Tag Archives: Fred Goerner

Reconsidering the Earhart “Truk overfly” theory

I received an email from Guam researcher Tony Gochar (see p. 263-264 Truth at Last) recently that I wasn’t expecting, about something that’s been sitting in plain sight for so long without being addressed that I had taken it for granted.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

Most readers of this blog are familiar with the so-called “Truk overflight” theory, by which Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, instead of flying east toward Howland Island, first headed north to Truk Lagoon, now part of Chuuk State within the Federated States of Micronesia.  During World War II, Truk was Japan’s main base in the South Pacific theater, a heavily fortified base for Japanese operations against Allied forces in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, serving as the forward anchorage for the Japanese Imperial Fleet.

The long-theorized Truk overflight was initially described by Fred Goerner in the final chapter of The Search for Amelia Earhart:

When Amelia and Fred took off from Lae, New Guinea, they did not fly directly toward Howland Island.  They headed north to Truk in the Central Carolines.  Their mission was unofficial but vital to the U.S. military: observe the number of airfields and extent of Japan’s fleet servicing facilities in the Truk complex, and prove the advantages of fields for land planes on U.S. held islands on the equator.

Flight strategy had been carefully developed during the around-the-world trip.  A point-to-point speed of not more than 150 miles per hour had been maintained throughout.

This graphic appeared in the September 1966 issue of True magazine’s condensation of Fred Goerner’s recently published The Search for Amelia Earhart, with this cutline: “Double line shows Earhart’s announced course to Howland Island.  Author believes she flew first to Truk instead to study secret Japanese base, then got lost and landed in Mili Atoll.  Captured by the Japanese, she was taken along dotted line to other bases.  Ship below Howland is U.S. Coast Guard’s Itasca, Earhart’s assigned contact. 

In 1937, U.S. intelligence would have been extremely interested in the status of this naval base, once known to Allied forces as Japan’s “Gibraltar of the Pacific,” and Amelia might have been asked to observe and possibly even take some photos with her small, hand-held Kodak camera.  The Electra would have arrived over Truk at about 7 p.m. local time, with plenty of daylight left, or so I believed the basic theory held.  Of course, we have no proof that Amelia attempted to perform such a mission, but her actions during the final flight suggest something very strange was afoot, and she had two meetings with top U.S. officials during April 1937, according to Margot DeCarie, her personal secretary. (See Truth at Last for more.)

For more background on the Truk overfly theory, please see my post from Dec. 14, 2015,Bill Prymak analyzes Earhart-as-spy theories and Jan. 2, 2019, Art Kennedy’s sensational Earhart claims persist: Was Amelia on mission to overfly Truk?

Tony Gochar’s recent message, which he began with, “Just a few thoughts about the Richards Memo,” went immediately to an entirely different subject:

One of the basic thoughts I had about Earhart going to Truk to take pictures was daylight.  Google Earth Pro has a feature called sunlight slider.  You can locate where you are interested in daylight –Truk, pick a date (the year should not make a difference), and slide a scale which will give a time of day and the amount of sunlight at the location. 

This part of the world does not have those long summer days.  At 7:00 p.m. you can see almost total darkness at Truk on July 2.  The other concern I had was weather.  The best I could come up with is the attached Monthly Weather Review.  It doesn’t cover the area of Truk, but it would if a big storm was heading across the Western Pacific.  For Earhart to go to Truk is not something I take seriously.

For the other comments about Japanese radio intelligence I have a few sources.  They had the capability to RDF (radio direction finding) her flight.  They had the capability to listen to her broadcasts.  Since I did that very kind of work in the USAF I am very certain they followed her track.  I can’t describe the details of what I did, but I would have certainly listened for her.  The U.S. radio direction finding stations in the Pacific followed her.  I will provide details in a later email.

As we have discussed many times some of these documents are still classified and who knows when they will be declassified. 

I’ve doubted little, if anything, that the experienced, detail-oriented Gochar has told me, but as a non-tech type, I found the Google Earth Pro “Sunlight Slider” a bit user-unfriendly.  But William Trail, a retired Army officer, aviator and longtime contributor to this blog, soon found and sent the Sunrise and sunset times in Puluwat Atoll, Chuuk, Micronesia, which confirmed Gochar’s claim that the Sunset Slider revealed darkness at Truk on July 2 at 7 p.m.  

