Tag Archives: Lockheed Electra 10E

Fraser has new slant on East New Britain mystery

Most readers of this blog are familiar with Australian David Billings and his New Britain theory, the only one among all other Earhart disappearance “solutions” besides the Marshalls-Saipan truth that presents us information and poses questions that cannot be explained or answered.  Readers can review the details of Billings’ theory by reading my Dec. 5, 2016 post, New Britain theory presents incredible possibilities.”

The evidence that motivates Billings, 76, who works in relative obscurity out of his home in Nambour, Australia, where he often flies gliders to relax, is real and compelling, I wrote in a December 2016 post.  Unlike our better known, internationally acclaimed Earhart experts, whose transparently bogus claims are becoming increasingly indigestible as our duplicitous media continues to force-feed us their garbage, David is a serious researcher whose questions demand answers.  His experience with our media is much like my own; with rare exceptions, his work has been ignored by our esteemed gatekeepers precisely because it’s based on real evidence that, if confirmed, would cause a great deal of discomfort to our Fourth Estate, or more accurately, our Fifth Column.”

David Billings at his home in Nambour, Australia. (Courtesy David Billings.)

In June 2017, Billings returned from his seventeenth trip to East New Britain in search of the wreck of the Earhart plane.  Once again, he was unable to find what he believes is the lost Electra 10E, which Amelia flew from Lae, New Guinea on the morning of July 2, 1937.  Here’s my June 22, 2017 post: Billings’ latest search fails to locate Earhart Electra.

Billings’ website, Earhart Lockheed Electra Search Projectsubtitled “Earhart’s Disappearance Leads to New Britain: Second World War Australian Patrol Finds Tangible Evidence” offers more information on this unique and fascinating theory.

Now comes another Australian, semi-retired field exploration and research geologist William J. Fraser, who lives near Cairns in tropical far north Queensland, to stir the pot.  In a series of mid-February emails, Fraser presented his own novel explanation for the 1945 discovery of the alleged Earhart plane in East New Britain, which follows forthwith (bold emphasis mine throughout):

In compiling a solution to the vexing mystery of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed aircraft I made two main assumptions:

1.  That the theories and eyewitness accounts as detailed by Mike Campbell on this website and in his book Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, are substantially correct, excepting for the accounts of the American destruction of Earhart’s Lockheed 10E aircraft on Saipan in June 1944.  I suggest that this was not the case and it was another Lockheed owned or captured by the Japanese which had been comprehensively booby-trapped.

2.  That the wreckage of Earhart’s aircraft was found in the Mevelo River area near Rabaul, New Britain by an AIF patrol in April 1945 and as investigated by David Billings is credible and real. This is quite satisfactorily explained by Billings’ interviews with then surviving patrol members and the marginal notes on an old topographic map.  However,  I do find it disappointing that the detailed A1 patrol report seems to be missing from the Australian War Memorial archives.

William J. Fraser, a research geologist from Queensland, Australia, offers a new slant on David Billings’ East New Britain theory.

In my narrative I propose that following the Japanese salvage of Earhart’s aircraft from an atoll in the eastern Marshall Islands in July 1937, it was quickly transported by ship to either Kwajalein or Saipan where it was washed down with available fresh water and assessed for restorationAt the commencement of wash down the engine cowls were put aside for some time while the engines were worked on.  The 1945 observed apparent corrosion of one of the cowls by an AIF patrol member would have happened at this time.

The Japanese Government ultimately restored the aircraft to flyable condition, and it was put into passenger service, perhaps even pre-World War II and operated unobserved in the Marianas and Marshall Islands.

Following the invasion of Rabaul by Japanese military forces from January 23, 1942 to February 1942, sometime in the subsequent period 1942-43, the aircraft made a flight, departure point unknown, intended to reach Rabaul.  For whatever reason (it could have even been structural failure due to corrosion) the aircraft crashed in the Mevelo River area.

Billings and his team commenced their search for the aircraft wreck about 25 years ago (1994) and have made multiple expeditions since then and without any success.  This present outcome is a mystery in itself.

I have attempted to understand why this is so and I presently propose several reasons to explain:

  • Up to about the 1950s to 1960s the search area was probably primary forest (near virgin).  However, forest mapping and classification done for the Government of Papua New Guinea indicates that post 1972 the search area was secondary forest (re-vegetating).  Now why is this so?  I may be mistaken but I suggest that much of the forest was burnt and destroyed by a major fire during a long period of a serous drought (yet to be determined from existing, if any, rainfall records).  Such severe fires and long-lasting droughts have been well documented in many other parts of PNG.
  • The forest fire was very intense on favorable dry hill slopes and it could well have melted much of the aircraft components.  Remnant layered charcoal is well known to cause problems for metal detectors as it is highly conductive which makes it very difficult to locate any metal objects.
  • During the period 1980s to the mid 1990s selective, then total logging of the regenerating forest was carried out.  It is possible that the aircraft remains may have been found and recovered at that time.

As the logging and access track preparation progressed under strict supervision (there were valuable equipment and fuel assets involved) there should have been maps (now archived) drawn up.  This is standard industry practice.  So, in the first instance there needs to be research of the logging and timber (lumber) company records and interviews with previous managers and workers.  Following this research, a well-appointed search directive needs to be assembled and detailed expedition planning commenced with ancillary fundraising.

William J. Fraser
FAusIMM, BSc (Fellow, Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Bachelor of Science)
February 2019

David Billings’ Response

Mike Campbell has asked me to comment on Mr. William Fraser’s astounding revelations about the Earhart Mystery contained in several assumptions and further text passages which contain imaginative thinking.

The stunning evidence that suggests Amelia Earhart’s Electra was found in the Papua New Guinea jungle is in the area in yellow, above, which is the lower section of the tactical map maintained by “D” Company, 11th Australian Infantry Battalion in 1945. The Map was in possession of the unit’s administrative clerk from 1945 until 1993. (Courtesy David Billings.)

Being as Mr. Fraser has seen fit to make quite a lot of assumptions concerning my project, which is the search for the Electra 10E on New Britain Island, I see it as reasonable for me to comment, if only to correct, inform and educate as to what has actually happened in line with what has been written by Mr. Fraser as “assumptions” and further remarks.

The Project Team started to search for an aircraft in 1994, due to certain evidence obtained from veterans of the World War II New Britain campaign against the Japanese located at Wide Bay, New Britain.  In short, these Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Infantrymen found some aircraft wreckage while on a patrol and the aircraft wreckage was not identified at the time, but detail from an engine found on site was later described to them in a reply from the U.S. Army as a [Pratt & Whitney] “Wasp” engine.

