Saipan’s Marie Castro is well known to readers of this blog, and I won’t repeat the myriad details of the many stories I’ve posted about this brave woman. Though she was only 4 years old in 1937 when Amelia Earhart came ashore at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor with Fred Noonan as captives of the Japanese military, Marie later came to know and interview several eyewitnesses to the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.
On Nov. 16, Marie, now 87, appeared on “1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories and Mysteries” podcast with Jon Hagadorn. To listen please click here and scroll down to “The Shocking Truth: Marie Castro Recalls Stories of Amelia Earhart’s 1937 Captivity on Saipan.”
“I have been receiving good responses from people who heard the interview about Amelia Earhart,” Marie wrote in a Nov. 17 email. “Thank you kindly for referring me to Jon so we could reach more people in learning what really happened to the two fliers. I tried my best to answer Jon’s questions during the interview although I missed two or three minor details. I am satisfied for bringing out the real truth of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s presence on Saipan in 1937.”
In September 2021, Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. (AEMMI), the group Marie founded on Saipan, will mark its fourth anniversary, but despite its best efforts to educate Saipan’s limited populace, scant progress has been made toward erecting a monument to the famed aviatrix and her navigator who became perhaps the first casualties of World War II during their captivity on Saipan in 1937.
Barely a dent has been made in the estimated $200,000 price tag for the monument, and local officials have yet to designate a small plot of land for the monument’s location. The resistance on Saipan to the monument is overwhelming, and I’ve written about this insidious problem at length on this blog and in the Marianas Variety (Micronesia’s Leading Newspaper Since 1972).
A bit closer on the horizon, in February 2021, another opportunity for Marie and the AEMMI to bring their Earhart Memorial Monument proposal to public attention looms. The 5th Marianas History Conference, co-organized by the University of Guam, Northern Marianas College, Northern Marianas Humanities Council, Humanities Guåhan, Guampedia, and Guam Preservation Trust, will be held virtually from Feb. 19-26, 2021 and will feature on-site venues in the CNMI and Guam for select, conference-related events and presentations. Here’s more about this event, straight from their official online promotion (boldface emphasis theirs):
The 5th Marianas History Conference invites scholars, students, and individuals with oral history knowledge of events and people in the Marianas to submit a brief abstract of a paper or presentation that contributes to the many stories that define the history and identity of one archipelago.
The conference theme, One Archipelago, Many Stories: Navigating 500 Years of Cross-Cultural Contact, calls for participants to examine aspects related to history, cultural heritage, language, political status, demographic change, and the overall process of adaptation of the Mariana Islands and her people following Western contact.
In 1521, half a millennium ago, the people of the Mariana Islands had the first known encounter with people from the other side of the world, through the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan. Those first, complex interactions triggered a number of consequences for our islands: being placed in world maps, the visits in succeeding years by other explorers, and eventually an intense process of colonization that in some respects continues to this day in Guam and in other parts of the Pacific.
I may be biased, but what could be more fitting for this Marianas “History Conference” than to designate the heretofore unacknowledged presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan during the years leading up to World War II as the No. 1 item for discussion? More than likely, however, the eight decades of corrupt politics surrounding the Earhart sacred cow will militate heavily against any meaningful mention of the Earhart case at this “virtual” event, regardless of anything Marie and the AEMMI do to create interest. I hope I’m wrong, but so far I’m batting 1.000 in predicting developments — or lack of same — on Saipan.
“This is the first time also I’ve learned about this event,” the ever-optimistic Marie wrote in a Nov. 23 email. “I told Frances [Mary Sablan, AEMMI vice president] that we need to take any occasion to expose the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument project. The committee is enthusiastic about it. This strategy serves in educating the whole island about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.”
With that in mind, Marie has sent the required 200-word abstract on behalf of the AEMMI to the board and staff of the Northern Marianas Humanities Council for their consideration. I won’t be holding my breath, but as always, will be hoping and praying for a merciful break in the constant flood of irrational resistance to the long-overdue establishment of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan.
