Tag Archives: Josephine Blanco Akiyama

Paul Briand’s “Requiem for Amelia” Conclusion

Today present the conclusion of Paul Briand Jr.’s “Requiem for Amelia,” perhaps the best early synopsis of the accounts presented by the original Saipan and Marshall Islands witnesses, based on the interviews done by Fred Goerner and theOperation Earhartduo of Air Force officers Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam and Saipan in 1960.  (Boldface emphasis is both Briand’s and mine; capitalization emphasis is Briand’s.) 

According to other witnesses, the American fliers were blind-folded, taken into custody, and driven away from the crash scene into the nearby village of GarapanJose Basa, who had been stacking gasoline drums for the refueling of Japanese construction equipment, saw the crash, clearly remembers that one of the apprehended pilots was a woman, then saw them blindfolded and driven away by Japanese officials.  Jose Camacho and his wife, also witnesses to the crash in the Sadog Tasi area near the Chico base, stood nearby and watched the Americans being taken away in a vehicle toward the direction of Garapan.

Mr. Antonio A. Diaz, now a distinguished member of the Saipan legislature, was in 1937 the chauffeur for the Commanding Officer of the Japanese Navy Chico Base on Saipan.  One day in the commander’s sedan he overheard a conversation between the commanding officer and another Japanese officer.  The officers were discussing the airplane that had crashed at Sadog Tasi.  Two American pilots were apprehended.  One of them was a woman.

Antonio M. Cepada, a 52-year-old Buick employee at Agana, Guam, was interviewed by Air Force Officers Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam in June 1960.  (From Amelia Earhart Lives.)

Contrary to expectations, the Americans were not taken directly to prison, but to the Hotel Kobayashi-Royokan in Garapan.  Many Saipan natives remember seeing the Americans at the hotel, particularly the woman, because of the name they all called her by and best remember her by.  The name was Tokyo Rosa the American spy girl with the camera up front.

Antonio M. Cepada, then 52, recalls that he saw the American woman on two separate occasions over a period of three months during the summer of 1937.  Asked to explain the term Tokyo Rosa which he was using in his story (because of the connection with Tokyo Rose used later during the war), Cepada said they named the American woman themselves among his people. In 1937 in Saipan, Tokyo Rosa meant American spy girl, and that IS all it meant, nothing else.

I saw her while going to work outside the hotel which is located in East Garapan village, Cepada said.  She wore unusual clothes, belted in the center.  The color was faded khaki, which looked like it had been washed many times. Clothes like pilots wear.  He described the woman as “average height, American girl not short, not extra tall — had thin build.  Chest somewhat flat, not out like other American girls.  Her hair appeared to be reddish brown color and cut short like man’s hair, trimmed close in back like man.  She did not wear powder or lipstick.

The girl looked soft, Cepada remembers, very calm, not expressive, not smile —seem to be thinking far away and not notice her surroundings and people much.  He guessed her age to be about 35, but remarked it was hard to tell age of the American woman.  When shown a photograph of Amelia Earhart, Cepada said, “Looks just like same girl then.”

Commenting on her capture, Cepada did not know how she had been caught.  But the belief then was:she take secret picture with flying suit in front hidden camera.

Carlos Palacious told Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger that she a woman who looked remarkably like Amelia Earhart at the Hotel Kobayashi Royokan twice in a three-month period.  (From Amelia Earhart Lives.)

Another man who saw the American girl under similar circumstances and also referred to her as Tokyo Rosa, was Carlos Palacios, then 48, who in 1937 worked as a salesman in a merchandise store near the Kobayashi-Royokan hotel. Palacios, too, had only seen the woman twice, while going to and from his place of work. The first time was at an open window on the second floor of the hotel.  She had on what seemed to him a man’s white shirt, with short sleeves, and open at the neck. She had dark reddish-brown hair, cut like a man’s hair in back too.  He could not see any make-up or lipstick.

The second time Palacios saw the woman she was standing at the entrance to the hotel. She wore the same white shirt, and a dark skirt and American-type shoes.  “It was the same girl,” he affirmed, “hair cut short, no make-up, slim girl, not fat, not big in front of chest.”

He said he did not know where the woman was caught and does not remember a crash incident – only American spy girl and secret pictures she take.  She was Tokyo Rosa, his people’s 1937 expression for the American spy girl. Like Cepada when shown a photograph of Amelia Earhart, Palacios said, Looks and haircut look like same girl.

A resident of the hotel, Antonio G. Cabrera, then 62, now a farmer, who lived downstairs and owned the land on which the hotel was located, remembers that in 1937 an American man and woman lived at the Kobayashi-Royokan and were under the custody of the Japanese.  The Americans lived at the hotel for only a short while and then were taken away by the Japanese.

When asked to examine some photographs, Cabrera positively identified the man as Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart as a woman who looked just like the woman who stayed at the hotel.

Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera [relationship to Antonio G. unknown], then 49, employed as a servant at the hotel in 1937, recalled seeing the two Americans and that as part of her duties she took a list of the guests to the governor’s office every day.  On one particular day while carrying out this duty, Mrs. Cabrera saw the two Americans in the rear of a three-wheeled vehicle.  They were blindfolded and their hands were bound behind them.  One of them was the American woman.  When she looked at a newspaper picture of Amelia and Fred, Mrs. Cabrera said they looked like the same people, and they were dressed in the same manner as the people she saw in the truck.  She never learned what then happened to the two Americans.

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

Living next door to the hotel was Mrs. Matilda Ariola Saint Nicholas, then 47, perhaps the last woman to see the woman flier alive.  The American woman visited Matilda and her younger sister on two different occasions in a one-week period while she was still living at the hotel.  On the first visit the American girl wore a trench coat, and appeared very pale, as if she were sick.

The Nicholases offered her some food; the woman accepted, but ate very little, only some fruit.  When the American woman visited the second time, she was noticeably changed in appearance, for although still pale and sick-looking, she now had bruises or burns on the right side of her neck and had her left forearm wrapped in bandages.  It was on this visit, Mrs. Saint Nicholas remembers, that the American girl, despite her pain and sickness, helped the sister with her geography lesson, guiding her as she drew correctly the location of the Mariana Islands in relation to the other islands in the Pacific.

Matilda Saint Nicholas did not see the American girl again, nor did she hear about her again until a busboy from the hotel told her he had learned that the American girl had died.  Lately he had noticed how often she had to use the outside toilet and how, most recently, he saw that the bed she slept on was soaked with blood.  It was later, Mrs. Saint Nicholas said, that the same busboy asked her to make two wreaths for a burial.

From the hotel the American fliers were taken to the prison in Garapan.  An Insular policeman and prison guard for the Japanese at the time was Ramon Cabrera, then 41, who saw the pi1ots, bound and blindfolded, brought to the prison.  They both wore khaki-colored flying clothes. One had a beard with thick whiskers.  The other, he noticed, was strange looking, with no whiskers and a smooth face, smaller in height than the other, and slender in build.  But both had short haircuts.  The fliers were kept in separate cells, but were permitted to exercise out in the main prison yard for short periods during the day.  There were approximately 200 prisoners in the prison at the time, composed of Saipanese, Carolinians and Guamanians.  But the two pilots were the only Americans there.

For the first few days, Cabrera recalls, the Americans could not eat their prison food — breadfruit and other bits thrown in.  But by the fourth day they began to eat, although they still did not like the food, because they only received one meal a day, served in thirds three times a day.  Like other Saipan natives in 1937, Cabrera used the expression Tokyo Rosa, and in addition he used the term “driver” as it was meant by the Japanese then to refer to an American woman as a driver of a car, boat, or airplane.

Ramon Cabrera claims he does not know what happened to the American prisoners after they were taken from the Garapan jail.  He guessed they were either deported to Japan or executed.

On Guam in 1960, Joaquin Seman, left, and Ben Salas, told Joe Gervais and Police Sergeant Eddie M. Camacho that the “American spy woman” was executed at the “main Chico Base” on Saipan, and that she was buried in the Liyang cemetery south of Garapan.  (From Amelia Earhart Lives.)

If the Japanese were convinced that the Americans were spies, that the cameras found in the crashed aircraft, or the camera carried by the girl, or both, were used to photograph the fortifications being built in the Pacific contrary to the terms of the League of Nations man- date, then they had but one recourse to silence this discovery by two Americans . . . death.  If the Americans were executed as spies, however, there is no witness who is willing to come forth and confirm what can only be inferred.

That there was an execution can be inferred from the testimony of two natives, who claim they know the exact location of the unmarked graves of the American man and woman pilots, but who are unwilling to point them out for reasons fearful and mysterious even twenty years after the fact.  If they continue unwilling, the jungle will finally reclaim the graves and the signs of the crosses, now broken and mute to the outrage committed.

The two men are Joaquin Seman, then 48, a sugar mill worker on Saipan in 1937, and Ben Salas, then 43, a carpenter at the Japanese Chico Navy Base at the same time.  They are good friends.  When they were interviewed [by Gervais and Guam Police Sergeant Eddie M. Camacho] they both stated that they remembered the two Americans on Saipan in 1937, and that one of them was the American spy woman, Tokyo Rosa.  The executions, they said, were performed not at the Garapan prison, but at the main Chico base.

Salas and Seman were in complete agreement that there were only Americans killed before the war by the Japanese — an American man, and an American woman.  They were buried in unconsecrated ground in the Catholic cemetery at Liyang on Saipan, near the quarry and lumberyard, one mile south of the main prison.

Perhaps the one native witness who could reveal the certain identity of the American man and woman on Saipan in 1937 is the one man whose story does not agree with the testimony of all the other witnesses.  The man is Jesus De Leon Guerrero, then 51, alias “Kumoi,” who in 1937 on Saipan was chief investigator on the police force for the Japanese.  (He gave a negative response to the civilian administration in Saipan in the official report.)  Although today he has no official connections with either the American or Japanese governments — he is a dealer in scrap metal — he is still greatly feared and respected on Saipan as the man who could extract confessions out of anybody.  For this reason he was very useful to the Japanese authorities on Saipan in dealing with the natives and getting necessary information out of prisoners.