Many years later, written evidence was found on a topographical map, evidence (which also included detail of the patrol carried out) which clearly pointed to the owner of the Wasp engine as being Amelia Earhart.  This big clue to the identity of this wreckage seen in 1945 by the patrol, was found quite by accident in 1993.

I gathered a team together and ventured into the Wide Bay jungle using the recollections of the veterans as to locations as a guide.  Most of the path as told was incorrect and not until some archived messages in the Australian War Memorial were seen did we gather a fair idea if where they had been.

Now, on to the “Fraser Report” and my response to Mr. Fraser’s blog post:

The First Main Assumption by Mr. Fraser:

I make no comment except to say that Mr. Fraser is entitled to his opinion and to his assumption, such as it is.

The Second Main Assumption by Mr. Fraser:

That the wreckage of Earhart’s aircraft was found in the Mevelo River area near Rabaul, New Britain by an AIF patrol in April 1945 and as investigated by David Billings is credible and real.”

I applaud Mr. Fraser for seeing the light and agreeing that the wreckage, from the evidence and from the eyewitness statements, is indeed the missing Electra 10E.

“This is quite satisfactorily explained by Billings’ interviews with then surviving patrol members and the marginal notes on an old topographic map.”

Quite so.

This map illustrates the Lae-to-Howland leg (green) that the Electra theoretically flew in almost 20 hours, and the dotted red is David Billings’ postulated return route to New Britain Island that would have consumed the last bit of fuel and (at least) 12 hours.  Most observers reject this idea on its face, for obvious reasonsIt is simply too extreme and unlikely to have any basis in reality.  

“However, I do find it disappointing that the detailed A1 patrol report seems to be missing from the AWM archives.”

There is a handwritten report which is contained in the Australian War Museum (AWM) website.  You have to be an African witch doctor to find it.  Unfortunately it does not mention the wreckage find, as it is a topographical report with grid references designed to placate a certain Capt. Mott, who was an HQ staff captain and a mapmaker who was quite miffed that Patrol A1 leaders could not tell him to his acceptable degree of accuracy, Where they had been.” 

This upset to the staff captain caused Lt. Ken Backhouse, the Patrol A1 leader, to receive a slap on the wrist and be immediately sent out on another patrol along the Melkong River.  However, that said concerning the topographical report, there is a missing situation report (SITREP) numbered as63A. Despite two visits to the AWM in Canberra, the nation’s capital, to peruse records and many, many website searches of the records, SITREP 63A still eludes us.  The letterA signifies 63A as an Annex Report, something extraneous to the patrol orders that has been encountered, which is not strictly anything to do with the task at hand. 

I strongly suspect that SITREP 63A described what they saw in the jungleI also suspect that Capt. Mott (who wanted to know where the wreckage was sited) possibly had an idea of whose aircraft it may have been and kept a copy of 63A, being as the patrol members believed from the state of the wreckage that it had lain where it was for quite a few years.  Mott was a very intelligent man and was famous for his mapping of Queensland and the Northern Territory of Australia.

I did speak with Mott’s son in the mid-’90s after locating him in a nursing home, and he did tell me that his father had mentioned an aircraft wreck that he was interested in when speaking to his son in Melbourne after the end of World War II.

To continue with Mr. Fraser’s statements:

“In my narrative I propose that following the Japanese salvage, etc., etc.”

It is a known fact that any aluminum alloy aircraft, especially one without any anti-corrosion finish in the form of paint (outside and inside) and which has been immersed in seawater is basically a write-off unless it can be washed out “immediately, pronto, quick-as-a-flash” with fresh water, and even then immersed in a water tank or treated with chemicals to halt the commencement of corrosion.  There is also the thought that any magnesium alloy components would start to fizz away from the effects of salt water like a soluble aspirin  tablet in a glass of water.

There are also the engines to consider, for they would be swamped with salt water which would get into the intake manifolds and through open poppet valves enter the cylinders.  Who is going to strip, clean and reassemble the engines with some new parts?

In early March, 1945, Australian troops of the 4th Field Company put a log bearer into place on a new bridge that the unit is building across the Mevelo River in East New Britain.  About five weeks later, members of a kindred Australian Army unit, “D” Company of the 11th Australian Infantry Battalion, operating near this area in April 1945, discovered a wrecked, twin-engine aircraft that Billings believes was the Earhart Electra, NR 16020.  How it got there remains one of the true mysteries of the Earhart saga.

I have neither the knowledge or the inclination to find out whether Kwajalein or Saipan had thousands of gallons of reticulated water from a mains pressure system to spare to even try to wash out the Electra after a sea voyage of a week or more to get from “an atoll in the eastern Marshalls” to either of those two places of Kwajalein or Saipan.  I suspect that atoll locale habitations instead of having reticulated water, individually collected rainwater in tanks rather than having desalination plants or collection dams in that pre-war period. 

Rather than the cowls being left without washing in the Mr. Fraser circumstance, I have previously proposed that the Electra picked up salt from the atmosphere whilst flying at low-level after take-off and while searching for Howland Island.  The impinged salt being the cause of the holed and filigreed nose cowl rings described by the Patrol Warrant Officer.

“The Japanese Government ultimately restored the aircraft to flyable condition, etc., etc.”

No comment.  Again, Mr, Fraser is entitled to his opinion/assumption.

“Following the invasion of Rabaul by Japanese military forces from  January 23 to February 1942, sometime in the subsequent period 1942-43, the aircraft made a flight, departure point unknown, intended to reach Rabaul.  For whatever reason (it could have even been structural failure due to corrosion) the aircraft crashed in the Mevelo River area.”

Again, I applaud that Mr. Fraser comes out in support if the Electra 10E being where we say it is, but I have no comment on the circumstantial assumption as to the reason why.

We now get to some massive assumptions by Mr. Fraser in respect to an area of heavily timbered and quite difficult terrain, into which Mr. Fraser has never been.

“Billings and his team commenced their search for the aircraft wreck about 25 years ago (1994) and have made multiple expeditions since then and without any success.  This present outcome is a mystery in itself.”

1994 is the start; that is correct, but why then does Mr. Fraser go on to say the obvious: “without success,” and then go on to proclaim that our lack of success “is a mystery in itself”That is, in itself, an immature schoolboyish remark from a person who has not been into this area of jungle, does not know the terrain, does not know the circumstances under which we undertook the earlier searches and who now compounds his lack of knowledge and his ignorance by saying,I may be mistaken but I suggest that much of the forest was burnt and destroyed by a major fire during a long period of a serious drought (yet to be determined from existing, if any, rainfall records).  Such severe fires and long-lasting droughts have been well documented in many other parts of PNG.