To contribute to the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan (see March 16, 2018 story), please make your tax-deductible check payable to: Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc., and send to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950. The monument’s success is 100 percent dependent on private donations, and everyone who gives will receive a letter of appreciation from the Earhart Memorial Committee.
The Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. Committee held a new election on Saipan March 28. Marie S. Castro, the beating heart of the AEMMI, without whom the movement would not exist, was named the new president, with former Secretary Frances Sablan moving up to the vice president post. Manny Borja is the treasurer and Evelyna Shoda takes over as secretary. Manuel F. Borja, Carlos Shoda, Oscar Camacho, Chailang Palacios, Bruce Bateman and Donald C. Barcinas, former president, round out the new board of directors.
Created in September 2017 as Marie’s inspired brainchild, the AEMMI has not been fondly embraced by the locals on Saipan. Although the Marianas Variety has supported the grass-roots initiative with several stories about Marie and her wealth of Earhart-related experience that have been faithfully noted on this blog, it’s painfully clear that the vast majority of the citizens of Saipan are determined to oppose the monument.
The unpleasant evidence reflecting what one reader of this blog has dubbed the “militant ignorance” of the Saipan locals — which runs depressingly parallel to the thoroughly propagandized U.S. populace — is on display in the comments sections that follow each of the several stories run locally, the most recent of which, “Amelia Earhart monument to help boost NMI tourism, says local author,” was published on May 13. Only a small fraction of the architect’s initial $200,000 estimate for the monument has been raised.
Undeterred, Marie, 86, refuses to surrender to the mindless crowd in her quest to achieve long-denied justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. She is becoming an iconic figure in the Saipan community, slowly and begrudgingly recognized for her courage and unflappable determination. Marie’s latest initiative is the identification and elucidation of 10 reasons that the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument should be built on Saipan.
Forthwith are the reasons that Marie and the AEMMI have advanced, introduced by a personal note from Marie Castro herself.
Dear Friends in the United States and our People of Saipan,
It is our desire to extend our sincere gratitude and appreciation in joining this significant, worthy cause to recognize and acknowledge the two great aviators, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. When their plane came down in the Pacific in July 1937, they were brought to Saipan by the Japanese military.
We cannot continue to deny and ignore the great courage, the unimaginable sacrifice they endured under the Japanese regime for the cause of humanity. Many reasons for building the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument are expressed loud and clear in the book Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last by Mike Campbell. Here are some that immediately suggest themselves:
1. In 1937 Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan entered into the historical record of Saipan. Whether the fact is recognized or not, the fliers became the first American casualties of World War II. Amelia was not executed, but she contracted dysentery and was cremated. According to witnesses, Jose Sadao Tomokane attended the cremation of the American woman pilot.
2. Saipan has an obligation to recognize and give every human being the honor and respect they deserve. Although it was impossible to do such a thing under the Japanese regime, 82 years and counting is far too long for the two fliers who met their final days on Saipan soil to be honored.
3. Many of our elders saw Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan in days, weeks and months following their arrival here in the summer of 1937, beginning with the well-known sighting by Josephine Blanco in summer 1937, which began the modern day search for Amelia Earhart.
4. Amelia Earhart was a pioneer in the male-dominated aviation field. She was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and was also a best-selling author who wrote about her adventures as an aviator. Among her many accomplishments, she was instrumental in forming an organization of female pilots called the Ninety-Nines. While Amelia earned the respect and admiration of people all over the world, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Amelia’s statue will inspire the daughters of the CNMI to embrace Amelia’s pioneering spirit and aspire towards fulfilling their utmost potential.
5. Saipan would become widely recognized internationally and our island’s history and culture would attract worldwide attention.
6. It is time for Saipan to take ownership of the Earhart-on-Saipan Truth and to spread that Truth not just in the region, but worldwide. The Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument would focus attention on the Earhart disappearance in ways never before imagined.
7. We need to expand this idea to eventually encompass a museum, library and gift shop, as well as a research institute for worldwide Earhart researchers to come, do their work and discuss their findings. The Earhart Monument again gets this process rolling by providing a single focal point to key interest on.
