Tag Archives: Fred Goerner

Fred Hooven: “Man Who (Nearly) Found Earhart”

Cameron A. “Cam” Warren, former longtime member of the Amelia Earhart Society, may be still with us at 95 in Fountain Hills, Ariz., but my current information on him is limited.  Warren was among the better known of the “crashed-and-sankers” in the AES, along with former ONI agent Ron Bright and Gary LaPook. 

Warren and Robert R. Payne, former editor of the Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association newsmagazine, CRYPTOLOG, who passed away in 2015, at some point joined to complete Capt. Laurence F. Safford’s unfinished manuscript of Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday.  Safford was among the most important of the founding fathers of U.S. Navy cryptology, and was closely involved with the Navy’s code-breaking efforts more or less constantly until shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

His 2003 book is an analysis of the final flight as seen from a strong crashed-and-sank bias, which is revealed without pretense in a brief chapter toward its conclusion, “Survival Theories.”  Here Warren and Payne incredibly write that Safford’s criticism caused Goerner to “reverse his opinion about the survival theory, and joined Safford in his belief of a crash-landing into the sea.”  This is an outrageously false contention and defies credulity, given the large volume of Goerner’s work, in which he never denounced his conviction in the fliers’ Saipan demise, though he did inexplicably reverse his ideas about the landing at Mili Atoll.  This writer even devoted a chapter in  Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, “Goerner’s Reversal and Devine’s Dissent” to a discussion of Goerner’s bizarre and still unexplained change.

The foregoing has little direct connection to the following brief tribute by Warren to the great inventor and Earhart researcher Frederick J. Hooven, which appeared in the November 1997 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter.  We’ll hear more from Hooven in the future, and from Safford as well.

        Cam Warren, circa 2003.

“The Man Who (Nearly) Found Earhart”
by Cam Warren

Over the years, there have been many people on the trail of Earhart and Noonan, ranging from the idly curious to the truly brilliant.  Theories as to the fate of the famous couple have similarly varied from the ridiculous to the sublime, but all have at least a kernel of truth as their root source.  So the speculation continues and so does the intense analysis and re-examination of the ideas, clues and factual data.  One man stands out among the serious researchers, uniquely equipped to dispassionately consider the mountain of information, and who — had he lived longer — might have solved the mystery with all the storied ability of Sherlock Holmes himself.

Frederick J. Hooven, inventor, engineer and Dartmouth professor first met Amelia when she arrived at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio in 1936.  She was there to have a direction finder installed in her Electra, and the device was an advanced model designed by Hooven himself.  Here was a man who, at the age of 15, had met Wilbur Wright, and sought his advice on an aircraft that young Fred and his pals would attempt to build, unsuccessfully, as it turned out.  Later, in 1978, Hooven completed a computer analysis of the Wright Brother’s plane and determined the plane was inherently unstable.  “The only reason the flight worked was because the Wrights were such good pilots,” he once told the Boston Globe.

Hooven’s DF (direction finder), which operated on the conventional low frequency bands, featured a small loop in a low-drag streamlined housing, and though the original design circuits were deemed unreliable by operators at the time, the system would eventually be made automatic in its operation, and as the “ADF” (automatic direction finder), would become the de-facto standard for commercial aviation for many years.  Unfortunately, perhaps, the Hooven system was removed from the Electra soon after installation and replaced by another prototype which Bendix people were hoping to sell to the U.S. Navy.  It purported to utilize high frequency (3-10 megacycle) radio waves, especially 7.5 megacycles, corresponding to the amateur’s cherished 40-meter band.  Apparently Earhart and her husband, promoter George Putnam, were led to believe it was a magic device.  It wasn’t, and Lawrence Hyland, who was a Bendix vice president at the time, later denied it was aboard when the Electra disappeared.

The late Fred Hooven, noted engineer, inventor and creator of the Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) landing theory, later commandeered by TIGHAR and advanced with great fanfare and international acclaim without attribution to Hooven, was adamant that some of the so-called post-loss transmissions originated from Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E.  He soon completely denounced the idea the lost fliers landed on Gardner after close study with his friend Fred Goerner.

Hooven, who died in 1985, was the holder of 38 U.S. patents, including a short-range radar set for World War I bombers, and landing systems for other aircraft.  His interest was not confined to aviation electronics, for among his many other accomplishments were such developments as front-wheel drive for GM cars, computers, photo-typesetters and the first successful heart-lung machine.  He was a 1927 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, and worked in GM Research for 25 years, before leaving to pursue other interests. Employed for a time by Vince Bendix, they later had a falling out when Hooven became dismayed with Bendix’ over-zealous business activities.

Professor Hooven’s interest returned to Earhart on the publication of Fred Goerner’s book in 1966.  He began a lively and very extensive correspondence with Goerner, whose research into the Earhart puzzle never ceased in his lifetime.  They became close friends, and Hooven devoted more and more time to combing through Goerner’s writings and spoken observations, seeking the solution to the mystery.  His (incomplete) conclusions are of more than passing interest, considering his scientific background and research experience.

Despite the “final” conclusions of the U.S. Navy, Hooven was substantially convinced that the “post-splash” radio messages intercepted by Pan Am DF stations in the Central Pacific (and several serious “hams”) were authentic.  That of course meant Earhart had somehow landed on an island or atoll and used her radio to call for help.  Hooven, in an article he wrote in 1982, did not address the issue of the “plane in the water,” but apparently assumed a wheels-down landing on firm ground, in order that one of the Electra’s motors could be operated briefly for battery charging.  At one point in his correspondence with Goerner, he suggested that at least one “of the intercepted calls from the plane gave aural evidence of radio operation with a recharging battery.”

Given the possibility of such a landing, and the Pan Am coordinates, he favored McKean or perhaps Gardner Island (Nikumaroro), and calculated her gasoline supply would have allowed her to fly that far.  It seemed highly likely to Hooven that the crew and perhaps the Electra were recovered by the Japanese prior to the arrival of COLORADO’s search planes several days later.  This would tend to confirm the Marshall Island scenario, with AE and Noonan later taken to Saipan, and explain why no trace of plane or crew were ever found on either island.  Of course, Richard Gillespie of TIGHAR seized the idea of Nikumaroro, without credit to Hooven, incidentally, but continues to deny any possibility Noonan and Earhart didn’t linger there despite much evidence (or lack thereof) to the contrary.

Amelia with the Bendix Radio Direction Finder Loop Antenna, which replaced Fred Hooven’s Radio Compass for use during her world flight attempt in 1937. Hooven was convinced that the change was responsible for Amelia’s failure to find Howland Island, and ultimately, for her tragic death on Saipan.

Why did the Navy discount this whole scenario? Hooven raises the question of intercepted code.  If our military was aware, via partial code-breaking, of what the Japanese had done, they faced a serious dilemma. Confronting the Japanese would tip that nation off that their secret codes had been compromised, and if this was the case, the value of our eavesdropping in the immediate pre-war climate would have to outweigh the rescue of Earhart and Noonan. This theory fits the puzzle so neatly it boggles the imagination; suffice to say that at this point in time no hint of such intercept capability in 1937 has surfaced.  Neither Captain Safford nor Rear Adm. Edwin T. Layton (Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s intelligence officer, and a likely source for Nimitz’s broad hints to Goerner on the subject) have ever so much as dropped a hint, despite the sensitive revelations both made in their post-war comments on the Pearl Harbor debacle.

