Tag Archives: Fred Goerner

Indiana lawyer’s instructive ’92 letter to Goerner: U.S. cryptanalysis “reaching its zenith in 1937/1938”

In Chapter XIV of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, “The Care and Nurture of a Sacred Cow,” I discuss several compelling aspects of the U.S. government’s longstanding refusal to disclose the truth that’s been hiding in plain sight in the Earhart matter for over 82 years, including a 1992 letter from Highland, Ind., attorney Michael Muenich to Fred Goerner.  The Muenich letter brings the complex world of cryptanalysis into better focus, and strongly supports Goerner’s claim that we knew the Japanese had Earhart in their clutches, despite their assurances of assistance in the July 1937 search, which were later proven to be blatant lies.  Boldface and italic emphasis mine throughout.

In his letter, Muenich, a civilian with a solid understanding of Navy radio intelligence capabilities, begins with a brief history of Navy cryptanalysis and code-breaking.  He cites Admiral Edwin T. Layton’s 1985 book, And I Was There, not only for study of the days and months leading to Pearl Harbor, but the first several chapters detail radio surveillance, intelligence, and capabilities during the 1930s.”  

Attorney Michael L. Muenich, from a current legal website in Crown Point, Ind.

Muenich tells Goerner that our “level of sophistication” in reading the Japanese naval and diplomatic codes “was apparently reaching its zenith in 1937/1938,” and describes the overall intelligence situation in the Earhart disappearance as well as any single missive I can recall.  Here’s the letter, with minimal editing:

March 30, 1992

Mr. Fred Goerner
Frederick Allan Goerner
Twenty-four Presidio Terrace
San Francisco, California 94118

RE: Amelia Earhart

Dear Mr. Goerner:

I presume by now you have seen the April issue of Life magazine, which has an article under the byline of Richard Gillespie and accompanying photos regarding the disappearance of Ms. Earhart.  I, however, remain a skeptic.  I have now had an opportunity to secure and review copies of your original volume and Klass’s [sic] volume and have reviewed them with an eye towards your theory of a landing in the Marshals and ultimate transportation to Saipan.  I also picked up a newer volume “Amelia Earhart: The Final Story” by [Vincent V.] Loomis and [Jeffrey] Ethel, published in 1985.  If you have not yet had an opportunity to read this volume, I commend it to you as an excellent examination of the mystery.

Like you in Saipan, they have interviewed numerous witnesses in the Marshalls which place Earhart and Noonan on Mili atoll, specifically ditching off Barre Island.  They have also located a number of Japanese witnesses which corroborate the recovery of Earhart and Noonan, together with their aircraft, by the naval research vessel Koshu thence to Jaluit, Truk and ultimately Saipan.  Their theory closely parallels yours, with the exception of the routing from Lae, in that they do not subscribe to the spy theory of over flights in the vicinity of Truk or Saipan, but rather have them diverting South across Nukumanu and Nauru Islands.  Unfortunately you, Messrs. Loomis and Ethel have witnesses, but no hardevidence, and Gillespie has hard evidence [sic], which isn’t conclusive as to Earhart, and no witnesses.

What caught my attention in the article, your book, and the book of Loomis/Ethel is the reference to radio transmissions, either from the vicinity of the Marshal or the Phoenix group.  Gillespie referred to a Navy flying boat, HMS Achilles, and various stations over the Pacific, apparently Pan Am at Hawaii, Midway and Wake Islands, and advised the Navy that triangulation placed the aircraft in the Phoenix group.  I believe your book makes reference to Navy stations on the west coast which picked up similar signals, possibly emanating from the Marshalls.  I believe it may be radio signals that created the Navy’s secrecy and paranoia concerning this entire affair.

Retired Rear Adm. Edwin T. Layton’s 1985 classic, which reveals thatthe Navy continued penetrating the new cipher system and for a period of eight years continued to read the Japanese ‘mail,’ ” as Michael L. Muenich wrote to Fred Goerner in 1992.  “The level of sophistication with the Blue code was apparently reaching its zenith in 1937/1938.”

Also published in 1985 was “And I Was There” by Rear Admiral Edwin T. Layton.  While the volume is directed to and addresses the issues of naval intelligence and the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first several chapters detail radio surveillance, intelligence and capabilities during the 1930s.  I have enclosed copies of certain pages that detail this information; however the synopsis is as follows: Beginning with World War I, Herbert O. Yardley organized the first code breaking offices for the U.S. military.  The cipher bureau was called MI-8 and worked with the British and French through the end of World War I.  This office continued in existence until 1929 when it was prohibited by the U.S. Secretary of State, Stimson, against reading other people’s mail.  However, prior to ceasing the operations, the Americans were able to establish the 5:5:3 – Ship tonnage ratio between Britain, the U.S., and Japan.  The U.S. was reading Tokyo’s telegraphic instructions to its delegations, which allowed the Americans to read Japan’s hand in the poker game.

Apparently the Navy became very proficient in their trade and completely replicated what was then known as the Japanese Red code.  While the operations were supposed to be terminated after the naval conference, they apparently became, at best, dormant throughout the late 20s and early 30s.  You will repeatedly find the names of Joe Rochefort, Joe Wenger, Agnes Driscoll, Lawrence Safford, Tommy Dyer, Wesley A. “Ham” Wright, and other apparent geniuses in radio intercepts, intelligence, and cryptoanalysis throughout Layton’s bookThe Navy operated a full network with listening stations in Guam, Shanghai, Peking, Cavite, Australia, Hawaii, and the west coast with all of the material ultimately delivered to Washington, cryptoanalysis stations Negat (Washington) Hypo (Hawaii) and Cast (Cavite).

In late 1930 the Japanese changed their naval code system and went from the Red book to the Blue book.  Breaking the Red book had taken approximately three years, however given the level of experience and talent then available, the key to the Blue code was broken in September, 1931.  Thereafter the Navy continued penetrating the new cipher system and for a period of eight years continued to read the Japanese “mail.”  The level of sophistication with the blue code was apparently reaching its zenith in 1937/1938.  In November, 1938 the eight-year-old Blue book was suspended and the Japanese adopted the AD code, then in June, 1939 the AN  code, later to be designated as JN-25 which we penetrated and read throughout World War II.

William Friedman with the Hebern cipher machine, the first in the United States to utilize rotors. Author James R. Chiles called Friedman “the greatest maker and breaker of secret messages in history — the Harry Houdini of codes and ciphers.” Lambros D. Callimahos, a former student, colleague, and friend of Friedman’s, compared his mentor to King Midas: “everything he touched turned to plain text.”

In addition to reading the naval code we were also apparently reading merchant code and most significantly the Japanese diplomatic codes.  Examples are the Japanese low-grade ciphers designatedPA-K2,” LA,” J-19” and the high-grade diplomatic code “Purple, frequently referred to as Magic.  Purple became effective in February, 1939.  Its predecessor was Red, not to be confused with the Navy’s red code book.  Both the Red and Ppurple diplomatic codes were machine code, with Red first coming into use in 1935.  Colonel William F. Friedman developed theM3 machine which was being used by the Japanese foreign ministry in 1935 to encode its most confidential communications.  By 1936 we were regularly reading Tokyo’s diplomatic messages on this device.  Ultimately a “Purple” machine was developed to read the diplomatic codes after 1939.

The point of this history is this: if the U.S. Navy was prepared to spend $4,000,000 and the allocation of numerous naval vessels to the search for Amelia Earhart, I found it inconceivable, given the ability of the U.S. Navy to read both the diplomatic and naval codes, and the extent of their direction finding and cryptoanalysis [sic] stations around the Pacific, that they did not listen in on Japanese communications and follow the “search” from the Japanese side. . . . Most interestingly, most of the Japanesefleet that was supposed to be scouring the Pacific was in fact tied up in Japan preparatory to its operations in China which began on July 5th.

Navy signal traffic would have clearly indicated that thisfleet  was not where the Japanese claimed it to be, and may even have been able to determine the activities of the Koshu in the Marshalls.  It must have driven the Navy crazy to read Japanese communications about the great search, if it did, in fact, know that no such search was being made.  It is also quite possible that Navy direction finders pinpointed Earhart’s aircraft or even the Japanese recovery, since they certainly had that capability, however were unable to get our naval vessels near that area because the Japanese, knowing Earhart to be down in the Marshalls, had grabbed her first and refused to allow our Navy into the area.

Finally none of this material could be released to the public without compromising our signals intelligence and warning the Japanese that we were reading their mail.  That, in my opinion, would be more than sufficient basis for the Navy’s paranoia about secrecy in this entire matter, since little, if any, of the signals intelligence was released until the 1970’s or later.

Capt. Laurance Safford, primary author of Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday: The Facts Without the Fiction (2003), who is commonly known as the father of Navy cryptology and established the naval cryptologic organization after World War I and headed it, for the most part, though Pearl Harbor.  Safford’s verdict on the Earhart disaster was that the fliers “were the victims of her over-confidence, an inadequate fuel supply, bad weather, poor planning . . . miserable radio communications and probable friction between the crew.” Did Safford know more about the fliers’ fates than he ever publicly admitted?  My guess is that he most certainly did.

Your search and other searches atnaval intelligence probably would not have revealed the information and files at naval communication which apparently were two separate and distinct operations which frequently did not share information.  Unfortunately that led to the debacle at Pearl Harbor and may have also been involved in the Earhart mystery.  According to the bibliography attached to Layton’s book, record group 457 of the National Security Agency on file in the national archives contains portions of the radio traffic between 1940 and 1945 and encompass over 300,000 messages intercepted and decrypted.  I presume there are similar record groups that cover the summer of 1937. . . . [A]n examination of naval communication records, records of OP-20-G and the National Security Agency of signal intercepts during June, July, and August of 1937 might well locate the key to resolving the mystery.

                                                     Very Truly Yours,

                                                     Michael L. Muenich

The records of OP-20-G and the National Security Agency of signal intercepts during June, July and August of 1937 referenced by Muenich are precisely the point: If these records contain Navy intercepts of Japanese messages indicating they had Earhart in custody or even knew of her whereabouts, as some believe, it would be the smoking gun many have long sought.  Although I haven’t personally searched the National Archives for these records, others more inclined to navigate and endure the stifling NARA bureaucracy have done so and confirmed what many have strongly suspected—a gap exists where the records of intercepted Japanese radio transmissions would normally be found, from 1935 to 1940. 

Are these intercepts still being kept at Crane, Ind., as Carroll Harris suggested to Goerner in 1980, or do they even exist at all anymore?  Were the top-secret files destroyedin the interest of national security somewhere along the line, perhaps?  Barring some unimaginable development — a miracle, in my opinion — we’ll never know the answers to these vexing questions, as it appears the key to the vault that holds Earhart secrets was thrown away long ago. 

For further discussion of U.S. and Japanese radio transmitting and intercept capabilities, please see pages 263-264 and “Chapter III: The Search and the Radio Signals” in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.


“Daughter of the Sky” began true search for Earhart

Now that the establishment’s latest phony effort to find Amelia Earhart’s plane as far away as possible from where it’s buried on Saipan has ended, I think a review of the true history of the search for Amelia is appropriate.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

Most informed observers of the history of research into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan believe that Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart is the seminal work in the genre, and all that followed sprang from the San Francisco radio-newsman’s initial Saipan forays.  But neither Goerner nor anyone else would have ever heard about Earhart and Noonan’s arrival at Saipan in 1937 if not for the 1960 book that started it all — Daughter of the Sky, by Paul L. Briand, Jr., a Ph.D., captain (later promoted to major) and assistant professor of English at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

I never met Briand, who was born in 1920 and died in 1986, to ask him definitively, but it appears that Daughter of the Sky was conceived and written as another Earhart biography, this one by an aviation expert and co-editor of The Sound of Wings (not the biography by Mary Lovell), an anthology of flying literature published in 1957.  We must assume, based on its presentation, that as the book neared completion, Briand was informed of new material that he shoehorned into Daughter’s closing pages, information that changed everything about the Earhart disappearance.  

Since few readers have a copy of Daughter of the Sky, I think it’s instructive to re-present its closing pages, for those interested in something more substantial than the latest failed searches and incoherent dispatches about native bones found and lost on a central Pacific atoll circa 1940.

Paul L. Briand Jr., author of the 1960 book that launched the modern search for Amelia Earhart, Daughter of the Sky (Duell, Sloan and Pierce), circa 1959.  Photo taken from book jacket.

In the last of its three parts, “The Last Flight,” Daughter of the Sky distinguished itself from all previous Earhart literature.  In its next-to-last chapter, The Fog of Rumors,” an apparently unconvinced Briand introduced the “great rumor” that Earhart and Noonan had been prisoners of the Japanese, attributing this idealargelyto the 1943 Hollywood film Flight for Freedom, a red herring starring Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray, and speculation by Dr. M.L. Brittain of Georgia Tech, who had been onboard USS Lexington during the Earhart search, that the fliers became prisoners of the Japanese. 

Here Briand presented some helpful information as well, noting Amy Otis Earhart’s claim that her daughter was on a secret government mission and that she was captured by the Japanese, but writing that Mrs. Earhart had no official basis for making such as statement.  For more on that story, please click here.  Briand also cited the March 1944 Associated Press article, “Putnam Flight Yarn Revived,” by Eugene Burns that introduced the fishing boat pickup and Marshall Islands landing scenario that Elieu Jibambam had initially shared with Navy Lieutenants Eugene T. Bogan, Bill Bauer and Jimmy Toole (see Truth at Last pages 130-131).  Burns’ story was buried in newspapers where it appeared at all, and was largely ignored.

Astute readers will note several discrepancies in Briand’s narrative of Josephine Blanco’s eyewitness account as reported by Navy dentist Casimir R. Sheft to him and later findings by Fred Goerner and others; after all, the book was published in 1960, so we’re talking circa 1959 that Briand was made privy to Sheft’s revelations. 

Very little of substance was known at that time, but the  key event, Josephine’s 1937 sighting of the American fliers at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor, is presented in stark detail by the Air Force Academy English professor as Sheft related it to him, and thus the true modern search for Amelia Earhart was quietly launched.  Very few were even aware of it, as the revelations in Daughter of the Sky were suppressed throughout the establishment media.  Following are the closing pages of Paul Briand Jr.’s Daughter of the Sky.

9. “The Light of Fact: A Mystery Solved?”

Two additional events, however, separate in time and both involving Amelia Earhart — but heretofore never interrelated — do fit together in a logical and revealing pattern.  All the pieces of the puzzle are not available, but there are enough of them to form a discernible picture.

At the end of World War II Jacqueline Cochran, then head of the WASPS, the famous organization of women ferry pilots, was asked by General Hap Arnold to go to Tokyo and investigate the role that Japanese women had played in aviation during the war.  While she was in Imperial Air Force Headquarters Miss Cochran noticed that there were numerous files on American aviation notables — and many filed on Amelia Earhart.

These documents since that time have mysteriously disappeared.  They are not in the official custody of the United States Government, or any of its departments, services, or agencies; nor do they seem to be in the possession of the Japanese Government.  (All captured documents, those of historical importance having been copied on microfilm, have been returned to Tokyo.  No AE files were discovered among the captured materials.)  Nevertheless, these files seem to indicate that the Japanese had more than a normal interest in Amelia Earhart, because of another event that happened, curiously, again in the Marianas.  This new evidence has never before been made public.

Dr. Casimir Sheft and Josephine Blanco, far right, Saipan, circa 1946. It was Josephine’s childhood memory of seeing Amelia Earhart’s arrival at Tanapag Harbor as told to Sheft when she worked for the Navy dentist on Saipan that ignited the true modern search for Amelia Earhart.

At the end of the war on the island of Saipan a Navy dentist worked with his assistant, a native girl named Josephine Blanco.  It was 1946.  Dr. Casimir R. Sheft, now practicing in New Jersey, was taking a break between appointments and talking with a fellow dentist.  During the conversation Dr. Sheft casually mentioned the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and speculated about whether the famous flier could have ended her flight in the Marianas, and possibly near Saipan, for he had read somewhere that the Marines had found AE’s flight log during the invasion (actually, it had been the photograph album).  Suddenly his dental assistant, Josephine, broke in: She had seen an American woman flier many years ago — nine or ten — on Saipan, when she was a little girl.  The American woman wore khaki clothes and had hair cut like a man. . . .

Josephine Blanco, now Mrs. Maximo Akiyama, and living in California with her husband and their young son, was witness to an incident which is as incredible as it is enlightening,

In the summer of 1937 Josephine was riding her bicycle toward Tanapag Harbor. She was taking her Japanese brother-in-law, J.Y. Matsumoto, his lunch, and was hurrying along because it was nearly twelve o’clock.

That summer she had just finished Japanese grammar school, where she had gone for the last five years, ever since she was seven years old.  In March she had celebrated her eleventh birthday, and now she could begin Catholic school.  She was looking forward to studying with the Spanish missionary sisters.  Father Tadzio had hoped that someday Josephine, too, like some of the other Chamorro native girls in the Marianas, would answer Gods call and become a native sister.

Josephine had a special pass to the Japanese military area near the harbor. Not even Japanese civilians were admitted to the area unless they carried the proper credentials. The young girl rode up to the gate, stopped her bicycle, and presented her pass. The guard allowed her into the restricted area.

On the way to meet her brother-in-law, Josephine heard an airplane flying overhead. She looked up and saw a silver two-engine plane. The plane seemed to be in trouble, for it came down low, headed out into the harbor, and belly-landed on the water.

It was not until she met her brother-in-law that Josephine discovered whom it was that had crash landed in the harbor.

“The American woman,” everyone was saying, greatly excited. “Come and see the American woman.” Josephine and her brother in-law joined the knot of people who gathered to watch.

She saw the American woman standing next to a tall man wearing a short-sleeved sports shirt, and was surprised because the woman was not dressed as a woman usually dressed. Instead of a dress, the American woman wore a man’s shirt and trousers; and instead of long hair, she wore her hair cut short, like a man. The faces of the man and woman were white and drawn, as if they were sick.

The American woman who looked like a man and the tall man with her were led away by the Japanese soldiers.  The fliers were taken to a clearing in the woods.  Shots rang out.  The soldiers returned alone.  (Editor’s note: No evidence has ever surfaced that supports the fliers being shot so soon after their arrival on Saipan.  Some evidence exists that Amelia was shot much later, but none suggests that Fred Noonan was ever shot.)

This is the photo of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, undated, that appeared in the 1960 book Daughter of the Sky.  Josephine had moved from Saipan to San Mateo, Calif., in the mid-1950s with husband Maximo, who accompanied Fred Goerner in June 1960 on Goerner’s first investigation on Saipan.

Mrs. Akiyama has affirmed, after identifying a photograph of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan taken on the world flight, that the couple was unquestionably the same man and woman she and her brother-in-law had seen on Saipan: the clothes were different, but the woman’s haircut was unmistakable.

Josephine Blanco’s story, which is basically the same one she told Dr. Sheft in Saipan, is most probably true.  It is extremely unlikely this native girl could have invented her story.  If she had, then for what purpose?  If for profit or gain, she had, for more than ten years after the American invasion, the opportunity to capitalize on her sensational news.

As an eleven-year-old girl, Josephine of course had no idea of the significance of what she had seen other than it was indeed an American woman she had seen.  Dr. Sheft has never doubted her story, and for many years he has hoped that a thorough re-examination of the facts would be made.  They were.

Amelia Earhart could have ended her flight around the world at Saipan,  If she were indeed headed for Howland Island, however, she somehow made an error of about 100° in reading her compass.

(Editor’s note: The following scenario, in which Briand has the Electra and its crew reaching Saipan directly from Lae, is typical of the wild speculation that characterized the early days following the public release of Josephine’s Earhart sighting, and is included here only because it, too, is part of Briand’s closing chapter.) 

It means that all during the night of July 2, beginning after sundown at 5:55 p.m., Fred Noonan was not able to get a fix from the stars to determine his position.  And if, after fourteen hours out from Lae, he looked down and saw a chain of islands, he would have determined that he was on course and over the Gilbert Islands; but if AE had turned north while he was napping, and he had still awakened in time to see islands, they would have been, not the Gilberts as he might have thought, but the Caroline Islands — exactly the same distance away but in the wrong direction. 

