On Saturday, Sept. 27 at 2:30 p.m., in a spacious, well-appointed first-floor meeting room at the Wichita, Kansas Marriott Hotel, hundreds of hours of preparation and sweat were finally put to good use. A mostly unsuspecting audience consisting of 50 members of The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots from eight states, a number of their husbands and others totaling about 70 souls were soon to learn about the Truth in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, my obsession for the past 26 years and the subject of my second book on the subject, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Many months previously, Kay Alley, the vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines and the primary mover and shaker for the three-day, South Central Section Fall Meeting of the Ninety-Nines, invited me to be their main speaker, all expenses paid, and I gladly accepted. I was extremely grateful for the rare opportunity to tell others the unvarnished truth about the Earhart disappearance. The South Central Section is made up of chapters from Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. They meet twice a year, in the spring and fall, and the Fall 2014 theme, ironically, was “Remembering Our Past.” In the case of the Earhart disappearance, this theme was especially poignant. For more information on the Ninety-Nines and their colorful history, see my March 8, 2014 post, “A point of light emerges.”
The Colorado Chapter’s Linda Horn had the unenviable task of advancing each of the 142 slides in my power point program, sometimes through sheer guesswork, and considering my sometimes confusing, rambling commentary, Linda performed admirably. I briefly considered naming my talk something like, “It’s Time to Change the Conversation,” but realized that the best opportunity to change the public perception of the Earhart disappearance had passed by long ago.
Thanks to 77 years of government and establishment propaganda, the ironclad idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is an irresolvable mystery is a part of our cultural furniture, nailed down and impossible to move. If Fred Goerner couldn’t break through the stone wall of the federal security apparatus in the mid-1960s, with his 400,000 book sales, six-weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and thousands of irate Americans demanding in vain that their congressmen act to bring the “Justice of Truth” to Amelia and Fred Noonan, who am I with my unknown book to make such a presumption?
It was my first ever power-point presentation, and 63 pages of notes stood ready to support the slides. Soon, however, I realized these notes were of little practical use, that reading from them only slowed down the program and distracted the audience, which does not appreciate being read to, and I just didn’t have enough practice doing these presentations to fake it.
I also wasted 30 precious minutes and 30 slides telling the audience things about Amelia’s life they could easily find for themselves in any of the 2,000 Earhart biographies and other Earhart-related books they can find on Amazon.com. Next time I’ll cut that to about 10 minutes and get on with the reason I’m standing in front of them – to tell them about the long suppressed facts in the Earhart case — if there is a next time.
Slightly nervous to begin, I forgot a few things I wanted to say in the opening, stumbled a few times, blanked out on a name once, but kept at it and quickly began losing track of time as I traced the modern-day search for Amelia back to Paul Briand’s 1960 book Daughter of the Sky, then to the San Mateo Times stories about Josephine Blanco Akiyama by Linwood Day (see “Linwood Day: Forgotten hero of the Earhart saga,” July 10, 2014), to Fred Goerner’s Saipan trips and so on down the line of the major Saipan and Marshalls threads, of course only brushing the surface, doing my best to paint the big picture. Instead of stopping at the agreed-upon 90-minute mark, I went two hours and no one said, “Stop! Time’s up!”
I couldn’t restrain my passion at times, as I hit on some of the key witnesses and dramatic accounts that place Amelia and Fred on Saipan, and put the lie to the constant establishment mantra that the Earhart case is a great “Aviation Mystery.” I made sure to point out that convicted murderers are regularly sent to their executions on the smallest fraction of the eyewitness testimonies that tell the sad story of Amelia’s wretched end on Saipan. Yet we’re told by Wikipedia and virtually all media that the truth is nothing but a “paranoid conspiracy theory” or an “unsubstantiated urban myth” unfit for discussion in polite circles.
I think the audience got the message, but a small number clearly didn’t like the unpleasant truth, which is always predictable, given the toxic reaction this information often elicits from the uninformed. Many were surprised and virtually none had any knowledge of the work of Fred Goerner, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Thomas E. Devine and others through the years that so clearly established the truth.