(Editor’s note:  Based on several credible researchers’ findings, the above statement by Warren, that in 1937 the U.S. Navy did not have the capability to intercept Japanese naval radio messages, is false.  See pages 261-264 Truth at Last for more.) 

Hooven was not infallible, of course, but any misstatements were traceable to inaccurate information, such as the viability ofreefs reported south of Howland as emergency landing places.  It was several years after Professor Hooven died before that idea was conclusively proved false, which caused some serious corrections on both U.S. and British naval documents.  Despite a minor flaw or two, Hooven’s contribution to Earhart research is substantial, and given his scientific background, extremely valuable.  Had he lived longer, he truly might have “found” Earhart.  (End of “The Man Who (Nearly) Found Earhart.”)

Hooven was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1905, met Orville Wright as a child and by age 15 was a regular visitor to the Wrights’ Dayton laboratory.  After graduating  from MIT in 1927, he was hired by General Motors, and rose to vice president and chief engineer of the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation Corporation by 1935.  He died in 1985.

In my May 15, 2017 post, Hooven’s 1966 letter to Fred Goerner quite clear: Removal of his radio compass doomed Earhartwe saw the first of many letters between Hooven and Fred Goerner.  We’ll see more of the fascinating exchanges between these two giants of Earhart research in future posts.

 

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Carroll Harris, Joe Wenger, and the Crane files

In service to the higher cause of disseminating truth about Amelia Earhart’s tragic disappearance and our government’s continued refusal to admit or reveal it, and at the risk of giving away the store, today’s post is basically an extract of a subsection of Chapter XIV, “The Care and Nurture of a Sacred Cow,” in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at LastI’ve taken a few editorial liberties, made some additions and subtractions, but most of this subsection, “Carrol Harris, Admiral Joseph Wenger, and the Crane Files,” is presented below.  Since I’m quoting from my own work, I will not indent as I would with quoted material from others.

Carroll Harris, of Sacramento, California, a retired Highway Patrol dispatcher and Navy veteran, contacted Fred Goerner in 1980.  Harris told Goerner that he’d worked for the chief of naval operations in Washington from 1942 until early 1945, and was responsible for the office’s highly classified vault.  Harris said a top-secret file on Amelia Earhart was maintained during the war, and he saw it many times.”  Harris often worked the night shift,” Goerner wrote to Jim Golden in 1982, “and to speed the time he familiarized himself with many of the files. There were many files on the USS Panay bombing by the Japanese, files on the Pearl Harbor attack, and a file (about 2/3 of a drawer or about 26 inches of material) dealing with Earhart.”

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa mid-1970s. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman’s unsuccessful search for the elusive, top-secret files that would finally break open the Earhart case. During his amazing career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon’s Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.  (Courtesy Jim Golden.)

Harris said the file covered a wide variety of issues, including the logistics of the flight, official positions to be taken in the event information about Earhart was made public, radio transmissions, and most importantly, “attempts at rescue and communications with Earhart (AFTER HER CAPTURE),” according to Goerner. “Harris said the file was added to during the war after the invasions of the Marshalls and the Marianas. He says it was basically the same info we have come up with concerning Japanese capture (of AE).”  (Emphasis Goerner’s.)

In a 1982 letter to Goerner, Harris said the office that housed the Earhart files was the “Secret and Confidential Mail and File Room—OP 020.”  A year later Harris wrote to Vice Admiral Kent J. Carroll, head of the Military Sealift Command, providing extensive details of OP 020 in the misplaced hope that Carroll, who was friendly with Goerner, would help locate the missing Earhart records. 

According to Harris, the Secret and Confidential Mail and File Room was located in Room 2055, in the “Navy Department building on Constitution Avenue (officially known as the Main Navy Building).  The vault containing the secret files “was located in one corner of Room 2055,” Harris wrote. “After being there several months I was authorized full access to the vault, as one of the enlisted group cleared to handle and transmit TOP SECRET matter. Chief John Aston showed me where ‘special’ files/documents were: The Wiley Post/Will Rogers crash; The Panay Yangtze River Gunboats Inquiry; The Pearl Harbor Inquiry and The Amelia Earhart File.  All these items were retained in one file cabinet; the Earhart file and the Wiley Post/Will Rogers crash papers were contained in one drawer. . . . The Earhart papers had been filed under numerous classifications and been gathered under the number(s) A12/FF.”  (Emphasis Harris’.)

In mid-1944, Harris said he was ordered to microfilm the secret files in Room 2055.  Once the job was completed, he told Goerner that a “copy went to the Naval Historian at Annapolis, Maryland, one copy went to the Naval Ammunition Depot at Crane City [sic], Indiana and we retained one.”  The original records, Harris said, were packed loosely so that upon arrival at National Archives they could be placed in a chamber for fumigation . . . prepatory [sic] to refilming on 35mm. The Earhart material was among these records.”  This aspect of Harris’ account is troubling.

Why would the classified Earhart files be sent to a Navy historian and the National Archives, when neither is known for housing such sensitive documents?  Goerner’s files provide no answers about why such volatile secrets would be sent to those locations.

Naval Support Activity Crane is located approximately 25 miles southwest of Bloomington, Ind.  NSA Crane was originally established in 1941 under the Bureau of Ordnance as the Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) for the production, testing and storage of military weaponry. The Naval Security Group Detachment was established at Crane in 1953 and disestablished in 1997, moving to the Commander Naval Security Group Headquarters at Fort George G. Meade, Md.  Despite the best efforts of Fred Goerner and Jim Golden, the alleged Earhart files stored at Crane have never been found. 

Goerner focused on the Naval Ammunition Depot at Crane, where The Naval Security Group Detachment was established in 1953 and disestablished in 1997, moving to the Commander Naval Security Group Headquarters at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.  In my December 2008 e-mail correspondence with officials at Crane, now known as Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, they were unable or unwilling to shed any light on whether the facility was receiving classified material from other Navy agencies in 1945.

“It took me more than three years to get the Navy to admit the records existed,” Goerner wrote to Jim Golden in 1988. “Through the Freedom of Information Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Ms. Gwen Aiken in charge, I filed for access to the records.” After twenty-eight months of silence, Aiken finally told Goerner that many records had been sent to Crane and asked him to be patient while a “couple of officers” reviewed them.

Goerner’s patience was running out, so he contacted his old friend, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who had favorably reviewed his book for San Francisco magazine.  Several months later, Weinberger informed Goerner that Crane held “some 14,000 reels of microfilm containing Navy and Marine Corps cryptological records, which, under National Security Regulations must be examined page-by-page.  They cannot be released in bulk.  To date, over 6,000 reels have been examined in this manner and the sheer mass prevents us from predicting exactly how long it will take to examine the remaining reels.

Carroll Harris’ story wasn’t the first time Crane had come to Goerner’s attention.  In April 1968 he met retired Rear Adm. Joseph Wenger, a pioneer in the development of cryptanalysis machines and head of the Navy Security Group Command in Washington during most of World War II.  A few months later, Goerner reminded Wenger of his April statement that he’d “gained permission to investigate intercepted Japanese messages from the period of our concern . . . I believe you mentioned the documents were in storage at NSD [Naval Supply Depot] Crane, Indiana”   Goerner also wrote to ask Wenger if Ladislas Farago’s claim in his 1967 book, The Broken Seal, that “Commander [Laurance] Safford had all the Japanese codes and ciphers cracked” in 1936 was correct, in light of other books advancing differing claims.  Wenger replied that he was “not at liberty to comment on the discrepancies” because the “Department of Defense has adopted a strict ‘no comment’ policy about such matters.”  

