Well, Amelia, another year has passed since Amy Otis Earhart brought you into this world in your grandparents’ Atchison, Kansas home on July 24, 1897, eons ago, in a much simpler and, some would say, far better America. Because you were so unexpectedly taken from us sometime after you turned 40, you’ll be forever young to those who remember and celebrate your life.
I’m sure you can read these comments or receive this message somehow, and I’m certain you’re in a place where the free flow of all information is enjoyed by all, and where no secrets exist. I’ll bet there’s plenty you’d like to tell us, but the rules up there prevent it.
Admittedly, it’s a stretch to think you might still be with us at 117 if a few things had gone differently for you and Fred Noonan, and had you reached that exclusive club, you’d surely be a contender for world’s-oldest-person honors. But considering the amazing feats you managed in your brief life that earned you nicknames like Lady Lindy and the First Lady of Flight, an equally lofty and hard-earned title 77 years later doesn’t seem impossible, does it? After all, Amy was an impressive 93 and lived the majority of her years before penicillin was discovered, and your sister, Muriel, made it all the way to the venerable age of 98 before she cashed in, so I’d say the odds were about even money that you could have been your family’s first centenarian.
Of course, wishing you a Happy Birthday is just something the living do to make ourselves feel better; where you are, every day is far better than any grand birthday bash we could imagine, and birthdays there must be quite passé. For your devotees down here, though, at least for those who know the truth about what’s been going on for so long, it absolutely is another unhappy birthday, because nothing of substance has changed in the past year, and what little news we have ranges from the mundane to the depressing.
The big lie that your disappearance remains a great mystery continues to dominate nearly all references to you, often followed by another well-publicized whopper from TIGHAR that they’re just about to find your Electra on Nikumaroro, if only they can raise the money for the next search, ad nauseam. Such unrelenting rigmarole must bore you, but this and other ridiculous claims are what has passed in our despicable media for “Earhart research” since Time magazine trashed Fred Goerner’s bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart in 1966.
You’ve likely heard that a young woman, Amelia Rose Earhart, a pilot and former Denver TV weatherperson who happens to have your first and last names but isn’t otherwise related, completed a relatively risk-free world flight July 11 following a route that roughly approximated your own. At least three others have already done this, all Americans: Geraldine “Jerrie” Fredritz Mock in 1964, Ann Pellegreno in 1967 and Linda Finch in 1997, so there was nothing notable in Amelia Rose’s flight, especially considering that she had the latest GPS navigational technology to ensure her safe journey.
Her motivation was to honor your memory, said Amelia Rose, who was the featured speaker at the annual festival held in your name at Atchison last week. I don’t attend these pretentious galas, and unless and until event organizers find the courage to come to terms with the truth of your untimely and completely unnecessary demise on Saipan, I never will. Last week she must have been making the rounds of the TV talk shows, as someone on FOX News announced she would be on soon, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it.
If Amelia Rose actually cared a whit about your legacy, she’d learn the truth that so many insist on avoiding but is available to all. She would then use her public platform to stand up and call attention to this great American travesty and cover-up – rivaled only by the Warren Commission’s “lone gunman” verdict in the John F. Kennedy assassination in its mendacity, but unlike the JFK hit, completely ignored in the popular culture – and demand that our government stop the lies about her namesake’s true fate.
Unfortunately and all too predictably, based on what I know about this grandstanding pretender, Amelia Rose has never uttered a word that had any relationship to the truth about what happened to you 77 years ago.
Facts are stubborn things
Amelia Rose’s supporters say she doesn’t know about all the investigations and research that tell us that you and Fred Noonan landed at Mili Atoll on July 2, 1937, were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Jaluit, Roi-Namur and finally Saipan, where you suffered wretched deaths. This gruesome scenario, as well as the fact that our fearless leader at the time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, refused to lift a finger to help you, much less inform the public that you were the first POWs of the yet-undeclared war to come, continue to be denied by the corrupt U.S. government and suppressed by our media big and small. But facts are stubborn things, and they don’t cease to exist because the local PTA, the Atchison Chamber of Commerce or Amelia Rose Earhart wishes it were so.
Many hundreds of books celebrate your remarkable life, but only a handful dare to reveal the facts surrounding your miserable demise at the hands of barbarians on that godforsaken island of Saipan. Now that the Japanese are among our best friends and allies in the Pacific Rim, we don’t want to offend their delicate sensibilities with public discussions of their World War II barbarities, do we?
