David Billings recently returned from his seventeenth trip to East New Britain in search of the Earhart Electra, and again he was unable to find the hidden wreck that he believes is the lost Electra 10E that Amelia Earhart flew from Lae, New Guinea on the morning of July 2, 1937.
Billings’ New Britain theory is the only hypothesis among all the various possible explanations that vary from the truth as we know it, that presents us information and poses questions that cannot be explained or answered. Unless and until the twin-engine wreck that an Australian army team found in the East New Britain jungle 1945 is rediscovered, this loose end will forever irritate and annoy researchers who take such findings seriously.
Readers can review the details of Billings’ work by reading my Dec. 5, 2016 post, New Britain theory presents incredible possibilities. Billings’ website Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project and subtitled “Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain: Second World War Australian Patrol Finds Tangible Evidence” offers a wealth of information on this unique and fascinating theory.
Billings has sent me a detailed report on the events of the last three weeks, and it’s presented below. I wish he had better news, however, as this aspect of the Earhart search is one that screams for resolution, unlike the others, which are all flat-out lies and disinformation, intended only to keep the public ignorant about Amelia’s sad fate.
SEARCHING FOR THE ELECTRA AND FOR AMELIA AND FRED
Our last expedition started on Friday, June 2, when the six members of the Australian team met at the Brisbane International Motel on the Friday evening prior to the flight out of Brisbane for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on the morning of Saturday, June 3.
We flew from Brisbane for three hours and went into transit at Port Moresby, then on to the flight which is “nominally” to Rabaul but actually Kokopo and arrived at Tokua Airport after an hour and 20 minutes, on time, and then by mini-bus to the Rapopo Plantation Resort just outside of Kokopo, which was the base for our “equipment and rations” gathering over the next two days.
The hired HiLux vehicles arrived and Sunday and Monday was spent on shopping for the major items from prepared lists and boxing all the goods up and storing them in the rooms. Money changing at the banks in Kokopo and final shopping was Tuesday for odds and ends.
The U.S. team members arrived at the Rapopo on Monday, June 5, and after their hectic flight schedule relaxed on the Tuesday ready for the road trip on Wednesday.
The Journey to Wide Bay
The road trip with all 10 members was carried out in three Toyota HiLux Dual Cab 4WD’s with diesel engines. We had walkie-talkies for contact during the drive. The road we had planned on was to be approximately 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) and we expected to be able to do this in about four and a half hours. The actual time was seven hours over very rough roads and with a planned one major river crossing and several minor river crossings. In the event, due to finding one road impassable, we were forced to ford a quite wide and substantial river which we know from previous trips can be in flood quite rapidly as it has a large watershed area stretching up into the Baining Mountains.
The supposed “sealed” roads out of Kokopo through small villages towards Kerevat town were a nightmare with potholes every few yards and the daily multitude of vehicles were weaving in and out of the potholes and wandering all over the road to avoid the holes.
A good 10 kilometers out of Kerevat town, a turnoff towards the village of Malasait brought us onto the very rough tracks that we were to use for the rest of the journey. This rough track constitutes the major part of what is euphemistically called the “East New Britain Highway.” For a detailed look at the Gazelle Peninsula in relation to the Billings search, please click here.
On the Highway
All went well over the awful rough roads until about the halfway point whereupon we came across a gigantic mudslide over a stretch of the “highway” on a downslope about 100 meters long, with ruts in the mud about 500 millimeters (19.6 inches) deep. There was a truck there which they had shed the load off of it and copra bags littered the drains as they had strived to get the truck through and they were picking the bags up on a long pole when we got there. Rain water had gone completely over this section and washed the road out. After throwing rocks into the deepest rutted sections and pushing the loose mud down also, we managed to get through this area in four-wheel drive. We had to remember this section of “road” and prepare for it for the return journey.
Shortly after this, we crossed the Sambei River No. 2, in a wide sweeping arc with water just over the wheel hubs which allowed us to stay on the shallowest parts and then continued on the way.
At this river crossing we had met up with a local man who said he was going to the Lamerien area and we followed him along a newly cut forestry road which joined up with the old road near to the turn-off to Awungi then we entered the steep descending curves down into the Mevelo River Valley and expected to turn off to the right to follow the track through the Mumus and Yarras River Valleys. However, our guide drove straight ahead to a security guard post leading into the Palm Oil Plantation, sited on the northern side of the Mevelo River. On realizing that we were being led into the Palm Oil Plantation the expectation then was that the bridge over the Mevelo which we could see “not completed” in Satellite views must then be “completed,” which would mean we could cross the wide Mevelo River with ease.
The Mevelo River
After driving through the Palm Oil roads for about 40 minutes we came to the Mevelo River and our hopes were dashed! There was no bridge. We had seen a bridge with a very nearly completed driving span in the satellite pictures with but one span to be completed. What we were now looking at was a damaged bridge with no roadway across the pylons. The Mevelo River is a very fast flowing river in flood and an earlier flood had obviously caused the bridge supports to move and the bridge had collapsed.
The bridge was down, destroyed by the “mighty” Mevelo at some time in a flood. Several of the old shipping containers that had been used as ballast cans for rocks to hold and support the concrete bridgeworks had been moved out of position by the strength of the flow of water down the Mevelo River and now we were left with a choice — we must now ford the river or turn back.
