Since the Feb. 7 publication of Junhan B. Todiño’s Marianas Variety story, “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan,” much has been written about the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Committee’s plans to build a memorial to Amelia at the Saipan International Airport.
Most of the vocal opposition to the monument is coming from the younger people of Saipan, many of whom have lost contact with their past, and have been subjected to historical revisionism and U.S. establishment propaganda on a grand scale about the facts surrounding Amelia Earhart’s presence on the island in the pre-war years.
Marie S.C. Castro, 84, is not among Saipan’s historically challenged, however. In fact, some of the most compelling evidence attesting to the presence and deaths of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan can be found in her fine 2013 autobiography, Without a Penny in My Pocket: My Bittersweet Memories Before and After WWII.
Recently Marie kindly sent me a copy of Without a Penny, and I read it eagerly. Marie isn’t a trained journalist or professional writer, but this deficit seems to enhance rather than detract from the impact of this moving account of her life. “It’s written with great love and deep feeling for those you’ve met along the way of your amazing life,” I wrote to Marie. “Thank you so much for sending it; it’s truly a precious chronicle of yours and Saipan’s history.”
Despite enduring hardships under the tyrannical rule of the Japanese during the years leading to the June 1944 U.S. invasion of Saipan and the liberation of its Chamorro residents, nowhere in Without a Penny will you find the slightest a hint of the virtue-signifying, self-pitying, blame-casting or victim-status seeking rhetoric that has become so common in today’s social media culture.
“The Chamorros had no rights, our peaceful way of life on our island was gone under the Japanese,” Marie wrote in a recent email. “We were under constant fear of anything. The Japanese civilians knew what went on, we the locals knew nothing about it. The Japanese considered us third class citizens. They took over the land, cultivated it for their own good. We had no authority whatsoever. . . . When you walk on the street, look straight forward, do not turn sideways, or else you would become a suspect. Mike, even after the war, people were hesitant to say anything. Thanks to the Americans we became again like human beings. We are at peace now.”
One of the most poignant passages in Without a Penny is Marie’s description of her family’s terrifying ordeal during the American shelling and bombing of Saipan, which resulted in many unfortunate and unintended civilian casualties, as well as traumatic memories for the survivors.
“After we were liberated by the American Marines in 1944 . . . we were so thankful to the Americans,” Marie wrote in an email. “I was 11 years old then and I thought someday I will do something on my own to thank the Americans.”
She was a professed Catholic nun for 17 years, from 1954 until her resignation in 1971. “It was the time when I really examined what was I meant to be in this world,” Marie wrote. “I wanted to do more. I prayed hard to God to lead me in my decision. I believed it was the right thing to do. I resigned from religious life. I will commit my life in education to thank the American Marines in 1944.”
She remained in Kansas City, teaching in the public schools, retired in 1989 and became involved in other community service organizations, finally returning to Saipan in October 2016. “Considering the 50 years in Kansas City,” Marie wrote, “I felt that I have given a productive life for 50 years. Now I am involved with a challenging undertaking with the Amelia Earhart project, to erect an AE Memorial Monument.”
These and other notable chapters of a life well lived can be found in Without a Penny. Right now, Marie is fully engaged in the effort to erect the Earhart Memorial Monument; indications are that it could be a long and bitter struggle, and not a penny will come from the local or federal government, both of which have a vested interest in the memorial project’s failure.
Marie, the vice president of the memorial committee and the driving force behind the initiative to build the monument, told Saipan Rotarians about her 1983 interview with Matilde F. Arriola who, Castro said, met Earhart when she being held on Saipan following her disappearance in early July 1937. According to Matilde, Earhart died of dysentery. “There is strong evidence that Earhart was here on Saipan,” Marie said.
“Since I came back home,” Marie wrote in a Feb. 18 email, “I had an urge [to do] something dating back to 1937 . . . Amelia Earhart’s fate. On Feb. 2, 2017, I approached Congressman [Rep. Donald C.] Barcinas about my idea of building a Memorial Monument for Amelia Earhart here on Saipan to celebrate her 80th year. All our elders who witnessed the American woman pilot’s presence here on Saipan are long gone; however, in 1983 I interviewed a local woman [Matilde F. Arriola] who had personal contacts with Amelia Earhart in 1937, who was living next door from the political detainee hotel called the Kobayashi Royokan Hotel. [Mrs. Matilde Shoda San Nicholas (the former Matilde Fausto Ariola), see pages 102-103 of Truth at Last.] I want to pursue the Monument for Amelia Earhart and finalize the biggest lingering unsolved mystery of the 20th Century. . . . What is holding us now is funding. We need $200 thousand for the project.”