I was glad for the opportunity to begin to educate them about the fate of their co-founder. We sold a few books, and most important to me, Kay Alley was pleased and told me I did a “beautiful job.” Several others said nice things, and Kay made it clear that I had vindicated her faith in me. Thus I will count the event as a victory for the Truth, which is rare indeed in these days of massive indifference and rejection, not only from the media but virtually the entire public.
Of course the Truth at Last presentation was the highlight of my weekend, but Kay Alley and her committee planned the three days for everyone’s enjoyment, and all were kept busy with a variety of activities. A first-floor Hospitality Room offered shopping and browsing, a book fair, aviation timeline, snacks, beverages and visiting area. On Thursday evening, members and their husbands were treated to dinner at Mid-American All Indian Center under the flag of nations, a tour of the museum, a film about how the Wichita Indians were employed at Boeing for the building of aircraft for World War II, a walk around the Keeper of the Plains statue and lighting of the Arkansas River fire-pots at sunset.
An outstanding buffet breakfast in the first-floor Marriott restaurant was available each morning, and activities on Friday began with a citywide bus tour of historical buildings, aircraft plants, the Amelia Earhart Elementary School, lunch at Lloyd Stearman Field in nearby Benton, Kan., and a tour of the new condo-hangars being built at the airport.
Following dinner on Friday night, which featured a particularly excellent vegetarian entry, the group settled in to enjoy a Wichita-style “Antiques Roadshow,” complete with TV camera and projection screen to show all the fascinating details of the many pieces on display. Wichita native Stephen Gleissner, Ph.D., former chief curator of the Wichita Art Museum (2001-2013) and member of the International Society of Appraisers, looked over a wide variety of artifacts and memorabilia, from a signed edition of Amelia Earhart’s 1932 book, “The Fun of It,” to a mint-condition Hopalong Cassidy wristwatch on a saddle it its original box from the early-1950s. Dr. Gleissner, who specializes in appraising decorative arts and accessories, glass, paintings and prints, treated the Ninety-Nines to an impressive, educational performance laced with plenty of laughs, and captivated the dinner audience for well over an hour.
Saturday began with a business meeting followed by a fashion show luncheon that I only caught at its finish. After my talk, a 99 helium-filled balloon launch was held in memory of the original founding members for the 85th anniversary, followed at 7 p.m. with the weekend’s climax, the “Banquet In Blue” wherein all attendees were asked to dressed in something blue, the corporate color of the Ninety-Nines.
After the food was served, we were treated to the musical stylings of The Air Capital Chorus Quartet of Bruce Bergsten, Mary Halsig, Jeff Moler, and Tom Schleier. Among their offerings was a fabulous acapella rendition of the famous 1937 standard “Turn Your Radio On.”
“They worked up an arrangement of ‘Song of the Ninety-Nines’ that has never been heard by members of our organization in the last few decades,” Kay wrote in an email. “I found a copy of the song at our International Headquarters in Oklahoma City, Okla., and gave it to the quartet to sing for us, written in 1941.”
Following the music, Bonnie Johnson, replete in American-flagged aviator’s garb, delivered a fascinating 25-minute impression of Louise McPhetridge Thaden, perhaps the second-most famous American female pilot of the Golden Age of Aviation, next to Amelia herself. Johnson-as-Thaden recalled the early pioneering days with Amelia, Pancho Barnes, Opal Kunz and Blanche Noyes. Thaden defeated her colleagues in the first Women’s Air Derby, also known as the Powder Puff Derby in 1929, a transcontinental race from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the site of the National Air Races that year. It took place from August 13–20, 1929. Twenty women were entered in the race, and Marvel Crosson was killed.
Johnson-Thaden went on to tell her rapt audience about how she won the Bendix Trophy Race in the first year women were allowed access to compete against men. She set a new world record of 14 hours, 55 minutes from New York City to Los Angeles, Calif. In her astonishing victory she flew a Beech C17R Staggerwing biplane and defeated twin-engine planes specifically designed for racing. Laura Ingalls, another aviator, came in second by 45 minutes flying a Lockheed Orion. First prize was $4,500 and she also won the $2,500 prize for a woman finishing the race.
Among those Kay thanked for their contributions to the weekend’s events were the Northeast Kansas Chapter, Ann Shaneyfelt, chairman, for the 99 helium-filled Balloons Launch; Judy Benjamin Godfrey, of the Northeast Kansas Chapter, for her invocation before dinner; and Janet Yoder, Kansas Chapter chairman for her leadership in planning the Fashion Show with Ann’s Fashions. Others Kay praised were Ann Sooby, of the Kansas Chapter, for preparing the welcome packets; The Kansas Chapter’s Phyllis Blanton for her work in historical aviation, Wichita and the Amelia Earhart timeline; Cathy McClain, Kansas Chapter, for her dinner toasts to Indian Heritage, Amelia Earhart and the Ninety-Nines; and the planning committee of Blanton, Sooby, Johnson, Shaneyfelt, Janet Yoder, Mandi Hill, Cindi Newport, and Linda Leatherman.
Kay Alley truly went the extra mile to produce this event, and her hard work and attention to detail paid off in a well-orchestrated and enjoyable three days for all concerned. Still recovering from a severely broken ankle, Kay handed out many gifts and mementos to conclude the final night, and she completely surprised me when handed me a beautiful Amelia Earhart doll, finely handmade and crafted by Jene Rapp, owner of the Doll Jenie in Belle Plains, Kansas, which will always be treasured by this heretofore non-doll collector.
My weekend at Wichita closed on just about the sweetest note I could imagine. Kay kindly offered to drive me to The Church of the Blessed Sacrament for 11 a.m. Mass on the way to Mid-Continent Airport, and I arranged a noon pickup for the airport with Uber.com taxi driver Teresa D. Renecker. On the way, Teresa asked what had brought me to Wichita, and after a brief recap of the Ninety-Nines, Amelia Earhart and a simpatico conversation about the plight of our nation generally, she said the ride would be “complimentary, for what you’ve done for women’s aviation.” I was deeply moved by Teresa Renecker’s generosity, and she even refused to take a tip! What more could a visitor to the fine city of Wichita ask than this, as well as the many other kindnesses I’d received in the past three days?
It think it’s appropriate to close just as I closed with the Ninety-Nines when winding up my presentation at the Marriott, words that I wrote long ago as I prepared for a rare radio interview. I hope you, dear reader, will take them to heart.
The disappearance of Amelia Earhart is NOT an insipid piece of American historical trivia, an unimportant subject for idle academic discussion and speculation that, in the end, defies solution. This is a major event in our history that has been so distorted and misrepresented by our government and establishment media that the American people think it’s an irresolvable mystery. Without some incredible, unforeseen change, the status quo in the Earhart case will never change. Please help dispel the darkness and support this cause in whatever ways you can. Thank you for your consideration.
The few Earhart enthusiasts who regularly read this blog are aware that the second of the two major story lines that describe Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, the near-total media blackout of the book, has greatly overshadowed its most important aspect — its presentation of the most comprehensive and compelling case ever for the presence and deaths of Amelia and Fred Noonan on Saipan. I won’t name the various radio hosts, newspaper people and bloggers who’ve pledged to help, only to slink away and ignore me after they learn the unpleasant facts about the wretched ends of our two heroes almost 77 years ago. They’re even worse than the masses who never reply at all.
The ugly truth in the Earhart case simply doesn’t fit into the rose-colored worldview of the vast majority of our media types, even the few known as “honest conservatives,” or those who’ve gained similar accolades from their slavish fans. It’s not PC and “it’s not artistic,” as Rosie Perez told Billy Hoyle, Woody Harrelson’s character in White Men Can’t Jump, as they argued about winning versus losing on a bus ride in South Central Los Angeles. If that weren’t enough, the truth remains a sacred cow, off-limits in polite society and verboten in the media.
On top of all this, it’s just not important anymore, what happened to a pair of Americans who landed in the wrong place in the Pacific in 1937 and paid for it with their lives. Most under 50 have never heard of Amelia Earhart. No wonder I had no competition when I took on this story in 1988, and Thomas E. Devine only shook his head when I asked him why no big time reporters had ever called him or knocked on his door.
