Tag Archives: Calvin Pitts

Calvin Pitts passes away in Kentucky at 89

Calvin Pitts, likely the last of the great “Old School” aviators, whose wisdom, knowledge and class graced everyone he touched and who lifted this blog to rare heights during the brief time of his presence here, passed away Feb. 20 at his home in Sadieville, Ky., at the age of 89. 

I received a phone call from Carolyn [Wilson] at 1:46 pm this afternoon to inform me that Calvin passed quietly, peacefully, and gently from this life earlier this morning.”  William Trail wrote in a Feb. 20 email.  “She said he was in no pain, or discomfort.”  His death was not unexpected, as he’d been in failing health for the past several months, but is painful nonetheless. 

Calvin is survived by his wife Wanda, two sons, Darrell and Steven Pitts, stepdaughter Sharon Lynn, and stepson Robert Lee Clark, three grandchildren Kate, Rachel, and Melissa, a brother Joe (Virginia) Pitts, a sister Joyce (Mike) Welch, and several nieces & nephews.  Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to Wanda, his family and friends.  He will be greatly missed.  The funeral home produced a musical slide show in Calvin’s memory; to view Calvin’s obituary please click here.

Calvin Pitts in 1981, with The Spirit of Winnie Mae and the thermos Amelia Earhart carried with her on her solo Atlantic Crossing in 1932. The thermos was on loan from Jimmie Mattern, Wiley Post’s competitor who flew The Century of Progress Vega in an attempt to beat Wiley in the 1933 solo round-the-world race, but Mattern crashed in Siberia. Calvin brought Amelia’s thermos along with him on his own successful world flight in 1981.

Calvin was perhaps best known for his 1981 world flight, when he and two co-pilots commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Wiley Post-Harold Gatty World Flight in 1931.  The 1981 flight was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum to honor the Oklahoma aviator Post. 

They flew a single-engine 1980 Beechcraft A36 Spirit of Winnie Mae, named after Post’s Lockheed Vega, the Winnie Mae.  To read Calvin’s recollections of his around-the-world journey, please click here.

During his long and accomplished aviation career as an instructor, corporate pilot, airline pilot, flight manager, training manager and engineering test pilotCalvin has flown antique planes to airshows, trained pilots and flown a multitude of single and multi-engine aircraft, including Twin Otters, DHC-7s, Aero Commanders, Metro IIIs, Lear Jets and Boeing 727s.  He also worked for 10 years in public affairs for NASA at the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Calif.; and NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

Closer to home, Calvin’s stunning, five-part analysis of Amelia’s last flight, Earhart’s Disappearing Footprintsin 2018, is one of the finest pieces of work ever presented on this blog.  When he wasn’t teaching and expounding on his brilliant, comprehensive vision of Earhart’s last days, he was encouraging us in our own work, spurring us on to do our best.  Calvin was truly one of a kind, a rare human being who will never be duplicated down here. 

Calvin’s true decency, humanity and goodness transcended his vast technical knowledge and even his love for Amelia Earhart, her story and her legacy.  Nowhere was this more evident to me during my relatively brief time as his friend than his conciliatory words toward the hypocrites and phonies at the International Forest of Friendship when they not only rejected this blog, but ignored his beautifully written letter appealing to their better angels, which, as it turned out, did not exist.  For the full story of this deplorable situation, please see my Jan. 24, 2022 post,IFF rejects Calvin Pitts’ appeal, refuses to engage.”  

Calvin Pitts, circa 2014, in The Final Journey gallery at the Claremore, Okla., Will Rogers Memorial Museum.  Pitts’ interest in aviation history, Wiley Post and Will Rogers led him on an unlikely journey around the world, and his comprehensive analysis of Amelia Earhart’s last flight rivals anything ever written.

Ever the Christian gentleman, Calvin’s response to those who least despise him and his firm convictions about Amelia Earhart, were words of forgiveness and compassion that few of us could ever possibly emulate:


In times like this, when we encounter those who out of fear, misplaced loyalties and willful ignorance refuse to do the right thing, the best we can do is try to forgive them and move on.  We can also try to pray that someday the light will come on in their dim minds, and they might consider joining those of us who can honor the legacy of Amelia Earhart and revere and honor the truth in the same breath — something they’ve proven themselves incapable of at this time.

Fortunately, due to the professional research, the tedious work, and a love for truth as displayed in Mike Campbell’s stellar book, THE TRUTH AT LAST, coupled with other gifted researchers, writers, and eyewitnesses, we were introduced to some of the private, unpublished knowledge of men like Adm. Chester Nimitz Jr., Gen.  Alexander Vandegrift, Gen. Graves Erskine, Gen. Tommy Watson, and a host of eyewitnesses who told their stories.  Because of men and women like that, we know the end of the Earhart story, and are able to lay to rest the amazing life of a beautiful woman who has earned her rest.


This is probably the last photo of Calvin Pitts, taken at the Kentucky hospice where he spent his final days with the same good cheer that he went about the rest of his productive life.  This photo was taken from the Blue Grass Care Navigators tribute to Calvin, Hospice Patient Leaves Legacy of Flying and Faithfulness.”

The last time Calvin contacted me directly was in late June 2022, when he wrote me an extremely kind, personally meaningful message, as were all of his missives, which said in part:

As I’ve thought before, I knew you were good, and were my kind of truth-telling Journalist but this analysis and response just broke my “Excellence” meter.  You outdid yourself.

If a person loves honesty-with-evidence, they will be hard-put to deny what you have written, not only in this current piece, but in the massive material you brought together in your TRUTH AT LAST tome of persuasive facts and eye-witness reports.

He told me many other things over the past few years, personal, priceless, unforgettable things that will stay in my heart, to be savored and cherished always.