If Marie is correct that all the Saipan elders who were eyewitnesses to Earhart’s presence are gone, and no evidence contradicts this, Marie’s personal connection to Matilde F. Arriola and other eyewitnesses, including Joaquina M. Cabrera, who washed Amelia’s laundry and whose account was made famous by Fred Goerner in his 1966 bestseller The Search For Amelia Earhart (see pages 101-102 TAL), she is the strongest link to Saipan’s pre-war heritage now living, a role she deeply embraces.
“Matilde and her family had personal contacts with the American woman pilot,” Marie wrote in a recent email. “The mother knew English and spoke with AE; Matilde, Consolacion her sister and Mariono her brother, they all communicated with Amelia [Editor’s note: None spoke English, according to interviews with Fred Goerner and others.] Matilde was 24 years [old] in 1937. The political detainee was next door from her house. Matilde was a student at the Sisters of the Mercedarian school in Garapan at the time.”
The passages from Marie’s book about her encounters with Matilde Arriola are too important to paraphrase, so I reproduce them here:
Evidently Amelia Earhart was found by the Japanese after she crashed somewhere within or near what may have been the Japanese Mandated Micronesian Islands [Mili Atoll, Marshall Islands], and was subsequently taken to Saipan, which also lay within the Mandated area.
The story of the famous American pilot was secretly known by a few men and women who were conscripted by the Japanese and worked for the Japanese government. However, they had no knowledge of the lady pilot’s plight. On a beautiful morning in the late ’50’s my Aunt, Sister Remedios, and I came upon our friend Matilde F. Arriola, who was working in her yard in Chalan Kanoa. Our conversation immediately turned to the subject of Amelia Earhart’s fate. Taking us into her confidence, Matilde related a story of having met a stranger who lived next door at the Kobayashi Royokan Hotel.
On a subsequent meeting, Matilde continued, the slender American woman, who wore a short hair style, gave Matilde’s younger sister Consolacion a ring with a while stone, set in a crown mounting. Unfortunately Consolacion was wounded during the war and fell very ill. Before she died of her wounds she gave the ring to Matilde who wore it until after the war. The ring with a white stone remained in her possession during and after the war and was eventually given to her niece Trinidad. Sometime later Trinidad had a stroke. I had an opportunity to visit her and mentioned the ring her Aunt Matilde had given her. Suddenly, she appeared cheerful and in good spirits as she described the ring. However, the ring did not fit well on her finger and she sadly admitted that she had lost it somewhere around the house.
Time passes quickly and it was during one of my yearly visits to Saipan in 1983 that I once again had the opportunity to visit with my good friend Matilde. The occasion was a friendly gathering in Garapan, attended by many old friends. In a private conversation with Matilde we rehashed the subject once again: The lady pilot who remains still undiscovered. During our conversation Matilde told me that she had received from Amelia Earhart a small diary in early days [sic] titled “Aviator” that contained many, many numbers, no explanations were offered.
Matilde kept the little diary until it was accidentally lost during the war. Sadly, no trace of the diary was ever found by Matilde. It wasn’t until after the war, upon seeing a picture of Amelia Earhart, that she was identified by Matilde as the stranger who had given her the diary.
After having heard the story of Matilde and the item she received from the woman pilot during the Japanese occupation, the Chamorro law enforcement officers whom I knew did not divulge any information they had at the time for fear of enemy reprisals. Even after the liberation of Saipan, those individuals who possibly knew what happened to Amelia Earhart in Saipan refused to speak.
The residents in Saipan who had previously seen the “lady pilot,“ all described her as having worn a man’s outfit and short hair style. Women who had seen the lady pilot, after having been shown photos of several women including Amelia Earhart, correctly identified Amelia Earhart. Upon their identification the question was, would Amelia Earhart’s disappearance still remain a mystery? (End of section from Without a Penny.)
“During the Japanese period, there was no running water,” Marie wrote in a recent email. “The toilet was outside. When Amelia needed the facility she had to go outside to use the restroom. She would stop by Matilde’s house and would peep in to see if someone was around to talk to. One day Matilde gave Amelia a cooked breadfruit, Amelia took it and tasted it. At another time while Matilde was doing her geography homework Amelia helped Matilde on her homework. Amelia took the pencil from Matilde’s hand and wrote something, however Matilde did not understand what AE wrote, Matilde didn’t know English at the time. She conversed using signs. Consolacion received a ring from AE. Mariono spoke to AE.