Now, of course, we have the continuing cover-up and mystification of the Earhart disappearance — her loss still officially considered as among the 20th century’s greatest puzzles; its irresolvable nature long ago became an accepted piece of our cultural furniture that none but a scant few even question anymore. And don’t forget, the wonderful Japanese people have been our best allies in the region since 1945, and we don’t want to re-open old wounds or embarrass our friends, do we?
At the risk of being accused of extreme redundancy and even sour grapes, I must say it again: The establishment’s aversion to the truth in the Earhart case is very real, and it has been trending even worse than normal until only recently, when a distant point of light emerged from the most unexpected place I could have imagined.
In mid-December, Larry Knorr, Sunbury Press publisher, advised me that he had received a phone call from Kay Alley, vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety- Nines, the international organization of licensed women pilots, with over 5,500 members from 35 countries. Ms. Alley asked Larry if she thought I might be interested in speaking at the Ninety-Nines South Central Section Fall Meeting, to be held in Wichita, Kansas, the last weekend of September, 2014. Is the Pope a Catholic? I’ve talked to Kay a few times already, thanked her profusely for this golden opportunity, and after a few meetings with her planning committee, she has assured me that it will happen. Kay also says that two other aviation groups that are having conferences at the same time in Wichita have expressed their interest in having me speak to them, so this could be even bigger than we initially envisioned. “Surprised“ doesn’t begin to describe my reaction to this completely unforeseen development.
Here’s more about the remarkable organization that is the Ninety- Nines, who elected Amelia Earhart as their first president, taken directly from the Kansas Chapter’s website:
The organization came into being November 2, 1929, at Curtiss Field, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York. All 117 American female pilots had been invited to assemble for mutual support and the advancement of aviation. Louise Thaden was elected secretary and worked tirelessly to keep the group together as we struggled to organize and grow until 1931, when Amelia Earhart was elected as first president and the group was named for the 99 charter members.
Today Ninety-Nines are professional pilots for airlines, industry and government; we are pilots who teach and pilots who fly for pleasure; we are pilots who are technicians and mechanics. But first and foremost, we are women who love to fly!
Our Headquarters, located at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is home to our large archival records, video oral histories, personal artifacts, collections and memorabilia, and biographical files on thousands of women pilots from around the world. This is also the site of our 99s Museum of Women Pilots.
To say this elite group of women pilots is pure “establishment” would be an abject understatement. The Ninety-Nines are universally respected as the ultimate group of professional female aviators – “aviatrixes” in the old parlance. For them to recognize the existence of Truth at Last at all is more than any establishment organization, outside of a few chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a Kiwanis group and some senior assisted living facilities in Jacksonville have done so far. But the Ninety-Nines carry serious weight, and others who have previously looked askance at this book may reconsider after the September event. This presupposes that my presentation will be good, and so I’ll do all I can to be as ready and professional as I can. I’ve already begun to assemble a comprehensive power-point presentation that will tell the Truth at Last story in 90 minutes, and there’s plenty of time to polish it.
Finally we’re going to get a real break, an opportunity to make friends and influence people, all because just one woman likes my book, recognizes the truth and is placed where she can make a difference. That’s all it takes, so basically, I suppose the lesson here is that it’s all in God’s hands. Perhaps the most amazing irony of all –it’s almost impossible for me to label this a coincidence – is that the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety Nines is, of course, the chapter of Amelia’s state of birth.
A few others who want to help this cause are also beginning to emerge. David C. Henley, the publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley (Nevada) News, has promised to do a story for the Carson City newspaper, the Nevada Appeal, after he takes some photos of the old Garapan jail on Saipan during a forthcoming visit to the scene of the crime, and I’ll be on Truth Frequency Radio this Sunday, March 9 at 5 p.m., EDT. A few other things are in the works, but it’s too early to announce anything.
So please stay tuned. As I’ve told Larry Knorr several times, “This book has not yet begun to fight!” Nor have I.