Tag Archives: Fred Goerner

Nabers’ Saipan account among GIs’ most compelling

Readers here are familiar with Thomas E. Devine’s 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, the former Army postal sergeant’s dramatic recollection of his three eyewitness encounters with the Earhart Electra on Saipan during the U.S invasion in summer 1944, the final time watching as the Earhart plane was torched, strafed and burned beyond recognition.  Devine closed Eyewitness with an emotional plea to any and all with similar knowledge to step forward in support of his efforts to establish the truth:

. . . But now, after four decades of exhaustive study and analysis, I can unequivocally substantiate the presence of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan in 1937 as well as their deaths and subsequent interment in an unmarked grave in the southern outskirts of Garapan.

I am determined to return to Saipan and authenticate the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.  I appeal to readers to join me in this effort by supplying any documents, foreign or domestic, which have bearing on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, her navigator Frederick Noonan, or their Lockheed Electra.  Should you merely hold memories in the shadows, I urge you to correspond with me now.  The challenge is there and the burden of proof is ours to share. 

Thomas E. Devine, whose involvement with events surrounding the discovery and destruction of Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E as a 28-year-old Army postal sergeant on Saipan in July 1944 shaped the rest of his life.  Devine’s 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, is among the most important books about the Earhart disappearance ever penned.

After his 1963 Saipan visit with Fred Goerner to search for the gravesite shown him by an Okinawan woman there in 1945, Devine would never return, for a variety of frustrating reasons — mainly the CNMI and Saipan governments’ concerted opposition to his plans — an outcome he never imagined.  But as a result of his appeal in Eyewitness and elsewhere, 26 former GIs who served on Saipan contacted him and shared their experiences relative to Earhart and Noonan’s presence and deaths there, and this formed the basis for our 2002 book, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart.

Robert E. Wallack, of Woodbridge, Conn., a short drive from Devine’s West Haven home, contacted him shortly after learning of Eyewitness’s publication.  With his gregarious personality and riveting account of his discovery of Amelia Earhart’s briefcase in a blown safe on Saipan, he became the best known of all the GI witnesses.  For much more on Wallack’s account, see my Sept. 28, 2015 post, Son Bill tells Robert E. Wallack’s amazing story.

Earskin J. Nabers, of Baldwyn, Mississippi, also had a Saipan story to tell, every bit as compelling and important as Wallack’s, but it almost never got out.  The low-key Nabers was content to live a quiet life in rural Mississippi, and never sought attention, despite the fact that his story features more twists, turns and chapters than Wallack’s, and is the most fascinating and complex of all the Saipan GI witnesses.

Nabers was a 20-year-old code clerk in the H & S Communication Platoon of the 8th Marines during the invasion of Saipan.  In October 1992, a friend showed him this notice placed by Devine in the spring edition of Follow Me, the official publication of the 2nd Marine Division Association, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:

I am seeking to contact any of the Marines, who, during the
invasion of Saipan, were placed on guard duty at Aslito Field,
to guard a padlocked hangar containing Amelia Earhart’s
airplane.

The hangar was not one of those located along the runway.
It was located near what may have been a Japanese administration
building, and an unfinished hangar at the tarmac, in the southwest
corner of the airfield.

Please contact: Thomas E. Devine,
81 Isadore St., West Haven, CT 06516
(Yes, I was there.) Thomas E. Devine

Marine Corp. Earskin J. Nabers at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 1946, just before his discharge and return to his Baldwyn, Miss., home.  As a code clerk in the communications center of the 8th Marine Regiment on Saipan in July 1944, Nabers decoded the top-secret message announcing the discovery of Amelia Earhart’s Electra in a hangar at Aslito Field. (Courtesy Sandra Nabers Sealy.)

The following is Nabers’ reply to Devine (handwritten), dated July 11, 1992:

Dear Thomas,

I want to apologize first for not writing earlier.

I will start from the first. I was a code clerk in the H & S Communications Plt. It was made up of wire section, radio section and message section.  I was in the message section, all the messages came through our message center.

