If ever a story published on this blog needed an update, it’s my March 15 post, “Marshall seeking final proof on “Earhart’s Packard.” I really stepped in this one, and so will now attempt to extricate myself from this muck, not only to debunk yet another false Earhart claim, but also to warn others who might be adversely affected in the future.
I wasn’t initially skeptical about Ross Marshall’s assertion that his 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe once belonged to Amelia Earhart. Some readers even could have understood my post as an flat-out, unadulterated promo supporting his boast about his car’s unique status as an Earhart heirloom, or even that Marshall and I are friends, which is absolutely not the case. “I’ve agreed to further air Marshall’s story,” I wrote in my March 15 post, “in the hope that he can somehow find the final proof the Packard was indeed Amelia’s, and thus increase its value and prestige,” which was Marshall’s stated goal from the jump.
Actually the car wasn’t my main concern. Marshall had contacted Marie Castro and expressed interest in helping her with the Earhart Memorial Monument project on Saipan, and my first instinct was to support her and the AEMMI. “As you can see,” I wrote in conclusion — and here was my extremely stupid misstatement, which certainly could have been taken as an endorsement: “I have a personal interest in Mr. Marshall’s final success in nailing down his Packard as Earhart’s, about which no one should have any doubt to begin with. Should that happen, we have his pledge that he would build the AEMMI monument ‘personally.’ ” (Italics added.)
Other than his potential contribution to the Saipan Earhart Monument, I didn’t care whether Marshall sold his car at any price. But more importantly, I’ve never intentionally perpetrated any false claims about Amelia Earhart or anyone else. Regrettably, I briefly suspended this ethical imperative in my haste to assist Marie Castro and her worthy cause. This work has never been about money for me; my integrity and reputation are not for sale, and I’ve never knowingly written or uttered a lie in my Earhart work since my introduction to the story in 1988.
I soon experienced the truth of the old adage, “No good deed goes unpunished,” and not for the first time. Longtime reader, pilot and friend William Trail quickly disabused me of any illusions I had about Marshall’s so-called “AE Packard.”
“I’ve been chewing away on this and I’m highly skeptical of this whole Packard thing,” Trail wrote in a March 16 email and comment to this blog. “Something’s just not right.” Trail continued:
Ross Marshall alleges that the president of the Packard Motor Company (PMC) gifted AE a 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe in February 1935. Although not named by Marshall, the president of PMC at the time was James Alvan Macauley. Macauley was president from 1916 to 1939. At the time of the alleged gifting, AE and GP were residing in Rye, N.Y. Therefore, upon transfer to AE the vehicle would be registered to her in New York. I would think that a check of the motor vehicle records for 1935 archived by the Commonwealth of New York Department of Motor Vehicles would be worth doing.
On 28 July 1935, AE and GP purchased a home and moved to 10042 Valley Spring Lane in North Hollywood, Calif. If they possessed a 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe it stands to reason that the vehicle would then be re-registered in California. A check with the California DMV for archived vehicle registrations is worth looking into as well.
In the back of his book, Legerdemain [Saga Books, 2007], David K. Bowman provides a detailed, almost day-by-day account of AE’s life. There is nothing for February 1935 about AE being gifted a Packard automobile, or having a photo op with the president of Packard — both fairly significant events if they actually happened. I don’t see something that newsworthy falling through the cracks and being “lost to history.” It would be the same if the Ford Motor Company had gifted a 1968 Mustang GT to Steve McQueen, and it wasn’t publicized. No way!
Then, there is America’s Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Robert Signom III is Curator. . . . I would think that if Packard gifted AE a Super 8 Coupe the curator of America’s Packard Museum would surly know about it. I would also think that Mr. Marshall would have contacted him by now. The museum was easy enough to find. It didn’t require Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. I did it this morning.
I wrote to Mr. Signom at Dayton’s American Packard Museum, which is now “temporarily closed,“ and got no reply. Another museum, the National Packard Museum, referred me to an expert in New York, but the email address they provided rejected my message and he hasn’t replied to the snail mail I sent.