“One day Matilde noticed that the lady was ill, pale and used the facility too often that day,” Marie went on. “That was the last day she saw her. The next day the caretaker came to Matilde’s house and asked for black material. Matilde’s father, Tun Felipe, was a tailor. Matilde’s father asked the caretaker why she needed black material, she said, ‘Kookoo died, the American pilot.’ She continued, ‘amoeba.’ She didn’t know the lady’s name and called her ‘Kookoo.’ Amelia died of dysentery disease.” Matilde died in 1996, at age 83.
Opponents of the Earhart Memorial Monument label accounts like Matilde’s and dozens of others from eyewitnesses and others with knowledge as “anecdotal,” proving nothing. But when one considers these, and then adds those of U.S. flag officers such as Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, the Navy’s most revered wartime leader in the Pacific; Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, commandant of the Marine Corps during World War II; and Gen. Graves Erskine, a brigadier general on Saipan during the 1944 invasion and second in command of the entire land operation, all attesting to the presence and death of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan, these accounts begin to add up to far more than mere anecdotes. As Marie told the Rotarians in early February, “There is strong evidence that Earhart was here on Saipan.” You decide, but please do so only after you know more about the real facts about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, facts that can be found everywhere you look on this blog.
A shorter, gentler version of this story appeared in the March 28 edition of Marianas Variety under the headline, “Marie Castro: An iron link to Saipan’s forgotten past.” As I said in the opening of this post, massive opposition to the proposed Earhart memorial is endemic on Saipan, and nowhere is it worse than in the brainwashed and propagandized Facebook crowd, where this story garnered a total of just four “Likes.” I could consider this a badge of honor, but I’d much prefer that more were in favor of building this long-overdue monument to Earhart at the place of her death. Far too many on Saipan are dead against it.
Ed Williams, 67, a retired Merchant Marine (Military Sealift Command) radio electronics officer who’s lived and worked in many capacities on Saipan since 2004, recently painted a grim picture of the situation on the ground there. “Marie is such a sweet soul,” Williams wrote in a March 21 email. “But not many locals are interested in anything but beer and betel nut. I would say 1 percent of the locals are on the same page as Marie.” Williams, whose father was an Army medic who served on Guam, Saipan and Tinian, where he saw Enola Gay land and actually guarded the B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, is doing all he can on Saipan to educate the locals about Earhart’s tragic end there, but he’s a distinct minority.
Williams’ appraisal sadly mirrors that of former Navy civilian archaeologist Jennings Bunn, who spent 14 years on Guam and several months on Saipan during Typhoon Soudelor in 2015. “From what I saw in Saipan, it is over run by Chinese and Koreans, and the local folks aren’t real interested in ‘Haole’ [defined here as a white person who is not a native Chamorro] history,” Bunn wrote in a recent email. “My experience on Guam was that the local Chamorro knows very little about their own history, and few really care.”
On Feb. 8 an alert reader, Ken McGhee, informed me about an amazing story he’d seen on the website of the Marianas Variety (Micronesia’s Leading Newspaper Since 1972) titled “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan.” The headline captures the essence of this most unexpected and welcome news, and I’ve reproduced the story, which appeared on Feb. 7, as closely as possible below, or you can view the original article by clicking here. All shading and boldface emphasis is mine throughout.
“Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan”
07 Feb 2018
By Junhan B. Todiño – email@example.com – Variety News Staff
AN Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument will be constructed near the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
The monument committee, which was formed in Sept. 2017, is led by Rep. Donald Barcinas (Republican, Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature) who is now seeking funds for the project. “We need at least $200,000 for the project,” he told the Rotary Club of Saipan during a meeting on Tuesday.
He said the project will further enhance Saipan as a Pacific tourist destination.
Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and was one of the most famous Americans of her day. In July 1937, she and navigator Fred Noonan were trying to circumnavigate the world aboard a Lockheed Model 10 Electra, a twin-engine, all-metal monoplane, when they disappeared somewhere in the South Pacific.
At the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at Giovanni’s Restaurant on Tuesday, memorial committee member Herman Cabrera, a local architect, said the monument will be an 18-foot bronze statue of Earhart.
In an interview, Barcinas said they will reach out to the Legislature, the governor’s office and organizations such as the Rotary Club for funding assistance.
He said they have also met with the Marianas Visitors Authority to discuss the committee’s plan.
Memorial committee secretary Frances Sablan said she joined the group after learning about the many “theories” that try to explain Earhart’s disappearance.
Marie Soledad C. Castro, who mentioned Earhart’s disappearance in her 2014 memoirs titled “Without a Penny in My Pocket: My Bittersweet Memories Before and After WWII,” said the monument will announce to the world that Earhart was on Saipan in 1937. Castro was 4 years old at the time.
She told Rotarians about her interview in 1983 with Matilde Arriola who, Castro said, met Earhart when the aviator was detained by the Japanese authorities on island. According to Arriola, Castro said, Earhart died of dysentery. The body was cremated, Castro added, quoting a Japanese agriculture instructor who married a Saipan resident. “There was no Japanese cemetery at that time,” Castro said.
“There is strong evidence that Earhart was here on Saipan,” she added. (End of Marianas Variety story.)
Indeed there is, Marie, and most sincere thanks for having the fortitude to stand up and tell your Saipan countrymen about some of this mountain of evidence that attests to Amelia’s presence and lonely, miserable death on Saipan, abandoned by a president whose checkered legacy continues to require the protection of a cowardly, dishonest media to protect it from falling into historic disrepute. As the elderly population of Saipan dwindles with each day, the island’s cultural heritage continues to degrade, and without some new injection of the true history of the island into the community, Saipan will be no different than anywhere else, completely ignorant of the Earhart truth. The proposed Earhart monument is exactly what is needed.
The day after I was informed of the Feb. 7 Marianas Variety story, I wrote this letter to the editor, which was published Feb. 14:
“OPINION: Amelia Earhart’s Saipan fate”
14 Feb 2018
By Mike Campbell
JUNHAN B. Todiño’s Feb. 7 story, “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan” is the best news this Earhart author and researcher has heard in many years.
I heartily congratulate the monument committee, led by Rep. Donald Barcinas, for their wisdom and fortitude in coming to their decision to memorialize this great American on the island where she met her untimely death at the hands of the pre-war Japanese who so mercilessly tyrannized the Saipan people.
The truth about the wretched deaths of Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, has long been a sacred cow in the U.S. government establishment and its media allies, and practically since the earliest days of Earhart’s July 1937 disappearance, virtually everything disseminated about Earhart’s fate has been aimed at disinforming and misleading not only the American public, but the entire civilized world.
First it was the “Crashed-and-Sank” lie, an echo of the original Navy-Coast Guard 1937 report; then, after that canard became too ridiculous to swallow, a more recent but still long-debunked idea, that the fliers landed on Nikumaroro Atoll, in the Phoenix Chain, was pushed down our throats without surcease. Ignoring the massive body of available evidence supporting the fliers’ presence and deaths on Saipan, big media and history books tell us the fate of Amelia Earhart remains as much a mystery now as in the desperate days of the Navy’s futile search for the lost Electra. Nothing could be further from the truth; although numerous unanswered questions about the final flight remain, the common belief that the “Amelia Earhart Mystery” is an irresolvable enigma is known to be utter nonsense by those familiar with the facts.
Contrary to the Navy’s conclusion that Earhart’s Electra “most probably” crashed and sank within 120 miles of Howland Island, or the Nikumaroro myth that Earhart and Noonan found Nikumaroro and soon starved to death on an island where plentiful food sources and drinkable water were available, the lost fliers crash-landed at Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands, were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Saipan, where they suffered wretched, lonely deaths, falsely accused as spies by their barbaric captors. The elder population of Saipan is well aware of this fact, but the insidious influence of decades of American media propaganda have taken its toll, and the truth is not to be found among most of Saipan’s younger people.
The establishment of the new memorial should bring renewed attention to Earhart’s Saipan fate to a degree not seen since Fred Goerner’s early 1960s Saipan investigations focused the light of truth on the Earhart case, and produced the great 1966 bestseller “The Search for Amelia Earhart,” a book that galvanized significant numbers of Americans to demand the truth about Amelia’s demise — a demand that fell on the deaf ears of a Congress and president who stonewalled all attempts to break through to the Earhart truth.
The U.S. government has long possessed the answers in the Earhart disappearance, but obstinately persists in its longstanding intransigence, insisting all the files in the case have been released, and dictating the terms of the debate at every turn. The solution to the so-called “Earhart Mystery” will never be found at the bottom of the Pacific or on a picked-over island in the Phoenix Group, myths the media regularly depicts as the only possible answers. The “hard evidence” that can bring final closure to the Earhart case has been locked away for nearly seventy years in the deepest recesses of our national security apparatus, its precise location known to a scant few caretakers of the priceless evidence — if it exists now at all.
It’s darkly ironic that Earhart’s Electra 10E, NR 16020, was buried with tons of other war refuse under the Aslito Airfield (now the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport) after it was burned beyond recognition in July 1944 by American forces during the invasion of Saipan, according to former Army sergeant and Saipan veteran Thomas E. Devine, author of the 1987 book, “Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident,” and others who witnessed the plane’s destruction. Since nobody apparently knows exactly where the plane was bulldozed into rubble, we likely will never know how close the Earhart memorial will be to the true burial place of Amelia Earhart’s plane.