We were on mopping up duty on opposite end of Saipan from where we landed (the South end).  The message came over our field radios.  I decoded it and I was quite excited when I read the message.  The message read (the best I remember) that Amelia Earhart’s plane had been found at Aslito Field, this was about the middle of the morning.

(We had to get Col. [Clarence R.] Wallace to sign all the messages that came through the message center.)

Shortly after we received the message, Hq. 8th moved back to bivouac area.  I was dropped off at the Hangar for guard duty [at] the main road that went by west side of hangar.  The road that went out to hangar, I was placed on the right side, just as it left the main road.  And there was an Army man on the opposite side. He had arrived on the island just a few days before.  I don’t remember his name but I think he was from Minnesota.  I stayed on duty first day, that night, most of next day.

We were told not to let anyone go in.  There was a jeep come by with some officers in it.  They wanted to go in to see the plane.  We told them our orders, they said what if we go anyway.  We stepped in front of the Jeep, and told them that it would be in the best interest of all involved for them to turn around and leave.  There was some other people come and checked us out, but they did not go in, they were just checking on security.

After I went back to my platoon there was another message come through that said something about destroying the plane.  Myself and two more boys went back down to the airfield to see it destroyed.  (the message give the time it was supposed to be destroyed)

The best I can recall the plane was pulled on the field by a jeep (driven by some Marines.  I have got ahead of myself, the first time we went down there wasn’t anything done to plane it was the second day that the plane was pulled on the field but we went both times and we learned the second time from a message that come off the radio.

Saipan’s Aslito Airfield just after its capture by the 165th Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division on June 18, 1944.  Standing hangars and Japanese aircraft, though damaged, belie skeptics’ claims that the Navy’s pre-invasion aerial bombardment leveled all buildings, and therefore Amelia Earhart’s Electra could not have been housed and discovered there.  (U.S. Army photo.)

Picking up from the plane being pulled on the field.  The plane was facing north after the plane was parked and jeep moved.  A plane come over real low and the next pass he strafed the plane and it went up in a huge fireball.  (We were sitting on the west side of the airfield about one hundred yard from plane.  We were on higher ground.  As far I remember, the ones that pulled the plane on the field and us guys from H & S 8th were the only ones there.  We were not there officially, you know how Marines were, got to see what was going on.)

. . . This is a bit sketchy, but I hope it is worth something to you, as you know not everyone believes us.  I told about it a few times & got the look as if to say that guy must have got shell shocked & had one guy tell me that can’t be so.  I will stand by what I have said and I will place my hand on the Holy Book and repeat the whole thing over.

If ever I can be of any help to you in any way feel free to call on me.  I guarantee that I will reply pronto.

Best Wishes,
Earskin J. Nabers

P.S. about not writing earlier, I had a problem to come up in the family that left me emotionally or I should say took the most of my time thinking about it.  But thank God everything seems to be working out for the best. E.J.N

During an October 1992 phone conversation with me, Nabers, a receiving clerk in Baldwyn, repeated the details of his account.  He added he was able to get a look into the padlocked hangar through a small opening between the doors.  Nabers described a silver, twin-engine civilian plane.  He said he couldn’t make out the registration marks from his vantage point.  Neither could he discern its registration as he witnessed the Electra’s destruction because, “It was dark and we were too far away to read them.”

We’ll hear more from Earskin J.  Nabers in future posts, and I promise you won’t be bored.  For more on what we’ve already done about American military personnel on 1944-’45 Saipan and their experiences that revealed the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan there, please see “Veterans recall seeing Earhart photos on SaipanandKanna’s letter among first of GI Saipan witnesses,” my March 13, 2020 and Jan. 4, 2022 posts.

 

Goerner on Pearl Harbor in San Francisco Chronicle

Readers of this blog know that since its inception in 2012, concurrent with the publication of the first edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, I have focused exclusively on the Earhart disappearance, and virtually all of the 285 posts here deal with Earhart and closely related subjects. 

Today we move away from the Earhart case, but only slightly, as we feature a Dec. 1, 1991 San Francisco Chronicle Sunday supplement article about Pearl Harbor by Fred Goerner, the bestselling author of The Search for Amelia Earhart (1966), the foremost Earhart researcher of his or any day, who was also intensely interested in the Pearl Harbor debacle, as he called it, and its possible relationship to the Earhart mess.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

I’ve tried to reproduce the original look of the “This World” Sunday supplement, but it’s better to type out much of copy because the multi-column layout doesn’t allow for easy presentation.  This is the first of two parts.

tary strategists who had been predicting such an attack for 20 years?  If the U.S. military had broken Japanese secret codes, why didn’t somebody know what Japan was going to do?

Six investigations during World War II, and two inquiries in the year after the war, including a joint congressional probe, failed to produce satisfactory answers.  Argument continues, and vicious accusations still abound.  Hundreds of books and articles have been written about Pearl Harbor trying to assign responsibility to individuals and/or departments of the American government and military.  For some the subject is extraordinarily bitter and larded with vituperation. 

There are many who allege President Franklin Roosevelt withheld vital intelligence from Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and General Walter C. Short, commander of U.S. Army forces at Pearl Harbor, to allow the attack to occur as a means of branding Japan as an immoral aggressor and to being America into World War II on a time of passionate patriotism.  Roosevelt was at once one of the most loved and most hated of America’s presidents.  Even 50 years later, dozens of authors and scholars are trying to establish that FDR was somehow a traitor to his country and to the U.S. Navy he loved so much. 

And a recently published book alleges that Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew the Japanese carrier fleet was sailing toward Hawaii but, in order to bring the United States into the war, did not share that intelligence with President Roosevelt.

Only now, 50 years later, are historians beginning to understand what really happened on the morning that changed the world.

The harbor tug USS Hoga (YT-146) sprayed water on the battleship USS Nevada (BB-36) following the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

World War II took more than three years of my own life as I served with the U.S. Navy Seabees in the Pacific, and I had often wondered about the Pearl Harbor debacle.  It was not until 1961, however, that a CBS documentary I was writing brought me into contact with Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, who commanded U.S. Pacific naval forces during most of the war.  It began a friendship that lasted until the admiral’s death in 1966.

Nimitz had been ordered to Pearl Harbor to replace Admiral Kimmell, who would receive the bulk of the blame for American unpreparedness, just days after the attack.  Roosevelt directed Nimitz to “get the hell out of Pearl and stay there until the war is won.

On Christmas morning, 1941, the U.S. Navy flying boat carrying Nimitz circled Pearl Harbor.  He could see most of the main anchorage, which was covered with black fuel oil and floating debris.  The capsized battleships Oklahoma and Utah were clearly visible, and farther down the harbor he could see Arizona, West Virginia and California sunk in deeper water with only the topsides exposed.  Dozens of small power boats were circling in the harbor, picking up the bloated bodies of dead sailors who had been blown off their ships by Japanese bombs and torpedoes.  There were 2,403 Americans killed in the attack, including 68 civilians.

Nimitz found Kimmell a disheartened man.  A spent bullet had struck Kimmell during the attack, but he had not been wounded.  He told Nimitz he wished the bullet had killed him.

Kimmell returned to the U.S. mainland in what many considered to be disgrace.  Nimitz restored American confidence, projected American forces across the Pacific and accepted the final Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945.

Nimitz’ Recollections

To my surprise, Nimitz did not consider the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor to be a complete disaster; in fact, he believed it to have been a Japanese strategic failure.  He pointed to the inflexibility of the Japanese plan, with its emphasis upon attacking battleships (most of which were later repaired and saw war action) and ignoring Navy storage tanks, which contained 4,500,000 barrels of fuel oil.  Had those been destroyed, the U.S. victory in the Pacific might have been delayed six months or more.

Nimitz also felt Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the Japanese attacking force commander, had missed the opportunity to truly disable American forces by limiting the attack to two air strikes.  Had the Japanese plan been more bold, an invasion and occupation of the Hawaiian Islands might have succeeded.  That would have been a complete disaster for the United States.

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, circa 1942, the last of the Navy’s 5-star admirals. In late March 1965, a week before his meeting with General Wallace M. Greene Jr. at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Nimitz called Goerner in San Francisco. “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.