In other letters during the two-year period prior to his death in 1970, Wenger assured Goerner he was looking into the naval intelligence intercepts at Crane, and asking former cryptologists at the key communications intelligence radio stations about their recollections of the July 1937 period.

Rear Adm. Joseph N. Wenger, the first cryptologic flag officer of the Navy and head of what would become the Naval Security Group from 1944 to 1949.  During Fred Goerner’s early 1960s Earhart investigations., Wenger led the KCBS newsman down the garden path, promising much and delivering nothing.

Wenger wrote that the Navy had high-frequency direction finding stations in 1937 at Mare Island, California; Honolulu; Guam; and Cavite, Philippines.  Though Wenger said he had no knowledge of any Navy ships with such HF/DF (high frequency/direction finding) capabilities, Goerner believed it was possible that some may have been using it on an experimental basis.  “If so, it was a secret then and is still so today, he told Fred Hooven in 1971.  “The HF/DF to track Japanese fleet movements could have been the black box of 1937.  As the Captains have indicated, however, we soon found out that Japan, Germany and England were all ahead of us in the development of HF/DF in 1937.” 

From Wenger, Goerner learned the Japanese had at “least a dozen radio directionfinder [sic] stations in the Marshall Islands by 1937 and were monitoring U.S. Fleet activity on a regular basis. All of this, I think, has some bearing . . . on the matter of the Earhart flight,” Goerner wrote, “and all the hassle about direction finders and messages received from the aircraft after the disappearance.”

Wenger, assigned to OP-20-G, the Navy’s signals intelligence and cryptanalysis group, from 1935 to 1938, told Goerner in 1968 that he could “recall nothing whatever from that time which had any bearing upon the [Earhart] flight, nor, when questioned, could one of my former subordinates who was likely to have known had anything been obtained.   In August 1969, Wenger claimed he had “personally reviewed all materials pertaining to the particular areas and time . . . but discovered nothing of any relevance [to Earhart] whatever.

Somewhere along the way, Goerner must have realized he had encountered another bureaucratic stone wall, despite Wenger’s apparent willingness to help.  “It occurs to me that if the Earhart affair became a matter of Presidential classification and a responsibility of COMINCH [Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet] Staff, all references to the subject may have been directed to one location,” Goerner wrote to Wenger in March 1969.  Goerner was politely telling the admiral that he suspected any Earhart-related material found in the intelligence intercepts at Crane had been reclassified at the highest level and squirreled away long agoIn retrospect, it’s clear that Wenger was leading Goerner down the garden path and protecting the sacred cow, never with the slightest intention of helping the newsman.

Fred Goerner’s “old friend,” Caspar Willard “Cap” Weinberger, secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1987, was another highly placed government official who helped erect and maintain the stone wall of silence around the top-secret Earhart files and led Goerner on a fruitless goose chase, telling him that The Naval Security Group Detachment at Crane, Ind., held “some 14,000 reels of microfilm containing Navy and Marine Corps cryptological records, which, under National Security Regulations must be examined page-by-page,” strongly suggesting that the Earhart secrets might someday be found there.

In a 1978 letter that eerily presaged Michael Muenich’s 1992 missive [to be featured in a future post], Fred Hooven explored the military and political dilemma that Navy intelligence intercepts of Japanese radio messages revealing their capture of the fliers would have presented our leaders in 1937.  Suppose that the Navy had been monitoring the Japanese communications and ship movements in the Pacific sufficiently to have learned, or at least to have gotten a pretty good idea, that the Japanese had abducted Earhart and Noonan,Hooven wrote.

What could they have done?  They could not have taken action short of a military intervention to recover the fliers, and they could not have announced the fact (even if they were certain of it) without revealing the extent of their coverage of Japanese communications and operations, and their source of knowledge. It would also have raised an enormous storm of protest and indignation as well as being a national humiliation that we could ill afford, if we did not take bold action to recover the fliers.  It could also be that we were pretty sure, but not sure enough to raise an international incident about it.

This would explain all the secrecy, the strident insistence that the messages received from the plane were all hoaxes, and the equally strident insistence that the plane had fallen into the sea.  It would explain the tampering with the log to say one-half hour of fuel left, the male-chauvinistic references to Earhart sounding hysterical,  etc.  Since no such policy could have been decided without White House consultation, it would even explain the White House type interest in the situation.

Shortly after Hooven presented these ideas in his 1982 paper, Amelia Earhart’s Last Flighthe added a small caveat in a letter to Goerner: “So far as our theory about the US govt [sic] knowing about the Japanese abduction of the fliers, if so it must have been a secret shared by relatively few people, otherwise it would have leaked long before this.”

Caspar Weinberger may have believed he was being honest with Goerner, but his statement that the secrets of the Earhart disappearance were being stored among thousands of microfilm records of cryptological intelligence radio intercepts seems far-fetched.  Then again, Weinberger might have expected Goerner to recognize his letter as a pro forma evasion.  The defense secretary probably knew nothing about the Earhart case before Goerner told him about the alleged records at Crane, but Weinberger was soon informed about the special nature of the Earhart files. Goerner, of course, had no clearance to view the material even if something were found at Crane.

As Weinberger was leaving office in late 1987, he sent the newsman’s request to Navy Secretary James Webb, who told Goerner it wouldtake ten years or more to deliver an answer about any Earhart information at Crane. “Never mind that the Navy claims ALL records from pre-WWII and WWII have been released,” an irate Goerner wrote to Jim Golden. “Never mind that we WON WORLD WAR II in a little less than four years. [Emphasis Goerner’s.]  It will take more than a decade to look at some records. Never mind that in ten years most of the people from WWII will be dead. They don’t deserve to know of their own history.”

Goerner didn’t express his frustration to Weinberger or Webb, but he must have known that the Earhart files were not among the 8,000 reels that still needed review, according to Weinberger. Gad, some of those people who have been trying to cover up for so long must hate my guts, Goerner told Golden. “But, damn it, I won’t give up as long as I have a breath.” (End of Truth at Last excerpt.)

 

 

Listen to Goerner’s first KCBS radio report on Saipan

Gary Boothe, of Floyd County, Va., lived on Saipan as a child from 1958 to 1962.  Both parents were teachers for the U.S. Navy civilian administration, teaching local students at Saipan Intermediate School.  They also taught for the U.S. Trust Territory in the Caroline islands at Chuuk and Yap.  Gary is retired from the U.S. Postal Service and has made several trips to visit islands in Micronesia, including Saipan, where the below photo was taken in June 2018.

Photo taken during Gary Boothe’s June 2018 visit to Saipan.  From Left: Dominique Boothe (Gary’s daughter), Gary, Marie S. Castro. Congressman Donald Barcinas, Mrs. Evelyna Shoda, Mr. Carlos Shoda. 

Recently Gary listened to an old reel-to-reel tape that his father left, and he made an amazing discovery.  It appears to be the first KCBS radio report filed by Fred Goerner upon his return to San Francisco following his late June to mid-July 1960 investigation there.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard this recording.  Moreover, I’ve never heard another researcher claim to have it.  This is a rare collector’s item that I gladly share with you, dear reader.  Since my WordPress blog format will not allow the posting of MP3s or other audio formats, my friend Dave Bowman, author of Legerdemain (2007), The Story of Amelia Earhart (2012), A Waiting Dragon: A fresh and audacious look at the Mystery of Amelia Earhart (2017) and others, has agreed to host the MP3 file of Goerner’s 1960 KCBS production on his websiteTo listen to Goerner’s report please click here.

At nationally broadcast KCBS news conference in San Francisco, November 1961, following Goerner’s second trip to Saipan, the author (at table, right) is questioned by newsmen about package of remains being flown in from Saipan.  Don Mozley, KCBS news director, is at the table with Goerner.  (Photo courtesy Lance Goerner.)

The 15-minute report parallels Goerner’s narrative in his bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart (pages 41-52, First Edition) about his initial Saipan visit, in mid-June 1960.   He speaks of how he “set about enlisting the aid of the fathers of the Church,” as virtually all the locals on Saipan were Catholic.  Monsignor Oscar Calvo, and Fathers Arnold Bendowske and Sylvan Conover served as translators during Goerner’s interrogations of what he variously reported as 200 to 300 potential witnesses, ensuring he would be getting the truth, in contrast to the lie so often spread by our media that the Saipan witnesses told Goerner “what he wanted to hear.”

The report doesn’t state its airing date, but it was on or about July 1, 1960, the date of Linwood Day’s stunning, front-page story in the San Mateo Times, headlined “Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved,” and an “all media news conference . . . in Studio B at KCBS in the Sheraton-Palace Hotel in San Francisco, according to Goerner (p. 62 Search).

He names only a few of his original 13 witnesses named in his 1966 bestseller, but quotes native dentist Manual Aldan, whose patients were Japanese officers:  I didn’t exactly see the man and the woman, but I heard from the Japanese official about one woman flier and a man that landed at a place (unintelligible) now called Tanapag. . . . I dealt with high officials on the island and knew what they were saying in Japanese.  The name of the lady I heard used. This is the name the Japanese officer said — Earharto!”

Jose Rios Camacho (identified as Rios R. Camacho) told Goerner, I was working at Tanapag Harbor.  I saw the plane.  It was heading across the island . . . in a northeasterly to southwesterly direction.  It crashed in Tanapag area.  I saw a Navy launch bring them to the beach.  I saw the lady pilot and the man.  She was dressed like a man. Her hair was short, it was brown. Afterwards they kept her in Tanapag.”

Gary Boothe, left, circa 1960, at age 5, and friend enjoy another idyllic Saipan day near their Navy Seabee-built Quonset homes on Saipan. “The photo was taken in the housing area by the lighthouse on Navy Hill” Gary told me in a recent email.  “The building up the hill at the top of the photo is the island commander’s compound.  The ones in our housing area were moved there from somewhere else on the island in the mid ’50s. They were hot, but not as bad as you might think.  The only place to find any air conditioning out there at the time was on Guam, and it was pretty rare there.  We loved our Quonsets, and it was sad to return after many years and not have a single one in sight.  It was the dominant architectural feature back in the day.  (Photo courtesy Gary Boothe.)

“The testimonies go on and on,” Goerner said. We have two-and-a-half hours on tape.”

In concluding, Goerner jumped the gun a bit in his enthusiasm to claim the salvaged parts might have come from the Earhart Electra, but that’s understandable.  We know that they were later confirmed as coming from Japanese-made planes.  

Still germane today is the yet-unanswered question about the plane that brought the fliers to Saipan.  Was it a seaplane, as one would tend to believe, or a land-based plane that landed in the harbor because it was in trouble? 

Goerner said that the plane that the two Saipanese dove on in Tanapag Harbor was the same one that brought the fliers to Saipan in 1937, and he may have been correct in this.  If it was true, the plane that took the fliers to Saipan was not a Japanese seaplane, but a land-based plane that probably originated at Kwajalein, as two witnesses have attested (p. 150-154 Truth at Last). 

This would have been more evidence to support the land-based-plane-crash-landing scenario at Tanapag Harbor, already strongly supported by several Saipanese witnesses who used the word “crashed” in describing the plane’s arrival.  Seaplanes landing on water are not normally said to be “crashing.  This conundrum is discussed at length in “The Saipan Witnesses” chapter of Truth at Last.

Did Earhart crash on purpose in Hawaii takeoff?

Much has been made by a few of the more conspiracy-minded researchers of Amelia Earhart’s disastrous crash at Luke Field, Hawaii, on March 20, 1937, during her takeoff on the second leg of her first world-flight attempt, which could have easily resulted in her death, as well as those of Fred Noonan and Harry Manning, who were also with her in the Electra that day.  Some believed Amelia crashed on purpose.

First, some background might be helpful.  The original world-flight plan called for an Oakland-to-Oakland flight via Honolulu, then on to Howland Island; Lae, New Guinea; and Port Darwin, Australia.  “Part two, a lengthier stretch over fabulous lands,” as Earhart described it, “extended from Australia to the west coast of Africa by way of Arabia.”

Part three would take the Electra over the South Atlantic to Brazil and from there northward to the United States.  Noonan would go as far as Howland and return to Hawaii by ship.  Captain Harry Manning, a pilot, navigator, and master mariner of the United States Line, had agreed to serve as Earhart’s navigator and radio operator during the difficult early stages of the flight.  Manning would stay until they reached Australia, and Earhart would fly the rest of the way alone.

The flight from Oakland to Honolulu went well, as Earhart, Noonan, Manning, and technical advisor Paul Mantz took off from Oakland Airport on March 17 at 4:37 p.m. Pacific time.  They landed at Wheeler Field, Oahu, at 8:25 a.m. Pacific time, March 18, covering the 2,400 miles in a record 15 hours, 43 minutes.  Once there, Mantz test flew the Electra, made repairs on the right propeller blades that became temporarily inoperative about six hours from Hawaii, and delivered the plane to the Navy’s Luke Field, on Ford Island near Pearl Harbor.  With its 3,000-foot paved runway, Luke was considered more practical for the Electra’s 900-gallon fuel load.  

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

But on the March 20 takeoff for the 1,900-mile flight to Howland Island, the Electra had covered about a thousand feet of runway when its right wing dropped, the right wheel and the undercarriage were torn away, and the plane slid along the runway, showering sparks before coming to rest.  Miraculously, despite fuel leaking through the drain well of the belly, no fire erupted and no one was injured.

Witnesses said the tire blew,” Earhart explained.  “However, studying the tracks carefully, I believe that may not have been the primary cause of the accident.  Possibly the right landing gear’s right shock absorber, as it lengthened, may have given way. . . . For a moment I thought I would be able to gain control and straighten the course.  But, alas, the load was so heavy, once it started an arc there was nothing to do but let the plane ground loop as easily as possible.”  A wire report said Army aviation experts “expressed unofficial opinions that a landing gear failed just before the right tire of her plane burst.”

Art Kennedy, an aircraft technician for the Pacific Airmotive Company in Burbank, Calif., during the 1930s, offered a more sinister explanation for the crash in his 1992 autobiography, High Times, Keeping ‘em Flying.  Kennedy first met Earhart in 1934 when he serviced her Lockheed Vega for a Bendix Trophy race, and directed the repairs of the Electra when it was shipped back to Burbank in boxes following the accident at Luke Field.

After a close examination of the plane’s damaged right wing, right gear, brakes and propellers, Kennedy said he realized the ground loop was not normal, but “forced,” and that Earhart purposely wrecked the plane.  When confronted by Kennedy, she “told me not to mention it and to mind my own business,” he wrote. 

