Tag Archives: Koshu

Japanese lied about Earhart search in Marshalls

Most observers of the true history of research into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart are familiar with the work of Vincent V. Loomis, the former U.S. Air Force C-47 pilot, who, with his wife, Georgette, made four investigative trips to the Marshall Islands in the late 1970s-early ’80s, finding and interviewing several extremely important witnesses, which led to the publication of his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.

Loomis’ most important findings came in 1981, when he went to Tokyo seeking confirmation of statements contained in a 1949 CIA inter-office memorandum he found in National Air and Space Museum files The G-2 intelligence document revealed the United States was extremely interested in the Earhart case, and in 1949 had asked Japan to provide any and all relevant information it possessed.  The unstated purpose of the American government’s renewed interest in the case may have been to discredit Amy Otis Earhart’s July 1949 statement to the Los Angeles Times that she believed the Japanese were involved in Amelia’s demise.  Attached to the memo were clippings of a July 25, 1949 United Press story, “Mother Tells Fate of Amelia Earhart,” reporting Mrs. Earhart’s statements to the Times, as well as an August 1949 story in Japan’s Nippon Times, “UP [United Press] Tracing of Story Famed Aviatrix Was Nabbed By Japanese Still Proving Futile.”

Vincent V. Loomis at Mili, 1979.  In four trips to the Marshall Islands, Loomis collected considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there.  His 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, is among the most important of the Earhart disappearance books, in that it established the presence of Amelia and Fred Noonan at Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands following their disappearance on July 2, 1937.  (Courtesy Clayton Loomis.)

The following article was written by Bill Prymak but came largely from the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story,  It appeared in the July 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.  Following Prymak’s piece, I’ll have some additional comments.  

JAPANESE CAUGHT RED-HANDED IN A LIE?
By Bill Prymak

Was or was not the KAMOI at Jaluit during the period July 2, 1937?  In a memo to James Golden dated 14 October 1976, Fred Goerner referred to documents that fuel the fire: “Interesting point: The comments of the Japanese officers in 1949 are the exact opposite of the same officers in 1971.  In the enclosed documents, the officers maintained the KAMOI searched for AE in 1937.

In an article in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings in 1971, the same officers maintained that the KAMOI had nothing to do with the search in 1937; indeed, they claimed the KAMOI was in Japan at the time of AE’s disappearance.”  (Preceding boldface emphasis Prymak’s, remaining boldface emphasis mine throughout.)

Were the Japanese lying the first time, in 1949, or were they covering up on 1971?  You decide from the following:

Vincent Loomis, author of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, describes how during a visit to Japan in 1981, he found a G-2 document on Amelia Earhart, dated Aug. 4, 1949:

This document appeared in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, Vincent V. Loomis’ 1985 book that chronicles Loomis’ four trips to the Marshall Islands.  

After the war, U.S. Intelligence (G-2) was ordered to investigate the Earhart disappearance from the Japanese side, Vincent V. Loomis wrote in his introduction to the above document, which he labeled “Central Intelligence G-2 Memorandum — 1949.” 

The resulting report, reproduced here for the first time, is remarkable in that the Japanese managed to convince  G-2 they had searched the Marshalls quite thoroughly when in fact they had not.  The 12th Squadron and the Kamoi were listened as having searched the area when, as found in their logs, they were in port in Japan.  The Koshu was also listed as part of the search, but as having found nothing.  

The Japanese lied quite convincingly both in 1937 and in 1949, but their statements could not be proven as such until the shipsmovements were determined through research in Japan in 1981. 

Far from being uninterested in her loss, the U.S. government had pressed the Japanese for as much information as they could obtain.  American intelligence agents were unable to find any Japanese Navy records pertaining to Earhart, but interviews were carried out with Japanese personnel who had supposedly searched for the Electra after it was lost on the way to Howland.

According to the document, the Japanese Navy’s 12th Squadron, assigned to the Marshalls in 1937, was instructed by Tokyo, after a request from the U.S. government, to send the Kamoi, a seaplane tender, and several large flying boats, using the sea to the south of Jaluit as a central search point.  Later the survey ship Koshu was ordered into the areaBoth ships were listed in Japanese news releases of the day as primary search vessels.  The Japanese testified that the Kamoi led the rescue effort, but no traces of Earhart were found.  The investigation was closed.