As to Kimmel’s responsibility for American unpreparedness for the air attack, Nimitz would not assign it.  He called it a hazard of command and he indicated it could have happened to anyone, himself included.  He stressed that almost everyone in the U.S. military had believed the Japanese would strike at Malaya and probably Guam and the Philippines.  That was a fatal estimation.  Instead of stretching its imagination — planning for what the Japanese could do — American military intelligence was busy speculating about what the Japanese would do. 

Nimitz felt it might be considered a blessing that Kimmel had not gotten brief notice of the true Japanese intention.  He might have commanded the American fleet to sail for open water, and had the Japanese planes bombed and torpedoed the ships there, they would have been lost forever in deep water and the human casualties would have been much greater.

Nimitz also believed that ignorance and arrogance — both American and Japanese — played major roles in Pearl Harbor.  In 1941, Americans were generally ignorant about Japan and its people, believing America completely superior in leadership, equipment and fighting ability.  The prevalent military and civilian attitude was that Japan would not dare attack America.

At the same time, many in Japan saw America as a weak and divided nation that could never match Japan in spirit and willingness to sacrifice.  Japan believed it could overwhelm American forces early in a war, and that America would ask for peace on Japan’s terms.

Nimitz did not accept any of the theories about a Roosevelt conspiracy to withhold information obtained through secret Japanese codes, but he believed it would be many years, perhaps several decades, before highly classified records dealing with American cryptology activities prior to Pearl Harbor would be released and the full truth known.  When that day arrived, he admonished, historians should pay particular attention to what exactly the British cryptologists knew before the attack. 

Kimmel’s Agony

In the winter of 1967, I journeyed to see Admiral Kimmel at his home in Groton, Connecticut.  It was a cold, snowy day, well matched to his attitude.  He was brought into the small living room in a wheelchair.  His balding head glistened in the overhead light, and he squinted at me as if trying to determine whether I was friend or foe.  At 85, the fire still burned.

Adm. Husband E. Kimmell told Fred Goerner in 1967 that FDR was “a damned traitor” and put Adm. Harold Start, the chief of naval operations in 1941, in the same category.  “Stark picked me up when I returned to D.C. from Pearl Harbor, and he lied about everything,” Kimmel said. 

To call Kimmel bitter is an understatement.  He raged at me.  He called Roosevelt a “damned traitor,” and put Adm. Harold Start, the chief of naval operations in 1941, in the same category.  “Stark picked me up when I returned to D.C. from Pearl Harbor, and he lied about everything,” Kimmel said. 

Kimmel believed that Roosevelt, Stark and Army Chief George Marshall had purposely withheld vital intelligence that would have given him a chance to prepare for the Japanese air attack, and then they had made him the scapegoat, ruining his career and abandoning him to be scorned by history.  He told of vile letters he and his family had received over the years and said lies had been told about him and repeated as truth by the media.  In anecdote, Kimmel’s wife, Dorothy, was supposed to have returned from Hawaii by plane, mumping wounded Americans so her furniture could accompany her.  The truth was, Dorothy Kimmel has not been at Pearl Harbor.  The entire story was fabricated.

For more than two hours, Kimmel wove an intricate scenario of disappearing records, reluctant witnesses, deceit and chicanery.

His voice became a shout as he said, “That’s why I’m still living.  I’m going to be vindicated!  Some people are working on it right now.”

Kimmel died five months later, without the vindication he so wanted.  (End of Part I.)

 

State Dept. 1960 message presages Japan AE denials

Fred Goerner’s first investigative visit to Saipan in June-July 1960 made serious noise in newspapers here and around the world, as the witnesses he interviewed revealed a completely different reality about what happened to Amelia Earhart than the official U.S. propaganda that had been perpetrated and accepted by the masses since 1937 

In July 1960, Goerner wrote in Chapter 15 of The Search for Amelia Earhart,U.S. Congressman J. Arthur Younger, of San Mateo, California, responded to the international headlines generated by the once-obscure newspaper in his district by asking the U.S. State Department to open all its Earhart files to the public, and to request an official statement from Japan.