I joined a Packard information forum on March 17. My query has received 441 views to date, ostensibly from Packard experts and enthusiasts, and not a shred of evidence has been forthcoming to support either Earhart’s connection to the 1935 Packard or that the two fires described by Marshall ever occurred. I did learn that Marshall himself is associated with at least one well-known contributor to this Packard Information site, who informed him about my query to the forum. This may be why I’ve heard nothing of substance from this bunch, as Marshall’s Packard has apparently been accepted on the site as once belonging to Earhart, basically on Marshall’s say-so. Sometimes no reply is itself an answer.
Considering the dystopian nightmares the California and New York state governments have become, I don’t want to get involved with their DMVs and don’t believe it’s necessary. I’m certain I’d find nothing if I ever gained access to reliable records, and the fact that Marshall has not mentioned them as two agencies that would support his story tells us plenty about his credibility, or lack of same.
Marshall’s statement that “we can confirm . . . AE and The President of Packard were pictured together is Manhattan New York in Feb 1935, announcing the new Packard range of Automobiles for 1935” is his only claim that can verified, as the above photo testifies, although the president of Packard is not named in the caption. Marshall has nothing more than this, an accidental confluence between the Packard company and Amelia Earhart, yet he’s bent on transforming his 1935 Packard into a cash cow and a fat payday through sheer effrontery and chutzpah, more commonly known as BS.
“Marshall’s story is a load of bull,” William Trail wrote in a March 19 email. “AE’s life has been so meticulously researched, minutely scrutinized, and painstakingly documented, that if James Alvan Macauley, President of Packard Motor Cars had authorized a specially built automobile to be gifted to her there is no question in my mind that we’d know about it. Packard aficionados would know about it. It would be well documented.”
Among the experts I’ve contacted in search of their informed opinions is one Arthur Einstein, author of Ask the Man Who Owns One”: An Illustrated History of Packard Advertising (McFarland; 1st edition September 2, 2010). Most of the Packard historians I’ve contacted have not seen fit to answer my queries, but Trail bought the Kindle edition of Ask the Man on March 21, and spent the afternoon “pouring through the relevant chapters covering the 1920s up to the 1950s,” he said. “I also carefully reviewed the Chapter Notes, Bibliography, and Index. Bottom line: No mention of Amelia Earhart whatsoever.”
Two catastrophic, record-destroying fires?
My BS alarm was not functioning the day I read Marshall’s first email to me, as it should have loudly screamed upon reading his two incredible whoppers below. Subsequent research showed that no evidence whatever exists for these two statements Marshall presented to explain the lack of documentation linking Earhart and the Packard:
The sad part about the critical documented history of our Packard was No. 1, The Department of Roads in Dallas had a fire in the early ’50’s which destroyed all the files and records of ownership of The City beyond the early forties. The late ’40s title we hold shows the last time our car was registered was 1948, the original license plates are still on our car to this day!
Then, No. 2, we have the history of The Packard Motor Company with a similar problem. It appears when Packard was amalgamating with Studebaker in the late 60’s the two opposing Sales Directors had such a dislike for each other, the Packard man destroyed by fire, all the build records and buyers of Packard going back more than 50 years of corporate history!
As stated above, I find no evidence supporting these alleged fires. Was Marshall repeating stories told to him by the Dallas judge, who he does not identify, or did he invent these two ridiculous yarns on his own? I don’t know, and it makes little difference. These stories are phony as a three-dollar bill, I should have called him out on them, and the more I looked at this, the more embarrassing it became. Not only that, the Dallas judge segment of Marshall’s story is irrelevant, as William Trail pointed out in a March 19 email:
Marshall’s story about documentation obtained from the Texas judge is inconsistent. The excuse that there was a fire at that destroyed records in Dallas has no bearing. It is a misdirection, a dodge. Official Texas motor vehicle documentation would not establish AE’s ownership of the vehicle. Archived New York and California DMV records would be the logical place to look. Marshall hasn’t done that because he knows his claim is false. Likewise, Marshall’s claim that the Packard records that would prove his claim were deliberately burned is also a misdirection.
