Tag Archives: “Amelia Earhart Lives”

Goerner blasts “Amelia Earhart Lives” in ’71 letter

Today we present another installment in the fascinating correspondence between Fred Goerner and Fred Hooven.  In this March 1971 letter from Goerner, he treats Hooven to a scathing review of Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, Joe Klaas’ 1970 bid for Earhart glory that will forever live in infamy as the most damaging of all the Earhart disappearance books ever penned. 

Thanks chiefly to Klaas, an otherwise fine writer with nine books to his credit, and his precocious crony Joe Gervais, whose multiple delusions are featured throughout Amelia Earhart Lives, legitimate Earhart research, particularly of the kind that supports and reveals the Marshall Islands-Saipan truth, has been forever tainted in the public mind and more eagerly discredited by the establishment media, already dead set against release of the truth since the earliest days.

The centerpiece of the insanity in Amelia Earhart Lives is Gervais’ “recognition” of Amelia Earhart, returned from Japan, in the person of American housewife Mrs. Guy Bolam, who he met on Aug. 8, 1965 at the Sea Spray Inn on the Dunes, in East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y.  If you’re not familiar with the story behind this catastrophe, I wrote a four-part series that will tell you far more than you probably want to know.

It begins with my Dec. 29, 2015 post, Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IVand continues consecutively, describing the entire sordid affair and its incredible aftermath.  But here’s Goerner’s 1971 missive to Hooven, which boils it all down to a neat little dollop.  (Boldface mine throughout.)

 

Dear Fred,                                                       March 2, 1971

How are you and Martha?  Are you completely recovered from your accident?  Are you ever coming back to S.F.?  Merla has two wall clocks she wants fixed and I am totally incapable.

This letter is months overdue.  The passage of time apparently is accelerating.  Then, too, the longer letters always come last.  Human nature, I guess, to tackle the shorties first.  Give more of a feeling of accomplishment to mail ten short letters rather than one long one.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year, by the way, and since neither of us bother with cards.

Joe Gervais, left, the father of the Earhart-as-Bolam theory, and Joe Klaas, his right-hand man and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a news photo from the Washington Daily News of Nov. 19, 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation.  The book’s stunning success was short-circuited when Irene Bolam sued McGraw-Hill for defamation and the book was pulled from bookstore shelves after seven weeks.  Bolam won an undisclosed settlement that was rumored to be quite substantial.

Amelia Earhart is not alive and well and living in New Jersey — and nowhere else.  Unfortunately.  How those guys thought they were going to get away with that gambit I haven’t yet been able to figure out.  I guess they figured that the truth is so hard to come by these days that it would never really catch up with them.

I think they were both smoking pot when they dreamed up their script.  In case you didn’t get it all, it goes like this:

AE and Noonan are shot down by Japanese carrier aircraft onto Hull Island in the Phoenix Group from whence they are picked up and spirited first to Saipan and then to Japan.  FDR is blackmailed by the Japanese into giving up the plans for the Hughes racing plane which is adapted by the Japanese into the Zero fighter plane.  AE is kept prisoner in the Imperial Palace and during WWII she is forced to broadcast to American troops under the guise of Tokyo Rose.  And the end of WWII, Emperor Hirohito trades AE back to the U.S. with the bargain that he be permitted to retain the Japanese throne.  AE is sneaked back to the U.S. disguised as a Catholic nun whereupon she assumed the identity of one Irene (Mrs. Guy) Bolam.

If it were not for the fact that Mrs. Bolam was outraged, the authors might have achieved their purpose: A bestseller.  Mrs. Bolam scuttled them with dispatch and McGraw-Hill took a black eye.  Yet the human willingness to suspend disbelief always amazes me.  Some people accepted the entire creation and it is no small task to disabuse them of that desire to believe in limitless conspiracy.

Photo taken in Honolulu in 1935 and referenced by Fred Goerner, above, from Amelia Earhart Lives.  The original caption stated, “Kimono-lad Amelia Earhart being served in a Japanese tea room.  This unique photo was planted [sic] and recently found in Joe Gervais’ safe.” Joe Gervais was alive and well at the time of this book’s publication, so the cryptic language about where the photo was found makes no sense at all, like so much of Amelia Earhart Lives. 

Enclosed find a recent epistle from AE’s sister, Mrs. Albert Morrissey, which reveals how the family felt about the disclosures [not available].  The photo Muriel mentions is one the two authors submitted as placing AE in Japanese custody in Japan.  In the photo, AE is wearing the kimono and bracelet referred to by Mrs. Morrissey.  The photo was actually taken in a Japanese restaurant in Honolulu in 1935 at the time of AE’s Hawaii to California solo flight.

Along with that small flaw, nothing else in the book bears scrutiny, either.  For instance, Hull Island was populated with several hundred persons in 1927 under British administration.  U.S. Navy planes landed in the Hull Island lagoon in the week following the AE disappearance, and no sign of AE or the Japanese had been seen by anyone.  As Hull is a very tiny coral atoll, there was no mistake.  The authors, however, produced a photo supposed taken from a U.S. Navy plane above Hull Island which shows the wreckage of AE’s plane on a beach with a Japanese flag planed beside it.  The picture also shows some rather large hills in the background.  This provides some embarrassment because the highest point of land on Hull rises only nine feet above sea level.

Ah, but they have really muddied the waters.  I despair at reaching anything like the complete truth at this point.  But I will keep trying simply because my nature is such that I don’t know how to do anything else.

This front-page story that appeared in The News Tribune Woodbridge New Jersey) on Dec. 17, 1982 illustrates the depths of insane speculation that Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais unleashed with their 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives, inarguably the most damaging of all Earhart disappearance books, in that its outrageous claims forever tainted legitimate Earhart research in the public’s mind.  The negative repercussions of this book continue to be felt in the Earhart research community, or at least what’s left of it.    

(Editor’s note: So compelling was the siren song of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth that some otherwise rational souls remained in its thrall even after the overwhelming evidence against this pernicious lie became well known.  Soon after Amelia Earhart Lives hit the streets, Irene Bolam filed a defamation lawsuit against McGraw-Hill that forced the publisher to pull all copies of the book bookshelves nationwide, and Bolam reportedly settled for a huge, undisclosed sum. 

In 2003, retired Air Force Col. Rollin C. Reineck, a charter member of the Amelia Earhart Society, self-published Amelia Earhart Survived, possibly the worst Earhart disappearance book ever, in a vain attempt to resurrect the odiferous corpse of the Bolam theory.  To this day, there are some who continue to push this insidious nonsense upon the unwary.)

We never have gotten launched on that final Pacific jaunt.  One thing after another after three others has always emerged.  Now I’m shooting for this summer with some Air Force cooperation.  Canton Island, which has air facilities and close to the area we wish to search, is currently under Air Force-SAMSO (Space and Missile Systems Organization) control.  I addressed the Air Force Academy Cadets and their faculty two weeks ago on the Credibility Gap, and I believe we have an arrangement forged for the necessary cooperation.  If you have changed your mind with respect to a little light adventure, let me know. [See Truth at Last pages 174-175 for more on Goerner’s expedition that never got under way.]

Within the last few weeks there has been an interesting development: A Mrs. Ellen Belotti of Las Vegas, Nevada, came forward with some reports from the Pan American Airways radio direction finder stations at Wake, Midway and Honolulu which deal with the Earhart case.  Mrs. Belotti was secretary to G.W. Angus, Director of Communications for Pan [sic] in 1937, and she was given the task of coordinating the reports.  She states that one day several U.S. Navy officers who identified themselves as from the Office of U.S. Naval Intelligence appeared at the office (PAN AM) and confiscated all of the reports dealing with Earhart.  She says the Pan Am people were warned at the time not to discuss the matter with anyone, and that the reports were to be considered secret and any copies of the reports were to be destroyed.

Mrs. Belotti says she decided not to destroy her copies of the reports because she believed the Navy did not have the right to require that of Pan Am.  She also felt a fair shake was not being given to her idol, Amelia.

She did, however, keep silence over all the years, but now she thinks the truth should be told.

The reports really don’t tell very much except for the fact that some signals were picked up by the three Pan Am stations which they believed came from Earhart.  The bearings place the location of the signals in the Phoenix Island area between Canton and Howland Island.  Strangely, the time of the reception of the signals matches up with reports of amateur radio operators along the West Coast who stated they had received signals from the AE plane.

The only reason I can think of that the Navy would want to quash such information is that Naval Intelligence Communications were not anxious for the Japanese to learn that we had such effective high-frequency DF’s in operation in the Pacific.  Much valuable intelligence information was gained between 1938 and 1941 by DF’s monitoring Japanese fleet activity in the Pacific area, and particularly within the Japanese mandated islands.

I have also enclosed copies of the Pan Am reports for you to peruse.  I’d love to hear your opinion of them.

Merla is doing great.  Still turning out her column for the S.F. CHRONICLE.  She joins me in sending warm, warm, warm, warm, warm, best wishes to you both and in issuing a permanent invitation for you to come and be our house guests for as long as you like.

Completely cordially,

Fred

Fred Goerner died in 1994, Joe Gervais in 2005, and in 2016 Joe Klaas passed away at age 95.  It’s a shame that Klaas should be remembered chiefly for writing history’s most notorious and controversial Earhart book, as he led a remarkable life distinguished by more admirable achievements.

Klaas began his World War II service by flying British Supermarine Spitfires as an American volunteer in the Royal Air Force.  After Pearl Harbor, Klaas transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force and fought in the North African invasion of Morocco, as well as the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, where he was shot down and captured by Arabs who sold him to the Nazis for $20.  Klaas spent 25 months in German prison camps, escaped to be recaptured and worked for the X-Committee that planned “The Great Escape” from prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III.  

For more on Klaas’ life and World War II exploits, please click here.

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Joe Klaas, “Amelia Earhart Lives” author, dies at 95

Joe Klaas, a popular figure in the Earhart research community and author of the controversial 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives: A trip through intrigue to find America’s first lady of mystery, died at his home Feb. 25 at the age of 95.  Klaas, of Monterey, Calif., wrote nine books including Maybe I’m Dead, a World War II novel; The 12 Steps to Happiness; and (anonymously) Staying Clean.

Klaas died “peacefully and without apparent pain, as he walked with his wife in their apartment,” according to a Facebook posting by family friend Sean Durkin. Klaas’ passing leaves Paul Rafford Jr., 96, of Melbourne, Fla., the “Elder Statesman” of Earhart research, as the lone remaining male charter member of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society of Researchers.

Joe Klaas, circa 2004, who survived a death march across Germany in 1945 and wrote Amelia Earhart Lives, passed away on Feb. 25, 2016.

Joe Klaas, circa 2004, who survived a death march across Germany as a POW in 1945 and wrote Amelia Earhart Lives, history’s most controversial Earhart disappearance book, passed away on Feb. 25, 2016. (Photo courtesy Monterey County Weekly.)

Readers of this blog know Klaas through his authorship of the notorious Amelia Earhart Lives, as well as his longtime friendship with the late Joe Gervais, his Air Force comrade whose 1960 Guam and Saipan Earhart investigations with fellow officer Robert Dinger were among the most important ever conducted.  But Gervais, who passed away in 2005, was better known for his false Earhart claims, especially his delusion that Amelia Earhart was New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam, a myth made famous by Klaas in the final chapter of Amelia Earhart Lives.

But Klaas did far more in his remarkable life than pen history’s most controversial Earhart disappearance work.  He began his World War II service by flying British Supermarine Spitfires as an American volunteer in the Royal Air Force. After Pearl Harbor, Klaas transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force and fought in the North African invasion of Morocco, as well as the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, where he was shot down and captured by Arabs who sold him to the Nazis for $20.  

According to the biography found on his webpageKlaas spent 25 months in German prison camps, escaped to be recaptured and worked for the X-Committee that planned “The Great Escape” from prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III.  The camp was known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling and were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950).

Klaas survived a torturous death march across Germany, in which thousands of Allied prisoners of war froze to death. From a total of 257,000 Allied POWs held in German prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany in extreme winter conditions, over about four months between January and April 1945. This series of events was known by many names, including “The Great March West,” “The Long March,” “The Long Walk,” “The Long Trek,”The Black March,” “The Bread Marchand “Death March Across Germany,” but most survivors just called it “The March.” Klaas’ novel Maybe I’m Dead was based on his harrowing, near-death experience as a German POW.

Right to the gut, this is the book about P.O.W. camp life and World War II. Joe klass grabs you right from the start. You're with these guys right to the end. Stalag 13 was the one you heard about, Maybe I'm Dead is where it came from. Total first class writing all the way.

“Joe Klaas grabs you right from the start,” an Amazon reviewer wrote of Klaas’ 1955 POW epic, Maybe I’m Dead.  “You’re with these guys right to the end. Stalag 13 was the one you heard about, Maybe I’m Dead is where it came from. Total first-class writing all the way.”

The war hero remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for 28 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel and Chief of Information for the 6th Air Force Reserve Region (13 western states) with 25 decorations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Washington, was elected to the Sigma Delta Chi journalism fraternity, and received a master’s degree in creative writing.

During his 30-year media career, Klaas was an Associated Press news correspondent in Alaska, worked for one newspaper, two film companies, 15 broadcasting companies and retired from the American Broadcasting Company.

He was also the grandfather of Polly Hannah Klaas, the 12-year-old whose October 1993 murder gained national attention when she was kidnapped at knife point from her mother’s home in Petaluma, Calif., and later strangled. Richard Allen Davis was convicted of her murder in 1996 and sentenced to death. Davis remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison, California.

Joe Klaas’ survivors include his son, Marc, and his wife, B.J. Complete survivor information is currently unavailable, as no news source has published an obituary. 

Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Conclusion

In today’s final post of our four-part series, “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society,” we rejoin the litany of famed Earhart researcher Joe Gervais’ better known gaffes; following that, I will try to bring the entire mash pit of absurdities that characterized the Irene Bolam chapter of the Earhart saga into some kind of coherent perspective, and put this pest of a lingering Earhart myth to bed for now. 

What is the hardest task in the world? To think.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Item:  In 1987, Joe Gervais led the voices claiming that the notorious “Weihsien Telegram (later known as the “Love to Mother,” or LTM, message), a 1945 “speedletter” addressed to George Putnam and sent from a liberated Japanese internment camp in China, proved that Earhart had been held by the Japanese throughout World War II. In 2001, Ron Bright led an investigation that found the message had originated with Turkish author and world traveler Ahmad Kamal, who had known Putnam well enough to ask him to look in on his elderly mother before he left on a trip to China in 1939.

Fred Goerner, in a 1992 letter to Rollin Reineck, traced the discovery of what he called the “Weihsien Camp message” to Sandra Rangel, an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s. Rangel found the telegram among State Department records that were being routinely declassified following the normal 30-year classification restrictions, and wrote to Goerner about it in March 1971, telling him she found it a file under the name of George Palmer Putnam, not Amelia Earhart. Goerner obtained copies of the Weihsien records in 1975 and shared them with an Earhart researcher, Patti Morton, in 1983.

The infamous "Weishien Telegram," a so-called "SPEEDLETTER" sent from Weishien, China, later shown to have originated from one Ahmed Kamal, a close friend of G.P. Putnam, and one of the best known of Joe Gervais' false Earhart claims.

The infamous “Weishien Telegram,” a so-called “speedletter” from the U.S. State Department, signed by Alfred D. Kuppinger, assistant chief, Special War Problems Division, of the State Department.  The message reads: “Following message received for you [George P. Putnam] from Weihsien, China via the American Embassy, Chungking, China. ‘CAMP LIBERATED, ALL WELL, VOLUMES TO TELL, LOVE TO MOTHER.’   (Signature omitted.)” The message caused a sensation in research circles, but was later shown to have originated from one Ahmed Kamal, a close friend of G.P. Putnam, and is one of the better known of Joe Gervais’ false Earhart claims.

In 1987 Los Angeles Times reporter Paul Dean contacted Morton after asking Goerner for leads about an Earhart story, and Morton told Dean about the Weihsien message. Dean then used it as a “hook for his article,” according to Goerner, which opened the floodgates to the knee-jerk Earhart theorists’ proclamations. “As I feared,” Goerner wrote, “Mr. Gervais and others immediately began to claim that the message proved Earhart had been a Japanese prisoner and to claim it as proof for their various theories. Within a few days, Mr. Gervais had given his claim to a Las Vegas newspaper. It proved NOTHING OF THE KIND. It only proved that SOMEONE had sent a message to George Palmer Putnam.”

Goerner went on to castigate Reineck for his insistence that Morton was withholding “secret information” from him (Reineck), and said Morton was “outraged by the Gervais statements,” among which was that Morton had agreed “to do a book” with Gervais. Morton thought Gervais was “totally unprincipled,” Goerner told Reineck, and reminded him of Gervais’ checkered history of phony Earhart claims, as well as Reineck’s role in disseminating them:

The incredible attempt to use the Weishien message by Mr. Gervais to support his scenario is but another in a LONG, LONG list of misinformation Mr. Gervais has presented to the media as fact; for instance, by my  count, Mr. Gervais has presented at least three photographs to the media which he alleges as proof that Earhart was in Japanese custody and returned to the U.S. as Irene Bolam. All bogus. You, Mr. Reineck, were a part of the last photo fiasco, and you were quoted widely in the press claiming the photo showed Earhart after the disappearance.

. . . Now that you know the photo was taken in Hawaii in 1937, why have you and Gervais not released that information to the media? Shame on everyone.

   Item: The Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam theory.

The preceding are hardly the only examples of Gervais’ penchant for creative research, whereby he discovered a vast array of conspiracies and Earhart connections where none existed, but they are among the better-known cases. Certainly the native interviews he conducted in the Marianas in 1960 with fellow Air Force officer Robert Dinger were enormously important in establishing the presence of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan. These seminal accounts remain invaluable, but something happened to Gervais after he concluded his Saipan investigations, and it manifested itself in disastrous fashion that August 1965 day on Long Island.

An undated photo of

An undated photo of two Earhart researchers who could not have been more different: Paul Briand Jr. (left) and Joe Gervais. Briand’s 1960 book Daughter of the Sky is long forgotten, but Daughter of the Sky initiated the true modern search for Amelia Earhart. Gervais, on the other hand, will be remembered mainly for his many false Earhart claims.