. . . Once settled into a marvelous hotel (nothing like my wooden barracks of 1945), I was interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper about my quest for Amelia Earhart.  Other journalists and a television station heard of my efforts, and before long I had a number of allies among these newspeople.  One reporter told me that he had tried to interview Japanese veterans who had served during the period of Earhart’s loss, but there was a loud silence on the subject.  The new generation of Japanese wanted to know the truth, many actively searching out contacts on my behalf.

The next day my Japanese interpreter, Ty Yoneyama, and I started to dig into the history of the Kamoi and the Koshu.  We found a recent book on naval ships by a Japanese civilian publisher, which listed the Kamoi docked in Japan by July 10, 1937.  Because Earhart had gone down on July 2, we suspected the Kamoi could not have taken part in the search as reported to American intelligence in 1949.  The Koshu was listed as a coal-burning ship of over 2000 tons, assigned to the Marshalls in July 1937.  My first thought was of Tomaki [Mayazo] loading coal aboard the ship he described to me.  Had it been the Koshu?

The Japanese navy’s 2,080-ton survey ship Koshu, was probably the ship that picked up Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from their landfall near Mili’s Barre Island, and which carried the Earhart Electra its stern to Saipan, where it was discovered by American forces in June 1944.

Jyuichi Hirabayashi, a veteran who had served aboard the Kamoi from early 1936 through July 10, 1937, had responded to the ad we placed in several Japanese newspapers asking for Kamoi personnel.  After my arrival in Japan, we called him and he came to meet us with the ship’s log entries, numerous papers and an extensive collection of photos from his tour.  We quickly got down to business.

Hirabayashi confirmed that the Kamoi, contrary to the U.S. intelligence report, was nowhere near the Marshalls when the Electra went down.  The day Amelia was lost, the ship was docked in Saipan, leaving on July 4 for Ise Bay, Japan, where it docked on July 10.  All of this was shown to us from the Kamoi’s official records.

Clearly the Japanese had lied to the United States in 1949.  What were they trying to hide, and why had they gone to so much trouble to make the Kamoi appear as if it were on a search mission?

Hirabayashi then described the two types of seaplanes operated from the ship.  Both were craned onto the water and retrieved with canvas slings, a method that was short-lived in favor of lift points on the aircraft.  Bilimon Amaron had recalled seeing canvas slings around the silver aircraft on the fantail of the ship he boarded at Jaluit.  Though he was more intent on treating the wounded white man with blue eyes, Bilimon had not missed this important detail.  The Electra would have been recovered in the same way the Japanese picked up their seaplanes.

The names of the four ships in the Japanese Navy’s 12th Squadron were provided by Hirabayashi – Kinoshima for mine-laying, Kamoi for seaplanes, Yunagi and Asanagi, which were light cruisers.  Not only was the Kamoi not involved in the search, but the entire 12th Squadron, which was supposed to combing the seas south of Jaluit, was actually docked in the home islands.  The Koshu had not been a part of the squadron.

On July 2, 1937, the Koshu was anchored at Ponape, where it received orders to proceed to the Marshall Islands and searchfor Amelia Earhart.  By July 9, it was on its way, while the Kamoi and the remaining 12th Squadron boats steamed for Japan.

This undated photo of Bilimon Amaron appeared in Vincent V. Loomis’ 1985 classic, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, with the following caption: Japanese medical corpsman Bilimon Amaran [sic] was called to the ship in Jaluit harbor along with the health services commander in 1937 to treat a white man with blue eyes.  The American had sustained head and knee injuries in the crash of his aircraft, piloted by a while woman.  Their silver twin-engine aircraft was seen by Amaran on the fantail of the ship, missing one wing. (Courtesy Clayton Loomis.)

Only the Koshu, capable of retrieving small floatplanes, took part in what the Japanese promised was a search, but its log entries revealed no search effort.  With a specific mission to perform, it went straight to Jaluit and anchored there on July 13.  While loading coal, Tomaki had been told by the ship’s crew that the ship had arrived seven to ten days after the aircraft came down.  Though July 13 was eleven days after the crash, the time frame was very close.  The Koshu left for several days, and then returned to Jaluit.  At this point Bilimon Amaron would have boarded the vessel to treat Noonan.  After Bilimon and his commander left the ship, it sailed for Truk and Saipan on July 19, the date the Japanese government officially gave up its search for Earhart.  Hirabayashi remembered the Kamoi having two ship’s doctors, while the Koshu had none.  It was quite clear why Bilimon and his superior had been called aboard to treat Noonan.