Goerner continued:

In early August, the Japanese Foreign Office announced through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo that it had completed an exhaustive investigation “which revealed no basis whatsoever for the rumor the Japanese had executed Amelia Earhart at Saipan.”  It added that all available Japanese records had been searched and all former officers and officials were reached during the investigation.  The report was transmitted to the State Department by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. . . . The State Department also denied it held any classified information on Earhart.

The message above (click for larger view), dated July 15, 1960 and sent to Secretary of State from a State Department official named only Macarthur and titled Embassy Telegram 121, was a prelude to the early August statement referenced by Goerner.  It came from the Japanese Foreign Office and dishonestly and flatly denied Japan’s involvement with the execution of Amelia Earhart.  I don’t have the August message in my files, but this one tells the same story just as convincingly.  

“FONOFF [foreign official] informed us today that preliminary search of Japanese files has uncovered no indications Amelia Earhart was executed by Japanese,” the message begins, all in upper case.  Please click on the image if it’s not easy to read clearly on your monitor.

Fred Goerner with witness Dr. Manuel Aldan on Saipan, June 1960.  Aldan was a dentist who worked on Japanese officers, who told him of the woman flier in custody on Saipan, who they called “Earharto.”  (Courtesy San Francisco Library Special Collections.)

“The Japanese response was what we expected in 1960,” Goerner wrote in Search. . . . “However, the Japanese even then were careful to state Amelia had not been ‘executed at Saipan in 1937.’  Other possibilities were not discussed.” 

This document appeared in the July 1995 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. In an editor’s note Bill Prymak added at the bottom, he wrote, Why would the U.S. Government still be chasing Amelia when they declared her down at sea in 1937?? [sic] Note July 15, 1960 date above.

Ron Reuther’s 1995 tribute to Fred Goerner

Ron Reuther was among the first members of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society, and was perhaps the most cerebral and historically erudite of all.  Reuther often provided previously unknown background information that brought new perspectives to heated discussions, and was known to introduce new and enlightening topics that enhanced learning.

Reuther founded the Oakland Aviation Museum in 1981, directed the San Francisco Zoo from 1966 to 1973, and helped to catalog and prepare Fred Goerner’s papers for their placement at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.

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.)

While director of the San Francisco Zoo, Mr. Reuther took a sickly baby gorilla named Koko into his home and, with his children’s help, nursed her back to health.  A few months later, a Stanford psychology graduate student who had been studying the zoo’s apes asked for permission to work with Koko.  Mr. Reuther agreed and the student, Penny Patterson, began a life’s work teaching American Sign Language to Koko and researching apes’ capacity for language.  

Reuther was also a friend of Fred Goerner, and six months after the groundbreaking author of The Search for Amelia Earhart finally lost his battle to cancer, Reuther penned an eloquent tribute to the late author and researcher, which was published in the July 1995 edition of the Amelia Earhart Newsletter

“Fred Goerner”
by Ronald T. Reuther

May 31, 1995

Amelia Earhart researcher and author Fred Goerner died after a four-year battle with stomach cancer on Sept. 13, 1994 at his home in San Francisco at the age of 69.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1926, he moved to Los Angeles with his family at the age of seven, where his father worked in motion pictures and recording work.  His father, also a cellist, later appeared with Artie Shaw’s Orchestra in the early 1940s.  Fred served three years in the U.S. Navy Seabees during World War II, some of this time on assignment on Pacific islands.  He was a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara majoring in speech and held a master’s degree from the University of Utah.  He taught a year at Westminster College, and then went to work for a Salt Lake City television station.  He spent five years doing newscasts, sports shows, children’s programs and, for a time, hosting late night movies.  In 1960 he was hired by KCBS Radio in San Francisco where one of his assignments was as a staff reporter.  There he wrote and produced KALEIDOSCOPE, a weekly feature dealing with the colorful past and present of San Francisco.  He also wrote and produced other features for the CBS Radio DIMENSION series. Goerner became a familiar voice on KCBS, co-hosting a 1960’s talk show, Spectrum 74 on which he interviewed celebrities from John F. Kennedy to Jayne Mansfield. 

Goerner won a much-coveted Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Award for his report on a World War II bomber and its crew discovered in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  He also became a licensed private pilot.