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

Undated photo of Art Kennedy., circa late 1930s.  According to Bill Prymak, who knew him well, Kennedy fabricated stories about what Amelia Earhart told him after she crashed the Electra on takeoff from Luke Field in March 1937.  These tales from Kennedy have been cited by some as strong evidence that Amelia was ordered to ground loop her plane, change directions of her world flight and even embark on a spy mission.

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

Bill Prymak, who knew Kennedy well, was among those who joined Fred Goerner in dismissing Kennedy’s claims.   Goerner laid out his reasons in a cordial 1992 letter to Ronald T. “Ron” Reuther (1929-2007), himself a remarkable and highly accomplished individual.  

Reuther, a close friend of Goerner, founded the Western Aerospace Museum and was a revered, original member of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society.  Reuther was unique among the elite of the aviation establishment in his support for the Marshalls Islands-Saipan truth in the Earhart disappearance, but these are mere footnotes in an impressive list of memorable achievements in a life well lived. 

He was also a great naturalist who curated and directed the Micke Grove Zoo (Lodi, Calif.), the Cleveland Zoo, the Indianapolis Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo, and the Philadelphia Zoo.  As director of the San Francisco Zoo, Reuther was instrumental in the creation of an amazingly successful project to teach the world-famous and recently deceased gorilla Koko sign language.  Following is Goerner’s cordial 1992 letter to Reuther.  All boldface is mine.

August 7, 1992

Mr. Ron Reuther
1014 Delaware Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

Dear Ron:

Again you have proven to be a good friend!

Many thanks for your comments regarding my health, and extra thanks for sending along the chapter from Arthur Kennedy’s book, HIGH TIME [sic] — KEEPING ‘EM FLYING.

I’m more than a little happy to report that my recovery proceeds apace, although I have some distance to go in regaining strength.

The surgeons at the Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C., saved my life in a fifteen-hour operation, and I have just concluded the last of three week-long chemo sessions at Mount Zion Hospital here in San Francisco.  The latest CT-scan is clean, so it appears that I have at least a few more years to plague family and friends.

Undated photo of Ron Reuther in front of the Western Aerospace Museum in Oakland, California, where Amelia Earhart’s plane was kept prior to her 1937 flight.  Reuther was a founding member of the Amelia Earhart Society, and was a committed naturalist who directed the San Francisco and Philadelphia zoos, among others. (Photo by Lea Suzuki, San Francisco Chronicle.)

With respect to the Kennedy comments about Earhart, the proverbial grain of salt applies.

Kennedy appears to have been influenced by the film FLIGHT FOR FREEDOM in which Earhart [is asked by the U.S. Navy purposefully to crash her plane in Hawaii so she can later undertake a secret mission.  Kennedy alleges Earhart did just that and that Earhart even told him something about it.  [Ed. note:  Tony Carter is the character in Flight for Freedom that Goerner identified as Earhart, but the parallel was obvious.]

This reckons without the testimony of Harry Manning who was flying the right-hand seat alongside Earhart at the time of the Honolulu crack-up.

Harry became a good friend in the late 1960s and the early 1970s.  As you will recall, Harry was the initial navigator for the around-the-world flight, and he later shared the duties with Fred Noonan.

Harry told me Earhart simply “lost it” on the takeoff, and there was no mystery about it whatsoever.

He said, “One second I was looking at the hangars and the next second the water.  I thought we were going to die.”

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

As far as the rumor that Earhart ground looped the plane on purpose to delay the flight, he said it was a concoction of a script-writer.  There was no truth to it whatsoever.

To accept such a conclusion, he added, one would have to accept that Earhart did not tell either himself (Manning) or Noonan what she planned to do.  He said neither he nor Noonan would have been foolish enough to go along with such a plan which might end in death for all of them.

Harry also said if there was a need to delay the flight because of some secret mission, the easiest way to delay the flight was for Earhart to feign an illness which required her to return to California.  Then they could have flown the Electra back to California instead of having the wrecked plane returned by ship.

Amelia Earhart with Harry Manning (center) and Fred Noonan, in Hawaii just before the Luke Field crash that sent Manning back to England and left Noonan as the sole navigator for the world flight.

Harry said by the time he got out of the wrecked plane and onto the runway he had already made up his mind that he no longer wanted any part of the flight.  It has always been stated that Harry had to return to the command of his ship and that is why he left the flight, but the truth is he had had enough of both Earhart and Putnam.

Sometime when we have a chance for a face to face, I will tell you the whole Manning story.  Harry wanted me to do a book about him and his career, but he died before the project could begin.

By the way, Harry Manning was a pilot himself, and he knew whereof he spoke.

I trust that all is well with you, Ron, and with your family.

Merla joins me in sending all good wishes to you and yours, and thanks again for your thoughtfulness in sending the Kennedy material to me.

With respect and admiration.

Fred

P.S.  A chap named Bob Bessett of the Aviation Historical Society wanted me to appear tomorrow at Spenger’s to discuss Earhart along with Elgen Long and Richard Gillespie, who is flying in from Delaware.  Alas, my doctor won’t turn me loose.  I simply do not have the requisite strength yet.  Oh, how I would love to train my guns on Gillespie.  The man is a consummate rascal, and the Nikumaroro business is totally bankrupt.  If you happen to attend tomorrow’s confrontation, give me a blow by blow.  I’m sure Elgen and Gillespie will pea [sic] on each other’s shoes.  (End of Goerner letter.)

Goerner had two more years before the cancer took him on Sept. 13, 1994.

Publicly unfazed by the near disaster at Luke Field, Earhart nonetheless changed the flight’s direction to an easterly route, explaining in Last Flight that weather differences in various locations after the three-month delay for repairs dictated the reversal:

The upshot of those consultations was, that I decided to reverse the direction originally chosen for the flight.  Revising the Pacific program was a sizable task in itself.  The Coast Guard had arranged its routine cutter cruise to Howland Island so as to be on hand there at the time of my flight, other provisions had been made by the Navy.

The original course from Brazil though Panama, Central America and Mexico would be replaced by a cross-country flight to Miami, a “practical shakedown flight, testing the rebuilt ship and its equipment . . . thereby saving the time of running such tests in California,” Earhart wrote, adding that any necessary adjustments or repairs could be made in Miami.

Do Goerner’s letter and Prymak’s dismissal of Kennedy’s claims really mark the end of the story?  Can we really declare “case closed” with confidence, based on the word of these two experts, as well as what some of our own “better angels” would have us conclude?

The words of a few others might give some of the more suspicious among us reason to pause.  We still don’t know precisely how much Amelia’s mother, Amy Otis Earhart knew, for example, as I discussed in a Dec. 9, 2014 post, “Amy Earhart’s stunning 1944 letter to Neta Snook.

And in Amelia Earhart’s Radio (2006), respected researcher Paul Rafford Jr. made an astonishing revelation:

Yet Mark Walker, a Naval Reserve Officer, heard something different from Earhart. I heard about Mark from his cousin, Bob Greenwood, a Naval Intelligence Officer.  Bob wrote to me about Mark and what he had heard.

Mark Walker was Pan Am copilot flying out of Oakland. He pointed out to Earhart the dangers of the world flight, when the Electra was so minimally equipped to take on the task.  Mark claimed Earhart stated: “This flight isn’t my idea, someone high up in the government asked me to do it.”