Chris Billings (David’s son), Claire Bowers (David’s step-daughter) and David Billings in the jungles of East New Britain, circa 2002.  (Photo courtesy David Billings.)

Please note theyet to be determined, which makes the forgoing statement a guess.  I now say that the guess has no foundation in fact, for Mr. Fraser is mistaken.  There has been no forest fire in the Wide Bay area which destroyed the whole forest 80 years ago or since.  We have seen no evidence of that.  The rainfall there has to be seen to be believed and definitely no droughts in our now 25 years.  Rain, rain and more rain, even a cyclone.

I will not comment on the rest, I believe I have made my point abundantly clear.  Fraser’s assumptions are just that, assumptions, made largely without substantial knowledge of the subject matter and in the belief that he and he alone is correct.

Early Communication

Mr. Fraser earlier communicated with me back in August 2018 with the suggestion that the wreck we were seeking from our information may be a Lockheed captured by the Japanese on Guam, Wake Island, the Philippines or the Netherlands East Indies, forgetting that (or not knowing), the R-1340 S3H1 engines were only fitted to the Model 10E Electras.

He again contacted me in November and this time he mentioned B-17F 41-24458 as a candidate.  This B-17 was obviously powered by Wright Cyclones and nothing to do with S3H1s.  This particular B-17F, famously known as The San Antonio Rose, must have crashed to the north of the Mevelo River, as it took Col. Bleasdale two weeks to walk off the mountain to his capture at Tol Plantation, which is north of this river.  Our search area is south of the river.  I doubt the colonel would be tempted to cross the Mevelo River by fording it.  I certainly would not, for it has big crocodiles.

In November 2018 I assisted Mr. Fraser in his interest by providing him with a 1943 topographical map of the area and by giving Mr. Fraser several pointers from the Project because of his interest.  I also pointed him in the direction ofGAIHOZU the military maps that the Japanese used in the Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, of which the map of the area made by the Japanese does show some walking trails they used. 

David Billings wades through the Yarras River in East New Britain in July 2002. “We did that wade every day for two weeks on our way to one of the search areas,” Billings wrote in a recent email.  “There are crocs in that river; it is one of their waterways especially at night.  You can hear the tails swish as they swim upriver.”

Fraser, with the aid of the area map I sent to him, then searched for holes in the jungle canopy using the modern-day Zoom Earth application and then proudly sent me a picture of the jungle with ahole, about which he stated: It is in your search area.  There are many such holes in the jungle at floor level, not all of which can be seen from aerial views due to the tree canopy.  I considered that Mr. Fraser was trying to suggest that here was a hole made in 1937 which I did not know about which existed to this day, and he asked me, What can you see?

Instead, I asked Mr. Fraser where it was in order to see if it was indeedIn our search area.”  Fraser by return mail told me to tell him what I could see – first.  Presumably then he would tell me where the hole was in latitude-longitude.  By having to tell Mr. Fraser what I could seefirst meant that here we had a man playing the schoolboy game of ”Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”  I grew tired of such pedantic messages long ago and told Mr. Fraser that I do not play games such as that and Good Luck.”  In the event, a hole on a modern-day application such as Zoom Earth or Google Earth would be “modern” and any hole made in 1937 would completely close over within ten years with new growth and so Mr. Fraser would be completely mistaken in what he was thinking.  Why else would he send me a picture of a hole in the tree canopy?

Mr. Fraser has a basic lack of the appreciation of jungle growth activity if what he thinks may be a hole made by the entry of an aircraft in 1937 or during World War II, would still exist today, up to and over 80 years later.

I will admit we went on a hole search ourselves when one of my team found the exact aerial photograph made by a Photo-Reconnaissance Lockheed F-5 from 23,000 feet from which the 1943 Topographical Map was made.  Then again, we were looking at holes on a photograph from only six years after the Earhart loss. We have a whole list of latitudes and longitudes for those holes, most of which are not in our designated search area.

Mr. Fraser’s stated “assumptions” and remarks on what he “thinks” may have happened are colorful, imaginative and somewhat amusing, and lettered men such as he may well think they know more than others.  But in the end, practical knowledge will trump theoretical musings.

David Billings
EarhartSearchPng.com

In addition to Billings’ list of problems with Fraser’s theory, a major discrepancy I find is that Thomas E. Devine, Earskin J. Nabers, Arthur Nash and other soldiers and Marines on Saipan saw or knew of the discovery of Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E, NR 16020, on that island in the summer of 1944.   Devine even wrote down the plane’s registration number, and inspected it — climbing on its wing to look in — before it was torched at night, strafed by a P-38 after being doused with cans of gasoline, according to Nabers, who was also at the off-limits airfield for the event.  Before Fraser’s introduction of this idea, nobody has ever suggested that the plane was destroyed because it was booby-trapped.”  Moreover, if our troops knew it was such, why would our tech-savvy GIs destroy an airplane for this reason?  Couldn’t anything that was booby-trapped be un-booby trapped by skilled operatives?

As for the Earhart Electra and its discovery and pickup at Mili Atoll by the Japanese, by the time the plane would have reached Kwajalein, a distance of roughly 375 miles from Mili Atoll, it would probably have been too late to forestall the corrosion that its exposure to salt water would have caused.  Sometime before that, probably in Jaluit or earlier at Mili, the Japanese had access to enough fresh water to wash the corroding salt away, else how could Thomas E. Devine and others have seen it operational at Saipan?  We also don’t know the extent of the Electra’s engine’s exposure or immersion in the ocean or lagoon at Mili where it landed.  Fraser’s other ideas about the disposition of the Earhart Electra are speculation.

Billings, for his part, has yet to propose a plausible reason to explain the Electra’s presence in the remote jungles of East New Britain.  Turning around within a few hundred miles of Howland and heading back in a nearly 180 degree course that terminated in East New Britain simply doesn’t pass the common sense test. 

Another explanation for C/N 1055 and two other distinctive identifiers of Amelia Earhart’s Electra being recorded on an Australian soldier’s map case in 1945 must exist, and has yet to be found.  Thus the East New Britain mystery remains unsolved, and will stay that way unless and until the wreck found in 1945 is re-discovered.  Even then, if the wreck were to be found and absolutely confirmed as NR 16020, the work of explaining how it got there will remain, as will the mystery.