Sunrise, sunset and twilight end, on July 2 at Puluwat Atoll, Chuuk, among other readings on the Sunrise-sunset.org site, are 5:50:52 a.m., 6:23:31 p.m., and 6:46:14 p.m. respectively, which makes it dark indeed at 7 p.m. on July 2 of any year.  Further, the World Time Zone Map shows that Lae, New Guinea and Chuuk Lagoon, formerly Truk Atoll and now part of Chuuk State within the Federated States of Micronesia, are in the same time zone.

As seen in the map above, found on the now-defunct Mystery of Amelia Earhart website, created by William H. Stewart, a career military-historical cartographer and foreign-service officer in the U.S. State Department and former senior economist for the Northern Marianas, the distance from Lae to Truk is 888 nautical miles, or 1,022 statute miles, (another source says it’s 1,620 kilometers, 1,006 miles per a-kilometers-to-miles converter), but who’s quibbling?  The total distance from Lae to Truck to Howland Island is 3,250 statute miles, compared with 2,556 miles when flying direct from Lae, and indeed pushes the range limits of the Electra, said to be 4,000 miles in the absence of headwinds, though that was certainly possible.

After receiving Gochar’s message, the Truk overfly theory, as I had conceived it, was suddenly on its deathbed, at least in my own mind.  But before administering Last Rites, I decided to check a few more numbers, just to be sure.  I was surprised to see that for a flight leaving Lae at 10 am, it would have to average 114 mph for a nine-hour trip that arrives at 7 p.m.  Why had this 7 p.m. arrival time been stuck in my mind in such a sacrosanct way?  I don’t know, perhaps many online conversations on the Amelia Earhart Society forum had implanted it, but I can’t find a solid reference for it, and I no longer have access to the AES website, which has been all but defunct for years.

Far more likely, the Earhart Electra would have been maintained at an average speed of 135 mph, or even 150 mph, over the trip to Truk, a speed that had been common throughout its world flight.  An average of 135 mph would have covered the 1,022 miles in 7.57 hours, and put the plane over the Japanese-held atoll about 5:30 p.m., with enough light to do whatever she might have been “asked” to do.  A higher average speed, of course, would have brought Earhart and Fred Noonan over Truk even earlier in the day. 

Daylight saving time regions: Northern hemisphere summer (blue); Southern hemisphere summer (orange); Formerly used daylight saving (light grey); Never used daylight saving (dark grey).  As the map indicates, daylight saving time has never been used in Papua New Guinea (dark grey area just above eastern tip of Australia.

Like Gochar, William Trail doesn’t put much stock in Fred Goerner’s 1966 theory.  I understand that it must remain a possibility until it can absolutely, positively be ruled out, but no, I’m not an advocate of the Truk overflight theory,Trail wrote in an Oct. 1 email.  Flying from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island by way of Truk for the purpose of taking aerial photos would have been a very long flight that would have taxed the capabilities of crew and aircraft to the max.  The potential for failure, and disaster, was great.  The odds for pulling it off and getting away with it were short.  There was very little room for any error, or anything to go wrong, and we know that “Murphy” always tags along on the manifest.  In my opinion, there was too just much risk for too little potential reward.”

In Memoriam: Honoring the Earhart Truth Seekers

I don’t know why this page was so long in coming, or even why the idea finally dawned on me when it did, but the old cliché, “Better late than never,” just about covers it.  Shortly after this “Earhart Research Page of Honor,” as it were, is published, I’ll also convert it into a permanent page at the top of the blog that can be seen and easily accessed by all.  

Ironically, though several women have written fair to outstanding biographies of Amelia Earhart, not a single member of the fair sex can be found among the elite ranks of authors and researchers whose work, in its totality, has revealed the unvarnished Marshall Islands-Saipan truth about the wretched fates of Earhart and Fred Noonan at the hands of the pre-war Japanese military.

Some say this was the last photo taken before the flyers’ July 2 takeoff from Lae, New Guinea.  Mr. F.C. Jacobs of the New Guinea Gold Mining Company stands between Amelia and Fred.  Note that Fred looks chipper and ready to go, not hung over from a night of drinking, as has been alleged.