Thus the words of Vincent Loomis.  If the KAMOI and the rest of the 12th Squadron were [sic] in Marshallese waters, the cover-up by the Japanese suddenly becomes enormous, involving the forging of many Japanese Naval vessels’ official logs.

To strengthen the presence of KAMOI and the 12th Squadron in the Marshallese waters we have interviews by witnesses seeing this fleet described by Fred Goerner, Buddy Brennan, Captain [Alfred] Parker (who was in Jaluit in 1937), and other serious researchers.  Joe Gervais and I, during our trek to Jaluit in 1997, found two elderly ladies who had been on Jaluit in 1937, and they emphatically insisted that it was the KAMOI that brought the American lady pilot to Jaluit. Mr. Hatfield, in our 1991 interview at Jaluit, also insisted that (principally thru Mr. Lee, who had just died) it was the KAMOI!  

WHO SHOULD WE BELIEVE?  (End of Prymak article.)

Those paying attention to the foregoing could be forgiven for questioning Prymak’s intent after reading his closing paragraph, in which he inexplicably seems to argue for the presence of Kamoi and the 12th Squadron in the Marshalls after Loomis had all but proven that scenario was well-nigh impossible.  

There’s nothing in Buddy Brennan’s Witness to the Execution that qualifies for Prymak’s endorsement of witnesses that “strengthen the presence of KAMOI and the 12th Squadron in the Marshallese waters,” as he wrote in his close. 

We know about Captain Alfred Parker, English-speaking skipper of the Swedish Motorship Fijian, bound from San Francisco to New Guinea and other south sea ports in March 1937, from a 1993 letter from Fred Goerner to J. Gordon Vaeth.  “The FIJIAN exploded on March 25, 1937 near the Marshall Islands,” Goerner wrote [caps emphasis in original].  “It burned and sank after the explosion, but Parker and his crew members were rescued by the Japanese ship SJIKO MARU and taken to Jaluit in the Marshalls.  Parker and his crew were kept at Jaluit for 28 days, and were finally put aboard the Japanese ship KASAGI MARU and shipped to Yokohama, Japan, with stops at Kasai, Ponape, Truk and Saipan. . . . Parker testified to U.S. authorities that the Japanese seaplane carrier KAMOI had arrived at Jaluit mid-April, 1937, with three supporting destroyers.  The ships commenced bombing exercises, and one of the Kamoi’s planes crashed, and the two occupants were killed.  The dates Parker reported for the Kamoi‘s presence in the Marshalls do not establish her in the search area during July 1937 For more, see Truth at Last, pages 172-173.

The witnesses Prymak himself interviewed on 1991 and 1997 trips to the Marshalls  “two elderly ladies and Mr. Hatfield, are really all he has, which, frankly, are not much when compared to the other side of the discussion.  Their accounts are sketchy at best.  See Conclusion of Bill Prymak’s “The Jaluit Report,posted Nov. 2, 2019 and Bill Prymak’s ’97 Marshalls witnesses, Conclusion of Feb. 28, 2020 for details.  What else can explain why Prymak would take the other side of the discussion, which hardly qualifies as an “argument” at all.  It’s quite possible that Prymak was just playing devil’s advocate, taking the other side in the Koshu debate, simply for the sake of argument.  If I’m wrong about that, someone will surely let me know. 

A few years after Loomis’ revelations, Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki confirmed the Koshu’s movements in July 1937, though the agenda-driven Aoki would concede nothing else.  Looking at the navigation logs of the Koshu, she wrote,it is clear that on the 13th [of July] she entered port at Jaluit and 6 days later, on the 19th turned back toward Truk and Saipan.  Looking at all of this, even though the special assignment ship Koshu took part in the search, there is absolutely no evidence that she rescued the American woman pilot.

Vincent V. Loomis passed away in June 1996 at 75.

Marshall Islands “fishing boat pickup” update: Logs, witness accounts suggest real event

With the recent finds of several small artifacts on one of Mili Atoll’s tiny Endriken Islands, any or all of which may have once been parts of Amelia Earhart’s Electra, as well as the emergence of a rare 1937 U.S. newspaper clipping, a new look at the origin and evolution of the “fishing boat pickup” story and how it fits into the Earhart saga might be instructive.