Luckily, while we had a rest stop close to the access road to the river, I had seen two Toyota Land Cruiser troop carrier vehicles come out of the track entrance to the river and sure enough when we arrived at the river, there were the wet wheel tracks of these vehicles left behind on the steep entrance into the river, so we decided to go across, fording the river in the HiLux in H4, in four-wheel drive. I went first and kept a straight line across and the water was deeper over on the far side of the river and estimated to be just at wheel height. The second vehicle came across and then Matt took a different wider line and we could see water up to the bonnet before the front end of the vehicle reared up out of the water onto dry land. A sigh of relief went up from all watching!
The Old Track
What we now know is that the former old track (part of which I have previously walked) which leads out of the Mevelo Valley and up to the Mumus and Yarras River Valleys, our planned route, is totally overgrown and cannot be used. It is a seven-hour 166 kilometer (106 miles) drive from Kokopo to Lamerien over very rough roads with what we thought were two major river crossings. We had three large rivers to cross, only one of which was bridged.
Change to the Planning
The crossing of the Mevelo River by the ford, which was forced upon us by the closure of the now “overgrown road” out of the Mevelo Valley meant that we had to rethink our carefully laid plans on several aspects: The Americans had appointments to keep on their return so had to get back for their flights. We got to the campsite on Thursday, June 7 and managed to get the tents up before dark. That left a maximum for them of six nights in the camp but in the light of the river fords (particularly the Mevelo River ford) we had to gauge intervals in the rain to get back over the Mevelo River, which was accessed as the biggest obstacle.
1. The American participants had a maximum of seven nights/six days at Wide Bay and had to return to Kokopo, the seventh day had been planned as the “return to Kokopo day.”
2. Originally it had been planned for two vehicles to return with the American participants and then one vehicle return to Wide Bay on the same day. It was now deemed too dangerous for one vehicle to make the trip back due possible breakdown on the rough roads or getting bogged on the mudslide. This planned return trip would take two days if carried out.
3. The drive cannot be done Kokopo to Wide Bay (Lamerien) and back in one day, it had been planned as a one-day trip because “if the river crossings were possible on that day in the morning” then they would still be able to be crossed later in the day. The two-day return trip negated that idea.
4. More importantly, we would have to ford the Mevelo River on a return journey and to that there was no alternative, the Mevelo River had to be crossed in order to get back to Kokopo with the vehicles, that meant the surety of a day when the river ford was at a low point.
5. We also had to make a contingency for the 100-meter-long mudslide in the road at roughly the halfway point, after the Sambei River, which doubtless would not have been repaired by the time of our return. This meant that lengths of logs had to be carried both for ballast in crossing the two main river fords and as fill to drop into the ruts on the mudslide section. The chainsaw also had to return with the vehicles in case of the need for more wood.
Secondary Jungle Visited Three Times
It rained the first night (Thursday) and Friday afternoon we made it up the hill. Since 2012 it has become just a tangled mess up there, the old bulldozer tracks are barely visible and the tree roots across the ground hold pools of water making it treacherous.
The climb up to the top of the hill can be quite steep in places and with the rain it was very slippery and some assistance was needed in paces and the willing hands of the young men of the village gave that assistance. The hill height is around 420 feet and the start level is 150 feet, so it is a tough climb over 270 feet of elevation.
It rained the second night for three hours with lightning and thunder rolls and lashing rain from 12 p.m. to 3 a.m., and then more rain during that new day. June is supposed to be the “drier” month of the year. We went up the hill three times, it rained while we were in there.
Due to the available time for the Americans in the team, the rain, the rising rivers to cross and the vehicles to be got across the rivers, we had to consider getting out at an opportune time with the biggest obstacle, the Mevelo River, at a low point. We watched the Mevelo on a daily basis. The Mevelo went down a bit and we took the opportunity to get out on Monday, June 12. Seven hours later we were back in Kokopo.
“East New Britain Highway” is Atrocious
Back to the mudslide! Yes, the mudslide was still there and still about 100 meters long, but this time on the return, on an upslope. We had to remember that stretch for going back so we cut some logs the length of the HiLux tray and took two layers of 5-foot round logs back with us both as ballast for the river crossing and to patch up the road when we got to the mudslide. When we got there a big truck was bogged in, but luckily off to the side, so we gave them a shovel, then we filled in the deeper parts of one rut with the logs we carried and I went first with one wheel side in the rut and the other on the center “heap of slime,” and in H4 we all got through but it was close-run thing. All the villagers that were working on the road cheered! Most of the road is laterite where a bulldozer has shaved off the top soil and exposed the rock underneath but this section was just mud. The roads must be terrible on the HiLux suspension and most of the journey is in first and second gear with occasional third being used.
Where do we go from here?
It is obvious that we cannot use vehicles again until the roads improve and bridges are built, that means use and reliance on a helicopter again, for “in” and “out,” with additional expense.
The idea was that by using vehicles we could cut down the expense and carry as much as we liked to make the camp comfortable. We had also intended to go down to the Ip River where a World War II wreck had been reported about 10 years ago and to which no one has been to identify, so we had thought that we would do that, but the villagers told us that the coast track was impassable.
