Tag Archives: Kwajalein

Jim Golden and FDR’s Amelia Earhart “Watergate”

In a March 2, 2015 post titled Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga,” I introduced the late Jim Golden, a close friend of Fred Goerner and, in the day, a near-legendary figure in Earhart research circles. Golden, whose unique career included eight years as a Secret Service agent in the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, two years as Howard Hughes’ chief of security in Las Vegas, and a stint in the U.S. Justice Department, from where he tried to help Goerner search for the elusive top-secret Earhart files that President John F. Kennedy had allowed Goerner and California newspaperman Ross Game to see briefly in 1963, just before JFK’s assassination in Dallas.

Among the secrets Golden shared with Goerner was the revelation that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were brought to the islands of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll by air from Jaluit Atoll by the Japanese in 1937, a fact he learned from Marine Intelligence officers during the American invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden read a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit about a native on Roi-Namur who told them of two white people, a man and a woman, brought by Japanese airplane to Roi, the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men's pants.

Private First Class James O. Golden, circa 1944. As a photographer assigned to independent duty in Marine Intelligence on Kwajalein in January 1944, Golden saw a report by officers of the 24th Marine Intelligence Unit that remains hidden in top-secret government files. 

During several telephone conversations I had with Golden in the summer of 2008, he recalled his experiences as a 19-year-old enlisted Marine photographer in the intelligence section of the 4th Marine Division during the Kwajalein campaign.

“The Marines wrote up a detailed report capturing the info that related that in 1937 two white persons, a male and female were brought by plane to Roi,” Golden told me, “the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men’s pants, who were taken across a causeway to the Namur Admin building. Three days later taken out to a small ship in the lagoon, which then departed. I read the report myself. This report would routinely be forwarded to 4th Div. Intel, then on to the U.S. Navy. This report must have been the first sighting [sic] of her capture by the Japanese by U.S. forces at that time.”

The following story, “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate,’ by one Leon Freilich, appeared in the Jan. 3, 1978 issue of the Midnight Globe tabloid newspaper, which at some later date changed its name to the familiar Globe that adorns check-out racks in supermarkets and other retail stores nationwide, along with its better-known rival, the National Enquirer.  It first appeared in the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter’s June 1992 issue. 

“FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate’”

The late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt covered up the truth behind aviatrix Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance and created his own Watergate — nearly 40 years before Richard Nixon.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She tried in 1937 to fly around the world and disappeared into the Pacific. Now a top-level Justice Department official, James Golden, charges that FDR withheld the facts of her disappearance for his own ends.

This is the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe story on Jim Golden's

This is the headline of the Jan. 3, 1978 Midnight Globe story on Jim Golden’s bold charges of cover-up in the Earhart disappearance by Franklin D. Roosevelt as well as every subsequent administration to protect FDR’s checkered legacy, which would have never survived public knowledge of his failure to come to the aid of Earhart and Fred Noonan when they were in Japanese hands in 1937.

“Amelia Earhart was killed in the line of duty, and President Roosevelt refused to let it get out,” Golden, director of enforcement for the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in Washington, D.C., told MIDNIGHT GLOBE.

She was a spy for the Navy. She didn’t just ‘disappear,’ as Roosevelt led the press and public to believe. Amelia Earhart was taking reconnaissance shots of Japanese naval facilities when her plane was forced down. She died at the hands of the Japanese.”

Similar accusations of a cover-up have been leveled in the past, and a book [The Search for Amelia Earhart]  detailed some of the charges several years ago. However, this is the first attack on Roosevelt’s credibility by a top figure in the federal government.

Why did FDR stonewall the facts? “Amelia Earhart was a glamorous aviatrix and America’s favorite woman adventurer,” Golden said. “For some reason, she’d agreed to use her round-the-world flight as a mask for a spying operation. In those days spying was considered the lowest of the low in this country. So when she lost her life, Roosevelt was afraid he would lose millions of votes in the next election. Consequently, he stifled the truth.”

How does the high-level government prober know this? “There’s a top-secret file with all this information in the White House,” he revealed to MIDNIGHT GLOBE. “It can’t be released, except by the President. “But two of my friends in the intelligence community have seen it. I consider them wholly reliable. They told me the file includes a four-page summary of Japan’s secret report on the Amelia Earhart case.