In the wake of the Battle of Kwajalein, fought from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 1944, on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, several discoveries were made relative to the presence of Amelia Earhart at different locations in the Marshall Islands, including Kwajalein in the years before the war.  The below story appeared in the Benton Harbor (Mich.) News Palladium on March 21, 1944, under the headline Clue Obtained To Mystery of Amelia Earhart, by Eugene Burns, an Associated Press war correspondent posted at Majuro, the capital and largest city in the Marshalls:

MARSHALL ISLANDS, March 4 – (Delayed) (AP) The possibility that Amelia Earhart Putnam, world famed aviatrix, ran out of gas in the Marshall Islands and was taken to Japan has been revived by a remark of a mission trained native to Lieutenant T. Bogan, New York City.

Lieutenant Bogan, a representative of the Marshall Island military governor, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said Elieu, the 30-year-old native, limited himself to these statements and stuck to them: “A Jap trader named Ajima three and a half years ago on Rita island told me than an American woman pilot came down between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap atolls and that she was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat and the trader Ajima heard that she was taken to Japan.”

Elieu insisted that he heard of no man being with the American woman pilot.”  Fred Noonan flew with Miss Putnam as navigator on her world-girdling trip in 1937.

Elieu Jibambam, one of the earliest known Marshall Island witnesses, though not an eyewitness, told several Navy men on Majuro in 1944 about the story he had heard from Ajima, a Japanese trader, about the Marshalls landing of the white woman flier who ran out of gas and landed between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap.” Elieu’s account was presented in several books including Fred Goerner’s Search. This photo is taken from Oliver Knaggs’ 1981 book, Amelia Earhart: her final flight.

Since the story was an Associated Press release, we can be reasonably sure that it appeared in a number of newspapers throughout the country, including the New York Daily News, the New York Sun and the Oakland Tribune, according to Bogan’s 1961 account to Fred Goerner in The Search for Amelia Earhart, but this story made very little impression on a nation still at war.  Thanks to various investigations in the Marshalls over the past 65 years, we know that much of this story that Elieu passed to Burns was incorrect in many details, but its major thrust, that she landed in the area and was picked up by the Japanese, was certainly true.

In 1961, shortly after Goerner returned to San Francisco after his second trip to Saipan and an unsuccessful attempt to visit Kwajalein, he was called by John Mahan, a local realtor and former Navy yeoman stationed on Majuro in 1944.  “Amelia Earhart crash-landed somewhere between Majuro, Jaluit, and Ailinglapalap in the Marshalls,” he told Goerner.  “We knew it back in 1944.” Mahan said several Marshallese natives who served as interpreters, among them Joe and Rudolph Muller, told him the Japanese picked up two American fliers, “a man and woman, and brought them for a while into either Jaluit or Majuro, then took them to another island.  They said it was 1937, and the Japs thought they were spies.”

Mahan referred Goerner to Eugene Bogan, his commanding officer on Majuro, who recalled that a Majuro native named Elieu, a schoolteacher with a reputation for integrity among the Marshallese, was the source of the Earhart information.  Shortly after the Navy arrived on Majuro, Elieu overheard a conversation about the Japanese preoccupation with secrecy, Bogan continued, and asked if they knew of the white woman flier who ran out of gas and landed between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap.

Elieu wasn’t an eyewitness but had heard the story from a Japanese friend named Ajima, a trader with a company the Japanese used as front to cover military activities in the Mandated Islands. The woman was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat and taken to either Jaluit or Majuro, Ajima told Elieu, and later to Kwajalein Atoll or Saipan. No man was mentioned in the story, “because the Japanese would have been greatly impressed by a woman pilot,” Bogan said.

This was Goerner’s introduction to the Marshall Islands landing scenario, the front-end of the Earhart disappearance story, so to speak, which he didn’t investigate quite as extensively as Amelia’s Saipan presence as revealed by the Chamorro witnesses, as well as the GIs who fought in the Battle of Saipan in the summer of 1944.

In Search, page 165 of the first edition, we have Bogan’s key statement to Goerner via Elieu’s story: “A Japanese fishing boat picked her up and brought her into either Jaluit or Majuro. Then she was taken presumably to Kwajalein or Saipan.”