By somehow departing from her course, and making the tremendous error of steering north and west instead of east — as she had done once before on the world flight, when she had turned north to St. Louis instead of south to Dakar, overriding Fred’s directions, after the flight across the South Atlantic — AE would have found herself after twenty hours of flying time somewhere along the chain of islands that marks the Marianas.

What began as another of hundreds of garden-variety biographies of Amelia Earhart became the 1960 book that ignited the modern search for the lost fliers.  In the final chapter of Daughter of the Sky, the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama was introduced, which led to Fred Goerner’s four early 1960s Saipan investigations and his 1966 bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart.

Her last report, at 8:45 a.m., gave her line of position at 157-337.  The Navy’s search satisfied judgments that the line was not a radio line, for the areas northwest and southeast from Howland were thoroughly investigated.  One hundred fifty-seven-337, therefore, was undoubtedly a sun line.

Near Howland, at position 01° 00′ North Latitude and 177° 20′ West Latitude, on July 3, 1937, the bearing of the sun was 66° from the north point at 7:00 a.m., Howland time.  The sun line, therefore, would have been 156-336.

Near Saipan, at position 13° 00′ North Latitude and 153° 00′ East Longitude, at 5:00 a.m., Saipan time, the sun was 64° from the north point.  A sun line there would have been 154-334.

If Noonan had thought he was close to Howland when he shot his last sun line, his geographical point of reference — used for computing and plotting his observation — would obviously have been close to Howland.  If he had actually been close to Saipan, however, the relative position of the sun would still have been almost the same: 64° from the north point near Saipan, as opposed to 66° from the north point near Howland.  But his observation, when computed and plotted on his chart, would have shown him to be the same number of miles from his geographical point of reference.

An experienced navigator with trust in his abilities such as Noonan would have tended to believe that either his observations or his computations were somehow wrong.  He would not have thought, at least immediately, that he was some 2,600 miles off course.  If AE had been pressing him for a position to radio to the Itasca, he might have, in agonies of doubt, merely given her the line of position, which he could be sure of, but not the geographical point of reference, because he could now no longer determine that point with certainty.  This possibility would explain the irregularity of Amelia having transmitted the line of position without the necessary point of reference.

On the basis of these determinations, therefore, there is strong support for believing in Josephine Blanco’s story.

The Navy gave Amelia until about noon before she would go down.  It was at noontime that Josephine saw the two-motored plane ditch in Tanapag Harbor.

The Navy’s final conclusion was that Amelia had ended her flight somewhere north and west.  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were seen by two eyewitnesses north and west of Howland on Saipan.  At that time of the year the American woman and her tall male companion could have been none other than AE and Fred Noonan.

In 1937 on Saipan, according to Maximo and Josephine Akiyama, the Japanese military did not hesitate to kill anyone.  Japanese civilian or Chamorro native, whom they suspected of supping on their illegal fortifications.

Japanese officialdom maintaining an enigmatic silence (the Japanese Embassy in Washington knows nothing of the Earhart case, nor does Dr. John Young of Georgetown University, who examined captured Japanese documents for the American Government) concerning the disappearance of the two fliers, it may be idle to speculate upon the final fate of Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart.  The evidence, however, justifies at least one tenable conclusion.

When Josephine Blanco saw the twin-engined silver plane, Amelia and Fred had been flying for twenty-six consecutive hours and for 4,000 futile miles.  The sight of the island that was Saipan must have cheered the fliers with renewed hope for safety, and for life itself.

When they survived the crash landing in Tanapag Harbor only to be taken into custody as spies, their joy must have turned to inexplicable bitterness: they had been saved not for life, but for death before a Japanese firing squad.

With the exception of a few details, this headline from the San Mateo Times of July 1, 1960, is as true today as it was then.

For Amelia, who once had said to her husband, I don’t want to go; but when I do, I’d like to go in my plane — quickly,the last word of her wish must have struck her now with sudden and ironic force.

Yet, as she had so often before, Amelia Earhart must have met this challenge with stubborn self-control and resolute courage.  For here at last was her unmistakable, but irrefutable, fate.

Thus ended Daughter of the Sky.  Though it was riddled with erroneous conclusions and wild speculation, its most important feature, Josephine Blanco’s eyewitness sighting of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan in the summer of 1937, was quite real — and this reality launched the modern-day search for Amelia Earhart.  

Few, and mainly those who read this blog regularly, know about the vital role that San Mateo Times reporter Linwood Day played in the earliest days of the Earhart investigation, newly launched by virtue of the blockbuster revelations in Daughter of the Sky.  Day’s Earhart series reached its zenith on July 1, 1960, when the Times front page announced in 100-point headlines, all caps, “AMELIA EARHART MYSTERY IS SOLVED.” 

Fred Goerner was already on Saipan in the midst of his first witness investigation, and in six years his book, The Search for Amelia Earhart, would sell more than 400,000 copies, only to be trashed by Time magazine as a work that “barely hangs together.”  The rest is history.

Another gem from Bill Prymak’s AES Newsletters: “The Strange Story of Interview #23”

The late Bill Prymak’s abundant contributions to Earhart research, though ignored and unappreciated everywhere else in our know-nothing media, are gifts that keep on giving to readers of this blog and Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last Bill, the founder and former president of the Amelia Earhart Society, who passed away in July 2014 at 86, was the central hub and repository of the writings, reports, analyses and speculations of a wide variety of Earhart researchers. 

This material’s accuracy, also quite variable, must be carefully sifted to separate the wheat from the chaff, and was compiled in his two-volume Assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, covering Prymak’s AES Newsletters from December 1989 to March 2000. 

The following treasure appeared in the January 1997 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and concerns a familiar face among the Saipan witnesses, Joaquina M. Cabrera, and a revealing interview she did with Joe Gervais, Capt. Jose Quintanilla, Guam chief of police; and Eddie Camacho, Guam chief of detectives, during their 1960 Guam interviews.  (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.) 

Bill Prymak with Bilimon Amaron, whose eyewitness account is widely considered to be the most important of the Marshall Islands witnesses, in the recreation room of his home in the Marshalls capital of Majuro, circa 1989.  As a Japanese hospital corpsman in 1937 Jaluit, Amaron’s shipboard treatment of an injured white man, surely Fred Noonan, accompanied by an American woman the crewmen called “Meel-ya,” is legendary among the Marshallese. (Courtesy Bill Prymak.)


When Joe Gervais and Joe Klaas presented their manuscript of Amelia Earhart Lives [1970] to McGraw-Hill, it was bulging with some 650 pages of research work.  Much good material had to be trimmed to meet the publisher’s mandate not to exceed 275 pages in final form, and it has always bugged Gervais that one of his most profound witnesses had a crucial part of her testimony stricken from the book by the editors.  Major Gervais recreates that scene for us, the way it should have been presented in the book:

At Chalan Kanoa, a village on Saipan, the investigators located Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera, fifty-one, who during 1937 and 1938 had been employed as a servant in the [Kobayashi Royakan] hotel.

l used to have to take a list of the persons staying in the hotel to the island governor’s office each day, Mrs. Cabrera remembered.  One day when I was doing this I saw two Americans in the back of a three-wheeled vehicle.  Their hands were bound behind them, and they were blindfolded. One of them was an American woman.”

Gervais showed her a photo of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Are these the two you saw?

Undated photo of Earhart eyewitness Joaquina Cabrera.  She passed away in 2004 at age 92.

She squinted at the photograph.  “They look like the same people I saw, and they are dressed the same way.”

What happened to them?

“I only saw them once in the three-wheeled truck.  I don’t know what happened to them.”

The threesome, Capt. Jose Quintanilla, Guam Chief of Police; Eddie Camacho, Guam Chief of Detectives, and Capt. Gervais, were shocked when, after finishing the above interview, she suddenly came forward to Gervais and deliberately spat on the ground, in front of his feet.

Capt. Gervais regained his composure and asked Capt. Quintanilla

“Why is this woman so enraged at me?  I had never met her before?”

Unknown artist’s sketch of Joaquina Cabrera accompanying this story in the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters January 1997 edition.

Capt. Quintanilla, in a quiet voice, asked Mrs. Cabrera to explain her actions, and after a lengthy exchange of words in Chamorro, Quintanilla turned to Gervais with an ashen face and slowly, deliberately told him what Mrs. Cabrera had said:

“You Americans are two-faced people!  What are you doing here in 1960 investigating what happened to Amelia Earhart 23 years ago when all the time you Americans knew she was here and none of you lifted a finger to help her?

“What kind of people are you?” (End Strange Story of Interview #23)

Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas, who passed away in February 2016 at 95, was a pilot and World War II hero, a POW and a talented writer with 12 books to his credit.  But sadly, Klaas fell victim to the insane delusion that Joe Gervais had birthed and spread to other witless sheep over the years, that New Jersey housewife Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart returned from Saipan via the Japanese Imperial Palace in Tokyo, determined to live out her life in obscurity and isolation from her family — something Amelia was incapable of doing. 

It was a shame, because the eyewitness interviews conducted by Gervais, Robert Dinger and the detectives on Guam and Saipan in 1960, on the heels of Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan, were some of the most compelling ever done.  The above incident is another example of important witness testimony that most will never see.

If you’d like to get reacquainted with all the sordid details of the long-debunked, worm-eaten Earhart-as-Bolam myth, I did a four-part series on this dark chapter of the Earhart saga, beginning with Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV,” on Dec. 29, 2015.

Fred Goerner also interviewed Joaquina at length in 1962, and later wrote in The Search for Amelia Earhart, “Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera brought us closer to the woman held at the Kobayashi Royokan [Hotel] than any other witness.”  See my April 17, 2018 post, Revisiting Joaquina Cabrera, Earhart eyewitness and pages 101-102 of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last for more on Goerner’s interview with Joaquina.

(Editor’s note:  “I was surprised to learn what Joaquina did after she was interviewed,” Marie Castro wrote from Saipan just after this post was published.  “But I can also understand Joaquina’s reaction to Gervais, it was out of frustration because of the way Amelia suffered as a detainee.  Joaquina noticed the bruises around Amelia’s arm and neck, so did Matilde.”)

(Editor’s note No. 2: In an Aug. 21 comment, Les Kinney wrote:  “I don’t believe Cabrera’s statement. It’s inconsistent with remarks made to other researchers and out of character for a Chamorro woman to speak in this manner.  Sadly, at times, Joe Gervais embellished and flat out lied to further his argument.  It’s a shame since some of his reporting was sound. Goerner’s account is probably more credible.  Don Kothera and the Cleveland group interviewed Cabrera twice – there is no mention of anything close to what Gervais reported.” 

After Marie Castro was told about Les’s comment, she responded with this in an Aug. 22 email:  I also believed with Les Kinney, spitting at a person is unheard of in our culture.  It  is highly unlikely that a Chamorro woman would ever do such a thing.  I was really surprised of that reaction on Joaquina.  I would rather skip that comment of Joe Gervais, it was a made up story.” 

As I wrote to Les, “Gervais, on balance, did far more harm than good for the truth in the Earhart disappearance. Bill Prymak obviously believed it, or he wouldn’t have included the story in his newsletters, but Bill was far too trusting of Gervais, and even kept the lid on the truth in the Bolam case to protect Gervais.”  I should have picked this up before posting the story, and expressed at least some skepticism about it, but it slipped my attention.  Now you have the rest of the story.)


“My Life and Amelia’s Saipan Legacy” conclusion

Today we present the conclusion of the three-part presentation of Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan LegacyMarie conceived of this project back in early January, “mostly for the locals to educate and induce them to read” the truth about Earhart’s sad demise on Saipan by presenting them a succinct compilation of the major witnesses — both local and American — that have come forward since 1937.

The intention, of course, is to somehow begin to move a brainwashed, intransigent populace that remains firmly entrenched against the idea of building the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan.  Here’s the conclusion of Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy:

In 1962 Joaquina M. Cabrera was interviewed by Goerner.  “Mrs.  Joaquina M.  Cabrera brought us closer to the woman held at the Kobayashi Royokan [Hotel] than any other witness” Goerner wrote. 

At the Cabrera home in Chalan Kanoa, Goerner and several others including Fathers Arnold Bendowske and Sylvan Conover, and Ross Game, editor of the Napa (California) Register and longtime Goerner confidant crowded into the front room . . . and listened to her halting recital.”  Joaquina described her job as that of a laundress for the Japanese guests and prisoners kept there:

Undated photo of Earhart eyewitness Joaquina Cabrera.

One day when I came to work, they were there . . . a white lady and man. The police never left them.  The lady wore a man’s clothes when she first came.  I was given her clothes to clean.  I remember pants and a jacket. It was leather or heavy cloth, so I did not wash it.  I rubbed it clean.  The man I saw only once.  I did not wash his clothes.  His head was hurt and covered with a bandage, and he sometimes needed help to move.  The police took him to another place and he did not come back.  The lady was thin and very tired.

Every day more Japanese came to talk with her.  She never smiled to them but did to me.  She did not speak our language, but I know she thanked me.  She was a sweet, gentle lady.  I think the police sometimes hurt her.  She had bruises and one time her arm was hurt. . . . Then, one day . . .  police said she was dead of disease.  [DYSENTERY most likely.]

Mrs. Amparo Deleon Guerrero Aldan, Marie S.C. Castro, and David M. Sablan.

Mrs. Amparo Deleon Guerrero Aldan was my classmate in the third grade in Japanese school before World War II. Her brother, Francisco Deleon Guerrero and my cousin’s husband Joaquin Seman came to my house one evening to visit in 1945.  The conversation was all about Amelia Earhart.  I heard them describing what Amelia wore when they saw her.  In our culture, a woman should wear a dress not a man’s outfit.

“Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan crash landed in the Garapan harbor near the Tanapag Naval Base on Saipan in 1937,” Fred Goerner wrote in his summary of the accounts he gathered from the first group of Saipan witnesses in The Search for Amelia EarhartA Japanese naval launch picked up the two fliers and brought them to shore. They were taken to the military headquarters, questioned and separated.  Noonan was forced into an automobile by his captors and was never seen again. Amelia was moved to a small building at the military barracks compound.

       Mr. Jose Tomokane and family, undated.

I have a photo of Mr. Jose Tomokane.  He told his wife one day the reason for coming home late.  He attended the cremation of the American woman pilot.

Mrs. Tomokane and Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes were neighbors during the Japanese time.  They often visited with one another.  Dolores, daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, heard their conversation about the cremation of an American woman pilot.  These two wives were the only individuals who knew secretly about the cremation of Amelia through Mr. Tomokane.

Had it not been for the daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, who heard the conversation of the two wives, we would have never known about Mr. Tomokane’s interesting day.  David M. Sablan has also said that he heard about Amelia being cremated according to Mr. Tomokane.


The American GI Witnesses on Saipan

The Battle of Saipan, fought from June 15 to July 9, 1944, was the most important battle of the Pacific War to date.  The U.S. 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions, and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Infantry Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.

The loss of Saipan, with the death of at least 29,000 Japanese troops and heavy civilian casualties, precipitated the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and left the Japanese mainland within the range of Allied B-29 bombers.  Saipan would become the launching point for retaking other islands in the Mariana chain, and the eventual invasion of the Philippines, in October 1944.

The victory at Saipan was also important for quite another reason, one you will not see in any of the official histories.  At an unknown date soon after coming ashore on D-Day, June 15, American forces discovered Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E, NR 16020, in a Japanese hangar at Aslito Field, the Japanese airstrip on Saipan.

Thomas E. Devine, author of the 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, was a sergeant in the Army’s 244th Postal Unit, and came ashore at Saipan on July 6, just a few days before the island was declared secure.  Devine was ordered to drive his commanding officer, Lieutenant Fritz Liebig, to Aslito Field, and there he was soon informed that Amelia Earhart’s airplane had been discovered, relatively intact.  Devine later claimed he saw the Electra three times soon thereafter – in flight, on the ground when he inspected it at the off-limits airfield, and later that night in flames. 

During that period, Marine Private Robert E. Wallack found Amelia’s briefcase in a blown safe in a Japanese administration building on Saipan.  “We entered what may have been a Japanese government building, picking up souvenirs strewn about, Wallack wrote in a notarized statement. Under the rubble was a locked safe. One of our group was a demolition man who promptly applied some gel to blow it open. We thought at the time, that we would all become Japanese millionaires.  After the smoke cleared I grabbed a brown leather attaché case with a large handle and flip lock.  The contents were official-looking papers, all concerning Amelia Earhart: maps, permits and reports apparently pertaining to her around-the world flight.

                 Thomas E. Devine on Saipan, December 1963.

I wanted to retain this as a souvenir, Wallack continued, but my Marine buddies insisted that it may be important and should be turned in.  I went down to the beach where I encountered a naval officer and told of my discovery. He gave me a receipt for the material, and stated that it would be returned to me if it were not important.  I have never seen the material since.

Other soldiers saw or knew of the Electra’s discovery, including Earskin J. Nabers, of Baldwyn, Mississippi, a 20-year old private who worked in the secret radio message section of the 8th Marine Regiment’s H&S Communication Platoon.   On or about July 6, Nabers received and decoded three messages about the Electra – one announcing its discovery, one stating that the plane would be flown, and the final transmission announcing plans to destroy the plane that night.

Nabers was present when the aluminum plane was torched and burned beyond recognition, as was Sergeant Thomas E. Devine, among others who ignored warnings to stay away from the airfield, which had been declared off-limits.    

Robert E. Wallack, who found Amelia Earhart’s briefcase on Saipan, and Mike Campbell at Wallack’s Woodbridge, Connecticut home, June 2001. 

In addition to the many soldiers, Marines and Navy men who saw or knew of the presence and destruction of Amelia Earhart’s Electra on Saipan, three U.S. flag officers later shared their knowledge of the truth with Fred Goerner, acting against policy prohibiting the release of top-secret information, likely in order to encourage the long-suffering Goerner in his quest for the truth.  

In late March 1965, a week before his meeting with General Wallace M. Greene Jr. at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, former Fleet Admiral Chester W. 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 said Nimitz told him.

The admiral’s revelation appeared to be a monumental breakthrough for the determined newsman, and is known even to many casual observers of the Earhart matter.  After five years of effort, the former commander U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific was telling me it had not been wasted,Goerner wrote.

            Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

In November 1966, several months after The Search for Amelia Earhart was released, retired General Graves B. Erskine, who as a Marine brigadier general was the deputy commander of the V Amphibious Corps during the Saipan invasion, accepted Goerner’s invitation to visit the radio studios of KCBS in San Francisco for an interview. While waiting to go on the air with Goerner, Erskine told Jules Dundes, CBS West Coast vice president, and Dave McElhatton, a KCBS newsman, “It was established that Earhart was on Saipan.  You’ll have to dig the rest out for yourselves.”  

General Alexander A. Vandegrift, 18th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, told Fred Goerner that “Miss Earhart met her death on Saipan.”

General Alexander A. Vandegrift, the eighteenth commandant of the Marine Corps, privately admitted the truth to Goerner in a handwritten, August 1971 letter.  

“General Tommy Watson, who commanded the 2nd Marine Division during the assault on Saipan and stayed on that island after the fall of Okinawa, on one of my seven visits of inspection of his division told me that it had been substantiated that Miss Earhart met her death on Saipan,” the handwritten letter states.

That is the total knowledge that I have of this incident.  In writing to you, I did not realize that you wanted to quote my remarks about Miss Earhart and I would rather that you would not.

Vandegrift’s claimed source for his information, former Lieutenant General Thomas E. Watson, died in 1966 – very possibly the reason Vandegrift shared the truth with Goerner in that way. Legally speaking, Vandegrift’s letter is hearsay, and he probably assumed it would afford him a level of protection against any ramifications he might face for breaking his silence with Goerner.

In assessing Vandegrift’s credibility, a sterling career culminating in his selection as the Marine Corps’ first four-star general is impressive enough.  But Vandegrift also received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his actions at Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu in the Solomon Islands in 1942.  In those days, receiving his country’s highest award for valor conferred upon its bearer the gravest moral responsibilities, and it’s safe to presume that the word of a Medal of Honor awardee, especially a former commander of the world’s greatest fighting force, was as good as gold.  Moreover, Vandegrift had nothing tangible to gain from telling Goerner that Earhart had died on Saipan, and had no obvious reason to do so.


How Did Amelia Die?

It was common for locals to conclude that the Japanese military treated certain offenses with severe punishment, including execution by shooting or beheading.  This included the early, though inaccurate account of Josephine Blanco about Amelia Earhart being shot soon after her arrival at Saipan.  In 1983 Nieves Cabrera Blas told American author T.C. “Buddy” Brennan that she saw Amelia shot by a Japanese soldier in 1944, shortly before the American invasion.

However, the preponderance of Saipan witness accounts suggest that Amelia was not executed. According to Matilde F. Arriola and Joaquina Cabrera’s accounts, Amelia died from dysentery.  Matilde noticed that one day the lady used the toilet many times that same day and that was the last time she saw her.  The next day the caretaker came to ask for a wreath because the lady had died.

Mr.  Jose Tomokane was Japanese himself, but we don’t know how loyal he was to his Emperor.  I went to his house to talk to anyone in the family a few months after I came back from the States.  In December I learned that the only child living today is the youngest son, Mitch Tomokane, and he is suffering from a bad heart problem.    

           Japanese crematory on Saipan.

My first question to Mitch, was, do you know how your father came to Saipan? Mitch said he came from Japan as an agricultural instructor during the Japanese era.  He stayed on Saipan, got married and built his family, and he died in 1956 on Saipan. Another interesting thing was the location of the house today.  The house Mitch is living today in is very close to the Japanese crematory.  The only remaining part of the crematory is the base of the crematory statue.

So Mr. Tomokane, who may well have been an eyewitness to the cremation of Amelia Earhart, died four years before Fred Goerner arrived on Saipan.  I was a Catholic nun then, here on Saipan, and as I recalled, Saipan was still strictly under U.S. Navy control.  It was also secretly used by the CIA, which operated their spy school they called the Navy Technical Training Unit.  I remember from reading Goerner’s book that he had a problem trying to enter Saipan because of this.


In Conclusion

My dear people of Saipan, this is the story about the tragic incident that happened on our island in 1937. I’ve tried to make it easy to read for those interested in learning the truth of this extremely important historic event – a completely unnecessary tragedy that has yet to be recognized by mainstream historians.

The independent Republic of the Marshalls Islands issued these four postage stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s landing at Mili Atoll and pickup by the Japanese survey ship Koshu in July 1937. To the Marshallese people, the Earhart disappearance is not a mystery, but an accepted fact.

After learning the truth of the lonely, wretched deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, we invite you to join us in supporting this most worthy and long overdue cause in giving the fliers the respect and dignity as human beings they deserve and building a memorial monument in their honor. 

The people of Saipan had nothing to do with the deaths of Earhart and Noonan; however, given the fact that it happened on our soil, it is our responsibility as citizens of Saipan to recognize and acknowledge the truth, as painful and uncomfortable as the truth may be for many.  If not now, when?

Let us not sit and do nothing while the Marshall Islands have long proclaimed the truth about the famous American aviators, most notably by creating four postage stamps in 1987, the 50th anniversary of their arrival at Mili Atoll, to honor and recognize the events of their arrival and pickup by the Japanese ship Koshu.

Never forget World War II! Over 3,000 American lives were lost to save your grandparents, great grandparents, other relatives and the entire Saipan community, which endured unimaginable suffering until their liberation in 1944.

Our CNMI Administration should step up with a gesture of sincere appreciation to the two great American fliers, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, and honor the heroic sacrifices they made at the hands of the militaristic pre-war Japanese on Saipan, and who were in fact the first American casualties of World War II.

“WE, the People” of Saipan most sincerely urge the CNMI leadership to support building the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument for these two great American aviators who met their tragic end on Saipan soil.

RESPECT among the CNMI is firmly rooted into our culture, so let us continue to preserve this beautiful legacy handed down through our elders and to the future generations.

To support the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, please send your tax-deductible contribution to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950.

Goerner blasts “Amelia Earhart Lives” in ’71 letter

Today we present another installment in the fascinating correspondence between Fred Goerner and Fred Hooven.  In this March 1971 letter from Goerner, he treats Hooven to a scathing review of Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, Joe Klaas’ 1970 bid for Earhart glory that will forever live in infamy as the most damaging of all the Earhart disappearance books ever penned. 

Thanks chiefly to Klaas, an otherwise fine writer with nine books to his credit, and his precocious crony Joe Gervais, whose multiple delusions are featured throughout Amelia Earhart Lives, legitimate Earhart research, particularly of the kind that supports and reveals the Marshall Islands-Saipan truth, has been forever tainted in the public mind and more eagerly discredited by the establishment media, already dead set against release of the truth since the earliest days.

The centerpiece of the insanity in Amelia Earhart Lives is Gervais’ “recognition” of Amelia Earhart, returned from Japan, in the person of American housewife Mrs. Guy Bolam, who he met on Aug. 8, 1965 at the Sea Spray Inn on the Dunes, in East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y.  If you’re not familiar with the story behind this catastrophe, I wrote a four-part series that will tell you far more than you probably want to know.

It begins with my Dec. 29, 2015 post, Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IVand continues consecutively, describing the entire sordid affair and its incredible aftermath.  But here’s Goerner’s 1971 missive to Hooven, which boils it all down to a neat little dollop.  (Boldface mine throughout.)


Dear Fred,                                                       March 2, 1971

How are you and Martha?  Are you completely recovered from your accident?  Are you ever coming back to S.F.?  Merla has two wall clocks she wants fixed and I am totally incapable.

This letter is months overdue.  The passage of time apparently is accelerating.  Then, too, the longer letters always come last.  Human nature, I guess, to tackle the shorties first.  Give more of a feeling of accomplishment to mail ten short letters rather than one long one.

Merry Christmas and  Happy New Year, by the way, and since neither of us bother with cards.

Joe Gervais, left, the father of the Earhart-as-Bolam theory, and Joe Klaas, his right-hand man and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a news photo from the Washington Daily News of Nov. 19, 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation.  The book’s stunning success was short-circuited when Irene Bolam sued McGraw-Hill for defamation and the book was pulled from bookstore shelves after seven weeks.  Bolam won an undisclosed settlement that was rumored to be quite substantial.

Amelia Earhart is not alive and well and living in New Jersey — and nowhere else.  Unfortunately.  How those guys thought they were going to get away with that gambit I haven’t yet been able to figure out.  I guess they figured that the truth is so hard to come by these days that it would never really catch up with them.