I can’t fully explain this phenomenon, but the nuts and bolts of genuine Earhart research have never been for the faint of heart.  And lest anyone misconstrue this as an attempt to rank or evaluate the habitués of this page in any qualitative sequence, this gallery of important, deceased Earhart investigators is presented alphabetically.  Their work speaks for itself, and any thorough examination of their fruits should engender a coherent understanding of their standing within this unique, distinguished group.  

You may disagree with one or more of these selections, and if so, your comments are welcome.  For those who think someone who belongs has been omitted, please wait until Part II has been published.

For your information and entertainment, I present the first of two parts of the “Earhart Research Page of Honor.”

“Earhart Research Page of Honor,” Part I

PAUL BRIAND JR.: Many observers of the history of investigations into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan believe that Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart is the seminal work in the genre, and all that followed sprang from the San Francisco radio-newsman’s initial Saipan forays.  

But neither Goerner nor anyone else would have heard about Earhart and Noonan’s arrival at Saipan in 1937 if not for the 1960 book that started it all — Daughter of the Sky, by Paul L. Briand Jr., a Ph.D., Air Force captain (later promoted to major) and assistant professor of English at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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

In the closing pages of Daughter of the Sky, Briand presents the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, who saw Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at Tanapag Harbor as an 11-year-old in the summer of 1937, as told in 1946 to Navy Dentist Casimir Sheft on Saipan.  Though few were even aware of it in 1960, as the revelations in Daughter of the Sky were suppressed throughout the establishment media, Briand’s book was the spark that exploded into the true modern search for Amelia Earhart. 

In 1967, the State University of New York, Oswego, appointed Briand as a full professor and he taught there until his death in 1986 at age 66.  For much more on Paul Briand Jr., please click here.

 

THOMAS E. DEVINE: When the Lord made Thomas E. Devine, He broke the mold.  What He said when Devine returned to Him in September 2003 at age 88, only He and Devine know.  But had I never met the Saipan veteran and author of one of the most important Earhart disappearance books, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident (Renaissance House, 1987), I wouldn’t have become involved with the Earhart story, and today I’d be doing something entirely different with my life.  I can’t imagine what it would be.

Thomas E. Devine, circa 1987, around the time that Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident was published and about four years before I met him in person and spent the day with him at his West Haven, Conn., home in early February 1991.

In Eyewitness, Devine, an Army postal sergeant who saw the Earhart Electra on three separate occasions on Saipan in July 1944, reached out to his fellow veterans, urging them to report their own experiences that reflected the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan in the years before the 1944 U.S. invasion.  Twenty-six former GIs heard and responded to Devine’s plea, and their stunning accounts were presented for the first time in With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, our little-known 2002 book.  

Devine passed away at his West Haven, Connecticut home on Sept. 16, 2003.  For much more on his eyewitness experiences and contributions to Earhart research, please click here.

 

JOE GERVAIS:  Gervais, whose important Guam and Saipan witness interviews in 1960 strongly supported Fred Goerner’s Saipan findings, was best known as the creator of the insidious Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, forever immortalized along with other crackpot ideas in Joe Klaas’ infamous 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives. 

Joe Gervais, left, and Rollin C. Reineck, circa mid-1990s, overlooking Honolulu, Hawaii.  Still esteemed by some as the greatest of Earhart researchers, Gervais can count among his contributions the vile and false Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart theory, which his friend Reineck unsuccessfully tried to reprise in his unsuccessful 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived.

Gervais was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, Korean and the Vietnam War, serving as a command pilot of B-24, B-29 and C-130 aircraft with over 16,000 hours of flight time.

The man some called “The Dean of Earhart Research,” passed away at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 26, 2005 at age 80.  

For more on Joe Gervais, please click here.

 

FRED GOERNER: The author of the only bestseller about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart ever penned, The Search for Amelia Earhart (Doubleday and Sons, 1966), Goerner is generally considered by the informed to be history’s greatest Earhart researcher.  He was not without his faults, however, and made several mistakes and misjudgments along the way.    

Most observers of the Earhart saga are familiar with the statement allegedly made by retired Navy Adm. Chester W. Nimitz to Goerner in late March 1965, just before the radio newsman left San Francisco to interview Marine Commandant Gen. Wallace M. Greene at his Pentagon headquarters in Arlington, Va.  “Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese,” Goerner claimed Nimitz told him.

In this undated photo from the mid-1960s, Fred Goerner holds forth from his perch at KCBS Radio, San Francisco, at the height of his glory as the author of The Search for Amelia Earhart.

Unfortunately, from the moment Time magazine ripped Goerner’s bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart in late 1966 as a book that “barely hangs together,” the sad truth about Amelia and Fred Noonan’s miserable deaths on Saipan in Japanese captivity was treated as a forbidden subject by the U.S. government and nearly all establishment media, and the Earhart Truth remains a sacred cow to this day.  

Fred Goerner passed away at age 69 on Sept. 13, 1994. 

For much more about Fred Goerner’ remarkable achievements, as well as his less well-known blunders, please click here; also see the index of Truth at Last.

 

JOE KLAAS: Probably the most talented writer of all Earhart researchers, Klaas, with the guidance of his longtime friend Joe Gervais, authored the most controversial — and damaging to the truth — Earhart book of all time, Amelia Earhart Lives: A trip through intrigue to find America’s first lady of mystery (McGraw-Hill, 1970).

But Klaas accomplished far more in his remarkable life than pen history’s most scandalous Earhart disappearance work.  Besides Amelia Earhart Lives, Klaas wrote nine books including Maybe I’m Dead, a World War II novel; The 12 Steps to Happiness; and (anonymously) Staying Clean.

Joe Klaas, circa 2004, who survived a death march across Germany in 1945 and wrote Amelia Earhart Lives, passed away on Feb. 25, 2016.

He began his World War II service by flying British Supermarine Spitfires as an American volunteer in the Royal Air Force.  After Pearl Harbor, Klaas transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force and fought in the North African invasion of Morocco, as well as the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, where he was shot down and captured by Arabs who sold him to the Nazis for $20.  

Klaas spent 25 months in German prison camps, escaped to be recaptured and worked for the X-Committee that planned “The Great Escape” from prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III.  The camp was known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling and were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950).

Klaas died on Feb. 25, 2016 at his home in Monterey, Calif., at 95.

For much more on Joe Klaas, please click here.

 

OLIVER KNAGGS: South African writer Oliver Knaggs was hired in 1979 by a film company to join Vincent V. Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search.  The Knaggs-Loomis connection is well known among Earhart buffs, but neither Loomis, in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, nor Knaggs, in his little-known 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight mentioned the other by name.  In Her last flight, a collector’s item known mainly to researchers, Knaggs recounts his 1979 and ’81 investigations in the Marshalls and Saipan, where his findings strongly supported those of Loomis, despite some unexplained disparities. 

Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 without Loomis and armed with a metal detector in hopes of locating the silver container that the native eyewitness Lijon had described seeing a white man bury in 1937.

Oliver Knaggs, author of Amelia Earhart: Her final flight, at Garapan Prison, Saipan, circa 1981.

Knaggs found something metallic where nothing should have naturally been buried, brought it home to South Africa and had it analyzed by the Metallurgical Department of the University of Cape Town.  The results confirmed that “in section the sample revealed what is described as a pin cover, rivet and body of the hinge,” Knaggs wrote.  “In general the microstructures [sic] are consistent with a fine, clean low carbon steel . . . indicating that good technology was used in its manufacture. . . . The hinge could have come from something akin to a cash box and could therefore quite easily be the canister to which Lijon had referred.”  

Thus Knaggs secured his place among history’s elite Earhart researchers by finding what may well have been the only “hard evidence yet publicly uncovered.  For much more on Oliver Knaggs’ Earhart investigative work, please click here.

Special thanks to Les Kinney, who provided a biography of Knaggs that included the following:

He was born in Pretoria, South Africa on January 22, 1924.  He was educated at Kearny College in Natal.  Knaggs was a combat veteran of WWII, serving in the Middle East and Italy.  Following the war, his writing career blossomed.  His articles were published in many of South Africa’s leading magazines.

His radio dramas were regularly featured on the national SABC network. His writing credits of 30 books include Amelia Earhart: Her Last Flight, published in January 1983, 500 short stories, and thousands of magazine articles.  

Knaggs died at age 68 on September 8, 1992 in Cape Town, South Africa.  