Longtime Packard expert Dwight Heinmuller, of Sparks, Md., a Packard historian and co-author of Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company (Automobile Quarterly, 1978), joined Trail in rejecting Marshall’s claims that fires have destroyed all evidence that his car once belonged to Earhart.
“The owners claim that Studebaker-Packard was formed in the 1960s and that two employees hated each other and destroyed files, etc.,” Heinmuller wrote in a March 20 email:
All of that is nonsense. S-P was formed in October 1954. There were no clashes between employees at that level that would have resulted in files being destroyed! Records were NOT destroyed. Further, only the dealer would have records as to whom cars were sold except for factory delivered cars. Those records may exist but their whereabouts is unknown.
It appears to me that there is no way to confirm that AE owned this Packard unless some document(s) is produced for verification. So, anyone that says this was AE’s Packard cannot prove it, so why perpetuate the rumor? I remember seeing this and thought at the time that these people’s claims are questionable.”
I’ve contacted more than a handful of authors and other experts in seeking some dispositive statements that might put this issue to rest. Thus far, only Heinmuller has been civil enough to respond. Some of these automotive history types are rude elitists who refuse to soil themselves by mixing with a “conspiracy theorist,” while others may consider the answer to the question about Earhart’s alleged ownership so obvious that it requires no confirmation — maybe both apply! For whatever reasons, that aspect of the basic research hasn’t been easy, but in the end the truth requires no snooty verification. Neither William Trail nor I have found a single reference that places a 1935 Packard in Amelia Earhart’s name, or any Packard of any year, for that matter. This itself is definitive.
On March 19, Trail found more helpful data on the Packard Information site whose forum I discussed above. Buried among numerous photos of infinite Packard-repair minutiae is the brass date plate from Ross Marshall’s 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe. The photo quality isn’t good, but the vehicle number is 858 230, and it was delivered by Packard to Dallas, Texas on Feb. 2, 1935.
“If this automobile was built especially for AE, why would Packard ship it to Dallas?” Trail asked. “Why wouldn’t the data plate indicate that this vehicle was built especially for AE as Marshall claims it was?”
Unmentioned until now, but far from the least of countless discrepancies is Marshall’s claim that “Our Packard has her ‘AE’ initials still permanently displayed today,” yet he’s offered no photo to support that contention. Moreover, even if the “AE” were somewhere on the car, anyone could have put it there, least of all Earhart herself, who was not the type to do such a thing. An entirely accurate description of this entire tawdry matter isn’t appropriate for a family blog like this, but Marshall’s contentions add up to a huge, steaming pile of you know what.
Finally, as a condition of my writing and publishing Marshall’s story, and not contingent on selling his car or results of any kind, he pledged to make a donation to the AEMMI when the March 15 story went up on this blog. In a March 18 email to Marie Castro, Marshall told her that it is “impossible to do business overseas these days when you are attempting to do a cash transfer.” He then promised to send her a check “via registered mail in a few days.” Marie, ever hopeful, is still waiting.
Clearly, Marshall thinks that Marie and I are morons, and he was right about me, at least briefly. Whether he is a con man or simply a naive victim himself — can we even consider the latter a possibility? — is irrelevant in the end. He’s abused Marie Castro’s goodwill and mine as well — not to mention our readers’ time and attention. As I told Marie as this sordid incident was playing itself out, “This Ross Marshall is some piece of work.”
Saipan’s Marie Castro is well known to readers of this blog, and I won’t repeat the myriad details of the many stories I’ve posted about this brave woman. Though she was only 4 years old in 1937 when Amelia Earhart came ashore at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor with Fred Noonan as captives of the Japanese military, Marie later came to know and interview several eyewitnesses to the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan.
On Nov. 16, Marie, now 87, appeared on “1001 Heroes, Legends, Histories and Mysteries” podcast with Jon Hagadorn. To listen please click here and scroll down to “The Shocking Truth: Marie Castro Recalls Stories of Amelia Earhart’s 1937 Captivity on Saipan.”