Speaking of which, you might know Iris Chang, author of the 1997 bestseller The Rape of Nanking, which exposed the long-suppressed Japanese atrocities against the Chinese in December 1937, only months after your disappearance. Despite the book’s notoriety and widespread acceptance of its findings, the Japanese ambassador refused to apologize for his nation’s war crimes when Chang confronted him on British TV in 1998. In 1999 she told Salon.com that she “wasn’t welcome” in Japan, and she committed suicide in 2004.
We’re still not sure why Chang perpetrated the ultimate atrocity against herself, but it’s been said that the years of research into such horrific subject matter disturbed her greatly. The parallels are obvious, but the depravities the Japanese committed against the Chinese, despite the overwhelming numbers of the murdered, don’t rankle Westerners nearly as much as the mere consideration of what befell you and Fred on Saipan. Chang may have been unpopular in Japan, but her work was celebrated by the U.S. media, which avoids anything or anyone that hints at the truth about you like the plague.
Amelia Rose may not know the sordid details, but she’s heard the story and has shown no inclination to learn about the truth, falsely marginalized as an “unsubstantiated fringe theory” for many decades by our trusted media. So at best, Amelia Rose is among the willfully ignorant about you; this strain of ignorance is just another form of cowardice, another excuse to avoid the truth, and of course it’s dishonesty in spades.
How can I say this so blithely? At last year’s Amelia Earhart Festival, an Earhart researcher engaged Amelia Rose, on hand to collect another dubious honor, in a conversation that began well but abruptly turned to ashes when he brought up the subject of your death on Saipan. Amelia Rose, upon hearing this, flew from this man as if he had leprosy. Almost a year earlier, she ignored my email missives that not only politely informed her of the truth, but offered her a free copy of my book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
So Amelia Rose Earhart, rather than being a special person, is just one of many hundreds of similar mainline media lemmings who assiduously avoid the truth. Those who aren’t part of the solution are part of the problem, and excuse me if I repeat myself, but they are cowards as well.
So the lies continue without surcease, and 99.99 percent of the public continues to hear, read and without reservation buys the myth that your disappearance remains among the “greatest aviation mysteries of the 20th century.” A few of us know better, and are doing our best to rectify this appalling situation, but we aren’t having much success. Few will admit it, but the word has long been out that it’s not acceptable to talk about what really happened to you. Nobody wants to hear it, so it’s fallen to outsiders like this writer to do justice to your story. We’re called conspiracy theorists and wing nuts, and are strenuously shunned.
So Amelia, that’s how it looks to at least one of us down here on your 117th birthday. Sadly, you and Fred Noonan are as far from realizing Fred Goerner’s “justice of truth” as ever, and there’s nothing coming from our government that gives us the slightest glimmer of hope. But the difficulty of this mission doesn’t deter those of us who truly believe in the worthiness of the cause. And so we continue.
Frank Benjamin is an Amelia Earhart enthusiast par excellence. Frank, 74, a semi-retired college science teacher who lives with wife Suzanne in the bedroom community of Galena, on Maryland’s eastern shore, has distinguished himself in recent years for his avid support of the truth in the Earhart disappearance. He contacted me several years before Truth at Last was published, in connection with his own serious probe into a murky area of Earhart research, and even drove down twice to Knoxville, Tenn., from Galena to visit.
On one occasion, he assisted me at a veterans business event at the Knoxville Convention Center, helping me accost unsuspecting East Tennesseans with the truth in the Earhart case and the new book where they could find it. We sold just six books that day, but consoled ourselves by telling each other what a great job we did “planting a few seeds.” Although a few thousand souls might have passed our booth, we were able to talk to perhaps a hundred or so. Overall, the day’s experience was instructive — and very deflating. Most couldn’t have cared less about Amelia Earhart.
Frank is also quite a world traveler; he’s been to the Marshall Islands and Saipan more times than he can recall, and hopes to return at least once more to the Marshalls to visit Mili Atoll and the uninhabited and nearly inaccessible Barre Island, where our best evidence indicates Amelia made her wheels-up landing in the Mili Lagoon. Nearly every summer Frank flies to Japan to walk its more remote beaches in search of the decorative glass balls that local fisherman use to secure their nets and eventually wash ashore to be claimed by enterprising scavengers like Frank.
