Tag Archives: Joe Gervais

Gervais on Japan’s Earhart deceit, “Cooperation”

Earhart researcher and former Air Force officer Joe Gervais, whose important Guam and Saipan witness interviews in 1960 strongly supported Fred Goerner’s Saipan findings, was best known as the creator of the insidious Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, forever immortalized along with other crackpot ideas in Joe Klaas’ infamous 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives

In assessing Gervais’ contributions to Earhart research, I think a fair, even generous verdict might fall somewhere within the mixed” category.  To elevate Gervais’ work to anything more, as some in the Amelia Earhart Society, including his former friend and enabler Bill Prymak, were wont to do, is simply wrong.  Of course it’s only my opinion, but I’m convinced that Gervais did far more harm than good for the truth in the Earhart disappearance.  The Bolam travesty and Joe Klaas’ outrageous Amelia Earhart Lives remain among the most damaging items in Earhart “research” history. 

The holes Gervais dug for himself with his ridiculous ideas in Amelia Earhart Lives and many other false claims were far too deep for him to escape contempt among some researchers, regardless of what his patrons in the Amelia Earhart Society and the The International Forest of Friendship, where he was inducted in 2005, might tell you.

Joe Gervais (left) and Bill Prymak in an undated photo at The International Forest of Friendship, in Atchison, Kansas, The forest, of course, and its current lack of support for the truth as presented in this blog, has been discussed in recent Truth at Last posts.  It was founded in 1976 by the city of Atchison and the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots.  Fay Gillis Wells is credited as founder and original co-chairman.  Prymak was inducted in 1994, Gervais in 2005, and both are probably rolling in their graves these days.   

The following piece by Gervais, “A Chronology of Japanese Denials Interests and Cooperation” [sic] appeared in the February 1995 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  I’ve copied the original AES Newsletter presentation and will follow with comments. 

Let’s review this list of former Japanese officers and civilians who denied having any knowledge about the facts in the Earhart disappearance; we know about Amy Earhart’s highly publicized July 1949 interview with the L.A. Times, which Gervais mentions in this piece.  Other related tidbits here are U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reishauer’s 1963 statement to Muriel Morrissey that the State Department file wasn’t closed, and Adm. Chester W. Nimitz’s 1966 telephone revelation to Fred Goerner that “Earhart came down in the Marshalls and was picked up by the Japanese.” 

The first in Gervais’ series of Japanese lies came in August 1945, when on the heels of its surrender, “The Japanese Government denied ever having the flyers in their custody.”  This requires no comment. 

Gervais’ chronology next states, “Aug. 49 [sic]:  CAPT. HANJIRO TAKAGI of the KOSHU carried out a search SE of the Marshall Islands but no traces of AE were found.”  Of course no search of the Marshalls was done in connection with the Earhart case in August 1949.  

On July 7, 1937, the New York Times reported:

The Japanese Navy’s 2,080-ton survey ship Koshu, Captain Hanjiro Takagi commanding, which is cruising in the area around Howland Island, was ordered yesterday to search for Amelia Earhart.  The orders to the Koshu were radioed after Hirosi Saito, Ambassador to Washington, had reported that the United States Government had accepted an offer of Japanese assistance.  Admiral Mistumasa Yonai, the Navy minister, immediately transmitted instructions to the Japanese commanders in Formosa and the Mandated islands.” 

As we see in in my Nov. 13, 2020 post,Japanese lied about Earhart search in Marshalls,” author and researcher Vincent V. Loomis wrote that the Japanese managed to convince G-2 [U.S. Intelligence] they had searched the Marshalls quite thoroughly when in fact they had not.  The 12th Squadron and the Kamoi were listened as having searched the area when, as found in their logs, they were in port in Japan.  The Koshu was also listed as part of the search, but as having found nothing.” 

The front page of the San Mateo (Calif.) Times, July 1, 1960, reflects Fred Goerner’s Saipan findings and, in the big picture, is as true today as it was then.

Also in August 1949, Gervais cites the former Japanese Governor of the Marshall Islands, Kinjiro Kitajima [no dates given for his tenure] at Jaluit Atoll found leading a secluded life in a Tokyo suburb, [who] said, ‘He had absolutely no knowledge of a while aviatrix, or one of any other color for that matter landing anywhere among the Marshalls at that time.’ ” 

Our final August 1949 item comes from former Vice Adm. Seichiro Fujimori, “a frequent visitor to the Marshalls in connection with naval matters, [who] said, ‘To his knowledge no American flyers ever landed in the Marshalls.’ ” 

The Kitajima and Fujimori denials Gervais cites must have come from two newspaper stories published in August 1949: “Survey Discounts Amelia Earhart Prisoner Rumors,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 26, 1949 [no byline]; or “The Earhart Mystery: UP [United Press] Tracing of Story Famed Aviatrix Was Nabbed By Japanese Still Proving Futile.” Nippon Times, Aug. 29, 1949, by Ian Mitsu.  Gervais, who never claimed to be a writer — his Air Force officer friend Joe Klaas is the author of Amelia Earhart Lives, but the book is based almost entirely on Gervais’ ideas — can be confusing in his presentation.