“I have been receiving good responses from people who heard the interview about Amelia Earhart,” Marie wrote in a Nov. 17 email. “Thank you kindly for referring me to Jon so we could reach more people in learning what really happened to the two fliers. I tried my best to answer Jon’s questions during the interview although I missed two or three minor details. I am satisfied for bringing out the real truth of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s presence on Saipan in 1937.”
In September 2021, Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. (AEMMI), the group Marie founded on Saipan, will mark its fourth anniversary, but despite its best efforts to educate Saipan’s limited populace, scant progress has been made toward erecting a monument to the famed aviatrix and her navigator who became perhaps the first casualties of World War II during their captivity on Saipan in 1937.
Barely a dent has been made in the estimated $200,000 price tag for the monument, and local officials have yet to designate a small plot of land for the monument’s location. The resistance on Saipan to the monument is overwhelming, and I’ve written about this insidious problem at length on this blog and in the Marianas Variety (Micronesia’s Leading Newspaper Since 1972).
A bit closer on the horizon, in February 2021, another opportunity for Marie and the AEMMI to bring their Earhart Memorial Monument proposal to public attention looms. The 5th Marianas History Conference, co-organized by the University of Guam, Northern Marianas College, Northern Marianas Humanities Council, Humanities Guåhan, Guampedia, and Guam Preservation Trust, will be held virtually from Feb. 19-26, 2021 and will feature on-site venues in the CNMI and Guam for select, conference-related events and presentations. Here’s more about this event, straight from their official online promotion (boldface emphasis theirs):
The 5th Marianas History Conference invites scholars, students, and individuals with oral history knowledge of events and people in the Marianas to submit a brief abstract of a paper or presentation that contributes to the many stories that define the history and identity of one archipelago.
The conference theme, One Archipelago, Many Stories: Navigating 500 Years of Cross-Cultural Contact, calls for participants to examine aspects related to history, cultural heritage, language, political status, demographic change, and the overall process of adaptation of the Mariana Islands and her people following Western contact.
In 1521, half a millennium ago, the people of the Mariana Islands had the first known encounter with people from the other side of the world, through the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan. Those first, complex interactions triggered a number of consequences for our islands: being placed in world maps, the visits in succeeding years by other explorers, and eventually an intense process of colonization that in some respects continues to this day in Guam and in other parts of the Pacific.
I may be biased, but what could be more fitting for this Marianas “History Conference” than to designate the heretofore unacknowledged presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan during the years leading up to World War II as the No. 1 item for discussion? More than likely, however, the eight decades of corrupt politics surrounding the Earhart sacred cow will militate heavily against any meaningful mention of the Earhart case at this “virtual” event, regardless of anything Marie and the AEMMI do to create interest. I hope I’m wrong, but so far I’m batting 1.000 in predicting developments — or lack of same — on Saipan.
“This is the first time also I’ve learned about this event,” the ever-optimistic Marie wrote in a Nov. 23 email. “I told Frances [Mary Sablan, AEMMI vice president] that we need to take any occasion to expose the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument project. The committee is enthusiastic about it. This strategy serves in educating the whole island about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.”
With that in mind, Marie has sent the required 200-word abstract on behalf of the AEMMI to the board and staff of the Northern Marianas Humanities Council for their consideration. I won’t be holding my breath, but as always, will be hoping and praying for a merciful break in the constant flood of irrational resistance to the long-overdue establishment of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan.
To contribute to the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan (see March 16, 2018 story), please make your tax-deductible check payable to: Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc., and send to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950. The monument’s success is 100 percent dependent on private donations, and everyone who gives will receive a letter of appreciation from the Earhart Memorial Committee.
It’s late July again, when thousands of the uninformed flock to Atchison, Kansas for the annual Amelia Earhart Festival, where the “Great Aviation Mystery” is renewed and celebrated. The only questions the sheeple ask are whether Amelia’s Electra 10E crashed and sank off Howland Island or landed on Nikumaroro, where she starved to death, along with navigator Fred Noonan, on an atoll teeming with natural food and water sources.