All the film taken will now be used to make a documentary concerning the search for the aircraft wreck seen in 1945, which I am convinced on the basis of the documentary evidence on the World War II map and the visual description by the Army veterans, is the elusive Electra. We shall have to wait and see what interest is generated by the documentary.
Queensland, Australia (June 20, 2017)
Billings’ next trip to East New Britain will be his eighteenth, if he indeed makes it, and if persistence means anything at all, perhaps he will finally locate the wrecked airplane he believes was Amelia Earhart’s bird. I wish him the best of luck, as he will surely need it. If you’d like to contribute to his cause, you can visit his website, Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project for details.
Regular readers of this blog know that defenders of the truth in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart are few and far between, and that those who have done so publicly are rare indeed. The old generation of Earhart researchers has passed away — names like Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Thomas E. Devine and Bill Prymak, to whom we owe so much. Despite the efforts of these intrepid souls, the sad truth about the tragic deaths of Amelia and Fred Noonan on Saipan remains a sacred cow in Washington and throughout the American establishment, never to be discussed publicly unless to deprecate as the delusion of “conspiracy theorists.”
Few know this better than Rob Ellos, 66, of Stillwater, Minnesota, a self-styled presentation artist who knows that the best way to overcome the media’s hostility to the truth — at least locally — is to take it directly to the people, bypass the fourth estate filter and forget about getting establishment approval. As a result, countless seniors have become educated about the facts in the Earhart case — “Earhart travesty” is another, more appropriate term for this phenomenon, arguably the most misunderstood and misreported event in American history.
If not for the efforts of Rob Ellos, these now-enlightened souls would most probably have never learned the truth, unless they were looking for it on Amazon.com, where they can find Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. But in the Twin Cities area, as in nearly every other in this nation, who else would have told them the truth about Amelia’s sad end?
To my knowledge, it’s a public service that only Ellos and this writer are currently providing, although Ellos has generated far more interest in the better-educated, more genteel Twin Cities area than I’ve managed in Jacksonville, Fla., where securing speaking engagements is harder than pulling teeth. Ellos even attracted local media attention last summer, when he was featured in the St. Croix Valley Area Lowdown in a June 21, 2016 article, “Stillwater researcher seeks the truth about Amelia Earhart.”
Ellos has presented his signature program, “I know what really happened to Amelia Earhart,” at assisted living centers, senior centers, airline pilot groups, church banquets and libraries since 2005. Using a model of Amelia Earhart’s Electra Model 10E, a recording of her voice, large graphic maps and many other props including over 100 photos that he allows his audience to “pass around,” Ellos has entertained and enlightened thousands of fortunate seniors since 2005. Some can still remember sitting with their families, glued to their radios in their living rooms, hoping against hope that their beloved Amelia would be found in those desperate days of early July 1937. Today’s 90-year-olds were 10 in 1937.
“Since I started giving ‘AE DISAPPEARANCE’ talks (my first was on February 28, 2005), I have given 129 programs to seniors and aviation groups,” Ellos wrote in a recent email. “Also, I have 25 repeat sites so far that have had me in at least twice.” One facility has had Ellos eight times. (Italics mine.)
“In 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were on one of the last legs of their attempt to fly around the world at the equator,” Ellos writes in his current Earhart Disappearance Flyer. “Leaving Lae, New Guinea on July 2nd, flying across the ocean, they had U.S.-held Howland Island as their destination. They never arrived. One hour after their last radio transmission, the U.S. Navy began a huge air, sea, and land search that spanned 18 days. They did not find anything, and concluded that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan crashed and sank in the ocean somewhere near Howland Island, and drowned.”
Next, taken directly from Ellos’ flyer, he spells out the bottom line, the dirty little “secret” in the Earhart disappearance, which the public never hears from our trusted media:
“Though it is only hearsay,” Ellos wrote in a recent email, “it does strengthen our case to mention the ‘casual’ [military member] from Hopkins, Minnesota, who was on layover to Okinawa that heard that Amelia’s plane had been found on Saipan; the GI from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, that stood up at the end and said, ‘All that Rob has been telling us is true. I was on Saipan and was told that Amelia’s plane had been found there,’ and the man last week in Maplewood, Minnesota, who said that he was steaming through the Marshall Islands on a troop ship in World War II, and someone pointed to an island, and said, ‘Amelia Earhart was there,’ although he could not recall which island it was.”
In 2005, shortly after he contacting me for the first time, Ellos called Robert E. Wallack, among the most important and vocal of the Saipan GI witnesses, who, ironically, lived in Woodbridge, Conn., just a stone’s throw away from Thomas E. Devine’s West Haven home. (For more background on Wallack’s role in the Earhart saga, please see our Sept. 28, 2015 post, “Son Bill tells Robert Wallack’s amazing story.” Just as the friendly old Marine had welcomed me, so did he gladly receive Ellos’ attention, and the two developed a fast friendship.