Gervais fast-forwards to July 1960, when Fred Goerner, soon followed by himself (Gervais) and Robert Dinger, visited Saipan in search of Earhart eyewitnesses and the truth after Paul Briand Jr.’s Daughter of the Sky trumpeted Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s first-person account to the world for the first time.  Once again Japan offered several responses, consistent only in their uniform dishonesty and deceit. 

Imperial Navy Capt. Zenshiro Hoshina of the 1st Section Naval Affairs Bureau and conservative member of the lower house of Parliment [sic] (no dates given), was first to weigh in, when he stated, “I absolutely deny it.  No such execution could have taken place without my knowledge.” 

Adm. Shegeyoshi Inouye, a wartime member of the Imperial Navy General Staff, chimed in by announcing, “I vigorously deny any knowledge of Earhart incident.” 

The third and final of Gervais’ July 1960 entrees comes from Adm. Hitoshi Tsunoda, a former naval commander-turned naval historian, who declaimed, “Our records show no such incident.” 

Mrs. Michiko Sugita, whose account as told to the Japan Times in 1970 remains the only testimony from a Japanese national that attests to Amelia Earhart’s presence and death on Saipan following her July 2, 1937 disappearance. 

Such were the Japanese falsehoods that Gervais chose to cite, though he could have listed other similar mendacities emanating from the lips of the Emperor’s slaves, past and present.  What else should we expect from the masters of the Bataan Death March, which remains the single greatest atrocity ever perpetuated against American POWs?

What was never expected was the truly shocking revelation that came from a humble Japanese housewife, Mrs. Michiko Sugita, whose amazing courage in stepping forward and separating herself from her entire nation’s shameful history in the Earhart matter probably cost that good woman her life.  

Gervais quotes a November 1970 TOKYO REUTERS dispatch: “Mrs. Michiko Sugita stated that her father, a policeman on Saipan in 1937 stated, ‘It was the Japanese military who executed Earhart,’ and also that it disgusted him after he had learned about it because it was an illegal act under the Geneva Convention.”  (End of Joe Gervais’ “A Chronology of Japanese Denials Interests and Cooperation.”) 

Mrs. Michiko Sugita’s initial media revelation that Japanese military police shot Amelia Earhart as a spy on Saipan in 1937 was to the Japan Times.  The story, headlined “Japanese Woman Says Police Executed Amelia on Saipan,” was released by the Tokyo office of United Press International on November 12.  I don’t have the Tokyo Reuters release.

“Mrs. Sugita, who was 11 at the time, said Japanese military police told her father an American aviator had been shot as a spy,” UPI reported.  “She said she never learned how the woman had been captured or where the execution took place.” 

Sugita’s account remains the only report ever from a Japanese national that supports Amelia Earhart’s presence and death on Saipan in 1937.  Thomas E. Devine, author of Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident (1987), eventually got Sugita’s address from the director of Asian services for the Tokyo bureau of UPI, and he shared a friendly but brief correspondence with Sugita that ended suddenly and without explanation.  More than once Devine told me that he believed Sugita was “disappeared” by the Japanese government for her “treachery,” and as an example to anyone else in Japan with knowledge who might have been considering coming forward to support Sugita’s account.  I can only agree fully. 

For more on Michiko Sugita, please see pages 107-111 of Truth at Last (2nd Edition).

Joe Gervais passed away at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 26, 2005 at age 80.  

Brother Gregorio’s letter supports Earhart on Saipan

We return to the early 1960s and the seminal Saipan investigations by Fred Goerner, Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger.  Brother Gregorio, who signed his full name as “Brother Gregorio Oroquieth, Churio, S.J.” in the 1961 letter he wrote to researcher Joe Gervais below, while Gervais was still in the Air Force, was a minor footnote in the Earhart saga, but this is yet another credible account that places Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan soon after their July 2, 1937 disappearance.  

Based on the letter’s date, Gregorio wrote it before Fred Goerner’s arrival on Saipan in September 1961 for his second investigation, although Goerner apparently learned of Gregorio’s story a year earlier.  We’ll return to Goerner after presenting Gregorio’s interesting missive to Gervais, who was doing respectable research on Guam and Saipan during those early days.

Undated photo Joe Gervais, undated, but probably sometime in the early 1960s, when he was investigating the Earhart disappearance on Guam and Saipan.  Gervais was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars, serving as a highly decorated command pilot of B-24, B-29 and C-130 aircraft with over 16,000 hours of flight time.  He was also the creator of the insidious Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, among the most destructive ideas ever conceived by an Earhart researcher. 

The letter below appeared in the November 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters Boldface emphasis mine throughout.

Translated 17 February 1961 by Roy Sorenson, Spanish teacher, Kubisaki High School, Okinawa

6 February 1961

Dear Captain Gervais, Saipan

I am writing this letter in Spanish rather than English because I feel I can express my reply more understandably for you.  I enjoyed the photos you sent of Father Arnold [Bendowski], yourself, and [Robert] Dinger.  Dinger is certainly a beautiful [sic] Air Force Captain, isn’t he? 