I sometimes imagine that some of the benighted at these Atchison shindigs actually hope that, just maybe, she’s still flying around out there in the timeless ether, searching endlessly for a way back to 1937 America — an eternal, romantic enigma without solution. That may be an exaggeration, but it’s no stretch to say that wherever PC and groupthink predominate, as in Atchison, the hated truth is assiduously avoided, and can be found only in the darkest corners, where vile conspiracy theorists speak in hushed tones about the despised “Japanese Capture Theory” that so intimidates all but the boldest Earhart truth seekers.
Once again we’ve reached another Earhart birthday, this one Amelia’s 122nd. It’s hard to say how long America’s First Lady of Flight might have lived had her remarkable life not been so cruelly stolen from her by a wretched combination of circumstances that have yet to be fully understood, but I can’t imagine Amelia would still be with us at 122, though she would have given it her best shot, you can be sure.
Amelia came from hardy genes indeed, if her mother and sister were any indications. Grace Muriel Earhart Morrissey, of West Medford, Massachusetts, two-and-a-half-years younger than Amelia, died in her sleep on March 2, 1998 at the age of 98. Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia’s mother, was born in 1869 and died in 1962 at 93.
As is usually the case when Amelia’s birthday rolls around, the only Earhart-related news in America is about plans for more TV productions, more deceitful documentaries and specials by the true conspiracy theorists, who have only one goal in mind, besides ratings and dollars, of course, and that is to keep the same kind of gullible people who yearly flock to Atchison clueless about the truth. I will spare you the boring and meaningless details, which will be known and forgotten soon enough.
Amelia Mary Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897 to Amy Otis and Edwin Stanton Earhart. Edwin, an itinerant lawyer and faithful husband, was also “a drunkard,” according to biographer Mary Lovell (The Sound of Wings, 1989), but Amelia’s childhood was nonetheless nearly idyllic.
Alfred Otis, Amy’s father, was a wealthy judge, and it was hard on the banks of the Missouri River in the home of Judge Otis and her grandmother, Amelia Josephine Harres, that Amelia came into the world.
Growing up in nearby Kansas City, Kansas, Amelia’s adventurous persona manifested early. Amelia (“Meelie”), and Muriel, or “Pidge” were close, “lived in reasonable comfort, unaware of any financial constraints” and were secure and happy despite occasional problems resulting from their father’s uneven professional life.
As we see in the early pages of another fine biography, Amelia, My Courageous Sister (1987), by Muriel Earhart Morrissey and Carol L. Osborne, Amelia was a consummate tomboy. At 7 she rode an elephant at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and was fascinated by the small cars that sped around an aerial track, though her mother said it was too dangerous for little girls to ride them. Soon after the family returned home, Amelia enlisted her uncle Carl Otis to help her, Muriel and the boy next door build a makeshift roller coaster in their back yard, with its starting point at the top of the tool shed, eight-feet high.
When all the sawing and nailing of boards and tracks was complete, Amelia stuffed herself into a wooden crate for the first ride. “As it careened down the track,” Muriel recalled, “we heard the sound of splintering wood. The car and Amelia departed the track when the car hit the trestle. Both tumbled onto the ground. Amelia jumped up, her eyes alight, ignoring a torn dress and bruised lip. ‘Oh, Pidge’ she exclaimed, ‘it’s just like flying!’ ”
Amelia wasn’t moved when she saw her first airplane at the 1907 Iowa State Fair, in Des Moines, recalling it as “a thing of rusty wire and wood and looked not at all interesting.” At 9, Edwin presented her with a .22 rifle “so she could clear the barn of rats,” much to the consternation of her well-to-do grandparents. “Don’t worry, Mother Otis,” Edwin told her grandmother. “This is really a very small rifle.” Describing their beloved father many years later, Muriel called him “loving, generous, impractical.”