Though it’s impossible to quantify the damage Amelia Earhart Survived inflicted upon the public’s perception of Earhart researchers, the popular idea that most who pursue the solution to the so-called Earhart mystery must be cranks or otherwise marginal individuals can, for the most part, be laid at Gervais’ doorstep, and Klaas’ too, as David Billings explained:

Joe Gervais convinced Joe Klaas that the woman he had seen at the Sea Spray Inn in 1965 WAS Amelia Earhart based on a spiritual feeling he had experienced which was influenced by a couple of adornments that the woman wore which were not what he thought they were. Klaas did not go and look at the lady himself, nowhere does he say that he did that, therefore he accepted what Gervais said holus-bolus.  Now, if it were you or I and we wanted to be sure, we’d go and have a look.  He never did. He never researched what Gervais told him, he never questioned Gervais, he wrote it down because as he often says, “I am a journalist.”  What are journalists always after?  A scoop. Klaas believed he had a scoop and he went off half-cocked and published that dreadful book. That dreadful book has affected every Earhart researcher since to one degree or another.

The unregenerate Klaas, now 95, has never publicly disavowed what he has described as the strongly “implied” contention in Amelia Earhart Lives that Earhart assumed the identity of Irene Bolam, though occasionally he has admitted the book contained other, less-serious errors. In an April 2007 message to the AES forum, Klaas reasserted his long-held, fence-straddling position on the Earhart-Bolam issue, cloaking it in the same quasi-legal terminology that failed to sway a New York court in the 1970s, and ended with McGraw-Hill’s substantial out-of-court settlement award to Irene Bolam:

My book, which was first published by McGraw-Hill, never stated outright that Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart. We presented all the evidence … and left it up to the reader to speculate.

But the vigilant Mandel was having none of Klaas’ hair-splitting Bolamite doublespeak that April day, and immediately brought the matter to the attention of those forum members who might, understandably, have been confused by Klaas’ statement:

As it follows from Mr. Joe Klaas’ message, his book “never stated outright that Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart,” and the ones who think otherwise make “understandable misunderstanding.” Sorry but it is difficult to agree with this statement, because of following facts. Mr. Joe Klaas’ book was actually. . . how the IB theory was revealed to public – that knew nothing about this theory before this book. And the book’s title was: “AMELIA EARHART LIVES.”

The book clearly proclaimed the concept of the author (Mr. Klaas) and his friend who proposed the theory (Mr. Gervais) that she “lives” in another, living (then) real person – Irene Bolam. Let’s just see the real things: it is exactly what the book proclaimed, not anything else. The name of the author, Mr. Joe Klaas, was on the cover of the book, and it is still my firm opinion that the writer is fully, unconditionally and personally RESPONSIBLE – before the readers, the public, the society, and the history – for the information, concepts and statements made in the book. Always and without exceptions.

Joe Klaas, author of the 1970 sensation, Amelia Earhart Lives, and perhaps Joe Gervais most enthusiastic enabler, in an undated photo.

Joe Klaas, author of the 1970 sensation, Amelia Earhart Lives, without whom Joe Gervais’ most damaging, incoherent delusion of all might never have been an object of popular curiosity, if not scorn, in an undated photo.

The concept of the real, national and international, historical mysteries about the very real people to be considered as just a “fascinating game of research and deduction,” completely ignores this important aspect of public and social RESPONSIBILITY of the ones who make the public statements, and it is why I always definitely disagreed with this concept. 

From the period well before the book’s publication and until today – for all these decades – Mr. Joe Klaas apparently did never claim that he is not sharing the theory generated by his friend, Mr. Gervais. His own support of the theory is obvious and clearly visible from the contents and tone of his own comments in the book, particularly its final phrase: “Joe Gervais is on your trail, Amelia. There’s no use trying to die, for he’ll follow you wherever you go, and as long as he shall live, you shall live.”

If it is not the full and unconditional support of the Mr. Gervais concept, then it is very hard even to propose any definition (of) what else it is. It is far more than can be expected or demanded from “just the hired writer” – and clearly represents Mr. Klaas’ own position – that he never rejected btw, neither publicly nor (as far as I know) on the “closed forums” like AES. The proof is just below, in Mr. Joe Klaas’ today’s message, where he clearly states that he still believes in “Joe’s and my theory of what actually happened to Amelia Earhart.”  

Sorry dear colleagues, but “JOE’s AND MY theory” in this quote is not my words. And for all the following period after 1970, including the current times, Mr. Joe Klaas made it maximally clear for everybody that he still supports his theory and believes in it – as he did when writing the book.

After McGraw-Hill returned the rights to Amelia Earhart Lives to Klaas after many years, the book was republished as an Authors Guild Back-In-Print Edition by iUniverse, and has been available on the Internet for purchase since 2000. As for Prymak, it’s hard to know the extent of the damage he could have prevented by revealing the details of the 1992 Gervais-Mary Eubank incident to the Earhart community in the years immediately following it, but he might have disabused Reineck of his ill-advised impulse to write Amelia Earhart Survived.  Prymak eventually admitted his role in keeping the lid closed on the blockbuster Eubank-Bolam connection, but he never quite publicly apologized for it.

In a nationally broadcast news conference at San Francisco's KCBS studios In November 1961, Fred Goerner (seated right) answers fellow reporters' questions about recently recovered remains on Saipan in nationally broadcast news conference

In a nationally broadcast news conference at San Francisco’s KCBS studios In November 1961, Fred Goerner (seated right) answers questions about recently recovered remains on Saipan, which proved not to be those of Amelia Earhart or Fred Noonan. (Photo courtesy Lance Goerner.)

Although Gervais might even now be considered as “the Dean of Earhart research” by a remaining few who lack all discernment, Fred Goerner rightly earned the honor that some of the good old boys of the AES once so cavalierly accorded Gervais. As Ron Bright, no advocate of the Earhart-on-Saipan scenario that informed Goerner’s vision and investigations, once wrote, “No one did more research than Goerner.” Goerner’s findings remain treasures; many of his letters are more important and germane than ever, because they direct us toward the truth, unlike the charlatans and government apologists dominating the popular media culture during the past few decades, or the obtuse Bolamites.

Thomas E. Devine, whose experiences on Saipan launched him upon a lifetime quest to establish the truth and whose influence on this writer’s early Earhart education was immense, lacked Goerner’s creative abilities, national connections and imagination, but his contributions to the Earhart investigation were significant and lasting, and no one was ever more driven or dedicated than Devine. Like Goerner, Devine was fallible and wrong in some of his key conclusions, and even dishonest on occasion, but he never approached Gervais’ notoriety, and unlike the notorious Gervais, his positive contributions to Earhart research far outweighed his failings.

By September 2006, the escalating conflict between the forum’s Bolamite faction and its reality-based counterparts reached critical mass, apparently precipitated by Billings and Mandel’s continuing demands that Reineck produce his long-promised forensic evidence. On September 10, Jo Ann Ridley, the genteel co-author of High Times Keep ‘Em Flying: An Aviation Autobiography (Fithian Press, 1992), set the day’s tone by announcing her withdrawal from the AES. Citing the “inexplicable toleration of schoolyard bullies in what should be friendly exchanges,” Ridley expressed her regrets that “the AES is no more, in its original sense,” and concluded by observing that “personal attacks, harassment and grudge-holding do not lead to truth-finding.” Taking Ridley’s cue, the conscientious Reineck soon declared his resignation, as well. “The crude and ungentlemanly behavior of David Billings and Alex Mandel towards me and my research goes well beyond any measure of common decency and certainly beyond my tolerance level,” Reineck announced, astonished that he might be asked for any evidence to support his incredible claims.

Joe Klaas soon followed suit, complaining that the forum “has deteriorated to mean-spiritedness,” which inspired several others in the flock to join the exodus. But like everything else in Bolamville, nothing was quite as it seemed, and the mass resignations proved to be little more than theatrics. No one, including Ridley, ever removed their names from the online membership roll, and all posted occasional messages to the forum in the months following their grand withdrawals. Not surprisingly, of all who had announced their departures, only Reineck returned to regular forum participation, and fairly quickly, as if nothing had ever occurred to keep him away.

More serious researchers had sought greener pastures years earlier, most while continuing their AES affiliation. Ron Bright, once a dues-paying member of TIGHAR, formed the Electra Research Group in 2002, “primarily to approach the various theories from a different standpoint,” he said. “We found about ten guys that seemed fed up with TIGHAR and AES, and wanted to exchange opinions and criticisms without the rancor.” By July 2006, Alex Mandel, starved for reasoned discussion after years of fruitless debate, established the Amelia Mary Earhart Research International Club and Association, also known as AERA. Mandel’s group, though small, continues as a viable forum for Mandel’s vision of “serious scholarly study of the life and career of the pilot Amelia Mary Earhart, the research of her disappearance in 1937, promotion and protection of her legacy, and providing exact and accurate information about Amelia Earhart for everybody interested.”

In late summer 2006, but unknown to me until much later, the hardcore AES Bolamite faction, led by Reineck and Klaas, formed their own private online forum, the “AESurvived” Yahoo! Group, where they could freely discuss the latest developments in their constantly evolving fantasies without the distractions of inconvenient realitySince then, virtually nothing of this group’s activities or correspondence has come to my attention.

A final look at the woman who Joe Gervais was convinced was Amelia Earhart returned from a Weishien, China internment camp in 1945 to live a life of obscurity, leaving family and friends behind, for who knows what unearthly reason.

Another look at Irene Madeline O’Crowley Heller Bolam. Joe Gervais was convinced she was Amelia Earhart returned from a Weishien, China internment camp in 1945 to live a life of obscurity, leaving family and friends behind, for who knows what unearthly reason.

Irene Madeline O’Crowley Craigmile Heller Bolam was born on Oct. 1, 1904 in Newark, New Jersey, and died of cancer on July 7, 1982 in Edison, New Jersey. With few exceptions, nothing else written about this poor woman was either true or necessary. We can only wonder, in light of the lucrative financial settlement Bolam received from McGraw-Hill after Joe Klaas only implied she was Amelia Earhart in Amelia Earhart Lives, whether Reineck and his publisher would have dared to publish Amelia Earhart Survived if Bolam were alive today.

One might reasonably question the need to engage in a lengthy discussion of such an illogical notion as the IB theory in a blog purporting to present the truth about the Earhart matter. The time and effort spent in deconstructing this odious fantasy could be more wisely spent elsewhere, it can be argued, and focusing on the Bolamite credo grants it a legitimacy it could not otherwise achieve. If only this were so, speeding the eradication of this pox on the Earhart legacy would be so much easier – it could simply be ignored. But as we have seen, despite the theory’s abject lack of merit, producers of the National Geographic Channel’s History Undercover series devoted an entire segment of their Earhart program to the IB theory in 2007.  If a book as feckless as Amelia Earhart Survived can persuade the National Geographic Channel into re-introducing the Bolamite thesis to millions of uninformed viewers, what damage might a cleverly produced tome by a creative, newly inspired Bolamite protégé yet inflict? We also have the recently published book, so shamelessly and irresponsibly promoted by the UK’s Daily Mail and Fox News, that has already outsold Reineck’s fish wrapper, and reintroduces the same Bolamite folderol to a public that remains largely ignorant about the Bolam lies.

Many demonstrably false and damaging ideas are granted currency by those who cultivate and embrace the politically correct mindset of “tolerance” for all “sincerely held” beliefs. This so-called open-mindedness and respect for “individual rights,” especially in regard to the weird and aberrant, is normally an innocuous conceit when the opinions in question are confined to the occasional eccentric or misfit.  However, when these pernicious ideas are allowed to be broadcast to an uninformed public as facts, as was done in Amelia Earhart Survived, still being sold on the Net, and the new book that I refuse to even name, those who can do something about it are bound to act – as decisively as possible –  in the service of truth and justice. All ideas are not equal.

Since Joe Gervais embraced his misbegotten conviction that Amelia Earhart “became” Irene Bolam more than 40 years ago, an ersatz mythology complete with its own dogmas and history evolved in support of the Bolamite belief system.  It has not been my purpose to examine, item-by-item, ad nauseam, every precept of this phantasmagoria. Rather, I have attempted to describe a phenomenon that nearly defies understanding, not only in its own bizarre and fantastic essence, but in the inexplicable thrall by which it captivated and bound its adherents.

In 2005, Alex Mandel collaborated with Ron Bright, Bill Prymak, and Patrick Gaston to write Amelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality? Mandel’s 12,000-word paper, which I completely re-wrote for public presentation because English is Mandel’s third language, came to be known as The Atchison Report,” and is the most comprehensive examination and systematic debunking to date of the myths, deceptions and lies that animated the IB theory and continue to be propagated by its remaining adherents.  Some 50 copies were distributed to researchers and other interested parties at the annual Amelia Earhart Festival in Atchison, Kansas, in July 2005, with the hope that armed with this in-depth study, serious Earhart students can help to exterminate any vestiges of this stubborn parasite wherever it raises its ugly head. Sadly, the perfidious Bolamite Creed still lives, despite our best efforts.

Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part III of IV

“What is the hardest task in the world? To think.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

In August and September 2006, David Billings, 76, an Australian researcher who has drawn attention in the United States as well as Down Under with his own controversial Electra-at-New Britain theory (see Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Project), took up the baton from Alex Mandel and launched a series of pointed attacks against the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart doctrine. But unlike the conciliatory and diplomatic Mandel, Billings went straight for the jugular, tying his assault to revelations released more than a year earlier in The Atchison Report, to be discussed shortly.

The information was provided by Gertrude Hession, a former friend of Irene Bolam and sister of Monsignor James Francis Kelley, Reineck’s incoherent main witness, and Diana Dawes, another longtime Bolam friend. It all concerned one Mary Eubank, whose association with Bolam could be traced with certainty back to their high school days, through the war and up until Bolam’s death in 1982. This evidence alone was absolute proof of the theory’s falsehood. In a September 2006 message to the AES Forum, Billings addressed the Mary Eubank connection, the redoubtable Monsignor Kelley’s dementia, and made a revelation of his own:

Earhart Group, 

Joseph Klaas and Joseph Gervais compiled a book “Amelia Earhart Lives” in 1970.  I do not know whether you have read it but if you have not, I suggest that you may like to read it.  It costs around $1 on abebooks.com and the postage is $4. That alone should tell you something.

A recent photo of David Billings at his home in Nambour, Australia. (Courtesy David Billings.)

A recent photo of David Billings at his home in Nambour, Australia. (Courtesy David Billings.)

I am at around page 80 in that book and I have tagged all the inaccuracies, inconsistencies and all the plain mistakes that are blatantly obvious in that book written by Joe Klaas. Joe Klaas, it seems to me, should be ashamed that he ever wrote that book. I have not yet got to the part where Gervais “recognized” Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart. Gervais and Klaas and the publisher McGraw-Hill had to pay Irene Bolam as they lost the case.

In 2003, The Colonel, Rollin C. Reineck, goes through the same motions and resurrects the Irene Bolam MYTH. He uses Gervais’ supposed “recognition” of Irene Bolam as AE and he also uses the words of a Catholic Priest, Monsignor James Francis Kelley in support of the myth, the story, the fable, the whatever.

I have here an audio tape of Colonel Rollin C. Reineck interviewing the Monsignor in September 1991. It is not pretty. The Monsignor is obviously suffering from senile dementia at age 90.  

He (the Monsignor) speaks of Eisenhower leaving the troops behind, of his meeting with Emperor Hirohito to discuss Amelia being freed, of Hirohito not agreeing to free Amelia and of the Monsignor finally getting a General Keane to freedom along with Eamon de Valera who was later to become the “Emperor of Ireland.” Amelia appears and stayed at his house at Rumson, N.J., for around three or four weeks, after that she went out and got injured.  He doesn’t say by what. He then rambles on about having to go to Le Bourget field to meet Lindbergh because there was no one else there to meet him. The Monsignor also captured Bruno Hauptmann and when in London helped with the administration of that city for three years. There was more. I take it that you have the tape?  

So, really, Reineck should have stopped the interview but he did not.  Reineck even says on 1st January 1992, that he found nothing “valid” in what the Monsignor said, but in 2003 he publishes the drivel that the Monsignor said in support of his contention that AE returned to the United States.

In 1992, Joseph Gervais and Bill Prymak interviewed Gertrude Hession, the sister of Monsignor James Francis Kelley. Gertrude told them that she had been trying to put the Monsignor away for some time due to his dementia. She also told of a Mary Eubank who had known Irene Bolam from their teenage years and that Joe and Bill should meet with Mary Eubank and discuss Irene. Gervais declined the offer even though the trip back by car from Delaware to New Jersey took them past Eubank’s home town and they had PLENTY of time.  Bill Prymak told me all this himself. You wanna question Bill Prymak, be my guest. 

Undated photo of Monsignor James Francis Kelly

Undated photo of Monsignor James Francis Kelley, who suffered from dementia at age 90 in 1992 and whose incredible statements were quoted by Rollin Reineck in Amelia Earhart Survived Kelly died in 1996 at age 94.

Gervais swore Bill Prymak to secrecy because if it got out that Irene Bolam had been known by any one person since teenage it meant that she could not possibly be Amelia Earhart. This meant that Klaas’s book was false and it also means Reineck’s book is false. There have been many inside mails telling Bill Prymak that he was weak not to face up to Gervais and let the MYTH continue.

Billings should never have been let in and others who question the armchair researchers should never be let in. Someone said some time back, that Bill Prymak would regret recommending me for membership of the AES. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.

Billings and Mandel, those two non-Americans, who question authors of books supposedly written as FACT should NEVER, EVER, question those American authors and should not have the temerity to question senior members of the AES Forum AT ALL. Billings and Mandel have no right to question historical authors.

Forum Members: We do not live in a perfect world, there are things which happen out there over which we have no control whatsoever and there is ZILCH that we as ordinary citizens of our various countries can do in the short term.  However, when we do have the opportunity to correct a wrong, there should be no hesitation on any citizen’s part to do that very thing.

I do not hesitate, you should not hesitate.

Bill Prymak supplied me with information, as did other members of this AES Forum, which made it obvious to me that Klaas, Gervais and Reineck are completely and utterly incorrect in the Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart Theory.

I did broadcast that information with the approval of Bill Prymak.  He repeatedly praised me for outing the lie. Now Bill Prymak has done the dirty on me and wrung his hands and now he and Reineck and Co. are all friends again. Well good on them but it still does not make the whole thing right.

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

Joe Gervais, left, the father of the Earhart-as-Bolam myth, and Joe Klaas, his longtime friend and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a typical news photo from 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation and before Irene Bolam sued McGraw-Hill and the authors for defamation and the book was pulled from bookstore shelves without explanation.

Bill told me — I have the letter here — that Gervais was a very shaken man after speaking with Gertrude Hession and he “made” Bill Prymak promise never to release the information about Mary Eubank and that was in 1992. . . . Gervais was too concerned with himself and that he would be seen as an idiot if the word got out. Of course, Gervais would also be concerned about Klaas, as he had dragged Klaas into the mire with the “recognition” of IB as AE, and Klaas would not be pleased at this new revelation. Bill Prymak said to me, “That’s why” the release never appeared in the AES Newsletters about the interview with Gertrude Hession by Gervais and Prymak. . . . You can paint me as black as you like, but don’t put the lid on the paint pot yet, there are others who need a lick of paint too.

I am already receiving private mail over tonight’s postings to the AES Forum. I should not be receiving private mail, put it on the Forum. If you have something to say, say it.  Spit it out.

Best Regards,

David Billings
Nambour, Queensland
Australia (Sept. 16, 2006)

Billings was ejected from the AES forum by moderator Michele Cervone in late September 2006 for posting third-party e-mails – messages from nonmembers — to the Yahoo! Earhart Group Web site without prior approval. Although that justification may have been technically valid, Cervone’s sanction was, in fact, a case of shooting a messenger who had delivered a most unwelcome message – the unvarnished truth about how the Bolamite falsehood was protected and perpetuated by longtime members of the AES inner circle.

Other members had violated forum rules regularly and with impunity, including Reineck himself. Nearly a year before Billings’ revelations to the group, the 1992 incident that brought Gervais face-to-face with the truth was disclosed by Prymak to several of his AES associates. Moreover, the Mary Eubank-Irene Bolam connection had already been well established in The Atchison Report released to the AES forum and publicly disseminated in July 2005 – with information provided by Prymak.

Mandel, among the scant few voicing support for the beleaguered Billings in the days following his bombshell, characterized the Aussie’s blunt missives as “reasonable, competent, proper and legitimate on-topic questions to Rollin Reineck.” I expressed full concurrence with Mandel’s summary, depicting Billings’ postings as “tough but fair . . . not personal attacks against Rollin, but [against] his theory and his book although many cannot see the difference.” In several on- and off-forum messages to Prymak, Billings and the AES, Mandel expressed his disdain for the pernicious notion, accepted in some quarters, that certain reputations must be protected at all costs, rightly attributing the decline of the AES to the proliferation of this unethical practice. A few others agreed, and after many rancorous off-forum message exchanges copied to a handful of insiders, Mandel’s laconic response to an unfriendly e-mail from Prymak brought the situation into stark focus:

Read my lips. The “collapse of AES” started just in moment when you agreed to be manipulated by Gervais, who wanted to use you for [sic] to hide the information that would discredit his theory.

The Gervais-Prymak-Mary Eubank incident was a paradigm that revealed the true nature of what most “Earhart research” had become, and not only in the AES. Integrity, full disclosure and accountability about the discovered truths or falsehoods are mission statements rarely found, and even less frequently actuated nearly everywhere one finds public discussion of the Earhart disappearance. 

Mantz purchased the Lockheed 12A in 1946. When he purchased it, it was registered as N60775. Mantz was able to secure the tail number of Amelia Earhart's fateful Electra 10E, N16020, and had it assigned to his airplane. The airplane was used for several filming projects in the 1950s. Mantz sold it in August 1961 to an investment group, but it crashed and was destroyed in December 1961 near Barstow with the loss of both crewmembers. The registration number? It is now permanently reserved by the FAA in the name of Amelia Earhart and not available for assignment any longer. (JD Davis photo)

This is the Lockheed Model 12A Electra Junior, also known as the Lockheed 12 or L-12, registration N16020, originally purchased by Paul Mantz in 1946, that crashed into California’s Mount Tiefort (not Tierfort as it was misspelled in Amelia Earhart Lives) in December 1961 with the loss of two crewmembers. This plane was the object of grossly imaginative speculation by Joe Gervais in Earhart Lives, and of scorn by David Billings in his missives to the Amelia Earhart Society in 2006.  (Courtesy JD Davis.)

“Joe Gervais is on your trail, Amelia,” Joe Klaas the mythmaker wrote in the closing sentences of Amelia Earhart Lives. “There’s no use trying to die, for he’ll follow you wherever you go, and as long as he shall live, you shall live.”  Thus began the cult of Joe Gervais,  “the Dean of Earhart research,” according to his acolytes in the AES. But was Gervais’ exalted status an honest reflection of his achievements, or mere hyperbole designed not only to mythologize Gervais, but to enhance the reputations of his associates, as well? A brief review of a few of Gervais’ more notable “contributions” to Earhart research, with thanks to David Billings for his input, should be instructive:

Item:
In Chapter 5 of Amelia Earhart Lives, Gervais implied that an Electra 12A, registration number N 16020, which crashed into Mount Tiefort in California in 1961 could have been Earhart’s lost Electra 10E. Gervais based his belief largely on the fact that the plane’s exhaust manifold had been delivered on May 13, 1937, a few weeks before Earhart began her second world-flight attempt.  Gervais’ suspicions were aroused despite the fact that he knew the plane belonged to Charles Kitchens, who had bought it from Paul Mantz, a director who had planned to use the 12A in a movie about Earhart (thus the N 16020, as close to Earhart’s as possible).  Later in the book, Klaas flatly states, “It was Joe Gervais who climbed a mountain in California to find the wreckage of a plane supposed to be at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.”

“Gervais, the trained aircraft crash investigator, finds it incredible that exhaust manifolds built in 1937 could last until 1961,” Billings wrote in a December 2006 e-mail. “There is nothing unusual in this at all. The aircraft could have had any number of manifolds fitted in its life and ALL of them could have been made in 1937 and stored.”

Item:
In Amelia Earhart Lives, Gervais said there was no record of what became of the Lockheed XC-35 Electra, the first successful enclosed-cabin, pressurized airplane, capable of altitudes up to 40,000 feet, and suggests it could have been used by Earhart during her last flight.  Klaas then theorized that Earhart could have “switched” from her own Electra to the XC-35 to fly a photographic spy mission, and that Lockheed could have built two XC-35s, one of which Earhart and Noonan flew on their special mission.  In fact, the only Lockheed XC-35 ever built, with commercial serial number 3105 and military serial number 36-353, was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1948, and has remained there until this day. Billings said Klaas was still advocating this idea in recent years, and message records bore out his contention.

“Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais (the two Jo-Jo’s) proposed that Amelia Earhart espied the capabilities of this XC-35 and requested this experimental aircraft for her own use,” Billings quipped. “The Jo-Jo’s, in realizing that the United States Army Air Force and the Unites States Navy had ‘helped’ Amelia at various stages, now proposed that the U.S. Army Air Force would now get into the act and help her out by ‘lending’ her the XC-35.

“Back around 2003,” Billings continued, “Joe Klaas was still peddling the nonsense about Earhart using the XC-35, as he wrote to the AES forum:  ‘The XC-35 was flown to an airfield to the north of Lae and after she took off from Lae, Earhart went to that airfield and exchanged the Lockheed 10E for the XC-35. I have the name of the airfield in my notes.’. . . To the north of LAE there were no airfields and it was very hilly and up to 10,000 feet into the Saraweged Range. So which airfield did he mean?  Klaas could not answer and instead now offered that the airfield must be to the south of Lae but he did still have the name of the airfield. I pursued Klaas for over two years as to the name of the airfield and whether the three aircrew from the XC-35 had caught a Number Nine bus back to the United States or were they still at the airfield together with the Electra 10E? Klaas went silent for some three or four weeks. . . . Rest assured, the one and only XC-35, built at a cost of some $120,000 in 1936 rests at the [Smithsonian’s] Garber facility [in Suitland, Maryland]. Klaas’s postulations about the XC-35 are absolute nonsense and rubbish.”

Item:
In Chapter 9, we see that Gervais claimed a photo of Earhart, anonymously mailed to him in 1980, was taken while she was in Japanese custody. The photo was determined to have been taken in Hawaii, following Earhart’s aborted takeoff at Luke Field on March 20, 1937. 

 Flying in Comfort 75 years ago, the Army Air Corps’ XC-35 launched the pressurized cabin. image: http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/Moments-Milestones-XC-35-1-flash-631.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpg XC-35 The XC-35 (in flight near Wright Field in August 1937) earned the U.S. Army Air Corps the 1937 Collier Trophy for its substratospheric design. (NASM (A-2168-B)) By George C. Larson Air & Space Magazine | Subscribe November 2012 0 0 0 0 20 0 90 0 0 0 200 90 Just 75 years ago, the Lockheed XC-35 made its first research flight, taking off on August 5, 1937, from the Army Air Corps’ Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, thereby launching a series of tests of the airplane’s major innovation: a pressurized cabin. Although it wasn’t the first airplane to feature pressurization, it was the only one until that time with room in the pressurized capsule for a couple of passengers, in addition to the crew of three. (Germany’s Junkers Ju 49 had a pressurized compartment, but only for the crew; France’s Farman F.1000 had one too but with a seat that lifted the pilot up so he could see to take off and land; at high altitude the pilot would be sealed inside the compartment.) The XC-35 test program was so successful that the Army felt confident in specifying a pressurized cabin for the planned Boeing B-29, and later, Boeing’s 307 airliner flew passengers in pressurized comfort (see “Above It All,” Sept. 2009). Early on, aviators learned that the thin air at high altitudes could not sustain them, and if they lingered too long above about 15,000 feet without extra oxygen to breathe, they’d lose consciousness. Face masks to deliver pure oxygen were helpful to a point, but in September 1934, aviation pioneer Wiley Post demonstrated that a full-pressure suit similar to what astronauts wear today would enable pilots to fly to 40,000 feet, well beyond the altitude at which airliners cruised. Airline passengers could hardly be expected to don bulky pressure suits, and military flight crew would be hampered by their bulk. The only answer was to provide the equivalent of a low-altitude environment in the cabin so passengers and crew could work in their shirtsleeves. Advertisement The XC-35, in flight near Wright Field in August 1937, was an Electra 10-A similar to Amelia Earhart’s but reconfigured by Lockheed engineers working with a team from the Army Air Corps

The XC-35, in flight near Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, in August 1937, was an Electra 10-A similar to Amelia Earhart’s but reconfigured by Lockheed engineers working with a team from the Army Air Corps.  According to Joe Gervais and Joe Klaas in Amelia Earhart Lives, another  XC-35 was produced and exchanged for Earhart’s Electra 10E at an airfield north of Lae, New Guinea, shortly after takeoff July 2, 1937, as part of a spy mission.

Item:
Perhaps the most preposterous idea among many presented in Amelia Earhart Lives – other than Earhart as Bolam – is that the location of Earhart’s final landing could be determined by the discovery and breaking of a secret code, which Gervais decrypts in Chapter 18, “The Code.” Billings discussed this legendary contribution to the annals of Earhart research in a colorful essay he coined, “The Blind Leading the Blind,” which he wrote, on the spot, during our private online discussion, and sent me in December 2006:

According to Joe Klaas, Joe Gervais called him on the telephone from Las Vegas in March 1967 and excitedly told Klaas that he would show Klaas a picture of the Earhart wreck, and where it went down. Presumably, this time Gervais was actually referring to the Lockheed Electra 10E, Construction No. 1055.  Gervais, on the telephone added that he had “broken” something called The Earhart Code.

Klaas and Gervais arranged to meet at Gene Autry’s Continental Hotel in Hollywood. Klaas took his son Tony along to the meeting. Tony, who was 16 years of age, was taken along so that he could record the conversation during the meeting between our two “experts.” If that tape, recorded by Tony Klaas still exists, its value is priceless for what you are about to read. If [it’s] on tape, it would be concrete evidence of the insanity which evolved during the meeting, if Klaas’s book has recorded the freakish content of that conversation correctly.

Gervais began by informing Klaas that he knew that the 1943 RKO Movie Flight to Freedom had been produced by Floyd Odlum, whose wife Jackie Cochrane was a friend of Amelia Earhart’s. The flight in the film taken by a character bearing a similarity to Earhart, named “Toni Carter” (played by Rosalind Russell), had ended on a fictitious island named in the film as “Gull Island.” Gervais then produced a film of Hull Island in the Phoenix Group of islands in what is now Kiribati. This film had been taken by the U.S. Navy during the search for Earhart and Noonan in July 1937. Gervais now proclaimed Hull Island to be Gull Island, the fictitious island from the film. Gervais proceeded to pull the film through a projector so that each frame in the film could be examined one by one.

The object in this action was to introduce to Klaas and his son (who it is presumed had managed to stay awake so far) to one frame in the film where it appears a similarity to a Japanese “meatball” flag is flying over the beach on Hull Island in the U.S. Navy black and white film.  The Japanese flag that Gervais insists is shown is a complete white background with a red circle (a so-called “meatball”) in the centre of the white background field. In fact the naval ensign of Japan in 1937 was the same basic design, i.e., a white background with the red circle, but it also had 16 “rays of the sun” radiating out from the central or offset circle which went equally spaced out to the edge of the flag. Whatever Gervais thought he saw in the single frame was not the Japanese naval ensign. 

Now, let us suppose, if the Japanese did go to Hull Island for whatever reason, those Japanese would have been naval personnel in naval ships, and therefore if a flag had been left behind it would have been a naval flag and at the time the naval ensign had the representations of the sun’s rays (16 rays), which would have not shown up in a photograph or film frame as a white flag with a red blob on it.  If the Japanese had gone to Hull Island for whatever reason, it is extremely unlikely that they would advertise their presence there by leaving a Japanese naval ensign. Hull at that time in July 1937 was populated by Gilbertese plantation labourers with a Captain Jones as an overseer.  Jones did have a radio and the first thing he would have done would have been to contact Tarawa, the headquarters of the British Colonial Service in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands as the Phoenix Group was British territory.

Another of the many provocative headlines from the Wood

One of the several provocative headlines published by the Woodbridge (N.J.) News Tribune during its December 1982 series of investigative stories about the false Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart allegation, conceived solely by Joe Gervais, who some still mistakenly lionize as the “Dean of Earhart research.”

Gervais, Klaas and Klaas Junior then can see something else on the film frames as they were drawn through the projector.  Amazingly, they can see aircraft wreckage and murmur that they can see a wing section, a tyre [sic], an engine and incredibly they can see a “salvage hook.” Now hallucinatory drugs were not banned in 1967 to the extent that they are now, and one has to wonder whether these two gentleman had discovered a new line in potent licorice at pharmacies or whether it was a new line in “magic spectacles” in that they and they alone could see aircraft wreckage on the beach at Hull Island where Lieutenant [John] Lambrecht and his fellow experienced aviators had not seen anything at all, and had in fact landed on the lagoon at Hull to ask Captain Jones if he had seen anything. Neither Lambrecht or the other aviators from the USS Colorado or Captain Jones had seen wreckage on Hull Island or any sign of Earhart and Noonan.

We now come to the most weird outpouring from a supposed expert on Earhart that defies all logic and surely must be classed as one of Gervais’ best faux pas. The “breaking” of what he called The Earhart Code. This supposed code is related to the use of the name Guy Bolam in a sequence which defies logic, for Amelia Earhart never did know Guy Bolam, the husband of Irene Bolam.  How could Earhart compose a code using Guy Bolam’s name if she did not know him and the names of the islands in the Phoenix Group of islands? The short answer is that she could not.

This is how the imaginative brain of Gervais received a mind-compelling injection of fantasy which resulted in derived figures which represent the latitude and longitude position of Hull Island, or, I should say, the figures derived roughly locate to within a few nautical miles, the position of Hull Island. This is why Gervais torturously managed to come up with Hull Island as Earhart’s final landing place. . . . This is how Gervais came upon what he called The Earhart Code. 

The name GUY BOLAM has eight letters and each of the islands in the Phoenix Group contains one letter of the name Guy Bolam In Gervais’ convoluted mind, the positioning of those letters within the island name is then given a number according to the position. … Therefore if as Gervais does we lay out the numbers horizontally we get: 1, 7, 2 (or 6), 1, 3, 4 (or 3), 2 and 1. Looking at the alternatives we can get 17213421 or 17613321.  Gervais said in 1967 that this first string of numbers, 17213421, represents the longitude and the latitude of Hull Island by saying this string represents 172° 13′ W, 4° 21′ S. The latitude and longitude of Hull Island is 4° 30′ S 172° 10′ W.  So, The Earhart Code has Hull Island 3 nautical miles to the West and 9 nautical miles to the North of where it actually is. Now what of the other possibilities in the other string of numbers? The alternative is 176° 13′ W, 3° 21′ S.  This would put the position way to the west of the entire Phoenix Group by close to 200 nautical miles.

Orona atoll, also known as Hull Island,[1] is one of the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati.

Satellite view of Hull Island, known as Orora Atoll since 1979, one of the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati, and the object of one of Earhart researcher Joe Gervais’ most imaginative fantasies, The Earhart Code.

What of this Earhart Code? Does it exist? The answer is no, it cannot possibly exist and is a very weird figment of Joe Gervais’ imagination, and Klaas swallowed it. Amelia Earhart did not know Guy Bolam. She did know Irene Craigmile Heller, but she did not know Guy Bolam. He did not enter Irene Craigmile Heller’s life until 1957, so how could Earhart have possibly made up a code before she disappeared in 1937 incorporating Guy Bolam’s name into a sequence which also had the Phoenix Islands names in that very sequence? The answer is that Earhart did not make up this supposed code and it is sheer fantasy and absolute rubbish.  It just so happens that the numbers as Gervais brought them out using Guy Bolam’s name fell into a sequence which very closely matches the position of Hull Island, nothing more, nothing less, just sheer coincidence.

Gervais says, through Klaas, that he did spend three years of his spare time trying to discover a code.  He also discovered not only the supposed tripe he called The Earhart Code but fostered and encouraged the finding of a thousand and one conspiracies mainly perpetrated by the United States Government and its agencies.  There are those who spend their whole lives inventing conspiracies and myths which are always there to confuse and confound genuine people trying to research the truth and to discover the fate of the two American aviators.  

Gervais and those of his ilk would have been far better off and more gainfully employed planting turnips in their spare time. That occupation would have been more suited to the level of intelligence displayed in that dreadful book which, in all honesty, should never have been published. (End of “The Blind Leading the Blind.”)

It’s doubtful that any reviews of Amelia Earhart Lives were more amusing than the foregoing by David Billings.  Joe Klaas, a talented writer with 12 books to his credit, wove an enchanting spell in the latter chapters of Amelia Earhart Lives, but he fell victim to the absurd delusion that struck Joe Gervais and, amazingly, spread to many others over the years. It was a shame, because the eyewitness interviews conducted by Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam and Saipan in 1960, on the heels of Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan during his own investigation, were some of the most important ever done.

In our final installment of Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society, we will continue with yet more of the Joe Gervais Follies, and conclude by attempting to put the whole sordid mess into some kind of coherent perspective, a daunting prospect in itself.

Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV

(Editor’s note: In early 2007 I wrote  Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society,” conceived as an additional chapter for the second edition of  With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart. When the revised edition’s publication was cancelled, I began work on an entirely new book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, though its original title was The Earhart Deception. The Bolam chapter never quite fit in a work that was entirely focused on establishing the Marshall Islands-Saipan truth in the Earhart case, but I’ve finally dusted off one man’s chronicle of the internal unrest that bedeviled the Amelia Earhart Society in the years between 2002 and 2006, effectively ending its existence as a viable entity — if it ever was such. Today I present part one of Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society.”  Your comments are welcome.)

“What is the hardest task in the world? To think.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Amelia Earhart Society of researchers was launched in 1989 by longtime Earhart devotee Bill Prymak in his Bloomfield, Colorado study, to “seek the truth regarding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart,” according to Prymak. Its original members numbered less than 20, but included some of the leading lights in the Earhart community: Joe Gervais, still considered the greatest Earhart researcher by a few misguided souls, who passed away in January 2005; Joe Klaas, Gervais’ close friend and author of the 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, still with us in his 90s; the late Rollin Reineck, retired Air Force colonel and navigator who served on Saipan shortly after the 1944 invasion; and Ron Reuther, who founded the Oakland (California) Aviation Museum in 1981, directed the San Francisco Zoo from 1966 to 1973 and died within a few weeks of Reineck in 2007.

For many years, thanks to his networking skills and Earhart expertise, Prymak collected, gathered, evaluated and disseminated an impressive volume of information in an entertaining and enlightening format to the AES membership. Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, which he diligently compiled and mailed every few months from December 1989 to March 2000, are extraordinary in their variety and wealth of content – true collectors items that will never be duplicated.

AES Cover

Prymak ceased writing the newsletters shortly before the Yahoo! Earhart Group forum went online on August 9, 2000, and though this enhanced communications among the widely scattered membership, his newsletters were sorely missed and often requested. In 2003, bowing to the demands of new AES members clamoring for the unique information contained in the old newsletters, Prymak recompiled the entire collection into two nicely bound volumes titled, “An Assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters,” and offered them at basic cost to AES members only, which makes the two-volume set a rare commodity.

The AES, which never had a strong public presence due to the many different beliefs of its members, is now virtually invisible and of infinitely less consequence than the largely forgotten American icon whose true fate the organization was chartered to discover. With the exception of the annual Amelia Earhart Festival at her Atchison, Kansas, birthplace, where AES members have occasionally made statements or presented books, the group’s public profile has been nonexistent.  

But within the closed confines of this international group of about 75 Earhart aficionados, the years between 2002 and 2006 were anything but uneventful. In fact, the re-emergence of the most preposterous notion ever conceived about the fate of Amelia Earhart, and the bitter internecine conflict that ensued, reduced the AES to little more than a shadowy parody of its former self.

The source of contention was Rollin Reineck’s 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived. Incredibly, what Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais had strongly suggested in Amelia Earhart Lives, pulled from circulation 33 years earlier – that Amelia Earhart, having been held captive by the Japanese since July 1937, had returned to the United States sometime after World War II and assumed the identity of a New Jersey woman named Irene Bolam – Kailua, Hawaii’s Reineck stated as unequivocal fact. “An objective look at all the evidence seemed to point to the one conclusion that Major Joe Gervais had been right, Irene Bolam was in fact Amelia Earhart,” Reineck wrote in Survived. Reineck’s problem, never acknowledged by neither he nor his supporters, was that nobody has ever provided the slighted shred of credible evidence to support this fantastic claim.

The book that started it all: Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America's First Lady of Mystery

The book that started it all: Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, by Joe Klaas, published by McGraw-Hill in 1970.

The intellectual bankruptcy of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam theory (henceforth the “IB theory”) did not dampen the enthusiasm of its devotees.  Although few in number, these true believers loved to preach their gospel at every opportunity, and were equally willing to heap all manner of invective upon those with the temerity to question their false doxies.  This hostility toward non-believers is characteristic of behavior commonly found in religious cults, so it wasn’t surprising that the IB zealots within the AES came to be known as Bolamites by their non-subscribing brethren, and as its biblical tone suggests, the term was not one of endearment.

The Bolamites’ dogmatic insistence upon the reality of the Earhart-as-Bolam fiction violently conflicted with the inconvenient fact that none of the theory’s wobbly underpinnings could stand up to even the slightest scrutiny, and ignited the explosions that drove some longtime members over the edge and out of the AES, some permanently.  Bill Prymak was among them, and though the organization had lost its moorings long before Prymak decided to leave, his departure was a milestone that marked finis to the AES as a viable entity.

As conspiracy theories rank, Amelia Earhart as Irene Bolam stands among the all-time whoppers, calling its supporters to extremes of credulousness that make the tenets of the Flat Earth Society seem reasonable. As a book, Amelia Earhart Survived was a resounding failure – a nonselling, badly written, poorly edited presentation of a slanderous series of allegations against one of the greatest American women of the 20th century. This may seem harsh, but how else should we characterize the charge, made of whole cloth, that Amelia Earhart, well known for her loyalty and integrity, would forsake her husband, mother, family, friends and country, as well as her own past, to assume the identity of another woman for a reason that remains unknown?

To credit this idea as even remotely possible boggles the rational mind. Consider the logistical and security nightmare of returning Earhart to the United States from either Japan or China, depending on the myth’s latest iteration, and all that would entail. Once in the states, establishing her new identity, home, job and circle of friends would have required a conspiracy of hundreds, if not more, sworn to eternal secrecy – an oath no one has yet violated.

AE Survived Cover

Unlike most fables handed down from murky, indistinct origins in the distant past, the IB theory can trace its lineage to one specific event in fairly recent times. Had Joe Gervais not been in East Hampton, Long Island on August 8, 1965, he would not have met Irene Bolam at the Sea Spray Inn, and Earhart researchers would have been spared the onerous task of attempting to undo the grave mistake Gervais made that day.  But Gervais, who had been invited to address several hundred members of the Early Fliers Club, saw Bolam wearing what he mistakenly thought was a Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon and miniature major’s oak leaf (which Gervais erroneously believed was presented to Earhart), and became so sure Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart that two years later he wrote Bolam a letter begging her to prove she was not the lost aviatrix.  

Bolam’s written denial to Gervais and Klaas, “I am not she,” was apparently too short and unassertive to convince them of her veracity. For the record, Irene Craigmile Bolam (October 1, 1904 – July 7, 1982) was a New York banker and resident of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey, no more, no less, but this prosaic fact seemed always to evade the Earhart-addled Gervais, who never accepted it, at least publicly. 

Thus the Earhart-as-Bolam heresy was born, and persists, like a mutating virus, to this day, though currently it seems relatively dormant. In fact, the countless transformations the IB theory has undergone since the day Joe Gervais met Irene Bolam are its only constants – other than its pure whimsy – as its proponents have been forced to fabricate new and ever more bizarre scenarios to explain the unending contradictions and overwhelming illogic of their theory.

Shortly after publication of Amelia Earhart Lives in 1970, Irene Bolam held a well-attended but brief news conference in which she spoke only a few sentences, although these were most emphatic, according to observers. Holding an upside-down copy of the source of her consternation, she labeled it a “cruel hoax,” slammed the book on a table and roared, “I AM NOT AMELIA EARHART!” and left the room.  Seven weeks later, McGraw-Hill ceased sales of Amelia Earhart Lives and pulled it from shelves nationwide; no official explanation was ever given.

This is the famous Sea Spray Inn photo of Irene Bolam, with her husband John, that launched the 1970 book "Amelia Earhart Lives," by Joe Klaas, and created a sensation among so many who actually believed the ridiculous claim that Amelia Earhart had returned to the United States as Irene Bolam.

This is the famous 1965 Sea Spray Inn photo of Irene Bolam, with her husband John, that launched the infamous Amelia Earhart Lives and created a sensation among so many who actually believed the ridiculous claim that Amelia Earhart had returned to the United States as Irene Bolam. (Photo courtesy Joe Klaas.)

On May 26, 1971, Irene Bolam and attorney Benedict Ginsberg filed suit against McGraw-Hill, Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais for defamation. The suit quoted extensively from Amelia Earhart Lives, saying it was false and defamatory, and requested $500,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Researchers Ron Bright and Patrick Gaston traced the official record of the lawsuit to the New York County Courthouse in New York City.   TIGHAR’s Richard Gillespie visited the courthouse, copied the file and posted a brief synopsis of the suit’s highlights on TIGHAR’s public Website on February 15, 2004.  Gillespie’s review of Bolam v. McGraw-Hill was among the final entries of what he then titled “An Ongoing Discussion with Col. Reineck,” an online exchange of e-mail messages between Reineck and Gillespie “in the interest of open-minded consideration of all theories regarding the fate of Amelia Earhart.”

Gillespie, of course, has his own erroneous ideas, but he was well prepared, evidence in hand, to systematically expose the falsehoods Reineck championed in Survived. Though it was difficult to muster any sympathy for Reineck and his scandalous ideas about Earhart, the ease with which Gillespie skewered and surely embarrassed him during this spectacle was almost painful to watch. Shortly after Reineck’s last entry, in which he complained that Gillespie had “invalidated our agreement by making statements in the form of questions reflecting pre-conceived answers,” Gillespie focused on Reineck’s patently false statement in Survived that Bolam had dropped her lawsuit when asked to produce her fingerprints by the judge. Gillespie asked Reineck if he knew the case file was available to anyone, implying that Reineck had not even read it, and then proceeded to review the court’s ruling in the suit – that there were “triable issues” in the case – which was later upheld by the appellate court on May 4, 1976. At that point the file ends.

“There is nothing about a settlement offer, nothing about ordering fingerprints, nothing about Bolam dropping the case,” Ron Bright told me in a September 2006 e-mail.  “The file ends there, but obviously there was some kind of out-of-court settlement. And I believe IB was awarded a substantial amount. Probably sealed. No one really knows how much she got. Irene Bolam, the sister-in-law [a different Irene Bolam], thinks it was substantial.”  Gillespie said much the same thing, and told Reineck, “It’s fine to repeat your friends’ stories but don’t present them as fact without checking them for accuracy first.” Reineck had no response for Gillespie, as he had disappeared from the discussion.

In a Nov. 10, 1970 press conference in New York, an irate Mrs. Irene Bolan, holding an upside-down copy of Amelia Earhart Lives, vehemently declares, "I am NOT Amelia Earhart!"

In a Nov. 10, 1970 press conference in New York, an irate Mrs. Irene Bolam, holding an upside-down copy of Amelia Earhart Lives, vehemently declares, “I am NOT Amelia Earhart!”

Curious to learn if Reineck had finally accepted the inescapable reality that his fingerprint claim had been exposed as yet another Bolamite myth, I asked him about it in October 2006. His response was unsurprising. “What I say on page 180 is basically and fundamentally accurate,” Reineck told me in an e-mail. “Mrs. Bolam dropped the legal suit and settled out of court when she became aware that she would be required to submit her fingerprints.  In other words she was not willing to go ahead with the suit so it was dismissed.  There are no inaccuracies in my book.”  (Italics mine.)

So, which is it? Was Bolam’s lawsuit settled out court, or dismissed? Reineck, the author and expert, flatly states that his book contains no errors, but can’t seem to elucidate the correct answer to the most basic of questions about the outcome of Bolam versus McGraw-Hill. This incoherence typified the disorder inherent in the IB theory. Contrary to Reineck’s assertions, his entire disquisition comprised one falsehood after another – none more egregious than his reaffirmation of Gervais’ infamous blunder in mistaking Irene Bolam for Amelia Earhart in 1965, the hollow foundation upon which the entire fantasy is built.

In the final chapter of Survived, Reineck unveiled his coup de grace, “forensic science methodology” by way of “transparent photographic overlays” – high-tech sleight-of-hand designed to convince the suggestible that Earhart and the “Gervais Irene” i.e., the Irene Bolam that Gervais met at the Sea Spray Inn, were identical. Reineck then introduced Tod Swindell, his photo technician, whose “tireless efforts have successfully produced outstanding results that are acceptable to the scientific community as proof that Irene Bolam and Amelia Earhart were the same person.” Reineck continued his campaign by invoking the imprimaturs of forensic anthropologists Walker H. Birkby and Todd W. Fenton, who, said Reineck, had evaluated Swindell’s photo overlays, and found it “hard to disagree” with his astounding conclusion: “The case of the missing person Amelia Earhart, surely has been solved by virtue of forensic science,” Reineck wrote.

At this point, readers seeking visual confirmation of the Earhart-Bolam confluence were greatly disappointed, as no trace of these revealing photo overlays could be found in Survived.  But even cursory inspection of the many photos of Bolam and Earhart on display in the book leaves no doubt that these were  two distinct individuals bearing little resemblance to one another. As for high-tech imagery, Reineck actually presented only a police forensic artist’s imaginary, computer-generated portrait of a seventy-five-year-old Earhart displayed side-by-side with a similarly aged Bolam, leaving us with the same verdict: not even close.

Joe Gervais, left, and Rolling 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.

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

The unconvincing photos spoke for themselves, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not so the pesky reality soon brought to bear on the colonel’s claims of professional validation for his overlays, when Gillespie, in the final stanza of their online discussion, announced he had cornered Doctor Birkby at a February 2004 forensics association meeting in Dallas. Birkby told Gillespie he wasn’t aware that his name was being invoked to bolster Reineck’s contentions; moreover, Birkby said he wasn’t even familiar with Reineck’s book. “You can’t prove anything from photos,” Gillespie said Birkby told him. “He showed us a bunch of overlays but the photo quality is so poor and they’ve been blown way up – you can almost make anybody look like anybody.”

“Once again, Col. Reineck, the facts appear to be very different from the information presented in your book,” Gillespie told the long-departed colonel in concluding their one-sided conversation. “It’s one thing to present folklore as fact, but falsifying the endorsement of respected professionals is serious business.”

Eighteen months after Survived was published, Birkby and Fenton reportedly issued their report on Swindell’s photo overlays of Earhart and Bolam. Reineck, who had assured AES members he would produce the document in its entirety, never did so, but in May 2005, he acknowledged that the forensic specialists had refused to confirm, officially or unofficially, that any exact similarities exist between photographs of Amelia Earhart and Irene Bolam. It was the only time Reineck would make such an admission, and he soon returned to insisting that Earhart and Bolam were the same person. But it wasn’t only Reineck who remained steadfast in his Bolamite faith when confronted by clinical rulings against its heresies, and despite productive research efforts that further revealed the IB theory’s fraudulence, newly energized and ever-more-devout IB zealots were seeking and gaining admission into this once-respected group of researchers.

In late November 2006, the National Geographic Channel dragged out the Bolam theory as a segment in its Undercover History series, a program simply dubbed Amelia Earhart,  which its producers likely believed would be a ratings grabber. After Reineck and Joe Klaas completed their on-camera bloviations, National Geographic presented detective and criminal forensic expert Kevin Richlin, of the Sunnyvale, California Police Department. Richlin, needless to say, doesn’t play in the same high-end league as Doctors Birkby and Fenton, but National Geographic’s budget allotment for forensic specialists may have been more limited than Reineck’s. Salaries notwithstanding, the street-smart Richlin eviscerated the Bolamite deception far more effectively than the doctors had apparently done, and Richland’s report was available to the public, not stashed way in their private office in Hawaii.   

Amelia Earhart in 1935, and Irene Bolam in 1970. How could anyone believe these two were the same woman?

Amelia Earhart in 1935, and Irene Bolam in 1970. As incredible as it may seem, many believed these two were the same woman, and it’s quite possible that some still do.

“In comparing Bolam and Earhart there are numerous differences,” Richlin began.  “The age line on Earhart starts at her nose, proceeds down past the edge of her mouth, and there is a second groove that goes from her mouth down. In Bolam, the age line starts at the nose, but only goes down part way, and stops well short of the edge of her mouth, and there is no second groove.” Richlin went on to show how Earhart has a mole and freckles, whereas Bolam has no mole and no freckles. “Furthermore, their eyebrows are different, their noses are different, and their mouths are different,” he continued, illustrating these distinctions by using a pointer to trace them in the comparison photos. “These are two different people,” Richlin stated emphatically, and completed his brief by saying that if someone came to him with these photos and said they were the same person, “They should find work elsewhere, as this is not where their talents lay.”

“They built the Bolamite stuff up like a straw man, and then cut it down at the very ankles,” said Rob Ellos, whose passionate embrace of the truth presented by Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. Wallack and Earskin J. Nabers earned him an invitation to speak at the annual Midwest Regional Conference of the Ninety-Nines in Duluth, Minnesota, in the fall of 2007.  The group later withdrew their offer, citing internal administrative problems, but in early March 2007, Ellos filled a 30-minute, late-night segment on the number one talk-radio station in the Twin Cities with the facts about Earhart’s presence on Saipan, much to the chagrin of the program’s cynical host, who couldn’t accept the idea that the American or Japanese governments would ever withhold this information from their people.

Speaking of reviews, in contrast to what normally could be expected after the home team suffers a severe thrashing, the mood on the AES forum was decidedly upbeat in the days following the National Geographic Channel’s dismantling of the IB theory. Anyone familiar with Bolamite behavior, however, would have been surprised by anything other than the barely controlled glee punctuating the online message traffic. Indeed, for the Bolamites, inclusion of their ideas in a legitimate venue such as the National Geographic Channel, alongside those of approved “mainstream” theorists such as Elgen Long and Richard Gillespie, was a stupendous achievement. In the deluded minds of the Bolamites, it marked their de facto resurrection from the ashes of the McGraw-Hill settlement debacle three decades earlier. Most importantly, this attention from the heretofore esteemed National Geographic Channel filled the Bolamites’ deepest need – it gave them validation.

The fact that their manifesto was exposed as rubbish was merely an insignificant detail. In typical happy talk a day after the program’s premiere, Reineck told one well-wisher, “It was a good show. They presented both sides of the theory.”  Several showings of the Earhart special were scheduled in the weeks following its November 29, 2006 debut, and even more potential converts and recruits would be exposed to the Bolamite delusions. The program continues to be aired periodically.

In Part II of “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society,” we’ll look at some of the most incredible contortions of logic and fact imaginable as the Bolamites build the IB myth into a full-blown travesty, one that dragged many otherwise intelligent people into the Bolamites’ bottomless swamp of delusion.

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