Thanks to the selfless efforts of Rep. Donald Barcinas and his committee, those of us who cherish the memory of Amelia Earhart and long for Goerner’s “Justice of Truth” regarding her tragic disappearance have renewed hope that we might live to see the only real and acceptable solution to the Earhart case — full U.S. government disclosure of the Saipan truth.
Mike Campbell is the author of “Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.” For more information, go to http://www.EarhartTruth.com.
Marianas Variety editor Zaldy Dandan was especially helpful, publishing my letter as an opinion piece, giving it better visibility, linking to the Truth at Last blog and displaying a huge photo of the cover of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, which encouraged his readers to procure it. Unfortunately, no discernible increase in book sales or page visits to this blog ensued, confirming the relative paucity of interest on in the Earhart disappearance on Saipan.
Jennings Bunn, a former civilian Navy archeologist who spent 14 years on Guam, as well as several months on Saipan during the power outage caused by Typhoon Soudelor in 2015, agrees. “From what I saw in Saipan, it is over run by Chinese and Koreans, and the local folks aren’t real interested in ‘Haole’ [defined here as a white person who is not a native Chamorro] history,” Bunn told me in a recent email. “My experience on Guam was that the local Chamorro knows very little about their own history, and few really care. That’s why people like R’lene Steffy [columnist at The Guam Daily Post] are so appreciated by those who do care about their own history. I did many class presentation to school kids, and told them they should be ashamed to have a Haole tell them their history. That’s the same situation on Saipan, Rota, Tinian, etc.”
But a few good souls still care, and on Feb. 18 I received a surprising email from one of them, Marie S. Castro, 84, one of the principal movers in the Saipan initiative to build the Earhart memorial. “I read your most appreciated article about Amelia Earhart from the Marianas Variety on 2/14/2018,” Marie wrote, going on to say she lived in Kansas City, Mo., for 50 years, teaching in the Kansas City Public School System for 25 years before her retirement in October 2016 and her return home to Saipan. In 2014 Marie published her personal memoir, WITHOUT A PENNY IN MY POCKET: My Bittersweet Memories Before and After World War II, and in 2015 she was one of nine authors who attended the annual Amelia Earhart festival at Atchison, Kansas.
“Since I came back home,” Marie continued, “I had an urge [to do] something dating back to 1937 . . . Amelia Earhart’s fate. On Feb. 2/ 2017, I approached Congressman Barcinas about my idea of building a Memorial Monument for Amelia Earhart here on Saipan to celebrate her 80th year. All our elders who witnessed the American woman pilot’s presence here on Saipan are long gone, however, in 1983 I interviewed a local woman who had personal contacts with Amelia Earhart in 1937, who was living next door from the political detainee hotel called the Kobayashi Royokan Hotel. [Mrs. Matilde Shoda San Nicholas (the former Matilde Fausto Ariola), see pages 102-103 of Truth at Last.] I want to pursue the Monument for Amelia Earhart and finalize the biggest lingering unsolved mystery of the 20th Century. . . . What is holding us now is funding. We need $200 thousand for the project. We greatly appreciate any assistance you could give us for this project.”
After thanking Marie for her work on Saipan, I gently corrected her about her misuse of the word “mystery” in connection to the Earhart disappearance, and pledged my sincere support for this worthy and long-overdue development. Of course I will happily send her a check, but even better, I’ll ask readers of this blog to support the memorial in any ways they can.
“Wow, Mike you gave me more push to pursue this project no matter how rough the road might be” Marie wrote in her Feb. 19 reply. “I will stand firm on my ground of the truth. According to the local woman she observed one day that the American woman pilot was not feeling well. She used the toilet very often that day and that was the last day Matilde saw the woman. She died of dysentery the next day. . . . Thanks again for your support. We need every assistance we could get. I am confident that with you together we will erect the Memorial Monument as a testimony to the whole world that this famous first American woman pilot definitely ended her life on the island of Saipan.”
I’ve never asked for money on this blog, and you’ll never see distracting ads or pop-ups when you come here. But the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan is the most worthy cause we’ve seen in decades, and its successful completion would be a very large step toward realizing our ultimate goal — complete U.S. government disclosure of the truth.
Please make your checks payable to:
Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc.
and send to:
c/o Marie S. Castro
P. O. Box 500213
Saipan MP 96950
Marie also has sent an artist’s rendition of the proposed Earhart Memorial Monument, and it looks great, far more elegant and stylish than I would have expected for $200,000. I will be unveiling it here soon. Please check back often.