“This summary relates that she and her €co-pilot [sic], Fred Noonan, were captured by Japanese forces on July 2, 1937, near Saipan, the Central Pacific headquarters for Japanese ships. The Japanese took the two there and kept them under heavy interrogation for a year and a half. Then they beheaded Noonan. Amelia Earhart died the very next day. The records said the cause of death was dysentery, but even if that’s true, the blame belongs on her captors, who kept her penned up in primitive conditions.”

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa mid-1970s. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman's unsuccessful search for the elusive, top-secret files that would finally break open the Earhart case. During his amazing career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon's Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

Jim Golden, Washington, D.C., circa mid-1970s. As a highly placed U.S. Justice Department official, Golden joined Fred Goerner in the newsman’s partially successful search for the elusive, top-secret files that might have finally broken open the Earhart case. During his unique career, Golden led Vice President Richard M. Nixon’s Secret Service detail and directed the personal security of Howard Hughes in Las Vegas.

The file confirmed what Golden had learned first-hand during World War II.  “I was a Marine intelligence officer [actually a private first class] and landed on Saipan [actually Kwajalein] in January 1944,” he said. “Some of the elders described to me in minute detail how a white woman and man had been seized from a fallen giant bird.

“That would be their plane. And the pair were kept on the island as prisoners until the Japanese chopped off the man’s head. The woman — Amelia Earhart, of course — was never seen again.

“The natives’ testimony plus the secret file fit together too neatly to spell anything but the full story. I’m telling you this not to embarrass the U.S. government. My motive is simply this: Amelia Earhart gave her life for her country, and it ought to have the good grace to thank her for it.” (End of Midnight Globe article.)

In an October 1977 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune story on Golden, “Prober says Amelia Earhart death covered up,” Golden, then with the U.S. Justice Department, told reporter Richard Williams that President Franklin “Roosevelt hid the truth about Miss Earhart and Noonan, fearing public reaction to the death of a heroine and voter reaction at the polls. . . . What really bothers me about the whole thing is that if Miss Earhart was . . . a prisoner of the Japanese, as she seems to have been, why won’t the government acknowledge the facts and give her the hero’s treatment she deserves?” Golden asked.

Sadly, Golden passed away unexpectedly at his home on March 7, 2011 at age 85. As I wrote in closing Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga, in 2015, “We’ll never see the likes of Jim Golden again, and I hope someday we’ll meet in a much better place.”

More on Jim Golden’s amazing life and contributions to the Earhart saga can be found in the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. 

Klaas tracks lost fliers in “Next Stop Kwajalein”

Joe Klaas, who passed away earlier this year, is best known for his authorship of the notorious Amelia Earhart Lives: A trip through intrigue to find America’s first lady of mystery, the 1970 book that introduced Irene Bolam as Amelia Earhart and forever cast a shadow on the credibility of all Earhart research, further driving the truth into the tiny corner it now inhabits, largely ignored, if not ridiculed by the mainstream media, entrenched in its longtime refusal to acknowledge the truth in the Earhart disappearance.

But Klaas didn’t create the Irene Bolam travesty. His fellow Air Force officer and friend, Joe Gervais, wove the Bolam fiction out of whole cloth and his Earhart-addled imagination. Klaas, the author of 11 other books, served mainly as Gervais’ personal stenographer during the creation of Amelia Earhart Lives, though he might have questioned Gervais’ absurd Bolam claim a bit more assiduously before he wrote a book and exposed himself to ridicule from nearly every corner of the Earhart research community, as well as much of the reading public.

None of that is relevant to the following essay, however, written by Klaas in 2001 and posted on the website of the Amelia Earhart Society. In “Next Stop Kwajalein,” Klaas takes the available eyewitness and witness testimony and crafts a plausible version of the events surrounding the delivery of Amelia and Fred Noonan by the Japanese, from stops at Jaluit and Kwajalein, to their final destination at Saipan. 

Several aspects of the scenarios laid out by Klaas, such his belief, based on statements made by Mrs. Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia’s mother, that Amelia was allowed to broadcast by captors or that the fliers may have been taken to Japan, are clearly false or highly doubtful, and are not endorsed by this writer, but have not been edited out of Klaas’ narrative, which I present for your entertainment and discernment.

“Next Stop Kwajalein” by Joe Klaas with Joe Gervais      

Four years prior to the three weeks of media frenzy triggered by the 1970 suggestion in Amelia Earhart Lives that the supposedly dead flying heroine might be alive in New Jersey, Fred Goerner, whose The Search for Amelia Earhart deduced she had died of dysentery or was executed on Saipan, wrote to her sister, Muriel Morrissey, in West Medford, Massachusetts.      