I recall a little over 20 years ago before War was declared during the summer holidays for the children, when they came to the vestry to tell me of the two American spies who were apprehended on Saipan near Garapan.  They mentioned one was an American woman who wears long pants like a man and has a haircut like a man.  The Japanese police have these Americans as spies, and the woman’s companion’s face is very suntanned like Spanish people’s face.  The Japanese take them away to ask questions.  The children were Jesus Rios, Juan Sanches, Jose Sanches [sic, correct spelling for Juan and Jose is Sanchez, according to Fred Goerner, see page 102, 103 The Search for Amelia Earhart], Jose Geregeyo [sic], and the Americans were seen coming from the direction of Lisang near Garapan.

Kumoi [Jesús De Leon Guerrero] spoke to me about them a few days later of these two American Intelligence Spies and says he will show them everything if they give him much money.  I spoke to Father Arnold in 1947, and again in 1960 on Guam about Kumoi, and his story has changed recently from that which was said over 20 years ago, and at the same time of the children’s, as I best can recall.

Fred Goerner, center, on Saipan during his first expedition in 1960, with native witnesses William Guerrero Reyes and Joseppa Reyes Sablan, left, and Monsignor Oscar Calvo and Rev. Father Arnold Bendowske of Saipan Catholic mission.  Photo courtesy of Lance Goerner.

After the invasion of Saipan I went to Intelligence Officer there on Saipan, I don’t remember the Officer’s name, and asked him if they wanted any information of the two Americans, the man and the woman who come to Saipan from Hawaii in an airplane for American intelligence before the invasion.  He said there was no such thing as an American woman in any airplane of any kind for Intelligence that he ever heard of.  He was not interested at all in more talking after saying that, and I left.  Vinciente Guerror [sic, Vicente Guerrero is correct] in 1947 on Saipan — Father [Jose Maria] Tardio (can’t make this out clearly) [sic].

My best wishes to you both, and Father Arnold.  I do not know if this will be of help as I don’t know what became of these two Americans as the vestry was far located from where they were apprehended.  If can be of further assistance please feel free to correspond.

Your friend and servant,
Brother Gregorio, Oroquieth, Churio, S.J.

In his 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart Fred Goerner provided the rest of the known background on Brother Gregorio and what he knew about the presence and death of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan:

As I had learned the preceding year, only one person assigned to the Catholic mission before the war had survived the invasion and the years that followed.  Father Tardio had died in Spain after the war, but one of the lay brothers, Brother Gregorio, was at the church on Yap Island.  During the year, Father Sylvan [Conover] had talked with Gregorio at a gathering of church officials on Guam.  Brother Gregorio remembered the story of the two white people, supposedly fliers, who had been held by the Japanese during 1937-1938, but it was not eyewitness testimony.  The Brother along with the Fathers and Sisters at the mission had been restricted to church grounds by the Japanese during that period, and then had been placed under house arrest on December 8, 1941.  Two young Saipanese, the Sanchez brothers, Juan and Jose, had told Gregorio of the two Americans and what the Japanese had done to them.  The brothers had been in their teens at the time, but Gregorio was certain that they had told him the truth.  He felt that it was extremely unlikely the boys could have invented such a story.

Father Sylvan Conover with eyewitness Jesús Bacha Salas, a Chamorro farmer who was held at Garapan Prison between 1937 and 1944 for fighting with a Japanese soldier. Fred Goerner reported that “sometime during 1937 a white woman was placed in the next cell [beside Salas], but kept there only a few hours. He saw the woman only once but gave a description of her that fitted those given by the other witnesses. The guards told him the woman was an American pilot the Japanese had captured.” (Photo by Fred Goerner, Courtesy Lance Goerner.)

Father Sylvan and I traced the brothers Sanchez and found them working as mechanics for the mysterious entity known as NTTU [Naval Technical Training Unit].  They were surprised and disturbed when Father Sylvan asked them about Brother Gregorio’s statement, but admitted they had some knowledge of the incident.  Both felt they would like to refresh their memories before making a definite statement and promised to come to the church mission house the next day and give us the details.  Only one Sanchez appeared the following morning, and his attitude had completely changed.  He claimed neither he nor his brother had any information that would help us.  “Brother Gregorio does not remember correctly,” he said.  “We know nothing of what he says.” 

Father Sylvan questioned hard and long but to no avail.  The Sanchez brothers were obviously frightened and were not going to say a thing.  Another full year passed before we learned the two Saipanese had been told by the Navy or NTTU not to cooperate with the people who were asking questions about the missing fliers.  Father Sylvan and I had suspected as much in 1961.

Brother Gregorio’s 1961 account added another voice to the ever-growing chorus attesting to the presence and deaths of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan.  The incident between Father Sylvan Conover and the Sanchez brothers as recounted by Fred Goerner is yet another example of the U.S. government’s ongoing commitment to controlling and covering up the truth about the fliers’ Saipan deaths — as if we needed any more proof.   

