Bill Prymak’s ’97 Marshalls witnesses, Conclusion

Today we conclude our two-part look at Bill Prymak’s 1997 investigative foray to the Marshall Islands, as seen in the May 1997 issue of his Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters  (Boldface and italic emphases are both Prymak’s and mine; capitalization emphasis is Prymak’s.)

We begin with an interview with Teresa Amaron, the little-known daughter of the best known of all the Marshalls witnesses, Bilimon Amaron.  Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas does the honors.

“INTERVIEWING THE NATIVE WITNESSES”
by Bill Prymak (Continued)

TERESA AMARON
interviewed by Joe Klaas

In 1937, Bilimon Amaron was a 17-year-old medical assistant for the Japanese Navy, and treated injuries of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at the Japanese seaplane base on Jaluit Atoll.  His University of Hawaii graduate daughter, Teresa Amaron, stated this on the last day of the AES expedition, Jan. 29 to Feb. 10, 1997.

“He told me the same thing he told Joe Gervais and Bill Prymak in 1991,” confirmed Ms. Amaron, Judicial Clerk in the Marshall Islands Federal Courthouse. Many people knew it at the time. A tall, thin woman flying around the world, and her co-pilot or something like that, crashed at Mili Atoll.  They were brought to Jaluit on a Japanese ship.  My father was taken to the ship to treat their minor injuries.  They were brought to him in custody by two Japanese guards. He saw their broken airplane on the back of the ship.  Nobody knew at the time who they were, but they obviously were Amelia Earhart and her navigator.  Later that night, the ship left with them in custody.”

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.)

Bilimon Amaron’s brother at Jabor and other survivors of his generation, verified the story, adding to the long list of more than 60 eyewitnesses quoted by name in AMELIA EARHART LIVES and since, who saw Amelia Earhart alive and at Mili Atoll, Jaluit and Saipan.  Not one eyewitness has ever reported seeing her or her Lockheed 10E Electra anywhere near the Phoenix Islands southeast of Howland Island where my 1970 book mistakenly speculated she might have landed.  I was wrong, and so is anyone else under that illusion.

Those who said Amelia Earhart went down in the Marshalls include Bill Van Dusen; her mother, Amy Otis Earhart; Adm. Chester W. Nimitz; Adm. Richard B. Black; Cmdr. Paul W. Bridwell; Fred Goerner; Oliver Knaggs; Vincent V. Loomis; Queen Bosket Diklan, of Mili Atoll; Lt. Col. Joseph C. Wright; Randall Brink; Robert H. Myers; Capt. George Carrington; Jim Donahue; Lockheed Historian Roy Blay; John and Dwight Heine, who saw her at Jaluit [Editor’s note: No evidence for this claim]; Marshallese President Kabua Kabua; Oscar DeBrum; and more. 

In addition, 60 people have related that they saw her in 1937 at Saipan.  [Editor’s note:  Technically speaking, we do not have anywhere near 60 eyewitnesses from 1937 Saipan on record, though it’s possible that many or more could have seen her at or near the Kobayashi Royakan Hotel while she was kept there.  An unknown number of eyewitnesses feared Japanese reprisals, even long after the war.]

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And last is the tale of two delightful elderly women weaving floor mats while sitting on the grass in the shade of a shack on JABOR. Joe Gervais and I had just come from the home of a native too feeble to tell us of the happenings in 1937.  We were told, this man knew.Knew what? was never tested.  His eyes told us he had a story to tell, but the voice, and the body, just couldn’t make it.

As we passed these two pleasant, older women, my eyes fixed upon the feet of one of the ladies.  Her toes were anchoring three palm fibers leading up to her nimble fingers as she created a masterpiece of weaving; but it was her story that captured our attention.  Both women were well into their seventies, and had been on JALUIT before the war.  They aptly described Bilimon and how he treated two “American pilot spies” several years before the war.  But what made this interview so memorable was that even though no Japanese ships were discussed, one of the gals looked me in the eye (the older natives rarely do that!)and stated, “It was not the Koshu . . .  IT WAS KAMOI.”  KAMOI, she kept repeating, and I just thought it was extraordinary for an old Marshallese woman to remember the name of an obscure Japanese boat unless its presence connected with a very special event in her life many years ago.  Very strange.

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Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais pause with the iconic Earhart eyewitness Bilimon Amaron at Amaron’s Majuro home in 1991.

