Tag Archives: Bill Prymak

Another gem from Bill Prymak’s AES Newsletters: “The Strange Story of Interview #23”

The late Bill Prymak’s abundant contributions to Earhart research, though ignored and unappreciated everywhere else in our know-nothing media, are gifts that keep on giving to readers of this blog and Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last Bill, the founder and former president of the Amelia Earhart Society, who passed away in July 2014 at 86, was the central hub and repository of the writings, reports, analyses and speculations of a wide variety of Earhart researchers. 

This material’s accuracy, also quite variable, must be carefully sifted to separate the wheat from the chaff, and was compiled in his two-volume Assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, covering Prymak’s AES Newsletters from December 1989 to March 2000. 

The following treasure appeared in the January 1997 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and concerns a familiar face among the Saipan witnesses, Joaquina M. Cabrera, and a revealing interview she did with Joe Gervais, Capt. Jose Quintanilla, Guam chief of police; and Eddie Camacho, Guam chief of detectives, during their 1960 Guam interviews.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.) 

Bill Prymak with Bilimon Amaron, whose eyewitness account is widely considered to be the most important of the Marshall Islands witnesses, in the recreation room of his home in the Marshalls capital of Majuro, circa 1989.  As a Japanese hospital corpsman in 1937 Jaluit, Amaron’s shipboard treatment of an injured white man, surely Fred Noonan, accompanied by an American woman the crewmen called “Meel-ya,” is legendary among the Marshallese. (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

“THE STRANGE STORY OF INTERVIEW #23”

When Joe Gervais and Joe Klaas presented their manuscript of Amelia Earhart Lives [1970] to McGraw-Hill, it was bulging with some 650 pages of research work.  Much good material had to be trimmed to meet the publisher’s mandate not to exceed 275 pages in final form, and it has always bugged Gervais that one of his most profound witnesses had a crucial part of her testimony stricken from the book by the editors.  Major Gervais recreates that scene for us, the way it should have been presented in the book:

At Chalan Kanoa, a village on Saipan, the investigators located Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera, fifty-one, who during 1937 and 1938 had been employed as a servant in the [Kobayashi Royakan] hotel.

l used to have to take a list of the persons staying in the hotel to the island governor’s office each day, Mrs. Cabrera remembered.  One day when I was doing this I saw two Americans in the back of a three-wheeled vehicle.  Their hands were bound behind them, and they were blindfolded. One of them was an American woman.”

Gervais showed her a photo of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Are these the two you saw?

Undated photo of Earhart eyewitness Joaquina Cabrera.  She passed away in 2004 at age 92.

She squinted at the photograph.  “They look like the same people I saw, and they are dressed the same way.”

What happened to them?

“I only saw them once in the three-wheeled truck.  I don’t know what happened to them.”

The threesome, Capt. Jose Quintanilla, Guam Chief of Police; Eddie Camacho, Guam Chief of Detectives, and Capt. Gervais, were shocked when, after finishing the above interview, she suddenly came forward to Gervais and deliberately spat on the ground, in front of his feet.

Capt. Gervais regained his composure and asked Capt. Quintanilla

“Why is this woman so enraged at me?  I had never met her before?”

Unknown artist’s sketch of Joaquina Cabrera accompanying this story in the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters January 1997 edition.

Capt. Quintanilla, in a quiet voice, asked Mrs. Cabrera to explain her actions, and after a lengthy exchange of words in Chamorro, Quintanilla turned to Gervais with an ashen face and slowly, deliberately told him what Mrs. Cabrera had said:

“You Americans are two-faced people!  What are you doing here in 1960 investigating what happened to Amelia Earhart 23 years ago when all the time you Americans knew she was here and none of you lifted a finger to help her?

“What kind of people are you?” (End Strange Story of Interview #23)

Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas, who passed away in February 2016 at 95, was a pilot and World War II hero, a POW and a talented writer with 12 books to his credit.  But sadly, Klaas fell victim to the insane delusion that Joe Gervais had birthed and spread to other witless sheep over the years, that New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart returned from Saipan via the Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo, determined to live out her life in obscurity and isolation from her family — something Amelia was incapable of doing. 

It was a shame, because the eyewitness interviews conducted by Gervais, Robert Dinger and the detectives on Guam and Saipan in 1960, on the heels of Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan, were some of the most compelling ever done.  The above incident is another example of important witness testimony that most will never see.

If you’d like to get reacquainted with all the sordid details of the long-debunked, worm-eaten Earhart-as-Bolam myth, I did a four-part series on this dark chapter of the Earhart saga, beginning with Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV,” on Dec. 29, 2015.

Fred Goerner also interviewed Joaquina at length in 1962, and later wrote in The Search for Amelia Earhart, “Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera brought us closer to the woman held at the Kobayashi Royokan [Hotel] than any other witness.”  See my April 17, 2018 post, Revisiting Joaquina Cabrera, Earhart eyewitness and pages 101-102 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last for more on Goerner’s interview with Joaquina.

(Editor’s note:  “I was surprised to learn what Joaquina did after she was interviewed,” Marie Castro wrote from Saipan just after this post was published.  “But I can also understand Joaquina’s reaction to Gervais, it was out of frustration because of the way Amelia suffered as a detainee.  Joaquina noticed the bruises around Amelia’s arm and neck, so did Matilde.”)