Lloyd Royer’s Earhart claim: Truth or fancy?

I’ve seen Lloyd Royer’s name in passing over the years, chiefly mentioned in biographies as one of Amelia Earhart’s favorite early boyfriends, during the early to mid-1920s.  A few crackpots have accused Royer of fathering a child by Amelia, but no evidence has ever accompanied such speculation; if Amelia ever had offspring, we’d certainly know about it.

The question asked in the headline of today’s post is strictly rhetorical, as anyone familiar with this blog will immediately discern once they read it.  Still, I think it’s instructive to understand how many otherwise apparently rational, productive citizens — giving Royer the benefit of the doubt — were clueless when it came to the wicked Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart canard — and a few poor souls likely remain so. 

The following story appeared in the September 1993 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  (Caps emphasis in original AES story; boldface and italic emphasis mine throughout.)

“The Strange Meeting Between Major Joe Gervais & Lloyd Royer”
by Bill Prymak

Lloyd Royer became involved in Amelia Earhart’s life as early as 1921 when AE wrote to Lloyd re: repairs on her father’s equipment, and in 1924 assisted Amelia in selling her truck after she had gone back to Boston.*  Lloyd at this time was a master mechanic at Kinner Field; it was no secret he’d grown very fond of her, having proposed to her in late 1923 with no definitive answer.  Sam Chapman was another suitor who followed her to Boston, but, as history was to later show, both failed to capture this beautiful prize.

Lloyd Royer was a mechanic and friend of Amelia’s in California and, following her return east, he sold the vehicle for her, though payment was slow in coming, according the Doris Rich in her 2013 book, Amelia Earhart: A BiographyFrom Mary Lovell’s Earhart biography, The Sound of Wings(1989): “In the archives of the Schlesinger Library is a photograph of Lloyd Royer with a truck, on which he has inscribed, ‘1923.  While I was breaking in the Moreland truck for Amelia that summer, after Pete Barnes wrecked the Mac and was laid up.’ ” 

Lloyd eventually drifted into the employ of the fledgling Lockheed Aircraft Company in the early 1930s, and his skills focused on installing control pedals and instrument panels on the new Electra Series aircraft.  Thus it must be assumed that he knew a great deal about the Electra airplane and the general operation of the Lockheed plant.

Lloyd Royer’s trail drifts aimlessly into obscurity for many, many years, but in one of the most bizarre twists of fate Royer comes back into the picture nearly forty years later when Joe Gervais receives a telephone call from the now elderly Royer begging him to come to his home in Huntington Beach, Calif.  “Joe, I read your book, and before I pass along, I must tell you about Amelia and the secret shenanigans that went on at Lockheed when I worked on her airplane.”

Researchers like Joe never pass up an opportunity to listen to first-hand experiences, no matter how far the road required to travel, and on July 8, 1977, Joe Gervais visited with Lloyd Royer.  Joe summarizes his meeting:

Before AE’s airplane returned from Hawaii, another Electra 10E with registry R-16020 was already painted on the tail; this brand new airplane was located in a secret hangar called the “skunk works” and headed up by Kelly Johnson.  This building was also called theGinmill because they had made gin there when it was a distillery.  It was located on San Fernando Rd. in 1937 and the same building still exists.

(Editor’s [Prymak’s] Note, July, 1977: AES notes that Paul Rafford describes in interviews with mechanics at Miami that when a new ADF loop was ordered installed on AE’s aircraft, the cabin roof was found to be free of previous mounting holes (READ: this cabin roof, and assumedly [sic] the rest of the airplane was brand new!)

Royer stated that her mission was to fly over Truk and photograph the military installations; the entire operation, according to Royer, was later covered up by Lockheed and FDR.

As their meeting was concluding at the end of the day, Lloyd dropped a bombshell on Joe, unexpectedly placing on the coffee table a copy of Joe’s book AMELIA EARHART LIVES.  Mr. Royer stated that Irene Bolam had recently visited him, leaving a copy of said book and inscribed “TO LLOYD WITH FRIENDSHIP.”  Lloyd further showed Joe a Polaroid photo of Irene and Lloyd together on the front porch.  Joe was unable to persuade Mr. Royer to print a copy of the photo for Joe to keep.

In a Nov. 10, 1970 press conference in New York, an irate Mrs. Irene Bolam, holding an upside-down copy of Amelia Earhart Lives, vehemently declares, “I am NOT Amelia Earhart!”

Unfortunately, Mr. Royer died shortly thereafter, and Joe was never able to secure a copy of the photograph.  However, Joe did ask if Irene Bolam was indeed Amelia Earhart, but Lloyd would only respond: “I’ve known Irene for a long time, and the answer to that question might be found in your book.”

The AES membership might do well to reflect on the above.  (End of Bill Prymak’s “The Strange Meeting Between Major Joe Gervais & Lloyd Royer.”) 

Bill Prymak wrote this story in 1993, a year after he and Joe Gervais were suddenly brought face to face with the undeniable truth that Irene Bolam could not have possibly been Amelia Earhart.  The penultimate incident is discussed in the JOE GERVAIS & MARY EUBANK” subsection ofAmelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality? available to all on Wikipedia

By 1993 Prymak was no longer in thrall to Gervais and his Irene Bolam scam, but he failed to denounce what he knew to be a flat-out lie for far too long, as his closing words in the Lloyd Royer piece reveal.  Prymak eventually came to his senses, too late to suit many who were close to the situation.  Though he eventually regretted this unfortunate chapter in his long friendship with Gervais, he never really denounced him for the unprincipled charlatan that he was, as this paragraph in his 2005 letter to the online Amelia Earhart Society Forum reveals:

I have spent considerable time the last year compiling compelling evidence – some never before made public –  that Joe made an honest mistake in identifying Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart.  I have irrefutable evidence that links Irene Bolam circa 1970 back to World War II and beyond as the one and only same person!  I even have Joe Gervais  involved in the Mary Eubank affair. 

With the exception of Amelia’s mother, the outspoken Amy Otis Earhart, Royer was the only person close to Amelia who claimed that she was engaged on a mission . . . to fly over Truk and photograph the military installations; the entire operation . . . later covered up by Lockheed and FDR.”

Amy Otis Earhart sadly contemplates a painting of her daughter in a photo taken May 21, 1947 at her home in Medford, Mass.  In May 1944, more than a full month before American forces found Amelia Earhart’s plane on Saipan, Amy wrote in a letter to Neta Snook Southern, “You know, Neta, up to the time the Japs tortured and murdered our brave fliers, I hoped for Amelia’s return; even Pearl Harbor didn’t take it all away, though it might have, had I been there as some of my dear friends were, for I thought of them as civilized.”

Royer allegedly made these sensational statements to Joe Gervais, who created the insidious Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart can of worms, and whose credibility in such matters has long been nonexistent in the minds of most objective, rational observers.  To add flames to the fire, Royer strongly implied that Irene Bolam personally confirmed to him that she was indeed Earhart returned from her stay at Japan’s Imperial Palace — she was later relocated to a civilian internment in Weishien, China, thanks to the grossly sensationalized and misunderstood Weihsien Telegram — a scenario that, with our current knowledge of Bolam’s history providing clear perspective, was also patently absurd. 

This is all I have on Lloyd Royer, courtesy of Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais.  Thanks to research by Richard Bergren author of our Oct. 3, 2020 post, “Did top doctors search for Earhart on 1944 Saipan?,” it appears that Lloyd Royer was born on Feb. 21, 1892 and died in November 1978 at age 86.

Another source, however, The Life Summary of Lloyd Geiman Royer,” claims that “Lloyd Geiman Royer was born on 14 September 1896, in Westminster, Carroll, Maryland. . . . He lived in Pasadena, Los Angeles, California, United States in 1930.  He died on 27 October 1981, in Huntington Beach, Orange, California, United States, at the age of 85, and was buried in Sylmar, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States.”

So we have a bit of a conflict, and any help would be appreciated!

March 4 update:  Reader Pam Boardwell has checked in and tells us:  “Lloyd Royer was my great uncle. . . My grandmother’s brother.  The correct date of birth for him is 14 September 1896 and date of death is 27 October 1981.”  So our linked source above must the correct.  Thanks Pam!

A website that deals in sales of autographs, photos and memorabilia offered an “Amelia Earhart Autograph Letter Signed with Cover Addressed in Her Hand.”  The undated letter’s envelope is postmarked from West Medford, Massachusetts, on November 22, 1924.  Addressed to Lloyd Royer of Santa Monica, California, the famed aviatrix writes regarding the sale of her automobile, in part: If the offer for $1500 cash is real, I think we’d better take it. You have the necessary papers.  From the fact that the hunting season is due for its slack time soon and from what I gather of conditions in building in Calif.  I should imagine this is a good time to sell.  The last letter was mailed before I put the number in so you may not get it promptly. I am writing in much haste. Adios, [signed] Am. E.’ ” 


McLean recalls 2014 search for Walker on Dublon

In closing my Aug. 1 post, “Did Earhart tell Walker about her ‘real mission’?” I wrote that, “We won’t get any further involved in the Hawaii Clipper disappearance now, but I thought some of Hill’s speculations might be interesting to many readers of this blog . . . ” 

That was the plan, anyway, until longtime Truth at Last reader and professional scuba diver Larry McLean, of Seattle, Wash., sent me a fascinating email with entirely new information about a story I think readers will also find interesting. 

McLean, 57, who’s been all over the world,says his favorite place is Truk Lagoon, where he lived and worked from 1993 through 1995, sparking a passion for researching and documenting shipwrecks.  I love shipwrecks,he wrote in an Aug. 5 email.  “And Truk has the best collection of accessible genuine World War II shipwrecks on the planet.” 

“Approaching IJN [Imperial Japanese Navy] Seaplane Landing on Dublon, Truk Atoll, Day 2, June 2014,” Larry McLean, pictured above, wrote.  “The advanced team on Day 2 of the scouting mission to Dublon, actively fulfilling Charles Hill’s “Seventh [Hawaii Clipper] Investigation, the survey of the slab (see page xxi Fix on the Rising Sun).  I passed the baton to Guy Noffsinger in June 2014.” (Photo courtesy Larry McLean.)

McLean didn’t know about the Hawaii Clipper mystery until he returned to the states in early 2000When I discovered Charles Hill’s book and the mystery of the Hawaii Clipper it made a lot of sense to me, he recalled. The witness names also jumped out at me because while I lived in Truk (Chuuk) I’ve gotten to know several members of the Mori family and new several Chuukese whose home island was Dublon (AKA Tonoas).  I was gripped by Fix on the Rising Sun.  I got hooked on the mystery, and it also rekindled my interest in Amelia Earhart and the possibility that she had overflown Truk in 1937.” 

Since receiving McLean’s emails, I’ve been re-reading Charles N. Hill’s Fix on the Rising Sun (2000), to get more familiar with the Hawaii Clipper case, at least as Hill viewed it.  To recap briefly, Hill is best known for his conviction that the “Hawaii Clipper did not simply ‘disappear’ ” as he writes in his book’s opening pages, “she was hi-jacked [sic] to Truk Atoll by radical officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy.  Her fifteen crew and passengers were murdered and entombed within a slab of wet concrete on Dublon Island, at Truk Atoll, and quite inexplicably, the United States Government continues to keep this secret for the Japanese government — and from the American People [sic] — as it has, since 1938.”  (Italics in original, boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

Hill’s contention that the Hawaii Clipper’s crew and passengers were murdered and entombed within a slab of wet concrete on Dublon Island, at Truk Atollis serious indeed, and we’re certainly entitled to know where Hill got this blockbuster piece of intel.  

“Showing up uninvited is a very bad idea on the inner lagoon islands in Truk,” Larry McLean wrote.  “The first step in this search was to meet the mayor of Tonoas and gain permission to search on his island.  I was able to explain my search objectives and let him know my good friend Guy Noffsinger would be following up with a visit in a few weeks.  The Mayor was gracious and was also very interested in Amelia Earhart.” (Photo courtesy Larry McLean.)

Hill’s source was none other than Joe Gervais, whose main claim to fame will forever be the vile Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earharttheory,introduced to a stunned America by GervaisAir Force crony Joe Klaas in his 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives.  AE Lives was taken off the shelves by publisher McGraw-Hill just weeks after publication when Mrs. Bolam filed a lawsuit for defamation.  If you’re new to that story or want to catch up on the Bolamite travesty, here’s the first of my four-part series, Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society.”  

Gervais was on Truk in November 1964, searching down a lead on a wreck that he hoped would be Earhart’s Electra, but turned out to be a Japanese “Betty” bomber.  Gervais guide on Truk Atoll’s Dublon Island was an old Franco-Micronesian named Robert Nauroon, who wasn’t interested in Amelia Earhart, but had quite a story to tell Gervais nonetheless.

As described by Hill in Fix on the Rising Sun, in 1938 the Japanese planned to build a small naval hospital on Dublon Island, and hired Nauroon and a man named Taro Mori to supervise the pouring of a 30-by-60 foot concrete slab upon which the hospital would rest.  Hill continued:

According to Gervais account of Nauroon’s story, Nauroon, Mori and their crews arrived at the hospital site early one morning in the late summer of 1938.  There were a number of Japanese guards and officers waiting for them, and Nouroon quickly realized why.  There, in the northern half of the excavated slab site, were fifteen men, or the bodies of fifteen men, lying face down and arranged in three rows of four men each and one row of three.  Some . . . wore dark uniforms (as did the PAA crews), but the rest wore western civilian clothing.  At some point, Nauroon was made aware of the fact that the fifteen men were Americans.

Larry McLean: “This is the remains of the IJN [Imperial Japanese Navy] hospital where Mark Walker and the crew were allegedly taken and possible drugged or killed.  These ruins are directly across the path from the slab (where the house sits now).  This was impressive stuff for Joe Gervais to stumble into in the mid-60s.  Real Indiana Jones stuff.”  (Photo courtesy Larry McLean.) 

The crews worked quickly in the growing heat, and by noon, the fifteen Americans had been covered and the concrete surface was finished.  Nauroon explained to Joe that they had all worked quickly because the job had turned out to be so unpleasant.  But perhaps they realized as well, that the sooner they left the site, the safer they might be: the Japanese were not above executing civilians on any pretext — and knowledge of this job would certainly have been such a pretext.

Nauroon insisted many times to Joe that the Americans had been dead when the slab was poured, but he added that, when recovered, there would be found “no marks of death upon them.” (Italics in original.)  That is, they had not been beheaded or shot, and they may well have been poisoned, as was suspected in the case of Earl Ellis, in 1923.  But, according to Joe, Mori, confirming all that Nauroon had told him, had added that it had been necessary to fasten reinforcing wire over the men — to keep them down.  Mori may have been referring to a tendency of bodies tofloat in wet concrete, but he may also have been referring to men struggling to lift their heads above the concrete — as it engulfed them.