Guerrero denies any knowledge whatever about two American fliers taken prisoner.  He has said, however, there was an American-born Japanese woman who was hanged as a spy in 1938.  She was beautiful, he was quoted as saying,and about 25 years of age.  She appeared to have been part American and would have been mistaken for one. She was born in Los Angeles, California.

The woman had come to Saipan from Japan apparently to look for work, Guerrero recalled.  But she didn’t look like a worker because she was well-groomed and spoke very good English.

Back and forth through almost thirty years, the story of Amelia Earhart has unfolded, not clarifying the mystery of her disappearance, but deepening and complicating it by hearsay evidence and the conflicting testimony of natives who should know, and be able to tell, the truth.

Paul Briand Jr., circa 1959, whose 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky, presented the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama and initiated the modern-day search for Amelia Earhart.

Amelia Earhart was not on a spy mission for her government, she did not crash-land on Saipan; she was not taken as a prisoner; she was not executed as a spy or allowed to dieThese are the conclusions of the Navy in the official report I was allowed to read Considering their evidence, they could reach no other conclusions.

Most interestingly, there is no villain in the piece.  The U. S. Navy was not trying to suppress or hide information.  On the contrary, the Navy was trying as hard as I was (or anybody else) to uncover the truth. [Editor’s note:  In this statement, Briand could not be more mistaken.  Clearly, he fell victim to a convincing Navy propaganda effort.]

What, then, are my conclusions about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, after having conducted research about her almost continuously for the nine years since 1957 when I decided to write her biography?

I believe, now that I have examined all my latest evidence, that Amelia Earhart accidentally crash-landed on Saipan, that she and Fred Noonan were taken prisoners by the Japanese, were imprisoned on Saipan, and later — perhaps even many years later — were executed or allowed to die either on Saipan or in Japan. I do not believe she was on a deliberate spy mission, but I think the Japanese did believe Amelia was a spy because of the evidence of cameras on her person and in the airplane.  

The Japanese, of course, could not reveal that they had found her, for she had discovered what they had been trying to hide — preparations for war against the United States.  Unwittingly and without a plan on their part, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan had been mistaken as spies.  If they could have brought home evidence of a Japanese military build-up in the Pacific, they would have been rewarded as heroes. Fate, however, dealt them a contrary hand.

How can anyone explain why stories from widely scattered sources support each other in broad outline and even, at times in small detail?  Natives are naturally hostile to or afraid of established authority and will say almost anything not to get officially involved.  Witnesses like Jesus Guerrero, for example, would have much to fear from official sources.

The weight of my evidence adds up to Saipan, a crash-landing, imprisonment and death.  Josephine Blanco, J. Y. Matsumoto, and Thomas Blas confirm a crash-landing on Saipan; Jose Blaza, and Jose Camacho and his wife saw a man and a woman pilot being driven away by Japanese officials; Antonio M. Cepada, Carlos Palacios, Antonio G. Cabrera, and Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera confirm that the pilots were held in custody; Ramon Cabrera saw the fliers, bound and blindfolded, brought to prison; Jesus Guerrero undoubtedly knows of any execution; and Joaquin Seman and Ben Salas most probably know the location of the graves.

“Courage,” Amelia Earhart once wrote, “is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”  She paid the price, and all of America is ennobled because she was willing to pay it — all of her life, and up to what must have been its bitter end.  May she at last rest in peace.  (End of “Requiem for Amelia.”)

We now know beyond any doubt, based on a massive assemblage of credible evidence, not to mention common sense, that Amelia did not fly to Saipan from Lae, New Guinea, which would have been a nearly 90 degree mistake, virtually unthinkable for even the most incompetent aviators of her day

Remember that Briand was writing in 1966, when we knew about 10 percent of what has been learned since, and had no knowledge of the fliers’ Mili Atoll landing off Barre Island.  But with the seminal work of Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner and yes, even the creator of the Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart lie, Joe Gervais, we would have had precious little to guide us, and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart might still be correctly called a mystery.

Paul Briand Jr.’s “Requiem for Amelia,” Part I

Today we take another look at the pioneering work of author Paul L. Briand Jr., whose findings revealed in his 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky, sparked the true modern search for Amelia Earhart.  Written in 1966, as far as I know, “Requiem for Amelia” is Briand’s last published piece; it’s an excellent summary of everything he learned in the years since Daughter of the Sky was published in 1960. 

“Requiem for Amelia” is a succinct summation of the evidence presented by the original Saipan witnesses, based on the interviews done by Fred Goerner and the “Operation Earhart” duo of Air Force officers Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam and Saipan in 1960, following closely in Goerner’s heels, and presented to America by Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart (1966) and Joe Klaas’ Amelia Earhart Lives (1970).

