In July 1968, Fred Goerner appeared before a Republican platform subcommittee, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn, in a heretofore undisclosed Miami location. Through his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility—Truth in Government,” Goerner laid out the facts he had presented in The Search for Amelia Earhart, appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, and did his utmost to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. It remains the closest thing to a fair hearing the truth in the Earhart disappearance has ever received.
Goerner traced the Navy’s history of denying it held classified Earhart files until late 1964, when the State Department’s disclosure of their existence forced the Navy to admit it possessed such information. “What was ultimately shown to us [in 1967] answered none of the major questions and the Navy still maintained publicly that no files existed,” Goerner told the committee. The ruse continued when the Navy, reacting to the popular outcry following publication of Search, claimed it had released all its Earhart files in 1967. “I will not attempt to describe my disgust when I viewed the files,” Goerner said. “Missing was information we had been shown. Included was information we had NOT been shown. But in all cases it added up to nothing.”
Goerner’s presentation, “Crisis In Credibility — Truth In Government” appeared in the November 1998 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Bold emphasis mine throughout; capitalization emphasis is Goerner’s. This is the first of two parts.
Presentation: “Crisis In Credibility — Truth In Government”
By Mr, Frederick Goerner, San Francisco, California
1:50 P.M. EDST, Monday, July 29, 1968
National State and Local Relations Subcommittee of the Republican
Platform Committee, Miami, Florida
Distinguished Members of the Committee:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I’m going to tell you a story in the next few minutes that is representative of one of the greatest dangers America faces today. It represents a behavior, largely on the part of the executive branch of our government, which in recent years has reached such destructive proportions — it threatens to destroy the confidence of the American People in the integrity of our leaders, the wisdom of our goals, and the strength of our principles.
It is a behavior which engenders disenchantment, distrust and disgust. It frustrates our journalists and turns trusting, loyal citizens into disillusioned skeptics.
This behavior is known by many names, but perhaps it is most familiar as the CREDIBILITY GAP . . . the techniques by which news is managed, information is hidden and truth is perverted to disguise unsavory privilege and vested interest.
Many of my fellow journalists refer to this story as, “The classic example.”
You be the judge.
My involvement began in 1960 with my work as a newsman-broadcaster at KCBS Radio in San Francisco, but the event itself dates back more than thirty-one years.
On July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart, America’s most famous woman flyer, together with her navigator, Captain Frederick Noonan, disappeared in their specially equipped twin-engine Lockheed Electra airliner during a flight from Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. In the month that followed, the U.S. Navy spent more than a million dollars on a search but to no apparent avail. Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan were listed as “lost at sea.”
There were rumors though that the flyers might have been captured by the Japanese, who had closed their mandated Pacific islands to outside inspection and who reportedly, were busy at work preparing those islands for war. There were rumors, too, strongly denied by the U.S. Navy, that Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan had been on some sort of mission at the time of their disappearance.
During World War II, rumors persisted that evidence concerning Earhart and Noonan had been found by U.S. Military forces during the invasions of the Marshall Islands and later the Marianas. Again denials by the U.S. Navy, and in 1946, after the end of World War II, U.S Navy spokesman said, “There is no classified information in regard to Miss Earhart and Captain Noonan and as far as the Navy is concerned, they are strictly a civilian affair.“
So, seemingly, ended the matter. Then, in 1960, fourteen years later, a native woman from the island of Saipan in the Marianas testified this country for the first time that an American man and woman, supposedly flyers, had been held by the Japanese on Saipan during 1937.
I was drawn into an investigation which has spanned more than eight years and occupied the time and talents of many fellow-workers and friends at KCBS Radio, The Scripps League of Newspapers, The Associated Press, and now the United States Congress. From 1960 to 1964, four expeditions were made to the Mariana Islands and one to the Marshalls. More than three-thousand natives of the islands were questioned along with hundreds of former servicemen here in the United States. Testimony began to pile up. An American man and woman had crash-landed an airplane in the Marshall Islands in 1937, and had been taken by the Japanese to Saipan. The same information, according to a number of former U.S. servicemen, had been collected in 1944 and was well known to U.S. Intelligence. Two former U.S. Marines [Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, see Dec. 26, 2017 post, “KCBS 1966 release a rare treasure in Earhart saga.”] even testified they had assisted in the recovery of the remains of Earhart and Noonan from a shallow grave on Saipan in July of 1944.
Still, in 1964, the U,S. Navy Department repeatedly denied it possessed any classified files on the matter. It was not until the U.S. State Department revealed late in 1964 the existence of restricted Navy files that an admission was privately made by the U.S. Navy, but what was ultimately shown to us answered none of the major questions and the Navy still maintained publicly that no files existed.
In 1966, with the hope an aroused public would help produce justice, I wrote the book titled THE SEARCH FOR AMELIA EARHART, detailing the then six years of investigation. Hundreds of interested Americans did write their congressmen and senators, but it was not until June of 1967 that the U,S, Navy Department notified the nation’s press that after thirty years it was at last releasing the classified files on Amelia Earhart,
“The files, however,” said another Navy spokesman, “only show that Earhart and Noonan were lost at sea and there was no involvement with the U.S. Navy.”
I will not attempt to describe my disgust when I viewed the files. Missing was information we [he and Ross Game] had been shown. Included was material we had NOT been shown. But in all cases it added up to nothing.
Near the top of the file, however, was a U.S. Navy internal memorandum which stated, “The Government Information Subcommittee of the House of Representatives is now convinced that Mr, Goerner is guilty of yellow journalism for alleging the Navy Department has withheld information on the Earhart matter.” (End of Part I.)