“THE CREDIBILITY OF THE WITNESSES”

How credible are these witnesses interviewed during our latest trip to Jaluit?  To discredit these people, you’d have to brand them as liars, embellishers, storytellers, fabricators, or worse.  The Marshallese are kind, simple, loving people that really don’t have it in their makeup to lie to their (1) priests, (2) schoolteachers, (3) local government officials or (4) the interpreters who translate their experiences to visiting researchers.

I can’t imagine BILIMON AMARON, in failing health and dying, lying to his brother and daughter about his experience that he began telling to Matson Shipping Lines officials in the late 1940’s  . . . a story he had never wavered on thru all the years.

Why are Chamorro natives of Saipan, a thousand miles distant, describing the same wounds to an American man accompanying an American lady pilot, who were seen on Saipan in 1937, the same wounds as described by Bilimon Amaron?  Why did Cmdr. Paul W. Bridwell, USN, in charge of Saipan during the 1960’s, state that Earhart & Noonan went down in the Marshalls and were brought to Saipan?  Why does every serious researcher — GERVAIS, KLAAS, GOERNER, LOOMIS, BRENNAN, KNAGGS, totally believe in the natives’ experiences, while the armchair critics who never set foot on these islands continue to [attempt to] debunk these witnesses?  Why does the U.S. government repudiate their statements?

Yes, statements do vary, and witnesses sometimes contradict other witnesses.  But considering the deleterious and noxious effect 60 years has on one’s memory, variations will manifest themselves.  For example, the half-dozen or so witnesses interviewed on Jaluit have stated:

Lady pilot went down between Jaluit and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between the Gilberts and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between Ebon and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between Arno and Mili.                                                   

The small print that came with this map states, “This map of Jaluit Atoll is the Sketch Survey from the Japanese Government Chart of 1928, and from the United States Government Charts to 1984. With later corrections to 1987. . . Natural Scale 1:204,100 (at Lat 6″00′) Projection — Mercator.”

But everybody states that BILIMON AMARON was called out to treat Noonan’s wounds.  And the locus of all touchdown areas is MILI.  All witness experiences are told to researchers from memory; there is no written word, no photograph.

Why the ceaseless and incessant denial by the U.S. Government?  Why all the official secrecy about the Earhart Flight? Let me put forth one possible rationalization:  Suppose that the Navy had been monitoring the Japanese communications and ship movements in the Pacific sufficiently to have learned, or at least to have gotten a pretty good idea, that the Japanese had abducted Earhart and Noonan.  What could they have done?

They could not have taken action short of a military intervention to recover the flyers, and they could not have announced the fact (even if they were certain of it) without revealing the extent of their coverage of Japanese communications and operations, and therefore, their source of knowledge.  It would also have raised an enormous storm of protest and indignation, as well as being a national humiliation that we could ill afford, if we did not take bold action to recover the flyers.  It could also be that we were pretty sure, but not sure enough to raise an international incident about it.

This would explain all the secrecy, the strident insistence that the messages received from the plane were all hoaxes, and the equally strident insistence that the plane had fallen into the sea.  It would explain the tampering with the ITASCA log to readone-half hour of fuel left,the male/chauvinistic references to Earhart sounding hysterical,etc.  Since no such policy could have been decided without White House consultation, it would even explain the White House interest in the situation.  (End of Bill Prymak’s 1997 “Interviewing the Native Witnesses.”)

“Interviewing the Native Witnesses” is not all Prymak produced in the wake of his 1997 trip to the Marshall Islands.  Already seen on this blog is “An interview with Marshalls icon Robert Reimers: ‘Everyone knew’ of AE’s landing, tycoon said; yet to be published here is a photo essay devoted to the “The Great Naval Seaplane Base at Emidj,” which we’ll get to at some point. 

Bill Prymak’s 1997 Marshalls witnesses, Part I

During the course of more than 30 years of Earhart research, Bill Prymak made three investigative visits to the Marshall Islands, in 1989, ’91 and ’97, locating and interviewing many previously unknown witnesses, including the famous Bilimon Amaron in 1989, though Prymak wasn’t the first to record Bilimon’s remarkable account. 

Today we begin a two-part look at Prymak’s 1997 Marshalls trip, as seen in the May 1997 issue of his Amelia Earhart Society NewslettersI thought readers might like more of Prymak’s original AES Newsletter format, and so the front page of the newsletter that contains today’s story is presented below.  (Boldface and italic emphases are both Prymak’s and mine; capitalization emphasis is Prymak’s.)