“Robert was not Internet savvy, so we spent lots of time on the phone,” Ellos recalled, “and sent lots of mail back and forth. Robert sent me Marine Corps photos from Saipan, which I put in my program, and one of himself and one of his soldier buddies. He also sent a large magazine front page from the Amity (Connecticut) Observer, which I still use in my talk about Amelia’s disappearance. Robert is in the headline and a large photo of him on the cover as well. He also sent me a glossy photo of him and a Marine buddy crawling ashore, on the beach near Chalan Kanoa, Saipan, from Leatherneck magazine, and I use that in my talk as well. They were crawling as Japanese bullets were flying just over their heads, as well as shrapnel, and mortar strikes nearby
Robert was fun to talk with as he was friendly and passionate about spreading the fact that he found Amelia Earhart’s briefcase from the Electra,” Ellos continued, “with all her official papers in it — passports, flight itinerary maps, certificates to get in and out of countries, etc. I have an-over-the phone-taped interview from him to me. He said that the safe was about six-feet tall and about four-feet wide. They were in a collapsed building in Garapan city looking for souvenirs, when they noticed that something solid was blocking part of the roof from totally collapsing. It was the safe.”
In his presentations, Ellos uses a briefcase similar to the one Wallack described finding in the safe on Saipan, and even simulates the explosion and discovery of the incredible evidence that revealed the presence of Amelia Earhart on Saipan in the years preceding the 1944 Battle of Saipan.
Ellos doesn’t confine himself to telling seniors the unpleasant truth in the Earhart saga; in fact, these programs are a very small part of the menu he offers local residents. By his most recent count, Ellos says he’s given an astounding 6,131 presentations over the last 30 years on a variety of subjects including science, nature and technology, as well as about 100 presentations of “Amelia Earhart: America’s Most Famous Woman’s Pilot!” which he offers to elementary and even pre-school children. His presentations, “Remembering the Challenger & Columbia Space Shuttle Disasters: A Tribute to Their Crews” and “Apollo to the Moon” are audience favorites, and his programs on “Amazing Sharks,” “Florida’s Manatees” and “The Octopus” have also been well received.
“I started by giving school assemblies, these were two or three programs at a school in the morning. K-2, grades 4-6,” Ellos explained. ” Also, sometimes I gave assemblies at an entire school district, eight different elementary schools, two to three programs in the morning, two to three programs at another school nearby in the afternoon. I also gave residencies at one school at a time, where I would set up a ‘Space Lab’ for one to two weeks, and different grades would come to the Space Lab, all day long to hear my talks/demonstrations. Also, I have been giving preschool programs for many years, often two or three in the morning (toddlers, preschool . . . and sometimes, also, school age [in the summer]). I also gave after-school programs, school-release day programs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, libraries, family night programs, etc.”
Ellos lived near the Johnson Space Center, has a master of science degree from the University of Houston and had Space Shuttle astronauts as neighbors. He knew Ron McNair, a mission specialist on Challenger’s last flight, Jan. 28, 1986, and spoke for McNair and the Challenger astronauts at the dedication of the Challenger Memorial Sculpture in New Brighton, Minnesota.
Discerning readers have probably gleaned that Ellos is a friend of mine, and though that’s true, I wanted to keep that element out of the story until now so that I could maintain a certain level of objectivity in this presentation. But Rob Ellos is a rare individual, and I’m honored to call him my friend. I’m sure Amelia will say the same thing to him someday.
Frederick J. Hooven, famed for his engineering inventions, was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1905, met Orville Wright as a child and by age 15 was a regular visitor to the Wrights’ Dayton laboratory. After graduating from MIT in 1927, Hooven was hired by General Motors, and rose to vice president and chief engineer of the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation Corporation by 1935. His Hooven Radio Compass, which he later sold to the Bendix Company, is now known as the Automatic Direction Finder or ADF, was installed in Amelia Earhart’s Electra in 1936, but was later replaced by an earlier, lighter unit.
When he died in 1985, Hooven held a total of 38 American patents, as well as many foreign patents in fields such as avionics, bomb sights, automotive ignition and suspension systems, photographic typesetting and medical technology. His inventions include 17 radio and aviation navigation and landing instrument systems, bomb-release systems, six automotive ignition systems, three medical instruments, six photographic type compositions and seven other automotive inventions (axles, brakes, springs, suspensions, plus a complete engine, the 1966 Olds Toronado).
In his 1966 letter of introduction to Goerner, below, the first of many from Hooven to his soon-to-be friend and Earhart research associate, he discusses his radio compass, his meeting with Amelia and what he believed was the fatal decision to remove his invention from the Electra. Many more would follow through the years. (Bold emphasis mine throughout.)
December 5, 1966
Mr. Frederick Goerner
277 Park Avenue
New York City, N.Y. 10017
Dear Mr. Goerner:
I just finished reading your book on Amelia Earhart. I started the book with a good deal of skepticism, but now that I have finished it I find that I share your conviction that this whole matter must be clarified and honor rendered to those to whom it is due. I can add a small and perhaps interesting sidelight to the Amelia Earhart story. My contribution does nothing either to strengthen or weaken your conclusions, but I believe if my story had been different, Miss Earhart would not have been lost .
I installed on Miss Earhart’s Lockheed one of the first prototypes of the modern aircraft radio direction-finder. Before she embarked on her flight, however, this was removed, and installed in its place was the old-fashioned null-type direction-finder that she carried with her. The modern instrument would have given her a heading on the transmitter of the cutter Itasca at Howland Island even under poor reception conditions and it would have shown her without ambiguity that her destination was still ahead.
The modern direction finder that I invented in 1935 had some important points of superiority over the old simple null-type that had been used ever since before 1920. We called it a radio compass then. It is always called the ADF today. It uses a conventional antenna in addition to the directional loop, the result being that it is possible to listen to the station at the same time a bearing is being taken. It is so much more sensitive that it is possible to use a much smaller loop, contained in the familiar streamlined cigar-shaped housing that is still to be seen on all but the very latest models of commercial and military aircraft.
Most importantly, by using the signal from the non-directional antenna as a point of reference, the modern instrument is able to indicate the true direction of the transmitter from the receiver whereas the null-type indicator could do no more than tell that the transmitting station was somewhere along a line that passed through the center of the loop-antenna. Obviously, to obtain a useable null with the old system the signal must be several times louder than the background noise. With the radio compass, a useable bearing may be taken on a station that is not readable through the noise. All of these things combine to convince me that Miss Earhart would have reached Howland Island if the radio compass had still been installed in her airplane.
We built six of these prototypes. I was at that time vice president and chief engineer of the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation, which was one of the small companies later combined into Bendix Radio. Vincent Bendix had retained Harry Bruno as his personal public relations counsel and he distributed these prototypes where he thought they were most likely to get his name into the papers. One of them went to Dick Merrill and Harry Richman, and we installed it on the Northrup Alpha they flew across the Atlantic and landed in Ireland. They both told me they owed their lives to the radio compass.
Harry had broadcast to his public over their 50 watt transmitter until the airplane ‘s battery was flat, so when they reached England they were able to use only their receiving equipment. It was foggy and they flew around for 24 hours before they found a hole they could get down through. They said they surely would have been back over the ocean if they had not had the radio compass on board. Just to bear out your contention about the transmitting range of the 50 watt transmitter I listened to Harry on my receiver in Dayton, Ohio on 3100 kilocycles until he was about halfway across the Atlantic.
Another prototype was turned over to the United States Army Air Corps at Wright Field. We installed it in a B-10 and connected the output to the directional control of the automatic pilot. I rode in this airplane on a nonstop flight from Dayton to Dallas, Texas and back. During the entire flight the pilot never touched the controls of the airplane. It was guided over the entire distance by the radio compass, which was tuned in to local broadcast stations and radio beacons along the way.
The pilot of that airplane was a very close friend of mine, George Holloman, who lost his life in the South Pacific during the war and who gave his name to Holloman Field . Later on, the same radio compass was installed in an ancient Fokker C-151 which made the first completely automatic takeoff and landing at Wright Field in 1937. Later the same year at Muroc Air Force Base, that airplane made the first completely automatic unmanned takeoff and landing. Another of these prototypes went to the Department of Commerce and one I personally installed for American Airlines on the first DC-3 to go into commercial passenger service.
Miss Earhart brought her airplane to Wright Field in Dayton where I made the installation of our equipment. I spent most of the day with her and I concur with your description of her. She was attractive, charming, gracious — a real lady. She had with her a pretty young girl straight from the sticks, named Jacqueline Cochrane. We had lunch together in the cafeteria at the Field. So far as I know Miss Cochrane is still living and should be able to verify this part of the story.
I don’t remember when I learned that the radio compass had been removed from Miss Earhart ‘s plane before she took off on her world flight. The Radio Research Company of Washington, D.C. was another Bendix division. Its vice president was Laurence A. Hyland, who is now, or was until very recently, vice president and general manager of Hughes Aircraft. Hyland had been a Navy man and his company manufactured the standard Navy aircraft direction finder. As I understood it, Hyland convinced Miss Earhart that she should not trust such a new fangled device as my radio compass and that she would be much safer with the good old reliable instead. From what you say about the Navy’s involvement in the affair, it could well have been that the Navy persuaded her to take out this piece of equipment that had been developed in connection with the Army Air Corps.
You can see why I read your book with more than casual interest and would like to see such a grand lady take her proper place in history.
Frederick J. Hooven
Hooven’s contention that if Amelia had used his radio compass she “would have reached Howland Island” was, of course, based on the assumption that she was actually trying to locate and land at Howland, and was not embarked on a far different and possibly covert flight plan. Many factors that have been presented and discussed in earlier posts argue for that, but we simply don’t know for sure.
After years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged radio receptions, Hooven presented his paper, Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight, which became known as The Hooven Report, at the Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum in June 1982. Citing the bearings on the signals reported by the three Pan Am radio stations and the Howland Island high-frequency direction finder supplied by the Navy, Hooven asserted it was “undeniable” that the transmissions had originated from the downed fliers.
“Five bearings were taken on the weak, wavering signal reported on the frequency used by the Earhart plane,” Hooven wrote, “and four of them, plus the 157-337 position line of the last message all intersected in the general area of the Phoenix Group. This constitutes positive evidence of the presence of a transmitter in that area which could only have been that of the downed plane. No hypothesis purporting to explain the events of the last flight can be credited that does not offer a plausible explanation of these signals, and why they originated along the plane’s announced position line at the only location, except for Baker and Howland, where there was land.”
