Today we return to Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters for another look at true Earhart research history. “The Jaluit Report” is Prymak’s account of his November 1990 trip to Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands with his longtime friend, the strange, unreliable researcher Joe Gervais, best known as the progenitor of the notorious Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth. “The Jaluit Report” appeared in the May 1991 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Please understand that the words and opinions in this piece are those of the writers and others quoted, and not necessarily those of the editor. Boldface and italics emphasis is mine throughout.
“The Jaluit Report,” January 1991 (Part I of two)
by Bill Prymak and Major Joe Gervais, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
This report summarizes the events experienced during our recent expedition to Jaluit and the great Japanese Naval Seaplane Base at Emidj, eight miles north of Jabor, the only harbor located in the Jaluit chain of islands, and where the administrative seat of Japanese Government was located prior to and during World War II.
Bill Prymak received considerable flak from the assemblage of critics out there for failing to maintain strict objectivity in the reporting of eyewitnesses interviewed during last year’s trip to Mill Atoll, so this report will simply “tell it as it happened,” with no editorializing, no personal opinions. It shall be for the reader to judge the veracity of the many eyewitness experiences related to us, and the impact these experiences may have on the Earhart Mystery. It should be noted, however, that we went so far back into the bush that many of these natives interviewed had rarely, if ever, seen a white visitor to their remote part of the Marshall Islands: none of them had ever been interviewed before, so we were fortunate indeed to visit with “uncontaminated” witnesses.
And yet, as the following report will detail, they knew of the “American Lady Spy who flew her own airplane” not from books (they have none there), not from previous visitors, not from their own government people, but they knew of the American Lady Spy relating only to a time many years ago, before the “Great War,” and always in concert with their servitude under harsh Japanese rule.
“Hey Bill, this is Joe Gervais. You gotta come down: I’ve got something important to show you, and when you see it, you’ll agree with me that we gotta take another trip to the Marshall Islands. There’s some unfinished business there.”
A typical Gervais call. Full of energy, optimism, and rarely failing to come up with a new tidbit on the Earhart mystery that has consumed the man for over thirty years.
Visiting Maj. Gervais has never been unpleasant nor without excitement; he lives in Las Vegas, and with my good fortune to own an airplane, it was a quick hop from Denver that late October, 1990. He is ever the gracious host, and his EARHART SUITE contains literally thousands of research data painstakingly procured over the past thirty years. It’s amazing how much Earhart material he has acquired that did not make his book.
Joe had photographs and spread sheets all over the table as he ushered me into the Earhart Suite. “Bill, let’s backtrack a bit: virtually every credible AE researcher has her down in the Marshall Islands, and every one of them tried to get to Jaluit, but because of time constraints, money, or logistics, none of ’em made it to Jaluit. Think about it; we have at least five sightings of what might be the Electra at Jaluit: Bilimon Amaron see it on the fantail of a Japanese naval ship; John Heine sees it on a barge [see page 156 Truth at Last] ; Oscar DeBroom reports seeing it at Jaluit; Tomaki [Mayazo, see pages 140-141 TAL for clarification], loading coal on the Kamoi, hears about the American Lady pilot and plane. And Jaluit was administrative headquarters for the Japanese long before World War II got underway. Why shouldn’t a ‘spy’ airplane be brought to Jaluit, placed on a barge for the inland water trip to a naval seaplane base under construction at that time, and far removed from prying eyes?
“Take a look at this,” Joe continued, his eyes lighting up with excitement, as he showed me classified pre-strike Target Detail Photos of Emidj, the Japanese naval seaplane base, taken by U.S. Air Force reconnaissance planes July 1943.
“My God,” I uttered, “that’s a mini Pearl Harbor down there,” as I studied the photographs. Clearly outlined were two massive concrete ramps leading into the lagoon, a main concrete apron 1,500 feet long by 360 feet wide, two enormous hangars scaling 240 feet by 160-feet wide (each!), numerous other support structures, and several giant Emily flying boats parked on the aprons.
“Study that overhead photo real hard, Bill, and see if you note anything unusual.” Joe was testing me. Besides the aforementioned ramps, hangars and airplanes, I could pick out AA guns, barracks, roads, and evidence that a tremendous amount of labor and materials had gone into this huge complex. But nothing that would precipitate an urgent trip to Las Vegas caught my eye. I looked up at Joe, plaintively, my eyes conceding defeat: “I give up — what’s so sensational down there?”
Joe whipped out a photo-enhanced copy of the recon photo and proudly placed it in front of me, pointing to what obviously was an Operations building . Behind the building, in what was apparently several years’ growth of underbrush, was a silver airplane! I was stunned! Intense magnification and scrutiny showed the object to be a twin-engined land airplane, twin tail, 55-foot wingspan, and looking just like a Lockheed Electra would look like from an overhead camera shot.
“Bill,” Joe said softly, “What the hell is a civilian land based airplane doing on a Japanese Naval Seaplane Base in the middle of a war?” I couldn’t even begin to answer, noting further on the photo that all the Jap military aircraft were clearly camouflage gray. Our attention was riveted upon a silver-looking (READ-Aluminum) airplane that just didn’t seem to belong there.
“Joe,” I asked, “when do we leave for Jaluit?”
You pay for at least three phone calls to the Marshall Islands before you finally connect with someone who might help you connect to Jaluit. And then the response to our request to visit Jaluit went something like: “Hey, mon, what for you wanna visit Jaluit? Nobody goes dere . . . dere ain’t no airport, no hotel, no beaches, no white folk . . . are you guys plannin’ on runnin’ dope or sumtin?” Finally, at no little expense, our twin-engine plane was headed southeast out of Majuro (capital of the Marshall Islands) some 115 miles down the road. It’s a big, big ocean out there.
Jaluit Atoll will never make the cover of ISLAND PARADISE MAGAZINE. It’s a scrawny looking string of very thin islands stretching some 40 miles in length and 20 miles at its widest girth. No beaches to speak of. We asked our pilot to make a low pass over Emidj for some photos; when we mentally compared our 1943 photos with the view below, we knew our work was cut out for us, as the encroaching jungle over the aprons and hangars showed a solid blanket of green.
As we approached Jabor, capital of Jaluit Atoll, I sat right seat next to the pilot; I jokingly asked if Jabor had a control tower. “We don’t even have an airstrip to land on,” complained the pilot, pointing to a narrow winding coral road. He skillfully dumped it in, however, and we were unceremoniously off loaded in front of a rusting hulk of metal vaguely resembling a beat-up pickup truck.
It had been previously arranged that the Mayor of Jabor (population some three hundred natives and thousands of chickens and pigs) would meet our flight and arrange food and lodging. But the fellow in the truck, a most agreeable chap who spoke some English, and who also happened to be the official Postmaster, advised us the Mayor was on a remote island attending a funeral, and his time or date or return was, well, “uncertain.” Mr. Johnson, our newfound Postmaster friend, took us to the Post Office to wait for the Mayor.
And then the rains came . . . in sheets like I’ve never seen before. Joe was resigned to sleeping on the P.O. desk, while I deliberated the delightful prospect of sleeping on the floor amongst all those crawling inhabitants. Suddenly Mr. Johnson remembered: school was on holiday, but one teacher remained, and might find us a bed in the teachers’ quarters. Miss Kimberly, a delightful transplant from Arkansas, saved the day for us, and proved to be a most charming hostess for the duration of our stay on Jabor.
Mayor Robert Diem was to be our guide and translator for the rest of our stay on Jaluit. His warmth, friendship and eagerness to help will be long remembered. First order of business on the first day was to get the BOOM-BOOM BOAT as they called it (didn’t Mill also have a BOOM-BOOM BOAT?) operational for the trip to Emidj, some eight miles up the lagoon. With much noise, fire and smoke by mid-morning we chugged northward and arrived some two hours later.
EMIDJ. What a great naval seaplane base this must have been. Begun in 1935 with 8,000 Korean and Marshallese labor, the enormous seaplane ramps, except for the 500-pound bomb direct hits, are today in excellent condition. The 30-foot-high bomb depository, with its 6-foot-thick walls and roof, stands as a testimony to the advanced engineering skills of the Japanese in that era. The structure today is as sound and solid as the day it was built.
Along the shore lay strewn dozens of radial engines, props, bomb carrier dollies, and rusting hulks of the machines of war. The big hangars were downed, devoured entirely by the creeping jungle. By my calculation, at least a hundred thousand tons of concrete were hand mixed to build this base.
Approximately 90 natives live on the concrete apron in tin shacks, with absolutely no visible sign of meaningful employment; the trading boat comes once a month with basic staples in exchange for the copra harvested. We were introduced to Joel, the school teacher who spoke fairly good English, and two native boys were assigned to us for initial reconnaissance work. We had previously plotted out precisely where the “aircraft in question” should locate, and as we brought in our survey lines, ground ZERO was surrounded by a solid wall of green. We were bitterly frustrated and disappointed at this turn of events, but “take heart!” we cried. This is only the first day.
Our two guides told us nothing existed at our ground ZERO, but we hacked our way to four corners of the huge hangars and were shown piles of aluminum aircraft debris that has been obviously bulldozed into one great mass. The jungle had flexed its muscles and embraced this mass of aluminum with a canopy that virtually defied penetration. We did identify several Japanese aircraft, including one huge Emily Flying Boat, but found nothing made in USA.
(Editor’s note: For those wondering about the one-winged plane that brought Gervais and Prymak to Jaluit, no trace of it was ever found.)
Crawling out of the jungle was like stepping out of a blast furnace, and nothing in the world refreshes like a cool drink of nectar out of a coconut. Joel, our schoolmaster friend told us that in 1977 the U.S. Army came in with bulldozers to deactivate any live ordinance strewn about and resettle the natives on Emidj. This was distressing news to us; it would take an army of men to cut through the jungle and mass of aluminum to affect a meaningful search for anything USA. We thanked our gracious hosts for their help and promised to return the next day. (End of Part I; witness interviews to come in Part II.)
Lest those who might have thought the latest chapter of the continuing Amelia Earhart disinformation campaign had come to a neat and tidy close with the July 11 report from The Guardian online that the photograph of the dock at Jaluit in the Marshall Islands had been found in a Japanese travel book published in 1935, we now have another, not unexpected, loose end. You might recall that The Guardian reported that “The image was part of a Japanese-language travelogue about the South Seas that was published almost two years before Earhart disappeared.”
“Does it get any worse than this?” I wrote in my July 12 review of the latest History Channel propaganda effort, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” “If the report is true, whatever the photo claims that began with NBC’s Wednesday, July 5 promotion barrage, are now entirely destroyed, discredited and defunct.”
I didn’t need a report from a Japanese blogger to convince me that the claims made by Les Kinney, Morningstar Entertainment and the History Channel, first broadcast nationwide by NBC News on July 5, were false and totally without substance. I was the first to publicly denounce Kinney’s assertions for the delusions (at best) that they were, and I’d known about this shameless plot to grab headlines under false pretenses for many months, since a reader from Pennsylvania procured the same photo from the National Archives in College Park, Md., and sent it to me.
Now Karen Earnshaw, a journalist who lives in the Marshall Islands and wrote June 26, 2015 and July 9, 2015 stories in the U.K.’s Daily Mail online about Dick Spink’s discoveries at Mili Atoll’s Endriken Islands, has informed me in a July 16 email about a Marshallese government press release she found on Rich Martini’s blog. Here is the release:
It’s not easy to read this rather fuzzy document, so here is its content:
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is following your investigation of the Amelia Earhart mystery with great interest. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, confirms that the photograph found in the US National Archives is the dock at Jabor on Jaluit Atoll.
Jabor Dock was built in 1936. The events of this period are still recalled by our eldest citizens. The claim that Jabor dock was already built in 1935 does not match the historical record. Therefore, it would not have been possible for any photos to have been taken of the Jabor dock in 1935. The dock simply did not exist. The elders who confirmed that Amelia and her navigator were brought to Jabor are of the highest standing and reputation in our community.
The ministry hopes this helps the record straight.
It’s interesting to note that there is no Internet site for the Republic of the Marshall Islands; the closest I can find to an online presence is a website for the Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United States of America.
The obvious question is, who are the “your” referred to in the first line of the press release? Closely following that, we can ask who besides Rich Martini and TIGHAR, who I’ve been told also has posted it, was this release sent to? Surely they weren’t the only recipients of this highly significant statement from the Marshallese government. I think it’s perfectly obvious that the Marshalls statement was sent to many, if not every major player in the American media. How Martini and TIGHAR obtained it is irrelevant. What is relevant is that no one else in our media has paid any attention to it.
Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, N.Y., who writes letters and editorials to newspapers locally and nationally in support of the truth, contacted the Marshalls Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was informed that the press release did originate with the Marshallese government. So at least we know this is a legitimate document.
So what does this latest revelation, which so directly contradicts The Guardian report about the 1935 origin of the photo, really mean? It must be insignificant, based on the complete silence emanating from our esteemed media, and indeed it does mean little. But the media isn’t interested in it for entirely different reasons. They’ve already played their roles with the phony photo claims in advance of the History Channel’s Earhart special. As far as the establishment media is concerned, the Marshalls-Saipan truth has been discredited, and the public is once again flummoxed and confused about all aspects of the Earhart case. Mission accomplished.
It’s more than likely that the Republic of the Marshall Islands, an independent nation that doesn’t answer to the United States on all matters related to its Earhart propaganda program, was simply not informed by the appropriate parties that the current operation was over. Some in the Marshallese government might actually have been trying to be helpful and set the record straight about the provenance of the photo in relation to the dock at Jaluit. I’m sure their efforts were not appreciated, judging by the overwhelming media silence that has greeted the press release.
Meanwhile Martini has now joined the vision-challenged Les Kinney in insisting, despite all evidence, that the photo does indeed reflect the presence of Earhart and Noonan, in effect doubling down on the insanity most thought had been put to rest — and seemingly has been, with the exception of these two luminaries. Martini has apparently decided that he has nothing better to do than to team with Kinney on his grave-digging detail to incoherence and irrelevance in the Earhart chase. But is this really a case of the blind leading the blind, or is it something altogether different, something far more sinister than mere incompetence?
On his blog, Martini further muddles the picture by injecting the interesting but complex and unverifiable tale of the “bottle message” found on a beach in France in October 1937 that some have unsuccessfully tried to tie to Earhart by way of French explorer Eric De Bisschop. I decided long ago not to venture into these very murky waters that demand too much speculation to ever be accepted as fact. If you want to be thoroughly confused, I suggest you visit Rich Martini’s blog, where you will come away with far less clarity than you arrived with.
The bottom line is that “Earhart Fever,” a condition I’ve seen work its insidious ways on far better than these two, is alive, well and highly contagious. Its victims can be identified by their abject willingness to say or do anything that will bring them a moment’s more attention than they otherwise deserve, which is little or none at all.
For those who still fail to understand what has recently transpired despite my best efforts to explain this deviously planned disinformation exercise as clearly as possible, I can only suggest that you carefully re-read the previous posts on the History Channel travesty, and to review Dave Martin’s Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression to see how many of them fit nicely into the despicable drama we’ve seen unfold since NBC News kicked it all off with their promotion blitz on July 5.
Readers of this blog can continue to trust that this correspondent will always tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My integrity and credibility are all I have, and they are infinitely more valuable to me than a few minutes on a third-rate History Channel Earhart special.
Did Amelia Earhart’s secretary send the mysterious letter found at Jaluit Post Office in November 1937?
With the recent passing of my dear friend Bill Prymak at age 86, we can write finis to a great era of Earhart research. Bill has joined a host of Earhart researchers whose myriad contributions have made an enormous impact in establishing the facts about Amelia’s tragic end on Saipan, and although our current national zeitgeist stands in vehement opposition to their findings becoming widely known anytime soon, the truth will stand the test of time and will someday be revealed to all when the U.S. government finally finds the fortitude to do so. Bill’s death leaves only Paul Rafford Jr., 95, the former Pan American Airways radio flight officer and author of Amelia Earhart’s Radio: Why She Disappeared (2008) and Joe Klaas, 94, Joe Gervais’ close friend who penned the infamous 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives as the only surviving old timers.
Beginning with today’s post, as a tribute to Bill and his formidable contributions to the Earhart saga, I will republish some of the great research articles that graced the pages of his remarkable Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, which he produced, without fanfare or remuneration, and solely for the limited membership of the Amelia Earhart Society in his Broomfield, Colo., office from December 1989 until March 2000. I know Bill would be happy that his fine work, and that of many others, is honored and shared with the remaining few who continue to seek and value the truth.
Due to the columnar format of this blog, it won’t always be possible to exactly reproduce the letter-size that comprised Bill’ newsletters, but I’ll do everything possible to present these entries as close to their original look as possible. I’ll also make it clear when the material presented is taken directly from Bill’s AES Newsletters. Today’s article is taken from the May 1991 issue of the newsletters, and looks like this:
FROM: PACIFIC ISLANDS MONTHLY MAGAZINE 5/25/38
POSTAL MYSTERY, UNCLAIMED LETTER FOR AMELIA EARHART
From: Mr. Carl Heine a special correspondent and German missionary in the Marshall Islands, Jaluit Atoll, March 17, 1938
“Here is a curious thing. On November 27, 1937 in the Jaluit Post Office, in the Marshall Islands (Japanese), among the unclaimed mail a certain letter attracted my attention. In its upper left corner was printed ‘Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood California.’ A little lower down appeared the postal date stamp with “Los Angeles, California, October 7, 10 pm,” within the circle, Lower down in the usual place appeared the following stating address:
“Miss Amelia Earhart (Putnam); Marshall Islands (Japanese); Ratak Group, Maloelap Island, (10); South Pacific Ocean.”
“Written diagonally across one corner was this, ‘Deliver Promptly.’ On the back of envelope ‘Incognito’ was penciled in very small, fine handwriting. The letter was unopened, and consequently I have no idea of its contents. Now, it seems to me that anyone in U.S.A. writing as late as October, ought to be well aware that Amelia Earhart had been given up as lost long before. Hence, it would appear that the letter may have been written by some one desirous of hoaxing the public. Still, it is just possible that such may not be the case at all.
“Certainly, the writer of the address on the envelope, while making some errors such as anyone at a distance might make, displays a little more geographical knowledge of these parts than one would expect of the average individual, but which one would certainly expect of anyone about to traverse the Pacific, and would be passing this group at a distance of a few hundred miles.
“It is conceivable that Amelia Earhart may have told some trusted friend in America, before setting out on her ill fated journey, that she intended to take a look-see in at the Marshalls enroute or that she might possibly do so if in any danger as she passed by. And it is possible that this hypothetical friend in Hollywood might think that Amelia had reached this group, and might be lying low for some reason or other at Maloelap. It seems curious that anyone without specific interest in the group should know the name of that particular atoll which is of no great importance. What the number (10) might mean in connection with that island I have no idea.” (End of Carl Heine’s original narrative.)
HISTORICAL NOTE: “Maloelap Island” (Bill Prymak’s comments follow.)
“Prior to WWII in the Pacific the Japanese built its first military operational airfield among the Marshall Islands Group on this island. During the invasion of the Marshall Islands by the U.S. Forces during WWII, Maloelap Island was bypassed and not occupied. The Japanese on this island did not surrender until after the signing of the surrender in Tokyo Bay.”
“ED NOTE: Isn’t it coincidental that Margot DeCarie, AE’s personal secretary, was living in the Hollywood-Roosevelt Hotel during Sept-Oct. 1937? It is stated that with her death in 1983, the true answers to the AE mystery were buried with her….” (End of entry.)
This is all we know about the letter. Carl Heine obviously respected privacy rights — even of those believed deceased — too much to open and read its contents, and no one else has ever indicated what became of it. It’s quite possible that the letter was confiscated by U.S. intelligence assets soon after they learned of its existence, and it’s probably joined Robert E. Wallack’s briefcase and the photos of Amelia and Fred reportedly discovered by Seabee Joe Garofalo and other GIs on Saipan, deep in top secret archives where nobody can get to it.
We do know that DeCarie wasn’t shy about expressing her ideas about what happened to her boss in July 1937, but we can also wonder whether she told people like Fred Goerner all that she really knew. In a phone interview sometime in the early 1960s, she told Goerner that she had “promised secrecy” to an unknown party, but still gave him plenty to think about. “Do you really think Purdue University bought that plane for Amelia,” she asked, “and do you think that it was intended for some kind of vague experimentation? Second, if the whole thing was a publicity stunt … why did the government assign some of its top experts to the flight, and why did President Roosevelt have an airfield built for her? Last, do you believe the President ordered the Navy to spend four million dollars on a search for a couple of stunt fliers?” DeCarie was sure Earhart “died a long time ago,” and that the Japanese captured her “within moderate range of Howland Island. … President Roosevelt knew everything,” she said. “He knew the price Amelia paid.” Margot Decarie passed away in North Hollywood, Calif., in 1983 at the age of 79.
In his 1997 book, Where Nets Were Cast: Christianity in Oceana Since World War II, John Garret wrote that during the war, Carl Heine was given the option to leave the Marshalls, but he chose to stay. He was detained, along with his wife, at times in isolation by the Japanese. “In January 1944 US bombing became heavier at Jabor, preceding the full counter-attack on fortified positions,” Garret wrote. “Many Marshallese – but few, if any Japanese – died in the most intensive bombardment in March. In April, Carl R. Heine was beheaded and his body burned at Enijet, Jaluit.” (Garrett is clearly in error about the location of Heine’s beheading, as Enijet is an island on Mili Atoll, not Jaluit Atoll.)
Heine’s grandson John would later tell Earhart researchers about the barge with the silver airplane with the broken wing he saw at Jaluit as a child. “It was the plane an American lady had been flying when she crashed,” Heine told T.C. “Buddy” Brennan in 1983, and he believed that after leaving Jaluit the ship “went on to Kwajalein … then on to Truk and Saipan.”