I think they were both smoking pot when they dreamed up their script.  In case you didn’t get it all, it goes like this:

AE and Noonan are shot down by Japanese carrier aircraft onto Hull Island in the Phoenix Group from whence they are picked up and spirited first to Saipan and then to Japan.  FDR is blackmailed by the Japanese into giving up the plans for the Hughes racing plane which is adapted by the Japanese into the Zero fighter plane.  AE is kept prisoner in the Imperial Palace and during WWII she is forced to broadcast to American troops under the guise of Tokyo Rose.  And the end of WWII, Emperor Hirohito trades AE back to the U.S. with the bargain that he be permitted to retain the Japanese throne.  AE is sneaked back to the U.S. disguised as a Catholic nun whereupon she assumed the identity of one Irene (Mrs. Guy) Bolam.

If it were not for the fact that Mrs. Bolam was outraged, the authors might have achieved their purpose: A bestseller.  Mrs. Bolam scuttled them with dispatch and McGraw-Hill took a black eye.  Yet the human willingness to suspend disbelief always amazes me.  Some people accepted the entire creation and it is no small task to disabuse them of that desire to believe in limitless conspiracy.

Photo taken in Honolulu in 1935 and referenced by Fred Goerner, above, from Amelia Earhart Lives.  The original caption stated, “Kimono-lad Amelia Earhart being served in a Japanese tea room.  This unique photo was planted [sic] and recently found in Joe Gervais’ safe.” Joe Gervais was alive and well at the time of this book’s publication, so the cryptic language about where the photo was found makes no sense at all, like so much of Amelia Earhart Lives. 

Enclosed find a recent epistle from AE’s sister, Mrs. Albert Morrissey, which reveals how the family felt about the disclosures [not available].  The photo Muriel mentions is one the two authors submitted as placing AE in Japanese custody in Japan.  In the photo, AE is wearing the kimono and bracelet referred to by Mrs. Morrissey.  The photo was actually taken in a Japanese restaurant in Honolulu in 1935 at the time of AE’s Hawaii to California solo flight.

Along with that small flaw, nothing else in the book bears scrutiny, either.  For instance, Hull Island was populated with several hundred persons in 1927 under British administration.  U.S. Navy planes landed in the Hull Island lagoon in the week following the AE disappearance, and no sign of AE or the Japanese had been seen by anyone.  As Hull is a very tiny coral atoll, there was no mistake.  The authors, however, produced a photo supposed taken from a U.S. Navy plane above Hull Island which shows the wreckage of AE’s plane on a beach with a Japanese flag planed beside it.  The picture also shows some rather large hills in the background.  This provides some embarrassment because the highest point of land on Hull rises only nine feet above sea level.

Ah, but they have really muddied the waters.  I despair at reaching anything like the complete truth at this point.  But I will keep trying simply because my nature is such that I don’t know how to do anything else.

This front-page story that appeared in The News Tribune Woodbridge New Jersey) on Dec. 17, 1982 illustrates the depths of insane speculation that Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais unleashed with their 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives, inarguably the most damaging of all Earhart disappearance books, in that its outrageous claims forever tainted legitimate Earhart research in the public’s mind.  The negative repercussions of this book continue to be felt in the Earhart research community, or at least what’s left of it.    

(Editor’s note: So compelling was the siren song of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth that some otherwise rational souls remained in its thrall even after the overwhelming evidence against this pernicious lie became well known.  Soon after Amelia Earhart Lives hit the streets, Irene Bolam filed a defamation lawsuit against McGraw-Hill that forced the publisher to pull all copies of the book bookshelves nationwide, and Bolam reportedly settled for a huge, undisclosed sum. 

In 2003, retired Air Force Col. Rollin C. Reineck, a charter member of the Amelia Earhart Society, self-published Amelia Earhart Survived, possibly the worst Earhart disappearance book ever, in a vain attempt to resurrect the odiferous corpse of the Bolam theory.  To this day, there are some who continue to push this insidious nonsense upon the unwary.)

We never have gotten launched on that final Pacific jaunt.  One thing after another after three others has always emerged.  Now I’m shooting for this summer with some Air Force cooperation.  Canton Island, which has air facilities and close to the area we wish to search, is currently under Air Force-SAMSO (Space and Missile Systems Organization) control.  I addressed the Air Force Academy Cadets and their faculty two weeks ago on the Credibility Gap, and I believe we have an arrangement forged for the necessary cooperation.  If you have changed your mind with respect to a little light adventure, let me know. [See Truth at Last pages 174-175 for more on Goerner’s expedition that never got under way.]

Within the last few weeks there has been an interesting development: A Mrs. Ellen Belotti of Las Vegas, Nevada, came forward with some reports from the Pan American Airways radio direction finder stations at Wake, Midway and Honolulu which deal with the Earhart case.  Mrs. Belotti was secretary to G.W. Angus, Director of Communications for Pan [sic] in 1937, and she was given the task of coordinating the reports.  She states that one day several U.S. Navy officers who identified themselves as from the Office of U.S. Naval Intelligence appeared at the office (PAN AM) and confiscated all of the reports dealing with Earhart.  She says the Pan Am people were warned at the time not to discuss the matter with anyone, and that the reports were to be considered secret and any copies of the reports were to be destroyed.

Mrs. Belotti says she decided not to destroy her copies of the reports because she believed the Navy did not have the right to require that of Pan Am.  She also felt a fair shake was not being given to her idol, Amelia.

She did, however, keep silence over all the years, but now she thinks the truth should be told.

The reports really don’t tell very much except for the fact that some signals were picked up by the three Pan Am stations which they believed came from Earhart.  The bearings place the location of the signals in the Phoenix Island area between Canton and Howland Island.  Strangely, the time of the reception of the signals matches up with reports of amateur radio operators along the West Coast who stated they had received signals from the AE plane.

The only reason I can think of that the Navy would want to quash such information is that Naval Intelligence Communications were not anxious for the Japanese to learn that we had such effective high-frequency DF’s in operation in the Pacific.  Much valuable intelligence information was gained between 1938 and 1941 by DF’s monitoring Japanese fleet activity in the Pacific area, and particularly within the Japanese mandated islands.

I have also enclosed copies of the Pan Am reports for you to peruse.  I’d love to hear your opinion of them.

Merla is doing great.  Still turning out her column for the S.F. CHRONICLE.  She joins me in sending warm, warm, warm, warm, warm, best wishes to you both and in issuing a permanent invitation for you to come and be our house guests for as long as you like.

Completely cordially,


Fred Goerner died in 1994, Joe Gervais in 2005, and in 2016 Joe Klaas passed away at age 95.  It’s a shame that Klaas should be remembered chiefly for writing history’s most notorious and controversial Earhart book, as he led a remarkable life distinguished by more admirable achievements.

Klaas began his World War II service by flying British Supermarine Spitfires as an American volunteer in the Royal Air Force.  After Pearl Harbor, Klaas transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force and fought in the North African invasion of Morocco, as well as the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, where he was shot down and captured by Arabs who sold him to the Nazis for $20.  Klaas spent 25 months in German prison camps, escaped to be recaptured and worked for the X-Committee that planned “The Great Escape” from prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III.  

For more on Klaas’ life and World War II exploits, please click here.

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