Over recent years, Frank has been assembling a fascinating exhibit – some might call is a display – that reflects his devotion to the truth in the Earhart case (pictured above, at Atchison, Kansas in July 2013). Among the many curiosities comprising this one-of-a-kind Earhart memorial are an elegant print of a painting of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief Pacific Fleet, which Frank procured from the Navy History Center at the Navy Yard in Washington along with another, similar print, which Frank generously presented me; a beautifully enlarged and mounted set of four postage stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Island in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia’s landing at Mili Atoll; and an original painting depicting a forlorn Amelia behind bars at Saipan’s Garapan jail, as reported by many native witnesses to researchers such as Fred Goerner, Joe Gervais and Vincent V. Loomis.
Many photos, clippings and other assorted memorabilia, including the front page of the July 1, 1960 San Mateo Times, proclaiming “Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved,” direct from Saipan and courtesy of Times reporter Linwood Day and Fred Goerner (below), make Frank’s display unforgettable for anyone with even a modicum of interest in the Earhart story.
On Dec. 1, Frank brought his exhibit to the Massey Aerodrome & Museum, in nearby Massey, Md., hopeful that those attending its Eleventh Annual Open Hangar Day would be drawn to the alluring layout, seeking to learn about the Earhart “mystery.” Many hundreds came to Massey for the Open Hangar Day, Frank recalled, but very few bothered to approach him or his display.
“Mike, the airshow in Massey WAS WORSE than Knoxville!” Frank wrote in an email. “At least there (in Knoxville), people passed by the display; here they did not even bother. And their reaction to my going to bat for the Marshall Islands-Saipan “Truth” was really zero. Nobody cares, as I guess that you already know. I have to find a new way to get the message out there, but I do not know what it will be.”
In deference to Frank’s wishes, I won’t name any of better-known personages who attended the 2013 Amelia Earhart Festival during the third week of July, whose less-than-friendly treatment of Frank and his message revealed their support for the establishment’s aversion to the truth, reflected in a policy that forbids even the mention of Amelia Earhart and Saipan in the same sentence.
After being led to believe by Chamber of Commerce types that he would be allowed to sell his special Earhart “MIST” (”Marshall Islands-Saipan Truth) T-shirts screened with the same image of an imprisoned Amelia that graces his commissioned painting (below), and several dozen copies of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last at Atchison, event officials coldly informed Frank that such activity was prohibited soon after he arrived.
Still, at Atchison, Frank managed to collect a small amount of “psychic income” from a few good souls who appreciated his efforts, unlike his bleak experience at Massey. “I was recognized at the luncheon for my extensive display on the Saipan Truth (it did come out real well, and was an eye-catcher!) and [Birthplace Museum Director] Lou Foudray went around telling everyone what a wonderful job I had don’t,” Frank told me in a recent email. “But it means nothing, as I got an ear-full from the Irene Bolam people, and it left me tired, and asking why had I bothered to do this at all? I could sell none of the books, nor my T-shirts, and at the last minute I was removed from the ‘Meet the Authors’ because they already had three speakers, and there was concern that people would run over the time allotted.”
Atchison is Amelia’s birthplace, and the week’s events were all part of the town’s annual devotions to its most famous citizen. We can expect at least a minimal interest in an elaborate, creative exhibit dedicated to her memory and those who have stuck out their necks to offer the truth about an event that’s still promoted as one of the “great mysteries of the 20th century.”
The reception Frank received at Massey is far more reflective of the public’s vast indifference and lassitude when it comes to the fate of Amelia Earhart. Most under 60 years old have barely heard of her, and are hard pressed to tell an inquisitor anything about Amelia except that “she was lost in the Pacific Ocean, wasn’t she?“ Certainly, many of our seniors, especially those over 85, are almost always interested, as many of them can remember sitting in front of their radios as children with their mothers and fathers, anxiously awaiting news of the lost fliers in 1937.
Amelia’s loss is real to these people, and when I’m able to tell them what really happened, they’re usually amazed and appreciative. But 77 years of propaganda and lies have succeeded in convincing the vast majority of the American public that the Earhart mystery won’t be solved, so what’s the point, and who really cares anymore? This is the sad reality of the Earhart case, as Frank and I have learned up close and personally.