If you believe in Heaven, as I do, then it’s not hard to imagine that Amelia Earhart, resplendent in a starry white gown specially woven by Seraphim for the occasion, was among the first to welcome Calvin Pitts as he crossed over and entered his Eternal Home, where he’ll forever enjoy fair skies, following seas and happy landings.  They will have much to talk about.

Requiescat in pace, Calvin. 

Those who believe in signs will find much to ponder in this amazing photo taken on Feb. 25, the day after Calvin Pitts’ funeral.  A few of Calvin’s close friends, including Carlolyn Wilson’s daughter and her fiancé Tony Epperson, were visiting Calvin’s gravesite at Sadieville (Ky.) Cemetery, and Tony took the above shot.  Note how perfectly the vertical part of the cross lines up with Calvin’s grave.   


IFF rejects Calvin Pitts’ appeal, refuses to engage

Today we return to the unpleasant subject of the International Forest of Friendship (IFF) and its recent request to unsubscribe from this blog and reject the honest work that’s done here on behalf of an extremely worthy cause.  Now it’s not only this blog that they have no respect for, it’s the iconic aviator Calvin Pitts who they’ve decided is also unworthy of their merest acknowledgement. (* See update at bottom.)

The IFF organization in Atchison, Kansas, Amelia Earhart’s birthplace in the Heartland of America, prides itself as aliving, growing memorial to the world history of aviation and aerospace. On the IFF’s idyllic landscape you can find a life-size statue of Amelia Earhart and The Amelia Earhart Earthworks, among other family-friendly attractions.  

Calvin Pitts in 1981, with The Spirit of Winnie Mae and the thermos Amelia Earhart carried with her on her solo Atlantic Crossing in 1932. The thermos was on loan from Jimmie Mattern, Wiley Post’s competitor who flew The Century of Progress Vega in an attempt to beat Wiley in the 1933 solo round-the-world race, but Mattern crashed in Siberia.  Calvin brought Amelia’s thermos along with him on his own successful world flight in 1981.

Most regular readers are familiar with my post of Nov. 21, 2021, Forest of Friendship rejects Earhart truth, which described my response to the IFF’s terse unsubscriberequest after years of receiving this blog, albeit without comment.  I’ve linked it above so that anyone can understand the basics of this odious situation.  Calvin responded to this post that same day, and he wrote in closing his comment:

Personally knowing some of Amelia’s close associates, I have serious doubts that she would approve of anything so cheap. I knew Wiley’s wife and brother, and they would not have approved.  I knew several of Amelia’s associates, and they were all professionals of class.

Such rudeness is so unlike the Amelia-world I knew, that it is surprising.  I will let you know the response I receive, if any. You and your historic Blog deserve better than this.  People like Wiley, Amelia, Fay, and a host of others I associated with, were not only courteous, but people of class.  On their behalf, I apologize.  Will be in touch.

To see Calvin’s entire comment, please click here or go to comments of Nov. 21, 2021.

Of course Calvin followed through on his pledge to contact the IFF and find out for himself why they feel this blog is beneath their attention.  But such is the IFF leadership’s aversion to the light of public knowledge that we couldn’t find the name of the IFF’s president or any of its officials, so Calvin addressed his letter to the IFF office manager, asking that she kindly pass up the chain to the appropriate parties, hoping to reach the still nameless IFF president.

Here is his letter of Dec. 7, 2021 in its original format.  You can click on each page for a larger view.  

No one has replied to Calvin’s kind letter, exceptional on so many levels, and by this late date it’s safe to assume that the IFF has no plans to do so.  We can only imagine the level of arrogance and contempt required to ignore such a sincere, good-faith appeal to the better angels of the still-unnamed IFF president and others of the IFF leadership.  Whoever they are, they should be ashamed of their abject failure to fulfill even the lowest, most basic public call to civility and transparency, and the entire IFF is now culpable for this feckless affront and insult to Calvin Pitts.  It is also a glaring example of the establishment’s thorough hatred for the Marshalls-Saipan Truth in the Earhart disappearance, and its refusal to even consider it. 

The envelope of a March 1994 letter from Fay Gillis Wells to Captain Calvin Pitts, who shared a 20-year friendship and correspondence with Wells, who played a key role in Wiley Post’s 1933 round-the-world flight by setting up fuel stops across Siberia.  “Her stories to me about Post were another lasting treasure,” Pitts wrote in his letter to the still unnamed IFF president. 

What more can one say about the IFF at this point?  Their abject silence screams volumes about these creatures, who have gone out of their way to sink to a level that’s beneath even the contempt with which they regard us. 

I asked Calvin, who has recently suffered medical problems that he’s asked me not to mention and remains undaunted, if he’d like to make a closing statement to complete this dreary post.  Ever the Christian gentleman, Calvin replied thusly:


In times like this, when we encounter those who out of fear, misplaced loyalties and willful ignorance refuse to do the right thing, the best we can do is try to forgive them and move on.  We can also try to pray that someday the light will come on in their dim minds, and they might consider joining those of us who can honor the legacy of Amelia Earhart and revere and honor the truth in the same breath — something they’ve proven themselves incapable of at this time.

Fortunately, due to the professional research, the tedious work, and a love for truth as displayed in Mike Campbell’s stellar book, THE TRUTH AT LAST, coupled with other gifted researchers, writers, and eyewitnesses, we were introduced to some of the private, unpublished knowledge of men like Adm. Chester Nimitz Jr., Gen.  Alexander Vandegrift, Gen. Graves Erskine, Gen. Tommy Watson, and a host of eyewitnesses who told their stories.  Because of men and women like that, we know the end of the Earhart story, and are able to lay to rest the amazing life of a beautiful woman who has earned her rest.


What more is there to say?