“INTERVIEWING THE NATIVE WITNESSES”
by Bill Prymak

In our quest for new material, the MARSHALL ISLANDS TRIP allowed us to reach some natives who had never been interviewed (by any researcher) before.  As Margaret Meade put it so succinctly, “There was absolutely no indication that the [interviewed] natives we met were perpetuating a myth or falsely embellishing their experiences and recollections.  No one put words in their mouths, led them on or enticed them with promises of gratuity in exchange for their information.”

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HATFIELD LEMAE

Joe Gervais and I had previously interviewed Hatfield six years ago, at which time he described his close relationship with MR. LEE, chief translator between the Japanese and Marshallese natives.  His story is well documented in the May 1991 NEWSLETTER, and it would behoove us to reread that interview.  Great stuff! On this trip, he reiterated his story of how AE & FN were picked up at MILI ATOLL, and brought to JALUIT.  Other pressing matters prevented us from reliving with him again his Mr. Lee experience.

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Six of the 10 members of the Amelia Earhart Society who made the 1997 trip to the Marshall Islands. Bill Prymak’s caption:  “A FEW OF THE CREW: L to R: Lou Foudray, Margaret Mead, Irene & John Bolam, Dr. Rick Perschau and Joe Klaas.”  (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

MR. TOKYO

Again, Mr. Tokyo is a repeat witness from the 1991 trip. See NEWSLETTER, May 1991.  The six years since we saw him last have been hard on the aging man, but he did tell some new tidbits:

He reaffirmed, as several witnesses did, that BILIMON AMARON indeed was the young medic who assisted the Japanese doctor in treating two American flyers, one a woman, in 1937, aboard a Japanese vessel manned by uniformed naval personnel.

Mr. TOKYO worked on the EMIDJ SEAPLANE NAVAL BASE, and at least TWO Japanese Naval seaplanes were at the base at the time Bilimon treated the two Americans in 1937.  A great manyarmchair researchers naively believed the Japanese at the War Crimes Trials, when they deliberately lied in claiming that no fortifications were built in the Mandated Islands before the war.  Several other witnesses, further in this report, concur with Tokyo’s statement.  He further stated that it was his belief that AE & FN went down between the GILBERT ISLANDS and MILI.  Both plane and the two Americans were taken to MILI, transferred to a bigger boat, and then to JABOR, Japanese headquarters on JALUIT ATOLL, where Bilimon treated the man and saw the lady pilot.

If only we had one photo of those events in 1937 . . . but remember, the CARL HEINES were executed at EMIDJ for much less!

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MR. CALETA

Mr. Caleta lives on a tiny island just north of EMIDJ called TMIET. Born in 1928, he worked as a cook for the Japanese at the Naval base during the war years.  He was told by the Japanese that the carrier AKAGI and supporting naval vessels were holding war exercises at JALUIT in 1937, and one of the carrier pilots, FUJIE FIRMOSA, bragged about forcing down Earhart at MILI, where she was then picked up and brought to JALUIT.  Then a Japanese flying boat flew the two Americans to KWAJALEIN.

This is one of several witnesses stating that AE did not fly her own airplane to Saipan.

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MASHAISHI LOMETO

The schoolteacher at EMIDJ, Mashaishi Lometo related he was raised on MILI ATOLL, and his father told him the following:

Earhart crashed at MILI, on the lagoon side, when she ran out of gas.  Soldiers came to the crash site, captured the two Americans, kept them one day at MILI, and then transported them to JALUIT.  Meantime, the soldiers struggled to hide the airplane with palm fronds for fear more American planes might be coming to search for her airplane.

Mr. Lometo stated that many of the old-timers on MILI, some now dead, frequently of the AMERICAN LADY PILOT incident back in 1937.   Two names, NERO and LEROK, were mentioned.

If we had time, it would have been very opportunistic to travel the 85 miles to MILI with Lometo, and relive with him and the surviving elders, what they experienced in 1937.

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Recent overview of Jabor, “a quiet bucolic place once teeming with thousands of Japanese Navy and Army personnel,” Bill Prymak wrote. “The great naval seaplane base at Emidj in eight miles up the lagoon.”

ABA

The elderly Japanese woman, translated by her grandson, ICHIWATA LAMAE.

Lady Luck smiled upon us today!  As John and Irene Bolam were leisurely walking thru Jabor village, a young Japanese lad (17 or 18 years old) stopped them to inquire about college in the USA.  After a thorough, briefing by John, Ichiwata casually remarked that his 85-year-old grandmother lived on Jabor before, during and after the war, and might be a source of information.

Her husband had worked with the Japanese at EMIDJ before and during the war, and she stated that her husband had told her that a plane went down (several years before the war) between JALUIT and MILI ATOLLS.  Amelia and Fred were then brought to JABOR.  After JABOR, the two Americans were taken to places unknown; however, one rumor had it that they were taken to POHNPEI, and the native Chief’s daughter was allowed to see the “white woman” with her hands tied behind her back.  The daughter somehow relayed this experience back to Aba at JALUIT.  (POHNPEI at that time was a Japanese stopover for traffic going from JALUIT to TRUK.)

Aba also related stories of bestial atrocities the Japanese inflicted upon the local Marshallese, beating them for eating fruit from their own trees, and often beheading them as “spies.”  They usually brought them to EMIDJ for execution by Samurai sword.  POWs at EMIDJ suffered a similar fate, and a local Marshallese, ANUKOJ, witnessed the decapitation of three young American airmen at EMIDJ the end of July 1944.  Rear Admiral MASUDA,  Commander of EMIDJ, committed suicide on Oct 5, 1945, rather than face war crime trials.

This kind, gentle elderly lady simply could not have fabricated the above.  She was quite honored and humbled by our visit.  Her grandson later stated that she cried after we left . . . we were her first visitors outside of family in fifty years.

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PAUL AMARON

WOW!  We didn’t even know Bilimon had a brother, and an educated English schoolteacher at that.

To briefly review, Bilimon Amaron was a much revered and deeply religious Japanese store-owner from Majuro.  Since the early 1940s, he had told of his experiences of July 1937, at JALUIT, when as a medic for the Japanese Naval doctor, he was called out to a ship in the harbor manned by Japanese uniformed naval personnel.  Two Americans, one a woman fitting AE’s description, were on deck, with a silver-colored (“Not Japanese”) airplane on the fantail.  See Feb. 1996 AES NEWSLETTER for the complete story.

U.S. Air Force Intelligence Map. 1943. “The map of EMIDJ exemplifies the resourcefulness of the USAF in 1943 air reconnaissance,” Bill Prymak wrote in his May 1997 AES Newsletter.  “The written text accompanying the map describes in detail some 100 buildings, from latrines to thte two 155 x 220 foot clear- span hangars. Radio towers, storage tanks, torpedo storehouse, ammunition bunkers, power plants, all are described in minute detail.” (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

BILIMON’s experience, along with his honesty and credibility, has withstood the test of time, and this editor has always regarded him as one of the most genuine, sincere, and honorable men he has ever met.  Bilimon died last year, but meeting his younger brother, PAUL, simply heaps more credence to the total AMARON experience.

PAUL AMARON, in an AES interview and a written statement, reaffirms his brother’s experience in 1937, and just before Bilimon died last year, he told his family tobe sure to tell Joe and Bill, and the rest who asked about Amelia, that my story is true.”  And Bilimon, with that covenant to his family, and to the world, passed on.

Paul’s interview disclosed some interesting tidbits:

In 1937, three Japanese Naval doctors were at JABOR, and 7 were at EMIDJ.  It tells you that major construction was already under way at this period in time.  (See Robert Reimers Interview.)

Local natives were beheaded by the Japanese simply for eating locally grown food, with executions carried out at EMIDJ.

Bilimon told his brother that the American man was slightly injured, but the woman was neat, calm, with no injuries. Both were taken to KWAJALEIN and then to SAIPAN.

Here’s a strange twist: The hospital at EMIDJ was sealed by the Japanese and to this day has never been opened.  The Japanese were known for their meticulous record keeping; wouldn’t you guess the naval doctor with Bilimon in 1937, would have recorded the spectacular event of two Americans dropping in on Jaluit aboard a Japanese naval vessel?  Or at least mention the medical treatment of these two extraordinary visitors in 19377

Why can’t you just walk in?  Not so simple.  The hospital is buried under tons of coral debris; three torpedoes adorn the roof in mock protection; and the natives have no desire to invade a tomb filled with evil spirits, slithering creatures, booby traps and the ghoulish ghosts of men long dead.  (End Part I.)

Senator Inouye’s Earhart legislation would “declassify any records that have been classified”

We rejoin the saga of Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye’s attempt to release the secret Earhart files by drafting Congressional legislation in 1993.  Longtime Earhart researcher and author Col. Rollin Reineck (U.S. Air Force, retired) was far from a single-minded devotee of the truth, as we’ve already seen in several posts, but we also must give the colonel his just due.  (Boldface and italics emphases mine throughout.)

If not for Reineck’s diligence, Inouye would never have become informed and motivated enough about the Earhart disappearance to actually step out from the establishment mob and risk his proverbial neck for the truth. 

I find it beyond ironic that Inouye was not just the only U.S. senator to ever actively advocate for total disclosure of the secret Earhart files, but that he was a Japanese-American citizen who narrowly escaped internment during World War II.  With 50 more like him, we might write “Case Closed” to the Earhart disappearance.

Inouye was one of only seven members of the U.S. Senate to be awarded the Medal of Honor;  five of those were cited for their valor during the Civil War.  Sen. Robert J. Kerry (D-Nebraska), whose actions came in Vietnam in 1969, shares the 20th century senatorial distinction with Inouye, whose story is an inspiring chronicle of selflessness, courage and devotion to duty and comrades.

Undated U.S. Army photo of Lt. Daniel Inouye, platoon leader in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, activated on Feb. 1, 1943 at Camp Shelby, Miss.  The team was composed of Japanese-American volunteers from the internment camps, Hawaii, states outside of the west coast exclusion zone, and Japanese-American soldiers who were already serving in the U.S. Army when the war broke out.

Born in Honolulu in 1924 to Japanese parents who had emigrated from the mainland, Inouye was surrounded by anti-Japanese sentiment during his childhood, graduating from high school in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor. 

Inouye immediately tried to enlist in the military, but was rejected with a draft classification 4C, which stood for enemy alien,unfit for duty, but after more than a year, the Army finally dropped its enlistment ban on Japanese-Americans.  He quickly enlisted and volunteered for the storied 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese-American combat unit that fought in southern France and Germany.

Promoted to sergeant in his first year, and after a major battle in the Vosges Mountains of France in the fall of 1944, Inouye received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant.  During that offensive, he was hit by a German round right above his heart, but two silver dollars he had stacked in his shirt pocket stopped the bullet.  He carried those coins with him through the rest of the war, but the worst was far from over.

On April 21, 1945, Inouye was near San Terenzo, Italy, leading his platoon on an attack on a mountain ridge against enemy troops who were guarding an important road junction when they were ambushed by three close-range machine guns. During the attack, he was shot in the stomach, but Inouye was undeterred and  destroyed the first machine gun position by himself with grenades and gunfire.  He and his squad then attacked the second machine gun nest, successfully destroying it.  For the rest of the late Senator Daniel Inouye’s Medal of Honor story, please click here.

We come now to possibly the highest point of the 12 years Bill Prymak invested in producing the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter (1989-2000) for his friends and fellow researchers.  As we can see below, Prymak’s February 1993 newsletter trumpets the news that his friend Rollin Reineck had persuaded Sen. Inouye to write legislation that would, if approved and enacted, end 56 years of government denial and deceit, as reflected by Inouye’s letter to Reineck, followed by the bill that he would soon introduce.

Army 2nd Lt. and future Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye (far left) smiles with Bob Dole (front right) at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Mich., sometime after World War II.  (Photo courtesy of Robert Dole Library.)

Prymak’s closing comment:  “The above, hopefully, will be the fruition of many years of hard, dedicated effort to break down the doors of the State Department, where the Colonel is certain that files on Amelia Earhart never seen before by the American people lay sequesteredEverybody owes him a debt of gratitude for his untiring efforts and perseverance in what we all hope will be a major breakthrough in the Earhart mystery.  GOOD SHOW, COLONEL.

Nothing more was ever heard of Inouye’s proposed bill, and the AES Newsletters are silent as wellThus has been the fate of all efforts aimed at breaking through the stone wall erected by the U.S. government and its agencies that protects the secrets of the Earhart disappearance from the public.  Even an important, highly placed U.S. senator’s actual proposed legislation was dead on arrival, with no chance of passage whatsoever.

Joe Gervais, left, and Rollin Reineck, circa mid-1990s, overlooking Honolulu, Hawaii.  Still esteemed by some as the greatest of Earhart researchers, Gervais can count among his contributions the vile and false Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart theory, which his friend Reineck unsuccessfully tried to reprise in his 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived.

Congress has yet to do anything approaching a real investigation of the Earhart disappearance.  When Fred Goerner’s bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart, rocked the nation in 1966, selling over 400,000 copies in an age when far more Americans actually read books, untold numbers of congressmen and senators from coast to coast were besieged by constituents demanding that they get to the bottom of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.  Nothing happened.

In an event that appears to have been completely suppressed from the public, in July 1968 Goerner appeared before a Republican platform subcommittee in Miami, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn. 