For more on Amelia’s happy youth and the events that to her fateful meeting with Neta Snook, her first flight instructor, please see Chapter I, “Birth of a Legend,” pages 5-19 in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Back to the present, and a final observation. I find it greatly ironic that for the past two years the only significant news in the Earhart case has come from Saipan, where Amelia and Fred Noonan suffered and died so ignominiously. Here, as well, is our last living link to Amelia, 86-year-old Marie S. Castro, president of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Committee, who daily wages a losing battle in her campaign to erect a memorial monument to the doomed fliers. If not for this blog and the two Saipan newspapers, not a soul in the United States would know about Marie and her quest to properly honor and commemorate the hapless duo at the site of their murders. For this sorry state of affairs we can thank our corrupt media, of course, which continues to dutifully cover up the truth in the Earhart saga, like the mindless, heartless little soldiers they are.
The uninformed, incurious and ultra-propagandized Saipan populace is either strongly against the Earhart Memorial Monument (see top right of this page for the architect’s model) or hopelessly indifferent. The former faction includes most of Saipan’s politicians, who can also be relied upon to bend to the popular wind, currently blowing stiffly in the wrong direction. Marie often finds herself surrounded by smiling faces who assure her of their support, but those who sincerely care are far too few, and as things look now and for the foreseeable future, it will require divine intervention before we ever see the Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, and will gladly admit it if the sentiment on Saipan ever turns in Amelia’s favor.
I’ve written plenty about Marie Castro’s work and will continue to do so. Although the Marianas Variety and Saipan Tribune have supported the AEMMI movement to varying degrees, fundraising from the United States has been very disappointing, and from Saipan it’s been far worse. Please see the Media Page of this blog for links to the newspaper stories; and for a complete list of all the posts I’ve done here since the institution of the AEMMI, please click here.
In any event, Happy Birthday, Amelia!
Another anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s last flight is upon us, this one the 82nd, and once again we have nothing but lies and silence from our media.
Instead of absolutely nothing, I awoke to an email from a faithful reader informing me of the latest propaganda broadside from our reliably dishonest establishment, this one from National Geographic. Predictably titled, “Missing: The Unsolved Mystery of Amelia Earhart’s last flight,” it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect: more absurd genuflecting to TIGHAR’s falsehoods and delusions. Here are the two sentences that National Geographic spared for the truth:
Some believe that Earhart and Noonan, flew north, toward the Marshall Islands, where they crashed and were captured by Japan, who controlled that area. Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen Earhart in a prison camp on Saipan, but physical evidence supporting their testimony is scarce.
Prison camp? Where did this never-before-heard red herring come from, if not from the mendacious mind of a National Geographic writer or editor? They also made sure to include another loser, the infamous, thoroughly discredited ONI photo from the July 2017 History Channel disinformation operation, apparently to ensure that their clueless readers remain as ignorant and misinformed as they did before they began reading the article. It’s pathetic and worse than nothing. Better silence and dead air than more of the same old lies after 82 years.
Only on Saipan and in the Marianas Variety can we find any semblance of truth and hope in the Earhart case. On July 1, the local newspaper published “Committee to commemorate anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance” by reporter Junhan B. Todiño, who has consistently supported the good cause. Todiño’s story begins:
THE Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Committee will meet on Tuesday to commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the famous aviator’s disappearance while attempting to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe.
Committee president Marie S. C. Castro said members and friends of the memorial monument committee will meet at Fiesta Resort & Spa.
She said they are hoping that their friends on the U.S. mainland could join their meeting “at least in spirit as we honor the memory of the two great aviators,” referring to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan.
Mike Campbell, author of “Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last,” told Castro in an email: “I truly believe Amelia and Fred know and appreciate the love and respect you’ve given them throughout your life and especially in these past few years.”
He added, “Whether or not we succeed in our goal of erecting a memorial monument to Amelia and Fred on Saipan — and if we are not, it won’t be because you have not done everything in your power.”
To read the rest of the story, please click here.
Of course the comments at the bottom of the story, as always, reflect the “militantly ignorant” status of most of the benighted population of Saipan. “Ambrose Bennett came to me before we all departed and encouraged me not to by bothered by the negative comments,” Marie wrote in a July 1 email.
On July 2, Marie told me, “Mike, I plan to dedicate the month of July to put piece by piece of the AE story if possible two or three times a week what happened here on Saipan in 1937. This is one way of educating the locals.”