“Requiem” comes to us courtesy of Broad Cove Media and Paul Briand (no suffix), the son of Paul L. Briand Jr., who started the freelance business through Broad Cove Media in 2008 after retiring from the Seacoast Media Group of newspapers that includes the Portsmouth Herald and Foster’s Daily Democrat.”  Thus I assume the editor’s note below was written by Paul Briand.  Boldface emphasis is mine throughout; capitalization emphasis is Briand’s.  We begin Briand’s story with a note from the editor, possibly Paul Briand, though it’s not possible to know for sure:

Editor’s note: “Requiem for Amelia” was written in 1966 as a follow-up to Paul L. Briand Jr.’s 1960 Amelia Earhart biography, Daughter of the Sky.  It was written as Briand was about to retire as a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel. He was allowed to view the official Navy file on Earhart provided that this manuscript be reviewed for military security, which it was in February 1967.  Briand died in 1986, still in pursuit of the truth behind Earhart’s disappearance.

 

“REQUIEM FOR AMELIA” (Part I of Two)
By Paul L. Briand, Jr.

Where’s the rest of it?

That’s it. There is no rest.

You’re kidding.

No. That’s all there is.

It was November 1, 1966.  I had just finished reading the official Navy file on Amelia Earhart, and I wanted my theories confirmed.  I had been waiting to see the file for more than five years, convinced that its pages had hidden for almost thirty years the secret to the mysterious disappearance of the famous flier.  I was allowed to see the file as a scholar who would then submit his manuscript for clearance.  It is a privilege allowed any scholar, writer or reporter working with official material.

According to the evidence in the file, Amelia Earhart was not on a spy mission for the United States Government when she disappeared in 1937.  For years I had been convinced that she was.  The findings in the official file also revealed that if Amelia ended her flight on Saipan, she did by accident and not by plan.  I was cheered by this because it supported the conclusion in my biography about Amelia Earhart, Daughter of the Sky, published in April 1960.  My evidence in the book was slight, however, based as it was on the eye-witness testimony of a Chamorro native girl who later married and emigrated to San Mateo, California. 

Cover of the first paperback edition of Daughter of the Sky, published by Pyramid publishers in May 1967.

But her testimony was so startling — that AE had crash-landed on Saipan, was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and later was executed as a spy — it appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the country . One of the papers was the San Mateo Times, which featured the local tie-in with Josephine Blanco Akiyama, my native girl.  It was this story that CBS Correspondent Fred Goerner ran with to best sellerdom six years later in his book, The Search for Amelia Earhart.

Amelia Earhart had been America’s greatest woman flier.  In 1928 she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger; in 1932 she flew across the Atlantic again, this time alone; in 1933 she broke her own transcontinental speed record from California to New Jersey; in 1935 she conquered part of the Pacific, from Hawaii to California.  Not satisfied with these accomplishments, however, she wanted to face the one great challenge which remained … the world.  She made her plans to girdle it at the equator, a 29,000 mile flight.  No one had done it before.  Not even Lindbergh.

In May of 1937 Ame1ia Earhart set out on her world flight from Miami.  With her in the twin engine Lockheed Electra was one of the best navigators available, a pioneer from the Pan American flights to the Orient, Fred Noonan. By July, after flying 22,000 miles in forty days, they had reached Lae, New Guinea, the last stop before Howland Island, Hawaii, and home.  Of these legs, the most difficult was the 2,556 miles to Howland, a tiny speck of island amid an eternity of ocean.  To reach it, the navigation would have to be perfect.

The fliers never reached their destination. Although the Coast Guard cutter Itasca had been anchored off Howland to help beam them in, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were lost somewhere over a possible area of 450,000 miles in the South Pacific.

The Navy ordered a search.  For a sixteen-day period Navy and Coast Guard ships, including at one time or another the aircraft carrier Lexington with its full complement of 63 planes, the battleship Colorado, the four destroyers Perkins, Cushing, Lamson, and Drayton, the minesweeper Swan, and the cutter Itasca, searched the Pacific where her plane could have been lost.  Not a trace of the fliers was turned up.  The world was stunned.

One of the great mysteries of the century remained unsolved, until in April of 1960, when it was first suggested in my Earhart biography Daughter of the Sky that the flier crash-landed on Saipan and was executed as a spy.

Amelia Earhart was lost and I had looked for her.  I looked for her in 1957 and 1958 while conducting research for my book.  I looked for her in 1960 and 1961 while two officer-colleagues of mine conducted investigations on Saipan and Guam.  I looked for her again, most recently, this year in Washington, D. C., because I was convinced after almost ten years of research that her whereabouts were hidden in a government vault marked SECRET.  During the summer of 1960, two Air Force officers stationed on Okinawa, Captains Joseph A. Gervais and Robert S. Dinger, read my book, wanted to believe my conclusion, but suggested that I needed more supporting evidence.  I agreed.

An undated photo of Paul Briand Jr., left, and Joe Gervais, two of the three members of “Operation Earhart,” formed in 1960.

We formed “Operation Earhart” and they went to Saipan and Guam to see what they could find.  They interviewed 72 people, most of them natives who corroborated my testimony from Josephine Blanco.  Gervais and Dinger also uncovered information to indicate that AE’s flight to Saipan was not accidental but deliberate, that she was on a spy mission.  The evidence gathered by the captains, however, was immediately put under a security clamp by the U. S. Air Force in the Far East until it could be checked.  Later, Gervais and Dinger took leave and brought their findings to me at the Air Force Academy.  I wrote the story and submitted it to the Department of Defense for clearance in February 1961. I had decided later, on this title: “ONE LIFE FOR HER COUNTRY: The Last Days of Amelia Earhart.”

Then, because President Eisenhower was on a trip to the Far East and had cancelled a visit to Tokyo because of student riots, the Department of Defense denied clearance to the manuscript on the grounds that its contents would jeopardize Japanese–American relations.  But I was convinced, nevertheless, that my conclusions about Amelia Earhart on Saipan were correct and that she must have been on a planned spy mission for her government.

I was silenced and I did not know what to do.  In the spring of 1961 Arthur M. Sch1esinger Jr. came to the Air Force Academy to be the guest speaker at its annual Assembly.  I prevailed on two officer colleagues to intercede with him on my behalf.

At Mr. Schlesinger’s suggestion, I wrote him a memo.  Trying to help me, he wrote to Rudolph A. Winnacker, official historian of the Department of Defense.  Mr. Winnacker, also trying to help, wrote in turn to the Army, Navy, and Air Force historians.  They responded, but with no encouragement.  The Navy answer was to the point: . . .  the files contain nothing to indicate Amelia Earhart was a spy or that she was known or suspected to have landed on Saipan . . .

During the summer of 1961, Ambassador [Douglas, nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who became the commander of the Allied occupation of Japan immediately after World War II] MacArthur in Tokyo was queried by the Secretary of State, Christian Herter, concerning Amelia Earhart.  In his preliminary report on July 15, MacArthur said an initial search of Japanese fileshas uncovered no indications Amelia Earhart was executed by the Japanese.”  Then he added: CHECK WILL BE CONTINUED, HOWEVER, AND GOJ (GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN) HAS LOCATED EIGHT PERSONS WHO MIGHT HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF CASE.  THESE INCLUDE ADMIRAL HOSHINA AND FOUR FORMER STAFF MEMBERS CONCERNED WITH SAIPAN AREA; GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL NOW WORKING WITH FONOFF; MEMBER OF FORMER JAPANESE NAVAL LIAISON MISSION IN SAIPAN; AND CAPTAIN OF JAPANESE WARSHIP KOSHU WHICH SEARCHED FOR EARHART IN COLLABORATION WITH U S NAVY IN 1937.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II on the June 27, 1960 cover of Time magazine. MacArthur was the nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and according to Time, he was ”the principal architect of present-day U.S. policy toward Japan,” which meant that he was among the U.S. establishment principals in perpetuating the big lie that Amelia Earhart was never  on Saipan. He died in in 1997.

But on August 10, message number 445, at 3 p.m., he reported: “FOREIGN OFFICE INFORMS US GOJ HAS COMPLETED EXHAUSTIVE INVESTIGATION WHICH REVEALED NO BASIS WHATSOEVER FOR RUMOR JAPANESE EXECUTED AMELIA EARHART ON SAIPAN IN 1937.  ALL AVAILABLE JAPANESE RECORDS SEARCHED AND ALL FORMER OFFICERS AND OFFICIALS CONTACTED (REFTEL) DURING COURSE INVESTIGATION.  MACARTHUR”

Unfortunately for me, neither the Schlesinger-Winnacker correspondence, nor the MacArthur-Herter interchange, was shown to me; moreover, Mr. Schlesinger did not answer my memo to him — but he doubtlessly thought the Air Force would — which it did not.  On November 21, 1961, after the supposed bones of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan had been found on Saipan by Fred Goerner, my manuscript was finally cleared by the Department of Defense for publication.   The bones, however, proved to be those of Orientals, and there wasn’t a publisher in America interested in my story — not unless I had concrete proof-positive information, which didn’t have.  Nor has anyone since.

Perhaps the most interesting document in the official file is an exhaustive report, a Navy investigative report [known to readers of this blog as the ONI Report] on the alleged location of Amelia Earhart’s grave.  Compiled in November 1960, it is nine pages long and has a number of supporting documents, most of them photos of the Chamorran cemetery and surrounding area taken by Thomas E. Devine, from Connecticut, who had claimed he knew the location of the Earhart grave.  Devine had written to me in the summer of 1960, telling me his story; but I was not interested.  My Captains Gervais and Dinger had already written to me, telling me they had found the “one and only gravesite” of Amelia Earhart.

Here is the reporting official’s [ONI Special Agent Joseph M. Patton] synopsis:

Request was made for the evaluation of and comment on information furnished by Thomas E. DEVINE, who claimed that he had been told where Subject’s (Amelia Earhart’s) grave was located on Saipan, M.I. Enclosures (1) through (9) were furnished by DEVINE and their locations were described by DEVINE.  Investigation at Saipan, M.I., developed that the location of enclosure (9) was erroneous as described by DEVINE.  The building was located in Camp Susupe, several miles from the walk on fishing dock as mentioned by DEVINE.  The Chamorran woman seen in enclosure (9) was in Camp Susupe and did not need rounding up.  In 1937 the location shown in enclosure (9) was farm land under cultivation by the BLANCO family. 

No evidence was disclosed by this investigation that Subject landed an airplane on Saipan.  Mrs. Antonia BLANCO stated that her daughter (Josephine, the same who had furnished me with the conclusion for “Daughter of the Sky”) claimed to have seen a white woman of Subject’s description at Saipan prior to WW II.  Mr. Jesus SALAS said he had overheard Japanese military people talking about the crash of Subject’s plane at Jaluit Atoll, in the Marshall Islands; and Mr. Jose VILLA-GOMEZ said that he overheard a similar conversation.

Some of the testimony in the report itself was very startling to me: Native guards during Japanese rule “stated they had known of no plane crash in Tanapag until the Military planes fell there during the bombing raids in 1944.”  It refuted what I had learned from Gervais and Dinger.  As startling is a copy of a letter from the civilian administrator, Saipan, to the Navy liaison officer to the trust territory high commissioner:

Now to the police.  We contacted all presently available men who were policemen in 1937.  None of them knew anything concerning the alleged incident.  Next, we contacted all persons who were remembered as being jail wardens in 1937. Still no news of Amelia.  Next, to Dr. Jose TORRES who worked in the Japanese hospital.  Again no news.  Jesus GUERRERO, a detective for the Japanese Government.  No knowledge.  Next, talked to Saipanese labor foremen who were in charge of labor gangs in the Garapan-Tanapag Harbor area. Again no soap.

Incredibly, the testimony of all these people as reported in the official file does not square with the testimony gathered for me by Captains Gervais and Dinger.  It was as Department of Defense historian Rudolph Winnacker had said of my findings: . . .  contrary testimony by people who might have been expected to know.

Contrary indeed!  The evidence uncovered by Captain Joseph A. Gervais and Captain Robert S. Dinger in the summer of 1960 fully corroborates the story of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, first presented in Daughter of the Sky, in which the Saipan native girl saw a twin-engine silver plane fly overhead and crash land at Tanapag Harbor, about noon time one summer day in 1937.  From the plane emerged two fliers, one of them a woman.  Josephine, who later identified the fliers as Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart, learned later that they had died.  Who is telling the truth and to whom?

Here my evidence:  While Josephine Blanco was bicycling toward the Japanese installation with her brother-in-law’s lunch and looked up to see Amelia’s Electra fly over low and crash, other Chamorro natives witnessed the same event at the same time.

One was Josephine’s brother-in-law, J. Y. Matsumoto.  Having been found and interviewed by Gervais and Dinger, he acknowledged that the incident was one that both he and Josephine witnessed, just as Mrs. Akiyama has related it.  He confirmed that he did see the plane crash, that two Americans were apprehended, and that one of them was a woman.

Unlike the other witnesses Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger questioned on Guam, 45-year-old Thomas “Buko” Blas claimed he was an eyewitness to an airplane crash on Saipan in 1937.

Another Saipan native was Thomas [Buko] Blas, then 45, a construction worker at the time, who had just started to eat his lunch.  As he sat looking out over Tanapag Harbor, Blas heard a plane overhead; looking up, he saw that it was very low, then watched with fright as it hit the tops of trees edging the Sadog Tasi area, pitch down out of control, and crash land on the beach 100 feet in front of him, very close to the Japanese Chico Naval Air Base.

Blas clearly remembers that the plane was two-motored, aluminum- colored, and had no Japanese markings.  Many other workers, coming from all directions, gathered at the scene.  Barred from getting too close to the plane by Japanese Navy personnel, Blas nevertheless saw that one of the pilots was lying face down on the ground, apparently injured, and that the other pilot had climbed out of the plane to help him.

Japanese officers and soldiers, however, kept the pilots separated, pushing and shoving the standing one away from the one lying on the ground, even knocking him down with the butt of a rifle.  The injured one turned on his back, and as he tried to get up a Japanese soldier placed a bayonet at his throat.

Then a surprising thing happened.  Blas could see that the fliers were certainly not Japanese; they looked more like Europeans, more like Americans because of their light coloring.

The Japanese, rather than search the pilots for concealed weapons, quickly stripped them and to their amazement, and embarrassment, one of the pilots, naked and undeniable, was a woman.  Greatly disturbed, the Japanese quickly dressed the woman and the man; then with considerable irritability, they loudly complained that the poor Americans had no more men pilots and now had to use women for their military aircraft.

Blas said that both fliers wore flying jackets and well-washed khaki trousers, and that the woman wore a long-sleeved black shirt.  But to his surprise, the woman had her hair cut short just like the man.  The Japanese now took many photographs of the crash scene and the pilots.  Then they dismissed all the workers in the Chico area, telling them to go home immediately.  (End of “Requiem” Part I.)

Jesus Guerrero, the detective for the Japanese Government briefly referenced in a letter from the civilian administrator, Saipan, to the Navy liaison officer to the trust territory high commissioner, was in fact Jesús De Leon Guerrero, also known as Kumoi, a sinister character who collaborated with the Japanese police during the war, an enforcer whose job was tokeep the rest of the natives in line and his methods hadn’t been gentle,Fred Goerner wrote in The Search for Amelia Earhart.

Many Saipanese said Guerrero was the man who could best answer his questions about events before and during the war, and Goerner had more than one unpleasant encounter with the surly Chamorro, whom he described as a tough, bitter, hate-filled man who looks his reputation.Goerner used the pseudonyms Francisco Galvan and Kobei for Guerrero in Search, but Guerrero was named correctly by Joe Klaas in Amelia Earhart Lives and by Thomas E. Devine in Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident. 

“Daughter of the Sky” began true search for Earhart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!

“Courage is the Price”

Courage is the price that Life exacts
for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter
joy can hear
The sound of wings
How can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The soul’s dominion? Each time we
make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the resistless day,
And count it fair.

— Amelia Earhart

Our welcoming hearts go out to all our friends and supporters of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument in the U.S.A. and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.        

Marie S. Castro (third from right, sitting), and the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Committee welcome Josephine Blanco Akiyama (sitting next to Marie, left) back to Saipan at a reception Oct. 9, 2018.

Let us join hands this Holiday Season in celebrating the 81 years of the long-overdue recognition of Amelia Earhart’s presence with her navigator, Fred Noonan here on Saipan, the great aviators of the 20th Century.

Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous New Year  2019 

— From President Donald Barcinas, Vice President Marie S. Castro, Secretary Frances Sablan, all the members of the Saipan Earhart Memorial Monument Committee, and Mike Campbell, Jacksonville, Florida.

 

Josephine Blanco Akiyama returns to Saipan

Josephine Blanco Akiyama, whose childhood sighting of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor in the summer of 1937 ignited the true modern search for America’s First Lady of Flight, returned to her birthplace Oct. 6 and was warmly welcomed by family and friends at an invitation-only reception hosted by the Amelia Earhart Memorial Committee at Garapan’s Fiesta Resort and Spa Oct. 9. (Boldface mine throughout.)

At the reception dinner, also attended by reporters from the Marianas Variety, Saipan Tribune and Saipan’s KSPN2 News, Josephine, appearing well at 92, who’s lived in San Mateo, Calif. since 1957, said she still still vividly remembers her only encounter with the American aviator,” Lyn C. Lirio wrote in her Marianas Variety story Oct. 11, headlined, 2 say they saw Amelia Earhart on Saipan. 

This happened in 1937, Josephine said; she was 11 years old and didn’t know the woman’s name until much later, nor did she say anything publicly about it until she was 20 years old, working on Saipan as an assistant to Navy dentist Dr. Casimir Sheft.

Josephine Blanco Akiyama (second from left, seated) poses with her Blanco family at the dinner hosted by the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Committee, led by Rep. Donald Barcinas and Marie S.C. Castro, at Fiesta Resort & Spa on Tuesday evening. Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio, Marianas Variety.

In her story, Lirio cited two key paragraphs from the 1960 book that started it all, Daughter of the Sky, by Paul Briand Jr.:

In the summer of 1937 Josephine was riding her bicycle toward Tanapag Harbor.  She was taking her Japanese brother-in-law, J.Y. Mastsumoto, his lunch and was hurrying along because it was nearly 12 noon.  Josephine has a special pass to the Japanese military area near the harbor.  Not even Japanese civilians were admitted to the area unless they carried the proper credentials.  The young girl rode up to gate, stopped her bicycle, and presented her pass. The guard allowed her into the restricted area.  On the way to meet her brother-in-law, Josephine heard an airplane flying overhead. She looked up and a saw a silver two-engine plane.  The plane seemed to be in trouble, for it came down low, headed out into the harbor, and belly-landed on the water.

The plane crash-landed in the harbor.  She and her brother-in-law joined the people who gathered to watch. She saw the American woman standing next to a tall man wearing a short-sleeved sport shirt, and was surprised because the woman was not dressed as a woman usually dressed.  Instead of a dress, the American woman wore a man’s shirt and trousers; and instead of long hair,  she wore her hair cut short, like a man. The faces of the man and woman were white and drawn, as if they were sick.

The most surprising aspect of the evening featured Joaquin Salas, a relatively unknown native Chamorro, whose claimed eyewitness account was discussed in Rich Martini’s Amelia Earhart on Saipan YouTube video, but, to my knowledge, has been otherwise unreported, telling the group he was also 11 years old when he saw Earhart on Saipan — in front of his family’s house in Chalan Kanoa.  Lirio continued with Salas’ account:

“I saw a Japanese military truck.  They were loading three people — two men and one lady.  A Japanese soldier used black ribbons to tie their hands.  They parked in front of our house. We were watching them,” he said, adding that it was the first and last time he saw Earhart.  “I don’t where the Japanese took them.”

Lirio added that Rep. Donald Barcinas, president of the memorial committee, said their plan to build an Amelia Earhart monument on island has the support of the Marianas Visitor Authority, the Department of Public Lands, the Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.”  This sounds encouraging, but with the exception of a recent significant donation by a local, independent couple, the vast majority of contributions to the memorial has come from U.S. contributors, and remains a relative pittance.

The headline story of the May 27, 1960 edition of the San Mateo Times was the first of several written by reporter Linwood Day based on Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s eyewitness account (photo inset above right) that set the stage for Fred Goerner’s first visit to Saipan in mid-June 1960 and led Goerner’s 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Day worked closely by phone with Goerner, and on July 1, 1960, the Earhart frenzy reached its peak, with the Times announcing “Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved” in a 100-point banner headline.  None of the major newspapers in America ever touched this story, though some of the smaller papers in flyover country did run it.

Rep. Barcinas said Josephine’s eyewitness account is a living testimony — she is a living history, and we are very proud and honored to have her here.  She is in the books written about Amelia Earhart.

To read the  Marianas Variety story, please click here.

Meanwhile, Saipan’s other newspaper, the Saipan Tribune, whose coverage of the monument issue has been tepid since the proposal was announced last February — see $150K requested for Amelia Earhart statue” and “Group behind Earhart memorial seeks assistance from Rotary Club”  showed up, but one can only wonder why they bothered. 

A moving photo of Josephine with two of her nephews at the dinner is nice, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine a more halfhearted effort than the Tribune presents in I saw Amelia Earhart,” by reporter Erwin Encinares.  This mediocrity wasn’t even on the Tribune’s front page, but was buried somewhere back in the paper.  I had to actually search for it in the online edition because it wasn’t even listed on the first page of the local news items, which themselves were buried. 

Two persons reportedly saw on two separate occasions the lost aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart on Saipan, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean,” Encinares wrote in his uninspired lead, which went downhill from there.  In addition to turning off virtually anyone who might have been remotely interested, Encinares got Josephine’s current age, 92, wrong (93), as well as her age when she saw Amelia, 11, not 12 as he wrote. 

The Saipan Tribune should have opted out of this event rather than undermining it with this poorly written story that, in fact, signaled its readers that the occasion of the return of the most important of the Saipan eyewitness is all but meaningless to them.  Moreover, the story contained nothing about the planned Earhart memorial monument.

Josephine Blanco Akiyama hugs her nephew, Harry Blanco, as John Blanco, another of Josephine’s nephews, looks on. (Photo by Erwin Encinares, Saipan Tribune.)

To read the Saipan Tribune story, which has garnered no “Likes” and one comment — a correction of another factual error in the story — since its publication on Oct. 11, please click here.

TV is always more effective in our video-centric media culture, and the Saipan KSPN2 News (Saipan’s Destination Channel) story was far better than the Saipan Tribune’s lame effort, though its report on the Oct. 9 event didn’t air until Oct. 15.  The three-minute, 40-second segment featured Ashley McDowell interviewing Josephine at the dinner, with cutaways to file footage of Amelia and still shots of Josephine and Dr. Casimir Sheft.  McDowell’s visit to Tanapag Harbor, where Josephine saw the fliers in 1937, was a nice touch. 

Otherwise, McDowell’s decision to display, or more accurately, flash the July 1, 1960 front page of the San Mateo Times, with its 100-point banner headline proclaiming, “Amelia Earhart Mystery is Solved,” which readers have seen many times on this blog, highlighted a mostly flat, disappointing report, much too low-key and uninspired than this rare occasion demanded.  Having the famous Josephine Blanco Akiyama live and lucid at 92 was a miracle in itself, but you’d never know it by watching this video. 

The segment ended with McDowell voicing no real conclusion or telling point, and again, nothing was said about the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this was a 5 at best, and it likely didn’t change any minds among the uninformed masses on Saipan.  It’s also fair to ask whether the ugly local politics surrounding the memorial initiative — overwhelmingly against it from the beginning — exerted an insidious influence on the tone, content and efficacy of the KSPN2 News report. 

On the other hand, some credit is indeed due to KSPN2 News, as Saipan’s Destination Channel is the only TV news station in the world that has produced two important stories recently about Amelia Earhart, Marie Castro and the proposed Earhart Memorial Monument (see Saipan TV News supports Earhart monument), while not a single American media outlet has breathed a word of it.  Thus, the U.S. establishment’s total and absolute hatred for the truth in the Earhart disappearance remains stronger than ever, and the 81-year travesty shows no signs of abating.   

To watch the Saipan KSPN2 News video of the story, please click here.Marie Castro sent me the below prayer that she wrote for the special occasion of Josephine’s visit, lovingly prepared to close the evening’s events of Oct. 9.  I told Allen [Marie’s nephew] to play the recorded music, ‘Amazing Grace’ in the background while I read the prayer, Marie wrote.  “I hope the people will be inspired and believe this significant event of 1937.”

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your amazing grace which is enabling Mrs. Josephine Blanco Akiyama, the last living person to witness the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan here on Saipan in 1937 to be with us here tonight with the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument group.

81 years is a long, definitely overdue, time for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan to be given the recognition they deserve as human beings who unfortunately met their death on Saipan soil.

Tonight, as we acknowledge their presence here on our island, we ask that you guide our efforts to honor the memory of these two great American aviators with a memorial to be built in their honor.

This is our prayer, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

God Bless us.

%d bloggers like this: