undated photo of Paul Briand Jr. (left) and Joe Gervais, Earhart researchers whose findings, as well as those of Vincent V. Loomis and Don Kothera, firmly established Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s Marshall Islands landing and Saipan deaths, were determined not worthy to speak at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum’s 1982 Earhart Symposium by Claudia Oakes and her Smithsonian associates.

Les Kinney ended his April 3 comment with another fascinating nugget, this one concerning researcher Don Kothera and former Marines Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, whose story was the subject of my Dec. 26, 2017 post,KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”

“As part of their June 1982 trip to Washington, D.C., the Kotheras tried to get Marines Headquarters to interview Billy Burks and Ev Henson on the record about their grave digging episode on Saipan [in 1944] directed by Marine Captain Tracy Griswold,” Les wrote.  “The Kotheras even had signed affidavits from Henson and Burks.  The Marines refused the Kothera request.  I wonder why.”

Goerner appeals to Amelia’s sister in 1966 letter

The official record offers us little about what Amelia Earhart’s sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, thought and did about her older sister’s tragic disappearance.  In fact, Muriel was basically AWOL, at least publicly, and her few words and actions suggested that she likely accepted the government narrative.  

This letter appeared in the March 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and has been presented on this blog previously, in an Oct. 12, 2015 post titled, Goerner and Devine reach out to Muriel Morrissey: Did Amelia’s sister know more than she let on? I present it again because other relevant information, not presented here before, will be added following its conclusion, and it never hurts to re-examine salient clues about the Earhart saga, especially those that concern her family. 

Boldface emphasis is mine; italic emphasis is in the AES version, and I assume in Goerner’s as well, though can’t know for sure. 

Mrs. Albert Morrissey                                                  August 31, 1966
One Vernon Street 
West Medford, Massachusetts

Dear Mrs. Morrissey:

Your letter of the 27th meant a great deal to me.

I can’t begin to tell you how I have agonized over continuing the investigation into Amelia’s disappearance and writing the book which Doubleday is just now publishing.  I know how all of you have been tortured by the rumors and conjectures and sensationalism of the past years.

I want you to know that I decided to go ahead with the book last December at the advice of the late Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who had become my friend and helped me with the investigation for several years.  He said, “it (the book) may help produce the justice Earhart and Noonan deserve.”  The Admiral told me without equivocation that Amelia and Fred had gone down in the Marshalls and were taken by the Japanese and that this knowledge was documented in Washington.  He also said that several departments of government have strong reasons for not wanting the information to be made public.  

Grace Muriel Morrissey Earhart, Amelia’s beloved “Pidge,” passed away at 98 on March 2, 1998. “She was really a very sweet, gentle woman and she was really devoted to Medford,” her son-in-law Adam Kleppner told the Atchison Daily Globe. “She embodied a lot of old-fashioned virtues, responsibility, loyalty — things we seem to be in short supply of today.”

Mrs. Morrissey, regardless of what the State and Navy Departments may have told you in the past, classified files do exist.  I and several other people, including Mr. Ross Game, the Editor of Napa, California REGISTER and Secretary of The Associated Press, actually have seen portions of these files and have made notes from their contents.  This material is detailed in the book.  I am sure that we have not yet been shown the complete files, and General Wallace M. Greene Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps in  Washington, refuses to confirm or deny the testimony of many former marines that the personal effects of Amelia and Fred and their earthly remains were recovered in 1944.

Please believe what I am saying.  If justice is to be achieved, it may require your assistance.  You know I have the deepest respect for Amelia and Fred.  My admiration for their courage has no limits.  They should receive their proper place in the history of this country.  A San Francisco newspaper editor wrote the other day that Amelia and Fred should be awarded the Congressional Medals of Honor for their service to this country.  I completely concur.

I shall be in Boston sometime toward the end of September or early October.  I hope that I can meet with you at that time and bring you up to date on all of our efforts.

My very best wishes to you and Chief.” *

Sincerely,

Fred Goerner
CBS News, KCBS Radio
San Francisco 94105

Fred Goerner at KCBS San Francisco, circa 1966. (Courtesy Merla Zellerbach.)

I have no response from Muriel in my limited files, but believe she probably did reply to Goerner’s cordial missiveMuriel’s role in the Earhart saga has always been a topic for speculation, especially considering her media silence about the overwhelming evidence Goerner brought back from Saipan.  Some have suggested that Muriel could have been informed of the truth by the U.S. government at some point, in exchange for her cooperative silence.  I think that’s possible, but we’ll probably never know for sure on this side of the Great Veil.

In a 1970 letter from Muriel to J. Gordon Vaeth, she thanked him for sending her a copy of the little known 1970 book, Before the Eagle Landed, an aviation history by the editors of the Air Force Times.  She told Vaeth that she appreciated his “factual, unemotional reporting, which will, I am sure, do much toward debunking the tales begun by Captain Paul Briand [Jr.] and continued with a sad, poorly written, unproven story, Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan [1969] by a Cleveland veterinarian [Joe Davidson].”

If Muriel’s letter to Vaeth, once a staunch Goerner supporter before inexplicably becoming a stubborn, confirmed crashed-and-sanker, is any indication, she clearly wasn’t moved by Goerner’s appeal, nor had she been informed about the truth by the U.S. government or anyone else, at least at that time.  Muriel made few public statements from then until her death in 1998, and what she may have learned or believed during the intervening years is anyone’s guess.  Her mother, Amy Otis Earhart, was far more forthcoming. 

For example, we have Amy’s statement to the Los Angeles Times in July 1949, in which she revealed that she knew almost precisely what had happened to Amelia: “I am sure there was a Government mission involved in the flight, because Amelia explained there were some things she could not tell me. I am equally sure she did not make a forced landing in the sea,” Amy said.  “She landed on a tiny atoll – one of many in that general area of the Pacific – and was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, under Japanese control.”

For much more on Amy, Muriel and Thomas E. Devine’s strange encounter with Amelia’s sister, if only as a reminder, please click here.

Amy Morrissey Kleppner at Purdue University, November 2018.  Photo courtesy of Purdue Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.

(* “Chiefwas Albert Morrissey, a World War I veteran, who Muriel married in 1929 and passed away in 1979 at 81.  They had two children, David, now deceased, and Amy Morrissey Kleppner, 88, alive and well in Wardsboro, Vt.)  

Kleppner, a 1952 graduate of Smith College, continued her education while working various jobs, earning both masters and doctoral degrees.  She taught philosophy at several universities and later taught English at Walt Whitman High School, in Bethesda, Md., and has never spoken out on behalf of the truth about her famous aunt’s tragic fate.  

In a November 2018 interview by David Ching in Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts THINK Magazine, Purdue students help Earhart’s niece explain aviator’s feminist legacy,” Amy explained her lack of interest in the Earhart disappearance:

“(Solving the mystery) never seemed that important to me,” said Kleppner, who only met her famous aunt a couple of times as a small child before Earhart’s disappearance.  “I know that lots of people are much more intrigued by it.  I have good friends who are really intrigued by it and really want to get to the end of it.  It hasn’t bothered me because, as I say, I think her legacy was her life and what she accomplished.  She was very lucky, but she seized the moment.  She had the opportunity and she did something with it, which had nothing to do with making money or being famous.  It had to do with promoting the causes that she thought were important.

Amy’s evasion in the THINK Magazine article is nothing more than a cop-out by a woman who apparently lacks the fortitude to deal with the Earhart problem in any forthright way.  While there’s still time, someone should ask Amy why she has so little interest about how, where and why her aunt died, and why she doesn’t seem to care that Amelia herself would certainly want the world to learn the ugly, unfortunate truth, which has been hiding in plain sight for decades.  I seriously doubt that will ever happen.

Dean Magley, Wally Schirra and Amelia Earhart

As researcher Dean Magley referenced in his June 1992 letter to Joe Gervais, today we present Magley’s strange account of his brief encounters with famed astronaut Wally Schirra, beginning in 1979.  The following item appeared in the August 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  Bold emphasis is mine throughout; underline emphasis is in the AES entry. 

“WALLY SCHIRRA AND AMELIA EARHART”
(From the personal memoirs of Dean Magley.)

In October 1979, the Rockford Airport Authority held a public Airport Appreciation Days[sic].  In addition to static displays of military and airline planes, Wally Schirra one of the original seven astronauts was asked to appear and give a short talk.

Representing my employer, WREX-TV, I was one of a handful of local people asked to go to Milwaukee on a Coleman Airline plane to pick up Wally.  He had just completed a public appearance for his new employer, Realty World.  You recall he made TV commercials for them having retired from NASA earlier.

Astronaut Wally Schirra graces the cover of the May 16, 1967 issue of Life magazine.  Schirra was an American naval aviator, test pilot and NASA astronaut.  In 1959, he became one of the original seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury, which was the United States’ first effort to put human beings into space.  On Oct. 3, 1962, he flew the six-orbit, nine-hour, Mercury-Atlas 8 mission, in a spacecraft he nicknamed Sigma 7.  At the time of his mission in Sigma 7, Schirra became the fifth American and ninth human to travel into space, and was the first astronaut to go into space three times.  According to Dean Magley, Schirra also possessed inside knowledge about the fate of Amelia Earhart.  Schirra died in May 2007.

On the return flight Wally sat across the aisle from me.  I asked my favorite question, “What do you hear from Amelia?”  He laughed and said, “I suppose you mean Amelia Earhart?”  I nodded yes.  He added, “Some people think she is alive and living on the east coast.” [sic] I told him I am one of those.  He laughed again and our conversation ended. 

After his talk at the airport, Realty World offices in this area gave a reception for him at the motel where he spent the night.  On my way there I stopped to pick up my wife so that she might meet him.  As we approached him he had a big smile on his face and was shaking hands with everyone.  When it was our turn, he looked at me, wiped the smile off his face and in a very serious voice said, “You’re the fellow who was on the plane this afternoon and asked about Amelia Earhart.”  I admitted it was me  He said, “I can tell you that as of yesterday, or at the most two days ago, she was alive.  I can’t give you proof, as such — but, as of no more than two days ago she was alive.”

With that he turned away, put on the big smile and greeted others.  Later I phoned and wrote to him at his home.  He would not acknowledge any communication. 

In June, 1986, Wally returned to Rockford for a speaking engagement.  I accompanied our news crew which was to interview him.  When they finished, I asked that the cameras keep rolling.

Joe Gervais (left), the father of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam theory, and Joe Klaas, his right-hand man and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a typical news photo from The Washington Post in late 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation.

I introduced myself and reminded him of our 1979 conversation.  He turned on the big smile and said he recalled our meeting because few people bring up the topic.  He stated that just a few days prior (in 1979) he had been in Florida and someone had given him that information.  He was very gracious but would not supply the name of that person.  (End of Magley account.)

What, if anything, can we take from Magley’s story?  Did the famed astronaut really have inside information about Amelia Earhart?  Clearly Magley thought it was possible, but this was 1979 and much that we know now was not widely disseminated. 

The fact that Magley knew Joe Gervais well enough to write him a fairly lengthy summary of the 1982 Earhart Symposium tells us that he was likely sympathetic, at a minimum, with Gervais’ contention that Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart returned from Japan’s Imperial Palace following World War II, as was presented in the infamous 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives.  If Magley could believe this all-time whopper from Gervais, he could believe anything.  We should all know better.

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