(Editor’s note No. 2: In an Aug. 21 comment, Les Kinney wrote:  “I don’t believe Cabrera’s statement. It’s inconsistent with remarks made to other researchers and out of character for a Chamorro woman to speak in this manner.  Sadly, at times, Joe Gervais embellished and flat out lied to further his argument.  It’s a shame since some of his reporting was sound. Goerner’s account is probably more credible.  Don Kothera and the Cleveland group interviewed Cabrera twice – there is no mention of anything close to what Gervais reported.” 

After Marie Castro was told about Les’s comment, she responded with this in an Aug. 22 email:  I also believed with Les Kinney, spitting at a person is unheard of in our culture.  It  is highly unlikely that a Chamorro woman would ever do such a thing.  I was really surprised of that reaction on Joaquina.  I would rather skip that comment of Joe Gervais, it was a made up story.” 

As I wrote to Les, “Gervais, on balance, did far more harm than good for the truth in the Earhart disappearance. Bill Prymak obviously believed it, or he wouldn’t have included the story in his newsletters, but Bill was far too trusting of Gervais, and even kept the lid on the truth in the Bolam case to protect Gervais.”  I should have picked this up before posting the story, and expressed at least some skepticism about it, but it slipped my attention.  Now you have the rest of the story.)

 

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Did Earhart switch planes during world flight?

Most observers of the Amelia Earhart saga are well aware of the longstanding speculation that a plane change gone wrong during one of Amelia’s many stops along the route of her 1937 world-flight attempt might have contributed to the fliers’ doom, or in some way unlocks some key aspect of the so-called “Earhart Mystery.”  If only we could locate at least one of these planes, the thinking goes, the rest of the puzzle might just fall into place.

The scenarios range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and I won’t include examples of the latter that can be found in a few of the books that exemplify Fred Goerner’s “lunatic fringe” in this post.  Among the serious, well-researched theories, we have Paul Rafford Jr.’s The Case for the Earhart Miami Plane Change,” posted here on Nov. 14, 2014, and Dec. 5, 2016, and I’ve continued to wonder about the possibilities inherent in David Billings’ still viable New Britain theory.

Please understand that I’m not taking a pro or con position relative to whether Amelia might have changed planes at some point during her world flight.  I simply don’t know, and so I present the ideas of researchers with definite, more finely honed and better-educated opinions.  We’ve already seen the ideas of Paul Rafford Jr., who strongly believed a plane change happened in Miami.

Next, we’ll examine the evidence presented by Bill Prymak, who strongly disagreed with Rafford.  One of them was wrong, of course.  The following is the first of two provocative pieces that appeared in Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, this in the November 1998 edition.

DID AMELIA REALLY CHANGE AIRPLANES?
By Bill Prymak

Several serious researchers over the years have bandied about the possibility that AE, for some secretive covert reason, switched planes “somewhere along the route.”  Strong anecdotal evidence backs these folks, but I have recently come across another way to identify her airplane as it flew some 22,000 miles from Oakland to Lae, New Guinea.  I call it a “signature.”

Undated, rare photo of Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E with painted cowlings. Note also “R” registration, meaning “Restricted,” without the “N” which denotes country of origin, in this case, the United States.  (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

Aluminum aircraft skin production in the mid 1930s was a new, burgeoning science, and the process produced various different tones and shades, even from sheet-to-sheet off the same lot.  So, each tone or shade becomes a unique signature, and if we study the rear half of the left vertical rudder below the horizontal stabilizer as illustrated on the blow-up below you will find that the same dark shade consistently repeats itself on every photo I have ever seen as the plane wends its way around the world.

I have only included in this NEWSLETTER five photos showing this unique signature, and I would certainly like to expand my file on this issue.  If anybody out there has a photo of AE’s airplane with the above signature clearly shown, please send a clear copy to me, it’ll be deeply appreciated.

Amelia with brand-new Electra, July 1936. Note “dark signature” in rear half of the left vertical rudder.  (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

Lockheed Aircraft Company photo taken July 28, 1936.  Prymak’s comment: “P.R. photo before second flight.  Note bar in window, no DF (direction finder) loops, light colored logo and Prymak signature.  Further note solid cabin door.” (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

Caripito, Venezuela, June 3, 1937.  Amelia wrote, “Rain clouds hung thick about Caripito as we left on the morning of June third.  We flew over jungles to the coast, and then played hide-and-seek with showers until I decided I had better forgo the scenery, such as it was, and climb up through the clouds into fair weather.  An altitude of 5,000 feet topped all but the highest woolly pinnacles. . . . Soon we saw the river Surinam, a silver streak meandering to the coast, a wide tidal stream full of floating green islands of small trees and water plants, and bordered with vast stretches of mud. Twelve miles from its mouth is Paramaribo, capital of Dutch Guiana, and twenty-five miles further inland the airport. . . . No makeshift airport this, but one of the best natural landing areas I have ever seen.” (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

In the March 2000 edition of the AES Newsletters, we find a more extensive photo essay by Bill Prymak, with plenty of information that was lacking in his first piece.  Thus, a few photos are repeated to avoid confusion.

