We continue with the conclusion of Fred Goerner’s July 1968 presentation to a group of Republican House members, which was, inexplicably, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn.
During his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility—Truth in Government,” Goerner succinctly laid out the facts that revealed the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan that he’d found during his four investigative forays to Saipan during the early 1960s, a remarkable story that made The Search for Amelia Earhart a bestseller. Goerner did his all he could to win the assembled Congressmen, most of whose names remain unknown, to the cause of securing justice for the doomed fliers. It remains the closest thing to a fair hearing the truth in the Earhart disappearance has ever received by a U.S. government group of any kind.
We continue with Fred Goerner’s transcript:
With a copy of that memorandum in hand, I polled the members of the Government information Subcommittee, and found shock and disbelief. Not one of the Congressmen or any member of their staffs had communicated or even intimated such an attitude to the Navy Department. The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld of Illinois and The Honorable John E. Moss of California, Chairman of the Committee, vowed to get an answer.
Three months ago the matter reached a confrontation in the office of the Secretary of the Navy where apologies were issued to me and to the members of the Government Information Subcommittee and the offending memorandum was withdrawn from the file. During the process two Navy officers accused each other of being the source of the wretched character assassination.
How and why such a spurious document reached the head of a file being declassified after thirty years for the edification of my fellow journalists still has not been explained. I am now considering a legal suit to be filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco to determine that fact.
But what of the justice of truth for Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan. At this moment two high-ranking former military officers and two highly-placed civilians (the names are in the hands of Congressman Rumsfeld) stand ready to reveal the truth if long-standing security restrictions which bind them can be removed. In spite of this testimony, the Navy Department maintains there are NO restrictions; however, the Navy’s cognizant authority will not issue a letter to that effect to free the men. Why such deception after thirty-one years? What possibly about Earhart and Noonan could be that important?
The following quote is from a man who a dozen years ago served in one of the highest and most responsible positions in this country/is top intelligence gathering department: “It was well known within high ranking intelligence circles that Miss Earhart, at the time of her disappearances was under government instructions to fly over and observe suspected Japanese military developments in the islands of the Pacific. There were some serious blunders made by the Navy in their attempt to provide Miss Earhart with proper guidance following the completion of her observations and the Navy was determined to conceal their participation and failure in this part of the operation. The concealment of errors is congenital with the armed services and particularly so in connection with any covert type of operation such as this was. The mission was not specifically for the United States Navy, but rather was ordered at the request of the highest echelons in the government.”
In other words, when the full truth regarding Earhart and Noonan is known, a new view of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the years before Pearl Harbor will emerge.
Should that be classified because of “national security”? I believe not.
I would like to ask you to make the obtaining of justice for Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan the business of the Republican Party this year, but I will not be that foolish. I do ask, however, (The Scripps League of Newspapers joins me) that the Republican platform reflect a constructive concern for the American public’s right to know.
Listen to our youngsters cry, “Tell it like it is.” They have seen our hypocrisies and they want better from us. There is a great yearning in our country for a clean, emancipating wind of truth. And the political party that first fully realizes that fact will, in the vernacular, have it made! Continually one hears today the question, “What has happened to patriotism in America?”
Trust, belief and confidence are at the heart of patriotism, and those American strengths have been severely shaken in recent years by literally hundreds of incidents of news manipulation, deception, double-talking and double-dealing by the executive branch of our government. The spirit of patriotism must be restored in this country, but it cannot be rekindled by propaganda or simply by telling Americans they should be patriotic because it’s the thing to do. It will only be regenerated when Americans are convinced their government is making every effort to truthfully inform them in every area of national concern and when they once again believe their national leaders are pursuing with dedication the principles of human behavior upon which the Constitution of The United States was created.
“Foul!” many will cry. “My God, what about secrets of state and national security. If we have to tell everything we know, you might as well hand the country over to our enemies.”
“Nonsense,” is the answer to that.
The protection of information vital to national security must be maintained. What must be eliminated is the temptation to use “national security” as a cover to manipulate facts or hide information in the interest of vague political and diplomatic pragmatisms which are intended to protect individuals or organizations from the consequences of responsibility.
What can be done to diminish the gap and improve relations between government and the public?
Increase the purview and investigatory ability and authority of the Foreign Relations and Government Information Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations of The House of Representatives.
Insure [sic] by legislation that control of that Committee always remains in the hands of the Minority, so the ability to investigate cannot be frustrated by partisanship. Plug the loopholes in the Freedom of Information law by establishing a board with a representation of security-cleared journalists who can determine what is and is not being served by the label, “national security.”
(These suggestions and many more are contained in a new book titled, CRISIS IN CREDIBILITY, written by Bruce Ladd, Jr., of Washington, D.C. It should be read by every person who seeks public office.)
My appearance before this committee is a clear tribute to the degree of freedom we enjoy in America and I am grateful. The best way we can protect that freedom is to make sure we are told the truth. All of it.
Thank you. (End of Goerner presentation.)
Goerner’s riveting presentation to the lawmakers produced nothing of significance; the sacred cow was sacrosanct, then and now. None of his suggestions were ever acted upon and the serious allegations he made about the Navy’s key role in Earhart’s alleged secret mission remain unproven but quite possible.
In July 1968, Fred Goerner appeared before a Republican platform subcommittee, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn, in a heretofore undisclosed Miami location. Through his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility—Truth in Government,” Goerner laid out the facts he had presented in The Search for Amelia Earhart, appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, and did his utmost to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. It remains the closest thing to a fair hearing the truth in the Earhart disappearance has ever received.
Goerner traced the Navy’s history of denying it held classified Earhart files until late 1964, when the State Department’s disclosure of their existence forced the Navy to admit it possessed such information. “What was ultimately shown to us [in 1967] answered none of the major questions and the Navy still maintained publicly that no files existed,” Goerner told the committee. The ruse continued when the Navy, reacting to the popular outcry following publication of Search, claimed it had released all its Earhart files in 1967. “I will not attempt to describe my disgust when I viewed the files,” Goerner said. “Missing was information we had been shown. Included was information we had NOT been shown. But in all cases it added up to nothing.”
Goerner’s presentation, “Crisis In Credibility — Truth In Government” appeared in the November 1998 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Bold emphasis mine throughout; capitalization emphasis is Goerner’s. This is the first of two parts.
Presentation: “Crisis In Credibility — Truth In Government”
By Mr, Frederick Goerner, San Francisco, California
1:50 P.M. EDST, Monday, July 29, 1968
National State and Local Relations Subcommittee of the Republican
Platform Committee, Miami, Florida
Distinguished Members of the Committee:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I’m going to tell you a story in the next few minutes that is representative of one of the greatest dangers America faces today. It represents a behavior, largely on the part of the executive branch of our government, which in recent years has reached such destructive proportions — it threatens to destroy the confidence of the American People in the integrity of our leaders, the wisdom of our goals, and the strength of our principles.
It is a behavior which engenders disenchantment, distrust and disgust. It frustrates our journalists and turns trusting, loyal citizens into disillusioned skeptics.
This behavior is known by many names, but perhaps it is most familiar as the CREDIBILITY GAP . . . the techniques by which news is managed, information is hidden and truth is perverted to disguise unsavory privilege and vested interest.
Many of my fellow journalists refer to this story as, “The classic example.”
You be the judge.
My involvement began in 1960 with my work as a newsman-broadcaster at KCBS Radio in San Francisco, but the event itself dates back more than thirty-one years.
On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart, America’s most famous woman flyer, together with her navigator, Captain Frederick Noonan, disappeared in their specially equipped twin-engine Lockheed Electra airliner during a flight from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. In the month that followed, the U.S. Navy spent more than a million dollars on a search but to no apparent avail. Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan were listed as “lost at sea.”
There were rumors though that the flyers might have been captured by the Japanese, who had closed their mandated Pacific islands to outside inspection and who reportedly, were busy at work preparing those islands for war. There were rumors, too, strongly denied by the U.S. Navy, that Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan had been on some sort of mission at the time of their disappearance.
During World War II, rumors persisted that evidence concerning Earhart and Noonan had been found by U.S. Military forces during the invasions of the Marshall Islands and later the Marianas. Again denials by the U.S. Navy, and in 1946, after the end of World War II, U.S Navy spokesman said, “There is no classified information in regard to Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan and as far as the Navy is concerned, they are strictly a civilian affair.“
So, seemingly, ended the matter. Then, in 1960, fourteen years later, a native woman from the island of Saipan in the Marianas testified this country for the first time that an American man and woman, supposedly flyers, had been held by the Japanese on Saipan during 1937.
I was drawn into an investigation which has spanned more than eight years and occupied the time and talents of many fellow-workers and friends at KCBS Radio, The Scripps League of Newspapers, The Associated Press, and now the United States Congress. From 1960 to 1964, four expeditions were made to the Mariana Islands and one to the Marshalls. More than three-thousand natives of the islands were questioned along with hundreds of former servicemen here in the United States. Testimony began to pile up. An American man and woman had crash-landed an airplane in the Marshall Islands in 1937, and had been taken by the Japanese to Saipan. The same information, according to a number of former U.S. servicemen, had been collected in 1944 and was well known to U.S. Intelligence. Two former U.S. Marines [Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, see Dec. 26, 2017 post, “KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”] even testified they had assisted in the recovery of the remains of Earhart and Noonan from a shallow grave on Saipan in July of 1944.
Still, in 1964, the U,S. Navy Department repeatedly denied it possessed any classified files on the matter. It was not until the U.S. State Department revealed late in 1964 the existence of restricted Navy files that an admission was privately made by the U.S. Navy, but what was ultimately shown to us answered none of the major questions and the Navy still maintained publicly that no files existed.
In 1966, with the hope an aroused public would help produce justice, I wrote the book titled THE SEARCH FOR AMELIA EARHART, detailing the then six years of investigation. Hundreds of interested Americans did write their congressmen and senators, but it was not until June of 1967 that the U,S, Navy Department notified the nation’s press that after thirty years it was at last releasing the classified files on Amelia Earhart,
“The files, however,” said another Navy spokesman, “only show that Earhart and Noonan were lost at sea and there was no involvement with the U.S. Navy.”
I will not attempt to describe my disgust when I viewed the files. Missing was information we [he and Ross Game] had been shown. Included was material we had NOT been shown. But in all cases it added up to nothing.
Near the top of the file, however, was a U.S. Navy internal memorandum which stated, “The Government Information Subcommittee of the House of Representatives is now convinced that Mr, Goerner is guilty of yellow journalism for alleging the Navy Department has withheld information on the Earhart matter.” (End of Part I.)
We return to the early 1960s and the seminal Saipan investigations by Fred Goerner, Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger. Brother Gregorio, who signed his full name as “Brother Gregorio Oroquieth, Churio, S.J.” in the 1961 letter he wrote to researcher Joe Gervais below, while Gervais was still in the Air Force, was a minor footnote in the Earhart saga, but this is yet another credible account that places Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan soon after their July 2, 1937 disappearance.
Based on the letter’s date, Gregorio wrote it before Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan in September 1961 for his second investigation, although Goerner apparently learned of Gregorio’s story a year earlier. We’ll return to Goerner after presenting Gregorio’s interesting missive to Gervais, who was doing respectable research on Guam and Saipan during those early days.
The letter below appeared in the November 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Boldface emphasis mine throughout.
Translated 17 February 1961 by Roy Sorenson, Spanish teacher, Kubisaki High School, Okinawa
6 February 1961
Dear Captain Gervais, Saipan
I am writing this letter in Spanish rather than English because I feel I can express my reply more understandably for you. I enjoyed the photos you sent of Father Arnold [Bendowski], yourself, and [Robert] Dinger. Dinger is certainly a beautiful [sic] Air Force Captain, isn’t he?