In his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility — Truth in Government,” Goerner laid out the highlights of the mountain of facts that put the fliers on Saipan and appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, doing his utmost  to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.  Nothing eventuated, of course.  I have the record of Goerner’s congressional encounter only because I briefly had access to his 900-plus files, housed at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, which continues to ban Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last from its bookstore.

In 1997, Rollin Reineck took another shot at it — an extreme longshot, to be more accurate — and wrote an excellent letter to President  Bill Clinton in hopes of achieving a miraculous breakthrough in the Earhart case.  This time Reineck had no inside connection, and his missive probably never got past a GS-11 screener.  This has been the fate of all attempts to reveal the truth about the Earhart disappearance — among the most sacrosanct of the U.S. government’s sacred cows — to the American public.  And so it goes.

Earhart researcher, witness Jimm Crowder dies at 72

Super Bowl Sunday morning dawned with the sad news of the passing of Jimm Crowder on Jan. 29.  Below is Jimm’s obituary, as published in Feb. 2 Star Tribune of Minneapolis.  No cause of death was given, but his health had been failing in recent years. 

Crowder, Jimm age 72 of St. Paul passed away January 29th, 2020, peacefully at home.  He spent his career traveling the globe and visited over 100 countries as the Director of International Admissions at Macalester College.  Through his deep knowledge of global issues and passion for international education he created a far-reaching community of students, colleagues, and friends.  A true renaissance man, he was a baseball aficionado, world class chef, and a brilliant storyteller.  Perhaps above all else, he was a dedicated humanist, optimist, and lover of life.  He saw the best in all those he met and had a profound impact on countless lives.  He is survived by his wife, Jutta and children, Max and Anja. May he travel well.

Jimm Crowder shared his close personal knowledge of major Marshall Islands eyewitness Bilimon Amaron and several others, helping us to expand, better understand and appreciate the Marshall Islands landing scenario and its key role in the Earhart disappearance.  He passed away Jan. 29 at 72.

In late July 2015, Jimm presented new witness information to the Amelia Earhart Research Association (AERA) online discussion group, recalling his work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia in his early 20s, from 1970 to 1972, where he lived on Majuro and Saipan and taught middle school.

Jimm also learned plenty about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, beginning at Majuro in 1970 where he was befriended by Senator Amata Kabua, also known as theIroj, or King of the Marshalls, who later became the first president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.  Through Kabua he met many of the leading players and witnesses in the Earhart saga, including Bilimon Amaron, the powerful and influential Robert Reimers, Tony and Oscar deBrum, and the Heine brothers, John and Dwight.

Amaron, a successful and respected businessman, was Jimm’s landlord on Majuro, and John Heine supervised his work.  He [Bilimon] and his workers joined me in building my modest plywood and tin shack on his property, Jimm wrote:

I saw him multiple times per week at his store where I bought my provisions.  On a couple of occasions Bilimon knocked on my door with a big smile and a large chunk of freshly caught tuna, which he readily shared with me and other members of our village.  All of these people and others, some with firsthand observations and others with credible secondhand information, spoke to me, often at length, about Earhart and Noonan.  Every one of them offered evidence that AE and Noonan landed in the Marshalls.

This stamp commemorating Amata Kabua, who was the first President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands from 1979 to 1996 (five consecutive terms), was issued shortly after his 1996 death on Jan 27, 1997.  As a Peace Corps worker in the Marshalls from 1970 to 1972, Jimm Crowder was befriended by Kabua, who was also known as the “Iroj,” or King of the Marshalls.

After his Peace Corps job took him to Saipan in 1971, Crowder’s friendship with Amata Kabua continued, as the senator often visited on official business and introduced Crowder to numerous American and Micronesian government officials.  “AE’s time on Saipan seemed to be a given and was commonly discussed among government professionals,” Crowder recalled.  “Everyone knew the story and most accepted that it was true.”

For much more on Jimm’s important contributions to Earhart research, please see pages 164-167 of Truth at Last.

My heartfelt condolences to Jimm’s family,Les Kinney wrote in the Star Tribune’s Guest Book.  “I have never met such a kind, soft spoken man.  A true friend with a vibrant intellect.  A friend who would go the extra mile to make you welcome and comfortable. 

“He served in the Marshall Islands and Saipan,” Kinney continued, “and is the only person to have had discussions with two witnesses who had seen Amelia Earhart on both Saipan and the Marshall IslandsHe truly will be missed.” 

I echo Les Kinney’s sentiments, and hope the Angels have already flown Jimm to his Heavenly abode, where Amelia Earhart welcomed him home.

Rollin Reineck’s 1990s Earhart work bears fruit: Hawaii senator pledges to open secret Earhart files

Today, we’ll look at the first of two letters written in 1992 by Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye to Earhart researcher and retired Air Force Col. Rollin Reineck.  This letter appeared, with much fanfare, as a “Special Newsletter” and comprised the entire November 1992 issue of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.  (Boldface and italic emphases mine throughout.)

Inouye served as a U.S. senator 1963 until his death in 2012.  A member of the Democratic Party, he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate from 2010 until his death, making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in American history.

Inouye, a World War II veteran who fought in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, lost his right arm to a grenade wound and received several military decorations, including the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award.  Returning to Hawaii, Inouye earned a law degree, was elected to Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives in 1953, and to the territorial Senate in 1957. When Hawaii  became a state in 1959, Inouye was elected as its first member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962.  Inouye never lost an election in 58 years as an elected official, and he exercised an exceptionally large influence on Hawaii politics.  He died in December 2012 at age 88.

       Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye, circa 2009.

I list Inouye’s more significant bona fides because it’s important to understand this man was no lightweight public official, but a long-sitting U.S. senator and a Democrat who hefted serious weight and was a media favorite, for obvious reasons.  Perhaps no other U.S. senator was as well-positioned to effect a real change in the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of stonewall and denial in the Earhart case as was Inouye. 

Here’s how Prymak presented his announcement in the November 1992 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter:

I look forward to celebrating together on November 3rd the joy of a successful campaign honorably waged, Inouye wrote in the letter’s key sentence, and the beginning of a new era of accomplishment and promise for Hawaii and our nation, which will include the initiation of legislation to open the secret files relating to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.”

Undoubtedly, Prymak and his AES friends considered this letter from the Hawaii senator a gigantic breakthrough with the strong potential to open the doors to the final resolution of the Earhart “mystery,” as they all still insisted on characterizing it.  Under the Inouye letter to Reineck, Prymak was uncharacteristically verbose and enthusiastic in his accompanying commentary, much of which is presented below:

Senator Daniel K. Inouye, senior senator from Hawaii, in a letter dated 28th Sept., 1992, to Colonel Rollin C. Reineck of Kailua, Hawaii, said that he plans to initiate legislation that will open the secret files concerning Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance over 55 years ago, on July 2nd, 1937.

Col. Reineck has been researching the last flight of Amelia Earhart for over 22 years.  From his research, he has concluded that the answer to the Earhart mystery does not lie in the Pacific where she disappeared, but rather in the secret files in Washington, D.C.  Reineck says that the senator’s action will solve the 55-year mystery.

. . . Col. Reineck believes that she was on a government mission and went down in the Marshall Islands near Mili Atoll.  The Japanese picked her up and transferred her to Saipan Island, in the Marianas, and then on to Tokyo.  Sometime during WW II, Earhart was moved to the Japanese internment camp at Weihsien, China. 

Ten days after the war had ended, an unsigned telegram was sent through State Department channels, from the Weihsien internment camp to Amelia Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, at the Earhart/Putnam home in North Hollywood, California.

The telegram read, “Camp liberated: all well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother.”  Although unsigned, Col. Reineck strongly  believes that this telegram was from Amelia Earhart.  His belief, comes in part, from a 1990 State Department letter to Senator Inouye that says this message was located in 1987 — by a State Department clerk, with a top secret clearance — in the National Archives among other classified Earhart documents.

Although, Col. Reineck, as well as other Earhart researchers, have tried to obtain additional information from the State Department and other government agencies concerning Amelia Earhart, their efforts have not produced any results.

A young Lt. Rollin C. Reineck, England 1942, as the B-24 navigator prepares for another perilous mission over Nazi Germany.

Because of this, Col. Reineck has twice briefed Senator Dan Inouye on the Amelia Earhart story and asked for his help in obtaining the truth as to what happened 55 years ago on July 2, 1937.  Col. Reineck feels that the information is secreted away in the files in Washington, D.C., and that it will take a presidential directive to free up the information similar to the President Kennedy assassination files.

. . . Colonel Reineck says that such action will be more than welcomed by all serious Earhart researchers as it will put an end, once and for all, to the many unfounded rumors and ridiculous claims that, in the past, have led to false hopes concerning one of America’s great heroines of the 20th century.

As we can see above, little did Prymak know in November 1992 — or anytime within the near future — that the foundational document for Reineck’s approach to the Hawaii senator was itself among the “many unfounded rumors and ridiculous claims” that Prymak was so quick to reference and denounce in his late 1992 commentary. 