HOW MANY DIFFERENT AIRPLANES DID SHE REALLY FLY?

The feeding frenzy continues to this day . . . rumors, stories, swear-accounts, and positive documentation that Earhart flew more than one airplane on her final flight. Some of the “documentation” pointing to multiple airplanes is pretty darned good, suggesting government involvement with cloak-and-dagger overtones, spy missions, a second Electra 10 being shipped to Australia, all making great reading for the conspiracy-hungry American public, but sadly, the true-grit hard copy proof still remains elusive.

This analysis is presented after searching through Lockheed Documents, Purdue Library SPECIAL COLLECTIONS papers, and CAA documents, which together give an accurate and objective perspective of the events of May 1936 thru July 2nd 1937 re: the acquisition and registration of her airplane, plus an in-depth study of the timing and implantation of the various modifications, alterations and additions done to her ship during the above period.  The author bears no pre-conceived opinion re: the multi-plane theory.  Let the chips (and the facts), fall as they may.

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May 16, 1936: George Putnam telegraphs Bob Gross, President of the LOCKHEED CORPORATION, directing him to proceed with the construction of Amelia’s LOCKHEED ELECTRA 10E, but, for confidentiality reasons, GP orders Gross to temporarily name CLARA LIVINGSTON as purchaser until the aircraft is delivered to Earhart on July 24 with the assigned registration number of 16020.  It’s appropriate at this time to discuss the Lockheed Electra 12A discovered on Mount Tierfort, Bicycle Lake Calif., in 1961 by Joe Gervais, bearing the same registration number, N16020.  With the serial number 1243, and delivered 12 May 1937, this airplane acquired a strange twist of fate when it was later purchased by PAUL MANTZ, technical advisor to Earhart on her final flight.  In June of 1957 Mantz requested and obtained a change from the aircraft’s existing registration N 60775 to N 16020 (the number on Amelia’s lost aircraft, but lacking the “R”), and the 12A still had that number when it crashed in 1961.

A PHOTO ESSAY ON AE’S AIRPLANE CHANGES,
ALTERATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS

Earhart’s airplane, delivered to her on July 24, 1936, had a single window at each side, but by the end of the year it had been extensively modified with six cabin fuel tanks, four filler ports instead of the original two, and two windows added: one in the entrance door and another opposite in the fuselage for a total of four.  These two added windows were larger than normal and were optically flat, for accurate celestial navigational purposes. Later, just before her second attempt, the starboard large window was removed and the fuselage skinned over.  This appears as a bright shiny patch easily seen on photographs taken at Miami, circa June 1, 1937.

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AMELIA WITH HER NEW AIRPLANE IN JULY 1936

TheR designation, plus the Hooven faired DF housing on top of the fuselage, plus the solid door, plus the shiny new metal all-around, dates this photograph pre-November, 1936.  Also note the “light-colored” logo on the right rudder.  Further note the horizontal bar in the side window, the purpose of which still baffles researchers.

P.S. Note the dark “Prymak” signature, the vertical left bottom rudder rear section that seems to ubiquitously find its way right up to Lae New Guinea.

After July 1936, Amelia’s aircraft adorned the registration number of X 16020 as seen in the photo below (Xdesignated factory test work).

R 16020 was seen on the aircraft when she entered the BENDIX AIR RACE in September 1936, at which time the engine cowlings were painted in a New Zealand motif.  The R designation was requested Aug. 6 and approved the next day.  On Sept. 21, 1936 the Bureau of Air Commerce finally approved NR 16020, but the aircraft continued to display R 16020 well into the end of 1936.

Prymak’s comment: “Note the protruding top of the wing navigation) light, and the horizontal bar in the window, plus the dark logo.” (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

R 16020 was seen on the aircraft when she entered the BENDIX AIR RACE in September 1936, at which time the engine cowlings were painted in a New Zealand motif.  The R designation was requested Aug. 6 and approved the next day.  On Sept. 21, 1936 the Bureau of Air Commerce finally approved NR 16020, but the aircraft continued to display R 16020 well into the end of 1936.

This photo of AE on same day as previous photo.  Note two-filler-hole
fuel fill system, but this seven-tank fuel system was removed shortly thereafter and only six tanks went back in, and the two-fill tube manifold system was dropped in favor of each tank having its own filler neck.  This resulted in the four (plus one blank ) filler-hole system, as seen on all photos taken thereafter right up to Lae, NG.  (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)

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The photo below taken late October 1936 shows the FRED HOOVEN DF dome, solid door, dark-colored logo, bar in window, and bottom protruding wing navigation light.  Trailing antenna fairlead is also clearly shown at rear of airplane.

The photo below shows the post-crash mess at Luke Field, Hawaii.  Note the door has built-in window.

Photo below, arriving back in the states, shows ADF loop, larger rear starboard window, and large dark fuselage panel, just above right wing.  This dark panel can also serve as asignature for photos in other locations.

Photo below shows well-documented Miami June 1 takeoff.  Note the shiny new patch over rear window, our side fuselage dark panel over the wing, the dark long skinny panel over the two windows, visible in both photos, and it becomes apparent that both photos show the same airplane.

The Electra taxis for take-off on Amelia’s all-fated round-the-world flight Miami, Florida, June 1, 1937.

The Lockheed drawing below shows the configuration of the aircraft just before her May 20 departure on the second attempt.  As noted on the drawing, the flush navigation lights appear, probably because the new right wing installed after the crash had the flush design already incorporated into the wing, necessitating the left wing to be similarly configured. Note 4+1 filler ports, window in door, and dark logo.

 

Prymak’s comment: “Quite a crowd at Assab, Eritrea, Africa, June 15.  Note window in door, dark logo and dark right rudder.”

Karachi, Pakistan, June 17. “Again, window in door, dark logo and the ‘Prymak’ dark lower fin,” Prymak wrote.  In her book, Last Flight, Amelia wrote, “In Karachi I was told that a non-stop flight from the Red Sea to India had not previously been made.  Certainly with or without stops it is no hackneyed route.  For me, who had never flown outside of North America (excepting a couple of oceans) this bit of far-away air adventuring was a deeply interesting experience.” 

And finally, conspiracy buffs get all cranked up over a photo like this, claiming all kinds of sinister things like” positive proof-another airplane,” but this most likely was just another PR stunt (for which AE was famous) with the letter E painted or taped on the right side. E for what? EXLAX?

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What can we deduce from the previous photos?

1.  The cabin door was certainly windowed around January 1937.  I have found no work orders to confirm actual date of installation.

2.  The bar in the window vanishes before the first round-the-world-attempt March 15 — clothes rack for Fred?

3.  Right side second large window [was] skinned over and shown as “new, shiny aluminum” before AE left for Miami.  But why would they cover an oversized window fitted with optically perfect glass for Fred’s navigational work?

4.  The mystery of the 4+1 fuel ports pretty well explained on previous pages.

5.  The navigation lights were installed when the new right wing was installed during the factory repair days, March 30 to May 20, 1937.

6.  The airplane sports the Hooven domed DF antenna housing in the fall of 1936, then it falls out of favor to the loop antenna, which remains on the airplane until the very end, Lae, New Guinea.  However, we still cannot explain Paul Rafford’s close friend Bob Thibert stating that at Miami he was instructed to install an open DF loop on NR 16020, where he found only VIRGIN SKIN ABOVE THE CABIN.  Should we invoke the faded memory clause at this time as one possible answer? (End of “HOW MANY DIFFERENT AIRPLANES DID SHE REALLY FLY?”)

Your comments are of course welcomed.

 

Art Kennedy’s sensational Earhart claims persist: Was Amelia on mission to overfly Truk?

We begin 2019 with a closer look at one of the more controversial characters in the history of the Earhart saga.  Art Kennedy was an aircraft technician for the Pacific Airmotive Company in Burbank, Calif., during the 1930s, and first met Amelia in 1934 when he serviced her Lockheed Vega for a Bendix Trophy race.  Later, he directed the repairs of the Electra when it was shipped back to Burbank in boxes following the March 20, 1937 accident at Luke Field, Hawaii, during her takeoff on the second leg of her first world-flight attempt, which could have easily resulted in her death.

Much speculation surrounded the cause of the Electra’s so-called ground loop, and Amelia herself said thatpossibly the right landing gear’s right shock absorber, as it lengthened, may have given way. . . . For a moment I thought I would be able to gain control and straighten the course.”  Army aviation expertsexpressed unofficial opinions that a landing gear failed just before the right tire of her plane burst, but Harry Manning, who was in the co-pilot’s seat that day, said Amelia “lost it on takeoff. 

 “The plane began to sway during takeoff, and according to Manning, Earhart tried to correct with the throttles and simply over-corrected, Fred Goerner wrote in a 1992 letter to Ron Reuther.   He said it wasn’t a matter of a tire blowing at all.  It was pilot error with a load of 940 gallons of fuel.  He added it was a miracle there was no fire.

The seriously damaged Electra 10E after Amelia’s Luke Field, Hawaii “ground loop” on March 20, 1937.  Amelia and Fred can be seen standing next to the pilot’s side of plane.  The Electra was sent back to the Lockheed plant in Burbank for months of costly repairs, including bigger engines, according to Art Kennedy, who worked on the Electra during that time.

In his 1992 autobiography co-written by JoAnn Ridley, High Times — Keeping ‘Em Flying, Kennedy offered a far more sinister explanation for the crash.  After a close examination of the plane’s damaged right wing, right gear, brakes and propellers, Kennedy said he realized the ground loop was not normal, but “forced,” and that Earhart purposely wrecked the plane.  When confronted by Kennedy, she “told me not to mention it and to mind my own business,” he wrote.

Kennedy, who passed away in September 1998 at 85, said he reminded her that an inspector was due the next day to make an official accident report and would recognize the plane’s condition would never have been caused by an accident. Damn! I forgot about the gear,  Kennedy claimed she said.  Art, you and I are good friends. You didn’t see a thing.  We’ll just force the gear back over to make it look natural. Will you promise me never to say anything about what you know?”  Kennedy complied and swore he kept his word for 50 years.

Most recently we heard from Kennedy when his account was featured in Did Earhart crash on purpose in Hawaii takeoff?” on Nov. 2, 2018.  The following interview, titled “A Visit With Art Kennedy in Portugal,” by Bill Prymak, appeared in the February 1993  Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.  Prymak described Kennedy, who then lived in Cellerrico De Beria, Portugal, as a “walking encyclopedia on every aspect of airplanes in the Golden Years of Aviation and at the age of 81 [in 1993] his mind is incredibly sharp. . . . It is with a feeling of deep veneration that we sit and break bread with a man who knew Amelia Earhart so intimately, a man who worked with her, laughed and joked with her, took her home at nights when she didn’t have the car, dined with her.  There is virtually no one alive today who knew her as well as Arthur Kennedy.

As an added feature in this interview, still relevant after 25 years, Kennedy lent his considerable expertise to the early TIGHAR claims that made so much international noise in its early days, and sadly, continues to do so, though only those without critical thinking ability pay any attention these days.  We begin:

AES:  Art, you spent quite a bit of time with Amelia, both professionally and personally.  What was she like?

KENNEDY:  Bill, this gal was a true lady . . . lots of class, but no snob, friendly with all the shop guys, very inquisitive about the work being done on her airplane.  Always looking over the shoulder, but never interfering with the mechanics.  She and I developed a special relationship as I was the only one, once she got to know my work, who she would allow to work on her engines.  Polly (Art’s high-school sweetheart and wife of 45 years, who died in 1978), Amelia and I would go out for supper many times when we were working late.  On one occasion she lamented how she was tiring of all the notoriety, sick of all the false fancy friends, fed up with George’s constant pressures, and simply yearned once more to be a simple American gal who could enjoy her privacy like the rest of us could.  Polly and Amelia got along great, went shopping together, had girl-to-girl private times, and really developed a close friendship.

Undated photo of Art Kennedy, back in his heyday.  According to Bill Prymak, who knew him well, Kennedy fabricated stories about what Amelia Earhart told him after she crashed the Electra on takeoff from Luke Field in March 1937.  These tales from Kennedy have been cited by some as strong evidence that Amelia was ordered to ground loop her plane, change directions of her world flight and even embark on a spy mission.

AES:  If they went shopping together, did they ever shop for shoes, and if so, do you recall if Amelia’s shoe size ever came up?

KENNEDY:  If you’re alluding to Mr. Gillespie and his size 9 theory, with all the hoopla I’ve recently read about this great discovery, let me put it to rest once and for all.  Polly wore a size 7 and COULD NOT fit into Amelia’s shoes . . . not by a longshot.  That TIGHAR theory is pure baloney.  (ED. NOTE: Art was more inelegant in his choice of words, and we simply had to clean it up.)  Where did they find this guy?

AES:  What about Paul Mantz?

KENNEDY:  Paul was one of the finest pilots I had ever met, but everybody used to call him the HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR BOY, and I did quite a bit of work for him before I moved over to PAC, and it was Paul who first introduced me to AE.  He gave her countless hours of dual (instruction) in the Electra and Paul was pretty satisfied that she could tackle the world flight.  He could never figure out the groundloop [sic] at Hawaii . . . that puzzled him to his dying day.  But Paul in his business dealings was a bulldozer, and quite a wheeler and dealer.

AES:  Did you ever meet her husband George?

KENNEDY:  No, but I saw him several times looking for AE in the shop, and, on one occasion, when she saw him beckoning with this finger, AE pleadingly caught my eye, and her facial expression seemed to say: Gad, why did he have to show up at this time, when I was really enjoying these guys around me and my airplane!  Polly and I never went out with the Putnams as a foursome.  George was too big to socialize with a ramp rat.  Amelia was different that way.

AES:  You indicate in your book that Amelia told you that she was told, immediately before takeoff at Hawaii bound for Howland Island, to somehow abort the flight.  This is potent stuff, Art, and not many are buying this.  Can you expand on this?

KENNEDY:  I never did ask her who ordered her to abort at Hawaii and it really was none of my business, and she probably would not have told me even if I did ask her, but indeed she did state that she was ordered to abort.  I can think of only two reasons for this; something was not ready downstream, or, somebody figured she needed bigger generators as the existing generator blew fuses or burned out on the way to Hawaii.

AES:  But Art, if somebody wanted to abort an airplane, I could think of a dozen safer ways to do it — run the wing into a telephone pole, hit a pickup truck, slide into a ditch, fake a brake failure and run into a brick wall . . .

KENNEDY:  Yea, I know, but she was probably planning on a very slow, deliberate ground loop at very slow speed, where she figured there’d be no risk with all that has on board.  But in a situation like that, if you start the takeoff roll and hesitate for just a fraction of a second, bam . . . you’re already past thesafe zoneand you find yourself doing things that are absolutely crazy!  One spark in the wrong place and they all would have been fried.

AES:  Was she really a good pilot?

Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais traveled to the Marshall Islands to visit with the iconic Earhart eyewitness Bilimon Amaron at Amaron’s Majuro home in 1991.  A year later, Prymak and Gervais journeyed to Art Kennedy’s home in Portugal to interview the controversial expert who personally worked on Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E.

KENNEDY:  Bill, I flew with a bunch of the old timers, even got a pilot’s license myself.  A lot of the final checkouts, such as rigging and engine performance, had to be done in flight . . . and yes, Earhart was a good solid, pilotI flew with her many times, even once watched her bring in the Electra down to the runway with a 25 mph crosswind straight as a die.  When the Bendix rep who was halfway down the runway during the ill-fated Hawaii takeoff told me that her tailwheel was already high when the groundloop began, I could not believe it!  Even a dumb student pilot does not groundloop on takeoff at 50 mph.   Something very fishy here.

AES:  You’re still convinced she was on a spy mission?

KENNEDY:  Absolutely!  I’m 81 years old and have no need for storytelling or ego trips at my age.  I have only one trip left, and that’s to meet my Maker.  I can’t tell you everything she told me about the mission because other people were involved who might still be alive, but I will tell you thisShe mentioned the mission taking her over Truk, the big engines received brand new from Pratt & Whitney in May 1937, were modified by me personally to accommodate the bigger generators, and even though her regular engines were being overhauled, these two new super engines were charged to NR 16020 — her airplane!  Many strange things and many strange people were involved in her last flight.

AES:  How do you address the claim by TIGHAR [The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which has never recovered a single historic aircraft, to my knowledge] that the piece of aluminum they found came from the belly  of NR 16020?

KENNEDY:  This simply cannot be!  When the damaged aircraft came back from Hawaii, Amelia Earhart and I personally and meticulously went over the entire fuselage.  We had to raise the fuselage high enough to get a low-boy tractor underneath for transport to the Lockheed factory on the other side of the field.  In lifting the fuselage, Amelia and I got a good look at the belly, and there was absolutely no damage, not even dirt, from the groundloop accident.  There was however, cable sling damage from hoisting the airplane onto the boat from Hawaii, and in unloading same stateside.  Cable sling damage was observed at Station 239, where two stringers were buckled in, and it was here that Lockheed removed and replaced stringers and full skin sections, NOT patches, as TIGHAR claims.

AES:  But Gillespie claims that Lockheed people like Ed Werner and Harvey Christen are wrong when they state that the rivet and stringer spacing could not vary from the original specification, as found on TIGHAR’s piece of aluminum.

KENNEDY:  I don’t remember Ed, but if Harvey Christen says after studying the TIGHAR piece that it could not have come from the Electra, well you can bet the farm, the wife, and your bottom dollar that it did NOT come from an Electra.  Let me tell you something about Harvey . . . there was a guy, who in the early days of Lockheed, started as a wrench rat and who, through his some forty years with the firm, rose to be Vice-President of Quality Control Engineering.  He was revered, respected, and loved by everybody, and nobody knew his job better than Harvey.  There is no greater authority on this argument than this man.  For Gillespie to say that Lockheed “could have changed” original design integrity is ludicrous, stupid and pretty damn arrogant of him.  He must have a lot of money riding on this piece of aluminum.

High Times — Keeping ‘Em Flying, Art Kennedy’s 1992 autobiography with Jo Ann Ridley, is “a lively account of growing up in early West Coast aviation, working on famous aircraft with famous flyers; of practical jokes and competitive dirty tricks; and of significant innovative contributions to aircraft safety. . . . Aviation has given this old ramp rat one hell of a great life!”

AES:  But TIGHAR claims that the piece has an ink-stained stencil reading 24S-T3, in red ink, and that because it was hand-stampedat the factory, it had to be pre-World War II.

KENNEDY:  All aircraft companies bought their aluminum from ALCOA starting in 1932.  24S-Condition 3 was used on all aircraft prior to World War II.  24S-T3 was produced right through the beginning of WWII and was used on tens of thousands of American aircraft, including the PBY, DC-4, P-38, P-51, P-47, and the 247D.  Lockheed and other airplane manufacturers were stacked to the rafters with 24S-T3 on the onset of WWII, and as far as identifying the date of manufacture of a piece of stamped aluminum, hell, I saw the stamps put on in blue, red, green, black . . . they used every color under the sun, and sometimes they stamped with the grain, sometimes against the grain, diagonally, every which way.  Nobody today, shown a piece of 24S-T3, can pinpoint the date of manufacture just by the color of the ALCLAD stamp or by the shape of the letters.

AES:  You have seen a sketch of the TIGHAR artifact.  Comments?

KENNEDY:  Absolutely no way would Lockheed permit a change of rivet spacing on the replacement of a skin panel . . . it would never pass inspection.  Nobody in their right mind . . . in any repair situation, would ever change the pattern of the rivet holes and make different holes thru stringers, circumferentials [sic], keels, and other attaching structures and put more holes in these structures and thusly compromise the structural integrity of the original design.  This TIGHAR piece of aluminum might have come from the nose gear door of a Catalina Flying Boat because they got easily damaged and were always in constant repair.  You might also check the bottom of the floats as they have a rivet pattern similar to what you showed me.  Lockheed did skin replacements, not patches.

AES:  TIGHAR claims that they have evidence that Amelia and Fred removed a fuel cell from the cabin and with an engine cover jury-rigged a water-catchment device on Gardner Island, using only a screwdriver.  Your comments?

KENNEDY:  Bill and Joe, you guys can’t be serious that somebody would try to bamboozle the American public into thinking that AE and Fred would even attempt such an impossible job on a deserted island.  First, you’d have to remove the radio blocking your way to the fuel tank to be removed.  Then you have to tear apart the floor boards of the entire rear of the airplane . . . then you need special wrenches to get at the nuts tying down the tank; then you need BIGGER 1.5-inch wrenches to release the B-nuts  tying the vent lines to the other tanks.  And when this is all said and done what have you got?  I’ll tell you what you’ve got!  Ever try drinking water out of an aluminum can that’s been full of aviation gas for two months?  It’ll kill ya, and Fred certainly knew better.  Didn’t I read someplace that somebody suggested that if they really were down on a deserted island they simply would have deployed their life raft for water-catching purposes? 

AES: Yeah, we suggested that in a previous AES Newsletter.

KENNEDY:  And another point . . . the engine covers were never taken on the final flight.  I remember walking into Firman Grey’s office at Lockheed several weeks after she went down and seeing engine covers in the corner stenciled NR 16020.   Firman said Amelia thought they were too bulky and heavy to be trucking around the world.

AES:  But AE’s book Last Flight states that they used engine and prop covers at Timor.

Art Kennedy, Alverca, Portugal, 1991.

KENNEDY:  That’s baloney.   Putnam wrote that book and filled in all that fancy prose.  Amelia was too busy and dog tired at every stop to write notes for George.  GP got a few scraps of information from phone calls to AE and from the press, but there was no press or telephone at Timor, so George filled in some empty space with his own creations.

AES:  Art, you’ve been a superb host, and a fabulous source of “firsthand” information on the greatest Lady of Aviation.  In closing, what do you feel really happened?

KENNEDY:  I am convinced she went down in the Marshall Islands, as so many researchers besides you two guys have theorized.  Something BIG has always bugged me: I kept immaculate fuel low records from the tests cells on her engines, and so help me, from her last message to Itasca at 20 hours and 14 minutes into the flight, she had AT LEAST five hours of fuel left.  Think about it: if you’re really lost, then when your fuel runs out, you’re about to die, and you know it.  Talking to somebody there on the radio is your only lifeline, and it costs you nothing to talk and yell for help, as the average pilot would have done in this situation.  The silence with an operational radio and five hours of fuel left really bugs me.  That was not the Amelia I knew.  She had somewhere else to go to.  It was planned.  (End of Kennedy interview.)

In High Times, Kennedy wrote that Earhart told him she was ordered to abort the Luke Field takeoff and did it the only way she knew how.”  According to Kennedy, she saida lot depended on my keeping quiet about what I’d seen because she was going on a special mission that had to look like a routine attempt to go around the world.  She said, ‘Can you imagine me being a spy?’ then she sort of tittered and added, ‘I never said that!’” Several researchers, including some who knew him well, have looked askance at Kennedy’s claims and pointed to his reputation as a well-known “bullshit artist,” as he himself admits in his book’s prologue.  Who knows for sure?

Bill Prymak, who knew Kennedy well, was among those who agreed with Fred Goerner in dismissing Kennedy’s claim about the Luke Field accident.  On the other hand, Prymak wrote that Joe Gervais (who accompanied Prymak to Portugal) and I were left with some lasting impressions of Art Kennedy, not the least being his total love and admiration for Amelia, his uncanny knowledge of the Lockheed Electra, and his unquestioned honesty and resolve not to embellish when we quizzed him on matters that happened 55 years ago that since became fuzzy.  We appreciated that kind of candor.”  So what are we to think?

Was this Amelia Earhart’s ill-fated flight route on July 2, 1937?  This map appeared in the September 1966 issue of True magazine, along with a lengthy preview of Fred Goerner’s soon-to-be-published The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Art Kennedy may have thought so, and to this day the true path of Earhart’s last flight eludes us, and remains the biggest mystery of the Earhart saga.

It’s hard to buy Kennedy’s claim about the ground loop, as it’s difficult to imagine that Amelia would purposely endanger Harry Manning and Fred Noonan, who were both aboard.  It’s more likely that she honestly blew the takeoff at Luke Field, but what of Kennedy’s assertion about Amelia’s “mission taking her over Truk,” and that the Electra received “big engines” in May 1937 that he personally “modified” for the flight’s extra miles?  We have no credible evidence that supports the idea that a new pair of “big engines” was put on NR 16020, but could it have happened?

The total distance from Lae to Truk to Howland Island is 3,250 statute miles, compared with 2,556 statute miles when flying direct from Lae, well within the Electra’s normal range of 4,000 miles, even without modified enginesCan we so easily dismiss these separate and altogether plausible — at least in this observer’s opinion — claims from Kennedy?  Most probably the fliers reached Mili in a different way, but a definitive answer continues to elude us.

Don Wilson’s bizarre 1994 Earhart encounter

Donald M. Wilson was a veteran of the Battle of Saipan, where he was both a rifleman and a chaplain’s assistant in the 2nd Marine Division, and where he no doubt heard stories about the presence and death of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the pre-war years.  He became an ordained minister and served as a pastor and assistant pastor in several churches in Ohio, Michigan and finally in Lake Pleasant, New York, where he passed away on Thanksgiving Day, 2012, at age 86.

Wilson was also an avid student of the Earhart disappearance, and he occasionally corresponded with fellow Saipan veteran Thomas E. Devine.  In 1994, Wilson self-published Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend: Accounts by Pacific Island Witnesses of the Crash, Rescue and Imprisonment of America’s Most Famous Female Aviator and Her Navigator, an obscure anthology known chiefly to habitués of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society of Researchers, where he was a respected member.

The following letter, from Wilson to Prymak in April 1994, appeared in the November 1998 Amelia Earhart Society Newslettersconcerns a strange incident involving Wilson and an unidentified man that occurred at an unknown time and location, and in that regard it is reminiscent of several other accounts of unknown provenance that have been passed down to us through the years.  It also reprises some of the more unpleasant possible scenarios of Earhart’s final days on Saipan, and I present it for your consideration.  Boldface is mine throughout.

A STRANGE ENCOUNTER BY DON WILSON

Donald Moyer Wilson
One Woods Point
Webster, NY 14580

April 28, 1994

Dear Bill,

During a book signing recently, a man came up to me and said insistently that Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese and executed by them.  He identified himself as a former Marine Corps colonel, who had spent three months at the Pentagon.  He pulled out his wallet to show me some identification.  Unfortunately, I did not look at it carefully, and do not remember his name.

He seemed to be bitter about his experience with the Pentagon.  He said that he had worked with G-2 — Intelligence.  He claimed that he saw secret documents about Amelia Earhart.  He said there were two witnesses to her execution, not just one.  He also said that she had been stripped at the time of her execution and previously raped by her guards.  He also said (and I neglected to tell you this) something about her fingers or fingernails, that they had been mutilated, or possibly her fingernails had been pulled out. He also said (again I forgot to tell you this) that, as I recall, her body had been removed from the grave later, and cremated (possibly by Americans? — I’m not sure of this).

He said that the Earhart plane had been destroyed — I’m quite sure he said by Americans on Saipan.  He was very reluctant to give more details, and when I suggested things like the name of the airfield on Saipan, he would neither confirm nor deny them.  I spoke of the Freedom of Information Act, and asked where the materials might be obtained.  He implied that the Navy might have them.  As I recall, I asked him to get in touch with you,* and I believe I gave him your address.  Also, he mentioned another individual briefly who might have the same (or different) information, and I again said I hoped he would supply more information.

Undated photo of Donald M. Wilson, from his book, Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend.

A couple of thoughts have gone through my mind. He might be telling the truth and was torn between the desire to give information and the fear of risking retaliation of some sort for giving it.  There is a slight possibility that he might have been discharged from the service for homosexual behavior.  Or he might have taken information he obtained elsewhere, particularly the Unsolved Mysteries program with Tom Devine and Nieves Cabrera Blas, among others, and built on their stories — for the fun (?) of it.  He asked me what my interest in Amelia Earhart was, but walked away before I could give him an answer.

(Signed) Don Wilson

*He Never Did

Prymak note: Don Wilson must sure wish he had collared this guy for subsequent interviews. (End of Wilson letter.)

Wherever thisMarine colonelgot this information in the early to mid 1990s, it didn’t all come from the Nov. 7, 1990 Unsolved Mysteries segment, “New Evidence Points to Saipan,” which featured Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. Wallack, Fred Goerner, T.C. BuddyBrennan and even crash-and-sank poster boy Elgen M. Long.  Nothing was mentioned in that program about Amelia being stripped, horribly mutilated or her body’s removal from a gravesite, though all these things could well have happened during her captivity on Saipan.  For more on this theme, please see my June 12, 2015 post, “Navy nurse’s letter describes gruesome end for fliers, but was it true?

Many of the smaller details have yet to be learned, but we do know beyond any doubt that the doomed fliers met their tragic ends on Saipan.  The U.S. government and its media toadies still do not want you to know the truth about the death of Amelia Earhart, for all the reasons I continue to re-emphasize and present to the few who are willing and able to accept the truth.

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.

USS Vega (AK-17), circa late 1930s. Vega was a Sirius-class cargo ship, laid down July 8, 1918, launched July 18, 1919 and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on Dec. 21, 1921. She was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack of Dec. 7, 1941, but was not damaged, and in 1944-1945, Vega supported three major amphibious operations — in the Marianas, the Western Carolines and at Okinawa — carrying supplies and construction materials to assist the “Seabees” in establishing the advance bases necessary to the smooth operation of the Fleet.

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.

Bill Prymak, a veteran pilot with more than 6,500 hours in private aircraft since 1960, corresponded with Ellis Bailey for several years during the 1990s, and even arranged for Bailey to address the Amelia Earhart Society. Prymak called Bailey’s performances “unbelievable, and that is why I never seriously wrote about him in the AES Newsletters.”

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.

This is page 1 of the “Muster Roll of the Crew” of USS Vega for Sept. 30, 1944.  Ellis Orrin Bailey is listed second from the bottom, along with his rating, SK1 (Storekeeper First Class), followed by his date of enlistment and date he reported aboard, Nov. 16, 1942. According to one source, Vega’s normal contingent was 36 officers and 413 enlisted men. Bailey’s affiliation with Vega was about the only thing he was honest about in his letters to Bill Prymak.

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.

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