* Jan. 25 UPDATE: Longtime reader Tom Williams has informed me that he’s found an overview of the International Forest of Friendship as of 12/2019, which lists its major officers as follows:

Linton Wells II, Chairman

Leonard Buddenbohm, Vice Chairman

Shannon Osborne, Treasurer

Cheryl K. Smith, Secretary 

Researcher Tony Gochar also contributed information to this update.  Tom Williams informs us that Linton Wells II is the son of the great Fay Gillis Wells, who Calvin Pitts praised so glowingly in his brief tribute above.  Here’s Fay Gillis Wells 2002 obituary.


Calvin Pitts’ amazing historical confluences

Readers will recall our friend Calvin Pitts, whose brilliant, five-part analysis of Earhart’s last flight,CLUES: Amelia Earhart’s Disappearing Footprints in the Sky,” published on Aug. 10, 2018, is among the finest pieces of work to grace this blog since its inception in 2012.

Calvin is best known for his 1981 world flight, when he and two co-pilots commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Wiley Post-Harold Gatty World Flight in 1931.  The flight was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum to honor the Oklahoma aviator Post. 

Calvin Pitts in 1981, with The Spirit of Winnie Mae and the thermos Amelia Earhart carried with her on her solo Atlantic Crossing in 1932.  The thermos was on loan from Jimmie Mattern, Wiley Post’s competitor who flew The Century of Progress Vega in an attempt to beat Wiley in the 1933 solo round-the-world race, but Mattern crashed in Siberia.  Calvin brought Amelia’s thermos along with him on his own successful world flight in 1981. 

During Calvin’s exceptional aviation career as an instructor, corporate pilot, airline pilot, flight manager, training manager and engineering test pilot, he flew antique planes to airshows, trained pilots and flew a multitude of single and multi-engine aircraft, including Twin Otters, DHC-7s, Aero Commanders, Metro IIIs, Lear Jets and Boeing 727s.  He also worked for 10 years in public affairs for NASA at the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Calif.; and NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.  Calvin, 88, lives with his wife Wanda in the small Kentucky town of Sadieville.

On April 16 Calvin sent me a poignant, remarkable email, and I suggested that we should consider turning it into a post, to share with all who come here.  The following story, “Mitsuo Fushida, From War Hero to Evangelist” appeared on the April 14 edition of the Christian History Institute’s It Happened Today and comprised the first part of Calvin’s message:

In December 1941 Mitsuo Fuchida led the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. When he sent up a green flare, the bombers accompanying him knew it was the moment to attack.  When his plane radioed “Tora, Tora, Tora,” the Japanese knew the air attack had achieved complete surprise.  For the duration of the war and for years afterward, he considered the Pearl Harbor attack the most thrilling exploit of his life.  He tried to top his military success throughout the rest of World War II in attacking Ceylon and Australia.  He also fought in the Solomon Islands and at the Battle of Midway.  When it became apparent Japan would lose the war, he advocated fighting to the last man.

Nine years after Pearl Harbor, however, newspaper headlines trumpeted, “Pearl Harbor Hero Converts to Christianity.” 

What had happened? 

When Japanese troops were disbanded, Fuchida was among them. He was dumbfounded when he learned that a war buddy had been kindly treated in American captivity.  How could that be?  Enemies were not supposed to be kind to each other!  During the war trials following the allied victory, an American offered Fuchida a religious pamphlet in a Tokyo train station. 

Despite his Buddhist background, he took it because its title intrigued him: I Was a Prisoner of JapanIt was the story of Jake DeShazer whom the Japanese had cruelly mistreated as a prisoner of war.  DeShazer had been filled with hatred for his captors; but by reading the Bible he had learned to love the Japanese and after the war had become an evangelist to them.  His story moved Fuchida, who purchased a Bible so he could find out for himself why DeShazer was so changed.

Reading Luke’s account of the Crucifixion, Fuchida was impressed when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” He would write later, “That date, April 14, 1950, became the second ‘day to remember’ of my life.  On that day, I became a new person.  My complete view on life was changed by the intervention of the Christ I had always hated and ignored before.”

Shortly afterward, he stood on a platform with Jake DeShazer, both men giving their testimonies.  Fuchida went on to evangelize throughout the Orient.  He wrote the story of his conversion in From Pearl Harbor to Calvary.  “I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human . . . . And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ. He is the only One Who was powerful enough to change my life and inspire it with His thoughts.”

Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976 of complications from diabetes.

Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, circa 1942.and a bomber aviator in the Japanese navy before and during World War II.  He is perhaps best known for leading the first wave of air attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Next comes the second part of Calvin’s email, a “Personal Note” that becomes an amazing vignette bordering on the uncanny:

I heard Mitsuo Fuchida speak at a church in Port Arthur, Texas in 1956.  I met him then.  Eleven years after World War II ended, Fuchida’s story was a very big event, almost unheard of.  In 1959, I took a graduate-school class in Wilmore, Ky., my boyhood home.  Jake DeShazer was also enrolled in that class.  My house was located at 203 College Street behind which, on the adjacent street, was the temporary home of Jake DeShazer and his family while he was in school.  I met him then.

Later, I learned from his daughter, while reading her book about this event, that Jake and his family returned to Japan as missionaries in 1948 on a World War II Troop Transport named the USS General M. C. MeigsThat was in December. Ironically, in February of that same year, 1948, my parents with three children (I was 14), went to the Philippines as missionaries ON THE VERY SAME GEN. MEIGS.  In 1951, I returned to the States to attend college, with a stopover in Tokyo, Japan for a brief stay with a Japanese family, friends of my father from WWII days when he was a Captain during the South Pacific invasion.