According to several knowledgeable researchers, Hooven later abandoned the Gardner Island idea after Goerner convinced him that regardless of the location of the source of questionable radio signals that inspired it, too many people had lived on Gardner for too many years without any trace of the Earhart Electra ever seen on the island. I’ve tried without success to locate any documents that reflect Hooven’s alleged reversal, which I believe actually occurred.
Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight established Hooven as the creator of the Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) landing theory, not the executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), Ric Gillespie, who has yet to credit Hooven publicly, at least to this writer’s knowledge. If he has finally done so, I expect to be corrected quite loudly and quickly, and will report it here. Lacking any other plausible alternative to the Marshalls-Saipan reality, our establishment media continues to deny the truth and force feeds this rubbish, this long-debunked “Nikumaroro hypothesis,” to an incurious, gullible public, and to mislead all who remain willfully ignorant.
Today we return to the early 1960s correspondence between San Francisco radio newsman Fred Goerner and Leo Bellarts, the chief radioman aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Itasca on July 2, 1937, who retired from the Coast Guard as a lieutenant in 1946. My Feb. 6 post, “Revisiting roots of the real search for Amelia,” began with Bellarts’ November 1961 letter to Goerner, in which the nearly incredulous Bellarts asked, “why you believe Earhart wound up on Saipan”?
Bellarts’ certainly that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan rested “peacefully on the bottom of the sea, no farther than 100 miles from Howland,” was based entirely on the increase in Earhart’s signal strength in her last transmission. “She was so loud that I ran up to the bridge expecting to see her coming in for a landing,” Bellarts told Elgen Long in a 1973 interview.
In his reply, Goerner brought Bellarts up to date on his findings during to Saipan visits, including “three file cabinets filled with the most painstaking research concerning every aspect of the disappearance [that] has given us very strong reasons to believe Earhart and Noonan were on Saipan for an indefinite period prior to the war.” The KCBS newsman also posed several new questions for Bellarts, many about the Electra’s radio transmission capabilities, as well as those of Itasca and the high-frequency direction finder supposedly set up on Howland Island. Bellarts’ response follows.
1920 State Street
15 December 1961
Mr. Frederick A. Goerner
San Francisco 5, California
Dear Mr. Goerner:
Your letter of November 30th arrived December 13th, and I wish to thank you for your reply to my letter. I also wish to thank you for the additional papers you forwarded with your letter. They were very interesting.
First, I will attempt to answer your questions. I have kept a scrapbook on the Earhart case and it contains much information. Therefore, I will not have to rely on a memory of twenty-odd years. Your letter and enclosures will be an interesting addition to my scrapbook.
In answer to your first question regarding people stating that the Earhart radio could not be heard more than 50 to 100 miles. In my opinion this is someone talking about something they know nothing about. This is completely false. I agree with the statement contained in “Facts About the Final Flight” that a 50-watt transmitter airborne will certainly transmit dependably to 500 miles under normal conditions. During nighttime hours, this distance could be multiplied several times under favorable skip conditions. I did not notice any skip conditions during her flight and believe that her signals were copied “ground wave” as they continually built up to the time of her final transmission when she was very loud and could be easily copied on the ship’s loudspeaker. THIS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TRUE UNDER SKIP CONDITIONS. (Caps Bellarts’ throughout.)
At this point I wish to state that we were using a CGR-32-1 type receiver on Earhart’s frequency and by present day standards is a poor receiver. I am sure that if present day receivers were then available, we could have read her signals very much better and at an earlier hour.
As to the time and content of all messages changed in the July 5th messages from the contents of the July 2nd messages bewilders me. This point I was completely unaware of. It appears that there was a bit of the “Press Reports” incorporated somewhere along the line. You may check the authentic receptions from the plane and draw your own conclusions.
In regard to the “30 minutes of gas remaining,” this will be answered in the listing of messages from the plane in the summation of her last messages.
The people stating that the Earhart radio was not functioning properly make such statements on pure guess work. Amelia never stated that our signals were too weak for a minimum, BUT “We received your signals but unable to get a minimum; please take bearing on us,” etc. No mention was made of weak signals or the reason she could not obtain a bearing: Too great a signal, too weak a signal, fading, night effect (which there were none), and other causes. As far as we knew on the ITASCA, Earhart encountered no equipment failure — at least she reported none. Actually, in this case, I believe that our signals were too strong.
Earhart was not alerted to the fact a special D/F had been set up aboard the ITASCA because there was none! No D/F was aboard during her flight that would cover her frequency of 3105 or 6210 KCS. The only D/F was a standard low frequency finder capable of taking bearings of broadcast stations and frequencies below 500 KCS.
There was, however, a high frequency D/F installed on Howland Island for the express purpose of taking bearings on Earhart. This equipment was set up and in operation during her flight, completely aligned and in position. This equipment was NOT ship’s property but was borrowed in Honolulu through the efforts of the C.G. District Radio Electrician, Mr. Anthony. I believe this D/F was actually Navy property.
Lt. Cooper of the U.S. Army Air Force was aboard the ITASCA for two reasons that I know of. Mr. Cooper was assigned the duty of surveying the airfield and placing the required markers, flags, etc. He was also available for any technical assistance that Earhart might require after landing on Howland. Memory tells me he had two enlisted assistants.