Earhart Remains? San Francisco: Radio newsman Fred Goerner of KCBS, San Francisco, examines box containing what he believes to be remains of aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator here.  The box was shipped here for examination by Univ. of Calif. anthropologist Prof. Theodore McCown who will attempt to make positive identification.  Goerner found remains in graves on Saipan Island after months of investigation.  (Photo circa November 1961.)

Fred became best known for his exhaustive investigation of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. His book The Search for Amelia Earhart, published in 1966 by Doubleday, became popular and was widely read.  In his book, Fred theorized that Earhart and Noonan were on a secret mission, were captured by the Japanese, and died in captivity on Saipan.  Neither the United States nor the Japanese government ever admitted this was the case, however, and the mystery remains unsolved.  On the day of his death, Fred tape recorded that hebelieved that Amelia Earhart and Noonan were not on a secret mission for the U.S. military, because the military didn’t have the dollars.”  He stated he believes they collected white intelligence. ”  He also believed they landed on one of five small reefs between Howland Island and the northern Phoenix Islands and that it is possible the plane is still there.  Other researchers with access to Fred’s correspondence and records may be able to determine why Fred no longer thought they went down in the Marshall Islands.  It is still possible they were then taken from the Marshall Islands and later to Saipan.

Starting in 1960 with an article that appeared in the San Mateo Times.  Fred became vitally interested in determining what might have happened to Amelia and Noonan and their Lockheed 10-E.  He completed a total of six trips to various Pacific Islands and many trips to other locations tracking down information and to interview literally thousands of people involved in or having information about the famous pilot and navigator, their airplane and its equipment, and their last flight.  This resulted in the publication of The Search for Amelia Earhart and significantly increased the public’s interest in the story.

Fred, a meticulous and thorough researcher and author, continued his normal employment as a broadcaster, but became in demand as a speaker and correspondent on the subject of Amelia’s last flight.  His recall of fact and event was remarkable and obvious when he spoke.  Fred became a friend of Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the American Naval Forces in the Pacific during World War II, as a result of his research in the Earhart affair.

Goerner’s research of the story continued after his book’s publication and up to his death, as he corresponded with people and agencies around the world in pursuit of more information and the truth of the story.  Many later authors were stimulated to initiate their study of and writing about the Earhart/Noonan story by Fred’s book.

Goerner participated in a number of symposia on the subject.  He intended to write a sequel to his book, but never did.  He did write some articles and was frequently interviewed and quoted by other authors and journalists.

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, circa 1942, the last of the Navy’s 5-star admirals. In late March 1965, a week before his meeting with General Wallace M. Greene Jr. at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Nimitz called Goerner in San Francisco.  “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. The admiral’s revelation appeared to be a monumental breakthrough for the determined newsman, and is known even to casual observers of the Earhart matter. “After five years of effort, the former commander of U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific was telling me it had not been wasted,” Goerner wrote.

As a result of his experiences with the Earhart story, he became interested in several related subjects: intelligence in general and specifically in the Pacific; the background and history of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941; the disappearance of Lt. Col. Pete Ellis, USMC; FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt); the Japanese and especially their war and activities in the Pacific; the U.S. Navy; the battle of Tarawa in World War II; and in aviation.  He also intended to write books on Pearl Harbor, and on Ellis, but never did.

He did produce and narrate a major documentary film on the U.S. Marines and the battle of Tarawa.  He also recorded and cataloged a major collection of World War II music and songs.

After recurring problems and operations for cancer, his strength ebbed notably in the last year of his life.  On the day of his death he tape recorded his last comments on the Earhart and Noonan mystery.

Fred accumulated an excellent library (some 800 volumes) and frequently underlined and wrote comments in the margins of the books, some very rare, that related to the above subjects.  His voluminous correspondence, many feet of audio taped interviews (20 volumes), 101 other tapes on Earhart/Noonan; and many 16mm films on the same subjects were given to the Admiral Nimitz Museum.

He arranged most fittingly that his material go to the museum in the Nimitz State Park in Fredericksburg, Texas, Admiral Nimitz’s birthplace and hometown.  He had visited and lectured there in the last two years of his life.