On January 3, 2017, I posted Weihsien Telegram: Another sensation that fizzled,” outlining the entire story that had ignited one of the louder of the Earhart false claims.  To catch up or re-orient yourself with all the morbid details, please click here.

Not content with the above comments, Bill Prymak, obviously in a rare, joyful mood of celebration, next presented readers with the longest, most comprehensive biography of Col. Rollin Reineck to be found in the AES Newsletters — or anywhere else, for that matter.  I present large portions of this below:

WHO IS THIS MAN, COLONEL ROLLIN REINECK?

Colonel Rollin C. Reineck was 17 years old when Amelia Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the world in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra.  He recalls the excitement that the trip generated and the suspense created when she was reported lost on the way to tiny Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

However, Col. Reineck’s interest in the fate of Amelia Earhart really ignited when he was assigned, in January 1942, to the Army Air Corps Navigation School at Kelly Field, Texas.  His class was instructed by Army Air Corps officers that had been trained by Pan American personnel.

During the celestial phase of the instruction, the students reviewed, in detail, the Amelia Earhart flight and theorized the various possibilities as to her fate.  Subsequently, a training flight was scheduled to simulate the “single line of position (LOP) technique” of locating a destination.  Col. Reineck modestly says, “I hit the destination area within a mile and got an A for the flight.”

Col. Reineck’s interest in Amelia Earhart’s last flight has continually grown since those cadet days of early 1942.  However, the pressure of his military career kept him from getting heavily involved,.  When he retired in December of 1970, Col. Reineck was able to devote more of his time to this project.  He has worked closely with [former] Major Joe Gervais and more recently with Bill Prymak in trying to sort out the available evidence.  Col. Reineck is not writing a book [at that time] and has never solicited a single penny to carry out his work.  He says his total objective can be summed up in three words: Facts and Truth.

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.)

Col. Reineck is quick to point out that no one, as yet, has any direct evidence or sufficient circumstantial evidence to conclude what really happened on July 2nd, 1937.  However, he adds that there is a tremendous amount of quality circumstantial evidence that supports the theory that Amelia Earhart was not just on a stunt flight, but was some kind of government mission and that she did survive her flight, WWII and returned to the United States after the war with a new identity as Irene Bolam.

I strongly believe,says Col. Reineck, that the solution to the Earhart mystery does not lie in the Pacific where she disappeared, but in the secret files of the various departments and agencies in Washington, D.C.  And until those files are declassified — by a presidential directive, similar to the JFK files — and made available to the public, the Earhart last flight and related events will remain a mystery.  Possibly forever.”

. . . Colonel Reineck USAF (Ret.) is a graduate of the University of California.  In January 1942 he became an Army Air Corps Navigation Cadet and [was] assigned to Kelly Field Navigation School, Texas.  Upon graduation in June 1942, he went immediately overseas with the 93rd Bomb Group (B-24) as part of the 8th Air Force.  He completed his first combat tour in April 1943 and was assigned as staff navigator for the Second Air Division, 8th Air Force.

In June 1944 Col. Reineck volunteered for B-29s and was assigned as chief navigator for all of the B-29s on Saipan Island, in the western Pacific.  After the war, Col. Reineck completed pilot training.  He subsequently served in the Strategic Air Command Hq., the Far East Air Forces Bomber Command Hq., Air Force Hq., The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pacific Air Force Hq., and the Minuteman Missile Systems Program Office.  Col. Reineck also took an active part in the Korean War, but says that although he was willing to go to Vietnam, there wasn’t much of a requirement for an old colonel.

Col. Reineck’s awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster.  Col. Reineck retired in December 1970 and now resides in Hawaii with his wife Esther.  (End of Prymak’s tribute to Reineck.)

Rollin Reineck’s outstanding service record was indeed that of a true war hero — honorable, courageous and accomplished.  His record of achievement in the most stressful and demanding of combat environments makes his later advocacy of some of the most far out of the fringe Earhart conspiracy ideas all the more puzzling. 

In addition to Reineck’s active promotion of the Weishien telegram canard, we also see that Prymak alluded to Reineck’s devotion to the false Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth.  Reineck was among the most prominent and enthusiastic of those who continued to believe in and promote Joe Gervais’ absurd idea, introduced to the public in Joe Klaas’ 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives.  For much more on this unfortunate aspect of Reineck’s legacy, please click here.

In our next post we’ll see Inouye’s second letter to Reineck, as well as the actual legislation that the Hawaii senator presented to Congress.

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