From forgotten files of the Earhart lunatic fringe: The incredible tale of Ellis Bailey and USS Vega
In Chapter 13 of the second edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, titled “Griswold, Henson and Burks,” I present the story of Capt. Tracy Griswold and Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, the three Marines who excavated what might well have been the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from a gravesite just outside the Liyang Cemetery, on the outskirts of southern Garapan, in late July or early August 1944.
The original version of the chapter included the strange account of Ellis Bailey, whose incredible story, if true, would have lent great credibility to the claims of Henson and Burks, who were told by Griswold that they had just excavated the remains of Amelia Earhart. Twenty-one years later, they both separately identified Griswold from photo lineups, while the former Marine Intelligence captain denied ever knowing them or ordering them to excavate skeletal remains on Saipan.
I was reluctant to include Bailey’s story in The Truth at Last, because it did nothing to advance the truth, so I decided to cut his section from the final manuscript. I still feel it’s quite instructive, in that it shows the extreme lengths that some of the Earhart-addled will go to gain attention. The Earhart chase has badly infected some with its own peculiar strain of fever, and those carrying the bug can usually be identified by their ridiculous claims. The recent History Channel imbroglio, which I have written about at length, is a prime example of this awful malady. Earhart lore is replete with many other examples, but Bailey’s fantasy, at least for me, was one of the most believable, well-conceived fabrications ever; it certainly caught my attention and spurred me to make a serious effort to confirm it.
For a time, it did appear that a series of amazing letters forwarded to me by Bill Prymak in 2008 might hold the key to unlocking the next stage of the government’s top-secret operation to return the fliers’ bones to the United States in 1944. Below is the unpublished section of Chapter 13 of Truth at Last, “Griswold, Henson, and Burks.” Obviously, this passage will make far more sense to those who have the book, and can place it in the original context.
Between 1991 and 1999, Ellis Bailey, of Middletown, Iowa, wrote seven letters to Prymak, describing a series of remarkable events he witnessed aboard the USS Vega (AK-17), a Capella class cargo ship that carried a crew of 439 and displaced 11,500 tons, during operations off Saipan and in the Marshall Islands during July and August 1944. Bailey’s recollections of the remarkable incidents remained clear and consistent throughout his letters, and though he offered his own strange ideas about the meaning and the significance of the events, the core of Bailey’s account never changed. He never indicated his Navy rating, or job, in his letters, but a copy of the “Muster Roll of the Crew” of USS Vega for Sept. 30, 1944, shows that Bailey was a storekeeper first class (SK1).
In Bailey’s final letter to Prymak, titled “Amelia Earhart,” he recalled that Vega came to Saipan the “first part of July 1944,” and that after dropping anchor a group of Marines came aboard and informed Bailey and others that someone had just found “Amelia Earhart’s helmet,” somewhere on the island, but they offered no details.
The next day, Bailey “got permission to go ashore,” and “tried to visit Aslito Airfield” but was told it was restricted and off-limits. “While waiting for a ride back to the ship I talked to boat crew members who were discussing an important meeting of top General and Admirals,” he wrote. “One had come in that day. The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was there and he probably called the meeting.” With this, Bailey joined the handful of GIs claiming knowledge of Forrestal’s presence on the island during the invasion – an allegation that has never been officially confirmed, and which further research indicated was not possible.
The scuttlebutt Bailey said he heard about Amelia Earhart, Aslito Airfield, and Forrestal during Vega’s early July stop at Saipan was mere prologue to the astonishing episode he claimed he witnessed when the ship returned to Saipan later that month. The morning after the crew unloaded 61 tons of dynamite, the captain received orders to “take on fuel and supplies, enough to go 1,000 miles to Majuro and to take a government intelligence officer and two boxes of human remains that were two Caucasian flyers lost at sea seven years earlier,” Bailey wrote. “One was a woman.” [Italics mine.]
The next day, the intelligence officer, who had “no insignia but lots of authority,” came aboard with two boxes, “the remains of the flyers,” according to Bailey. “They were taken to the bridge and put under 24-hour guard,” he wrote, and the captain was ordered to steam to Majuro. Four days later Vega reached the Marshalls capital, Majuro, and while waiting for a “whale boat to be lowered to take him to shore,” the intelligence officer, apparently addressing Bailey, said, “I expect you are wondering why you are here. Seven years ago two Caucasian flyers were lost at sea. One was a woman. I came to see and talk with the two natives that had seen and talked with the flyers.” The agent returned to the ship the next morning, and ordered the captain to set sail for Kwajalein.
Upon arrival at Kwajalein, a small contingent of Marines came aboard and “told us that the day before one of their group was on . . . Roi Namur, [and] found Amelia Earhart’s suitcase of clothes and her diary in a barracks,” Bailey continued. “They had taken it to the man in charge of Kwajalein [Rear Admiral Alva D. Bernhard, who died in 1955]. The government officer with no insignia took the guarded boxes of the remains and left the U.S.S. Vega at once.” According to Bailey, the agent never mentioned any names in connection to the boxed remains, and Bailey himself didn’t believe the bones were those of Earhart or Noonan. The remains “weren’t the American flyers, they were British, which makes the whole situation so confusing,” Bailey wrote.
The Marines’ story about the discovery of Earhart’s suitcase, clothes, and diary on Roi Namur mirrored W.B. Jackson’s 1964 account to Fred Goerner, but Bailey’s story began to unravel when it became apparent their find did not occur “the day before,” Vega arrived, as Bailey wrote, because Kwajalein was secured in early February 1944, and by April 1, four months before Vega allegedly arrived at Kwajalein, 14,000 thousand Americans occupied the main island, with 6,500 more on Roi-Namur.
Bailey’s repeated references to the “British flyers” lost at sea at the same time as the Earhart flight must have originated with The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection, by James A. Donahue, among the most bizarre Earhart conspiracy books ever. Contrary to Donahue’s fanciful scenarios, no evidence has ever supported the idea that two British flyers, male and female, were operating anywhere in the Pacific area at that time. Writing to Ron Reuther in 1992, Goerner described The British Connection with Robert Myers’ Stand By To Die as one that “perfectly represents the totally irresponsible weirdo fringe which has been omnipresent in the Earhart matter since 1937.” In The British Connection, Donahue “has used photos and benign basic research and stitched the wildest kind of fiction to them and it is without any proof or ANY reference to source,” Goerner wrote.
“You’ll see that Ellis read too many AE books,” Prymak, who met Bailey in the “very early ‘90s,” wrote in a note attached to Bailey’s original letters. As a researcher who had seen and heard nearly everything during his four-decade investigation into the Earhart mystery, Prymak never put much stock in Bailey’s story. “Ellis spoke at the [August 1993] Flying Lady Symposium in [Morgan Hill] CA and at Atchison [Kansas],” Prymak wrote in a March 2008 email. “Both times he was a very ineffective and poor speaker, losing his thought process as he went along. He became very ‘unbelievable,’ and that is why I never seriously wrote about him in the AES Newsletters.”
Bailey’s imaginative ramblings reflected a few of the most implausible scenarios found in Earhart literature, but the remote possibility that his story about the intelligence agent and the canisters might be true was too compelling for me to immediately dismiss out of hand. Admittedly, I hoped against hope that Bailey’s story would prove to be true. If it were, another missing piece in the Earhart puzzle — the transport of the fliers’ remains off the island of Saipan — could be placed into the final solution.