Actually, the USS SWAN and USS ONTARIO were assigned as weather ships. The ITASCA never worked either ship and I must rely on my memory for that information because, as you say, there is nothing in the log regarding the ONTARIO. As for the reason the ONTARIO didn’t hear Earhart, it was very simple. The receivers aboard that ship could not receive on her frequency. The ONTARIO and the SWAN were small tugs and were one radioman ships, maintaining only schedules for weather through Navy radio Samoa or Honolulu. I was not familiar with their schedules. The equipment aboard the ONTARIO was low frequency rigs and could not operate on anything above 500 KCS for transmitting and could not receive above 3000 KCS. The SWAN was somewhat out of the picture, being stationed between Howland and Honolulu.
“Strength of Signal” certainly strengthened my conviction, and that of others who heard her last transmission, that she was very close to Howland Island. I started my radio career in the USCG in 1924, and believe that I can distinguish when a 50-watt transmitter is close aboard or not. Honestly, we in the radio room could actually hear her voice so near the breaking point that at any moment I expected her to go into an hysterical scream. Giving her plenty of leeway, she must have been within 200 miles when she crashed. Actually, I believe it was much less.
The 157-337 message regarding a position of the Earhart plane was taken as a sunline position, of course not complete. Actually, I believe that she became so upset that she failed to send the entire message which would have given the ITASCA something to go on in the search. As a result, we could only assume that she crashed somewhere before arriving at Howland. She certainly did not pass overhead at 1000 feet without seeing the large smokescreen the ITASCA was laying. I have a photo of that which also shows cloud formations.
I have no idea as to the assumptions of the LEXINGTON as to what Earhart’s speed was. As to the laying out of a search plan, I am sure that this was done as well as could be expected with the scarcity of information at hand.
Yes, I know Bill Galten but I’m afraid there is a misunderstanding as to his rate at the time of the Earhart search. Galten was a very good and reliable radioman THIRD CLASS. Galten actually relieved me for breakfast that fateful morning. He also maintained the radio log from 0718 to 1035 when I assumed radio log and actual watch. From the first time we heard Earhart, to the last time at 0843, I don’t believe that I was out of the radio room more than 15 minutes, having heard all of her transmissions. I don’t believe that I have seen Galten for over 20 years. However, I believe that he is now a Retired Chief Radioman.
Now, if I may, I would like to make a few comments on portions of your letter and also the enclosure which I appreciate receiving.
On the main matter for conjecture, as you say, “How did Earhart and Noonan reach Saipan?” To me, there is only one answer, if there is an answer. They may have reached Saipan but certainly NOT on the Electra she flew from Lae. The only possibility as far as I’m concerned is that they crashed very close to Howland Island and were fortunate (?) enough to land near a Japanese fishing boat or other Jap vessel which was in that vicinity.
To all known information, no Japanese vessels were anywhere near Howland during that time. Considering the strength of her signals, she was certainly not near enough to any island (except Baker) that she could have possibly landed on. It must have been a sea crash. The Marshalls, Gilberts or Phoenix groups are definitely ruled out in my book. (Editor’s note: At the time of this letter, neither Bellarts, Goerner or any other American researcher knew about Bilimon Amaron’s eyewitness account, nor those of any of the other Marshall Island witnesses to the crash-landing of the Electra off Barre Island, Mili Atoll.)
In quoting Time magazine of July 19, 1937, I would like to quote from an article regarding Earhart. “Several facts made it clear that much more than simple bad luck was involved. Before the hop off, when capable Navigator [sic] Noonan inspected what he supposed was an ultra-modem “flying laboratory,” he was dismayed to discover that there was nothing with which to take celestial bearings except an ordinary ship sextant. He remedied that by borrowing a modem bubble octant designed especially for airplane navigation. For estimating wind drift over the sea, he obtained two dozen aluminum powder bombs. For some reason, these bombs were left behind in a storehouse.
The Coast Guard Cutter ITASCA, which had-been dispatched from San Diego to Howland Island solely as a help to the flyers, would have been able to take directional bearings on the Earhart plane if the latter could have tuned its signals to a 500 KC frequency. The plane’s transmitter would have been able to send such signals if it had a trailing antenna. Miss Earhart considered all this too much bother; no trailing antenna was taken along.” The ITASCA was entirely unaware of this and, as a result, did not know that she was unable to transmit on 500 KCS.
As to why the LEXINGTON was called into the search, I will quote from the above-mentioned magazine again. “When word that the Earhart plane was lost reached the U.S., husband Putnam wired an appeal for a Navy search to President Roosevelt. But even before the message reached Washington, Secretary of the Navy [Claude A.] Swanson had ordered the Navy to start hunting.”
To add a little sidelight to the search, were you aware that the U.S. Battleship COLORADO served as an oil barge for the USCG cutter ITASCA?
Under a New York dateline, Dec. 4, 1961, there appeared a story about a “Mrs. Clara [Trenckman] Studer, Rome, Italy, who has spent months here studying records of Miss Earhart’s last flight” etc. This same article contains the following: “Mrs. Studer, a writer who collaborated on a book with Miss Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, and helped form the woman pilots’ organization the “Ninety-Nines,” said Miss Earhart’s name and fate “must be cleared” before 1965 when she is eligible for election in the Hall of Fame. Mrs. Studer and other friends of the flier also fear chances of an Amelia Earhart stamp being published next year have been hurt by the story that she was spying on Saipan.”
(Editor’s note: An online search shows no evidence of any book that Clara Studer and George Putnam wrote together. Studer did author a 1937 book, Sky Storming Yankee: The Life Story of Glenn Curtiss, and in 1933, Studer was the New York-based editor of The Ninety- Niner newsletter. To see the Jan. 15, 1933 edition, please click here.)
Now that I have answered your questions to the best of my ability, may I ask just what connection has Mrs. with CBS, and also the connection, if there be one, between CBS and Mr. Putnam? If Miss Earhart’s name was to be cleared of the spy charge, wouldn’t it be a logical conclusion that an intense investigation be made just how Earhart and Noonan arrived at Saipan (if they did)? My conclusion remains the same; that is, the Electra and its passengers are on the bottom of the sea west of Howland Island, yet very near the island.
In closing, I would like to add that you are quite the “Quiz Master.” However, if there is any doubt in your mind, I see no reason why you should be otherwise. In addition, the enclosure “Facts about the Final Flight” contains several remarks that I would disagree with, but I have never doubted that she crashed very close to Howland Island.
I hope that I have cleared up some points regarding this case. If I can be of any further assistance, don’t hesitate to “start quizzing.” THE INFORMATION THAT I HAVE GIVEN YOU IS FOR YOUR INFORMATION ONLY AND I DO NOT WISH ANY PUBLICITY ON MY PART.
Leo G. Bellarts
Stop the presses! On April 5, Dave Jourdan of Nauticos officially announced finis to the latest Earhart crashed-and-sank goose chase, when he announced on the group’s Expedition Portal, “Today the Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition 2017 comes to a close.”
As always, no hyperbolic headlines screamed for attention as another ocean-floor boondoggle came up empty, nor could the news of this crushing development be found anywhere else in our vast Internet media. Under the headings “Mission Conclusion” and the grammatically challenged “Nauticos Crew Head Home, Makes Plans,” Jourdan wrote, “As you may have gathered, I cannot announce that we found the Electra.” Who could have imagined!
Also as predicted, Jourdan claims that his crew’s latest high-tech achievements aboard “the good ship Mermaid Vigilance” made this most recent voyage highly successful:
We covered 725 square nautical miles this expedition, a record for Nauticos. Our tally in three expeditions is nearly 2,000 square nautical miles, and with the coverage by the Waitt Foundation in 2009 we’ve mapped an area the size of Connecticut at 1 meter resolution or better. This is one of the largest contiguous areas of the deep ocean mapped in history.
So now, thanks to Nauticos, anyone interested in touring the ocean floor near Howland Island should have a far-more detailed map to keep them from getting lost as they negotiate the “seamounts, calderas, and volcanic cones never seen before” in this area of the central Pacific. It’s encouraging to know that someone is concerned about resolving this pressing need!
Readers of this blog will be forgiven if they’re unaware that Jourdan actually wrote a book on his Earhart search, The Deep Sea Quest for Amelia Earhart (Never Forgotten Book II), yet another misnamed and thoroughly forgettable tome, published in 2010 and obviously read only by the most clueless and incorrigible crashed-and-sank enthusiasts.
A description — or more accurately, a warning — about this book’s vapid contents can be found on its Amazon page, on which we find:
“The disappearance of Amelia Earhart is possibly the greatest aviation mystery of the twentieth century. Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished without a trace in the vast Pacific near tiny Howland Island during their attempt to circle the globe on July 2, 1937. No wreckage, oil slick, or floating debris of any sort was ever found. Other than a few fleeting radio messages, there is no primary source to narrow speculation on their fate.”
“No primary source”? Yes, you read that correctly. I suppose that would depend on how one defines “primary source,” wouldn’t it? Jourdan, along with the indefatigable crashed-and-sanker Elgen M. Long, who was also aboard Mermaid Vigilance, is among the most visible of the hopeless crashed-and-sank wing of the Earhart community. Neither Long nor apparently Jourdan consider Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Thomas E. Devine, Bill Prymak or anyone else who ever painstakingly labored in the service of the truth and at the risk of their personal peace and reputations to bring back solid, eyewitness evidence of the presence and deaths of Amelia and Fred Noonan in the Marshall Islands and Saipan as “primary sources.” The same can be said of any of the scores of witnesses these men interviewed, beginning with Josephine Blanco Akiyama, still alive in San Mateo, Calif.
Not a single mention of any of them, or even the possibility of Saipan, can be found in Long’s Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved, and I have no intention of purchasing Jourdan’s book so that I can make a similar statement about that fish wrapper. An old quotation comes to mind and seems most appropriate here: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
Jourdan concluded his announcement by writing, “We will take another look at all of our work, and have already made a to-do list. We will return home, take a well deserved rest, then get back to it!” Of course they will; there’s too much money yet to be made from the fat contracts the U.S. Navy happily awards to those willing to get underway in these continuing voyages into insanity.