I recall a little over 20 years ago before War was declared during the summer holidays for the children, when they came to the vestry to tell me of the two American spies who were apprehended on Saipan near Garapan. They mentioned one was an American woman who wears long pants like a man and has a haircut like a man. The Japanese police have these Americans as spies, and the woman’s companion’s face is very suntanned like Spanish people’s face. The Japanese take them away to ask questions. The children were Jesus Rios, Juan Sanches, Jose Sanches [sic, correct spelling for Juan and Jose is Sanchez, according to Fred Goerner, see page 102, 103 The Search for Amelia Earhart], Jose Geregeyo [sic], and the Americans were seen coming from the direction of Lisang near Garapan.
Kumoi [Jesús De Leon Guerrero] spoke to me about them a few days later of these two American Intelligence Spies and says he will show them everything if they give him much money. I spoke to Father Arnold in 1947, and again in 1960 on Guam about Kumoi, and his story has changed recently from that which was said over 20 years ago, and at the same time of the children’s, as I best can recall.
After the invasion of Saipan I went to Intelligence Officer there on Saipan, I don’t remember the Officer’s name, and asked him if they wanted any information of the two Americans, the man and the woman who come to Saipan from Hawaii in an airplane for American intelligence before the invasion. He said there was no such thing as an American woman in any airplane of any kind for Intelligence that he ever heard of. He was not interested at all in more talking after saying that, and I left. Vinciente Guerror [sic, Vicente Guerrero is correct] in 1947 on Saipan — Father [Jose Maria] Tardio (can’t make this out clearly) [sic].
My best wishes to you both, and Father Arnold. I do not know if this will be of help as I don’t know what became of these two Americans as the vestry was far located from where they were apprehended. If can be of further assistance please feel free to correspond.
Your friend and servant,
Brother Gregorio, Oroquieth, Churio, S.J.
In his 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart Fred Goerner provided the rest of the known background on Brother Gregorio and what he knew about the presence and death of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan:
As I had learned the preceding year, only one person assigned to the Catholic mission before the war had survived the invasion and the years that followed. Father Tardio had died in Spain after the war, but one of the lay brothers, Brother Gregorio, was at the church on Yap Island. During the year, Father Sylvan [Conover] had talked with Gregorio at a gathering of church officials on Guam. Brother Gregorio remembered the story of the two white people, supposedly fliers, who had been held by the Japanese during 1937-1938, but it was not eyewitness testimony. The Brother along with the Fathers and Sisters at the mission had been restricted to church grounds by the Japanese during that period, and then had been placed under house arrest on December 8, 1941. Two young Saipanese, the Sanchez brothers, Juan and Jose, had told Gregorio of the two Americans and what the Japanese had done to them. The brothers had been in their teens at the time, but Gregorio was certain that they had told him the truth. He felt that it was extremely unlikely the boys could have invented such a story.
Father Sylvan and I traced the brothers Sanchez and found them working as mechanics for the mysterious entity known as NTTU [Naval Technical Training Unit]. They were surprised and disturbed when Father Sylvan asked them about Brother Gregorio’s statement, but admitted they had some knowledge of the incident. Both felt they would like to refresh their memories before making a definite statement and promised to come to the church mission house the next day and give us the details. Only one Sanchez appeared the following morning, and his attitude had completely changed. He claimed neither he nor his brother had any information that would help us. “Brother Gregorio does not remember correctly,” he said. “We know nothing of what he says.”
Father Sylvan questioned hard and long but to no avail. The Sanchez brothers were obviously frightened and were not going to say a thing. Another full year passed before we learned the two Saipanese had been told by the Navy or NTTU not to cooperate with the people who were asking questions about the missing fliers. Father Sylvan and I had suspected as much in 1961.
Brother Gregorio’s 1961 account added another voice to the ever-growing chorus attesting to the presence and deaths of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan. The incident between Father Sylvan Conover and the Sanchez brothers as recounted by Fred Goerner is yet another example of the U.S. government’s ongoing commitment to controlling and covering up the truth about the fliers’ Saipan deaths — as if we needed any more proof.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
End of Part I. Your comments are welcomed.