My efforts to find any surviving members of the 1944 Vega crew who might have corroborated Bailey’s story were unsuccessful, but Tony Gellepis, of Santa Clara, Calif., a fireman aboard Vega from 1940 to 1942, was skeptical about Bailey’s alleged shore visit at Saipan during early July 1944. “In all my six years experience on various supply ships, shore leave was never granted while the ship was ‘swinging on the hook [anchored in the harbor],’ especially so during war time,” Gellepis, 87, told me in a July 2008 email. “Shore leave was granted only after the ship was docked and secured, if at all. And Bailey claims he went ashore the next day while Vega was at anchor! And this guy was set to go to Aslito Field? Incredible! I consider this to be a stretch, an embellishment.” Gellepis passed away in 2016 at age 96.
Much to my disappointment, a November 2008 trip to the nearby National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md., to verify Bailey’s affiliation with Vega and its purported movements during the key dates, confirmed that Prymak and Gellepis’ doubts were well founded.
Vega’s deck logs for July and August 1944 reveal the ship was not at Saipan in early July, as Bailey claimed, but anchored at Eniwetok Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, though July 21, when it left for Saipan, arriving July 25. Vega anchored in Tanapag Harbor until July 31, per Bailey’s account, but then departed for Guam – not Majuro – in convoy with the cargo ship USS William Ward Burroughs (AP-7), LST (landing ship tanks) 341, and the destroyers USS Stockham (DD-683) and USS Trisdale (DE-33), reaching Guam Aug. 1.
On Aug. 15, Vega left Guam en route to Eniwetok, its home operating base in the Pacific war zone, arriving Aug. 20. The muster roll of the Vega for the quarter ending September 1944 does establish that Ellis Orrin Bailey, a storekeeper first class (SK1), was a member of its crew, having joined the ship’s company Nov. 16, 1942. Otherwise, as Prymak observed, it seems obvious that Bailey, who died in 2004, had indeed read too many Earhart books. And though he didn’t author one himself, Ellis Bailey’s serial letter-writing adventures qualify him to join James A. Donahue, Robert Myers and others who will remain unnamed here among the disreputable ranks of Fred Goerner’s “totally irresponsible weirdo fringe” in the annals of Earhart lore. (End of unpublished Ellis Bailey section.)
Without doubt, the ranks of the Earhart-addled have not been yet filled, as the lure of instant attention and imagined fame is usually sufficient to ensnare these unprincipled characters in its unsavory web. Your humble correspondent will keep a sharp lookout, and if the story is wild or ridiculous enough to merit mention, you’ll see it here.
Now the New York Times and longtime establishment shill and Earhart biographer Susan Butler have joined the growing herd of media vermin in denouncing the truth about Amelia Earhart’s presence in the Marshall Islands and death on Saipan, a scenario they briefly mentioned while selling bogus photo claims made by the History Channel and promoted by NBC News on July 5, setting off several days of media buzz over a photo later found to have existed in a Japanese travelogue two years earlier.
In a July 11 Times Op-Ed piece, “Searching for Amelia Earhart,” Butler, who continues to disgrace her avowed “profession,” again proves she has learned nothing since the publication of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, in which I spend 12 pages (306-318) figuratively taking this woman to the woodshed and exposing the falsehoods and misrepresentations she advanced in her 1997 biography East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart. Few have been more transparently dishonest in their published opposition to the truth than Butler, whose intransigence in this matter, though disturbing, isn’t surprising. In fact, it’s what we’ve come to expect.
Butler knows that anything she writes about Earhart in the ultra-liberal Times will be published without any opposing voices, and so she reverts back to the same ridiculous assertions she made in her book. “This theory has popped up from time to time over the years, Butler wrote. “The idea was originally proposed and investigated by Fred Goerner, a CBS radio journalist, who headed several expeditions to the island of Saipan in the 1960s to track down the truth. He was sure Earhart and Noonan had been captured by the Japanese and taken to Saipan. He uncovered no concrete evidence to support his theory but remained convinced that he was right.”
“No concrete evidence”? Murderers are convicted and sent to their deaths on the smallest fraction of the evidence Goerner collected in just his first visit to Saipan, in the summer of 1960. Dr. Manual Aldan, who was a dentist on Saipan in 1937, told Goerner the Japanese officers he treated told him the name of the American woman flier in their custody was “Earharto!” Many other local Chamorros identified Earhart and Noonan from photo lineups Goerner presented them, and of course we have the well-known account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, most recently seen in a brief interview presented in the History Channel special, as Josephine, alive and well at 91 in San Mateo, Calif., cast her pearls to swine and agreed to talk to interviewers whose only purpose was to use her as a tool in their disinformation drill.
Butler’s hatred of Goerner’s findings and his groundbreaking Saipan investigations screams loudly in every word she writes. Just as the producers of the History Channel Earhart special refused to credit anyone for the few new witness accounts they presented, Butler refuses to name Fred Goerner as the author of the 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart, which established the presence and death of the fliers on Saipan, but now comprises only about 5 percent of the knowledge we have that puts them in the Marshalls and Saipan.
On July 1, 1960, local residents picked up their copies of the San Mateo Times, to see this headline: “Exclusive: Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved,” in 100-point capital letters, with the story, “Famed Aviatrix Died on Saipan,” by Linwood Day, stunning the relatively few Americans who learned of it. That story is as true today as it was in 1960.
Retired Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz told Goerner in 1965, “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.” Two other U.S. flag officers, Marine Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, 18th commandant of the Marine Corps, and Marine Gen. Graves Erskine, who was second in command of the V Amphibious Corps during the invasion of Saipan in the summer of 1944, told Goerner and two associates that Amelia Earhart died on Saipan.
Twenty-six former GIs, veterans of the Saipan campaign, told Thomas E. Devine, author of Eyewitness; The Amelia Earhart Incident (1987) their eyewitness accounts that revealed the presence of Earhart’s plane, Lockheed Electra NR 16020, which disappeared on July 2, 1937, as well as their knowledge of the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan. The list goes on, and I don’t need to re-write the chapters of The Truth at Last that overflow with evidence that expose Butler’s pathetic establishment talking points as the stinking smoke of mendacity. “No concrete evidence”?
Readers of this blog and The Truth at Last are familiar with the mountains of evidence that reveal the truth, while the so-called crashed-and-sank and Nikumaroro “theories” are actually glorified lies that lack even the most rudimentary basics required of scientific theories. It’s simply amazing to behold how the American people have been sold such a bill of bad goods for so long. I’m certain, as well, that if the Earhart Electra were actually located beneath the tarmac at Saipan International Airport, or the excavated skeletons of Earhart and Noonan were presented for DNA analysis that confirmed their identities, our establishment media would suppress that information as fully as possible.
“The claim was again thoroughly investigated in 1981 by the journalist Fukiko Aoki, who concluded it was baseless,” Butler drones on in her Times editorial. “She interviewed a crew member of the Koshu Maru, one of two Japanese ships in the area where Earhart is thought to have crashed. The ship had received orders to search for the plane but found nothing. Aoki also read the ship’s log, which made no mention of Earhart.”
This is the best Butler can offer, which is nothing at all, but the truth-hating Times was glad to help, as always, when called to serve the cause of the leftist establishment agenda on any issue. In The Truth at Last, I showed that all of Butler’s claims, with the exception of the fact that Aoki was on record as rejecting the idea that Earhart was on Saipan, were provably false. I even interviewed Aoki by phone at her New York home in 2007, and she herself denied words that Butler had put in her mouth about Goerner suggesting scenarios to Saipanese who were only too eager to tell him what he wanted to hear. Here’s what I wrote in The Truth at Last, page 311:
In a September 2007 phone interview, Aoki, who visited Goerner at his home in San Francisco in late June 1982, denied writing that Goerner suggested possible scenarios to native witnesses, and said she thought Butler may have misrepresented or possibly misunderstood what she told the biographer in a 1997 interview. “I would never say that about him,” she told me from her New York home. “That’s terrible. I can’t criticize Fred like that; I respected him. He was a really nice person and a good friend of mine.” Aoki said Goerner’s death in 1994 “was kind of devastating,” but she confirmed that Butler had accurately reported her conclusion in Searching For Amelia — that in her opinion, Earhart was never on Saipan.
I contacted Butler by email to ask her about Aoki and her ideas about Saipan. All of this is chronicled in detail in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. The fact that this book had been blacked out by all major media until this past week, when the Washington Post finally broke through with the Amy Wang and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. July 11 piece,“A ‘bogus photo,’ decades of obsession and the endless debate over Amelia Earhart,” could not possibly have prevented Butler from knowing about the 12-page section I devoted to her phony claims. Euphemistically titled, “An Earhart Biographer’s Serial Misstatements,” I would wager that these pages were more than anyone had ever written about her work, in any format, and it is inconceivable that Butler did not know what The Truth at Last revealed about her so-called “research.” But it meant nothing to her, because facts mean nothing to these enemies of the truth, whether it’s the Earhart story or any other focus of their lies.
Here’s how I conclude the lengthy section in The Truth at Last that exposes and dismantles Butler’s propaganda, line by line:
Susan Butler, an American author of a major Earhart biography, echoes the Japanese government’s policies of deceit and denial, not only in the Earhart case but in its verifiably false claims about Saipan’s military posture several years before Pearl Harbor. While Fukiko Aoki’s motivation in advancing such nonsense is easily discerned, Butler’s is harder to fathom, yet is sadly typical of the American establishment’s hostility to the truth about Japan’s dark history. Whether Butler’s endorsement of Aoki’s findings was rooted in a conscious decision to mislead, simple historical naiveté, or abject incompetence is uncertain, but all are unacceptable in a popular biography of Amelia Earhart, and the result is the same: Readers are badly misinformed. We can justifiably ask whether Susan Butler would have been as casual in advancing her baseless claims against Goerner, who died five years before East to the Dawn was published, if he’d been around to defend himself.
We’ve seen an inordinate level of media activity during the past 10 days, virtually all of it devoted to a phony story about a bogus photo, followed by the subsequent debunking of the false claims made about the photo. When the false claims about the photo were exposed, as planned, anything of value in “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” was contaminated. The goal of the whole exercise was solely to further discredit the hated truth about the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.
Nothing will be followed-up by an establishment still protecting the checkered legacy of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose refusal to help Amelia when she in Japanese captivity, if officially revealed, would even now be a catastrophe for Democrats who still revere FDR as the New Deal Savior of America. Sadly and as always, too many Americans simply don’t care enough about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart to even question the false talking points offered by Butler and others who are always eager to lead them astray.
Will shameless government shills like Butler, who want to keep Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan stashed away in the safe confines of romantic myth, flying into the eternal ether, ever cease their absurd advocacy for false solutions to the phony Earhart “mystery”? Not a chance, unless the U.S. government itself finally decides that the time for “full disclosure” in the Earhart case has finally come. Don’t hold your breath.
Five years ago we marked the 75th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, if it’s appropriate to use the word “anniversary” to commemorate such a ghastly atrocity as the barbaric murders of Earhart and Fred Noonan by the prewar Japanese military on Saipan.
The diamond anniversary of Amelia’s loss, as it were, came nearly simultaneously with the June 2012 publication of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, thanks to Sunbury Press publisher Larry Knorr. Now we’ve arrived at the 80th, or “oak” anniversary of the fliers’ last official message, and though nothing in the big picture has changed, I suppose it’s appropriate to write something. A personal retrospective seems manageable, if nothing else.
The near-total media blackout of The Truth at Last continues, but anyone who seeks the truth can find it without any help from a mainstream media that in recent years has distinguished itself only by removing all doubts about its irredeemably corrupt nature, as well as its anti-American agenda.
Dominating the Earhart situation, as I see it, is the overwhelming aversion to the truth displayed by the American and international media, an antipathy that’s never been worse than in recent years. Wikipedia, the Net’s repository of conventional wisdom, refuses to include any mention of The Truth at Last or my name in its Amelia Earhart entry, and relegates the truth to a buried subsection, the old standby, “Japanese capture theory.” Fred Goerner is fleetingly mentioned; otherwise, Wikipedia omits the mountains of evidence presented in The Truth at Last. Wikipedia speaks for the entire establishment when it in sneers, “Many ideas emerged after the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan. Two possibilities concerning the flyers’ fate have prevailed among researchers and historians.” These, the punctuation-and-grammatically challenged Wikipedia declares, are the “Crash and sink theory,” and the “Gardner Island hypothesis.” (Italics mine) The insight is overpowering, is it not?
Fox News, our “fair and balanced” news source, is no better, and excludes all mention of The Truth at Last in its website’s comments section whenever they post their Earhart propaganda, usually in support of TIGHAR’s endless boondoggles to Nikumaroro, but in other cases as well. In fact, not one of the so-called “truth tellers” in our alternative media – not Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin or anyone else who claims moral and ethical superiority in the conservative talk world will go anywhere near the truth in the Earhart story. Amelia Earhart’s fate has turned them all into cowards and liars.
These are just a few of many blatant examples clearly demonstrating that the truth about Amelia Earhart is among the most hated of all sacred cows by the U.S. establishment-media complex. Is more evidence necessary? “What is this truth that’s so hated and avoided by our media?” new readers of this blog might ask. In the Conclusion of The Truth at Last, I write:
Whether it was an intelligence mission that went sideways or for still unknown technical reasons, the fliers landed at Mili Atoll, were picked up by a Japanese fishing boat, transferred to the Japanese survey ship Koshu, and taken to their Marshall Islands headquarters at Jaluit. From Jaluit, they were flown to Roi-Namur on Kwajalein, and later to Saipan, where imprisonment, possible torture, and certain misery were their daily companions until death released the doomed pair from their torments.
Multiple witnesses every step of the way attest to a reality that is transparently obvious to the rational observer, but one that our agenda-driven media despises, refuses to acknowledge and withholds from the public as a matter of policy. The legendary Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1902 to 1932, and briefly as acting chief justice in early 1930, might have been seeing into the future and describing the Earhart case when he wrote, “It seems to me that at this time we need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure.”
Nagging questions remain, smaller “mysteries,” if you will, chief among them are why and how the fliers reached and landed off Barre Island at Mili Atoll in the afternoon of July 2. Some are certain Earhart overflew Truk on a mission of “white intelligence,” as Fred Goerner described it more than once, while insisting that “didn’t make her a spy.” Sure, that might well have happened, but we still can’t prove it.
Shortly after The Truth at Last was published, I began contacting every talk radio host in the United States; almost none of them extended me the civility of a negative response – they simply ignored my queries. A few others initially expressed interest, but once they learned the unpleasant truth, they disappeared faster than the Electra on July 2, 1937. I lost track of the numbers, but certainly upward of a thousand of these media types wanted nothing to do with this story; you can find a list of the rare few who actually stepped up to help on my blog’s Media page.
I also developed a stand-up presentation when a women’s group in Knoxville asked me to speak, eventually turning it into a power-point program that’s been well received by the few who have invited me. Over the past four years, I’ve contacted virtually every American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War chapter, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs, men’s and women’s clubs of various types, aviation group, public and private high school, seniors assisted living facility — you name it, within 120 miles of Jacksonville, with anemic results. For these groups it’s just a lack of interest born of ignorance, but allegedly well-educated media people have no such excuse. Their resistance to the Marshalls-Saipan truth is palpable and hostile, and simple ignorance is not what motivates them. I expected serious resistance following publication of With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart in 2002, but I never imagined the depth and breadth of the abject rejection that’s become the dominant feature of the public aspect of this work.
Still, in a war that’s unwinnable before my time down here runs out, we’ve taken a few steps forward, small victories, but enough to keep me focused on this worthy cause. I met the brilliant news analyst David Martin (DCDave.com) about 2005 when I found his 2004 book-length exposé “Who Killed James Forrestal?” in which Martin proves that our first secretary of defense was murdered at Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 22, 1949, and did not commit suicide, as is commonly held as gospel. Since Martin and I share the unenviable mission of trying to slay inviolate sacred cows, I wanted to let him know about my Earhart work. Martin was sympathetic, and agreed to review The Truth at Last, introducing his Aug. 7, 2012 piece, “Hillary Clinton and the Amelia Earhart Cover-Up,” with this snappy limerick:
Few things are more unsettling,
From experience I know,
Than to feel a building shaken
By quaking ground below.
But I’ve felt one discomfiture
Of almost comparable size,
Discovering that our “free” press
Purveys official lies.
About a year after The Truth at Last hit the street, my piece, “The truth in the Earhart “mystery” is a sacred cow” appeared on Veterans News Now, went to No. 1 on the site within three days and stayed on the site’s top 25 for many months. I didn’t post this commentary on my blog, but it’s an excellent primer for anyone with interest in the Earhart story.
As if to confirm my contention about the verboten status of the Earhart truth, in early January 2013, no less an establishment stronghold than the National Museum of the Pacific War, which houses the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, refused to stock The Truth at Last in its bookstore, decreeing that the book’s “subject matter is not part of our mission of WWII in the Pacific Theater at this museum.” Retired Army Maj. Glenn MacDonald, editor-in-chief of the popular military-oriented site, MilitaryCorruption.com, chronicled the Nimitz Museum travesty with a story headlined “Admiral Nimitz Museum Betrays Namesake,” which was also ignored by the Nimitz Museum’s enlightened leadership.
If this weren’t enough, in early 2014, a friend, professional educator and Earhart researcher from Maryland visited the museum, hoping to ask its president and CEO, retired Marine Gen. Michael W. Hagee, why his bookstore refused to carry The Truth at Last. Not only did Hagee refuse to meet with this man, he sent a minion to tell him that Nimitz’s immortal words to Goerner, “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,” which once adorned a conspicuous archway in the museum but were removed at some undetermined time years ago, are now suspect because Fred Goerner was “probably lying about what Nimitz told him.” You can read more on this outrage in my April 11, 2014 post, “Nimitz Museum continues disgraceful Earhart policy.”
All was not as bleak. Mrs. Kay Alley, the vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, invited me to address the South Central Section Fall 2014 Meeting of the Ninety-Nines in Wichita, Kan. It was the highlight of my year, and I wrote about it in my Oct. 4, 2014 post, “99s welcome “The Truth at Last” to Wichita.” Unfortunately, no other Ninety-Nines chapter has expressed any interest in learning the truth. Recall this is the group that Amelia herself co-founded in 1929 with Louise Thaden, but based on my experience with the South Central Ninety Nines in 2014, sadly, it appears that the blanket ignorance affecting our general population has infected today’s Ninety-Nines as well.
In early November 2014, Smithsonian magazine writer Jerry Adler sent me an email to request my cooperation for a story about the Earhart disappearance. According to Adler, the magazine’s interest in doing the article had stemmed from the latest Ric Gillespie-Nikumaroro announcement, but he said his piece would “cover the gamut of explanations, including your own.”
Knowing the Smithsonian’s history of propaganda and deceit in all things Earhart, Adler’s request immediately raised my suspicions, but I decided it would be better to cooperate with him, hoping he might be fair with me, as he said he would. My skepticism was well founded, and Adler’s hit piece, “Will the Search for Amelia Earhart Ever End?,” the cover story of the Smithsonian’s January 2015 issue, was anything but fair and honest. Adler deprecated what he thought he could get away with, left out any mention of the massive evidence that supports the truth, strongly suggested that I am a “wild eyed obsessive” and conspiracy theorist, yet in his conclusion was still forced to admit that I was “onto something” after all.
I couldn’t let Adler and the Smithsonian get away with this underhanded attack without at least one good counterpunch, and in my 5,000-word rebuttal, I dissected his trash line by line. I strongly urge anyone who hasn’t read my Jan. 18, 2015 post, Smithsonian mag throws “Truth at Last” a bone: Says, “it’s possible . . . Campbell is on to something“ to do so.
In early May 2016, David Martin returned to review the second edition of The Truth at Last, adding his own unique perspective to the piece. To read Martin’s review, “Amelia Earhart Truth Versus the Establishment,” please click here.
Finally, in mid-May 2017, thanks to Mr. Ben Willingham, a retired Navy pilot, captain and chairman of the Bald Eagle Chapter (www.baldeaglesquadron.org) of the Association of Naval Aviation, I was honored to address this distinguished group at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville Officers Club. Going into this engagement, I anticipated some pushback from a group that included retired admirals, captains and even the executive officer of NAS Jacksonville. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the kindness these former and current Navy warriors accorded me, and my power-point presentation was well received. It was videotaped and produced into an MP4, and I might make it available here at some point.
Thirty-six years earlier, as a lowly enlisted journalist working on the base newspaper at Cecil Field, Fla., just down the road, I never dreamed that someday I’d return to speak to such a distinguished gathering of Navy aviators. Contrary to my expectation that some of these Navy types might take offense when I revealed to them the depth of the Navy’s role in the Earhart cover-up, no one protested, and more than a few approached me afterward to shake my hand and express their appreciation – a rare good day in the Earhart wars, one that I’ll always remember.
The Big Lie: The Great Aviation Mystery
Since publication of The Truth at Last, a few more might have accepted the truth that the Earhart disappearance is not the “Great Aviation Mystery” that’s been forced down our throats for eight decades. Make no mistake, this enormous falsehood has taken its place among the pantheon of great American lies that would be the envy of Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, and became an immovable piece of our cultural furniture very long ago. I devoted a subsection to summarizing this theme, “The Big Lie: The Great Aviation Mystery,” in the conclusion of the second edition of The Truth at Last (pp. 322-324), and it cannot be overemphasized.
An American public that has been thoroughly deceived for 80 years about Amelia Earhart is completely ignorant of the fact that there is no “mystery” and no real “theories” in the Earhart case. We have only the truth, which is surrounded and buried by glorified lies masquerading as theories. Neither crashed-and-sank nor Nikumaroro has any semblance of plausible evidence to connect the fliers or the Electra to the Pacific floor or the former Gardner Island, and both ideas dissipate into smoke upon the slightest scrutiny. Neither of these lies has a single eyewitness to lend it even the slightest credibility.
Some have suggested that our new president might be the one who will finally declassify and disclose the top-secret Earhart files. Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, N.Y., a longtime supporter of the truth and prolific local op-ed writer, was among them. His letter, “Next president should disclose Amelia Earhart’s fate,” appeared in the Aug. 23, 2016 online edition of the Daily Messenger, and appeared a month later in the Sept. 21, 2016 online edition of the Atchison (Kansas) Globe, the newspaper of Amelia’s birthplace.
I’ve always kept politics out of this blog, except as it relates to Earhart. But it’s no secret that the America’s Fourth Estate is also its Fifth Column, and for decades our media have been the most effective appendage of America’s worst internal enemy, the Democratic Party, and recently we’ve seen far too many establishment Republicans silently standing by and thus silently endorsing the radical, statist, poisonous ideology that is now threatening to tear apart the very fabric of our society, once the envy of the civilized world. Considering this current zeitgeist, the chances for government disclosure are virtually nonexistent.
Under different circumstances, Donald Trump, more than any president in recent memory, appears to be the ideal outsider to break down the 80-year Earhart stonewall. But Trump has too many enemies on both sides of the aisle, and infinitely more pressing issues on his plate to bring off a sea change in the Earhart matter. And who among Trump’s inner circle would possibly bring this historical travesty to the president’s attention, as something worthy of his consideration? His liberal daughter, Ivanka? Or perhaps her young husband, Jared Kushner? Pigs will fly.
The Ugly Bottom Line
In the conclusion of Chapter XIV, “The Care and Nurture of a Sacred Cow,” in The Truth at Last, I address the biggest Earhart question of all as directly as possible:
FDR knew his sanitized legacy as the New Deal savior of the American middle class, the commander in chief who saved the world from the Nazi and Japanese menaces, could never withstand public knowledge of his abandonment of America’s First Lady of Flight, not to mention Fred Noonan, an accomplished navigator and well-known figure in his own right. FDR’s cowardly failure to initially confront Earhart’s captors, and his subsequent decision to keep the truth from the world, cemented his own culpability in their tragic, unnecessary ends. Roosevelt had no stomach for the national outcry and endless questions that any revelations after the fact would have spurred, and his alleged secret executive order that permanently embargoed the truth was his best solution to a situation that should have consigned him to a prominent position in history’s all-time rubbish heap of betrayal. The world has been left with the phony Earhart “mystery” ever since.
If protecting Franklin D. Roosevelt from the infamy he justly deserves might no longer be enough to ensure that the Earhart secrets stay secure under lock and key, we also have our friends in the Pacific, the Japanese, to consider, and this factor has, obviously, sealed the deal, very possibly forever.
In September 1951, when the dust had cleared from the phony war trials, the United States and Japan signed a Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with 48 other nations that became known as the San Francisco System, and this arrangement has defined relations between the two nations ever since. Would the San Francisco System have proceeded as smoothly if President Harry S. Truman had stepped up and broken ranks with his deceased former boss and revealed Japan’s guilt in the deaths of Earhart and Noonan, as well as Roosevelt’s gag order to permanently kill public knowledge of it?
“Japan and the United States are strong allies sharing basic values and strategic interests, with the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements at the core,” Steven K. Vogel wrote in the introduction to the 2002 Brookings Institution-published U.S.-Japan Relations in a Changing World. “Under such a strong alliance, both countries are closely working together and sharing roles and responsibilities not only on bilateral issues, but on regional issues in the Asia-Pacific and global issues as well.”
By itself, the United States’ paternal attachment to its former hated enemy might have been enough to keep the secrets of the Earhart disappearance buried in the deepest recesses of our national security apparatus. But since the FDR factor preceded our permanent Japan protectorate policy, we’ll never know for sure.
Ask yourself this: Why has no establishment journalist of any repute – or any kind at all, for that matter – ever attempted to do a serious story or investigation into the Earhart case since Fred Goerner’s 1966 bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart, was panned by Time magazine as a “Sinister Conspiracy?” If I’ve shown that anything is true since The Truth at Last was published in 2012, it is that Goerner was the last and only public figure to honestly search for Amelia Earhart. But when he found her on Saipan in the many eyewitnesses and witnesses whose accounts he presented, he was severely marginalized following the Time attack of his book. Goerner passed away from cancer in 1994 at age 69, all but forgotten, never realizing the great potential of “solving the Earhart mystery” that his book so richly promised, and that he so badly wanted to fulfill.
But it wasn’t Goerner or his book that failed to deliver; the entire American government-media establishment declared war on him, his book and everyone else with the temerity to follow up on the KCBS newsman’s groundbreaking Saipan investigations. The word came down that the Marshalls-Saipan truth was off-limits, and so nobody went anywhere near the sacred cow, and this quarantine continues to this day. An Amazon.com search for Amelia Earhart will bring more than 1,350 results, but more than 99 percent of these are biographies, novels, fantasies and all manner of children’s books, by far the top sellers in the Earhart market. Of all these books, no more than about 10 are legitimate investigations into the truth, and but Goerner’s were written by obscure individuals who ignored the establishment boycott of the truth for their own intensely personal reasons.
Former Air Force C-47 pilot Vincent V. Loomis and his wife, Georgette, traveled to the Marshalls in 1978 hoping to find the wreck of a plane Loomis saw on an uninhabited island near Ujae Atoll in 1952. Loomis didn’t find the unidentified aircraft he hoped was the Earhart Electra, but in four trips to the Marshalls he gathered considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there. His book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story was hailed by some at a time when big media’s rejection of information supporting Earhart’s survival and death on Saipan had yet to reach its virtual blackout of the past few decades. The Final Story’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review. Gushing that Loomis “interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents,” Hart then announced, “The mystery is a mystery no longer.” Obviously, Hart’s declaration failed to elicit the faintest response from an indifferent establishment.
Thomas E. Devine was not a writer; he was a sergeant in the Army’s 244th Postal Unit on Saipan who saw the Earhart Electra three times, once flying overhead, actually climbed onto a wing to inspect it and finally saw it in flames, burned beyond recognition by Marines on Saipan. Devine’s 1987 book, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, is among the most important disappearance books ever penned. In Eyewitness, many years in the making, Devine told of his amazing Saipan experiences, and in its conclusion he reached out to his fellow Saipan veterans, urging them to report their own eyewitness stories that reflected the presence and death of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan in the years before the 1944 U.S. invasion. Twenty-six former GIs heard and responded to Devine’s plea, and their stunning accounts were presented for the first time in With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, our little-known 2002 book.
“I saw the [Earhart] plane,” Devine told me in February 1991 during my first visit to his West Haven, Conn., home. “I know all about the plane. The plane was there. No matter what anyone would ever say, that plane was Earhart’s plane—positively, absolutely, 100 percent. I can drop dead right now if it wasn’t so. Nobody can change my mind about it, because it was her plane.” It’s there that the remains of Electra NR 16020 can still be found, Devine said, bulldozed into a landfill with the assorted rubble and refuse of war, and buried under the tarmac of what eventually became Saipan International Airport.
A few others wrote valuable books that are virtually unknown today, such as South African Oliver Knaggs, whose Amelia Earhart: Her last flight (1983), strongly supports Loomis’ Marshalls findings; Joe Davidson’s Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (1969), presents Don Kothera and his Cleveland Group’s interviews with Anna Diaz Magofna and other Saipan eyewitnesses for the first time; and Dave Horner’s The Earhart Enigma (2013) is the most recent addition to the thin collection of works that present the unpleasant truth, none coming from an establishment journalist.
Since Goerner’s Search brought down the ire of a government-media complex caught with its figurative pants down, only Amelia Earhart Lives (McGraw-Hill, 1970), written by Joe Klaas but actually Klaas’ creative transcription of famed-but-seriously-flawed researcher Joe Gervais’ delusional claim that New Jersey woman Irene Bolam was actually Amelia Earhart returned from Japan, made any real noise. The reason for all the commotion was transparently obvious. Although the book offered solid new research that further established Earhart’s presence on Saipan in 1937, its outrageous assertion about Irene Bolam overshadowed all else, elicited a defamation lawsuit from Bolam, and forced McGraw-Hill to pull the book from circulation.
The public image of legitimate Earhart research has yet to fully recover from the damage Amelia Earhart Lives inflicted on all who have painstakingly pursued the truth – “crackpots, conspiracy theorists and nut jobs” — are a few of the more polite labels you will see and hear applied to the few of us who continue this work. Although I complain ceaselessly, I can’t even imagine what I’d be doing now if this story hadn’t found me in 1988.
The foregoing should give you a good idea about where the Earhart disappearance currently stands in our upside-down society. Although I’m sure Amelia is in Heaven enjoying this spectacle playing out beneath the celestial choirs — her patience may still be wearing thin with the fools who continue to dishonestly seek fortune and fame at her expense. Amelia and Fred were probably the first American casualties of World War II, and they deserve better than to be kicked around in national and international gutters as political footballs, or used as decoys for boondoggles and scams to line pockets already filthy will ill-gained lucre.
I’ve been taking all this quite personally since meeting Thomas E. Devine in 1988. I saw firsthand the emergent TIGHAR plague’s insidious effects on this long-suffering soul, how it gradually wore him down as TIGHAR increasingly dominated nearly all media coverage of the Earhart case. Ironically, the first Earhart story I ever wrote was for publication in Navy and Marine Corps newspapers at sea and around the world. You can’t keep the Navy out of the Earhart story, no matter how hard you try.
Frederick J. Hooven, famed for his engineering inventions, was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1905, met Orville Wright as a child and by age 15 was a regular visitor to the Wrights’ Dayton laboratory. After graduating from MIT in 1927, Hooven was hired by General Motors, and rose to vice president and chief engineer of the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation Corporation by 1935. His Hooven Radio Compass, which he later sold to the Bendix Company, is now known as the Automatic Direction Finder or ADF, was installed in Amelia Earhart’s Electra in 1936, but was later replaced by an earlier, lighter unit.
When he died in 1985, Hooven held a total of 38 American patents, as well as many foreign patents in fields such as avionics, bomb sights, automotive ignition and suspension systems, photographic typesetting and medical technology. His inventions include 17 radio and aviation navigation and landing instrument systems, bomb-release systems, six automotive ignition systems, three medical instruments, six photographic type compositions and seven other automotive inventions (axles, brakes, springs, suspensions, plus a complete engine, the 1966 Olds Toronado).
In his 1966 letter of introduction to Goerner, below, the first of many from Hooven to his soon-to-be friend and Earhart research associate, he discusses his radio compass, his meeting with Amelia and what he believed was the fatal decision to remove his invention from the Electra. Many more would follow through the years. (Bold emphasis mine throughout.)
December 5, 1966
Mr. Frederick Goerner
277 Park Avenue
New York City, N.Y. 10017
Dear Mr. Goerner:
I just finished reading your book on Amelia Earhart. I started the book with a good deal of skepticism, but now that I have finished it I find that I share your conviction that this whole matter must be clarified and honor rendered to those to whom it is due. I can add a small and perhaps interesting sidelight to the Amelia Earhart story. My contribution does nothing either to strengthen or weaken your conclusions, but I believe if my story had been different, Miss Earhart would not have been lost .
I installed on Miss Earhart’s Lockheed one of the first prototypes of the modern aircraft radio direction-finder. Before she embarked on her flight, however, this was removed, and installed in its place was the old-fashioned null-type direction-finder that she carried with her. The modern instrument would have given her a heading on the transmitter of the cutter Itasca at Howland Island even under poor reception conditions and it would have shown her without ambiguity that her destination was still ahead.
The modern direction finder that I invented in 1935 had some important points of superiority over the old simple null-type that had been used ever since before 1920. We called it a radio compass then. It is always called the ADF today. It uses a conventional antenna in addition to the directional loop, the result being that it is possible to listen to the station at the same time a bearing is being taken. It is so much more sensitive that it is possible to use a much smaller loop, contained in the familiar streamlined cigar-shaped housing that is still to be seen on all but the very latest models of commercial and military aircraft.
Most importantly, by using the signal from the non-directional antenna as a point of reference, the modern instrument is able to indicate the true direction of the transmitter from the receiver whereas the null-type indicator could do no more than tell that the transmitting station was somewhere along a line that passed through the center of the loop-antenna. Obviously, to obtain a useable null with the old system the signal must be several times louder than the background noise. With the radio compass, a useable bearing may be taken on a station that is not readable through the noise. All of these things combine to convince me that Miss Earhart would have reached Howland Island if the radio compass had still been installed in her airplane.
We built six of these prototypes. I was at that time vice president and chief engineer of the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation, which was one of the small companies later combined into Bendix Radio. Vincent Bendix had retained Harry Bruno as his personal public relations counsel and he distributed these prototypes where he thought they were most likely to get his name into the papers. One of them went to Dick Merrill and Harry Richman, and we installed it on the Northrup Alpha they flew across the Atlantic and landed in Ireland. They both told me they owed their lives to the radio compass.
Harry had broadcast to his public over their 50 watt transmitter until the airplane ‘s battery was flat, so when they reached England they were able to use only their receiving equipment. It was foggy and they flew around for 24 hours before they found a hole they could get down through. They said they surely would have been back over the ocean if they had not had the radio compass on board. Just to bear out your contention about the transmitting range of the 50 watt transmitter I listened to Harry on my receiver in Dayton, Ohio on 3100 kilocycles until he was about halfway across the Atlantic.
Another prototype was turned over to the United States Army Air Corps at Wright Field. We installed it in a B-10 and connected the output to the directional control of the automatic pilot. I rode in this airplane on a nonstop flight from Dayton to Dallas, Texas and back. During the entire flight the pilot never touched the controls of the airplane. It was guided over the entire distance by the radio compass, which was tuned in to local broadcast stations and radio beacons along the way.
The pilot of that airplane was a very close friend of mine, George Holloman, who lost his life in the South Pacific during the war and who gave his name to Holloman Field . Later on, the same radio compass was installed in an ancient Fokker C-151 which made the first completely automatic takeoff and landing at Wright Field in 1937. Later the same year at Muroc Air Force Base, that airplane made the first completely automatic unmanned takeoff and landing. Another of these prototypes went to the Department of Commerce and one I personally installed for American Airlines on the first DC-3 to go into commercial passenger service.
Miss Earhart brought her airplane to Wright Field in Dayton where I made the installation of our equipment. I spent most of the day with her and I concur with your description of her. She was attractive, charming, gracious — a real lady. She had with her a pretty young girl straight from the sticks, named Jacqueline Cochrane. We had lunch together in the cafeteria at the Field. So far as I know Miss Cochrane is still living and should be able to verify this part of the story.
I don’t remember when I learned that the radio compass had been removed from Miss Earhart ‘s plane before she took off on her world flight. The Radio Research Company of Washington, D.C. was another Bendix division. Its vice president was Laurence A. Hyland, who is now, or was until very recently, vice president and general manager of Hughes Aircraft. Hyland had been a Navy man and his company manufactured the standard Navy aircraft direction finder. As I understood it, Hyland convinced Miss Earhart that she should not trust such a new fangled device as my radio compass and that she would be much safer with the good old reliable instead. From what you say about the Navy’s involvement in the affair, it could well have been that the Navy persuaded her to take out this piece of equipment that had been developed in connection with the Army Air Corps.
You can see why I read your book with more than casual interest and would like to see such a grand lady take her proper place in history.
Frederick J. Hooven
Hooven’s contention that if Amelia had used his radio compass she “would have reached Howland Island” was, of course, based on the assumption that she was actually trying to locate and land at Howland, and was not embarked on a far different and possibly covert flight plan. Many factors that have been presented and discussed in earlier posts argue for that, but we simply don’t know for sure.
After years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged radio receptions, Hooven presented his paper, Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight, which became known as The Hooven Report, at the Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum in June 1982. Citing the bearings on the signals reported by the three Pan Am radio stations and the Howland Island high-frequency direction finder supplied by the Navy, Hooven asserted it was “undeniable” that the transmissions had originated from the downed fliers.
“Five bearings were taken on the weak, wavering signal reported on the frequency used by the Earhart plane,” Hooven wrote, “and four of them, plus the 157-337 position line of the last message all intersected in the general area of the Phoenix Group. This constitutes positive evidence of the presence of a transmitter in that area which could only have been that of the downed plane. No hypothesis purporting to explain the events of the last flight can be credited that does not offer a plausible explanation of these signals, and why they originated along the plane’s announced position line at the only location, except for Baker and Howland, where there was land.”
According to several knowledgeable researchers, Hooven later abandoned the Gardner Island idea after Goerner convinced him that regardless of the location of the source of questionable radio signals that inspired it, too many people had lived on Gardner for too many years without any trace of the Earhart Electra ever seen on the island. I’ve tried without success to locate any documents that reflect Hooven’s alleged reversal, which I believe actually occurred.
Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight established Hooven as the creator of the Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) landing theory, not the executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), Ric Gillespie, who has yet to credit Hooven publicly, at least to this writer’s knowledge. If he has finally done so, I expect to be corrected quite loudly and quickly, and will report it here. Lacking any other plausible alternative to the Marshalls-Saipan reality, our establishment media continues to deny the truth and force feeds this rubbish, this long-debunked “Nikumaroro hypothesis,” to an incurious, gullible public, and to mislead all who remain willfully ignorant.
Today we return to the early 1960s correspondence between San Francisco radio newsman Fred Goerner and Leo Bellarts, the chief radioman aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Itasca on July 2, 1937, who retired from the Coast Guard as a lieutenant in 1946. My Feb. 6 post, “Revisiting roots of the real search for Amelia,” began with Bellarts’ November 1961 letter to Goerner, in which the nearly incredulous Bellarts asked, “why you believe Earhart wound up on Saipan”?
Bellarts’ certainly that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan rested “peacefully on the bottom of the sea, no farther than 100 miles from Howland,” was based entirely on the increase in Earhart’s signal strength in her last transmission. “She was so loud that I ran up to the bridge expecting to see her coming in for a landing,” Bellarts told Elgen Long in a 1973 interview.
In his reply, Goerner brought Bellarts up to date on his findings during to Saipan visits, including “three file cabinets filled with the most painstaking research concerning every aspect of the disappearance [that] has given us very strong reasons to believe Earhart and Noonan were on Saipan for an indefinite period prior to the war.” The KCBS newsman also posed several new questions for Bellarts, many about the Electra’s radio transmission capabilities, as well as those of Itasca and the high-frequency direction finder supposedly set up on Howland Island. Bellarts’ response follows.
1920 State Street
15 December 1961
Mr. Frederick A. Goerner
San Francisco 5, California
Dear Mr. Goerner:
Your letter of November 30th arrived December 13th, and I wish to thank you for your reply to my letter. I also wish to thank you for the additional papers you forwarded with your letter. They were very interesting.
First, I will attempt to answer your questions. I have kept a scrapbook on the Earhart case and it contains much information. Therefore, I will not have to rely on a memory of twenty-odd years. Your letter and enclosures will be an interesting addition to my scrapbook.
In answer to your first question regarding people stating that the Earhart radio could not be heard more than 50 to 100 miles. In my opinion this is someone talking about something they know nothing about. This is completely false. I agree with the statement contained in “Facts About the Final Flight” that a 50-watt transmitter airborne will certainly transmit dependably to 500 miles under normal conditions. During nighttime hours, this distance could be multiplied several times under favorable skip conditions. I did not notice any skip conditions during her flight and believe that her signals were copied “ground wave” as they continually built up to the time of her final transmission when she was very loud and could be easily copied on the ship’s loudspeaker. THIS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TRUE UNDER SKIP CONDITIONS. (Caps Bellarts’ throughout.)
At this point I wish to state that we were using a CGR-32-1 type receiver on Earhart’s frequency and by present day standards is a poor receiver. I am sure that if present day receivers were then available, we could have read her signals very much better and at an earlier hour.
As to the time and content of all messages changed in the July 5th messages from the contents of the July 2nd messages bewilders me. This point I was completely unaware of. It appears that there was a bit of the “Press Reports” incorporated somewhere along the line. You may check the authentic receptions from the plane and draw your own conclusions.
In regard to the “30 minutes of gas remaining,” this will be answered in the listing of messages from the plane in the summation of her last messages.
The people stating that the Earhart radio was not functioning properly make such statements on pure guess work. Amelia never stated that our signals were too weak for a minimum, BUT “We received your signals but unable to get a minimum; please take bearing on us,” etc. No mention was made of weak signals or the reason she could not obtain a bearing: Too great a signal, too weak a signal, fading, night effect (which there were none), and other causes. As far as we knew on the ITASCA, Earhart encountered no equipment failure — at least she reported none. Actually, in this case, I believe that our signals were too strong.
Earhart was not alerted to the fact a special D/F had been set up aboard the ITASCA because there was none! No D/F was aboard during her flight that would cover her frequency of 3105 or 6210 KCS. The only D/F was a standard low frequency finder capable of taking bearings of broadcast stations and frequencies below 500 KCS.
There was, however, a high frequency D/F installed on Howland Island for the express purpose of taking bearings on Earhart. This equipment was set up and in operation during her flight, completely aligned and in position. This equipment was NOT ship’s property but was borrowed in Honolulu through the efforts of the C.G. District Radio Electrician, Mr. Anthony. I believe this D/F was actually Navy property.
Lt. Cooper of the U.S. Army Air Force was aboard the ITASCA for two reasons that I know of. Mr. Cooper was assigned the duty of surveying the airfield and placing the required markers, flags, etc. He was also available for any technical assistance that Earhart might require after landing on Howland. Memory tells me he had two enlisted assistants.
Actually, the USS SWAN and USS ONTARIO were assigned as weather ships. The ITASCA never worked either ship and I must rely on my memory for that information because, as you say, there is nothing in the log regarding the ONTARIO. As for the reason the ONTARIO didn’t hear Earhart, it was very simple. The receivers aboard that ship could not receive on her frequency. The ONTARIO and the SWAN were small tugs and were one radioman ships, maintaining only schedules for weather through Navy radio Samoa or Honolulu. I was not familiar with their schedules. The equipment aboard the ONTARIO was low frequency rigs and could not operate on anything above 500 KCS for transmitting and could not receive above 3000 KCS. The SWAN was somewhat out of the picture, being stationed between Howland and Honolulu.
“Strength of Signal” certainly strengthened my conviction, and that of others who heard her last transmission, that she was very close to Howland Island. I started my radio career in the USCG in 1924, and believe that I can distinguish when a 50-watt transmitter is close aboard or not. Honestly, we in the radio room could actually hear her voice so near the breaking point that at any moment I expected her to go into an hysterical scream. Giving her plenty of leeway, she must have been within 200 miles when she crashed. Actually, I believe it was much less.
The 157-337 message regarding a position of the Earhart plane was taken as a sunline position, of course not complete. Actually, I believe that she became so upset that she failed to send the entire message which would have given the ITASCA something to go on in the search. As a result, we could only assume that she crashed somewhere before arriving at Howland. She certainly did not pass overhead at 1000 feet without seeing the large smokescreen the ITASCA was laying. I have a photo of that which also shows cloud formations.
I have no idea as to the assumptions of the LEXINGTON as to what Earhart’s speed was. As to the laying out of a search plan, I am sure that this was done as well as could be expected with the scarcity of information at hand.
Yes, I know Bill Galten but I’m afraid there is a misunderstanding as to his rate at the time of the Earhart search. Galten was a very good and reliable radioman THIRD CLASS. Galten actually relieved me for breakfast that fateful morning. He also maintained the radio log from 0718 to 1035 when I assumed radio log and actual watch. From the first time we heard Earhart, to the last time at 0843, I don’t believe that I was out of the radio room more than 15 minutes, having heard all of her transmissions. I don’t believe that I have seen Galten for over 20 years. However, I believe that he is now a Retired Chief Radioman.
Now, if I may, I would like to make a few comments on portions of your letter and also the enclosure which I appreciate receiving.
On the main matter for conjecture, as you say, “How did Earhart and Noonan reach Saipan?” To me, there is only one answer, if there is an answer. They may have reached Saipan but certainly NOT on the Electra she flew from Lae. The only possibility as far as I’m concerned is that they crashed very close to Howland Island and were fortunate (?) enough to land near a Japanese fishing boat or other Jap vessel which was in that vicinity.
To all known information, no Japanese vessels were anywhere near Howland during that time. Considering the strength of her signals, she was certainly not near enough to any island (except Baker) that she could have possibly landed on. It must have been a sea crash. The Marshalls, Gilberts or Phoenix groups are definitely ruled out in my book. (Editor’s note: At the time of this letter, neither Bellarts, Goerner or any other American researcher knew about Bilimon Amaron’s eyewitness account, nor those of any of the other Marshall Island witnesses to the crash-landing of the Electra off Barre Island, Mili Atoll.)
In quoting Time magazine of July 19, 1937, I would like to quote from an article regarding Earhart. “Several facts made it clear that much more than simple bad luck was involved. Before the hop off, when capable Navigator [sic] Noonan inspected what he supposed was an ultra-modem “flying laboratory,” he was dismayed to discover that there was nothing with which to take celestial bearings except an ordinary ship sextant. He remedied that by borrowing a modem bubble octant designed especially for airplane navigation. For estimating wind drift over the sea, he obtained two dozen aluminum powder bombs. For some reason, these bombs were left behind in a storehouse.
The Coast Guard Cutter ITASCA, which had-been dispatched from San Diego to Howland Island solely as a help to the flyers, would have been able to take directional bearings on the Earhart plane if the latter could have tuned its signals to a 500 KC frequency. The plane’s transmitter would have been able to send such signals if it had a trailing antenna. Miss Earhart considered all this too much bother; no trailing antenna was taken along.” The ITASCA was entirely unaware of this and, as a result, did not know that she was unable to transmit on 500 KCS.
As to why the LEXINGTON was called into the search, I will quote from the above-mentioned magazine again. “When word that the Earhart plane was lost reached the U.S., husband Putnam wired an appeal for a Navy search to President Roosevelt. But even before the message reached Washington, Secretary of the Navy [Claude A.] Swanson had ordered the Navy to start hunting.”
To add a little sidelight to the search, were you aware that the U.S. Battleship COLORADO served as an oil barge for the USCG cutter ITASCA?
Under a New York dateline, Dec. 4, 1961, there appeared a story about a “Mrs. Clara [Trenckman] Studer, Rome, Italy, who has spent months here studying records of Miss Earhart’s last flight” etc. This same article contains the following: “Mrs. Studer, a writer who collaborated on a book with Miss Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, and helped form the woman pilots’ organization the “Ninety-Nines,” said Miss Earhart’s name and fate “must be cleared” before 1965 when she is eligible for election in the Hall of Fame. Mrs. Studer and other friends of the flier also fear chances of an Amelia Earhart stamp being published next year have been hurt by the story that she was spying on Saipan.”
(Editor’s note: An online search shows no evidence of any book that Clara Studer and George Putnam wrote together. Studer did author a 1937 book, Sky Storming Yankee: The Life Story of Glenn Curtiss, and in 1933, Studer was the New York-based editor of The Ninety- Niner newsletter. To see the Jan. 15, 1933 edition, please click here.)
Now that I have answered your questions to the best of my ability, may I ask just what connection has Mrs. with CBS, and also the connection, if there be one, between CBS and Mr. Putnam? If Miss Earhart’s name was to be cleared of the spy charge, wouldn’t it be a logical conclusion that an intense investigation be made just how Earhart and Noonan arrived at Saipan (if they did)? My conclusion remains the same; that is, the Electra and its passengers are on the bottom of the sea west of Howland Island, yet very near the island.
In closing, I would like to add that you are quite the “Quiz Master.” However, if there is any doubt in your mind, I see no reason why you should be otherwise. In addition, the enclosure “Facts about the Final Flight” contains several remarks that I would disagree with, but I have never doubted that she crashed very close to Howland Island.
I hope that I have cleared up some points regarding this case. If I can be of any further assistance, don’t hesitate to “start quizzing.” THE INFORMATION THAT I HAVE GIVEN YOU IS FOR YOUR INFORMATION ONLY AND I DO NOT WISH ANY PUBLICITY ON MY PART.
Leo G. Bellarts