Most Earhart enthusiasts are familiar with the famous July 1949 interview given by Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia’s mother, to the Los Angeles Times.  But many don’t realize that unless they’ve seen the original Times article, they probably missed some or all of the most revealing and provocative statements Amy made that day.  The newspapers clips that I’ve seen edited Amy’s remarks to various degrees; I don’t know why this occurred, only that I’ve seen the entire interview only in the original Times version of the interview.

This photo, circa 1983, is the shallow reef area “near Barre Island Mili Atoll” presented by Vincent V. Loomis in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.  Native Marshallese eyewitnesses Lijon and Jororo told to Ralph Middle “sometime before the war [1937] they saw an airplane land on the reef about 200 feet offshore.”  These four small islands are the so-called Endrikens, the nearest about a mile from Barre, where a search team sponsored by Parker Aerospace returned for a five-day search in late January 2015.  Researchers Les Kinney and Dick Spink say the main focus of the search, with high-tech metal detectors and ground penetrating radar, was the second island from the left, and several artifacts were found.  For more, please see previous post, “New Mili search uncovers more potential evidence.”

Among Amy’s most interesting comments in the July 24, 1949 Times article are those where she repeats allegations she made in a May 1944 letter to Neta Snook.  Virtually all newspapers included Amy’s statement that she believed Amelia landed on a “tiny atoll” in the Pacific, and “was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, then under Japanese control.”  Eugene Burns’ March 1944 article could well have been the source of Amy’s statement about the fishing boat pickup, but her statements weren’t limited to this aspect of her daughter’s loss.

Amy also told the Times that Amelia was permitted to broadcast to Washington from the Marshalls, because the officials on the island where she was taken — I can’t recall the name of it believed she was merely a transocean flier in distress.  But Toyko had a different opinion of her significance in the area. She was ordered taken to Japan. There, I know, she met with an accident, anarranged accident that ended her life.

Five years earlier, in Amy’s May 6, 1944 letter to Neta Snook, she told Amelia’s first flight instructor that she had information brought to her “by a friend a few days after Amelia’s S.O.S [in July 1937] who was listening to a short-wave radio when a broadcast from Tokyo came in saying they were celebrating there, with parades, etc. because of Amelia’s rescue or pick up by a Japanese fisherman.  That was before the war you know, and evidently the ordinary Jap had no knowledge of their military leaders’ plans so were proud of the rescue and expected the world to be.  That young girl drove 27 miles at 11 o’clock at night, and through a horrid part of Los Angeles to tell me.  It was too late when she arrived at my house in North Hollywood, but the next day I went with her to the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles and asked him about it.

Of course by the time Amy saw anyone at the consulate, nobody knew anything about the fishing boat story.  But she never forgot it, and later in her letter to Snook, she wrote, So the hope is only the finding out what happened after the Jap fishing boat picked her up from the small island where she had landed. One can face anything she knows is so, but unless she goes through the torture of not knowing, it is not possible to understand the agony connected with uncertainty, nor the loopholes it leaves for the imagination to get in its work.

In my Dec. 9, 2014 post, “Amy Earhart’s stunning 1944 letter to Neta Snook,” I expressed doubts about the veracity of Amy’s claims that Amelia was allowed to broadcast for a few days from the Marshalls after being captured by the Japanese.  I still have these doubts, because although many alleged post-loss messages were reported in the Pacific area as well as the United States in the days immediately following July 2, none of them contained anything that could have been construed to mean that Earhart and Noonan were in Japanese custody, much less taken to Tokyo.  Most were incomprehensible snippets.

The Japanese navy’s 2,080-ton survey ship Koshu, almost certainly was the ship that picked up Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from their landfall near Mili’s Barre Island, and which carried the Earhart Electra its stern to Saipan, where it was discovered by American forces in June 1944.

But what of  Amy’s claim of the “short-wave radio . . . broadcast from Tokyo [that] came in saying they were celebrating there, with parades, etc. because of Amelia’s rescue or pick up by a Japanese fisherman” that Amy’s “young girl” friend (probably Margot DeCarie, Amelia’s secretary) in Los Angeles drove 27 miles to tell Amy that night in 1937?  Could this have really happened as Amy was told?  Can’t we assume the broadcast would have been in Japanese?  Did Margot DeCarie speak Japanese, and if not, how did she understand its message?

On Majuro in 1979, Judge Kabua Kabua, the chief magistrate on Jaluit in 1937, told Vincent V. Loomis he heard about the lady pilotfrom the Japanese. Part of the story, I heard, her plane ran out of gas and she came down near Mili, the  judge said.  The Japanese picked her up in a fishing boat and took her to Saipan, the Japanese headquarters.

Through Loomis’ 1981 Tokyo investigation, we know that Koshu, which wasn’t a part of the 12th Squadron, was anchored in Ponape on July 2, 1937, and at 5 p.m., July 6, Lieutenant Yukinao Kozu, the ship’s radioman, logged the official order for the ship to depart Ponape for the Marshalls to join the Earhart search.  Koshu was steaming for Jaluit on July 9, arriving there just after noon July 13That night she took on coal,Loomis wrote.  One of those loading the fuel was Tomaki Mayazo, who heard the crew members excitedly mention they were on the way to pick up two American fliers and their aircraft, which had crashed at Mili. The next day the ship steamed out of Jaluit for Mili Mili, where it picked up both the Electra and its crew.

If Koshu did pick up the fliers at Mili Mili, located in the southwest part of Mili Atoll at least 20 miles from Barre Island, in the northwest part of the atoll, it’s possible they were taken to Mili Mili by this alleged fishing boat. However, we have no accounts or evidence of their presence at Mili Mili besides Loomis’ statement.

When Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki visited Fred Goerner at his San Francisco home in June 1982, the fishing boat story was among the first topics he raised.  “Did you know that on July 13, 1937, a Japanese newspaper reported that Amelia Earhart was rescued by Japanese fisherman?” Goerner asked the young woman who told Goerner that she wanted to help his cause, something she never came close to doing.

Undated photo of Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki, wife of famous American writer Pete Hamill, who told Fred Goerner she wanted to help him in his Earhart investigations in the early 1980s. As it turned out, Aoki was anything but helpful, at least from Goerner's point of view.

Undated photo of Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki, wife of American writer Pete Hamill. Aoki told Fred Goerner she wanted to help him in his Earhart investigations in the early 1980s.  As it turned out, Aoki was anything but helpful, at least from Goerner’s point of view, as her only purpose was apparently to undermine Goerner’s Saipan findings.  For more, see final chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, pages 393-403.

The claim that a Japanese paper published a story about Amelia’s pickup in the Marshalls was directly related to a “most urgent” message sent by Japanese foreign minister Koki Hirota to Japan’s British ambassador, Shigeru Yoshida, in London, also on July 13, 1937, and reported by Loomis in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.  “The Advertiser here [in Japan] reports that they received a London international news dispatch at 2:00 AM today to the effect that a Japanese fishing boat had rescued the Earhart plane,” Hirota wrote.  “Please verify this and confirm by return.

Panic descended upon the small circle of Japanese officials who knew what was happening in the Marshalls, Loomis wrote.  “Had the truth leaked out from one of their classified sources – radio, a letter, a loose statement? Or even worse, had the secret diplomatic code been broken?  Would the Americans press them for more details or would they accept this as rumor?  A few tension-ridden days passed, and nothing more came of this coincidental near exposure of the truth.

Aoki told Goerner that she would look into the fishing boat story, but her findings further confused the matter (see pages 147-148 of Truth at Last). Aoki wrote that “the Tokyo Asahi Shimbum [newspaper] dated July 15 [1937] reported, ‘The report of the rescue is without foundation,’ ” and so she concluded, “Goerner’s theory of the Japanese fishing boat rescue is extremely weak.”

Aoki was eager to dismiss the fishing boat story, but her report of the newspaper’s July 15 printed retraction of the article nonetheless proved the fishing boat pickup story had appeared two days earlier, as Goerner’s information indicated.  But why did one newspaper retract a story that had appeared in another two days earlier?

I’ve never seen an original copy of the story that allegedly appeared in the Japan Advertiser newspaper on July 13, 1937, or the July 15 retraction of the story in Tokyo Asahi ShimbumBut thanks to Woody Peard, an enterprising researcher in Santa Maria, Calif., we’re now one step closer to the original Japanese story.

In December 2014, Woody, an avid Earhart collector who’s amassed hundreds of newspapers, magazines, scrapbooks, article cutouts, documents, philatelic covers and other memorabilia on Amelia and Fred Noonan since 1998, made an amazing find on eBay – an American newspaper that reported on the Japanese fishing boat pickup story’s Japanese origin.

The below story appeared at the top of page 1 in the July 13, 1937 edition of the Bethlehem (Penn.) Globe Times

Fishing boat story 5

For those not able to easily read this clip, here’s the top three paragraphs:

Vague and unconfirmed rumors that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan have been rescued by a  Japanese fishing boat without a radio, and therefore unable to make any report, found no verification here today, but plunged Tokio [sic] into a fever of excitement.

The Navy Department had no official word of any such rescue, but were striving to ascertain the position of the fishing boat rumored to have effected the rescue.

Tokio newspapers had a virtual field day. Stories speculating about the rumors were given a tremendous play, competing with developments in North China for the most prominent display.

The rest of the story, filed by Paul Brooke, an International News Service correspondent aboard the carrier USS Lexington, is an update on the carrier group’s ocean search for the Earhart plane, suspended July 19 after 262,000 square miles of ocean was searched by Navy and Coast Guard ships.  Only one other researcher has ever told me he has a copy of this story in an American newspaper from July 1937; obviously very few U.S. newspapers ran it.

Woody has been focused on the Earhart saga since 1998, and has a fascinating family connection, beginning with his grandfather, a career Marine officer who graduated from the University of Kansas in 1909.  After serving with the 1st Marine Division in France during World War I, he took a year of international Law at the Sorbonne, Woody wrote in an email. He was also the Judge Advocate General for the Eastern Seaboard from 1916-1936, an ONI agent for his entire career and an aerial photo reconnaissance specialist He was moved to Hawaii in early 1936 as the XO [executive officer] of the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor.  Comments made by my father over the years, also a career marine, test pilot and accident investigator led me to believe my grandfather was transferred there to be in charge of security for Earhart’s flight.  That was the beginning of my obsession with the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance.”

Like most ruled by logic, reason and respect for facts, Woody is convinced Amelia and Fred died on Saipan, but he believes the Earhart Electra is buried on Taroa, an island on Maloelap Atoll in the Marshalls about 185 miles from Mili Atoll, and the site of a major Japanese airfield during the war.  He plans to return to Taroa for a fourth time after he raises the money he needs for a ground-penetrating-radar search, and is seeking a financial backer.  Woody is on Facebook and invites comments.  I wish him luck, but don’t believe the Electra is on Taroa.  The sooner he crosses this idea off his list, however, the sooner he will come to fully support the Saipan truth. 

Woody Peard, of Santa Maria, Calif., an avid Earhart researcher and collector, has generously provided us with a rare clip from a U.S. newspaper, published on July 13, 1937, which reflected the Japanese reports of the “fishing boat pickup” of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the Marshall Islands.

The Japanese fishing boat pickup of Earhart and Noonan is a common thread in the Marshallese saga of the American fliers for a very good reason, but what transpired between the fliers’ July 2 landing and their pickup by the Japanese at an as yet unknown date is largely still unknown.

Through Vincent V. Loomis Tokyo 1981 research in Tokyo, which was later supported by Fukiko Aoki, we know that the Japanese survey ship Koshu was anchored in Ponape on July 2, 1937, was underway for Jaluit on July 9, arrived on July 13 and the next day steamed out of Jaluit for Mili Mili, where it picked up both the Electra and its crew, Loomis wrote.  We also know that Koshu returned to Jaluit on July 19 (see pages 157-158 of Truth at Last.) 

Marshallese eyewitnesses John Heine and Tokyo have told investigators about seeing a silver airplane on a barge in different locations, and many others knew of it.  In 1997 the elderly Robert Reimers, then 88 and the most powerful man in the Marshalls, told Bill Prymak, “It was  widely known throughout the islands by both Japanese and Marshallese that a Japanese fishing boat first found them and their airplane near Mili” (see Truth at Last pages 173-174).

Thus it seems clear that the July 13 reports of thefishing boat pickup of Earhart and Noonan involve another, unnamed and unidentified vessel, and that the Koshu could not have been the fishing boat alluded to in the July 13 stories.  Unfortunately, we have no account from any eyewitness or even hearsay witness that indicates the identity of this vessel, what the fliers were doing or where precisely they were, between the time of their Mili landfall and the unknown time of their pickup.

Once again, even as it seems the big picture in the Earhart disappearance is coming into better focus, the process of actually “getting a visual,” so to speak, on what really happened continues to elude us, as many nagging smaller mysteries present themselves without hinting at easy or quick solution.

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