Hill claimed that at the time he heard Nauroon’s story, Gervais wasn’t even aware of the Hawaii Clipper disappearance, but was focused on the Earhart case.  “In 1964, Gervais felt that he was hot on the trail of Earhart and had no desire to pursue another story,” Hill wrote in Fix

In 1980, Gervais “circulated numerous copies of the PAA [Engineering] Report [of Aug. 2, 1938], the ASB [Air Safety Board of the Civil Aeronautics Authority] Report [of July 29, 1938]* and the notes of his own brief pursuit of the Clipper,” Hill added.  It was from one of those copies, provided by fellow researcher, John Luttrell, of Atlanta, that the present analysis has been derived.  In recent years, Joe has provided additional material., relating to medical war crimes committed at the naval hospital, many of them committed against American military personnel.”  Following his involvement in these murky events, Gervais disappeared from Hill’s narrative.

  • [Editor’s note: All reports were inconclusive, with none attributing the Hawaii Clipper’s disappearance to hijacking, though none ruled out the possibility.] 

Larry McLean:  “These guys were surprised to have a middle-aged white guy showing up and speaking Chuukese.  (“Ran annim pwee-pwee.  Iffa usum?” Good morning guys (familiar) how is it going?). These guys got on board with the search after we showed the Joe’s images.  They assisted me on both days of the search.” (Photo courtesy Larry McLean.)

McLean returns to Truk

Returning to Larry McLean, at some point he met Guy Noffsinger, Hawaii Clipper researcher and owner of Hunt for the Lost Clipper, who, he learned, was working on a movie about the Hawaii Clipper.  McLean and Noffsinger became fast friends,and McLean found himself becoming even more involved in the 1938 mystery.  In a previous visit to Truk, Noffsinger and his crew were rudely run off of Dublon at gun and knife point, McLean wrote.  The Chuukese don’t take kindly to uninvited strangers. . . . Often the landowners require huge sums of money to set foot on their land.  At the minimum you have to respect that this is their land and you must be invited or allowed on.

On the other hand, McLean had established himself with the locals on Truk.  He knew several member of the Mori family, had a good working relationship with the former mayor of Dublon (Tonoas), knew and respected the culture of the islands, having worked for the S.S. Thorfinn live-aboard and briefly had a dive shop in Moen (Mwan) with a local partner, and he speaks Chuukese.

In 2014 I had a planned mapping expedition exploring shipwrecks for an upcoming book, McLean continued in his recent message:

It turns out my trip to Truk was happening a few weeks before Guy’s next [planned] expedition.  When I arrived in Truk in 2014 I connected with the former mayor of Dublon, Gradvin Aisek of Blue Lagoon Dive Shop and Resort.  Gradvin then reached out to the current Mayor of the Dublon and gained permission for me to visit and explore.  I explored Dublon for two days.  I went around and looked at every potential post in the target area.  I met landowners and was able to build relationships with locals who could facilitate Guy’s objectives on his next trip.  With the help of my local crew we gained their full support and cooperation.

From Larry McLean’s 2014 visit to Truk’s Dublon Island: “Verifying the post using Joe’s Gervais’ image provided by Guy Noffsinger at LostClipper.com.  By the end of Day 2 we had looked at every post in our search area.  I was 100 percent certain this was the spot.  Details of the edge and from top the post are a perfect match.  This was the site where the story of the Lost Clipper crew had been disclosed to Joe Gervais in the ’60s.  The image in my hand was taken by Joe Gervais and made its way to Charles Hill, on to Guy Noffsinger then on to me.”  (Photo courtesy Larry McLean.)

After two days of searching on Dublon with the local guides, McLean smoothed the way for Noffsinger and his crew to visit the island, this time under much friendlier terms than their previous foray.  At that point, Guy nicknamed me his Ambassador to Trukand assured me that I would be recognized as a production assistant in his upcoming movie,McLean wrote.  

The key to finding this location was finding the post and the slab in Joe’s [Gervais] pictures,he went on.  “This is where Mr. Mori and others reported to have buried the Hawaii Clipper crew in a concrete slab.  The slab was the foundation for an IJN Hospital building.  By 2014 the Hospital building was long gone and the local land owners had built a house over the slab.”

Within a few weeks Noffsinger and his team were permitted to dig up the floor of the house.  “But the dig was incomplete and they found no bones,” McLean wrote.  “It appears the original slab had been demolished and possibly used as fill for the new foundation.  They did find evidence of the hospital and artifacts from the hospital.  The search for Mark Walker’s grave continues.  There may be another dig in the future.  There is more work to do here.”

Perhaps, but well-known Earhart researcher Les Kinney’s lengthy, skeptical comments of Aug. 4 on this blog cast a shadow on some of Hill’s claims.  “Gervais and Hill put out so much garbage, it’s hard to tell what was good research and misinformation,” Kinney wrote.  “When something is repeated over so much it tends to become accepted as fact.  Greenwood’s story fits in nicely with Hill’s and Gervais’ wild speculation.”  For much more on Kinney’s comments, please click here.

Tony Gochar, of Guam (see pages 263, 264 of Truth at Last), another researcher with an interest in the Hawaii Clipper case, advised me of a few serious oversightsupon his initial review of this post, notably the lack of any reference to Ronald Jackson’s 2017 book, China Clipper: The Secret Pre-War Story of Pan American’s Flying Boats (First edition, 1980).  

“His redo in 2017 provides some good insight,” Gochar wrote, “and the Epilogue is worth a read and mention.  Hill mentions him in many places.”  He also recommended Witness to War: Truk Lagoon’s Master Diver Kimiuo Aisek (2015), by Dianne M. Strong.

I told Tony that not mentioning Jackson’s and Strong’s books, neither of which I’ve read, isn’t a serious oversight as long as this post doesn’t pretend to be more than what it is — Larry McLean’s Truk-Dublon experience and more on Charles N. Hill’s vision of the Hawaii Clipper disappearance, and not any sort of definitive disquisition on the Hawaii Clipper mystery.  We’ll get to Jackson and Strong if their work and insights are compelling enough to merit it. 

As readers of this blog know, I rarely stray from the subject of the Earhart disappearance, but this likely isn’t the last time we’ll hear about the Hawaii Clipper.

Dean Magley, Wally Schirra and Amelia Earhart

As researcher Dean Magley referenced in his June 1992 letter to Joe Gervais, today we present Magley’s strange account of his brief encounters with famed astronaut Wally Schirra, beginning in 1979.  The following item appeared in the August 1994 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  Bold emphasis is mine throughout; underline emphasis is in the AES entry. 

(From the personal memoirs of Dean Magley.)

In October 1979, the Rockford Airport Authority held a public Airport Appreciation Days[sic].  In addition to static displays of military and airline planes, Wally Schirra one of the original seven astronauts was asked to appear and give a short talk.

Representing my employer, WREX-TV, I was one of a handful of local people asked to go to Milwaukee on a Coleman Airline plane to pick up Wally.  He had just completed a public appearance for his new employer, Realty World.  You recall he made TV commercials for them having retired from NASA earlier.

Astronaut Wally Schirra graces the cover of the May 16, 1967 issue of Life magazine.  Schirra was an American naval aviator, test pilot and NASA astronaut.  In 1959, he became one of the original seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury, which was the United States’ first effort to put human beings into space.  On Oct. 3, 1962, he flew the six-orbit, nine-hour, Mercury-Atlas 8 mission, in a spacecraft he nicknamed Sigma 7.  At the time of his mission in Sigma 7, Schirra became the fifth American and ninth human to travel into space, and was the first astronaut to go into space three times.  According to Dean Magley, Schirra also possessed inside knowledge about the fate of Amelia Earhart.  Schirra died in May 2007.

On the return flight Wally sat across the aisle from me.  I asked my favorite question, “What do you hear from Amelia?”  He laughed and said, “I suppose you mean Amelia Earhart?”  I nodded yes.  He added, “Some people think she is alive and living on the east coast.” [sic] I told him I am one of those.  He laughed again and our conversation ended. 

After his talk at the airport, Realty World offices in this area gave a reception for him at the motel where he spent the night.  On my way there I stopped to pick up my wife so that she might meet him.  As we approached him he had a big smile on his face and was shaking hands with everyone.  When it was our turn, he looked at me, wiped the smile off his face and in a very serious voice said, “You’re the fellow who was on the plane this afternoon and asked about Amelia Earhart.”  I admitted it was me.  He said, “I can tell you that as of yesterday, or at the most two days ago, she was alive.  I can’t give you proof, as such — but, as of no more than two days ago she was alive.”

With that he turned away, put on the big smile and greeted others.  Later I phoned and wrote to him at his home.  He would not acknowledge any communication. 

In June, 1986, Wally returned to Rockford for a speaking engagement.  I accompanied our news crew which was to interview him.  When they finished, I asked that the cameras keep rolling.

Joe Gervais (left), the father of the Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam theory, and Joe Klaas, his right-hand man and author of Amelia Earhart Lives, in a typical news photo from The Washington Post in late 1970, when Amelia Earhart Lives was creating an international sensation.

I introduced myself and reminded him of our 1979 conversation.  He turned on the big smile and said he recalled our meeting because few people bring up the topic.  He stated that just a few days prior (in 1979) he had been in Florida and someone had given him that information.  He was very gracious but would not supply the name of that person.  (End of Magley account.)

What, if anything, can we take from Magley’s story?  Did the famed astronaut really have inside information about Amelia Earhart?  Clearly Magley thought it was possible, but this was 1979 and much that we know now was not widely disseminated. 

The fact that Magley knew Joe Gervais well enough to write him a fairly lengthy summary of the 1982 Earhart Symposium tells us that he was likely sympathetic, at a minimum, with Gervais’ contention that Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart returned from Japan’s Imperial Palace following World War II, as was presented in the infamous 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives.  If Magley could believe this all-time whopper from Gervais, he could believe anything.  We should all know better by now.

%d bloggers like this: