Ten days ago, an annoying, unserious story about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, “Chamorro man shares Earhart theory that she was a prisoner on Saipan,” appeared in the Pacific Daily News, headquartered on Guam and now “part of the USA Today Network,” which only means its editorial policies will ape the corrupt U.S. establishment line more than ever. This particular piece leaves no doubt about that.
As I will demonstrate by dissecting this disingenuous mix of misinformation and muddled rhetoric by Pacific Daily News reporter Jerick Sablan, this article was not produced with any intention of supporting or corroborating the facts in the Earhart case. When the story is read by the uninformed, which is nearly everyone, only confusion will result, which is its goal.
Soon after the story’s Nov. 25 publication, USA Today ran a dressed-up version with a slightly more cynical title, “Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were prisoners on Saipan and killed, according to uncle’s tale.” I shouldn’t need to tell anyone of the negative connotations inherent in any account that’s described as a “tale” in a headline. This is an immediate “tell” from USA Today that you don’t need to take this story seriously, because they certainly don’t.
The article follows a typical template for Earhart propaganda, created not to educate, but to confuse and deceive the ignorant into believing that the Earhart disappearance remains among the pantheon of the 20th century’s greatest mysteries, an eternal enigma that will never be solved. Sadly, most fail to grasp the fact that this is the purpose of virtually every Earhart-disappearance story in the American media, and every other information organization in the modern world, for that matter. Only here can you be confident you’re getting the truth, from someone who’s devoted 30 years to the Earhart saga, who recognizes this ubiquitous propaganda as well as the precious truth when he sees it.
In the Pacific Daily News story, Jerick Sablan writes that William “Bill” Sablan (relationship not clear) said his uncle, “Tun Akin Tuho, worked at the prison [Garapan] where Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were taken prisoner in Saipan.” What jumps out immediately is that Tun Akin Tuho has never been mentioned in any known Earhart literature before now. Why not?
Why doesn’t Jerick make any reference to the many known and documented Saipan witnesses, so that Bill Sablan’s uncle might have a historical leg to stand on, so to speak? He could have named people like Jesús Bacha Salas, who saw Amelia in Garapan prison for a few hours; Josépa Reyes Sablan, of Chalan Kanoa, who saw two white people taken into the military police headquarters in Garapan; Dr. Manual Aldan, the Saipanese dentist who was told by Japanese officers the name of the American woman flier in custody, “EARHARTO!”; José Rios Camacho, who saw the fliers shortly after their arrival at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor; or any of the rest of Fred Goerner’s original 13 witnesses — and these are just those Goerner identified during the first of his four investigations on Saipan before The Search for Amelia Earhart was published in 1966.Jerick does none of that, but grudgingly writes, “According to news files, in 1960 a CBS radio man, Fred Goerner, spoke with at least a dozen reliable witnesses from Saipan, who shared that before the war, two white people arrived on Saipan — described as ‘fliers’ or ‘spies’ — and they were held in the Japanese jail.” Could a reporter assigned to write a story about the Earhart case really be this uninformed, especially one based in Guam, a stone’s throw away from Saipan, where the presence and death of Amelia Earhart in the pre-war years has become a part of the culture, an accepted historical fact among its elder Chamorros?
Fred Goerner was far more than a CBS radio man; he was the author of The Search for Amelia Earhart, the only bestseller in the history of Earhart disappearance literature, and is generally recognized among those without agendas as history’s greatest Earhart researcher, which Jerick also neglects to mention. I’d ask Jerick why he gives such short shrift to Goerner, if I didn’t already know the answer.
In fact, Goerner claimed he identified 39 eyewitnesses to Earhart’s presence on Saipan; all independently picked her photo out of a selection of about 10 similar-looking women. But in acknowledging Goerner, if only in a minimal way, Jerick departs from the worst of the false Earhart paradigms, such as the hundreds, if not thousands of insufferable TIGHAR infomercials posing as news stories we’ve been subjected to for 30 years. In these, any mention of Earhart in the Marshalls or Saipan is immediately branded “folklore” or “conspiracy theory,” shoved into the circular file and never mentioned again.
Jerick seems in a great hurry to direct readers to his main point, the July 9 abomination that the History Channel perpetrated on the public in a transparent attempt to discredit the truth. “The History Channel shared the theory that the two were taken prisoner in a recent TV special called “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” Jerick tells us, signaling that his story is little more than a weak attempt to keep the History Channel’s lies about the phony ONI photo viable enough to qualify for a few more advertising dollars in reruns.
“According to USA Today,” Jerick continues, bringing in the Pacific Daily News parent company without explanation, “the theory shared by History’s TV special says Earhart was captured and executed on Saipan by the Empire of Japan. The U.S. government and military knew it (and even found and exhumed her body). And both governments have been lying about it ever since.”
That’s it in a nutshell, but instead of recognizing or at least supporting the truth by respecting it as a likely scenario based on the huge amount of accumulated evidence, or something similar, Jerick reverts to the age-old establishment default position and defines the truth as a mere theory. He then compounds this misnomer by attributing this theory to USA Today and the History Channel, as if they just discovered the Earhart story. If the truth must be referenced as theory, why doesn’t he cite any of the host of investigations and books that have advanced this theory, in order that this theory might have more substance and relevance? As always, even when an aspect of the truth is presented in the media, it comes wrapped in so much flotsam and jetsam that its effect becomes minimized and obscured, which is the goal from the jump.
Soon after learning about the July 5 NBC News promotion of the forthcoming History Channel special, as glaring an example of “fake news” as you will ever see, its premise predicated upon and completely tied to the false claims about the ONI photo, I was the first to denounce it the same day with this post: “July 9 Earhart special to feature bogus photo claims.“
After watching “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” I concluded that it possessed many of the hallmarks of a classic disinformation operation. “’The Lost Evidence’ is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” I wrote, “a masterpiece of deceit, cleverly designed to discredit the long-established facts that reveal the truth about Earhart and Fred Noonan’s landing at Mili Atoll and deaths on Saipan at the hands of the prewar Japanese. . . . The onslaught of activity from the leaders of our fake news brigade that preceded the July 9 airing is all we need to tell us that a massive propaganda operation was under way, and remains so.”
For the entire review, posted July 12, please see “History’s ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence’: Underhanded attack on the Marshalls-Saipan truth.“
I wasn’t alone in my assessment of the History Channel’s propaganda drill. Longtime news analyst David Martin (www.DCDave.com), author of the definitive work in the James V. Forrestal murder case (“Who Killed James Forrestal?”), and countless other commentaries that the mainstream media despise and will never acknowledge, soon joined the fray.
“For three-quarters of a century America’s press and its court historians have studiously ignored the voluminous evidence that aviation adventurer Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese and did not just mysteriously crash into the Pacific Ocean on her round-the-world venture,” Martin wrote in his July 7 commentary, “Press Touts Dubious Earhart Photo.” “Now, across the board, from NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CNN, to The Washington Post and the Associated Press, they all seem to have made a 180-degree turn based upon the supposed discovery of one very ambiguous photograph in the National Archives. What, we have to wonder, is going on?
“The New York Times, jumping the gun with its more skeptical approach, gives us a very big clue,” Martin went on. “The headline says it all, ‘Did Amelia Earhart Survive? A Found Photo Offers a Theory, but No Proof.’ Already, The Times is beginning to cast doubt upon the significance, if not the authenticity, of this photograph.” For the rest of Martin’s July 7 analysis, please click here.
Soon the shaky edifice built by the History Channel’s mendacity began to crumble, as the foundation of the entire production, the undated ONI photo of Jaluit Harbor, came under assault. The British publication, The Guardian, reported that a Japanese blogger had found the exact same photo in what was described as “an old Japanese travel book” that was published in 1935 — two years before the ONI photo of History Channel infamy was said to have been snapped.
“See the sleight of hand?” Martin wrote in his July 13 commentary, “Earhart photo story apparently debunked. The debunking of this photo does nothing whatsoever to undermine the little bit of good evidence that the History Channel presented for the flyers having been captured by the Japanese, much less the cornucopia of evidence that Mike Campbell has assembled in his book Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. That evidence remains as strong as it was before the program—with its big press build-up—ever aired.” I posted my agreement, “As usual, Dave Martin sees the truth in Earhart story,” later that same day.
Indeed, Jerick Sablan writes that the “History TV special theory rests on an ambiguous photograph, said to have been taken in 1937, that might show Earhart and Noonan alive on a dock in the Marshall Islands. At the time the islands were controlled by Japan.” But History’s special theory had no staying power, because, “According to USA Today,” Jerick tells us, “a Japanese military history blogger Kota Yamano undermined a new theory that Amelia Earhart survived a crash in the Pacific Ocean during her historic attempted around-the-world flight in 1937.” New theory?
Jerick’s description of the ONI photo as “ambiguous” is a blatant euphemism, a weasel way of saying the photo is worthless, as anyone not affiliated with a politicized media organization can see. It also developed that this Kota Yamano blogger person doesn’t appear to exist except as a convenient prop, as neither he nor his blog shows up in any online search as discrete entities. Regardless, the entire media herd happily jumped on the bandwagon immediately after The Guardian story broke, as if they were waiting for the green light to publish anything that would taint and discredit, simply by association, the hated Marshalls-Saipan scenario promoted by the “The Lost Evidence” in several segments it presented that were unrelated to the ONI photo.
If that weren’t enough, four days after The Guardian’s July 11 report on the Japanese blogger’s alleged findings that seemingly debunked the History Channel’s claims, the Republic of the Marshall Islands issued a statement though its ministry of foreign affairs that appeared to “debunk the debunker.” According to the Marshallese government, the Jabor Dock, which it confirmed was the location of the photo, was built in 1936, not 1935, as the mysterious blogger Kota Yamano asserted. Further compounding the mess, the Marshallese statement did not specify when the photo was taken, which left the door open to the possibility that the American fliers could be in it, at least in the minds the extremely credulous and anyone associated with the History Channel.
The Marshallese release changed nothing about the ONI photo itself, which remains what it always has been, a reflection of Jaluit harbor and the Jabor Dock at some unspecified time, with the Koshu in the right background and a small group of unidentifiable people standing around — nothing more, nothing less. What was notable about the Marshallese statement was that nobody in the media paid any attention to it, which tells those of us who can discern the obvious what we already knew — the media does not want the photo to represent the presence of Earhart and Noonan at Jaluit, for reasons that I’ve explained ad nauseam.
I didn’t learn about the Marshalls statement until a few weeks later, when an interested reader, having found it on Rich Martini’s website, sent it to me. I posted my take on what had become little more than a tedious soap opera on July 28: “Marshalls release is latest twist in photo travesty,”
Getting back to Jerick Sablan’s Pacific Daily News story: If you had any doubts about the real reason it was written, his closing statement, or “telling point” as it was called at the military journalism school I attended in 1978, should clear up any misconceptions. “The mystery surrounding her disappearance continues to keep her memory alive and remains one of history’s greatest mysteries,” Jerick is compelled to remind us, as if we might overlook his tawdry story’s raison d’être. Question for Jerick: What is the point of presenting Bill Sablan’s uncle Tun Akin Tuho, who “worked at the prison where Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were taken prisoner in Saipan,” if the fate of Amelia Earhart is going to remain such an irresolvable mystery?
I wrote an email to Jerick, welcoming him to the Earhart story, telling him a bit about my own 30 years of study and work on the subject. “Just as the truth in the Earhart matter is NO mystery,” I wrote, “there are also no “THEORIES” about her fate. We have the truth that Earhart and Fred Noonan died on Saipan sometime after crash-landing at Mili Atoll on July 2, 1937, and we have two major LIES — that she crashed and sank, or the ridiculous Nikumaroro “hypothesis,” which have been promoted to the status of theories and perpetuated as such in order to protect the obvious truth that anyone can discover for themselves by reading Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last or the handful of books that preceded it and presented various aspects of the truth, including The Search for Amelia Earhart, Fred Goerner’s 1966 bestseller. . . . The U.S. government has known since 1937 exactly what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, and continues to go to great lengths though its media toadies to deny and obfuscate the truth, which is available to anyone who seeks it in the few places where it’s available, which sadly do not include the PDN or USA Today.”
Jerick did not reply to my message, so he’s clearly part of the problem, not the solution in the Earhart matter, as are virtually all of his media counterparts.
The day after the Pacific Daily News-USA Today story hit the streets, the UK’s Daily Mail ran its own, fancied-up version, replete with several large, blown-up photos in UK tabloid style with three reporters’ bylines. The Nov. 26 story, “Amelia Earhart ‘was executed by the Japanese’: New ‘witness’ account claims aviation pioneer was held in Saipan before being killed – and the US military collected her body and covered it up,” surpasses its progenitors, if only because it features a photo of the original Saipan eyewitness, Josephine Blanco Akiyama, and a passing reference to Fred Goerner’s work.
The Daily Mail is no stranger to the Earhart story. Its recent coverage has not been as deceptive or negative in its approach to the truth as its overseas counterparts, and it seems more unconcerned with protecting the American establishment’s sacred cows. In 2015 the Daily Mail published three pieces about Dick Spink’s Mili Atoll investigations, on May 29, June 26 and July 9.
Those are the positive aspects of the Daily Mail’s Earhart work, but this bunch suffers from some serious shortcomings too, and the rest of the story isn’t so pretty. In my July 17, 2015 commentary, “Daily Mail sets new ‘standard’ in Earhart reporting,” I pointed out the “glaring lack of references to any previous investigative work on the Earhart disappearance as related to Mili Atoll. To the low-information reader, it appears as if the Daily Mail discovered this story all by itself, and is presenting it to the world for the first time! . . . [T]he way the Daily Mail has presented these stories is too disturbing for me take much satisfaction.”
In its Nov. 26 story, the Daily Mail, continuing its policy of non-attribution, refused to ascribe Josephine’s original account to Goerner, Paul Briand Jr., and Linwood Day of the San Mateo Times, foremost among those in the early 1960s who brought Josephine’s account to the world, and implied, though did not outright state, that NBC News had just discovered her story: “And in July, Josephine Blanco Akiyama, who grew up on Saipan but now lives in California, said she saw the pair as a child,” the Daily Mail reported. “ ‘I didn’t even know it’s a woman, I thought it’s a man,’ Akiyama told NBC’s Today that month.”
In its favor, the Daily Mail quoted me for the first time ever, writing that “another recognized Earhart investigator, Mike Campbell, has lashed out at what he described as ‘bogus photo claims,’ ” but they wouldn’t call me a blogger or an author, or name Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, fearing they might lose a few readers who might actually leave their page and seek more details elsewhere. At least the Daily Mail had the decency to spare us the “one of history’s greatest mysteries” closing line. You can read the story and judge for yourself what the Daily Mail’s real agenda is by clicking here.
Much of media’s newly feigned interest in Amelia Earhart’s Marshalls and Saipan presence can be traced to the July 9 History Channel’s residual influence; after all, some legitimate witness accounts were presented, though none in any depth. Some in the media are becoming more aware that the hated truth is being sought by more people than ever — though we’re decades away from any popular uprising that would force government disclosure, if it ever happens at all. Thus these dishonest practitioners of deception are trying harder than ever to discredit the truth by planting phony stories and then undermining them, using two of Dave Martin’s Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression, “Knock down straw men” and “Come half clean.” They’re playing with fire.
(Editor’s note: Some readers may not agree with the views expressed in this commentary. If so, you are invited to send your comments, as is everyone. The moderator reserves the right to decide whether incoherent or hostile messages will be posted.)
On Wednesday morning, July 5, I awoke to the long-anticipated news that an unclassified photo found at the National Archives in College Park, Md., by researcher Les Kinney that reflected Jaluit Harbor in the Marshall Islands, date possibly late 1930s but not known, would indeed be the centerpiece of the History Channel’s July 9 special, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” NBC News apparently had the TV network news exclusive on this story, but others were soon also breathlessly touting the photo, as if it were truly the Holy Grail in the Earhart case. To see the initial NBC video and story, please click here.
This would be great news if the claim that Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan and the Earhart Electra are in the photo were true, because we know that the doomed fliers were in the Marshalls, were taken to Jaluit and later to Kwajalein and Saipan, where they died in Japanese hands. Several researchers and authors, whose work can be easily found on this site, have presented mountains of evidence to this effect. But this photo isn’t “evidence” of anything except that Koshu was at Jaluit Harbor (large ship in right background) when it was taken, and might have had an unidentifiable airplane on its stern. Interesting, but hardly what our “experts” are telling us. In fact, this photo does little except discredit the truth, which, in my view, is the goal of this current exercise, along with ratings and making money, of course.
Earhart and Noonan are absolutely not in the photo, and it’s incredible that anyone could believe they are. Zoom in and you can see the upper half of a white man with black hair on the far left of the group on the dock. Kinney and an “expert” say it’s Noonan, but the features, the nose, the hairline are all wrong, and any intelligent analysis rules him out. The so-called experts are either incompetent or lying, and we all know that some paid experts will say anything. Nobody in the photo remotely resembles Earhart, inasmuch as anyone’s facial features can be determined at all.
Furthermore, where are the Japanese military personnel who would have been close and in control of the American spies after their pickup at Mili Atoll? Where is the tension one would expect in such a photo? It simply doesn’t exist; the group on the dock appears to be out for a Sunday stroll, or awaiting someone’s arrival from one of the ships in the harbor. None of it computes, unless one understands what the real game is here, and even this olfactorily challenged writer can smell a rat when it stinks this badly.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; this photo offers none and fails completely. Does anyone except Les Kinney really think that Earhart and Noonan are in this photo? This photo will be totally rejected by virtually everyone who knows what Amelia and Fred Noonan looked like, and its use on this program will do nothing except to discredit the truth as we know it. Our ideological enemies — and we all know who they are — will label its proponents as delusional fanatics.
I will have much more to say about the odious claims being made about this photo, as well as other irresponsible assertions that will also be advanced by the History Channel on July 9. I’ll post my review following the airing of “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.”
Since I presented Fred Goerner’s preview of his classic bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart in my post of June 3, I thought it would be appropriate to follow that with the single most damaging piece ever written about this great book, the Sept. 16, 1966 “review” published by Time magazine, which lacked the decency to identify its writer.
Four times in this despicable hit piece, Time’s anonymous scribbler referred to Howland Island as “Rowland” Island, a clear tell that reveals the shallow nature of the reviewer’s knowledge of even the basic facts of the Earhart disappearance. Why bother with fact checking when you have a bestselling author to skewer, facts be damned. I didn’t bother to fix the spelling in the original.
Contrary to Time’s mendacious critique, The Search for Amelia Earhart was the most important Earhart disappearance book ever written, but it presented only about 5 percent of what’s been learned of the fliers’ fates since 1966. A mountain of evidence, with even more yet to be found and revealed, tells us of the tragic Saipan ends of Amelia and Fred, and the title of Time’s review, “Sinister Conspiracy?” is accurate only if describing the vile motives of Time’s board of directors.
Was Amelia Earhart really lost at sea during her round-the-world flight 29 years ago—or was she a spy who died a captive of the Japanese?
Fred Goerner, a San Francisco radio newscaster, pursued the question for six years, and has caught up with what he is convinced is the answer. Obviously, if Earhart simply died in a plane accident, there would be no need for a book. By stitching surmise to fact, Goerner makes a book that barely hangs together. His tantalizing if familiar theory is that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were on an unofficial spy mission for the U.S. when they crashed and fell into Japanese hands.
No Luck. As far as the public knows, Earhart and Noonan left Lae, New Guinea, on July 1, 1937, on the most dangerous leg of their trip—a 2,550-mile leap to tiny (one square mile) Rowland Island, where no plane had ever landed before. Early on July 2, the Coast Guard cutter Itasca, standing by at Rowland, received a series of messages from Pilot Earhart reporting that she was unsure of her position and that she was running low on gas. Her last message, delivered in a broken and choked voice, was a plea for a fix on her position. Too late. Itasca failed to get a fix, and so, subsequently, did an armada of U.S. fleet searchers.
Goerner has succeeded, he says, where the U.S. Navy failed. Financed by CBS, the Scripps newspaper chain, the San Mateo (Calif.) Times and the Associated Press, he made four trips to the islands of the western Pacific to gather evidence of evildoing. In 1960, he returned from the Pacific with a bagful of airplane parts dredged out of Saipan harbor. These, he believed, were the remains of Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Electra.
No such luck; the collection turned out to be parts from a Japanese plane. In 1964, Goerner got a flash of headlines by producing seven pounds of human bones and 37 teeth. The flyers? Nope, declared a Berkeley anthropologist—they belonged to some late Micronesians.
Detour. At length, after scores of interviews with witnesses who claimed that they knew something, and with various officials who denied that they knew anything, Goerner fashioned his plot. When Earhart left Lae, he writes, she did not fly directly toward Rowland Island. Instead, acting on the request of a highly placed U.S. official (Goerner hints that it must have been F.D.R.), she headed north toward Truk in the central Carolines to reconnoiter Japanese airfields and fleet-servicing facilities in the area. To make this detour possible without arousing suspicion—after all, the whole world knew the flyers’ itinerary—Earhart had had her Electra secretly outfitted with special engines capable of cruising at 200 m.p.h.; as far as anybody else knew, Goerner writes, the plane could do only 150-165 m.p.h.
After sizing up Truk, Earhart headed for Rowland. Goerner guesses that she soon got hopelessly lost in a tropical storm and turned the Electra north and west, away from her destination. By calculating the Electra’s speed and fuel consumption, Goerner figures that the plane must have crash-landed near the beach of Mili atoll in the southeastern Marshall Islands. It was from that place, he says, that Earhart cranked out SOS messages on the plane’s emergency radio. This, Goerner believes, accounts for the fact that a number of radio operators reported picking up messages from the downed plane at about this time.
Goerner estimates that twelve days later a Japanese fishing boat reached the couple. They were taken aboard and later transferred either to the Japanese seaplane tender Kamoi or to the survey ship Koshu, which was known to be in the region. From his talks with natives, Goerner concludes that the flyers were taken first to Jaluit, then Kwajalein, and finally to Saipan, Japan’s military headquarters in the Pacific; a number of Saipanese say that they saw a man and a woman who resembled Noonan and Earhart. Goerner quotes native sources as saying that Earhart probably died of dysentery and that Noonan was beheaded, but he does not document the fact. Nevertheless he writes: “The kind of questioning and hardships they endured can be imagined. Death may have been a release they both desired.”
No Secret. If Goerner’s story is correct, why is it that neither the U.S. nor the Japanese government will confirm it? That is what he wants to know. There is a sinister conspiracy in Washington, Goerner hints, aimed at keeping things hushed up, even so many years after the event. And the Japanese won’t talk, he adds, because they fear that an admission of complicity would damage their hopes of recovering some of the Pacific islands that became part of a U.N. trust territory after the war. That farfetched notion will be news to the Japanese.
Along the way, Goerner does infect the reader with some nagging points. He has found two U.S. Marines who claim that they exhumed the flyers’ bodies in Saipan in 1944, and says that the remains were either secretly reinterred or are today in the possession of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. And he quotes no less a personage than Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, who told Goerner in March 1965: “I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese.” Alas, Nimitz told him no more than that; he died last February.
Readers who take Goerner’s word for everything will have to take it on faith. For example, those special engines that play such an important part in Goerner’s closely cut puzzler were no secret at all. On the day after Earhart’s plane went down, the New York Times reported that the Electra was equipped with two of the latest Wasp engines, capable of cruising speeds well over 200 m.p.h. (End of Time‘s review.)
I will leave it to discerning readers of this blog to dissect the above litany of errors, lies and propaganda excreted by the pre-eminent news magazine of the day to a legion of readers, some of whom may have actually believed that Time was trying to help its subscribers understand the truth in the Earhart disappearance. Of course this was the furthest thing from the minds of Time’s editors, whose only goal was to discredit everything Goerner had found that so clearly revealed the truth about Amelia and Fred’s Marshall Islands landing and subsequent deaths on Saipan.
“With its dismissive hit piece,” I write in Truth at Last, “Time set the tone for generations of media deceit and hostility to the truth that continues today, manifesting itself in ways blatant and subtle throughout every segment of our news and entertainment industries. Wherever discussion about the loss of America’s First Lady of Flight can be found in America—in newspapers, magazines, biographies, television news, movies, and anywhere else—the insidious influence of the establishment’s aversion to Saipan will invariably accompany it.
“Whether its perpetrators are conscious of this inherent bias or not, this pervasive policy of media malfeasance has two objectives. The first is the perpetuation of the lie that the Earhart ‘mystery’ is the Gordian knot of historical riddles, entirely beyond resolution in our lifetimes; the second is to ensure the idea that Earhart and Noonan died on Saipan is considered the most ridiculous of all possibilities, believed only by fringe nuts and conspiracy theorists.”
Conclusion of Gray’s “Amelia Earhart and Radio”: Former PAA flight officer’s findings still fascinate
In the conclusion of Almon Gray’s “Amelia Earhart and Radio,” the former Pan American Airways radio flight officer examines further technical and other aspects of Amelia Earhart’s final flight, including the origin and effectiveness of the radio direction finder on Howland Island, some of the possible post-flight radio transmissions that may have originated from the Earhart Electra, and Fred Noonan’s alleged drinking problem as it may have affected the flight. As always, the real mystery is what transpired aboard the Electra in the hours before and after her last radio transmission, and the biggest question remains unanswered: Was Amelia actually attempting to reach Howland Island? If she was, then Gray’s conclusions remain highly relevant today.
THE HOWLAND ISLAND RADIO DIRECTION FINDER
Obviously Earhart had a misconception of the radio direction finder installed on Howland Island. She apparently envisaged it as being a PAA type Adcock high frequency system, or its functional equivalent, which would take bearings on her 3105 kHz signals and send them to her just as the PAA station at Mokapu Point had done during her flight from Oakland to Honolulu. Because of that she repeatedly asked Itasca to take bearings on 3105 kHz and transmitted signals upon which bearings were expected to be taken. It appears that there may have been some justification for her having that concept.
When the decision was made to fly easterly around the world, and the long Lae-Howland leg was being studied, Earhart and Noonan suggested to the Coast Guard that a radio direction finder be set up on Howland (“PLANE SUGGESTS DIRECTION FINDER BE SET UP ON ISLAND, IF PRACTICABLE”). According to the research of Capt. Laurance F. Safford, USN, it was at about this time that Mr. Richard B. Black, the Department of the Interior representative, who was to go to Howland in Itasca, conceived the idea of “borrowing” a so-called high frequency radio direction finder from the Navy to use on Howland Island. Black advised G.P. Putnam, Earhart’s husband and business manager, of his plans and advised him when the gear had been obtained and put aboard Itasca. No doubt Putnam passed this information along to Earhart.
In a message sent June 27 to Commander, San Francisco Division, USCG, the C.O. Itasca [Cdr. Warner K. Thompson]reported on his readiness for supporting the upcoming flight. One item was “DIRECTION FINDER INSTALLED ON HOWLAND.” This fact was reported to Mr. Putnam, then in San Francisco, and he in turn passed the news to Earhart, who was then at Darwin, Australia. While the Itasca message did not specifically say “High Frequency Direction Finder,” there apparently had been sufficient other information, probably via telephone from Putnam, to cause Earhart to believe that it was such a device. She likely assumed that the DF had been installed at Howland in response to the suggestion made earlier by Noonan and herself , and fully expected it to be a functional equivalent of a PAA-Adcock system.
According to Capt. Safford, who was in an excellent position to know, the direction finder station on Howland Island actually consisted of an aircraft type radio receiver and an aircraft type rotatable loop antenna which had been “hay-wired” together into a temporary DF installation. It operated off storage batteries borrowed from Itasca. The receiver and loop had been “moon-light requisitioned” (obtained by informal means) by Mr. Black and Lt. Daniel Cooper of the Army Air Corps, from a Navy patrol plane at Fleet Air Base, Pearl Harbor.
The equipment appears to have been a military version, or perhaps a twin, of the Bendix receiver and loop in the Earhart plane. At any rate, with a loop antenna, it certainly was not a high frequency direction finder and the probability of taking meaningful bearings with it on 3105 kHz over any significant distance, was practically nil. The Howland DF operator [Radioman 2nd Class Frank Cipriani] had only two opportunities to try taking a bearing on the plane, and in each case the plane’s transmission was so short that a really good attempt could not be made. Had the transmissions been sufficiently long the operator no doubt would have found that he could get no “minimum” and hence no bearing.
On July 3 (GMT date) an operator at public service radio station VKT, Nauru, sent the following “wire note” (an informal communication between operators) to RCA radio station KPH at San Francisco, with the request that it be passed to Itasca:
VOICE HEARD FAIRLY STRONG SIGS STRENGTH TO S3 [at] 0843 and 0854 GMT 48.31 METERS (i.e. 6216 kHz) SPEECH NOT INTERPRETED OWNING BAD MODULATION OR SPEAKER SHOUTING INTO MICROPHONE BUT VOICE SIMILAR TO THAT EMITTED FROM PLANE IN FLIGHT LAST NIGHT WITH EXCEPTION NO HUM ON PLANE IN BACKGROUND.”
Note that these signals were heard about 12-and-a-half hours after Itasca last heard the plane.
There is nothing that directly and positively connects these signals with the Earhart plane, however there is indirect evidence that warrants serious consideration:
(a) The frequency (6210 kHz) was right for it being the plane. It was not a commonly used frequency in that area.
(b) The Nauru operator reported good signal strength and was able to judge the tone or timbre of the speaker’s voice yet was unable to understand what the speaker was saying. He suggested the possibility of modulation problems. The operator who had checked the plane at Lae and the DF operator at Howland who was trying to take a radio bearing on the plane, both had noted similar symptoms and suggested possible modulation problems.
(c) The probability of there being more than one transmitter in the area exhibiting the same symptoms of over-modulation on the same frequencies at essentially the same time is very small.
It is this writer’s opinion that the signals intercepted by Nauru were in fact from the Earhart plane no longer in flight.
PAN AMERICAN AIRWAYS
Shortly after the Earhart plane became overdue at Howland, the Coast Guard requested PAA to use its communication and radio direction finding facilities in the Pacific areas to assist in the search for the plane and survivors. Instructions were immediately issued for the stations at Mokapu Point, Midway and Wake to monitor the plane’s frequencies as much as limited personnel would permit and be prepared to take radio bearings on any signals heard which might reasonably be believed to be coming from the plane. A special radio circuit was set up to permit intercommunication among the three stations. Numerous weak signals were heard but nothing of interest until 0948 July 5, GMT time and date. The following is extracted from a report made by R.M. Hansen, the Radio Operator in Charge at the Wake Island station:
At 0948 a phone signal of good intensity and well modulated by a voice but wavering badly suddenly came on 3105 kc. While the carrier frequency of this signal did not appear to vary appreciably, its strength did vary in an unusually erratic manner and at 0950, the carrier strength fell off to QSA 2 (2 on a scale of 0 to 5) with the wavering more noticeable than ever. At 0952, it went off completely. At 1212 (GMT July 5) I opened the DF guard on 3105 kc. At 1223 a very unsteady voice modulated carrier was observed on 3105 kc approximately. This transmission lasted until 1236 GMT. I was able to get an approximate bearing of 144 degrees. In spite of the extreme eccentricity of this signal during the entire length of the transmission, the splits were definite and pretty fair.
After I obtained the observed bearing, I advised Midway to listen for the signal (couldn’t raise Honolulu). He apparently did not hear it. This signal started in at a carrier strength of QSA5 (5 on a scale of 0 to 5) and at 1236, when the transmission stopped, it had gradually petered out to QSA2 during the intervals when it was audible. The characteristics of this signal were identical with those of the signal heard the previous night (0948 GMT) except that at DF the complete periods of no signal occurred during shorter intervals. While no identification call letters were distinguished in either case, I was positive at that time that this was KHAQQ [Earhart’s plane]. At this date I am still of this opinion.
Midway heard a signal having the same characteristics, and almost certainly the same station, at 0638 GMT July 5. A quick bearing of 201 degrees True was obtained, however the signal was not audible long enough to take a really good bearing and the 201 degree figure was labeled “approximate.”
Honolulu (Mokapu Point) also heard the “peculiar signal” on 3105 kHz several times. From 1523 to 1530 GMT July 4 an attempt was made to take a bearing on it, however due to weakness and shifting of the signal, only a rough bearing could be obtained. It was logged as 213 degrees, but it was implied that it was a doubtful bearing. Sometime between 0630 and 1225 GMT another bearing was attempted on the “peculiar signal.” The log describes it thus: “SIGNALS SO WEAK THAT IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO OBTAIN EVEN A FAIR CHECK. AVERAGE SEEMS TO BE AROUND 215 DEGREES — VERY DOUBTFUL BEARING .” It is obvious that the bearings from Honolulu were greatly inferior to those taken from Wake and Midway and are useful mainly as indications that the unknown station continued to function.
Not much attention was paid to these interceptions at the time because no one was aware that Earhart’s radio signals had been abnormal. Had it been known that she was having over modulation problems more attention probably would have been given them because the “Wavering” in the carrier strength is consistent with a varying degree of over-modulation rapidly increasing and decreasing carrier power. The gradual drop of signal strength from QSA5 to QSA2 over a span of 13 minutes is consistent with the further discharge of an already partially discharged storage battery power supply. The peculiar signals on 3105 kHz heard by Wake, Midway and Honolulu may very well have come from the Earhart plane, and there is good reason to believe that the radio bearing taken on those signals by Wake was accurate within a degree or so. The one from Midway may have had a somewhat larger error.
(Editor’s note: A number of radio operators, including several in the continental United States, reported hearing signals that they believed originated from Earhart and Noonan, and some have already been presented on this blog. Please see “Earhart’s ‘post-loss’ messages’ Real or fantasy?” and “Experts weigh in on Earhart’s ‘post-loss’ messages”.)
FREDERICK J. NOONAN
There has been much speculation as to whether or not Fred Noonan could send and receive International Morse code. From personal observation the writer knows that as of late 1935 Noonan could send and receive plain language at slow speeds, around eight to 10 words per minute. Recent research by Noonan biographer Michael A. Lang has revealed that circa 1931 Noonan held a Second Class Commercial Radio Operator license issued by the Radio Division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Second Class licenses of that vintage certify that the holder has been examined and passed the following elements:
(a) Knowledge of the general principles of electricity and of the theory of radio telegraphy and radiotelephony.
(b) Adjustment , operation and care of apparatus.
(c) Transmitting and sound reading at a speed of not less than sixteen words a minute Continental Morse in code groups and twenty words a minute in plain language.
(d) Use and care of storage battery or other auxiliary.
(e) Knowledge of international regulations and Acts of Congress to regulate radio communications.
Those writing about the Earhart disappearance have, in general, been very rough on Noonan because of his admitted problem with alcohol. In some cases much rougher than was justified by the facts. For example in one book it is related that the night before the departure from Lae for Howland, Noonan went on a binge and did not get to the airfield until just before the plane was due to take off, and even then was so intoxicated that he had to be helped aboard the plane. The implication being that he was largely responsible for the failure of the flight. The official report of Guinea Airways Ltd., at Lae, made in response to a request from the U.S. Government, paints quite a different picture. According to it the Lae wireless operator made attempts all throughout the day of June 30 to get time signals, requested by Earhart and Noonan, to permit Noonan to check his chronometer, but owing to local interference was unsuccessful that day. That indicates that Noonan spent most of June 30 at the radio station.
At about this point, Earhart decided to take off for Howland Island at 9:30 a.m. on July 1, subject to obtaining the time signal.
At 6:35 a.m. July 1st Earhart took the plane up on a 30-minute test hop after which the tanks were topped off and she was ready to go, except that a time signal had not yet been obtained. This day the difficulty was at the radio station which transmitted the signals. Extraordinary steps were taken to get a time signal but when one had not been obtained by 10:50 a.m. Earhart decided to postpone her departure until the next day, July 2. During the rest of the day constant watch was kept for the reception of time signals and finally at around 10:20 p.m. an excellent signal was received by Noonan which showed his chronometer to be three seconds slow. Noonan obviously had spent most of that day at the radio station.
On July 2 at 8:00 a.m. another time signal was received, this one from Saigon, and the chronometer checked the same as the previous night. Both Noonan and Earhart expressed their complete satisfaction and decided to leave at 10:00 a.m., which they did.
Only Noonan would have checked the chronometer, so the report seems to indicate clearly that Noonan was sober and in good shape at 8:00 a.m. and probably was that way when the plane took off.
From the standpoint of radio, Earhart’s decision to rely completely on radiotelephony, and her removal of the trailing antenna, showed poor judgment and introduced unnecessary and unjustifiable risks. However it cannot be denied that she got as far as Lae without trouble with what she had. It was her mistake in designating 7500 kHz as the homing frequency for Itasca that got her into deep trouble. Even that difficulty probably could have been overcome had she been able to communicate with Itasca and agree on a suitable homing frequency. Fate intervened, however, and something occurred in her receiving system which made it impossible for Earhart to hear any signals with her gear set up in the configuration she was accustomed to use for communications.
She did not understand the technical aspects of radio well enough to diagnose her problem and was not sufficiently familiar with the radio gear to know all the options available to her. She had been taught to shift the receiver to the loop antenna when she wanted to take a bearing, but probably no one had ever explained to her how the loop also could be used in carrying on communications. Had she been aware of that option and listened on the loop for Itasca‘s voice signals on 3105 kHz, no doubt she would have heard the ship and been able to establish two-way communications.
The probability is very high that the failure of the receiving system to receive signals when using the fixed antenna was due either to a defective feed line between the receiver unit and the “send/receive” relay in the transmitter, or a defect in that relay itself. The odds are about 95 to 5 that the relay was at fault. It is considered therefore that a failure of that relay was the one single thing most responsible for the failure of the Earhart flight.
If it is assumed that the “peculiar signals” intercepted by Nauru and the PAA stations at Wake and Midway were in fact from the Earhart plane then the following may be deduced from the radio signals:
(a) The landing was fairly successful. The plane did not nose over or break up, otherwise the radio could not have been used.
(b) The landing was not in the open sea. Had it been, enough salt water would have seeped in to enter the wiring and disable the radio transmitting gear in a relatively short time.
(c) Earhart survived the landing. She was heard by the Nauru operator long after the plane would have run out of gas.
(d) Noonan survived. A man’s voice was distinctly heard on the “peculiar signal” by Midway. It was unintelligible.
(e) Either Earhart or Noonan, or both, were alive and with the plane at least until 0948 July 5, 1937 GCT time and date. The “peculiar signals” were last heard then.
(f) The “peculiar signals” probably were coming from the eastern or southeastern part of the Marshall Islands. (End of Almon Gray’s “Amelia Earhart and Radio.”)
Bill Prymak’s note: Capt. Gray, USNR (Ret.) received his Commercial Radio Operator License in 1930, and went with Pan American in 1935, when they started the trans-Pacific service. He became Flight Radio Officer on China Clipper type aircraft, and later was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Communication in 1937.
The AMELIA EARHART SOCIETY finds the above radio analysis of the last flight to be one of the finest pieces of work ever presented on this subject.
Editor’s note: We should remember that in considering this analysis of Earhart’s final flight, Almon Gray took the position that the fliers were actually trying to reach Howland Island, and that all their actions were directed toward that goal. If Amelia and Noonan were not trying to reach Howland, but were engaged in some sort of covert operation, which certainly cannot be ruled based on our limited knowledge of what transpired during those final hours, then many of Gray’s findings become largely irrelevant.