“Earhart’s crack-up in Honolulu is a classic example of how minor events can change world history,” Rafford wrote.  “Had she not lost control and ground looped during takeoff, Earhart would have left navigator Fred Noonan at Howland and radio operator Captain Harry Manning in Australia.  Then, she would have proceeded around the world alone. 

“Fate decreed otherwise.”

Conclusion of “Earhart’s Disappearing Footprints”

Today we present the Conclusion of 1981 World Flight pilot Capt. Calvin Pitts’ “Amelia Earhart: DISAPPEARING FOOTPRINTS IN THE SKY.”

When we left Part IV, Calvin speculated that Amelia, finding the Electra in the anomalous Area 13, had decided to head toward the Marshall Islands rather than risk a landing at Howland.  At  8:43 a.m. Howland time, Amelia told the Itasca, “We’re on the line 157-337 . . . Will repeat this message.”  Turning to Fred Noonan, she might have said, “Give me a heading, and there’s no time to discuss it.  If we land here, I probably won’t be able to get airborne again.  Heading, please.” 

Conclusion of “Amelia Earhart: DISAPPEARING FOOTPRINTS IN THE SKY.”
By Calvin Pitts

In analyzing Amelia Earhart’s final flight, we can definitively say we don’t know the answers to several key questions.  But by comparison with the conclusions of others, I believe we can say we that WE DO KNOW:

(1) The Electra did not go down at sea.

(2) They did not go to the uninhabited Phoenix Islands such as Baker, Gardner (Nikumaroro), Canton, McKean, etc., where they would have been completely cut off from other human beings who could have helped them.

Calvin Pitts, circa 2014, in The Final Journey gallery at the Claremore, Okla., Will Rogers Memorial Museum.  Pitts’ interest in aviation history led him on an unlikely journey around the world.  In 1981 Calvin made a round-the-world flight commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Wiley Post-Harold Gatty round-the-world flight in 1931.  The flight was sponsored by the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum.

(3) The Gilberts had thousands of friendly people who could have helped, although the Electra probably would have been sacrificed in that case, since there were no runways, with this option supporting the logic of No. 2 above.

(4) They did not turn back to the Gilberts, deciding not to follow the contingency plan so carefully laid out with Gene Vidal, a matter written about often.

(5) They did not land at Howland.

Howland Island camp Jan. 23, 1937. (National Archives.)

(6) The Electra was never seen by personnel on the Itasca or on Howland.

(7) The Electra never made an approach to Howland’s runway.

(8) There must have been a reason the all-important trailing antenna was removed.

(9) Fred Noonan had a 2nd class radio license, which required knowledge of Morse code, a knowledge he demonstrated with Alan Vagg between Australia and Lae.

(10) There must have been a reason Amelia was so casual with her radio calls.

(11) Noonan was not drunk the night before the final takeoff from Lae.

(12) Amelia was radio-savvy at first, maintaining two-way conversations with Harry Balfour at Lae until her position report at 0718z / 5:18 p.m. local time over Nukumanu Atoll.

(13) Amelia had no two-way conversations with the Ontario nor the Itasca at Howland.

(14) Although Amelia requested only voice-talk, Itasca’s radioman William Galten keyed 50 Morse code transmissions by himself, plus those sent by other Itasca radioman, indicating that they had not been so informed.

(15) Neither Nauru nor Tarawa Radio, important mid-range stations, had been informed.

(16) The mid-range ocean station, the Ontario, had not been properly informed.

(17) With government involvement in everything else, the key radio players, both Navy and ground, were ill-informed on the very last half of the Howland leg.

(18) The Howland runway log, which was hidden for years, now reveals that the men who constructed the runways did not consider the longest 4,000-foot, north-south runway to be safe due to soft-spots, massive numbers of birds and daily crosswinds of 20 mph.

(19) By the same token, the east-west runway for wind was only 2,400-feet long, too short.  The width of the entire island was only one-half mile, with sloping beaches.

Perhaps the last photo taken before the fliers’ 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 some have been alleged.

(20) With 30 days of pressure, problems and decisions, the Electra crew was exhausted with extreme fatigue by the time they took on their most dangerous assignment.

(21) The Electra came back to earth near Barre Island on Mili Atoll.

(22) The Electra pair were taken by the Japanese to their Marshalls headquarters at Jaluit.

(23) Amelia and Fred were flown to Saipan, where they were imprisoned.

(24) While under Japanese imprisonment, the Electra crew lost their lives.

(25) Via Tokyo, the Japanese lied to the U.S. government throughout the early days of the search about the movements of the Kamoi and the results of their search. 

(26) In 1937, the Unites States, having broken the naval and diplomatic codes of Japan, could listen to radio conversations between Japanese naval vessels in the Pacific, and Saipan, the Marshalls and Tokyo.

(27) Three of the most senior U.S. military leaders of World War II in the South Pacific, Gen. Alexander A. Vandergrift, Gen. Graves Erskine and Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, independently knew about the presence of the Electra and the fliers on Saipan, and each informed Fred Goerner or his close professional associates of their knowledge. 

(28) By extension and by all available evidence and common-sense deduction, the top U.S. political leader — President Franklin D. Roosevelt — also knew that the Japanese had custody of the fliers at a very early date.

(29) Some evidence suggests that documents revealing the facts in the disappearance of Amelia and Fred are filed in a World War II file, even though the disappearance occurred four years BEFORE the war.

Hideki Tojo (1884 to 1948) was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), the leader of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, and the 27th Prime Minister of Japan during much of World War II, from Oct. 17, 1941, to July 22, 1944.  As Prime Minister, he was responsible for ordering the attack on Pearl Harbor.  After the end of the war, Tojo was arrested and sentenced to death for war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, and hanged on Dec. 23, 1948.  He was also culpable for the arrest, captivity and murders of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan, though this information has never been officially revealed.

(30) To this day, the Earhart documents are labeled “Top Secret” (although the U.S. government denies any such files remain classified, or that they even exist) for a civilian who just wanted to finish off her career with a world flight “just for the fun of it.”  What is this overkill attempting to hide, and if there’s “nothing to hide,” then why do the establishment and its media toadies continue their blanket denials of a truth that’s hiding in plain sight?

If these 30 factual bits of evidence, and much more, are not sobering enough, there are more, under the heading of “Human Factors,” keeping in mind that this list, while exhausting, is not exhaustive.

WE ALSO KNOW:

Other things that we likely know include:

(1) Amelia’s primary and foundational motivation was her own self-interest in adding to the aviation record she had worked so hard to establish.  She loved daring and adventure, and other things about a world flight that fit her dreams and desires included:

(a) her intense personal interests.

(b) her desire for an adventure not yet experienced.  She had done what Lindbergh did, in her 1932 Atlantic solo flight, showing that a woman can do what a man can do, something extremely important to her.  But she had never done what her close friend, Wiley Post, had done twice.  One of Amelia’s passions was to demonstrate to the next generation of girls that the world is open to them, but they must reach for it.  Don’t downplay the power of this motivation.  She wanted to be a role model while adding to her records.  She wanted both fame and immortality, to be an example as a leader of women for generations of girls to follow. 

Amelia Earhart, circa 1932. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

(c) by labeling her plane “A Flying Lab,” she added a scientific motif, like Wiley Post, for her activities.  If, in the course of her flying, she could test things like a new direction finder etc., that would add credibility and justification for all the money she and others were investing in the world flight. 

(d) Amelia’s big heart, especially toward girls just starting out, that always reached out to see how she could help, first as a social worker, a nurse, as a teacher and finally as a role-model.  She never stopped promoting her own interests, but not at the expense of failing to help girls who wanted to follow her example.  For the 1930s, she was a great role model, not as a fake, pretend movie star, but as a truly outstanding performer in her own real adventures.

(2) Amelia had had many setbacks in her aviation career.  She crashed a plane while in the process of taking flying lessons.  She had more than one engine fire.  Although she did well, she did not win the Powder Puff Derby.  Third place is never good enough for a first-class person.  She had more than one crack-up.  But with determination, she not only survived, she prevailed, proving that determined women are equal to men.

In spite of setbacks, she had great confidence.  As a professional pilot and former instructor, I often spotted a potentially dangerous quality in student-pilots, not confidence, but overconfidence, confidence that exceeded their ability at the time.  With wrong circumstances, it is a dangerous quality.  Respecting one’s own self-acknowledged limitations is the heart of safety.

Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E, March 20, 1037, following her near disastrous ground loop that sent the plane back to the Lockheed plant in Burbank for months of costly repairs,

(3) Amelia’s radio behavior on the world flight was uncharacteristically strange.  Who can understand or explain it?  It bordered on unprofessional, unless there was a bigger player and a bigger reason that influenced the entire operation.  In preparation for Flight No. 2 in Oakland and Miami, several of the Pan Am workers revealed some not-so-pretty things about Amelia’s rudeness and temper.   Pan Am’s offer for radio support and flight following was uncharacteristically refused, at no cost to her — why?  That borders on irrational, unless something else was afoot. 

In my opinion, a woman, fighting a man’s world, finds it more difficult than does a man.  I can spot several things in Amelia’s world flight that illustrate over-confidence and negligence in accepting one’s own limitations.  That was a demon flying with her that she did not need.  Her interactions with Paul Mantz are a great illustration of this.  He saw several things that he didn’t think were good, and tried to change them, but she found it hard to listen.

Next, we must ask, WHAT DO WE NOT KNOW?

From what we do know, we evaluate the things we do not know.  Because of the unselfish work of others, we are satisfied that we know the essence of what did happen.  From the words of the three flag officers, they tell us that the Electra and its crew were on Saipan.

For us, the end of the story is solid.  For reasonable people, this answers the central essence of the WHAT of the story.  But the WHY remains unanswered.

Were the Marshalls the ORIGINAL destination of the fliers?

That strictly depends on the meaning of the word ORIGINAL.  If you identify the origin as that point just following 2013z / 8:43 a.m., where we came to see “Intent,” then YES.  From that point, Amelia intended to fly to the Marshalls.

If, however, you mean something else, then several scenarios arise.

(1). Original destination No. 1?  Did Amelia intend to go to the Marshalls when she began Flight No. 1 going west toward Hawaii?  No.  That’s too much of a stretch.

(2). Original destination No. 2?  Was that her intent when she left on Flight No. 2, flying the opposite direction? Here it gets complicated.  Did those military men who had a private meeting with her while the Electra was being repaired, suggest a plan that included the Marshalls?  I don’t think we will ever know how much the government spoiled Amelia’s innocent preparations with secret plans.  Whatever they injected was poison from the beginning, no matter if it was as benign, as is one of my scenarios.

What “military men,” one asks?

They would now fly from west to east instead of east to west.  The reason given was because the prevailing winds would be more favorable, but Margot DeCarie, Earhart’s secretary would later declare that her boss had long secret meetings with military authorities [Bernard Baruch, a close adviser to FDR, and Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover, chief of the Army Air Corps] during the rebuilding period [at March Field, in Riverside County, Calif.].” (Paul Rafford Jr., Amelia Earhart’s Radio. p. 27.)

In 1966, DeCarie told the San Fernando Valley Times that she believed these meetings concerned plans for a secret mission “to get lost on the theory that the Japanese would allow a peace mission to search for her.  Then the United States could see if the Japanese were fortifying the (Marshall) Islands in violation of mutual agreements.” (Col. Rollin C. Reineck, Amelia Earhart Survived, p. 26.)

Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover, chief of the Army Air Corps from 1935 until his death at age 55 in a plane crash on September 21, 1938.  Did Westover, along with FDR crony Bernard Baruch, approach Amelia Earhart in the spring of 1937 on behalf of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and ask her to perform a special mission?  Some evidence does suggest the possibility.

(3). Original destination No. 3?  Did the U.S. government suggest something in Miami while the Electra was being fitted with new radios and having their lifeline, the trailing antenna, removed?  Some very suspicious things happened there, giving rise to some strange actions and reactions on Amelia’s part.

Currently, with the limited knowledge we have, my “original destination” begins in what I call Area 13 during the time shortly after 2013z / 8:43 a.m. Howland time.

But I can also suggest several scenarios which could easily push thatorigin back much further than Area 13, 2013z / 8:43 am. (Five are listed at the end of this posting.)

And if that were case, you need to explain precisely why they would want to head for Jaluit as an original destination, and not Howland.  For me, Jaluit as an original destination began at about 2013z / 8:43 am on July 2, 1937, unless the government involvement started in Oakland or Miami.  That is possible, but if that happened, then the Marshalls may have been a faint, or a ruse.

The military involvement versus the lesser government insertion, is a stretch, but believable with the information we have.  At this point, Amelia appears to still be a peace-loving, war-hating citizen like Lindbergh and his Isolationists.  Whatever sinister part she was contemplating still seems, at this point, to be somewhat innocent, as My Earhart Scenario lays out.  It is still difficult to see her as a heavy hitter connected with a military plot, although the later condemning words of Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. seem very convincing.

“The obvious answer would be to see what the Japs were doing,” Mike Campbell wrote in a recent email, “but why would anyone think that the Japs would stand by for this and allow the U.S. Navy to search for them and pick them up once found?  This would have been an idiot’s game plan, and I just don’t buy it.”

Neither do I.  Not only would the Japs not stand for it, neither would U.S. military leaders at that point in the pending conflict.  Amelia had no training in aerial reconnaissance.  The military could not have been that short-sighted.  Nor had Amelia received any training whatsoever in spying.  That is the hardest designation for me to accept.  I think it was much more benign and innocent than that, which is the theme of My Earhart Scenario.” 

“Other possible scenarios involve approaching Mili from the west and north on the way to Howland,” Campbell added, “after overflying Truk to get snapshots of the Japs’ work there.  They could have run out of fuel on the way to Howland and been forced down at Mili.”

This seems much too sinister for the Amelia of 1936, as well as 1937.  A “little favor,” perhaps, but not Truk or Jaluit reconnaissance.  Yet, we keep hearing the theme of Morgenthau and FDR saying, in effect, If the public knew, it would be so bad that it would totally ruin Amelia’s reputation.

Morgenthau’s actual words in the transcribed phone conversation were:It’s just going to smear the whole reputation of Amelia Earhart . . . If we ever release the report of the Itasca on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone . . . I know what the Navy did, I know what the Itasca did, and I know how Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders, and if we ever release this thing, goodbye Amelia Earhart’s reputation.

I also tend to the belief that it’s most probable that the decision was made to head for Jaluit at some point, but am not at all certain about this.  Other possibilities do exist, that’s why the how and the why of their Mili landing is the true mystery in the Amelia story.

This map appeared in the September 1966 issue of True magazine, along with a lengthy preview of The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Based on Fred Goerner’s theory of a possible Earhart flight over Japanese-controlled Truk Island, once known as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”  Could this have been the route the fliers took that led to their demise on Saipan?  Calvin Pitts doubts it, but others are not so sure.

Japanese headquarters, Jaluit, Marshall Islands, was probably their intended destination because of its strong radio signals.  Capt. Almon Gray of Pan Am, who flew with Noonan, said: Fred often listened to Jaluit on his Pan Am flights, taking bearings on them.”  This general territory was not new to Pan Am navigators.

However, Mili probably came into the picture unexpectedly.  After more than 24 hours of flying, when Amelia saw Mili Atoll en route to Jaluit 150 miles away, she had to know she was down to mere drops in the fuel tanks.  One engine may have started sputtering, signaling imminent fuel exhaustion.  Both engines would seldom run out of fuel at the exact same time.  Hence, it’smake a controlled landing now, or a gliding landing into the water later with only minimum control.”  This would account for landing at Mili, short of Jaluit.

Regarding the matter of decision, after studying on Google Earth the difference in an intended heading for the mid-Gilberts, bringing them accidentally to the Marshalls, is pure fantasy to me.  You cannot move me from my belief that, for whatever reason, there was absolute INTENT in picking up a heading for the Marshalls.  The strong Japanese radio signal fits into that scenario, whether that decision was the government’s or not.   Those were signals Noonan knew well from his Pan Am days.  There was the intention of going there.  They did not accidentally wake up and say, “Oh, how did we get to the Marshalls Islands?”

Once I was convinced that Amelia intended to go to the Marshalls, the next question was: To what destination?  Jaluit was the most logical, since it was the source of the radio signals, plural, because there were 11 reported radio stations there.  Jaluit, in my opinion, was where Amelia thought she could get fuel and help.

As for Mili being the spot where they actually landed/crashed, that was probably a glitch in the plan.  The Mili landing was forced on them, as I view it, due to fuel starvation.  Ironically, during the period of the world flights, few of Amelia’s expectations seemed to play out precisely as she intended, including Honolulu, Oakland, Miami, Africa, Australia, Lae, Nukumanu, Howland and now Jaluit. 

In fact, the original change in direction from Flight No. 1 was probably not her idea in the beginning, but was the result of the military men who met with her at March Field.

In Amelia Earhart’s Radio (p. 25), Paul Rafford Jr. wrote that Mark Walker, a Naval Reserve Officer,heard something different from Earhart.  I heard about Mark from his cousin, Bob Greenwood, a Naval Intelligence Officer. Bob wrote to me about Mark and what he had heard. Mark Walker was a Pan Am copilot flying out of Oakland.  He pointed out to Earhart the dangers of the world flight, when the Electra was so minimally equipped to take on the task.  Mark claimed Earhart stated:This flight isn’t my idea, someone high up in the government asked me to do it.’”

A satellite view of Mili Atoll from space, with Barre Island and “here” indicated in the northwest area as the spot where Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan landed on July 2, 1937.  Photo courtesy Les Kinney.

For what it’s worth, from one who has lived this story for countless hours, we take it as being worth a lot.  Where we part company with the spy theorists is the degree of cooperation.   It seems much more innocent and benign than a spy novel.  She was asked, in one researcher’s opinion, to do a small favor “since you’re going to be there anyway.”

Probably, it was not that she wanted the government involved in her plan, other than helping with details such as clearances, landing sites, fuel, radio help, etc.  It seems the government might have hijacked her personal adventure by offering help-with-a-price tag.

As I’ve said many times, the more I learn, the less I know.  But what did Adm. Chester W. Nimitz mean when he told Fred Goerner through Cmdr. John Pillsbury, “You are on to something that will stagger your imagination”?  I confess, this is strange language, and its meaning remains obscure. We simply do not know!

As for Goerner’s original theory of an Earhart overflight of Truk Island on July 2, as much as we deeply respect all the time and work he put into to this, and the doors he opened for everyone after him, it cheapens his otherwise stellar work by taking this seriously.  Overfly Truk Island?  This leaves me outside on the fringes, saying, “I just can’t believe it.”

Not for a moment should we sell Amelia short.  She did what most men could never do, or at least have never done, nor even tried.  It took determination, stamina, passion, foresight, commitment, confidence and character.  She was the best — flawed, yes, (join the human race), but the best.

And she gave it her best.  For that, she is to be applauded and respected for bringing to the surface of reality the achievements of a woman who will always be remembered as a record-holder, a role model and a regal angel who was at home in the air, leaving footprints in the sky.

Amelia, even with those things we don’t know nor understand, we salute you!

Afterword:  As mentioned in these postings, there were several unsolicited government intrusions into the innocuous personal plans for a final adventure by a civilian, resulting in the following threads and snippets:

(a)  “This was not my idea; someone high up in the government asked me to do it.”

(b)  Military men met with her privately, removing George Putnam, Amelia’s husband, and Margot DeCarie, her personal secretary, from the room.

Amelia met Eleanor Roosevelt at a White House state dinner in April 1933, and they were said to have “hit it off.”  Near the end of the night, Amelia offered to take Eleanor on a private flight that night. Eleanor agreed, and the two women snuck away from the White House (still in evening clothes), commandeered an aircraft and flew from Washington to Baltimore.  After their nighttime flight, Eleanor got her student permit, and Amelia promised to give her lessons.  It never happened.  Did FDR step in to prevent it?

(c)  Amelia’s strange flight behavior suggested pre-determined decisions.

(d)  Her close friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt, with personal interest and involvement by FDR in helping with funding and providing permission for the State Department to help with planning fuel stops. “Do what we can, and contact . . . was written by his hand on Amelia’s Nov. 10, 1936 personal letter to him.

This raises the prospect of some differing but believable scenarios including:

(1).  an original intent to land, unable to find Howland, rejecting the Gilberts contingency plan, followed by the personal decision to proceed to the Marshalls for fuel;

(2).  an original intent to land, but then a last-minute decision to change, based upon comparisons with the takeoff from which raised the specter of the limitations for a safe takeoff from Howland, with a pre-planned decision to proceed to the Marshalls;

(3).  original instructions not to land at Howland with a faint attempt to create a ruse, followed by instructions to proceed to the Marshalls;

(4).  original instructions to actually land at Howland, then a pretend emergency after takeoff, followed by instructions to proceed to the Marshalls;

(5).  or “disappear over the Gilberts” by landing on a beach, a “small favor” of staying hidden for two weeks to allow the Navy to search the waters without suspicion while actually obtaining maritime information and updated coordinates for islands, including sightings and soundings and military reconnaissance, to be useful for planes and ships if war breaks out, then “find and rescue” the Electra crew, saving their lives for future purposes.

(6) OR . . . That’s the subject of “MY EARHART SCENARIO.”

THIS IS AN ADVENTURE WHICH WILL NOT DIE UNTIL WE KNOW THE TRUTH.  And sometimes, the truth surprises us by its mere simplicity.  But then again, who knows?

(End of Capt. Calvin Pitt’s “Amelia Earhart’s Disappearing Footsteps in the Sky.”)

I extend my heartfelt thanks to Capt. Calvin Pitts for his superb analysis of Amelia Earhart’s final flight.  In what is clearly a labor of love, Calvin has devoted countless hours to produce this exceptional commentary, and it will take its place among other leading Earhart researchers’ work, to be read often by those who sincerely seek the truth.  I’m also confident we will be hearing more from him, as his multiple references to his yet-to-be-published My Earhart Scenariosuggest.

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