Gary Boothe, of Floyd County, Va., lived on Saipan as a child from 1958 to 1962. Both parents were teachers for the U.S. Navy civilian administration, teaching local students at Saipan Intermediate School. They also taught for the U.S. Trust Territory in the Caroline islands at Chuuk and Yap. Gary is retired from the U.S. Postal Service and has made several trips to visit islands in Micronesia, including Saipan, where the below photo was taken in June 2018.
Recently Gary listened to an old reel-to-reel tape that his father left, and he made an amazing discovery. It appears to be the first KCBS radio report filed by Fred Goerner upon his return to San Francisco following his late June to mid-July 1960 investigation there.
This is the first time I’ve ever heard this recording. Moreover, I’ve never heard another researcher claim to have it. This is a rare collector’s item that I gladly share with you, dear reader. Since my WordPress blog format will not allow the posting of MP3s or other audio formats, my friend Dave Bowman, author of Legerdemain (2007), The Story of Amelia Earhart (2012), A Waiting Dragon: A fresh and audacious look at the Mystery of Amelia Earhart (2017) and others, has agreed to host the MP3 file of Goerner’s 1960 KCBS production on his website. To listen to Goerner’s report please click here.
The 15-minute report parallels Goerner’s narrative in his bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart (pages 41-52, First Edition) about his initial Saipan visit, in mid-June 1960. He speaks of how he “set about enlisting the aid of the fathers of the Church,” as virtually all the locals on Saipan were Catholic. Monsignor Oscar Calvo, and Fathers Arnold Bendowske and Sylvan Conover served as translators during Goerner’s interrogations of what he variously reported as 200 to 300 potential witnesses, ensuring he would be getting the truth, in contrast to the lie so often spread by our media that the Saipan witnesses told Goerner “what he wanted to hear.”
The report doesn’t state its airing date, but it was on or about July 1, 1960, the date of Linwood Day’s stunning, front-page story in the San Mateo Times, headlined “Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved,” and an “all media news conference . . . in Studio B at KCBS in the Sheraton-Palace Hotel in San Francisco,” according to Goerner (p. 62 Search).
He names only a few of his “original 13 witnesses“ named in his 1966 bestseller, but quotes native dentist Manual Aldan, whose patients were Japanese officers: “I didn’t exactly see the man and the woman, but I heard from the Japanese official about one woman flier and a man that landed at a place (unintelligible) now called Tanapag. . . . I dealt with high officials on the island and knew what they were saying in Japanese. The name of the lady I heard used. This is the name the Japanese officer said — Earharto!”
Jose Rios Camacho (identified as Rios R. Camacho) told Goerner, “I was working at Tanapag Harbor. I saw the plane. It was heading across the island . . . in a northeasterly to southwesterly direction. It crashed in Tanapag area. I saw a Navy launch bring them to the beach. I saw the lady pilot and the man. She was dressed like a man. Her hair was short, it was brown. Afterwards they kept her in Tanapag.”
“The testimonies go on and on,” Goerner said. We have two-and-a-half hours on tape.”
In concluding, Goerner jumped the gun a bit in his enthusiasm to claim the salvaged parts might have come from the Earhart Electra, but that’s understandable. We know that they were later confirmed as coming from Japanese-made planes.
Still germane today is the yet-unanswered question about the plane that brought the fliers to Saipan. Was it a seaplane, as one would tend to believe, or a land-based plane that landed in the harbor because it was in trouble?
Goerner said that the plane that the two Saipanese dove on in Tanapag Harbor was the same one that brought the fliers to Saipan in 1937, and he may have been correct in this. If it was true, the plane that took the fliers to Saipan was not a Japanese seaplane, but a land-based plane that probably originated at Kwajalein, as two witnesses have attested (p. 150-154 Truth at Last).
This would have been more evidence to support the land-based-plane-crash-landing scenario at Tanapag Harbor, already strongly supported by several Saipanese witnesses who used the word “crashed” in describing the plane’s arrival. Seaplanes landing on water are not normally said to be “crashing. This conundrum is discussed at length in “The Saipan Witnesses” chapter of Truth at Last.