From forgotten files of the Earhart lunatic fringe: The incredible tale of Ellis Bailey and USS Vega
In Chapter 13 of the second edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, titled “Griswold, Henson and Burks,” I present the story of Capt. Tracy Griswold and Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, the three Marines who excavated what might well have been the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from a gravesite just outside the Liyang Cemetery, on the outskirts of southern Garapan, in late July or early August 1944.
The original version of the chapter included the strange account of Ellis Bailey, whose incredible story, if true, would have lent great credibility to the claims of Henson and Burks, who were told by Griswold that they had just excavated the remains of Amelia Earhart. Twenty-one years later, they both separately identified Griswold from photo lineups, while the former Marine Intelligence captain denied ever knowing them or ordering them to excavate skeletal remains on Saipan.
I was reluctant to include Bailey’s story in The Truth at Last, because it did nothing to advance the truth, so I decided to cut his section from the final manuscript. I still feel it’s quite instructive, in that it shows the extreme lengths that some of the Earhart-addled will go to gain attention. The Earhart chase has badly infected some with its own peculiar strain of fever, and those carrying the bug can usually be identified by their ridiculous claims. The recent History Channel imbroglio, which I have written about at length, is a prime example of this awful malady. Earhart lore is replete with many other examples, but Bailey’s fantasy, at least for me, was one of the most believable, well-conceived fabrications ever; it certainly caught my attention and spurred me to make a serious effort to confirm it.
For a time, it did appear that a series of amazing letters forwarded to me by Bill Prymak in 2008 might hold the key to unlocking the next stage of the government’s top-secret operation to return the fliers’ bones to the United States in 1944. Below is the unpublished section of Chapter 13 of Truth at Last, “Griswold, Henson, and Burks.” Obviously, this passage will make far more sense to those who have the book, and can place it in the original context.
Between 1991 and 1999, Ellis Bailey, of Middletown, Iowa, wrote seven letters to Prymak, describing a series of remarkable events he witnessed aboard the USS Vega (AK-17), a Capella class cargo ship that carried a crew of 439 and displaced 11,500 tons, during operations off Saipan and in the Marshall Islands during July and August 1944. Bailey’s recollections of the remarkable incidents remained clear and consistent throughout his letters, and though he offered his own strange ideas about the meaning and the significance of the events, the core of Bailey’s account never changed. He never indicated his Navy rating, or job, in his letters, but a copy of the “Muster Roll of the Crew” of USS Vega for Sept. 30, 1944, shows that Bailey was a storekeeper first class (SK1).
In Bailey’s final letter to Prymak, titled “Amelia Earhart,” he recalled that Vega came to Saipan the “first part of July 1944,” and that after dropping anchor a group of Marines came aboard and informed Bailey and others that someone had just found “Amelia Earhart’s helmet,” somewhere on the island, but they offered no details.
The next day, Bailey “got permission to go ashore,” and “tried to visit Aslito Airfield” but was told it was restricted and off-limits. “While waiting for a ride back to the ship I talked to boat crew members who were discussing an important meeting of top General and Admirals,” he wrote. “One had come in that day. The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was there and he probably called the meeting.” With this, Bailey joined the handful of GIs claiming knowledge of Forrestal’s presence on the island during the invasion – an allegation that has never been officially confirmed, and which further research indicated was not possible.
The scuttlebutt Bailey said he heard about Amelia Earhart, Aslito Airfield, and Forrestal during Vega’s early July stop at Saipan was mere prologue to the astonishing episode he claimed he witnessed when the ship returned to Saipan later that month. The morning after the crew unloaded 61 tons of dynamite, the captain received orders to “take on fuel and supplies, enough to go 1,000 miles to Majuro and to take a government intelligence officer and two boxes of human remains that were two Caucasian flyers lost at sea seven years earlier,” Bailey wrote. “One was a woman.” [Italics mine.]
The next day, the intelligence officer, who had “no insignia but lots of authority,” came aboard with two boxes, “the remains of the flyers,” according to Bailey. “They were taken to the bridge and put under 24-hour guard,” he wrote, and the captain was ordered to steam to Majuro. Four days later Vega reached the Marshalls capital, Majuro, and while waiting for a “whale boat to be lowered to take him to shore,” the intelligence officer, apparently addressing Bailey, said, “I expect you are wondering why you are here. Seven years ago two Caucasian flyers were lost at sea. One was a woman. I came to see and talk with the two natives that had seen and talked with the flyers.” The agent returned to the ship the next morning, and ordered the captain to set sail for Kwajalein.
Upon arrival at Kwajalein, a small contingent of Marines came aboard and “told us that the day before one of their group was on . . . Roi Namur, [and] found Amelia Earhart’s suitcase of clothes and her diary in a barracks,” Bailey continued. “They had taken it to the man in charge of Kwajalein [Rear Admiral Alva D. Bernhard, who died in 1955]. The government officer with no insignia took the guarded boxes of the remains and left the U.S.S. Vega at once.” According to Bailey, the agent never mentioned any names in connection to the boxed remains, and Bailey himself didn’t believe the bones were those of Earhart or Noonan. The remains “weren’t the American flyers, they were British, which makes the whole situation so confusing,” Bailey wrote.
The Marines’ story about the discovery of Earhart’s suitcase, clothes, and diary on Roi Namur mirrored W.B. Jackson’s 1964 account to Fred Goerner, but Bailey’s story began to unravel when it became apparent their find did not occur “the day before,” Vega arrived, as Bailey wrote, because Kwajalein was secured in early February 1944, and by April 1, four months before Vega allegedly arrived at Kwajalein, 14,000 thousand Americans occupied the main island, with 6,500 more on Roi-Namur.
Bailey’s repeated references to the “British flyers” lost at sea at the same time as the Earhart flight must have originated with The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection, by James A. Donahue, among the most bizarre Earhart conspiracy books ever. Contrary to Donahue’s fanciful scenarios, no evidence has ever supported the idea that two British flyers, male and female, were operating anywhere in the Pacific area at that time. Writing to Ron Reuther in 1992, Goerner described The British Connection with Robert Myers’ Stand By To Die as one that “perfectly represents the totally irresponsible weirdo fringe which has been omnipresent in the Earhart matter since 1937.” In The British Connection, Donahue “has used photos and benign basic research and stitched the wildest kind of fiction to them and it is without any proof or ANY reference to source,” Goerner wrote.
“You’ll see that Ellis read too many AE books,” Prymak, who met Bailey in the “very early ‘90s,” wrote in a note attached to Bailey’s original letters. As a researcher who had seen and heard nearly everything during his four-decade investigation into the Earhart mystery, Prymak never put much stock in Bailey’s story. “Ellis spoke at the [August 1993] Flying Lady Symposium in [Morgan Hill] CA and at Atchison [Kansas],” Prymak wrote in a March 2008 email. “Both times he was a very ineffective and poor speaker, losing his thought process as he went along. He became very ‘unbelievable,’ and that is why I never seriously wrote about him in the AES Newsletters.”
Bailey’s imaginative ramblings reflected a few of the most implausible scenarios found in Earhart literature, but the remote possibility that his story about the intelligence agent and the canisters might be true was too compelling for me to immediately dismiss out of hand. Admittedly, I hoped against hope that Bailey’s story would prove to be true. If it were, another missing piece in the Earhart puzzle — the transport of the fliers’ remains off the island of Saipan — could be placed into the final solution.
My efforts to find any surviving members of the 1944 Vega crew who might have corroborated Bailey’s story were unsuccessful, but Tony Gellepis, of Santa Clara, Calif., a fireman aboard Vega from 1940 to 1942, was skeptical about Bailey’s alleged shore visit at Saipan during early July 1944. “In all my six years experience on various supply ships, shore leave was never granted while the ship was ‘swinging on the hook [anchored in the harbor],’ especially so during war time,” Gellepis, 87, told me in a July 2008 email. “Shore leave was granted only after the ship was docked and secured, if at all. And Bailey claims he went ashore the next day while Vega was at anchor! And this guy was set to go to Aslito Field? Incredible! I consider this to be a stretch, an embellishment.” Gellepis passed away in 2016 at age 96.
Much to my disappointment, a November 2008 trip to the nearby National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md., to verify Bailey’s affiliation with Vega and its purported movements during the key dates, confirmed that Prymak and Gellepis’ doubts were well founded.
Vega’s deck logs for July and August 1944 reveal the ship was not at Saipan in early July, as Bailey claimed, but anchored at Eniwetok Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, though July 21, when it left for Saipan, arriving July 25. Vega anchored in Tanapag Harbor until July 31, per Bailey’s account, but then departed for Guam – not Majuro – in convoy with the cargo ship USS William Ward Burroughs (AP-7), LST (landing ship tanks) 341, and the destroyers USS Stockham (DD-683) and USS Trisdale (DE-33), reaching Guam Aug. 1.
On Aug. 15, Vega left Guam en route to Eniwetok, its home operating base in the Pacific war zone, arriving Aug. 20. The muster roll of the Vega for the quarter ending September 1944 does establish that Ellis Orrin Bailey, a storekeeper first class (SK1), was a member of its crew, having joined the ship’s company Nov. 16, 1942. Otherwise, as Prymak observed, it seems obvious that Bailey, who died in 2004, had indeed read too many Earhart books. And though he didn’t author one himself, Ellis Bailey’s serial letter-writing adventures qualify him to join James A. Donahue, Robert Myers and others who will remain unnamed here among the disreputable ranks of Fred Goerner’s “totally irresponsible weirdo fringe” in the annals of Earhart lore. (End of unpublished Ellis Bailey section.)
Without doubt, the ranks of the Earhart-addled have not been yet filled, as the lure of instant attention and imagined fame is usually sufficient to ensnare these unprincipled characters in its unsavory web. Your humble correspondent will keep a sharp lookout, and if the story is wild or ridiculous enough to merit mention, you’ll see it here.
The brilliant news analyst David Martin (DCDave.com) has been alone among all media operatives large and small in recognizing and supporting the truth from the beginning of the fading media flap that erupted July 5 when NBC News announced that an unclassified Office of Naval Intelligence photo found at the National Archives in College Park, Md., by former federal investigator Les Kinney might be the smoking gun in the Earhart disappearance.
Bringing you up to date, the photo was the centerpiece of the two-hour July 9 History Channel propaganda exercise, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” I lost no time in becoming the first to publicly denounce the false claims made by Kinney and Morningstar Entertainment operatives who descended upon network airwaves to promote the coming History Channel program. Later July 5, I published “July 9 Earhart special to feature bogus photo claims.” Two days later, Martin, who shared my pessimism about a documentary predicated on such a shaky foundation as the ONI Jaluit photo, published “Press Touts Dubious Earhart Photo.” Meanwhile, the media had already begun their blanket denunciations of the photo claims, seemingly on cue.
A day after posting my July 12 review of the History Channel special, “History’s ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence’: Underhanded attack on the Marshalls-Saipan truth,” which included this report from The Guardian online that claimed the photograph had been found in a Japanese travel “book” that allegedly was published in Japanese–held Palau on 10 October 1935, Martin published “Earhart Photo Story Apparently Debunked.”
Now Martin has added his own perspective to my July 28 article that discussed the Marshallese government’s statement that the ONI photo could not have been taken in 1935, as claimed by the Japanese blogger, “Marshalls release is latest twist in photo travesty” with his “ ‘Earhart Photo’ Debunker Debunked?” published on Martin’s website Aug. 2, following forthwith:
“ ‘Earhart Photo’ Debunker Debunked?”
Perhaps everyone should have been a bit more skeptical when the British Guardian came out with its article with the confident sweeping headline, “Blogger discredits claim Amelia Earhart was taken prisoner by Japan.” (Bold emphasis Campbell’s throughout.) As we noted in our previous article in which we accepted the “discovery” of the photo in a 1935 Japanese travel book as valid, the apparent discrediting of the photo did absolutely nothing to undermine the wealth of evidence that Earhart was, indeed, captured by the Japanese, in spite of The Guardian’s major overselling of the new purported evidence: “But serious doubts now surround the film’s premise after a Tokyo-based blogger unearthed the same photograph in the archives of the National Diet Library, Japan’s national library. ” (Emphasis added)
The Guardian did go to some length to give the discovery quite an appearance of authenticity. They provided links to the travel book including the photo and page numbers. In addition, they gave us these quotes from the blogger himself:
Kota Yamano, a military history blogger who unearthed the Japanese photograph, said it took him just 30 minutes to effectively debunk the documentary’s central claim.
“I have never believed the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, so I decided to find out for myself,” Yamano told the Guardian. “I was sure that the same photo must be on record in Japan.”
Yamano ran an online search using the keyword “Jaluit atoll” and a decade-long timeframe starting in 1930.
“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said. “I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”
The initial impression one gets—the impression that The Guardian clearly wanted us to take with us—is that this Yamano is quite an enterprising researcher. But the impression does not bear close scrutiny well.
Yamano claims that the motivation for his effort was the belief that the Japanese military did not capture Earhart. The main problem of the supposed evidence presented by the photo is that it is not strong enough to convince any skeptical person that it actually shows Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in the custody of the Japanese. The natural reaction of a predisposed doubter is simply to reject the photo out of hand.
The second paragraph in the Yamano quote, then, amounts to a non sequitur. From the outset, what could conducting a search for a copy of the photograph presented in the History Channel program have to do with anything? It really looks like a waste of time. Did Yamano have some premonition that he might find evidence that would apparently prove that the photograph had been taken well before Earhart’s disappearance? Going in, the endeavor looks like a wild goose chase.
To read the rest of Dave Martin’s analysis, see “Earhart Photo Debunker Debunked?”
For Dave Martin’s reviews on both editions of The Truth at Last, as well as a summary of that evidence and the press (and Wikipedia) treatment of it, see “Hillary Clinton and the Amelia Earhart Cover-up,” “Amelia Earhart Truth Versus the Establishment,” and “Wikipedia’s Greatest Misses.”
Now the New York Times and longtime establishment shill and Earhart biographer Susan Butler have joined the growing herd of media vermin in denouncing the truth about Amelia Earhart’s presence in the Marshall Islands and death on Saipan, a scenario they briefly mentioned while selling bogus photo claims made by the History Channel and promoted by NBC News on July 5, setting off several days of media buzz over a photo later found to have existed in a Japanese travelogue two years earlier.
In a July 11 Times Op-Ed piece, “Searching for Amelia Earhart,” Butler, who continues to disgrace her avowed “profession,” again proves she has learned nothing since the publication of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, in which I spend 12 pages (306-318) figuratively taking this woman to the woodshed and exposing the falsehoods and misrepresentations she advanced in her 1997 biography East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart. Few have been more transparently dishonest in their published opposition to the truth than Butler, whose intransigence in this matter, though disturbing, isn’t surprising. In fact, it’s what we’ve come to expect.
Butler knows that anything she writes about Earhart in the ultra-liberal Times will be published without any opposing voices, and so she reverts back to the same ridiculous assertions she made in her book. “This theory has popped up from time to time over the years, Butler wrote. “The idea was originally proposed and investigated by Fred Goerner, a CBS radio journalist, who headed several expeditions to the island of Saipan in the 1960s to track down the truth. He was sure Earhart and Noonan had been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan. He uncovered no concrete evidence to support his theory but remained convinced that he was right.”
“No concrete evidence”? Murderers are convicted and sent to their deaths on the smallest fraction of the evidence Goerner collected in just his first visit to Saipan, in the summer of 1960. Dr. Manual Aldan, who was a dentist on Saipan in 1937, told Goerner the Japanese officers he treated told him the name of the American woman flier in their custody was “Earharto!” Many other local Chamorros identified Earhart and Noonan from photo lineups Goerner presented them, and of course we have the well-known account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, most recently seen in a brief interview presented in the History Channel special, as Josephine, alive and well at 91 in San Mateo, Calif., cast her pearls to swine and agreed to talk to interviewers whose only purpose was to use her as a tool in their disinformation drill.
Butler’s hatred of Goerner’s findings and his groundbreaking Saipan investigations screams loudly in every word she writes. Just as the producers of the History Channel Earhart special refused to credit anyone for the few new witness accounts they presented, Butler refuses to name Fred Goerner as the author of the 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart, which established the presence and death of the fliers on Saipan, but now comprises only about 5 percent of the knowledge we have that puts them in the Marshalls and Saipan.
On July 1, 1960, local residents picked up their copies of the San Mateo Times, to see this headline: “Exclusive: Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved,” in 100-point capital letters, with the story, “Famed Aviatrix Died on Saipan,” by Linwood Day, stunning the relatively few Americans who learned of it. That story is as true today as it was in 1960.
Retired Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz told Goerner in 1965, “Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese.” Two other U.S. flag officers, Marine Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, 18th commandant of the Marine Corps, and Marine Gen. Graves Erskine, who was second in command of the V Amphibious Corps during the invasion of Saipan in the summer of 1944, told Goerner and two associates that Amelia Earhart died on Saipan.
Twenty-six former GIs, veterans of the Saipan campaign, told Thomas E. Devine, author of Eyewitness; The Amelia Earhart Incident (1987) their eyewitness accounts that revealed the presence of Earhart’s plane, Lockheed Electra NR 16020, which disappeared on July 2, 1937, as well as their knowledge of the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan. The list goes on, and I don’t need to re-write the chapters of The Truth at Last that overflow with evidence that expose Butler’s pathetic establishment talking points as the stinking smoke of mendacity. “No concrete evidence”?
Readers of this blog and The Truth at Last are familiar with the mountains of evidence that reveal the truth, while the so-called crashed-and-sank and Nikumaroro “theories” are actually glorified lies that lack even the most rudimentary basics required of scientific theories. It’s simply amazing to behold how the American people have been sold such a bill of bad goods for so long. I’m certain, as well, that if the Earhart Electra were actually located beneath the tarmac at Saipan International Airport, or the excavated skeletons of Earhart and Noonan were presented for DNA analysis that confirmed their identities, our establishment media would suppress that information as fully as possible.
“The claim was again thoroughly investigated in 1981 by the journalist Fukiko Aoki, who concluded it was baseless,” Butler drones on in her Times editorial. “She interviewed a crew member of the Koshu Maru, one of two Japanese ships in the area where Earhart is thought to have crashed. The ship had received orders to search for the plane but found nothing. Aoki also read the ship’s log, which made no mention of Earhart.”
This is the best Butler can offer, which is nothing at all, but the truth-hating Times was glad to help, as always, when called to serve the cause of the leftist establishment agenda on any issue. In The Truth at Last, I showed that all of Butler’s claims, with the exception of the fact that Aoki was on record as rejecting the idea that Earhart was on Saipan, were provably false. I even interviewed Aoki by phone at her New York home in 2007, and she herself denied words that Butler had put in her mouth about Goerner suggesting scenarios to Saipanese who were only too eager to tell him what he wanted to hear. Here’s what I wrote in The Truth at Last, page 311:
In a September 2007 phone interview, Aoki, who visited Goerner at his home in San Francisco in late June 1982, denied writing that Goerner suggested possible scenarios to native witnesses, and said she thought Butler may have misrepresented or possibly misunderstood what she told the biographer in a 1997 interview. “I would never say that about him,” she told me from her New York home. “That’s terrible. I can’t criticize Fred like that; I respected him. He was a really nice person and a good friend of mine.” Aoki said Goerner’s death in 1994 “was kind of devastating,” but she confirmed that Butler had accurately reported her conclusion in Searching For Amelia — that in her opinion, Earhart was never on Saipan.
I contacted Butler by email to ask her about Aoki and her ideas about Saipan. All of this is chronicled in detail in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. The fact that this book had been blacked out by all major media until this past week, when the Washington Post finally broke through with the Amy Wang and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. July 11 piece,“A ‘bogus photo,’ decades of obsession and the endless debate over Amelia Earhart,” could not possibly have prevented Butler from knowing about the 12-page section I devoted to her phony claims. Euphemistically titled, “An Earhart Biographer’s Serial Misstatements,” I would wager that these pages were more than anyone had ever written about her work, in any format, and it is inconceivable that Butler did not know what The Truth at Last revealed about her so-called “research.” But it meant nothing to her, because facts mean nothing to these enemies of the truth, whether it’s the Earhart story or any other focus of their lies.
Here’s how I conclude the lengthy section in The Truth at Last that exposes and dismantles Butler’s propaganda, line by line:
Susan Butler, an American author of a major Earhart biography, echoes the Japanese government’s policies of deceit and denial, not only in the Earhart case but in its verifiably false claims about Saipan’s military posture several years before Pearl Harbor. While Fukiko Aoki’s motivation in advancing such nonsense is easily discerned, Butler’s is harder to fathom, yet is sadly typical of the American establishment’s hostility to the truth about Japan’s dark history. Whether Butler’s endorsement of Aoki’s findings was rooted in a conscious decision to mislead, simple historical naiveté, or abject incompetence is uncertain, but all are unacceptable in a popular biography of Amelia Earhart, and the result is the same: Readers are badly misinformed. We can justifiably ask whether Susan Butler would have been as casual in advancing her baseless claims against Goerner, who died five years before East to the Dawn was published, if he’d been around to defend himself.
We’ve seen an inordinate level of media activity during the past 10 days, virtually all of it devoted to a phony story about a bogus photo, followed by the subsequent debunking of the false claims made about the photo. When the false claims about the photo were exposed, as planned, anything of value in “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” was contaminated. The goal of the whole exercise was solely to further discredit the hated truth about the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.
Nothing will be followed-up by an establishment still protecting the checkered legacy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose refusal to help Amelia when she in Japanese captivity, if officially revealed, would even now be a catastrophe for Democrats who still revere FDR as the New Deal Savior of America. Sadly and as always, too many Americans simply don’t care enough about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart to even question the false talking points offered by Butler and others who are always eager to lead them astray.
Will shameless government shills like Butler, who want to keep Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan stashed away in the safe confines of romantic myth, flying into the eternal ether, ever cease their absurd advocacy for false solutions to the phony Earhart “mystery”? Not a chance, unless the U.S. government itself finally decides that the time for “full disclosure” in the Earhart case has finally come. Don’t hold your breath.
The brilliant news analyst David Martin (www.DCDave.com) has been a friend of mine and of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last since the early days after the first edition was published in June 2012, and he continues to be a staunch supporter of the truth in the Earhart disappearance. We first met about 2005, when I found his work on the James V. Forrestal case (“Who Killed James Forrestal?”) in an online search and was immediately hooked on the quality and quantity of the truth that Martin discerns and presents on a near-daily basis in his work.
Far more than this writer, the better-known Martin has a long history with the Washington establishment and is despised as a persistent pest by the herd journalists in the nation’s capitol, all of whom have made their own little deals with the devil and sold their souls for the coin of the realm, whether it be fame, status, money or influence. Martin is clearly his own man, a beast rarely encountered in this upside-down PC world, and his friendship and support are highly appreciated and never taken for granted here.
Earhart Photo Story Collapses as Expected
Well, that didn’t take long. Two days before the History Channel aired its two-hour special, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” clued in by the saturation promotion our propaganda was giving it, I smelled a rat. What I concluded in “Press Touts Dubious Earhart Photo” was that it was likely that these scoundrels were now steering us away from the truth through the use of #4 and #9 of the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression. These are, respectively, “Knock down straw men” and “Come half clean.”
I might have gone further and noted that these two techniques were being wheeled up to the front to supplement the propaganda workhorse #1, which is “Dummy up” and a subcategory of #13, which is creating and publicizing distractions.
Up to the airing of this program, our press had virtually blacked out any news of the mountain of evidence that points to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, having been captured by the Japanese. As author Mike Campbell points out in his review, which we shall get to later, the History Channel did present some quite solid evidence, never before aired by the national news media, that the unfortunate flyers did become prisoners of the Japanese and died at their hands. In effect, they came half clean. But they needed to fill up two hours, and like the “double agent” Christopher Ruddy in the Vince Foster death case, they had to supply a bit more than one questionable photograph to buy credibility with their viewers.
What good new information they offered, however, was overwhelmed by the phony photo straw man that got knocked down a lot faster than I thought that it would. And to show you how closely the press propagandists have conformed to the fourth truth-suppression technique, we repeat it here in full:
Knock down straw men. Deal only with the weakest aspects of the weakest charges. Even better, create your own straw men. Make up wild rumors (or plant false stories) and give them lead play when you appear to debunk all the charges, real and fanciful alike.
What we have here is almost a textbook example of a planted false story. A photograph had been “discovered” in the U.S. National Archives, apparently misfiled, standing alone without any context, which one might interpret as showing Noonan and Earhart lolling around on a dock in Jaluit Harbor in the Marshall Islands. Within a couple of days, though, a mainstream left-wing publication in Britain, The Guardian, reported that a Japanese history enthusiast had discovered the identical photograph in an old Japanese travel book. One must wonder how such a travel-book photo came to be there all by its lonesome in the National Archives. The book was published in Palau, considerably to the west of the Marshall Islands, in 1935, two years before Earhart’s disappearance.
The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” — George Orwell
If I wanted to produce a TV documentary that pretends to provide evidence in support of the truth as we know it — Amelia Earhart’s Marshall Islands landing and death on Saipan — while at the same time cunningly undermining this evidence by predicating its entire existence on sensational claims about a bogus photo that are soon entirely discredited, I couldn’t do better than Morningstar Entertainment’s “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” which premiered July 9 on History, formerly and better known as the History Channel.
Here’s History’s promotion of the program on its website: “The disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on July 2, 1937 is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time. Now, 80 years later, former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry investigates new, astonishing evidence behind the disappearance of America’s first female aviator in History’s two-hour special ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.’”
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? That’s the idea – to hook the unwary into watching this snake oil. But for those who truly understand the Earhart story, such as your humble correspondent, History and Morningstar Entertainment, which produced this program, practically gave their whole game away when they announced that the Earhart disappearance is “one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time.” This is a verifiable lie. As I constantly stress, this great American travesty, this great myth of the Earhart “mystery,” simply doesn’t exist. It’s nothing more than a cultural construct that’s been sold for 80 years to an unwitting, inattentive public. The fact that it’s believed by nearly everyone doesn’t change the truth.
In the deepest recesses of the U.S. national security apparatus, where the physical evidence of Earhart and Fred Noonan’s presence and death on Saipan is kept under the strongest lock and key, there’s no Earhart mystery. Most importantly, there’s no Earhart mystery in the minds of anyone involved in the Morningstar production, or anyone else who knows how to find and read one of the few books that present the truth, especially but certainly not exclusively Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Look around the Net and you can find plenty of “experts” who will tell you why you should believe them about the claims that have been made. For the few who might ask what I thought, I never imagined there was even the remotest possibility that the man claimed as Fred Noonan was he, or that Amelia Earhart was this strange person sitting on the dock. Amelia was never known to have thick black hair, not in any of thousands of photos I’ve ever seen.
The claims about the ship were also shaky, as I saw no plane on a barge behind the ship, and what looks to be a wake of white water and a blurry object that might be a small barge, or even a small boat. A huge metallic mass on its stern could be an airplane, any airplane, as Koshu was known to pick up wrecked planes at sea. The whole drill seems like some kind of bizarre Rorschach test, with any two observers extremely unlikely to agree on what they’re viewing. This is not how one establishes the presence of Amelia Earhart in this or any photo, or what should be the predicate for a History Channel program that purports to be presenting the world “astonishing new evidence” in the Earhart case.
Finally, on Tuesday, July 11, comes this report from The Guardian online that claims the photograph has been found in a Japanese travel book. “The image was part of a Japanese-language travelogue about the South Seas that was published almost two years before Earhart disappeared,” The Guardian reported. Page 113 states the book was published in Japanese–held Palau on 10 October 1935.” Does it get any worse than this? If the report is true, whatever the photo claims that began with NBC’s Wednesday, July 5 promotion barrage, are now entirely destroyed, discredited and defunct.
“I agree 100 percent with your take [on the photo], longtime Earhart researcher and former Office of Naval Intelligence agent Ron Bright told me in a July 5 email. “I saw the photo about a year ago, up close, etc., by Kinney, and told him I could not ID AE sitting on the dock, nor ID the plane on a raft on the stern as the Electra. No guards, no official presence etc., on the dock. Undated, and photographer unknown.
“Now if you agree with Bilimon Amaron that he treated two Americans, a man and woman, on the deck of the Koshu, a few days after 2 July 37, for minor wounds, the facts don’t fit,” Bright continued. “Amaron was very clear to two researchers that the Koshu left shortly for Jaluit with a plane on the stern, with a broken wing, and that the two, probably AE/FN DID NOT LEAVE THE SHIP FOR A SECOND, while in port and before sailing away. It is [in] Les’s eyes that the girl (?) sitting there with rather heavy head of hair, with a white shirt (AE left Lae in a checked shirt) was AE. I don’t buy it. Compare hair at Lae with the rather heavy thick hair on the person sitting on the dock. No date, no cigar!” Of course, with the discovery of the Japanese travelogue, this is all academic now, but I thought it might interest some.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and this photo failed utterly and completely, even before The Guardian report laid waste to this fraud forever. Does anyone except Les Kinney actually think that Earhart and Noonan are in this photo? Does Kinney still believe it?
I wish the ONI photo actually did portray Earhart and Noonan, because our very worthy cause for the truth would have taken a giant step forward at the moment millions saw it on national television. In itself, that would be extremely gratifying to me, regardless of who got the credit. But I’m also convinced that if the photo is the game changer Kinney and Morningstar claim, it would have never have seen air, and would have been completely suppressed.
The brilliant news analyst David Martin (DCDave.com), who’s written two fine reviews of The Truth at Last, may see the essence of the current situation better than anyone. Last week Martin weighed in on two days after NBC News broke the news about the photo, kicking off four days of promotions for the Sunday premier. Initially Martin shared my pessimism about a documentary predicated on such a shaky foundation as the ONI Jaluit photo, as his July 7 post, “Press Touts Dubious Earhart Photo, reflected.
“The special was conspicuously designed not to be taken seriously,” Martin told me. “I thought it had a certain supermarket tabloid quality to it, and I think Wikipedia’s response will be the standard one and was probably already in the can before the program aired. Notice Wikipedia’s use of # 6 in the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression, “Impugn motives.” They’re just doing it to make money, like that Campbell guy with his book. To be sure their motives were not pure, but in a different way.
This is just too good!” Martin wrote in a July 11 email after learning of The Guardian’s findings about the now-infamous ONI photo. “The whole thing was surely a set-up. It’s really amazing the lengths to which they go to keep the lid on the Earhart story. Notice that The Guardian is following the script to the letter, pretending that debunking the photo debunks the notion that Earhart was captured by the Japanese. Now watch the rest of the MSM line up to sing from the same choir book. It’s all really quite shameful, all in the service of protecting FDR’s reputation.”
Martin continued that theme in another July 11 email. “The vultures are sweeping in more quickly than I thought they would,” Martin wrote. “This is turning out to be a textbook example of #4 in the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression. The Guardian quite shamelessly leaves its readers with the impression that debunking this photo — whose phoniness you correctly called — debunks the very notion that Earhart was captured by the Japanese.”
For Dave Martin’s reviews on both editions of The Truth at Last, as well as a summary of that evidence and the press (and Wikipedia) treatment of it, see “Hillary Clinton and the Amelia Earhart Cover-up,” “Amelia Earhart Truth Versus the Establishment,” and “Wikipedia’s Greatest Misses.”
“The Lost Evidence,” formatted in what has become an annoying Reality TV “investigative team” of poseurs we see virtually everywhere these days, did deliver slightly more than I expected. The most important of all the Saipan eyewitnesses, Josephine Blanco Akiyama, 91, and still mentally sharp, told her story to Shawn Henry at her San Mateo home. But to my pleasant surprise, and for the first time on any mainstream TV program, important eyewitnesses other than Josephine were shown, albeit briefly. We saw Bilimon Amaron on film from the mid-1980s, telling T.C. Buddy Brennan of his experience aboard Koshu, treating Noonan while Amelia stood by. In a 1989 interview with Bill Prymak, Amaron said some of the Japanese crewman called the woman, “Meelya, Meelya.”
From the film archives of Don Kothera, which are now in the possession of Les Kinney, we saw Saipan’s Joaquina Cabrera, who washed Amelia’s clothes, and was said to have been moved by Amelia’s “kind eyes,” according to local historian Genevieve Cabrera; and Anna Magofna, who as 7-year-old watched as a tall white man was beheaded while a white woman stood by, and then ran in terror before she could learn what happened next. Lotan Jack, another Marshallese witness interviewed by Buddy Brennan, was also briefly seen on film. David Sablan of Saipan, among the last of the old guard on Saipan, told his interviewer, “I believe firmly that Amelia Earhart” was on Saipan.” These witnesses are magnificent and revealing figures whose convincing accounts, if known and accepted by enough concerned Americans, might help unlock the deepest locks in Washington, the ones with the top-secret Earhart files.
General Alexander A. Vandegrift’s 1971 letter to Fred Goerner, in which the Medal of Honor winner told Goerner that “Miss Earhart met her death in that area [Saipan] because that has been substantiated,” another blockbuster revelation that has never seen American airwaves, was introduced for the first time. On top of this, the 1960 Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) Report was briefly mentioned, another first, to my knowledge. Vandegrift’s letter truly prompted me to wonder if Morningstar and History were actually serious about trying to advance the truth, unlike all other network Earhart documentaries in recent memory, which are little more than slick infomercials for TIGHAR and Nauticos’ fund-raising activities. But too many red flags signaled that “The Lost Files” was just an advanced form of media disinformation, dressed up and pretending to be a sincere presentation of “new evidence.”
“I, too, was surprised at how far they went in revealing the truth,” Martin wrote in a July 10 email. “It was way too slick to be the product of incompetence, and we know what that leaves us with, which practically radiated from the screen. The proof of the pudding will be in the reaction of the opinion-molding community. What we will see, for the most part, will be a combination of #1 and #14 in the Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression. The contrast between the buildup and the reaction will be striking. Most will simply ignore it and proceed as though the program never aired. Those few who might write about it will devote most of their attention to debunking the photo. No one in the MSM or the academic community will ruminate about what it all means. “Nothing to see here. Move along.”
Laurel Blyth Tague, Ph.D., a friend and former radio talk show host I’ve known for several years since doing two long interviews on her program, is now well versed in the media’s Earhart disinformation program. But even she has been surprised by the way this soap opera has played out. “I am most struck by the determined refusal [by media] to go DEEPER into any existent supporting evidence by all these people, Blyth Tague wrote in July 8 email. “What I mean by ‘surprised’ is that there is no excuse for that perspective, that it almost jumps out as intentional and hostile. They are tipping their hand.” Indeed they were, but as always, these rats in the media are also good little soldiers and carry out their orders without questions or qualms. The real question is how much of the public will actually see this sleazy charade for what it is?
For me, the worst aspect of “The Lost Evidence” was the abject refusal of the principles to acknowledge the work of so many fine researchers and authors who made this program possible. It’s as it these people discovered the story just the other day, when some local natives told them about it. They never mentioned the most important Earhart disappearance book ever written, Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart, and insisted on calling Goerner, a “journalist,” not the great researcher and author he was. Other notable Earhart researchers fared even worse, and none of them, not Vincent V. Loomis, Thomas E. Devine, Oliver Knaggs, T.C. “Buddy” Brennan or Bill Prymak were ever even mentioned. Donald Kothera had to be cited once or twice, because some of the film shown came from Kothera’s archives, which he left to Kinney upon his death.
Otherwise, History’s pretentious-beyond-words “investigative team” took all the credit for about 60 years of research by several devoted, honorable men who risked life, limb and reputation in pursuit of the truth. This practice is absolutely beneath contempt, and is the most shameful breach of ethical and moral standards I’ve yet had the extreme displeasure of viewing on the small screen. For someone like myself, who’s spent 30 years on this story and never lied about any aspect of it to anyone, not once, watching these thieves and pirates prattling and posing throughout this horrid program was painful indeed.
I can’t say with certainty whether Kinney actually believed what he said in “The Lost Evidence,” or whether he knew the truth. Kinney has said more than once that he’s spent “thousands of hours” at government archives over many years in search of the smoking gun in the Earhart case. Based on countless conversations I had with him for several years after he initially contacted me in 2012, it’s easy to believe Kinney convinced himself that he saw things and people that weren’t there. Though it’s a stretch, it’s remotely possible this Earhart-addled soul actually believed his own imagination, but I seriously doubt it. But to those around him, who enabled and facilitated this absurdity presented on this program as legitimate, we shouldn’t think for a millisecond that they were sincere. Are we to believe they’re all delusional or incompetent, including the former FBI official Shawn Henry and Morningstar chief Gary Tarpinian?
Conclusion: A Pure Propaganda Operation
In my opinion, “The Lost Evidence” exhibits many of the hallmarks of a classic disinformation operation. “The Lost Evidence” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a masterpiece of deceit, cleverly designed to discredit the long-established facts that reveal the truth about Earhart and Fred Noonan’s landing at Mili Atoll and deaths on Saipan at the hands of the prewar Japanese.
It’s a variant of a technique known as “Fake Opposition,” or more commonly, “Controlled Opposition,” and traces its ancestry to Vladimir Lenin, who said, “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” The controlled opposition, in this case, would be anything that purports to contradict the officially approved theories about the Earhart case, which do not need re-stating here. Also known as “Psychological Operations” or PSYOPS, this practice is ubiquitous in our media. The onslaught of activity from the leaders of our fake news brigade that preceded the July 9 airing is all we need to tell us that a massive propaganda operation was under way, and remains so.
I’ve had enough experience with media and their aversion to the truth about Amelia Earhart to know that nobody who runs production companies in Hollywood could be this incompetent. Many will disagree with my analysis, and say it’s good that the Marshalls, Saipan and Earhart are being presented together in any way at all on History, considering the media blackout that has predominated up till now. But this reasoning is shortsighted, and is rooted in the fact that most Americans want to be entertained, not educated, especially when they watch TV. “The Lost Evidence” undoubtedly fulfilled the entertainment requirement for most, but it is not the work of people who are serious about advancing the truth; on the contrary, they are dead set on discrediting the truth.
If Morningstar and History wanted to make the case for the Marshalls-Saipan truth, this was not the way to do it. Kinney’s ridiculous ONI photo that has now been re-dated by two years earlier in a Japanese travel guide, the empty hole on Saipan, Spink’s unlinked artifacts, all these fail miserably to corroborate the truth as we know it, all are little more than objects of interest and speculation. Nothing is proven in any of these investigations, and plenty of ammunition is handed to the enemies of the truth. The interviews of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, Bilimon Amaron, David Sablan, and footage of Joaquina Cabrera mean nothing when the predicate of the program is destroyed a few days after it airs. Who in the mainstream is showing any interest in the Marshalls-Saipan truth? Not a soul, all are jumping on to denounce all of it because the photo claim no longer holds water. The entire program has now been tainted and will quickly be forgotten. “The Lost Evidence” is simply and transparently the work of people who want to undermine the truth as we know it.
I like Dick Spink and consider him an honest man and a friend, and I don’t believe he’s culpable for the ugliness and stink that so characterize “The Lost Evidence.” But Spink and Les Kinney, with their three minutes (down considerably from Andy Warhol’s original 15) are yet oblivious to the cold fact that they have been duped and made unwitting pawns in the establishment’s ongoing Earhart disinformation efforts, Kinney far more than Spink, who is little more than an innocent bystander.
Kinney, whose dreams of fame and glory, of being hailed as the “man who solved the Earhart mystery,” has lost all credibility and is witnessing a far different reality, as his fantasy dissolves into smoke before his very eyes. After all, how can one solve a mystery that doesn’t exist? Kinney has only himself to blame, because he lit the fuse that ignited this monster. On many occasions I tried to tell him about the media and its overwhelming hatred of the truth, that if he were ever to find a legitimate smoking gun, they would never allow it to stand. He never listened, thinking he knew better.
Just before the publication of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last in June 2012, Sunbury Press Publisher Larry Knorr asked me what my goal was for the book. My answer was simple: I wanted to change the conversation about the Earhart disappearance, to make the Marshalls-Saipan truth at least an acceptable possibility again, instead of the forbidden territory where only conspiracy nuts dared to tread. In the big picture, “The Lost Evidence” has done nothing except incite a brief argument about the credibility of a photo. Meanwhile, something unintended may have happened, because more readers are coming to this blog and to Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. The silver lining is real.
“Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence” is only the latest in the growing list of tawdry Reality TV rip-offs, serial disinformation classics such as “Hunting Hitler,” “Mystery of Oak Island,” “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald” and other phony productions conceived in the worst tradition of Barnum and Bailey and designed to sow only confusion, ignorance, money and ratings. It’s all so predictable, depressing and most of all, EVIL. Nothing but darkness and lies have plagued the Earhart case since its earliest days, and if the American public ever learned about its own history, few would watch these time-killers, the ratings would plunge and less of these abominations would be produced.
When this nasty little episode fades away, the whole cast of odious characters, with the exception of Dick Spink and his legitimate work in the Marshalls, will soon be forgotten, relegated to the void that is the just reward for those who serially abuse the truth with a disregard and contempt that hasn’t been equaled in recent memory. Their Sacred Cow has been protected once again through the most deceitful of methods, but Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last will remain standing, stronger than ever.