Hope springs eternal, even in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
Today we present the conclusion of the three-part presentation of Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy. Marie conceived of this project back in early January, “mostly for the locals to educate and induce them to read” the truth about Earhart’s sad demise on Saipan by presenting them a succinct compilation of the major witnesses — both local and American — that have come forward since 1937.
The intention, of course, is to somehow begin to move a brainwashed, intransigent populace that remains firmly entrenched against the idea of building the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan. Here’s the conclusion of Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy:
In 1962 Joaquina M. Cabrera was interviewed by Goerner. “Mrs. Joaquina M. Cabrera brought us closer to the woman held at the Kobayashi Royokan [Hotel] than any other witness” Goerner wrote.
At the Cabrera home in Chalan Kanoa, Goerner and several others including Fathers Arnold Bendowske and Sylvan Conover, and Ross Game, editor of the Napa (California) Register and longtime Goerner confidant “crowded into the front room . . . and listened to her halting recital.” Joaquina described her job as that of a laundress for the Japanese guests and prisoners kept there:
One day when I came to work, they were there . . . a white lady and man. The police never left them. The lady wore a man’s clothes when she first came. I was given her clothes to clean. I remember pants and a jacket. It was leather or heavy cloth, so I did not wash it. I rubbed it clean. The man I saw only once. I did not wash his clothes. His head was hurt and covered with a bandage, and he sometimes needed help to move. The police took him to another place and he did not come back. The lady was thin and very tired.
Every day more Japanese came to talk with her. She never smiled to them but did to me. She did not speak our language, but I know she thanked me. She was a sweet, gentle lady. I think the police sometimes hurt her. She had bruises and one time her arm was hurt. . . . Then, one day . . . police said she was dead of disease. [DYSENTERY most likely.]
Mrs. Amparo Deleon Guerrero Aldan was my classmate in the third grade in Japanese school before World War II. Her brother, Francisco Deleon Guerrero and my cousin’s husband Joaquin Seman came to my house one evening to visit in 1945. The conversation was all about Amelia Earhart. I heard them describing what Amelia wore when they saw her. In our culture, a woman should wear a dress not a man’s outfit.
“Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan crash landed in the Garapan harbor near the Tanapag Naval Base on Saipan in 1937,” Fred Goerner wrote in his summary of the accounts he gathered from the first group of Saipan witnesses in The Search for Amelia Earhart. “A Japanese naval launch picked up the two fliers and brought them to shore. They were taken to the military headquarters, questioned and separated. Noonan was forced into an automobile by his captors and was never seen again. Amelia was moved to a small building at the military barracks compound.”
I have a photo of Mr. Jose Tomokane. He told his wife one day the reason for coming home late. He attended the cremation of the American woman pilot.
Mrs. Tomokane and Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes were neighbors during the Japanese time. They often visited with one another. Dolores, daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, heard their conversation about the cremation of an American woman pilot. These two wives were the only individuals who knew secretly about the cremation of Amelia through Mr. Tomokane.
Had it not been for the daughter of Mrs. Rufina C. Reyes, who heard the conversation of the two wives, we would have never known about Mr. Tomokane’s interesting day. David M. Sablan has also said that he heard about Amelia being cremated according to Mr. Tomokane.
The American GI Witnesses on Saipan
The Battle of Saipan, fought from June 15 to July 9, 1944, was the most important battle of the Pacific War to date. The U.S. 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions, and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Infantry Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.
The loss of Saipan, with the death of at least 29,000 Japanese troops and heavy civilian casualties, precipitated the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and left the Japanese mainland within the range of Allied B-29 bombers. Saipan would become the launching point for retaking other islands in the Mariana chain, and the eventual invasion of the Philippines, in October 1944.
The victory at Saipan was also important for quite another reason, one you will not see in any of the official histories. At an unknown date soon after coming ashore on D-Day, June 15, American forces discovered Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E, NR 16020, in a Japanese hangar at Aslito Field, the Japanese airstrip on Saipan.
Thomas E. