Goerner’s interviews with radio expert Joe Gurr

Between 1970 and 1987, on at least two occasions and possibly more, Fred Goerner interviewed Joseph Gurr, a flight dispatcher for United Airlines in 1937 and a radio expert who “volunteered” to help Amelia Earhart with her new Electra’s recently installed radio equipment at some unspecified date prior to her first world flight attempt in March 1937.  

Earhart researcher and Amelia Earhart Society member Cam Warren compiled the following excerpts of the Goerner-Gurr interviews, and the following article appeared in the February 1999 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.    This is the first of three parts.

Joseph Gurr was a flight dispatcher for United Airlines, Burbank, in 1937.   Station Manager John Kimball was his boss and, according to Gurr, he was “a distant cousin” of Amelia.  Kimball was also a good friend of Paul Mantz.

Earhart had just returned from New York with her new airplane, where Bell Labs had worked on the radio equipment.  However, Amelia had not been able to communicate with anyone, nor pick up the radio ranges on the trip.  Gurr had radio experience, so volunteered I had a day off, I think the next day, and I went out there in the morning and found all sorts of little simple things like somebody forgot to connect the antenna lead, and the receiver didn’t work.  I connected it and it worked.  Then I thought if that is the way it is, maybe I’d better check the whole thing over.  It was probably all O.K. except for simple things.”

This was a couple of months before the first attempt — the abortive flight to Honolulu.  Gurr met Harry Manning, and got to know him quite well.  He was a ham radio operator — he knew the code.  Obviously, he was a navigator of the first order.  He was the captain of a very fine ship [and] he was a gentleman of the first order.

In the only photo of Joseph Gurr I have in my files, we see Amelia with Gurr at Burbank, Calif., before her second world flight attempt in June 1937.  Interviewed by Fred Goerner in 1984, Gurr said he had constructed a new top-side antenna on Earhart’s Electra that could be used in a forced landing as long as the storage batteries and transmitter remained above water.  Other experts disagree.

He was very thorough — as an example [Earhart’s] safety equipment.  I will never forget the day he rolled all of it out on the apron.   All the safety gear they were going to use; life-rails and all the various things we had in those days.  A kite — we even flew the kite.  The fellows in the hangar thought that was pretty silly. . . . This man was steeped in safety as the captain of his ship, and he was testing this gear out.   I’ll never forget that — and I helped him.  I was taking gear out of the airplane and going through it with a fine-tooth comb. 

For an antenna, [she] had this trailing wire.  I’ve had some experience with trailing wires. In those days, a nice long wire was very efficient. . . . [But] there were difficulties. . . . You forgot to roll the thing in, you come in for a landing [and] you wrap it around power wires.  Or the weight, the big lead weight there on the bottom, would fall off and kilt Mr. Jones’ cow.  We had all sorts of problems. . . The airlines . . . wouldn’t use it.  I questioned [that antenna] right away and they told me that is the best thing they have on the airplane.  I let it go.

Paul Mantz, accompanied by Gurr and Manning, made numerous test flights with the Electra, frequently traveling as much as 500 miles out to sea.  Gurr was impressed with Manning’s navigation:  “There was no question about it — with a man like that on board, you didn’t have to have a radio.  In those days, radio wasn’t very reliable.”  But Manning was capable with electronics too, experimenting with the trailing wire antenna, running it in and out until he found the length that provided the best performance.  “There wasn’t much power [available from the Western Electric transmitter, but] it could still get out 50-100 miles.”

The first attempt by Earhart, the east-west course, saw her ground-loop the plane in Honolulu. The Electra was returned to Lockheed for a rebuild.  Gurr stated: “I took all the radio gear out and took it home.  All that was involved there was to check it out.  I just simply went through everything with a fine-tooth comb.  I made quite a splash about their antenna system.  The [Lockheed] had an antenna that was about 2 inches off the fuselage.  Obviously, you are not going to radiate much power that way.  I went to work to put a stub up forward at least 18 inches high.  As long as the airplane was in the factory, they didn’t want to do it.  In order to do that, they would have to do a lot of engineering work and would have to be beefed up under the skin.  [We] had quite a bit of discussion.  [If] you get that antenna off the fuselage, and build a V-type antenna, put a lot of wire out there, run a wire to each tail fin, why then we don’t have to rely on that reel.  Then, we could tune the transmitter to that antenna.”

This photo of Josephine Blanco Akiyama with Amelia Earhart’s technical advisor Paul Mantz appeared in the June 1, 1960 issue of the San Mateo Times, with the following caption: “CLUES TO Amelia Earhart’s fate were examined in San Mateo yesterday by famed pilot Paul Mantz, Miss Earhart’s technical advisor. In photo at left, Mantz examines documents with Mrs. Josephine Blanco Akiyama, whose exclusive story in The Times broke the case wide open last week.

Goerner then showed Gurr a copy of a letter from J. W. Gross, then president of Lockheed, in regard to the original radio equipment that had been installed on AE’s Electra.  Gurr said, “This is rather accurate.  I know that receiver and Western Electric transmitter.  This Bendix — now that was nothing more than a radio direction finder.  This particular receiver had one feature that was rather new; that was it operated on more than one bank of frequencies.  The old ranges were on [200] to 400 kc and the airlines had receivers that just tuned that.  In this case, it not only had that particular band but it also had other [higher] frequencies, which was a very good thing.  Then, and I tried to put that point over, she could tune in a broadcast station at night in Honolulu, [and home in on it].  It was a sensitive receiver.  It was a good one.

The radio compass, as he said, was installed elsewhere.  It was not installed at Lockheed. None of this gear was installed at Lockheed as far as I know.  Unless it was installed before she went east and came back again.  Now that is possible.  I know that Bell Labs in New York worked on it. The transmitter?  About 50 watts. You could get that.

Fred: You said you had some changes made.  You had the trailing antenna removed and the V-antenna put in.  I showed you the repair orders from Lockheed that have your name on them.

Gurr: “Yeah. This V-antenna.  The purpose of that was so we would have an auxiliary receiving antenna in case she lost the one up above.  They felt that, this is so much wire, if something should break, this way we have two [antennas].  So they installed that V-antenna underneath, which was similar to what we were using in the airlines.”

Fred: “You really didn’t need the trailing antenna at that point?

Gurr: “No.  In fact, having had airline experience, I just did away with it.” [Seventeen years later — 1987, Gurr denied removing the trailing wire.  When Fred said “. . . there are people who swear up and down that it was removed in Miami.”  Gurr replied: “Yeah, that is probably more true.”]  (Italics TAL editor’s.)

Fred: “There have been those who said that Amelia had the trailing antenna removed because it was too much trouble for her to reel it in and out.  Actually she didn’t need it.  You had advised her that she didn’t need it.

Gurr: “’I didn’t think it was a good idea.  For one thing, it was too hard to make work. The other thing is, they were mechanically very unreliable.  If you were planning a long flight as Amelia was, I wouldn’t depend on any trailing wire

Fred Goerner, circa mid-1960s, behind the microphone at KCBS in San Francisco.

Fred then quoted from yet another Lockheed work order: Install necessary reinforcing for Bendix Radio loop compass. . .

Gurr: “Oh yeah, this is beginning to ring a bell.  We had radio compasses but this was no radio compass [does he mean, “not only a radio compass”?]  This particular Bendix radio receiver [RA-1 or prototype, perhaps].  I seem to feel that the thing was delivered to us, that we installed it.  It was something special, delivered from the Navy Dept.  It was a very sensitive device, but otherwise it was just a loop antenna.  This Bendix to me, at the time, was the slickest piece of gear that she had on board.  This was the thing that would take her around the world.  All she needed to do was use 400 kc.”

Fred: She kept asking, during the flight, for signals to be sent on 7500 kc.

Gurr: She could receive that on the Bendix.  In the daytime, 7500 kc would be good — it would give her several hundred miles, sometimes even more than that.  At night, under certain conditions, it is quite terrific.”  (End of Part I.)


Bill Prymak responds to Reineck’s “New Scenerio”

Today we present Bill Prymak’s response to Rollin Reineck’s imaginative “New Scenerio — It Could Have Happened This Way” as seen in the June 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society NewslettersPrymak, the visionary yet down-to-earth founder and of the Amelia Earhart Society, presents a few common-sense, logistical reasons why Reineck’s fanciful “covert mission” scenario was highly unlikely to have occurred, and suggests another way they could have landed at Mili Atoll.  For larger view of print images, you can click on them.

On Enajet Island, Mili Atoll in December 1989, Bill Prymak met Joro, a village elder born about 1915.  Joro told Prymak about the “American airplane with the lady pilot [that] crash-landed on the inner coral reefs of Barre Island.”  (Courtesy of John Prymak.)

Prymak, a giant of Earhart research and a friend whose kindness and generosity will never be forgotten, passed away July 30, 2014 at 86 in a Louisville, Colo., hospice.  For much more on Bill Prymak’s work and legacy, please click here.

Bilimon Amaron, whose eyewitness account is widely considered to be the most important of the Marshall Islands witnesses, relaxes in the recreation room of his home in the Marshalls capital of Majuro, circa 1989, with his guest John Prymak.  As a Japanese hospital corpsman in 1937 Jaluit, Amaron’s ship-board treatment of an injured white man, surely Fred Noonan, accompanied by an American woman the crewmen called “Meel-ya,” is legendary among the Marshallese.  (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)


Reineck proposes “New Scenerio” in Earhart loss

The work of the late Rollin Reineck, the former Air Force colonel who once navigated B-29s launched from Saipan against the Japanese mainland, is well known to readers of this blog.  Reineck’s authorship of the dreadful Amelia Earhart Survived (2003), his failed attempt to resurrect the long-discredited Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth, was a sad day in legitimate Earhart research circles, and some of the clueless who signed on to that delusion remain lost to this day. 

This undated piece by Reineck appeared in the June 1999 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and based on Bill Prymak’s responding letter, probably was written in April 1999.  It presages Reineck’s awful book, published four years later, but also reveals solid insights into the ways of Washington, D.C., where deceit at the highest levels had been a fact of life long before Earhart’s final flight.

As always, the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and Reineck’s conclusion is especially wrongheaded and disturbing, but this doesn’t mean the rest of his thoughts are equally muddled.  I’ll have more comment at the close of this post, which is presented in its original AES Newsletter format, which I’ve broken up to place complimentary photos to add to the presentation.  This is the first of two parts.

Rollin C. Reineck, circa 1945, served as a B-29 navigator in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and Bronze Star.  A true patriot in every sense of the word, Reineck passed away in 2007, but left some very controversial writings about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

This photo, circa 1983, is the shallow reef area “near Barre Island Mili Atoll” presented by Vincent V. Loomis in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.  Native Marshallese eyewitnesses Lijon and Jororo told to Ralph Middle “sometime before the war [1937] they saw an airplane land on the reef about 200 feet offshore.”  These four small islands are the so-called Endrikens, the nearest about a mile from Barre, where a search team sponsored by Parker Aerospace returned for a five-day search in late January 2015.  Researchers Les Kinney and Dick Spink say the main focus of the search, with high-tech metal detectors and ground penetrating radar, was the second island from the left, and several artifacts were found.  For more, please seeNew Mili search uncovers more evidence.

Amelia Earhart supervises refueling her Lockheed Electra 10E, NR16020, at Caripito, Venezuela, before she and Fred Noonan took off on Leg 7 of their world flight on June 3, 1937.  Amelia then flew her Electra from Caripito to Paramaribo, Nederlands Guiana, a distance of 615 miles (990 kilometers).  She arrived at 12:50 p.m., local time. (Photo unattributed.)


Here we note that as early as 1999, and likely much earlier, Reineck was hopelessly hooked on the Weishien-Irene Bolam nonsense, which led him to write arguably the worst Earhart disappearance book of all time, the 2003 fish wrapper Amelia Earhart Survived.  

For those new to this blog or readers who might need refreshing about the Irene Bolam disaster, see Part I of my four-part 2016 exposé, Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society.

We also see that neither Reineck nor editor Bill Prymak seemed to be in the mood to spell check this article before it was published and sent to the approximately 80 to 100 AES members who would normally receive the latest newsletter.  I’ll leave it to you to sniff out the misspelled word or words, but I’ll give you a clue — one of the words is very large!  In fact, if this word doesn’t immediately jump out and mug you, you may be among those who still believe Amelia Earhart returned as Irene Bolam.  (End of Part I.)

POW submariner becomes another Earhart witness

TM3c (torpedoman third class) Robert W. Lents was aboard USS Perch (SS-176), when its entire crew was picked up by the Japanese destroyer Ushio after being forced to scuttle their badly damaged boat on March 3, 1942.   Most of Perch’s crew then endured 1,298 days of captivity without their families ever being told that they were still alive.  Of Perch’s 54 enlisted men and five officers, all but five — who died of malnutrition in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps — return alive to the United States after V-J Day.

In the opening paragraph of Presumed Lost: The Incredible Ordeal of America’s Submarine POWs during the Pacific War, Stephen L. Moore’s remarkable tribute to the brave submariners of World War II, the author writes: “submariners accounted for some 55 percent of all Japanese vessels sunk in the war, although their service accounted for only 1.5 percent of the U.S. Navy. . . . Of some 16,000 men who fought in the ‘Silent Service’ during World War II, more than 20 percent did not come home.  This casualty rate was the highest of all American armed forces and was six times greater than that in the surface navy.”

The amazing, inspirational stories of Robert Lents, Perch and the other six U.S. submarine crews captured by the Japanese during the war are told in Stephen L. Moore’s 2021 book, Presumed Lost: The Incredible Ordeal of America’s Submarine POWs during the Pacific War Here’s more about the book, taken from its Amazon page:

When submarines failed to return to port from patrol, they were officially listed by the Navy as overdue and presumed lost. Loved ones were notified by the War Department that their siblings, spouses, and sons were missing in action and presumed lost. While 52 U.S. submarines were sunk in the Pacific, the Japanese took prisoners of war from the survivors of only seven of these lost submarines. Presumed Lost is the compelling story of the final patrols of those seven submarines and the long captivity of the survivors. Of the 196 sailors taken prisoner, 158 would survive the horrors of the POW camps, where torture, starvation, and slave labor were common.

Robert Lents’ son, Brian Lents, 76, of Great Falls, Mont., recently informed me not only about his father’s incredible survival as a Japanese prisoner of war, but to add Robert Lents’ name to the still-growing list of World War II GIs including Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. WallackEarskin J. Nabers and many others who learned the truth about Amelia Earhart’s presence and death on Saipan, either through their own eyewitness experiences, local natives or through the accounts of her Japanese captors.  

Robert W. Lents married Carolyn Snyder in Greenfield, Iowa on Feb. 1, 1946, and to this union three children were born, Brian, Barbara and Susan. They were married for 73 years and made their home in Iowa where he farmed and worked for the U.S. Postal Service.  After Robert retired from the Post Office, they moved to Mountain Home, Ark., in 1975. 

In a Feb. 7 email, Brian wrote that he’d seen me in an Earhart-related YouTube presentation, and that he wanted to tell me about his father, who was on USS Perch when it was lost in the battle of Java Sea in March 1942.  Wounded twice he and others were picked out of the water by Jap Destroyer and taken to Makassar Celebes to POW camp,Brian wrote.  “One day the ramrod of the Jap guards who could speak some broken English told them that he had dealt with Americans before, in 1937 he was stationed on Saipan and two American prisoners were brought in.  Flyers, one was a woman dressed like a man and had short hair other was a man whom was hurt.”  Brian continued:

He even said the word Earhart a few times.  He had guarded them and they were later executed.  Robert was liberated Sept 1945.  Shortly after he was being debriefed about his experiences by a young Naval Intelligence Officer and he related this incident to him.  The officer seemed to get very interested in this and told Robert to stay put till he returned.  Shortly he came back with a senior officer who said, “This is a matter that you are not to discuss again.  And that’s an order. Chief.”  So the old Navy Chief didn’t talk about till towards the end of his life.  For whatever its worth that’s the story.

                   Robert W. Lents circa 1941.

Brian said his father met the prolific World War II author Stephen L. Moore at a submarine convention several years back, when there still a few POWswith us.  Moore was sending Dad his rough drafts of the chapters as he wrote them, Brian told me in a Feb. 20 email.So I also got to read them.  Lord how wish I had made copies.  Moore told Dad the book had to be cleared by Naval Intelligence before it could be published.  Well, when I read the book it certainly wasn’t the one I had read.  All the vivid details of the torture that was inflicted on these men had been censored out.  Kind of like the AE case where the real victim is truth.”  For the record, Amelia Earhart is never mentioned in Presumed Lost.

Of all the incredible elements of the Robert Lents story, probably the most amazing is that the former third-class torpedoman lived to the ripe old age of 99 — virtually unheard-of feat among former Japanese POWs — and was married to his wife Carolyn for 73 years!

Japs took them to Celebes to Pow camp,Brian wrote in a Feb. 9 email.  “Liberation came after 42 months of hell.  About a year or so after the war Robert was medically discharged from the Navy as Chief Petty Officer.  He then was an Iowa farmer, postmaster and rural mail carrier.  He retired and moved to Arkansas.  He died in the Vets home at Fayetteville, Ark., in Nov 2020 at the age of 99.  He still had Jap iron in his body.  The old body was worn out, but his mind was sharp right up to the end.”

To view his obituary, please click here.

For even more on Robert Lents, here’s a profile by Art Randall that appeared in the American Submariner, originally published in 2005: A Profile of a Submarine POW Veteran:  Robert W. Lents.”



Calvin Pitts passes away in Kentucky at 89

Calvin Pitts, likely the last of the great “Old School” aviators, whose wisdom, knowledge and class graced everyone he touched and who lifted this blog to rare heights during the brief time of his presence here, passed away Feb. 20 at his home in Sadieville, Ky., at the age of 89. 

I received a phone call from Carolyn [Wilson] at 1:46 pm this afternoon to inform me that Calvin passed quietly, peacefully, and gently from this life earlier this morning.”  William Trail wrote in a Feb. 20 email.  “She said he was in no pain, or discomfort.”  His death was not unexpected, as he’d been in failing health for the past several months, but is painful nonetheless. 

Calvin is survived by his wife Wanda, two sons, Darrell and Steven Pitts, stepdaughter Sharon Lynn, and stepson Robert Lee Clark, three grandchildren Kate, Rachel, and Melissa, a brother Joe (Virginia) Pitts, a sister Joyce (Mike) Welch, and several nieces & nephews.  Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to Wanda, his family and friends.  He will be greatly missed.  The funeral home produced a musical slide show in Calvin’s memory; to view Calvin’s obituary please click here.

Calvin Pitts in 1981, with The Spirit of Winnie Mae and the thermos Amelia Earhart carried with her on her solo Atlantic Crossing in 1932. The thermos was on loan from Jimmie Mattern, Wiley Post’s competitor who flew The Century of Progress Vega in an attempt to beat Wiley in the 1933 solo round-the-world race, but Mattern crashed in Siberia. Calvin brought Amelia’s thermos along with him on his own successful world flight in 1981.

Calvin was perhaps 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.  The 1981 flight was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum to honor the Oklahoma aviator Post. 

They flew a single-engine 1980 Beechcraft A36 Spirit of Winnie Mae, named after Post’s Lockheed Vega, the Winnie Mae.  To read Calvin’s recollections of his around-the-world journey, please click here.

During his long and accomplished aviation career as an instructor, corporate pilot, airline pilot, flight manager, training manager and engineering test pilotCalvin has flown antique planes to airshows, trained pilots and flown a multitude of single and multi-engine aircraft, including Twin Otters, DHC-7s, Aero Commanders, Metro IIIs, Lear Jets and Boeing 727s.  He also worked for 10 years in public affairs for NASA at the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Calif.; and NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

Closer to home, Calvin’s stunning, five-part analysis of Amelia’s last flight, Earhart’s Disappearing Footprintsin 2018, is one of the finest pieces of work ever presented on this blog.  When he wasn’t teaching and expounding on his brilliant, comprehensive vision of Earhart’s last days, he was encouraging us in our own work, spurring us on to do our best.  Calvin was truly one of a kind, a rare human being who will never be duplicated down here. 

Calvin’s true decency, humanity and goodness transcended his vast technical knowledge and even his love for Amelia Earhart, her story and her legacy.  Nowhere was this more evident to me during my relatively brief time as his friend than his conciliatory words toward the hypocrites and phonies at the International Forest of Friendship when they not only rejected this blog, but ignored his beautifully written letter appealing to their better angels, which, as it turned out, did not exist.  For the full story of this deplorable situation, please see my Jan. 24, 2022 post,IFF rejects Calvin Pitts’ appeal, refuses to engage.”  

Calvin Pitts, circa 2014, in The Final Journey gallery at the Claremore, Okla., Will Rogers Memorial Museum.  Pitts’ interest in aviation history, Wiley Post and Will Rogers led him on an unlikely journey around the world, and his comprehensive analysis of Amelia Earhart’s last flight rivals anything ever written.

Ever the Christian gentleman, Calvin’s response to those who least despise him and his firm convictions about Amelia Earhart, were words of forgiveness and compassion that few of us could ever possibly emulate:


In times like this, when we encounter those who out of fear, misplaced loyalties and willful ignorance refuse to do the right thing, the best we can do is try to forgive them and move on.  We can also try to pray that someday the light will come on in their dim minds, and they might consider joining those of us who can honor the legacy of Amelia Earhart and revere and honor the truth in the same breath — something they’ve proven themselves incapable of at this time.

Fortunately, due to the professional research, the tedious work, and a love for truth as displayed in Mike Campbell’s stellar book, THE TRUTH AT LAST, coupled with other gifted researchers, writers, and eyewitnesses, we were introduced to some of the private, unpublished knowledge of men like Adm. Chester Nimitz Jr., Gen.  Alexander Vandegrift, Gen. Graves Erskine, Gen. Tommy Watson, and a host of eyewitnesses who told their stories.  Because of men and women like that, we know the end of the Earhart story, and are able to lay to rest the amazing life of a beautiful woman who has earned her rest.


This is probably the last photo of Calvin Pitts, taken at the Kentucky hospice where he spent his final days with the same good cheer that he went about the rest of his productive life.  This photo was taken from the Blue Grass Care Navigators tribute to Calvin, Hospice Patient Leaves Legacy of Flying and Faithfulness.”

The last time Calvin contacted me directly was in late June 2022, when he wrote me an extremely kind, personally meaningful message, as were all of his missives, which said in part:

As I’ve thought before, I knew you were good, and were my kind of truth-telling Journalist but this analysis and response just broke my “Excellence” meter.  You outdid yourself.

If a person loves honesty-with-evidence, they will be hard-put to deny what you have written, not only in this current piece, but in the massive material you brought together in your TRUTH AT LAST tome of persuasive facts and eye-witness reports.

He told me many other things over the past few years, personal, priceless, unforgettable things that will stay in my heart, to be savored and cherished always.

If you believe in Heaven, as I do, then it’s not hard to imagine that Amelia Earhart, resplendent in a starry white gown specially woven by Seraphim for the occasion, was among the first to welcome Calvin Pitts as he crossed over and entered his Eternal Home, where he’ll forever enjoy fair skies, following seas and happy landings.  They will have much to talk about.

Requiescat in pace, Calvin. 

Those who believe in signs will find much to ponder in this amazing photo taken on Feb. 25, the day after Calvin Pitts’ funeral.  A few of Calvin’s close friends, including Carlolyn Wilson’s daughter and her fiancé Tony Epperson, were visiting Calvin’s gravesite at Sadieville (Ky.) Cemetery, and Tony took the above shot.  Note how perfectly the vertical part of the cross lines up with Calvin’s grave.   


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