His widow, Merla Zellerbach Goerner, completed her husband’s wishes and the world now has the Goerner collection available for study in combination with other related materials in the Nimitz Museum.

Goerner is survived by his widow, a son Lance, stepchildren Gary and Linda Zellerbach, and two grandchildren.  (End of Reuther tribute.)

Ron Reuther passed away on Oct. 4, 2007.  For more on Reuther’s work in Earhart research, please click here.  Goerner’s name and record are ubiquitous in Earhart history since 1960.  Please click here for Goerner-related stories on this blog.

Kanna’s letter among first of GI Saipan witnesses

Today we return for further examination of the remarkable deposit of evidence that American miliary personnel provided to Earhart researchers that solidified the undeniable fact of the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.

In my March 13, 2020 post, Veterans recall seeing Earhart photos on Saipanwe began with Ralph R. Kanna, of Johnson City, New York, assigned to the Army’s 106th Infantry Regiment on Saipan, who was among the first of the former GIs to contact Fred Goerner during his early Saipan investigations.  In 1961, Kanna told Goerner that as platoon sergeant of his intelligence unit on Saipan, his duty was to insure [sic] that we would take as many prisoners as possible for interrogation purposes. 

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

The below letter from appeared in the July 1996 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  The headline is taken directly from the AES original; editor Bill Prymak’s note that the letter was sent to Fred Goerner in the mid-1960sis incorrect.  Kanna sent the letter sometime in 1961, as noted in Goerner’s 1966 classic, The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Underline emphasis in original, boldface emphasis mine unless noted. 

Dear Mr. Goerner: 

I assume this letter will be of some importance to you.  In it I shall endeavor to state some facts concerning the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

I was Platoon Sergeant of the I & R Platoon of Headquarters Co. of the 106th Infantry, 27th Inf. Division during the assault on Saipan.  It was my duty at the time to insure (sic) that we would take as many prisoners as possible for interrogation purposes.

This photo accompanied the original July 1996 AES Newsletter presentation of Ralph Kanna’s letter to Fred Goerner circa 1961.

On Saipan we captured one particular prisoner near an area designated as Tank Valley.”  This prisoner had in his possession a picture which showed the late Amelia Earhart standing near Japanese aircraft on an airfield.  Assuming the picture of the aircraft to be of value, it was forwarded through channels to the S-2 (Intelligence Officer).   

But more important, upon questioning this prisoner by one of our “Nesei Boys” (interpreters), he stated that this woman was taken prisoner along with a male companion and subsequently he felt that both of them had been executed.

From time to time I have told these facts to associates, and they finally have convinced me to write you.  I obtained your address from an article in the NY Herald Tribune of Nov. 25, 1961.  The article stated your interest in this case.

My memory is not accurate as to dates and times of the actual contact with the prisoner, but I had only three interpreters during my tour as Platoon Sergeant of the Intelligence Section.  They were: Mr. Roy Higashi; Mr. William Nuno; Mr. Richard Moritsugu.  I am sure that if contact could be made with these persons they would corroborate my story.  I assure you I am not a crank.

This picture I spoke of must be somewhere in U.S. government files.  I wish you continued success in your investigation, because I am positive that your assumptions are correct.

Ralph R. Kanna

The names Kanna provided Goerner were three men who had served as interpreters for his unit.  Goerner located only one of them, Richard Moritsugu, in Honolulu, whose voice “quavered and broke” on the phone when Goerner asked about Saipan and Sergeant Kanna.  Moritsugu told Goerner he had no desire to discuss the war.

The late Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps during the World War II, told Fred Goerner in a 1971 letter that Amelia Earhart died on Saipan.

Several other former GIs later contacted Goerner, among them ex-Marines Everette Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, whose stories are well known to those who’ve read Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart, Truth at Last or this blog. 

Later, 26 such individuals reached out to Thomas E. Devine in response to his plea at the close of his 1987 book, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident.  Their stories were recorded in our 2002 book, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, and especially Truth at Last, in which I devoted an entire chapter, “Saipan Veterans Come Forward,” to chronicling this phenomenon so unique to the Earhart disappearance, one that the establishment deniers, haters and nay sayers have no coherent response to.

These were just some of the American witnesses to the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.

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