Jacob Daniel “Jake” DeShazer (Nov. 15, 1912 – March 15, 2008), circa 1944, participated in the Doolittle Raid as a staff sergeant, later became a Christian missionary in Japan and was later nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom,

These not-so-unrelated events of the stories of Mitsuo Fuchida, Jake DeShazer, USS Gen. Meigs, visiting Pearl Harbor two-and-a-half years after WWII and standing where this story began, attending class with Jake DeShazer, and living so close to him, brought this story up close and personal.  It is not something you easily forget.  While reading the above historical tidbit on the Christian History Institute website, I noticed a phrase which is a key fact in Amelia’s decision that took her to the Marshall Islands.  Japanese soldiers, unlike the Japanese civilian population, were trained and taught to hate the enemy while fighting, and to torture them when captured.

This was the reason why Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were cruelly treated when captured, at the same time while being adored by many Japanese civilians, as testified to by the newspaper accounts covering the world-exploits of Amelia.  There are pictures in the news of Amelia having dinner with Japanese fans in Los Angeles prior to her world flight.

This Japanese dichotomy seems strange until one realizes the great divide
within their pre-World War II culture.  I also observed the very same issue while reading the diary of Joseph Grew, ambassador to Japan prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For what it’s worth, I’m always looking for little bits and pieces of things which
have a connection to Amelia.

Joseph C. Grew. U.S. ambassador to Japan, on the cover of Time magazine, Nov. 12, 1934.

The above cultural comment, which I have found in other sources, helps answer the question as to why Amelia was NOT treated as a celebrity when she was captured, and why she failed to understand the danger of landing in Japanese-held territory.  This helps explain the critical decision which Amelia herself made as she crossed her Rubicon, a later relevant subject. 

For reasons that are both legitimate and historically accurate, I believe Amelia, with Fred’s navigational guidance, actually intended to fly to the Marshall Islands due to unexpected events which “painted them into a corner” where a critical but quick decision had to be made.

To validate this, triggers in my thinking include:

(1) the reminder of the hair-raising takeoff from Lae;
(2) the massive thunderstorms along the original route;
(3) en route decisions to alter the planned routing;
(4) intentional radio silence and very brief transmissions;
(5) that intent being tied to theexperimentalHFDF (high frequency direction finder) sitting on Howland, a critical issue;
(6) the extremely dangerous use of the short coral strip at Howland for takeoff at max gross weight, especially when viewed in the light of the previous close-call takeoff from Lae;

Many thousands of “Gooney birds” like these pictured on Midway Island posed a real threat to plane landings or takeoffs on Howland, another factor that led many to believe that Amelia Earhart never intended to land there.

(7) the feint in using Gene Vidal’s pre-planned Contingency Plan for Amelia to Tarawa if Howland could not be found;
(8) the unplanned serious weather, as viewed both from Howland, and as reported by the Hawaii PBY en route to Howland;
(9) the role of the military in using Amelia’s planned route in a subtle and non-obtrusive way, making her a quasi-participant . . . but also a public “non-participant” for the purpose of “plausible deniability.” In this way, she did not work for the military, but they were allowed to ‘piggy-back’ an experiment with her flight.
(10) the weather-related trap into which she inadvertently flew;

(11) the strong radio signal from Jaluit in the Marshall Islands, which Fred had often used in his Pan Am flying days as their No. 1 Navigator Instructor.  He had had extensive experience in this part of the Pacific, and could have been the one to suggest Jaluit as an alternate plan of action after being trapped by the weather between them and Howland.  Amelia was probably greatly relieved that a certain decision had been made for her.
(12) Amelia’s Rubicon, and the warning attached to it beforehand, followed by strong statements from the White House afterwards;
(13) the last-minute decision to fly to the Marshalls based upon:
severe weather which had moved in behind her, creating a weather “trap,” AND . . . the new consideration about Howland’s possible inadequacy due to the experience of the close call of the Lae takeoff AND . . . the strong radio signal from the Marshalls which was familiar to Fred, AND . . . Amelia’s serious misunderstanding about the major difference in the double standard of Japanese “friend & foe” culture, etc.

I’ve rambled much more than I intended, perhaps.  At any rate, I thought the information might be of interest to you.  (End Calvin Pitts’ April 16 email.)

Calvin’s meetings with Mitsuo Fuchida, the living face of the Pearl Harbor attack; Jake DeShazer, a war hero and member of Doolittle’s Raiders who became a Christian missionary; his three-and-a-half years (1948 to ’51) in the Philippines as a teenager with his missionary parents; his attending Brent Episcopal Boarding School in the Philippines with teachers from New England, offering excellent academic training and his 1981 world flight whose flight path crossed Amelia’s twice, between Tarawa and Howland, and between Howland and the Marshalls (visually highlighted on his copy of Google Earth map) have formed a remarkable confluence within him and contributed to his special knowledge, understanding and character.  

We look forward to our next encounter with Calvin Pitts, whether it be his “My Earhart Scenario” or some other glimpse into his long and accomplished life.  Those who aren’t familiar with his work should read CLUES: Amelia Earhart’s Disappearing Footprints in the Sky as soon as possible.

“Calvin Pitts Rips Dimity’s analysis” conclusion

Today we begin where we left off — with the confusing concept (to most non-aviation types anyway, including your editor) of the “azimuth” and its application to the last flight of Amelia Earhart.  Let’s take another look at the azimuth, as explained by our resident aviation expert, Calvin Pitts.

Calvin Pitts:  It is easy to see why the non-navigator would find this Wikipedia drawing confusing.  TRY THIS: Replace the N with E (for East).  Go to the back of the picture 90 degrees on the horizontal plane beneath the word “Zenith,” and place the N.orth on the same plane as E.ast.

The Electra is flying East toward the rising sun.  The direction from the Observer toward the E.ast, is 90 degrees from the N.orth on the horizontal plane.

