We continue our retrospective on the Smithsonian’s 1982 Amelia Earhart Symposium, which was the last time a group of informed individuals — and many that weren’t — gathered for the purpose of presenting and discussing salient and important aspects of the Earhart disappearance.
Following is the conclusion of Dean Magley’s letter to Joe Gervais as presented in the July 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, in which Magley describes the people and events that defined the one and only Earhart symposium that the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has ever sponsored, or ever will, barring a completely unexpected change in the establishment’s policy of denial and deceit in the Earhart disappearance. Boldface is mine and in the AES original.
“THE GREAT DEBATE of 18 June 1982
at the SMITHSONIAN, WASHINGTON, D.C.” (Conclusion)
(A letter from Dean Magley to Joe Gervais, who could not attend.)
Elgen Long was introduced by his wife. He had a canned slide presentation complete with audio track describing why he thinks A.E. crashed just west of Howland. He is setting up a non-profit organization to raise five million dollars to locate the plane in 16,000 feet of water. He hopes to have found same, and promised to return to Air & Space Museum in 1987, to describe the proceedings.
Fred Goerner was smooth and professional, proving his radio background. He referred to your book twice in his talk but would not mention your name nor, do I think, the actual title of your book. At one point he said, “Those two guys who wrote a book in the early 70s.” He was very sarcastic as he said it. I guess there isn’t much love lost between you two — Ha!
He claims the Department of Defense funneled money through two people who gave to Purdue to purchase the Electra. He also said A.E. knew about the H. Frequency D.F. on Howland as per a letter to F.G. by Admiral? He waved the letter to us. He said A.E. had been directed to test D.F.’s. According to Admiral Winger [sic, probably Vice Adm. Joseph Wenger], the Japanese had better D.F.’s than us and were probably able to track her better than we could.
F.G. said General [Alexander A.] Vandergriff [sic] told him A.E. probably was on Saipan at one time. He referred to a “Smith’s Weekly Journal” of the 1938 article congratulating the U.S. on A.E.’s flight. He told of finding out on 6/17/82 that the F.C.C. conducted a study of A.E.’s communications and gave the results to the Navy. He didn’t say how he learned this, nor if he knew how to get ahold [sic] of the findings.
He claims a Professor [Fred] Hooven installed a D.F. in the Electra and says the Navy replaced it before the flight. He spoke of locating Lt. [John] Lambrecht (who led the three plane flight to Hull Island), and was informed by him that their original objective was to check three reefs southeast of Howland.
F.G. said Joe Gurr installed the radios in the plane and that Amelia could transmit even if in the water (while it still floated). He also told of Paul Mantz being removed as flight technical director before the flight, and being replaced by Mr. [Clarence I. “Kelly”] Johnson, of Lockheed, who later designed the U-2. F.G. claims he learned this fact in 1968.
Johnson told F.G. that A.E. trained for the flight in two (2) planes, and that he never saw photography equipment in the planes. A Tom McKean claims to have talked to the Japanese officer who interrogated A.E. as a prisoner.
Fred ended by saying that because of a personal health problem [cancer diagnosis?], he will bow out of the search and give all his reference material to Admiral Kent Carroll, head of Military Air Command.
[J.] Gordon Vaeth was the weakest link of the day. His main statement was that he feels the government has not tried to hide anything about A.E.! He used 20 minutes of the hour allotted, and could have been done in 5 minutes. He kept repeating that F.G. got him into the search but that this was all done in the ’60s.
Mr. and Mrs. Long left the theater as Vaeth was introduced. Mrs. Long did return 10 minutes into his talk. Vaeth quoted, H. Manning, an ex-editor of “Flying,” as saying A.E. was not on a government flight. Vaeth did say G.P.P. toured Saipan after the war, asking natives about A.E.
Vaeth’s biggest statement was telling that “According to the Japanese aircraft authority at the Air and Space Museum, the Zero is not a copy of the Hughes racer plane!!”
Claudia Oakes ended the meeting with the announcement that we could inquire of her in about one month, and audio tapes of the Symposium should be available. (This will prove if I misunderstood any of the information I’m passing on to you.) [See comment by Les Kinney, who has audio tapes of all presenters.] They also video taped the entire affair, but nothing was said of copies being available. It was also announced that Ann Pellegreno had been invited, but that she was having a porch installed on her home, and because of bad weather the previous week she had to stay home and supervise the installation!
At the lunch break I managed to talk to Muriel Morrissey and her daughter [Amy Kleppner]. They were ready to leave the theater, but did give me enough time to tell my Wally Schirra story. (Prymak’s note: see August 1994 Newsletter.) Amy sneered “Hrmph!” and turned away. Muriel took a couple of quick, short breaths, her eyes widened, then flicked sideways and then she sort of sagged, but said nothing. Amy then took her by the arm and they left. I intended to tell the story to Fay Wells, but decided that since she loudly proclaims A.E. to be dead, that in order to stay on her good side in hopes of getting additional information in the future, I decided not to mention it.
I did manage to meet Claudia Oakes in her office on June 17, and related the [Schirra] story [to be posted here in near future]. She had no reaction. She was so intent on watching something outside her office door, I’m not sure she heard anything I said.
At your suggestion I asked the proper person at WREX-TV (where I work) to ask for the revised episode on A.E. of the “In Search of . . .” series. We were turned down for that specific tape. Of course, they would have been happy to send their demo tape, but we declined.
About a month ago, Grace McGuire was interviewed on Good Morning America (ABC). I missed seeing the program, so I went through proper channels and asked for a tape of it to use in a news story. We were foiled again, even though we are the ABC outlet here.
I have listed on separate paper some questions. I would appreciate it if you would answer on the same paper and return in the envelope I am enclosing.
Please let me know if there is anything further I can do. I will contact Bobbie Trout and some of the others I met in D.C. I will let you know what results. I am also enclosing names and addresses of some of these people in case you wish to reach them.
If you ever have occasion to be in Chicago — even if for just a layover — please advise. I would like to meet you. Rockford is only a 1.5 hour drive from O’Hare, and I arrange my own time.
MERRILL DEAN MAGLEY
5216 Village Ct.
Rockford, IL 61108
Since the close of that event nearly 40 years ago, we’ve seen and heard little more than mainstream media infomercials masquerading as news stories that advertise and support the latest trending disinformation and deceit from the conga line of phony Earhart “experts.”
The major goals of these miscreants are to extract as much money as possible from the gullible and uninformed, while keeping that same public eternally ignorant about the Earhart disappearance. Worse, there appears to be no end to this shameless contempt for the truth, lying in plain sight since the early 1960s, and the chances that another Earhart symposium will be held within our lifetimes are slim to none. When it comes to the Earhart case, the news is almost never good, despite the best efforts of the faithful.
One of the better-known definitions of insanity has been attributed to Albert Einstein, who described it as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I wonder how many times it would take Nauticos, or the rest of clueless crashed-and-sankers to search the Pacific floor without finding the Earhart Electra before they admitted they might be wrong about what happened to Amelia and her plane. Based on past performances, the answer is, sadly, “Never.”
I didn’t even know about the current search until today, when David Billings told me about it in an email from his home in Nambour, Australia. Billings, of course, has his own, far more credible theory about where the Earhart Electra lies, and it’s certainly not on the bottom of the Pacific. More about David in a moment, but this latest from Nauticos is just a bit too clever, a bit too slick, and more than a bit too much.
Nauticos has fancied up its website for the new search, with lots of bells and whistles, and even sports a special Expedition Portal, wherein fans can get near daily updates on this latest foray into crash-and-sank futility, dubbed the “Eustace Earhart Discovery Expedition.” Rather than further comment on this inane voyage, I’ll quote Dave Jourdan, Nauticos’ coordinator and publisher, as he describes his latest boondoggle in the lead paragraph on Nauticos’ Amelia page:
On February 18, 2017 a team from Nauticos with stratospheric explorer Alan Eustace and aviation pioneer Elgen Long departed Honolulu for the vicinity of Howland Island, 1,600 miles to the southwest, to complete the deep sea search for Amelia Earhart’s lost Lockheed Electra. Adding to the work conducted during prior expeditions in 2002 and 2006, the team plans to complete a sonar survey of about 1,800 square miles of seafloor, an area believed to contain the aircraft. The expedition will use autonomous underwater technology provided by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to image the ocean floor nearly 18,000 feet below.
“We left Honolulu February 18 and expect to be at sea for 30-45 days,” writes. “I hope you enjoy sailing with us. This portal will be updated frequently and will be the best way to keep abreast of the progress of the expedition.”
What is really going on here, one might ask. Can these otherwise well-educated, highly skilled men be so stupid as to actually believe their own press releases about the Electra lying on the bottom of the ocean? Not likely. As I wrote in Truth at Last (page 304 Second Edition), “Is it coincidence that the majority of Nauticos’ lucrative contracts accrue from the largess of the Navy, whose original Earhart search report remains the official, if rarely stated position of the U.S. government? Here we see yet another establishment effort to maintain and perpetuate the myth that Earhart and Noonan ‘landed on the sea to the northwest of Howland Island’ on July 2, 1937.”
So what we have, in my view, is just another Earhart disinformation exercise wrapped up in a glorified ocean floor mapping project. Don’t forget, we’re rapidly approaching the 80th anniversary of Amelia’s disappearance, and the sheeple must be kept misinformed, lest they get any funny ideas.
Now, thanks to Nauticos and its intrepid team of high-tech adventurers, we have a new example of modern-day insanity at work — in the latest Pacific-floor quest for Amelia Earhart’s Electra. If anyone out there can tell us how many of these ridiculous searches have been undertaken since 1960, you not only have too much time on your hands, you’re a far better researcher than I’ll ever be. With the exception of TIGHAR, of course, and its 11 fruitless excursions to Nikumaroro, it doesn’t get any worse than this in the Earhart hunt.
On the other hand, David Billings and his New Britain theory stand alone among all so-called theories, in that it poses a real, unanswered question about a credible scenario, one that needs to be resolved with finality before we can proceed without second thoughts. Let’s briefly return to my Dec. 6, 2016 post, “New Britain theory presents incredible possibilities,” so that new readers can better understand:
Of all the various theories and searches regarding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan, and their Lockheed Electra, only one endeavor has the tangible documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts to buttress the conclusion to their final resting place – the jungle floor in Papua New Guinea. In 1945, an Australian infantry unit discovered an unpainted all-metal twin-engine aircraft wreck in the jungle of East New Britain Island, in what was then called New Guinea.
The Australian infantry patrol was unsure of their actual position in the jungle and were on site for only a few minutes. Before they left the site they retrieved a metal tag hanging by wire on an engine mount. The Australians reported their find and turned in the tag upon return to base. The tag has yet to be recovered from the maze of Australian and American archives, but the letters and numbers etched upon it were transcribed to a wartime map. The map, used by the same Australian unit, was rediscovered in the early 1990’s and revealed a notation “C/N 1055” and two other distinctive identifiers of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra Model 10E.
Amazing, is it not? How can we possibly explain this C/N 1055 inscribed on a map case, and the string of numbers and letters, “600 H/P. S3H/1 C/N1055,” which remains the most significant historical notation found to date in the search for Earhart’s aircraft?
In an email today, Billings sounded more optimistic than ever, and says he’s getting closer to the plane wreck in the remote jungles of East New Britain that he’s been unable to locate in 16 searches thus far.
“We are in the middle of the planning stage for June this year,” Billings wrote. “The main target is a bare patch of earth I saw in late 1996 which wasn’t significant to us at that time, when we were looking for a wreck ‘on the ground.’ Now we know it is buried, and as the bare patch is in a very likely area from the description of the site by the Vets, it now becomes a principal target. If not there, then we spread outwards East and West in this likely area.
“One of my team keeps a diary,” Billings continued, “and he recorded that in late 1996 he cut his knee with his bush knife and I restricted him to the camp until the wound knitted, while we went out without him. It reminded me that when he was not with us, we saw the bare patch where a bulldozer had been working and we remarked on it at the time but thought no more of it. We now have been told that a bulldozer driver buried it out of ‘Tribal Jealousy’ (as described by the local people). Different picture now. The diary, which I was transcribing into MS Word, jogged my memory about the bare patch. There will be trees on it now, of course, but I will be able to find it as I know where it is. I have already got quite a collection of SAT photos and they’re graded into Lat/Long very accurately. I’ve had some help with that so our GPS units will be able to direct us to the plotted Waypoint.”
“Whatever the wreck is, it has to be eliminated,” he concluded. “If it is not the Electra, well, it will be someone else that has been found. That’s the pragmatic view I take on the matter. If not hers, whose is it?”
Whose, indeed? We wish David Billings all the luck he’ll need to be successful in his forthcoming search, so that once and for we might answer this nagging question, one of the true “mysteries” in the Earhart saga.