8. With the proper infrastructure in place, visitors from all over the world with an interest in Amelia, her story and her “mysterious” end will come to Saipan, becoming a permanent income base for the CNMI economy. They will want to see firsthand the sites mentioned in the literature. They will buy souvenirs, paraphernalia and books commemorating their visit to Saipan, and this can add a profit center that provides funds for salaries, overhead and maintenance.
9. The Memorial Monument will be the first tangible symbol of the Earhart-on-Saipan Truth. It will become the “trademarked brand” of the Earhart saga, and the site will be instantly recognizable as the focus of Saipan’s Earhart tourism industry, with its products, attractions and services. Over the years, the museum, shop, library and research institute can grow from the first step — the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument!
10. Finally and most importantly, as international attention on Saipan and its vital historical importance as the location of the tragic deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan continues to increase, the lies, myths and endless propaganda about theories and the “Earhart Mystery” will come to an end, and the Truth will be accepted and known by all. The Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument will be revered worldwide as the ultimate shrine to the heroic sacrifices of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.
To contribute to the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan, please make your tax-deductible check payable to: Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc., and send to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950. The monument’s success is 100 percent dependent on private donations, and everyone who gives will receive a letter of appreciation from the Earhart Memorial Committee. Thank you.
Courage is the price that Life exacts
for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter
joy can hear
The sound of wings
How can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul’s dominion? Each time we
make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the resistless day,
And count it fair.
Our welcoming hearts go out to all our friends and supporters of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument in the U.S.A. and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Let us join hands this Holiday Season in celebrating the 81 years of the long-overdue recognition of Amelia Earhart’s presence with her navigator, Fred Noonan here on Saipan, the great aviators of the 20th Century.
Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous New Year 2019
— From President Donald Barcinas, Vice President Marie S. Castro, Secretary Frances Sablan, all the members of the Saipan Earhart Memorial Monument Committee, and Mike Campbell, Jacksonville, Florida.
In the March 28 edition of Marianas Variety, my post about Marie S.C. Castro appeared under the headline, “Marie Castro: An iron link to Saipan’s forgotten past,” and an extended version, “Marie Castro: Iron link to Saipan’s forgotten history,” was published here April 2.
The stories presented Marie’s accounts of her experiences with Matilde Arriola, one of the best known of the Saipan eyewitnesses, introduced by Fred Goerner in his 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart. When I wrote, “If Marie is correct that all the Saipan elders who were eyewitnesses to Earhart’s presence are gone . . . she is the strongest link to Saipan’s pre-war heritage now living,” little did I realize the understatement that really was.
Marie, 85, is the prime mover, the leading light of the grass-roots movement to erect the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument at the Saipan International Airport. She is likely the repository of other, still undiscovered witness accounts attesting to the presence and death of Amelia and Fred Noonan on Saipan. I feel truly blessed to be associated with this unique woman, and recently she sent me a photo that seems to capture the human essence of the situation there.
“The man in the picture is David M. Sablan,” Marie (center) wrote when she sent me this photo in early May 2018. “The woman in red is Mrs. Amparo DLG [Deleon Guerrero] Aldan, my classmate in the 3rd grade in Japanese school before WWII. Her brother, Pedro Deleon Guerrero and my cousin’s husband Joaquin Seman came to my house one evening to visit in 1945. The conversation was all about Amelia Earhart. I heard them describing what Amelia wore when they saw her. In our culture, a woman should wear a dress not a man’s outfit.”
Marie also confirmed that Mrs. Aldan’s husband, the late Frank Aldan, was related to one of Fred Goerner’s thirteen original witnesses, the dentist Dr. Manuel Aldan (see Truth at Last, p. 85).
David M. Sablan is a well-known local personality who founded the Rotary Club of Saipan in 1968, and in 2017 published his autobiography, A Degree of Success Through Curiosity: True Story of a Young Boy Eager to Learn and Find His Calling in Life. According to its description on Amazon.com, the book is his account of “living under the Japanese regime before and during WWII on a remote Pacific island, who grew up under hardship but made something positive out of his life.”
Marie’s second-person revelations of Pedro Deleon Guerrero and Joaquin Seman have not been published before. Pedro Deleon Guerrero’s name was new to me, but he might have been related to Jesús De Leon Guerrero, also known as Kumoi, a sinister character who collaborated with the Japanese police during the war, an enforcer whose job was to “keep the rest of the natives in line and his methods hadn’t been gentle,” according to Goerner. Joaquin Seman was mentioned by Goerner (see pp. 91, 103 in Truth at Last), but Marie’s account cites an entirely different scenario than Goerner’s.
Newly revealed evidence supports Earhart’s cremation
An even more compelling story came just a few days later. In a May 11 email, Marie suddenly ended discussion of a relatively mundane subject, and out of the blue, she introduced another previously unpublished piece of the ever-continuing Earhart saga:
I have the photo of Mr. Jose Sadao Tomokane. He told his wife one day the reason for coming home late. He attended the cremation of the American woman pilot. Mrs. Tomokane and Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes were neighbors during the Japanese time. They often visited with one another. Dolores, daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, heard their conversation about the cremation of an American woman pilot. These two wives were the only individuals who knew secretly about the cremation of Amelia through Mr. Tomokane.
Had it not been for the daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, who heard the conversation of the two wives, we would have never known about Mr. Tomokane’s interesting day. And David M. Sablan, after I showed the PP [power point presentation] at my house last month, he got up after the presentation and told the group that he heard about Amelia being cremated according to Mr. Tomokane.
This was all brand-new to me, and Tomokane’s name has never been seen in any Earhart literature, to my knowledge. One of the true mysteries in the Earhart saga is how Amelia died and how her remains were treated. Was she shot, as Josephine Blanco and Michiko Sugita were told as children, and Mrs. Nieves Cabrera Blas later told Buddy Brennan in 1983, or did she die of dysentery, as Matilde Arriola, Joaquina Arriola, José Pangelinan and others were told by Japanese officers? Was she buried or cremated? A variety of witness evidence supports each contention, but none is conclusive.
I devoted an entire chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, “Griswold, Henson and Burks” (see pp. 233-253) to the compelling accounts of Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, Marine privates who believed they were ordered by Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold to excavate the skeletal remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan outside a native cemetery on Saipan in late July or early August 1944. Who did the Marines really dig up? Was it Amelia and Fred, as Griswold indicated to the Marine privates in 1944, or was the captain misled about the gravesite? We may never know.
In answer to several questions about this new revelation, later on May 11, Marie replied:
I also questioned about Mr. Tomokane of this information why Fred Goerner did not question him. Remember that Mr. Tomokane was a Japanese himself. We don’t know how loyal he was to his Emperor. I went to his house to talk to him or anyone in the family few months after I came back from the States on Dec. 2016. I learned that the only child living today is the youngest son, Mitch Tomokane. He is suffering from a bad heart problem.
My first question to Mitch was, do you know how your father came to Saipan? Answer: He came from Japan as an agricultural instructor during the Japanese era. He stayed on Saipan, got married and built his family. 2) When did he die? He died in 1956 on Saipan. I found another interesting thing was the location of the house today. The house Mitch is living today is just very close to the Japanese crematory. The only remain of the crematory is the base of the crematory statue. I will research next week how they settled on that very spot.
Mr. Tomokane was dead four years prior to Goerner’s trip to Saipan. I was a nun then, here on Saipan. We would have known about Goerner. However, Goerner’s purpose at the time was strictly private. Saipan was still strictly under the U.S. Navy control. I remember from reading his book that he had a problem trying to enter Saipan because it was used by the CIA and the Navy Technical Training Unit (NTTU).
Who knows what other little gems Marie is harboring in her still-nimble mind, which might require only slight prodding to pour forth more recollections of the days when many Earhart eyewitnesses were alive and well on Saipan, when it was commonly known and accepted that the great American lady flier had met her untimely end there.
Please consider making a donation to the planned Amelia Earhart Memorial on Saipan (see March 16 story for more). You can make your tax-deductible check payable to: Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc., and send to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950. The monument’s success is 100 percent dependent on private donations, and everyone who gives will receive a letter of appreciation from the Earhart Memorial Committee, suitable for framing. Your gifts are the only way the memorial can become a reality, and anything you give is greatly appreciated.