On July 2, 1937, the crest of the sun broke above the eastern horizon at 6:15 Howland time.  The Observer would be looking 23 degrees to his left when he first spots the sun at 67 degrees (90 – 23 = 67).  That difference of 67 degrees from North (000 or 360) is called the azimuthon the horizon.

That azimuth, 67 degrees on the horizontal plane, is used to calculate a “sun line” overhead for navigational purposes.  In this case, that imaginary “line” is perpendicular, or 90 degrees to the horizontal azimuth (90 + 67 = 157 or 157 + 180 = 337) (157/337 degrees) to an altitude overhead, and is called a “Line of Position (LOP).”  That position defines the line on which the plane is flying, but it provides no “point” on that line.  What it does is to define “directional” information, i.e. the plane is either flying NW or SE.

As the sun rises, it is moving toward the North on the horizontal plane.  After 1+02 hours on that morning, it’sazimuth was now 66 degrees to the horizontal plane.  There at that point, since there is no longer an azimuth of 67 degrees, correspondingly, there was no longer a 157/337 line of position.  Since the azimuth changes, so does the LOP.  It is now only an imaginary line.  If the pilot chooses to fly a heading of 337 or 157 degrees, that’s fine. But to call it a line of position is a misnomer.

Hence, Earhart’s call at 8:43 a.m., 1.5 hrs after the 67 azimuth disappeared, referencing a line of 157/337confuses the ears which hear it.  Did she mean aline of position, which no longer existed, or did she mean aheading on an imaginary line running NW and SE?  No one can answer that question.

Unfortunately, the position she gave had no meaning for those on the cutter or elsewhere, because it failed to give the all-important reference point for computing her bearing.  What the figures meant, and why they were incomplete, can only be guessed.”

(And there are some reasonable guesses available.)

An important point that should be noted is that the plane (sic) direction finder evidently was not working as well as it should for she could not cut in on the agreed frequencies.

Agreed frequencies was precisely the problem.  There was no agreement, nor understanding of what those frequencies were meant to be.  Earhart believed that she had made it clear through Richard Black and husband George Putnam, but somehow, somebody dropped the ball.  Frequency incompatibility was the major problem on this leg of the flight.

Another fact that is perhaps of significance is that when Miss Earhart reported half-hour fuel — the Itasca estimated that she should have about four hours’ fuel supply.

Itasca had it right in that she had four to five hours of “contingency fuel” remaining.

It is probable that she barely had gas enough to reach Howland, although she thought she was there at 11:20 a.m. (wrong time) when she circled (wrong assumption) trying to pick up land.

This was the official flight plan, 2,556 statute miles from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island.  The 337-157 line of position, or sun line, passed through the Phoenix Islands, near Gardner Island, now known as Nikumaroro, and the popular theory, though completely false, is in part attributable to this phenomena.  (Taken from Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday: The Facts Without the Fiction.)

Calvin: After studying, not just reading this book, Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday: The Facts Without the Fiction, I am of the opinion it should be renamed with a subtitle: “The Facts are exceeded only by the Fiction.”  It is literally filled with non-facts, a statement which can be substantiated by evidence.  Other than its fiction, its facts are interesting and well-written.  But by the time you wade through its fiction, you begin to wonder about its facts.

Conclusive proof then exists that the Earhart plane landed safely, or at least that its occupants and its radio apparatus were unharmed, somewhere on land in the South Pacific.  If on an island, where and why were they not found?

There is proof that the Electra contacted the coral-covered ground without death to the crew.  There is reasonable cause to believe that they made one or more radio calls while the battery still lasted.  But more importantly, there is conclusive proofthat we have known the why and the where for longer than the public has been led to believe.

There are two schools of thought about the disappearance of the Earhart plane.  Each cannot be right.

Indeed, they are not.  No greater misrepresentation could be made.  There may be only two “elementary-schools” of thought, but there are “university-schools” where thought is generated by factual evidence which is substantial for anyone who has been awakened to the biased agenda of the Establishment, which, more often than not, is the Government’s answer to undesirable truth.

One is that the plane was lost at sea.  The other is represented by this memorandum.

As to the first, is it not perfectly natural that even those closest and among the most dear to the missing flyers, with the evidence of the Navy search of the sea close to Howland Island, would prefer to think that the flight had come to an end — to avoid the lifelong torture of a question in their minds? (Creating facts to avoid a painful reality? Is that the way history is recorded?)  The facts (sic) as related have been to intrude such a question.  No comfort, then, could come from, and the mind would seek to shut them out, in favor of the peace that comes from resignation (also known as self-deception).

A close-up look at the Howland Island camp, taken Jan. 23, 1937, that Amelia Earhart never enjoyed. (National Archives.)

In an effort to reconstruct what might have happened, let us review the possibilities.  We know that the Earhart plane was lost.  (To whom? A non-fact.)  The navigation had gone wrong.  It is likely, even, that it was hundreds of miles (Not likely. A non-fact.) from the sea area near Howland which the Navy searched, and from the Gilbert group.

With little gas left (Proof? A non-fact.) and after circling (a non-fact) the area beneath them, what would experienced fliers do?  No doubt they had passed many islands on the course behind them.  Any pilot, under the circumstances, probably would have gone back to one of them and landed, relying on their radio and on searching parties for rescue.

Not if she had a minor mission-agenda which precluded that.  This “buried” fact is the subject of a possible later posting, “My Earhart Scenario.”


Compiled from notes and copied in August 1939. Recopied from original February 2, 1948. (End of E.H. Dimity’s “Grounds for Earhart Search.”)

Editor’s close to Part II:  The study of the alleged Earhart post-loss messages is one fraught with endless speculation and individual interpretation, even by the real radio experts who have written and pronounced publicly on the topic.  I have no expertise in this area, and so have no problem presenting otherswork as clearly and objectively as I can.  The statements and opinions are those of E.H. Dimity, presented for your consideration, education and entertainment, and are not necessarily shared by the editor.

Calvin Pitts:  The “post-loss messages” are an unnecessary cloud over an already-difficult story, which is challenging and exciting on its own merit without a venture into hoax-land It is possible that one or two of those messages were valid, but to give them credibility-without-proof is to weaken the greater truth which can, and should be allowed to stand on its own legs.  Distraction is precisely the thing that feeds the Government’s Establishment gorilla.  Other than this, it was a privilege to read what someone had to say in 1939.

P.S. There is a CAVEAT here: This critique addresses the misstatements relating to the official Itasca crew logs of AE’s Lea-Howland flight.  The log used here is presented as “official.”  However, suppose a scenario like this: A crewman made a personal copy in the interest of preserving history.  Reading it, he notices an omission which should have been included.  Knowing that the weather wasOvercast for an extended period, he adds this missing word for the sake of clarity.  His motive is good, but he has just corrupted the official record.  He should have noted this on his copy, but he did not.  His well-intended corrupt copy now gets copied and passed on.

Paul Briand Jr., circa 1959, whose 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky, presented the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama and initiated the modern-day search for Amelia Earhart.

We can’t say such a thing did not happen.  But to our knowledge, there is no evidence that it did.  Thus, our comments are based upon this copy of the log that was used.  Additionally, there were other intercepts of Earhart’s transmissions that were heard by stations like Nauru which were not heard by the Itasca.  Any additional sources such as this must be added to the story, properly identified.  There were weather reports, correspondence, personal conversations, and after-the-fact interviews of various players.  While they cannot be part of the Itasca records, they are additional and sometimes useful material.  (End of “Calvin Pitts weighs in.)

“There had to have been a copy [of the logs available] before this because Dimity makes too many references to its times,” Calvin wrote in an email.  “What did he use in 1939?”

“Was he writing from Hawaii using that time zone?” Calvin continued.  “Some of his information is 3.5 hours off, some four hours, some 1.5 hours out of sync with other known events, and at least one time was accurate.  The 3.5 hour discrepancy could be answered, perhaps by looking at the time differences between Howland and Hawaii.  And then, at 7:42 a.m., he strangely gets the time accurate.  The inconsistencies in the errors are bizarre.  Even Paul Briand in 1960 made many references to the logs, with times and recorded events. 

These question aside, Dimity’s ‘all-over-the-map’ times need to be red-flagged.  Where was he living in 1939 when he wrote this?  And what were his sources?  What was his professional career?  Another interesting page in the Earhart Saga.”

Editor’s final close: First, I want express my deep thanks and appreciation to Calvin Pitts for his passion and selfless efforts, and for another significant contribution to the Earhart record.  We are truly blessed to have him as a friend.

At the end of the day, it does appear that Dimity did not have the official logs of the Itasca to reference in his treatise, nor did Paul Briand Jr. in 1960.  But when were they released?  I can’t find any record of the Itasca flight logs public release except references to Leo Bellarts sons, Leo Jr. and Dave, turning over the three pages of his father’s original Earhart flight log in 1975.  In a Sept. 1, 2008 article titled, “KHAQQ CALLING ITASCA . . . “ in Wings over Kansas, we find:

Chief Bellarts kept the first three pages of the Earhart Flight Log plus other messages and pertinent information under lock and key.  Upon arriving at his homeport (San Diego, Calif.) Chief Bellarts removed these documents thinking that there would be some type of investigation by higher authority and he would be called to testify.  But this never happened.  Thus, these papers, including the three pages of the original Earhart Flight Log, remained in his possession until his death in 1974.  His two sons, Leo Jr. and David Bellarts donated these papers and other items concerning Amelia Earhart in 1975 to the National Archives in Washington D.C.

To read the entire story,  please click here.

Since Dimity never mentioned his sources for his numerous citations of the log entrees, and it seems he could not have had the official logs, he probably relied on many news reports and other sources from the original search in July 1937, which naturally would have been inaccurate and all over the map,as Calvin says.  If anyone out there can shed some light on this little mystery — i.e. when were the official logs released, if not 1975? — please let us know.

Calvin Pitts rips Dimity’s Earhart flight analysis

With the recent publication of E.H. “Elmer” Dimity’s 1939 analysis of Amelia Earhart’s last flight, I’ve been gently reminded that, as an editor, I could have done a far better job of reviewing Dimity’s article.  I’ve never been particularly drawn to the Itasca flight logs and have never claimed any expertise about them, as for me, they provide more confusion than clarity.  But I can still proofread and compare times and statements attributed to them. 

This I failed to do, in large part because I assumed that Bill Prymak, the editor of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, had done this already, before presenting Dimity’s work, or that Prymak would have made some kind of a disclaimer to accompany it.  He did neither, and my own disclaimer following Part II, in light of Calvin Pitts’ stunning findings, should have been far more emphatic.  I broke a journalism rule — never assume anything — that I’ve always done my best to obey, until now. 

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Calvin, best known for his 1981 world flight, when he and two co-pilots commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Wiley Post-Harold Gatty World Flight in 1931.  The 1981 flight was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum to honor the Oklahoma aviator Post.  Calvin has already graced us with his impressive five-part analysis of Amelia Earhart’s last flight.  To review this extremely erudite work, please click here for Part I, from Aug. 18, 2018.

Calvin Pitts in 1981, with The Spirit of Winnie Mae and the thermos Amelia Earhart carried with her on her solo Atlantic Crossing in 1932.  The thermos was on loan from Jimmie Mattern, Wiley Post’s competitor who flew The Century of Progress Vega in an attempt to beat Wiley in the 1933 solo round-the-world race, but Mattern crashed in Siberia.  Calvin brought Amelia’s thermos along with him on his own successful world flight in 1981. 

Our focus today is a striking example of a difficult exercise in attention to detail, and an object lesson in the old axiom, Never assume anything.”  We appreciate Calvin taking the time to set the record straight.  With his learned disputation below, in addition to his previous contributions, Calvin has established himself as the reigning expert on the Itasca-Earhart flight logs, if not her entire final flight, at least in my opinion.  Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Calvin, who has many important things to tell us:

First, I want to thank Mike Campbell for his passion and dedication to The Amelia Story.  SHE — and history — have had no better friend.

I also appreciate Mike’s ability to dig upforgottenhistory.  As a lover of history’s great moments, I am always fascinated by the experiences of others.  Also, as one who has made a 1981 RTW flight in a single-engine plane, passing over some of AE’s ’37 flight paths from — India – Singapore – Indonesia – Australia – New Guinea – Solomon Islands, Tarawa and within a few miles of Howland — I was drawn to this story, and to this blog’s record of it.

Recently, I was fascinated by the publishing of Dimity’s 1937-1939 insights into the details of AE’s flight. However, upon reading it, I spotted some errors.  Ironically, I was at that very time re-studying the Itasca Logs as I re-lived some of the details and emotions of the most famous leg of any flight.  I had the Itasca details in front of me as I read.

Because it is easy to unconsciously rewrite and revise the historical record, I felt an unwelcomed desire to share some errors which were in Dimity’s interesting account.  I shared my thoughts privately with Mike, and he, in turn, asked me to make them public.  I’ve had a long aviation career, and have no desire to add to it.  At 85, I’m retired in a log house on a small river with more nature-sights than anyone could deserve.  I’ve no yearning for controversy.  But Mike asked, so here are some observations.  If you spot errors in my response, please make them known.  Only one set of words are sacred, but these at hand do not qualify.

Calvin Pitts’ analysis of:
“Grounds for a Possible Search for Amelia Earhart” (First of two parts)

by E.H. “Elmer” Dimity, August 1939

(Editor’s note: To make it easier to understand and track the narrative, Dimity’s words will be in red, Calvin Pitts’ in black, with boldface emphasis mine throughout.)  

At 3:15 [a.m.] in the morning after her takeoff Miss Earhart broadcast “cloudy weather,” and again, an hour later, she told the Itasca that it was “overcast,” and asked the cutter to signal her on the hour and half hour.

I am sitting here reading Dimity’s Part II of the “Grounds for Earhart’s Search” with a copy of the Itasca LOGS on the screen in front of me.  My challenges to Dimity’s reproduction of the Itasca Earhart flight logs are based, not upon prejudice, but upon the actual records compiled and copied from those 1937 Logs.

At 3:15 a.m. Howland time, times recorded by the crew of the Itasca, there is no such record of cloudy weather.

Copy of an original page from Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts of the Itasca showing the entry of the now-famous 2013z / 8:43 am call, “We are on the line 157-337, will repeat message . . .”

From position 2/Page 2:  At 3:15 am, Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts records: 3:15-3:18, Nothing heard from Earhart.

Position 1/Page 1:  At 3:14 am, Thomas J. O’Hare, Radioman 3rd class records: Tuned to 3105 for Earhart,with no additional comment.  Seven minutes later at 3:21 am, he records: Earhart not heard.

Position 2/Page 2:  However, at 3:45 a.m., not 4:15 a.m., Bellarts records: “Earhart heard on the phone: WILL LISTEN ON THE HOUR AND HALF ON 3105.

Position 1/Page 1:  At the same time, 3:45 a.m.,  O’Hare records: Heard Earhart plane on 3105.  That was it.  No reference to overcast,and no request for a signal.

However, in his book, Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday (2003), Laurance Safford copies Bellarts’ statement, except that he adds the word Overcast.”  The word overcastis not in the Itasca log at that time.

Position 2/page 2:  According to the log’s record, it was not until 4:53 a.m., more than 1.5 hours later, that the phrase PARTLY CLOUDYappears.

Earlier, at 2:45 a.m., Safford quotes a statement by author Don Dwiggins about 30 years later: “Heard Earhart plane on 3105, but unreadable through static . .  .  however, Bellarts caughtCloudy and Overcast.

Yet, Bellarts, who was guarding Position 2/Page 2 made no such statement on his report.  The statement,unreadable through static was recorded by Bellarts at 2:45, but that was it.

Bellarts was also the one who recorded, an hour later at 3:45: “Will listen on the hour and the half on 3105.”  These issues are very minor to most readers.  But to those at the time, where minutes count for survival, the devil was in the details.

Also, there is the historical and professional matter of credibility.  If one is not accurate, within reasonable expectations, of quoting their sources correctly, then the loss of credibility results in the loss of confidence by their readers.

More than an hour later, at 4:42 a.m., the Earhart plane indicated for the first time that it might be off course, and made its first futile plea for aid in learning its position. The plane asked, “Want beatings (sic) on 3105 KC on the hour.  Will whistle into the microphone.”

At 4:42 a.m., which is a very precise time, there is nothing recorded at any station.  But we can bracket an answer.  Bellarts records the following at 4:30 a.m.Broadcast weather by Morse code.”  His next entry, at 4:42 a.m.,  is an empty line.

At 4:53 a.m., Bellarts states, Heard Earhart [say] Partly Cloudy.‘ ”

Also, Position 1/Page 2 of this record states: 4:40 a.m. – Do you hear Earhart on 3105? . . . Yes, but can’t make her out. Five minutes later at 4:45 a.m. (with no 4:42 notation at this position): Tuned to Earhart, Hearing nothing.”  There is no recorded statement here from her about being off-course or whistling.

Half an hour passed (5:12 a.m.), and Miss Earhart again said, “Please take a beating on us and report in half hour will make noise into the microphone.  About 100 miles out.”  Miss Earhart apparently thought she was 100 miles from Howland Island.

5:12 a.m.?  At neither position is there a posting at 5:12.  At 5:15, one says,Earhart not heard.  And the other, at 5:13 says, Tuned to 3105 for Earhart signals. Nothing yet.

Radio room of USCG Cutter Tahoe, sister ship to Itasca, circa 1937. Three radio logs were maintained during the flight, at positions 1 and 2 in the Itasca radio room, and one on Howland Island, where the Navy’s high-frequency direction finder had been set up.  Aboard Itasca, Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts supervised Gilbert E. Thompson, Thomas J. O’Hare and William L. Galten, all third-class radiomen, (meaning they were qualified and “rated” to perform their jobs).  Many years later, Galten told Paul Rafford Jr., a former Pan Am Radio flight officer, “That woman never intended to land on Howland Island!”

The aboveabout 100 miles out message was sent at 6:45 am, about 1.5 hours later.

The Itasca could not give her any bearing, because its direction finder could not work on her wavelength.  An hour later, at 7:42 a.m., Miss Earhart said, “We must be on you but cannot see you.  Gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.”

Strangely, even amazingly, sandwiched between numerous bogus times, 7:42 am IS correct.

This was a little more than 15 hours after the takeoff.

Would you believe that, more than 19 hours after takeoff, this call was made?  Here, there are four unaccounted-for hours in Dimity’s record-keeping.

The ship carried 1,150 gallons (sic) of gas, enough for about 17 hours in the air under normal conditions.*

Would you believemore than 24 hours of flight time, a seven-plus hour discrepancy?

* AES calculates 24-25 hours. — (Whoever AES is, this is more realistic and accurate.)  Editor’s note: AES is The Amelia Earhart Society,  almost certainly Bill Prymak’s estimate.

Perhaps the plane had encountered heavier weather earlier, or in just bucking the headbands had used more gas than anticipated.  At any rate, Miss Earhart must have flown about 1,300 miles from the point of her first known position, when she first said her gas was running low.

An interesting question: When was her first known position?  And measured by what evidence? 1,300 statute miles from the transmission at 7:42 a.m./1912 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT and z, for Zulu, are the same) would put her about halfway between Nukumanu Atoll and Nauru.  If Nukumanu was her first or last known position at 5:18 p.m. Lae/0718 GMT/ 7:48 p.m. (Howland, the previous day), then that is roughly 1,600 statute miles, not 1,300.

This distance, with perfect navigation, should have taken her to Howland Island, and that without doubt is the reason she said, “We must be on you.”  If the plane had hit its mark, why could she not see the island or the Itasca (Having such a flight under my belt, I could offer several reasons) with a clear sky and unlimited visibility?  Even a smoke screen laid down by the cutter to help guide her evidently escaped her view.  It is impossible that she was where she thought she was — near Howland.

Although Miss Earhart reported at 11:13 a.m. that she had fuel left for another half hour in the air, the contact was poor and no landfall position was heard.

At 11:13 a.m., the Navy ships and Itasca had been searching the ocean for some two hours or more.  The “last known” message from Earhart was at 8:43 a.m./2013z when she said, “We are on the line 157/337.”  The message “fuel for another half hour” was made at 7:40 a.m./1910z, some 3.5 hours before Dimity’s “11:13 a.m.” time.

This particular time discrepancy possibly could be corrected by adjusting it to a new time zone in Hawaii, but that would destroy the other record-keeping.  At no place in this Itasca log saga were they talking in terms of U.S.A. times.  The Itasca crews were recording Howland local time.  If someone has proof otherwise, it should be provided, and it will alter the story.

Fifteen minutes later (11:28 a.m.) she said, “We are circling, but cannot see island.  Cannot hear you,” and asked for aid in getting her bearings.  This plea she repeated five minutes later (11:33 a.m.).

Thiscirclingreference was made at 7:58 a.m., some 3.5 hours earlier.  However, something which is often missed is the fact that the word CIRCLINGis in doubt even within the footnotes of this log itself.  It is listed as an unknown item.”  It was a word they did not hear clearly.  It could have been,We are listening.”  No one knows.

It will be recalled that at 11:12 a.m., Miss Earhart said she had only a half-hour’s fuel left, but an hour later, at 12:13 p.m., she called the Itasca to report, “We are in line of position 157 dash 337.  Will repeat this message on 6210 KC.  We are running north and south.”

This “line 157/337” radio call, NOT a “line of position” call, was made, as already stated, at “8:43 a.m./2013z” and NOT at “12:13.”  Somehow Dimity has a discrepancy here of some 3.5 hours from the Itasca logs.

The 157/337 line of positionis not only NOT what she said, but it is inaccurate for any researcher who understands basic navigation.  The LOP of 157/337 existed only as long as the sun’s azimuth remained 67 degrees.

As the sun rose above the horizon, its azimuth changed 1+02 hours after sunrise (6:15 a.m. Howland time on July 2, 1937.)  That meant that at 7:17 am, there was no longer a 67 degree azimuth by which to determine a 157/337 line of position (LOP).  It simply no longer existed.  It lasted only an hour-plus.  After that, she could only fly a heading of 157 or 337 degrees.

(Editor’s Note: As a non-aviation type, I’m lost when Calvin starts using terms such as azimuthFor others like myself and for what it’s worth, Wikipedia (image above) defines azimuth as an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate systemThe vector from an observer (origin) to a point of interest is projected perpendicularly onto a reference plane; the angle between the projected vector and a reference vector on the reference plane is called the azimuth.  Calvin will provide clarity in Part II.

(End Part I)


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