Joe Klaas, circa 2004, who survived a death march across Germany in 1945 and wrote Amelia Earhart Lives, passed away on Feb. 25, 2016.

Joe Klaas, circa 2004, who survived a death march across Germany in 1945 and wrote the 1970 book Amelia Earhart Lives, passed away in February 2016 at 95. 

“I want you to know that I decided to go ahead with the book last December at the advice of the late Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who had become my friend and helped me with the investigation for several years,” Goerner told Earhart’s sibling on Aug. 31, 1966.  “He said, ‘It (the book) may help produce the justice Earhart and Noonan deserve.’ The Admiral told me without equivocation that Amelia and Fred had gone down in the Marshalls and were taken by the Japanese and that his knowledge was documented in Washington. He also said several departments of government have strong reasons for not wanting the information to be made public.”   

What “strong reasons for not wanting the information made public” short of their being assassinated by our own government would motivate the endless cover-up of the fact that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were still alive after July 2,1937?   

“Even when we investigators join together in The Amelia Earhart Society of Researchers, and The [Yahoo!] Earhart Group on the internet, those who’ve been out here spend so much energy picking each other’s evidence apart,” I said to Joe Gervais aboard a 95-foot boat anchored off a bomb-dented concrete relic of a seaplane ramp in Imiej harbor at Jaluit, “we look only at how one another’s interviews with islanders don’t agree.”  

It was Joe’s seventeenth trip to Pacific islands in search of Amelia Earhart.  Ten of us aboard the 1997 AES expedition led by Bill Prymak disagreed 10 different ways.     

“To hell with the differences!”  I complained.  “Why don’t we focus on only those details which match?”     

I told Joe that when we got home I would follow five decades of conflicting interviews from dot-to-dot to determine only the ways they agree on Amelia Earhart’s after death journey from across the 1937 pre-war Pacific until now.   

“To hell with inconsistencies that lead nowhere!” I griped. “Let’s see only where we all match will take us.”     

1937 residents of Jaluit and Majuro atolls said they heard the white woman pilot named “Meel-ya” and her flying companion with knee and head injuries were taken by Japanese ship to Saipan in the Mariana Islands where the Emperor’s South Sea Islands military governor was in command. Others said they took her first to Kwajalein, and then to Saipan.   

“After I treated the man’s knee with paraply,” Bilimon Amaron told Joe Gervais and Bill Prymak, “I overheard Japanese nearby say the ship was going to leave Jaluit to go to Kwajalein.  I remembered that because I had relatives on Kwajalein.  From there it would maybe go to Truk and on to Saipan.”    

Majuro Attorney John Heine, who clearly remembered seeing the flyers in custody at Jaluit after their prematurely reported deaths, also believed that “after the ship left Jaluit, it went to Kwajalein, then on to Truk and Saipan.” From there, according to what he was told by his missionary parents, whom the Japanese at Jaluit later beheaded as spies, “he thought the ship would later go to Japan.”   

Heine told Joe and Bill a simultaneous event at his school enabled him to place the crash and departure for Kwajalein in “the middle of July 1937.”

Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais pause with the iconic Earhart eyewitness Bilimon Amaron at Amaron's Majuro home in 1991.

Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais pause with the iconic Earhart eyewitness Bilimon Amaron at his Majuro home in 1991.

Marshall Islanders Tomaki Mayazo and Lotan Jack told Fred Goerner in the 60s that the woman flyer and her companion “were taken to Kwajalein on their way to Saipan.” In The Search for Amelia Earhart, Goerner reported that four Likiep Island residents of Kwajalein, Edward and Bonjo Capelli, and two men known only as Jajock and Biki told Navy Chief Petty Officer J.F. Kelleher, stationed on Kwajalein in 1946, that a man and a woman who crashed a plane in the Marshalls “were brought to Kwajalein.”

Ted Burris, a 1965 government employee on Kwajalein, volunteered as neighborhood commissioner for the Aloha Council, Boy Scouts of America.  He set out to establish Scouting three islands-north of Kwajalein on Ebeye [Island]. In January 1997 he informed members of the AES that while waiting for a boat back to his workplace one night his interpreter, Onisimum Cappelle, introduced him to an old man who had met two Americans there “five years before the war” even though “the Japanese had closed the Marshall Islands to foreigners in the late ’20s.”     

The war reached the Marshalls in 1942, so “five years before” meant 1937, when Earhart and Noonan vanished. 

“How did you meet the Americans before the war?”  Burris asked the old man.      

“Well, I didn’t exactly meet them,” he said.  “But I did bring them in.”      

“Bring them in? I don’t understand. What happened?”

A plane landed on the water,” he said.  “A big plane.”

“Where?”

“Come.  I show you.”

They walked to the south end of the perimeter road where there were two A-frame houses with a line of coconut trees.    

“You see those trees?” the old man asked.  “The plane was exactly in line with them.”      

“How far out?”      

“About a hundred yards from the land.”      

“What happened then?”      

“Two people got out.  A man and a woman.  The Captain made me take my boat out and pick them up. I didn’t talk to them.”      

“The Captain?”     

“The boss. The Japanese officer. The Captain took them away. I never saw them again. He said they were spies.”  

Arrival of the boat to take Burris to nearby Kwajalein ended the conversation.

All who heard the story, including Burris, jumped to the conclusion that the plane was Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed 10E, not a very “big plane” in comparison to Japanese flying boats that occasionally landed there. They assumed that was where she had actually crashed.      

Lotan Jack, who worked as a mess steward for the Japanese in 1937, told researcher T.C. "Buddy" Brennan in 1983 that he was told by a "Japanese Naval Officer" that Amelia Earhart was "shot down between Jaluit and Mili" and that she was "spying at that time -- for the American people."

Lotan Jack, who worked as a mess steward for the Japanese in 1937, told researcher T.C. “Buddy” Brennan in 1983 that he was told by a “Japanese Naval Officer” that Amelia Earhart was “shot down between Jaluit and Mili” and that she was “spying at that time — for the American people.”

But what the old man precisely said was: “A plane landed on the water.” He didn’t say it crashed there. Aircraft with landing gear are seldom said to have “landed on the water.” They would normally have been said to have “crashed into the water” or “ditched in the water.” Not that they had “landed on the water.”   

One simple question, “Did the plane land or crash?” might have cleared that up, but apparently assumption overcame curiosity, and that question was never asked.

Jaluit and Kwajalein had something in common.  In 1936 a concrete seaplane ramp was built at Kwajalein in addition to its already existing airstrip for land planes.  Land planes and seaplanes used two different Kwajalein facilities.  

A year later in 1937 at Saipan, a concrete seaplane ramp was under construction to augment an air strip already used only by land planes.  Had a flying boat ever before made a water landing at Saipan?  It’s a good question.   

Isn’t it more likely that, unbeknown to the Marshallese at Jaluit, instead of taking Earhart and Noonan to Kwajalein aboard ship on the Koshu, they changed plans and flew them there in a flying boat which would match the old man’s memory of  “a big plane” which “landed on the water”?

To understand what an eyewitness meant, might it not be a good idea to take what they said literally?  Going a step further, would it not be possible that natives of Saipan, who might only have previously seen planes touch down on their one airstrip, might mistakenly think a flying boat landing in Garapan Harbor was a land plane crashing into water off-shore?     

How would the Japanese Captain be able to tell the old man “they were spies” if they hadn’t arrived from Jaluit already accused of espionage?         

“None of this registered with me in particular until a couple of years later when I had moved to another assignment on Roi Namur (also in the Kwajalein group),”  Burris said.  “The Island Manager there was Frank Serafini. I mentioned the story the old man had told me.”         

“Let me tell you a few things.” Frank went to his desk and took out a letter from a Navy Commander, whose name Burris couldn’t remember after thirty years. “He was with Navy Intelligence during the war, and was attached to the 4th Marines when they invaded Roi-Namur. He went in with the first wave on Roi. His specific task was to look for evidence that Amelia Earhart or her navigator, Fred Noonan, had been there!”         

“Why here?” Burris asked.         

“Because Roi had the only airfield on the atoll at that time,” Frank said. “If the Japs were going to take them anyplace from Kwajalein Atoll, they had to come through here!”         

“Did he find anything?”         

“Here, read this letter.” He pointed to a place on its second page: “I was rummaging through a pile of debris in a corner of the burned-out main hanger,” the writer said, when I came across a blue leatherette map case. It was empty. But it had the letters AE embossed on it in gold. They were here all right!”  

 “What did the Commander do with the map case?” Burris asked.         

Frank H. Serafini. circa 1970.Atoll. (Photo courtesy Frank B. Serafini.)

Frank H. Serafini, circa 1970, at his office on Kwajalein Atoll. (Photo courtesy Frank B. Serafini.)

“He said he turned it over to Naval Intelligence. He doesn’t know what happened to it after that.”         

“Does anybody know about this?” asked Burris. “Why would they keep such a thing secret?”         

“Because even now the Navy doesn’t want to admit they had anything to do with spying against the Japanese before the war.”  

When Burris heard about a plane with two American spies aboard landing 100-yards off-shore at Kwajalein, he naturally assumed it was Earhart’s land plane.     

It wasn’t.     

But couldn’t a twin-engine Japanese seaplane have “landed in the water” at Kwajalein, from which they were then flown to Saipan where the Japanese pilot landed alongside the beach?     

As reported in both Goerner’s book and mine, Josephine Akiyama watched “a silver two-engined plane belly-land” in shallow water at Saipan and “saw the American woman who looked like a man and the tall man with her . . .  led away by the Japanese soldiers.”    

At first, those who heard her story assumed it was Amelia Earhart’s plane.  

It wasn’t.     

All of us who heard eyewitness reports from Kwajalein or Saipan made the same mistake.  We all wanted so hard to find the Earhart plane, we assumed any aircraft that came down with her aboard was hers.  At both Saipan and Kwajalein we were wrong.  She and Noonan were aboard all right in both places, not as pilot and navigator, but as captured spies!     

Wouldn’t it be more logical to deduce from eyewitness reports that Earhart and Noonan were flown from Kwajalein Atoll in a seaplane which made no attempt to land on Saipan’s completed airstrip, but instead “belly landed” along a beach in Garapan Harbor?     

“None of it can be true!” objected a radio engineer at a 1998 gathering in Aspen, Colorado. “Those islanders made it all up!”     

“What makes you think that?” I gasped.   

“Because it’s all predicated from the start on her originally ditching into the water at Mili Atoll on July 2, 1937  and then sending out a bunch of so-called radio signals for three days. That could never have happened.”     

“Why not?”    

“Because if she went down in the water, she couldn’t have broadcast at all.  Her transmitter was incapable of broadcasting from the water.”     

No one thought to ask a radio engineer how he would have made a radio work if he crashed in the water off a strange island in the middle of the Pacific.  In such a matter of life and death, wouldn’t a radio engineer figure out some way to make a transmitter broadcast from a downed airplane still afloat in salt water?

An udated photo of Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia's mother, and sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey.

An undated photo of Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia’s mother, and sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey.

Absolutely impossible!  Without a bigger source of power than the battery aboard that Lockheed 10E aircraft, I was assured by three other experts I consulted, there was no way it could happen! Without the extra power provided by the engines operating, she could not have broadcast from in the water!   

And yet the messages existed, logged by professional radio operators all across the Pacific so they can be read to this day. AES President Bill Prymak sent me a copy of actual loggings of her radio calls for help.  Remember, she was supposed to have died the morning of July 2,1937.  (Editor’s note: For a lengthy discussion of the alleged “post-loss messages,” please see  Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, Chapter III, “The Search and the Radio Signals.”)

Here were 30 distress call broadcasts recorded on paper as actually heard by experienced operators at twelve different radio stations from one side of the Pacific to the other. . . . Beginning on July 3, 1937, 12 experienced operators at official radio stations thousands of miles apart across the vast Pacific heard and logged 30 distress messages they identified as Earhart’s for three days after she supposedly crashed and drowned on July 2, 1937.   

Since these 30 distress signals were obviously heard as logged by 12 of the most highly trained and experienced radio operators across the Pacific, how could she have sent them if her radio transmitter could not possibly operate from her plane sitting in the water at Mili Atoll?   

Could Amelia Earhart’s mother, Amy Otis Earhart, give us a simple clue as to how her daughter managed to transmit these “impossible” broadcasts? Was Mother Earhart, from sources of information peculiarly available to her, in possession of knowledge withheld from the public that would explain how her daughter was able to send all these messages for help?         

“I know she was permitted to broadcast to Washington from the Marshalls,” Amelia’s mother told the Los Angeles Times on July 25, 1949, and then does she give us the answer? . . .  “because the officials on the island where she was taken — I can’t remember the name of it — believed she was merely a trans-ocean flier in distress. But Tokyo had a different opinion of her significance in the area.  She was taken to Japan.”         

Is it not rather clear from Mother Earhart’s inside information that Amelia Earhart was rescued as a celebrity by the Japanese on Mili Atoll? Wouldn’t the Japanese on that island permit the famous American flyers to use their island transmitter to call for help for three days?     

Isn’t it obvious that if it were impossible for her to transmit messages from the water, she must have done so from the land? And wasn’t a Japanese transmitter the only way that could have been done? And wouldn’t the messages suddenly stop when Tokyo ordered the Mili Atoll Japanese outpost, through channels, to quit sending her distress broadcasts and arrest Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan for espionage?

“I am certain that Amelia’s voice was recognized in the radio broadcast from the Marshalls to the capitol,” Earhart’s mother told The Los Angeles Times and later repeated in a letter to Earhart’s flying instructor, Neta Snook.         

“I have kept quiet through the years, but certainly this could hurt no one now.”     

“That’s quite a stretch,” Joe Gervais said in awe when I explained how all of us had mistaken Japanese planes for hers, and seaplanes landing on the water for her land plane crashing at sea.  It may seem a stretch to those who want to believe Earhart and Noonan drowned at sea near Howland Island on July 2,1937.     

“All Earhart hunters have been so busy challenging differences in eyewitness reports each of us gathered,”  I sighed, “we became blind to all the many points we agree on, where the truth may finally be found.” “Well,” Joe exhaled slowly.  “If we’re gonna quit sneering at one another’s versions of what happened, and connect dot-to-dot to what’ll crack one of the biggest cover-ups in American history, we’d best not be afraid to stretch!”   

Next stop for prisoners Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was by land plane or flying boat to Saipan, it makes small difference which.  There on Saipan, more witnesses than were talked to on all other islands combined remembered seeing them alive.     

They were in custody as spies!  

(End of “Next Stop Kwajalein.”)

The Hiro H4H1 Navy Type 91 Flying Boat, a twin-engine monoplane in limited production since 1933, that might have been mistaken by the native witnesses for a land-based plane crashing in the water. “It was not exactly like the Electra, of course,” Mandel wrote in an e-mail: It was a two-motor, all-metal (aluminum, usually non-painted!) monoplane with two radial engines over the wing, also with a twin tail, and the size and dimensions of the plane were similar to the Electra. It was used by the Japanese Navy, but not extensively, so its visit to Saipan could be a rare event, possibly the first such event between the bases in Japan and Japanese Mandated Islands. From a distance, the Hiro could look pretty much like a landplane for any unaware witnesses, as it was a flying boat, not a float plane—i.e., it didn’t have a large obvious float under the fuselage as other seaplanes had, and its quite little under-wing floats were not obvious from a distance.

The Hiro H4H1 Navy Type 91 Flying Boat, a twin-engine monoplane in limited production since 1933, that might have been seen by a native witness landing on the water off Kwajalein, and later mistaken for a land-based plane crashing in the waters of Tanapag Harbor off Saipan.  “It was not exactly like the Electra, of course,” researcher Alex Mandel wrote. “It was a two-motor, all-metal (aluminum, usually non-painted) monoplane with two radial engines over the wing, also with a twin tail, and the size and dimensions of the plane were similar to the Electra. It was used by the Japanese Navy, but not extensively, so its visit to Saipan could be a rare event, possibly the first such event between the bases in Japan and Japanese Mandated Islands. From a distance, the Hiro could look pretty much like a land plane for any unaware witnesses, as it was a flying boat, not a float plane—i.e., it didn’t have a large obvious float under the fuselage as other seaplanes had, and its quite little under-wing floats were not obvious from a distance.”

Two years before Klaas and Gervais collaborated on “Next Stop Kwajalein,” Klaas advanced a scenario that differed from the seaplane-landing-on-Saipan situation they proposed in 2001. In a 1999 e-mail to Rollin Reineck, Bill Prymak and others, Klaas reviewed the Ted Burris account and insisted it wasn’t a seaplane that landed in Tanapag Harbor:

This incident has too long been thought to be a false report that Earhart’s Lockheed 10E crashed off Kwajalein. But what the old man precisely said was: “A plane landed on the water.” He didn’t say it crashed there or ditched there. Planes with landing gear don’t land “on the water.” What “landed” Earhart and Noonan “on the water” off Kwajalein was obviously a seaplane from Jaluit. . . . Nobody ever said there was a crash at Kwajalein.

Earhart and Noonan were then flown by land plane from Kwajalein to Saipan, where its pilot got into trouble. [Italics mine.] Josephine Akiyama, the very first witness in the Earhart mystery, watched “a silver two-engined plane belly-land” in shallow water along a beach. She “saw the American woman who looked like a man, and the tall man with her, led away by the Japanese soldiers.”

We must never assume every twin-engined aircraft in the Pacific had to be the Earhart Plane to be significant. We don’t need Darwin to find the missing link from Howland to Mili to Kwajalein to Saipan. Keep it simple and follow facts in sequence to the truth. Above all, let’s start believing our witnesses. Why would they lie?

I asked Klaas if he could explain his differing visions of Earhart’s arrival at Saipan, suggesting that a land-based aircraft might indeed be most likely in the Tanapag Harbor-landing scenario. “Very well could be,” Klaas told me in a September 2007 email.

However, I do believe it was a seaplane that landed in the water at Kwajalein, according to the man who picked her up there and rowed her ashore. There was a landing field there at that time.  A lot of people jumped to the conclusion that she had crashed into the water there, according to witnesses. However that was only because the native who picked her up said the plane had landed in the water, obviously flown there from Majuro. She could very well have been transferred to a land plane there [at Kwajalein] after that and have been flown in it on to Saipan, where a lot of us at first mistook as she and Noonan crashing on the beach in her own plane. It was obviously a Japanese aircraft, however.” 

So despite the many witnesses who reported that they saw a woman flier who could only have been Amelia Earhart in the Marshalls and later on Saipan, how she reached Saipan from Kwajalein is a major question that lingers. Was it a land plane or a seaplane that took the doomed fliers to their final destination?

Eugene C. Sims and the “Ghost of Amelia Earhart”

Kwajalein Atoll  is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Comprising 97 islands and islets, it has a land area of 6.33 square miles and surrounds one of the largest lagoons in the world, with an area of  839 square miles. Some 13,500 Marshallese citizens live on the atoll, most of them on Ebeye Island.

The southernmost and largest island in the atoll is Kwajalein Island, with a population of about 1,000, mostly Americans with a small number of Marshall Islanders and other nationalities, all of whom require express permission from the U.S. Army to live there. Kwajalein Island houses the mission control center for the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Test Site, commonly referred to as the Reagan Test Site, which primarily functions as a test facility for U.S. missile defense and space research programs.

Roi-Namur has several radar installations and a small residential community of unaccompanied U.S. personnel who deal with missions support and radar tracking. Japanese bunkers and buildings from World War II are in good condition and preserved. Roi and Namur were originally separate islets that were joined by a causeway built predominately by Korean conscripted laborers working under the Japanese military.

Kwajalein Island itself is only about 1.2 square miles! Check out the photo above – that’s the whole thing.Yeah, around 3.5 miles long and less than a mile wide with an average elevation of 8 feet. The land area of the entire atoll is just over 6 square miles. But these little coral islands surround one of the largest lagoons in the world – about 840 square miles. Kwajalein Island houses the mission control center for the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Test Site, commonly referred to as the Reagan Test Site, which primarily functions as a test facility for U.S. missile defense and space research programs. Kwajalein is one of 11 islands in the atoll that is operated by the U.S. military under a long term lease with the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

A 1943 pre-invasion map of Kwajalein Atoll.  Note location of Roi-Namur in the northernmost part of the atoll, where several eyewitnesses including military personnel have attested to the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in July 1937. The land area of the entire atoll is just over 6 square miles. But these little coral islands surround one of the largest lagoons in the world – about 840 square miles.

This brief introduction to Kwajalein is simply meant to help focus readers who may not be familiar with this Marshalls Islands atoll, located in the north-central Pacific about 1,500  miles from Saipan, which is always directly related to Amelia Earhart, at least in this blog.

Now to the point: The Jan. 7, 2003 edition of The Kwajalein Hourglass, the weekly newsletter at the U.S. Army facility at Kwajalein, ran an article, “Did Amelia Earhart land on Kwajalein Atoll?” by Eugene C. Sims, who was stationed  there as a GI in 1945 and returned to work as a civilian from 1964 to ’71, and from 1983 to ’86.

Sims recalled his youth in Oakland, California during the 1930s, and how he grew to idolize Earhart after seeing her at the local airport. When Fred Goerner’s book was published in 1966, Sims was working on Kwajalein; after reading it, he was inspired to pursue his own Earhart investigation. “I was surprised to hear them speak so openly about the white-skinned lady and man that came to Kwajalein in 1937,” Sims wrote.

An unidentified Marshallese man told Sims that as a twelve-year-old in 1937, “a large Japanese ship came into the harbor” and he saw “a white lady and man on the deck,” a rare sight in those times. Sims wrote that because Goerner had been denied access to Kwajalein in the early 1960s, “Goerner was never to learn [the] concrete proof that Amelia was on Kwajalein and Roi-Namur in 1937.”

In a future post, we’ll look at the previously unknown eyewitnesses Sims and others presented in the pages of The Kwajalein Hourglass, but today is for something different.  As I’ve done before when it’s appropriate, I remind readers that I’m presenting this information for your own discernment, and am neither endorsing it or dismissing it.

This is the inside of the cell at Saipan's old Garapan prison that is said to have been occupied by Amelia Earhart. Former Marine and Saipan veteran Henry Duda took it during his visit to Saipan for the 50th anniversary of the historic 1944 Battle of Saipan.

The inside of the cell at Saipan’s old Garapan prison that is said to have been occupied by Amelia Earhart. Former Marine and Saipan veteran Henry Duda shot this photo while attending commemoration ceremonies for the 50th anniversary of the historic Battle of Saipan in 1994.

In 1972 Sims was transferred to Agana, Guam, to set up a new business for Global Associates. He and his wife Betty remained on Guam for over eight years, and during that time Sims continued to learn more about the fate of Amelia Earhart. As an engineer and manager of the new business, he traveled extensively throughout Micronesia, and made weekly trips to Saipan, where he made friends with many of the island’s indigenous families. Some of them had lived on Saipan in the 1930s, and the subject of Earhart was discussed many times.

I contacted Sims in 2006 after his work in the Hourglass came to my attention, and he was happy to talk and share his findings. He also sent me a copy of the Winter 2002 Kwajaletter, a sister publication of the Hourglass, which featured a fascinating story, “The Ghost of Amelia Earhart,” that Sims wrote from his home in Coos Bay, Oregon.  Following are the salient paragraphs of Sims’ article, along with the unique photo he shot on Saipan in 1973:

I found that few people wished to discuss the 1937 event of her disappearance or of her being brought to Saipan by the Japanese. My wife and I were shown various places on Saipan where Amelia allegedly had been seen. One man took me to a spot in the old cemetery where he claimed she was buried but the most interesting place we visited was the old Garapan prison used by the Japanese in the 1930s.

After the American forces recaptured Saipan in mid-1944, the old stone and steel-framed prison building was abandoned and left to decay. Cutting through the dense overgrown jungle and then stumbling over giant roots of tangatanga to gain access to the remnants of the old jail-like structure was a real effort.  Our guide showed us the jail cells where Amelia and Fred were supposedly held captive. I took many pictures.

Eugene Sims, of Coos Bay, Oregon, a veteran of three tours at the U.S. Army Facility Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, took this 1973 photo of the center cell he was told Amelia Earhart occupied at Garapan prison in 1937. It's not possible to determine whether this cell is the same as the one pictured above. Although the scan of the glossy photo doesn't quite convey the strange quality of the figure he captured, something is there that doesn't appear to be natural. As Eugene Sims wrote on the back of the photo he sent me in 2006, "See her ghost?"

Eugene Sims, of Coos Bay, Oregon, a veteran of three tours at the U.S. Army Facility Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, took this 1973 photo of the center cell he was told Amelia Earhart occupied at Garapan prison in 1937. It’s not possible to determine whether this cell is the same as the one pictured above. Although the scan of the glossy photo doesn’t quite convey the strange quality of the figure he captured, something is there that doesn’t appear to be natural. As Eugene Sims wrote on the back of the photo he sent me in 2006, “See her ghost?” (Photo courtesy Eugene Sims and may not be reproduced without permission.)

Several days later in Guam and after the photos had been developed, I was shocked to see one print of Amelia’s cell. In the rusted metal frame of the cell door stood a white ghostly figure! Was this some sort of photo misprint? I had the picture reprinted and again the ghostly outline was in evidence.  I considered the ghost to be a message from Amelia and put my collection of Amelia in my locked files. What good would it do to show the picture?

At first, I reasoned the information might make a whale of a story, but then I realized maybe the data would just become more controversy about the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. At this time I have no intention of writing anything more on the subject. My files are closed, but I still look at that ghostly picture . . . and wonder. (End of Sims story.)

 Eugene C. Sims passed away in November 2013 at 86.

 

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