 

DONALD KOTHERA: Kothera’s significant contributions to the Earhart legacy are among the least known and appreciated by Earhart aficionados.  Kothera, a former Navy man stationed on Saipan in 1946, along with “Cleveland Group” associates Ken Matonis, John Gacek, Jack Geschke and Marty Fiorillo, made investigative trips to Saipan in 1967 and ’68, producing important new witness information.

Among these witnesses was Anna Diaz Magofna, who claimed to have watched the beheading of a “tall, good-looking man with [a] long nose,” a white man who was probably Fred Noonan.  Through an interpreter Magofna recalled that as a seven-year-old in 1937, she watched with about five other children as two Japanese soldiers oversaw two white people digging a hole outside a cemetery.  

Don Kothera’s often-overlooked contributions to Earhart research were chronicled in Joe Davidson’s Amelia Earhart Returns to Saipan. (First of three editions, 1969.)

“When the grave was dug, the tall man with the big nose, as she described him, was blindfolded and made to kneel by the grave,” author Joe Davidson wrote in Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (First Edition 1969).  His hands were tied behind him.  One of the Japanese took a Samurai sword and chopped his head off.  The other one kicked him into the grave.”

Magofna didn’t know what happened to the other white person, whom she didn’t identify as a woman.  She fled after watching the beheading, but the experience haunted her for years afterward.  “I still remember the American man and how they cut his head off,” she told Kothera.

Four years after Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks shared their memories of the Saipan gravesite dig Marine Captain Tracy Griswold ordered them to do in late July-early August 1944, the Cleveland Group compared the gravesite location information provided by the former Marine privates with Anna Magofna’s harrowing childhood account.  The spot Magofna recalled closely corresponded to the one described by Henson and Burks, but the former Marine privates did not return to Saipan to confirm it. 

In Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (First Edition 1969), Texas veterinarian Davidson chronicled the group’s investigations, aided by thousands of feet of film shot by photographer Fiorillo.  Overlooked by most researchers, Amelia Earhart Returns offers a wealth of new eyewitness information, in addition to Magofna’s. 

Kothera passed away on June 14, 2013 at his Las Vegas, Nevada home.  He was 85.  For more on Kothera and the Cleveland Group, please see Truth at Last, pages 245-251 or click here.

End of Part I.  Your comments are welcomed. 

In ’85 letter, eyewitness describes Earhart’s takeoff, Insists Noonan “had no drink” before last flight

Bob Iredale, Socony-Vacuum Corp. manager at Lae, New Guinea, spent two days with Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan before the last leg of their world flight attempt in early July 1937.  In this 1985 missive, he offers Fred Goerner a firsthand account of their last takeoff, plus his opinion about what happened later.  The following letter appeared in the November 1998 issue of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society NewslettersBoldface emphasis mine throughout.

793 Esplanade
Mornington
Victoria Aust. 3931
July 28, 1985

Dear Mr. Goerner,

Through good work by Australia Post, I received your letter 15 days after your post date of July 11.  I am glad to be able to assist your research about Amelia Earhart, as I have read many views by writers, example, spying for the U.S. against Japanese in the Marianas, beheaded by the Japs, still alive in the U.S., etc., etc., all of which to me is a lot of sensationalist garbage.

C.K. Gamble was president of the Vacuum Oil Co., a subsidiary of U.S. Standard Vacuum, when he was a young man.  Fred Haig, our Aviation officer, and I knew him quite well, then and later.  Up until a year ago I chatted to him about Amelia many times and he recorded the views I’ll relate to you.  Fred left the Planet over 12 months ago, hence no response to your letters.  He was in his 80s.

KCBS newsman and bestselling author Fred Goerner, right, with the talk show host Art Linkletter, circa 1966, shortly before the establishment media, beginning with Time magazine, turned on Goerner and panned his great book, The Search for Amelia Earhart, telling readers, in essence, “Move along, Sheeple, nothing to see here.”

Yes, I fueled the Lockheed and did it personally.  Fred had arranged 20 x 44 gallon drums of Avgas 80 octane shipped out to us from California many months before.  I can assure you all tanks were absolutely full — the wing tanks and those inside the fuselage.  After she had done a test flight, I topped them up again before her final take-off.  I think she took somewhere around 800 gallons all up.  Fred Noonan was with me at the fueling and checked it out.  He was also with me when we changed the engine oil, as was Amelia.  I enclose a much faded photo, me in white, Fred in brown, and Amelia leaning on the trailing edge of the wing.  [Photo not available.]