Don’t hold your breath.

 ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

UDPATE: In an April 3, 2019 email, William Fraser writes:

I can understand a comment by a USA resident that the aircraft wreckage found by an AIF patrol in April 1945 in the Mevelo River area of New Britain is a different (Lockheed) aircraft.  Nonetheless, for very significant historical reasons this wreckage needs to be re-discovered and identified.

Missing AIF Patrol Report

On the apparently missing patrol report for AIF 11th Infantry Battalion, D Company Patrol A1 for April 1945, I have made further enquiries with the records section of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.  They have said “the curator of Official Records (says) that the Patrol Reports in question are comprised as messages in Appendix M found on images 130-152. Following your re-examination of the file and advice from Official Records, it appears that material in question was either not elaborated upon beyond what was included in the original file, was omitted from the original file, or was not submitted by those responsible for the reports.”

It is indeed unfortunate, but we have now come to a dead end here with the official Australian records.

A Conclusive New Search In New Britain

I have previously remarked upon the notable lack of success of previous searches over a period of some 25 years. In order to properly resolve this matter, I suggest that the Government of Papua New Guinea and its department responsible for historical sites and heritage would need to approve the formation of new independent NGO search directorate to enter the New Britain area and commence a ground search.

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Pan Am radio pioneer Capt. Almon Gray: “Amelia didn’t know radio,” Part I of III

Almon Andrew Gray was a pioneer in aeronautical communications.  After graduating from the George Stevens Academy  in 1928 and the Massachusetts Radio Telegraph School in 1930, he enlisted in the Navy, where he was a radioman and gunner aboard cruiser based aircraft. He also learned to fly.

Upon expiration of his enlistment he signed on with Pan American Airways, and in 1935 helped build the bases to support the first trans-Pacific air service and was first officer-in-charge of the PAA radio station on Wake Island. After the San Francisco-Hong Kong air route was opened in late 1935, he was a radio officer in the China Clipper and her sister flying boats. Later he was assistant superintendent of communications for PAA’s Pacific Division. Gray was also  a Navy Reserve captain,  flew with Fred Noonan in the 1930s and was an important figure in the development of the Marshall Islands landing scenario. He died at 84 on Sept. 26, 1994 at Blue Hill Maine. In coming weeks and months, some of Gray’s writings will be featured on this blog.

Capt. Almon Gray, USNR. wrote extensively on Amelia Earhart's radio problems during her last flight.

Capt. Almon Gray, USNR, wrote extensively on Amelia Earhart’s radio problems during her last flight.

More than anyone in Earhart research history, with the possible exception of Paul Rafford Jr., Almon Gray was qualified to discuss Amelia Earhart’s radio arrangements and behavior. “Amelia Earhart and Radio” first appeared in  the June 1993 issue of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.

From the outset, readers should understand that in this analysis, Gray assumes that Earhart was actually trying to reach Howland island, and that she was attempting to establish two-way communication with Itasca, which never happened. In his piece, Gray also doesn’t try to explain why she was never on the air for more than 10 seconds, something that has led many to speculate that Earhart didn’t want her position to be known and that something else was afoot besides her official flight plan.  

 “AMELIA EARHART AND RADIO,” By Almon A. Gray

Part I of III

INTRODUCTION

Most of that written about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart while on an around-the-world flight in 1937 attributes her failure to reach Howland Island to unstated deficiencies related to radio. It appears however that very little has been written about the nature of those deficiencies, or how they came about. What follows will attempt to fill that gap and show what errors in planning and execution were made in respect to radio; what failure or malfunctioning of radio equipment occurred and the probable reason for it; and will point out the single item or event deemed most directly responsible for the failure of the plane to reach Howland Island.

Since 1937 the unit of measurement for radio frequencies had been changed from “cycles” to “hertz” (Hz), consequently kilocycles (Kc) and kilohertz (kHz) will be used interchangeably, as will megacycles (Mc) and megahertz (MHz). It is assumed that the reader already is familiar with the general history of the flight.

BACKGROUND

In early 1937, several weeks before her Oakland-Honolulu flight, and while she still intended to circumnavigate the world in a westerly direction, Miss Earhart met at Alameda, Calif., with George Angus, the superintendent of communications for the Pacific Division of Pan American Airways. Angus was responsible for the radio communication and radio direction finding networks which supported the PAA clippers on their trans-Pacific crossings, and Miss Earhart wished to arrange for help from those facilities during her planned flight. She was particularly interested in obtaining radio bearings to augment her celestial navigation. At that time PAA had specially designed versions of the Adcock radio direction finding system in service at Alameda; Mokapu Point, Hawaii; Midway Island; Wake Island; Guam; and Manila, Philippines to support Clipper operations.

These systems were capable of taking radio bearings on frequencies much higher than could be utilized successfully by conventional loop-type direction finders, hence were effective over much greater distances. They were commonly referred to as “high frequency DFs,” and were the only ones of that type in the United States and its territories. Angus agreed to help Earhart while she was within radio range of PAA stations, and details for so doing were worked out.

This was somewhat complicated inasmuch as PAA was not equipped to transmit on either of Earhart’s communication frequencies (3105 kHz and 6210 kHz.) and could not transmit voice on any frequency. The solution agreed upon was that the plane would request a bearing by voice on the frequency in use, (usually 3105 kHz at night, 6210 kHz during the day) and follow the request with a series of long dashes lasting in the aggregate a couple of minutes. The PAA DF station would take a bearing and transmit it to the plane on a previously agreed upon PAA frequency, using “CW” (telegraphy) sent at such a slow speed that the individual dots and dashes of the numbers could be copied on paper and later translated into numbers. This arrangement was tested on the flight from Oakland to Honolulu with the bearings being taken by PAA on 3105 kHz and sent to the plane on 2986 kHz It worked out very well.

The RA-1B was a brand new Bendix product and was reputed to be pushing the state of the art in aircraft receiver designed

The Bendix RA-1B, used in Amelia Earhart’s Electra during her final flight without apparent success, was a brand new product and was reputed to be pushing the state of the art in aircraft receiver design.

The Oakland-Honolulu flight was uneventful, and from the standpoint of radio was handled much the same as a Clipper flight. Captain Harry Manning, an experienced radio operator, handled the Electra’s radio and DF gear while the ground radio facilities were operated by the regular PAA professional radio operators. Radio bearings were furnished the plane at frequent intervals, first from Alameda and later from Mokapu Point. They checked well with the positions Noonan determined by celestial navigation. As the plane neared Oahu, Manning set up the plane’s direction finder to home on the Marine Radio Beacon (290 kHz.) at Mokapu Point (near Diamond Head) and Earhart homed in on it to a successful landfall.

During an attempted takeoff for Howland Island from Luke Field, near Honolulu, on March 20, 1937 the Electra ground-looped and was damaged to the extent that it was shipped back to the Lockheed plant in California for repairs. There had been no major damage to the radio gear, and the main thing done to the radio system while at Lockheed was to replace the Western Electric Model 20B radio receiver and its remote control apparatus with a Bendix Type RA-1B Aircraft Radio Receiver and its accessories,which included means for complete remote control from the cockpit. This work was done by Lockheed contract technician Joe Gurr.

 THE NEW RECEIVER

The RA-1B was a brand new Bendix product and was reputed to be pushing the state of the art in aircraft receiver design.  It was a super heterodyne, which had the frequency range .150-1.50 and 1.80-15.0 Megahertz, which was divided into six bands: I: .150 – .315; II: .315 – .680; III: .680- 1.50; IV: 1.80 – 3.70; V – 3.70 – 7.50; VI: 7.50 – 15.0.

The gap between 1.50 and 1.80 MHz was to accommodate the intermediate frequency. It could receive voice or “CW” signals, and there was a three-position antenna selector switch which permitted three choices of antenna. With the switch in the “DF” position, the receiver was connected to the Bendix type MN-20 rotatable loop mounted atop the fuselage over the cockpit, and the combination comprised a radio direction finder. With the switch in the “TA” position the receiver was connected to the trailing antenna, and when in the “FA” position it was connected to the fixed antenna. It should be noted that signals from the loop antenna went directly from the loop, through the antenna switch, to the input of the receiver, whereas signals from the fixed or trailing antenna passed through the “send-receive” relay in the transmitter before going through the antenna switch to the receiver input.

It also should be noted that on this model receiver any radio signal within its overall frequency range could be received on the loop antenna. Because of this, some people had the impression that radio bearings could be obtained on any frequency within the receiver’s frequency range, and the unit was sometimes spoken of as a “high frequency direction finder.”  The unit of course had no such high frequency direction finding capability, and in later models circuitry was introduced to limit reception on the loop antenna to only frequencies in that part of the overall range deemed suitable for radio direction finding with a loop antenna, i.e. below about 1.80 MHz.

A rare photo of Amelia Earhart and her Electra at the Burbank repair facility sometime during the spring of 1937.

A rare photo of Amelia Earhart (right) and her Electra 10E, NR 16020 at the Lockheed repair facility in Burbank, Calif., sometime during the spring of 1937.

THE RADIO SYSTEM

When the plane left the Lockheed plant after being repaired the radio system was comprised of the following elements:

(1) Bendix Type RA-1B Aircraft Radio Receiver. Mounted in the cabin but having remote controls in the cockpit.

(1) Western Electric Model 13-C 50-watt Aircraft Transmitter. It had three crystal-controlled channels, 500, 3105 and 6210 kHz and could be used for voice or “CW” (radiotelegraph) transmissions. It was mounted in the cabin but there were remote controls in the cockpit.

(1) Bendix Type MN-20 rotatable shielded loop antenna. It was mounted on the top of the fuselage over the cockpit, with the knob which rotated it located on the overhead of the cockpit, between the pilots. It was used primarily for taking radio bearings but was useful as a receiving antenna under conditions of heavy precipitation static noise.

Provision for plugging in a microphone, headphones, and a telegraph key at each side of the cockpit.

A telegraph key and provision for plugging in headphones at the navigator’s table.

A 250-foot flexible wire trailing antenna on an electrically operated, remote-controlled reel, located at the rear of the plane. The wire passed to the outside through an insulated bushing and had a lead weight, or “fish,” at the end to keep it from whipping when deployed. There was a variable loading coil used in conjunction with this antenna to permit its use on 500 kHz. This antenna was long enough to give excellent radiation efficiency on all three of the transmitting frequencies.

 A fixed antenna which was a wire “Vee” with its apex at a stub mast mounted on the top of the fuselage, about over the center section of the wing, and the two legs extending back to the two vertical fins. This antenna was so short that its radiation efficiency was extremely low. It was not intended to be used on 500 kHz and probably the radiated power on the other two frequencies was very low. It was meant to be used mainly for local communications around an airport when it was not possible to have the trailing antenna deployed. According to some accounts there was a second “V” antenna mounted on the underside of the fuselage and connected in parallel with the top “V” antenna.  If so, it was removed or disconnected before the plane left Miami.

THE SECOND MISTAKE

Earhart flew the plane to Miami in the latter part of May 1937, and there made her second major error of judgment in respect to communications. (The first was in deciding on rely completely on radiotelephone for her air-ground communications.)

One of the first things she did after arriving in Miami was to have the trailing antenna and associated gear completely removed. John Ray, an Eastern Airlines technician, who had his own radio shop as a sideline, did the work.

This had a devastating impact both on her ability to communicate and on her ability to use radio navigation. With only the very short fixed antenna remaining, virtually no energy could be radiated on 500 kHz. This not only precluded her contacting ships and marine shore stations, but more importantly, it prevented ships (including the ITASCA) and marine shore direction finding stations from taking radio bearings on the plane, inasmuch as 500 kHz was the only one of her frequencies within the frequency range of the marine direction finders. Thus any radio aid in locating Howland Island would have to be in the form of radio bearings taken by the plane on radio signals from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Itasca.

The shortness of the antenna also drastically reduced the power radiated on the two high frequencies. Paul Rafford Jr., an expert in this field, estimated that the radiated power on 3105 kHz was about one-half watt. This obviously was a tremendous handicap in the high static level of the tropics.

The fixed antenna also may have been responsible for the distortion in Earhart’s transmitted signals reported by the operators at Lae, Howland and Nauru as seriously affecting the intelligibility of her voice transmissions. (A mismatch between the antenna and the final amplifier of a WE-13C transmitter could cause the transmitter to over-modulate and thus introduce distortion.)

Despite the shortcomings of her radio system, Miss Earhart got as far as the Dutch East Indies without major incident. There however, through lack of understanding, she made an error which ultimately lead to her failure to reach Howland Island.

Amelia with the loop radio direction finder

Amelia with the Bendix Type MN-20 rotatable shielded loop antenna, which was mounted on the top of the fuselage over the cockpit and apparently failed to help her in any significant ways during the final flight. 

THE THIRD MISTAKE

Three ships had been assigned to assist Earhart on the South Pacific over-water flights.  Itasca was at Howland Island, Ontario  about half way between New Guinea and Howland, and Swan between Howland and Hawaii. One function of these vessels was to transmit radio signals upon which Earhart could take bearings with her radio direction finder and thus be helped with her navigation. Suitable homing signals from Itasca were extremely important, in fact vital. Should Noonan’s celestial navigation not hit Howland right on the nose, homing in on Itasca‘s signals with her DF was the only way Earhart could be sure of finding Howland before her fuel was exhausted.

In a message dated June 23, 1937 addressed to Earhart at Darwin or Bandung, Mr. Richard Black, aboard Itasca, advised her of the radio frequencies available aboard the Ontario, Swan and Itasca, and asked her to designate the frequency she wished each ship to use to provide homing signals for her. The same day the Commanding Officer of Itasca requested that he be advised twelve hours prior to her departure from New Guinea of her desires in matter of radio, and warned her of the slowness of communication via Port Darwin.

Miss Earhart received these messages while she was at Bandung, Java, having work done on the plane. On June 27, the day before she took off from Bandung for Koepang and Darwin, she sent the following response:

From: Earhart via RCA Manila & N-PM Navy Radio Honolulu
To: ITASCA (Black) June 27, 1937 (Java date: June 26, Howland)

SUGGEST ONTARIO STANDBY ON 400 KILOCYCLES TO TRANSMIT LETTER N FIVE MINUTES ON REQUEST WITH STATION CALL REPEATED TWICE END OFEVERY MINUTE STOP SWAN TRANSMIT VOICE NINE MEGACYCLES OR IF I UNABLE RECEIVE READY ON 900 KILOCYCLES STOP ITASCA TRANSMIT LETTER A POSITION OWN-CALL LETTERS AS ABOVE ON HALF HOUR 7.5 MEGACYCLES STOP POSITION SHIPS AND OUR LEAVING WILL DETERMINE BROADCASTING SPECIFICALLY STOP IF FREQUENCIES MENTIONED UNSUITABLE NIGHT WORK INFORM ME LAE STOP I WILL GIVE LONG CALL BY VOICE THREE ONE NAUGHT FIVE KCS QUARTER AFTER HOUR POSSIBLY QUARTER TO (signed) EARHART

A person experienced in radio direction finding would find that message very strange. Why would Swan be asked to transmit homing signals on 900 kc, a frequency in the broadcast band, when a lower frequency in the aeronautical radio navigation band would be much better? And why would Itasca be asked to send homing signals on 7.5 Mc when that frequency was so high that the possibility of getting useful bearings on it with the plane’s direction finder was nil? Perhaps some of the personnel in Itasca had those questions but took the attitude “She is in the Flying Laboratory. Who knows what hush-hush gear she has aboard? If she wants 7.5 Mc, that is what she is going to get.”

No one questioned the message and Itasca tuned up its transmitter to send homing signals on 7.5 Mc. What happened after that has been well covered in the media and in numerous books. When the plane arrived at what Earhart believed to be the vicinity of Howland, no land could be found despite considerable visual searching, whereupon Earhart asked Itasca to send homing signals on 7.5 Mc, Itasca complied. Earhart heard the signals but reported to Itasca that she was “unable to get a minimum” on them. This meant she could not get a bearing on that frequency. She then asked Itasca to take bearings on her 3105 kHz. transmissions, apparently believing that the direction finder ashore on Holland Island could take bearings on that frequency just as the PAA Adcock systems had done on the earlier flight from Oakland to Honolulu. When she heard no response from Itasca (the reason she did not hear any response will be addressed elsewhere) she transmitted her line of position, said they were running north and south and that she was shifting to 6210 kHz. She was not heard again by Itasca.  Apparently she commenced execution of her Emergency Plan at about that point.

Because the unsuitability of the homing frequency used by Itasca had such an adverse impact upon the flight it seems appropriate to digress a bit here to try to find out:

(a) How was the plan for the use of radio homing beacons aboard the three ships developed?

(b) What was the plan?

(c) Did the message of June 27 from Earhart to Itasca (Black) accurately reflect the plan which had been developed? If not, what were the differences and why had they been introduced? (End of Part I.)

In Part II of “Amelia Earhart and Radio,” Almon Gray will continue to analyze Amelia Earhart’s radio communications during her doomed last flight. He will also attempt to explain how and why Amelia’s transmissions were so completely ineffective, or at least appeared to be.

Rafford’s “Enigma” brings true mystery into focus: What was Earhart really doing in final hours?

Now that my presentation to the Ninety-Nines at their South Central Sectional Meeting in Wichita, Kansas is history, we return to our regular scheduled programming.  Today, as promised, we consider the multiple radio conundrums posed by the final flight of Amelia Earhart, more specifically, the writings of Paul Rafford Jr.

The elder statesman of Earhart research, Paul is alive and well at 95 in Melbourne, Fla., and he remains among the planet’s most knowledgeable on radios and their transmission capabilities during the time of the Amelia’s final flight. He worked with Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer in 1940, flying with Pan Am until 1946. He flew with crew members who had flown with Fred Noonan, and talked with technicians who had worked on Earhart’s Electra.  After a promotion with PAA, he continued to fly as a technical consultant before transferring to the U.S. Manned Spaceflight Program in 1963. During the early space shots he was Pan Am project engineer in communications services at Patrick Air Force Base, and joined the team that put man on the moon. He retired from NASA in 1988.

Earhart fans will recall Paul’s name from Vincent V. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story (Random House), wherein he presented his then-current ideas about the Electra’s radio propagation capabilities and Amelia’s decisions during the final flight. In 2006, Paul’s own book, Amelia Earhart’s Radio, was published by the Paragon Agency, and though it didn’t have commercial success, it is a treasure trove of invaluable information you won’t find anywhere else.

“I know of no person more qualified than Mr. Paul Rafford to present to the American public the most probable cause of Earhart’s failure to find her destination island,” Bill Prymak wrote in 2006. “Mr. Rafford is world recognized for his astute radio propagation analysis and is THE man to contact re: radio problems. We are proud to have him as an AES member and radio consultant.”

Paul Rafford Jr., circa early 1940s, who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, is among the foremost experts on radio transmission capabilities during the late 1930s.

Paul Rafford Jr., circa early 1940s, who worked at Pan American Airways as a flight radio officer from 1940 to 1946, is among the foremost experts on radio transmission capabilities during the late 1930s.

Paul wrote many articles for Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters between 1989 and 2000, and not only about Amelia’s inexplicable radio behavior during the last flight. He also developed compelling theories about radio deceptions and plane switches, some of the most fascinating possibilities ever advanced to explain what could have happened during those final hours of July 2, 1937, before and after Amelia’s last officially recognized message was heard at 8:44 a.m. Howland Island Time.

Paul wrote two pieces with basically the same title, “The Amelia Earhart Radio Enigma” in 1997, and “The Earhart Radio Enigma,” in 2000, as if to repeat and emphasize the major problems and unanswered questions that still stumped him – and continue to baffle the experts. We’ll start today with Paul’s 1997 treatment of the Earhart radio enigma, and in coming weeks will explore a host of his analytic and theoretical essays about our favorite missing American aviatrix. Without futher ado, here is Paul’s essay, edited only for style and consistency, written April 10, 1997, which appeared in the AES Newsletters May 1997 edition.

THE EARHART RADIO ENIGMA”

1) Why did Amelia Earhart have her trailing antenna removed in Miami before starting her second attempt to circle the globe? During the early days of over-ocean flying, airplanes would reel out a long length of wire called a “trailing antenna” for radiotelegraph communication with ships on the international maritime calling and distress frequency, 500 kHz (kilohertz, same as kilocycles). This was in addition to their regular fixed antenna for communicating with land stations.

Legend has it that both Earhart and Noonan’s code speed was very slow, so she removed the equipment required for contacting ships. However, the assumption about Noonan’s radio operating abilities is not supported by former crew mates. On occasion while flying as navigator on Pan Am’s Clippers he would relieve the radio operator for rest periods. However, by eliminating 500 kHz, Earhart also eliminated the possibility that the Itasca’s direction finder could lead her to Howland. She didn’t need to know code in order to transmit on 500 for bearings. Both she and the Itasca had 3105 kHz, and they could have coordinated any bearing procedures by voice.

New evidence indicates the probability that after Earhart arrived at Miami from Burbank during her second attempt to circle the globe, she secretly switched planes. The second plane came from the factory without a trailing antenna. But, in order to explain to curious observers why she arrived with the trailing antenna, but left without one, she had it removed right after she arrived. This would help obscure the fact that she had switched planes. The second plane also came without a direction finding loop. Earhart could dispense with a trailing antenna but not a loop. So, just the day before departure Pan Am installed a new one for her. (Editor’s note: In future posts we will look more closely at Paul’s claim of a plane switch in Miami.)

2) Why did Earhart refuse Pan Am’s offer to track her plane across the Pacific if she would install a Pan Am direction-finding frequency? During Earhart’s eight-day layover at Miami she met with Charlie Winter, Pan Am’s local radio engineer. During their conversation he pointed out that if she would install a Pan Am frequency in place of the vacant 500 kHz channel, our direction finders could track her whereabouts over the Pacific, the same as we did with our Clippers.

Amelia in the cockpit of the Electra 10E, circa 1937.

Amelia in the cockpit of the Electra 10E, circa 1937.  Her inexplicable radio behavior in the final hours of her last flight continues to baffle researchers, and no definitive conclusions have yet been reached about her true intentions.

As Charlie told me later, she immediately rebuffed his suggestion with the comment, “I don’t need that! I’ve got a navigator to tell me where I am.” Charlie was flabbergasted. But the question is, why was Earhart so quick to reject his offer? Didn’t she want her whereabouts to be known?

3) Why, after seven hours of contact with Lae, did Earhart dismiss Harry Balfour’s offer to continue communicating with her until she could contact the Itasca, waiting at Howland Island? Seven hours into the flight Earhart advised Harry Balfour that she was leaving 6210 kHz and would try and contact the Itasca on 3105 kHz. Her signals were still coming in well, so Balfour implored her not to break off contact with him until she had established contact with the ship. This was normal operating procedure back then. But, she switched off anyway, and he never again heard her, nor did she ever again have two-way contact with any station.

4) Why did Earhart never engage Itasca in two-way radio contact? Bill Galten’s logs show that Earhart never directly answered any of his more than 50 calls or ever gave any indication that she was heating the ship except on one occasion. She would suddenly come on the air without a preliminary call-up, deliver a brief message and go off, all in the space of seven or eight seconds.

5) Why did Earhart never stay on the air for more than a few seconds at a time? We can only guess, but it would appear, as in the Pan Am direction-finding offer, that she didn’t want her position known. The bare minimum time for obtaining a bearing with a vintage 1930’s direction finder was about 15 seconds, but it usually took longer.

Radioman 2nd Class Frank Cipriani, manning the Howland direction finder, complained bitterly that Earhart never stayed on the air long enough for him to get a bearing. She also confused the Itasca crew by never advising what frequency she would be listening to or if they should answer with code or voice.

6) Why did Bill Galten believe that Earhart never intended to land on Howland Island? Bill left the Coast Guard and came with Pan Am shortly after the Earhart disappearance. We flew together during World War II. On one occasion while discussing the Earhart mystery he exclaimed to me, “That woman never intended to land on Howland!” When I asked why, he had two explanations. First, her radio operating procedures were nothing like that of a lost pilot desperately trying to make a landfall.

Second, Bill claimed that the condition of the Howland runway was unfit for a safe landing. It was covered with thousands of goony birds that, despite the best efforts of the Itasca’s crew to shoo them away, would not vacate the area.

Many thousands of "Gooney birds" like these pictured on Midway Island posed a real threat to plane landings or takeoffs on Howland, another factor that led many to believe that Amelia Earhart never intended to land there.

Many thousands of gooney birds like these pictured on Midway Island posed a real threat to plane landings or takeoffs on Howland, another factor that led many to believe that Amelia Earhart never intended to land there.

7) Why did Earhart ask for 7500 kHz from the Itasca when 7500 could not be used with airborne direction finders? While Earhart was supposedly approaching Howland, she requested, “Go ahead on 7500 kilocycles.” She had asked for it earlier so she could use it for radio bearings. Although the Itasca’s crew knew that she would not be able to get a bearing, they had no choice but to transmit long Morse code dashes for her. Five minutes later she replied, “We received your signal but unable to get minimum (a bearing).”

Fred Noonan, Pan Am’s ex-chief navigator, would very well know she couldn’t get one on that frequency. Instead of asking for 7500, Earhart should have listened for 500 kHz. The ship was transmitting for her on this frequency almost constantly. Her direction finder had been calibrated to this frequency range before she left Miami. Later, Harry Balfour checked it at Lae with a nearby station operating on 500.

When Earhart declared, “We read your signal but unable get minimum,” it was the only time she admitted hearing the ship. She would also conclude that the ship was hearing her signals because they had turned on 7500 kHz at her request. At this point she should have been ecstatic! Lost and out of communication, she at long last had radio contact. Even though the crew could use only telegraph on 7500, they could at least have sent very slowly and advised her to listen on 3105 for communication and 500 for direction finding. But did Earhart cling to this one chance for survival? No! She went off the air for 40 minutes and when she returned it was only to declare that she was flying up and down a line of position and would switch to 6210 kHz. The Itasca never heard her again.

8) What actually happened during Earhart’s last flight? This is a complex question and we can only propose a scenario based on what facts we know, plus some educated conjectures. War clouds were fast gathering in the mid-1930s. In Europe the Axis powers were getting ready to invade their neighbors and Japan was about to invade China. America was just recovering from the Great Depression and money for defense was scarce. Also, the isolationists were very powerful and opposed any “foreign entanglements.”

To astute observers of international politics, it was obvious that we were rapidly approaching a world war for which we were woefully unprepared. For example, the location of many Pacific islands on maritime charts had not been checked since the early 19th century whaling ships had stumbled across them. Their positions could be no more accurate than the ship’s chronometers that may not have been checked against time standards for weeks or more.

And so it was that the powers-that-be in government came up with a plan. Amelia Earhart was getting ready to circle the globe on a flight that would carry her over the mid-Pacific islands in question. Why not have her disappear during it? The American public would demand that the government find their heroine at any cost. A vast search would ensue. Ostensibly, it would be for humanitarian purposes, but meanwhile our fleet would be quietly updating its century old charts while reconnoitering the area. With war clouds looming, our charts had to be accurate. As an example of the problem, during the search one particular island in the Phoenix group was found 60 miles away from its plotted position.

The centerpiece of the plan would be the action around Howland Island after Earhart supposedly went down. But, after signing off with Harry Balfour, instead of Howland, Earhart would head for the British controlled Gilbert Islands, and land on a predetermined beach. After the Navy finished its survey, the flyers could be rescued. But tragically, rescue never came. Did Earhart overfly the Gilberts and land in the Marshalls?  I leave the answer to other investigators.

The wording of all of Earhart’s transmissions was such that they could have been recorded weeks beforehand for later broadcast by a clandestine radio station somewhere in the vicinity of Howland. Coast Guard logs show that just before Earhart’s flight, the Itasca dropped off men and supplies at Howland and then proceeded to Baker Island, which along with Howland, was part of the inter-island weather gathering network operating on 7500 kHz.

At Baker, the ship dropped off four new colonists and their gear. They would secretly set up a radio station to transmit the Earhart recordings on 3105 kHz.  (Editor’s note: Baker Island is an uninhabited atoll located just north of the equator in the central Pacific about 1,920 miles southwest of Honolulu, and lies almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia.  Its nearest neighbor is Howland Island, 42 miles to the north-northwest; both have been territories of the United States since 1857. Baker Island was the site of a U.S.  LORAN [Long Range Navigation] radio station in operation from September 1944 to July 1946. The station unit number was 91 and the radio call sign was NRN-1.)

Baker Island, 42 miles from Hwhere Paul Rafford believes

Baker Island, 42 miles south-southeast of Howland, where Paul Rafford Jr. suggests four unnamed Coast Guardsmen sent pre-recorded radio messages to Itasca as part of the Earhart radio deception on July 2, 1937.

After word was received that Earhart had left Lae, the plan would go into action. When Earhart was supposedly approaching Howland, the Baker operator would commence sending the recordings at hourly intervals until sunrise. After that they would be sent more frequently, consistent with Earhart’s supposed flight activities when in the vicinity of Howland. The transmitter power was adjustable so the operator could simulate her calls at various distances out from Howland.

The transmissions were kept very brief so Cipriani could never get a bearing. Had he been able to do so, he would have noticed that the signals were coming from the south southeast, instead of west. Although he was unable to get a bearing at the time, days later he heard a strong, nearby station send a long dash on 3105 kHz. This time he got a bearing. It fell on a line of position running north-northwest by south-southeast through Howland. Baker is south-southeast.

For several nights after Earhart’s disappearance, numerous, unidentified signals were heard on her frequencies. Some were obvious hoaxes. However, there is no evidence to indicate that she ever again came on the air “live” after discontinuing contact with Balfour.

9) Why was an official Earhart accident investigation report never issued? Today, any aircraft crash or disappearance would get a far better accident report than Earhart’s did. The only official report we have from the government was that issued by the Navy. But, it is simply a description of the search, and not an accident report.

In a letter to Fred Goerner dated April, 1962, Leo Bellarts, former chief radio operator on the Itasca, commented about the lack of an investigation. “Honestly, I thought there was going to be an investigation of the flight and that is the reason that I have kept certain logs and papers concerning the flight.”

By contrast, the Hawaii Clipper that disappeared between Guam and Manila just a year later under very similar circumstances, was the subject of an intensive investigation. Perhaps the powers-that-be at the time didn’t want the public to know just what happened to Earhart. (End of Paul Rafford’s “Earhart Radio Enigma.”)

Among the most vexing questions about the Earhart flight,  of course, the one whose correct answer  might help unravel the whole impossibly complicated ball of wax, is WHY didn’t Amelia want anyone to get a fix on her position? We can assume that the Japanese were quite interested in her flight, for obvious reasons, and would have been listening to her transmissions from several of their radio stations in the central Pacific area, including Jaluit, where a powerful transmitter was operational. It seems quite clear by now that Amelia was up to something besides trying to locate Howland Island.

I’ve often said that the Earhart “mystery” can never be solved in the air, that the real answers are kept where our government buries its deepest secrets. But we’ve learned plenty since Fred Goerner started banging on doors, and now, for the most part, it’s mainly the many nagging details that continue to evade us. Readers should understand that this editor is not fully endorsing the entire range of Paul Rafford’s ideas, but  presenting them for your consideration.

In coming posts we’ll delve further in Paul theory that Amelia Earhart was engaged in a deliberate, well-planned radio deception during her last flight, as well as several other aspects of the flight that might shed light on the real mystery of the Earhart disappearance – not what happened to her on Saipan, but what was she doing during the final hours of the flight, and most importantly, why did she land at Mili Atoll?

 

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