You are aware that because of an unfavorable weather forecast from Darwin (some 700 miles SW of Lae), of at least 2 days, Amelia decided on a two-day layover at Lae.  She stayed with Eric Chater, General Manager of Guinea Airways, and Fred with Frank Howard and myself at Voco House.  Frank and I shared quite a large bungalow as the two representatives of Vacuum Oil in N.G.  He died, unfortunately, in 1962.  As was our custom, we had a drink in the evening — 90 degrees F, and 95 percent humidity made it that way. 

We asked Fred if he would join us the first night, and his comment was, “I’ve been 3 parts around the world without a drink and now we are here for a couple of days, I’ll have one.  Have you a Vat 69?”  I did happen to have one so the three of us knocked it off.  He confessed to Amelia next morning he had a bit of a head, and her comment was, “Naughty boy, Freddie.”  That was the only drink session we had, and to suggest he was inebriated before they took off is mischievous nonsense.  I can assure you or anyone he had no drink for at least 24 hours before take-off.

We talked a lot about his experience as a Captain on the China Clippers flying from the West Coast to China, and he told us of his expertise in Astro-navigation, amongst other things.  We all talked about ourselves, and he showed great interest in our life at Lae.  He came around our little depot, where we stored drums of petrol, oil, and kerosene in the jungle to keep the sun off, etc.  He told us how keen Amelia was to write a book about the flight, and the different people. 

In the two days at Lae, she tried to learn pidgin English and talk to the [natives], and about her ability wherever they landed to take the cowls off the engines and do a Daily Inspection.  A remarkable woman, and he has great admiration for her ability.  He spent a lot of time with me in Guinea Airways hanger, and around the airfield, looking at the JU31’s, the tri-motored metal Junkers planes that flew our produce and the dredge up to Bulolo, how they were loaded with cranes and all that.

Guinea Airways employee Alan Board is credited with this photo of the Electra just before leaving the ground on its takeoff from Lae, New Guinea on the morning of July 2, 1937.  This is the last known photo of the Earhart Electra.

Their final take-off was something to see. We had a grass strip some 900/1000 yards long, one end the jungle, the other the sea.  Amelia tucked the tail of the plane almost into the jungle, brakes on, engines full bore, and let go.  They were still on the ground at the end of the strip.  It took off, lowered toward the water some 30 feet below, and the props made ripples on the water.  Gradually they gained height, and some 15 miles out, I guess they may have been at 200 feet.  The radio operator at Guinea Airways kept contact by Morse for about 1,000 miles where they were on course at 10,000 feet, and got out of range.

In 1940, I joined the Australian Air Force as a pilot, trained in Canada, and operated in England with the RAF before being promoted to a Wing Commander, commanding an Australian Mosquito Squadron attached to the 2nd Tactical Air Force.  I did 70 missions in all sorts of weather, awarded Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, French Croix de Guerre with Palm for blowing up a prison in France, and other operations for the French.  I mention this only as that experience confirmed what I believe happened to Amelia.  It is just another view.

The possibility is that they ran into bad weather, 10/10th cloud up to 30,000 feet at the equator, which negated Fred’s ability of Astro-navigation; he would have relied on DR navigation where wind can put you 50 miles off course, cloud base too low to get below it because the altimeter is all to hell if you do not know the barometric pressure, and to see a searchlight provided by a U.S. Cruiser under those circumstances would be impossible.  My guess is they got to where Howland Island should have been in the dark, spent an hour looking for it, before having to ditch somewhere within a 50 mile radius of Howland.  I find it hard to accept anything else.

Group posed in front of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Model 10-E Electra (NR 16020) at Lae, New Guinea, July 1937.  From left are Eric Chater (manager, Guinea Airways), Mrs. Chater, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.

I hope I have not bored you.  If I can provide anything at all beyond these comments, do write.  As long as I am above ground, I’ll reply.

Sincerely,

Bob Iredale

P.S. Can I get your first book in Australia?

Doubtless Iredale could have obtained The Search for Amelia Earhart, Goerner’s only book, in Australia, though the shipping and handling charges might have been a bit stiff.  He certainly needed to read it closely, considering his closing statement, “My guess is they got to where Howland Island should have been in the dark, spent an hour looking for it, before having to ditch somewhere within a 50 mile radius of Howland.  I find it hard to accept anything else.”

Perhaps Iredale’s most important contribution in this letter is his up-close-and-personal account of drinking Vat 69 with Fred Noonan two nights before the doomed fliers took off, and his assurance to Goerner, that “he had no drink for at least 24 hours before take-off.”

For an extensive examination of the always-controversial issue of Noonan’s drinking, please see my Jan. 6, 2015 post, Fred Noonan’s drinking: In search of the true story.”

I don’t believe I have Goerner’s reply to Iredale, but if anyone out there does, please let me know and I’ll be glad to post it.

Goerner appeals to Amelia’s sister in 1966 letter

The official record offers us little about what Amelia Earhart’s sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, thought and did about her older sister’s tragic disappearance.  In fact, Muriel was basically AWOL, at least publicly, and her few words and actions suggested that she likely accepted the government narrative.  

This letter appeared in the March 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and has been presented on this blog previously, in an Oct. 12, 2015 post titled, Goerner and Devine reach out to Muriel Morrissey: Did Amelia’s sister know more than she let on?”  I present it again because other relevant information, not presented here before, will be added following its conclusion, and it never hurts to re-examine salient clues about the Earhart saga, especially those that concern her family. 

Boldface emphasis is mine; italic emphasis is in the AES version, and I assume in Goerner’s as well, though can’t know for sure. 

Mrs. Albert Morrissey                                                  August 31, 1966
One Vernon Street 
West Medford, Massachusetts

Dear Mrs. Morrissey:

Your letter of the 27th meant a great deal to me.

I can’t begin to tell you how I have agonized over continuing the investigation into Amelia’s disappearance and writing the book which Doubleday is just now publishing.  I know how all of you have been tortured by the rumors and conjectures and sensationalism of the past years.

I want you to know that I decided to go ahead with the book last December at the advice of the late Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who had become my friend and helped me with the investigation for several years.  He said, “it (the book) may help produce the justice Earhart and Noonan deserve.”  The Admiral told me without equivocation that Amelia and Fred had gone down in the Marshalls and were taken by the Japanese and that this knowledge was documented in Washington.  He also said that several departments of government have strong reasons for not wanting the information to be made public.  

Grace Muriel Morrissey Earhart, Amelia’s beloved “Pidge,” passed away at 98 on March 2, 1998.  “She was really a very sweet, gentle woman and she was really devoted to Medford,” her son-in-law Adam Kleppner told the Atchison Daily Globe.  “She embodied a lot of old-fashioned virtues, responsibility, loyalty — things we seem to be in short supply of today.”

Mrs. Morrissey, regardless of what the State and Navy Departments may have told you in the past, classified files do exist.  I and several other people, including Mr. Ross Game, the Editor of Napa, California REGISTER and Secretary of The Associated Press, actually have seen portions of these files and have made notes from their contents.  This material is detailed in the book.  I am sure that we have not yet been shown the complete files, and General Wallace M. Greene Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps in Washington, refuses to confirm or deny the testimony of many former marines that the personal effects of Amelia and Fred and their earthly remains were recovered in 1944.

Please believe what I am saying.  If justice is to be achieved, it may require your assistance.  You know I have the deepest respect for Amelia and Fred.  My admiration for their courage has no limits.  They should receive their proper place in the history of this country.  A San Francisco newspaper editor wrote the other day that Amelia and Fred should be awarded the Congressional Medals of Honor for their service to this country.  I completely concur.

I shall be in Boston sometime toward the end of September or early October.  I hope that I can meet with you at that time and bring you up to date on all of our efforts.

My very best wishes to you and Chief.” *

Sincerely,

Fred Goerner
CBS News, KCBS Radio
San Francisco 94105

Fred Goerner at KCBS San Francisco, circa 1966. (Courtesy Merla Zellerbach.)

I have no response from Muriel in my limited files, but believe she probably did reply to Goerner’s cordial missive.  Muriel’s role in the Earhart saga has always been a topic for speculation, especially considering her media silence about the overwhelming evidence Goerner brought back from Saipan.  Some have suggested that Muriel could have been informed of the truth by the U.S. government at some point, in exchange for her cooperative silence.  I think that’s possible, but we’ll probably never know for sure on this side of the Great Veil.

In a 1970 letter from Muriel to J. Gordon Vaeth, she thanked him for sending her a copy of the little known 1970 book, Before the Eagle Landed, an aviation history by the editors of the Air Force Times.  She told Vaeth that she appreciated his “factual, unemotional reporting, which will, I am sure, do much toward debunking the tales begun by Captain Paul Briand [Jr.] and continued with a sad, poorly written, unproven story, Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan [1969] by a Cleveland veterinarian [Joe Davidson].”

If Muriel’s letter to Vaeth, once a staunch Goerner supporter before inexplicably becoming a stubborn, confirmed crashed-and-sanker, is any indication, she clearly wasn’t moved by Goerner’s appeal, nor had she been informed about the truth by the U.S. government or anyone else, at least at that time.  Muriel made few public statements from then until her death in 1998, and what she may have learned or believed during the intervening years is anyone’s guess.  Her mother, Amy Otis Earhart, was far more forthcoming. 

For example, we have Amy’s statement to the Los Angeles Times in July 1949, in which she revealed that she knew almost precisely what had happened to Amelia: “I am sure there was a Government mission involved in the flight, because Amelia explained there were some things she could not tell me.  I am equally sure she did not make a forced landing in the sea,” Amy said.  “She landed on a tiny atoll – one of many in that general area of the Pacific – and was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, under Japanese control.”

For much more on Amy, Muriel and Thomas E. Devine’s strange encounter with Amelia’s sister, if only as a reminder, please click here.

Amy Morrissey Kleppner at Purdue University, November 2018.  Photo courtesy of Purdue Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.

* “Chiefwas Albert Morrissey, a World War I veteran, who Muriel married in 1929 and passed away in 1979 at 81.  They had two children, David, now deceased, and Amy Morrissey Kleppner, 88, alive and well in Wardsboro, Vt. 

Kleppner, a 1952 graduate of Smith College, continued her education while working various jobs, earning both masters and doctoral degrees.  She taught philosophy at several universities and later taught English at Walt Whitman High School, in Bethesda, Md., and has never spoken out on behalf of the truth about her famous aunt’s tragic fate.  

In a November 2018 interview by David Ching in Purdue University’s College of Liberal Arts THINK Magazine, Purdue students help Earhart’s niece explain aviator’s feminist legacy,” Amy explained her lack of interest in the Earhart disappearance:

“(Solving the mystery) never seemed that important to me,” said Kleppner, who only met her famous aunt a couple of times as a small child before Earhart’s disappearance.  “I know that lots of people are much more intrigued by it.  I have good friends who are really intrigued by it and really want to get to the end of it.  It hasn’t bothered me because, as I say, I think her legacy was her life and what she accomplished.  She was very lucky, but she seized the moment.  She had the opportunity and she did something with it, which had nothing to do with making money or being famous.  It had to do with promoting the causes that she thought were important.

Amy’s evasion in the THINK Magazine article is nothing more than a cop-out by a woman who apparently lacks the fortitude to deal with the Earhart problem in any forthright way.  While there’s still time, someone should ask Amy why she has so little interest about how, where and why her aunt died, and why she doesn’t seem to care that Amelia herself would certainly want the world to learn the ugly, unfortunate truth, which has been hiding in plain sight for decades.  I seriously doubt that will ever happen.

1982 Smithsonian Earhart Symposium Conclusion

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.

Elgen M. Long has, for many decades, been among the most well-known public faces for the anachronistic, discredited “Crashed-and-Sank” theory in the Earhart disappearance.

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 Journalof 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.

Amelia with radio guru Joseph Gurr at Burbank, Calif., before her second world flight attempt in June 1937.

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.

Undated photo of J. Gordon Vaeth, noted airship historian and author who wrote to Fred Goerner in 1964 to offer his assistance in “getting to the bottom of the Earhart story.”  Vaeth, who once wrote to President Ronald Reagan’s national security assistant, William Clark, practically demanding that the U.S. government reveal the truth, later became a convinced “crashed-and-sanker.”

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.

Grace McGuire and her 1935 Lockheed L-10E Electra, at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, Calif., circa 2012.  (Photo courtesy Eduardo Contreras, San Diego Union Tribune.)

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.

Sincerely,

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. 

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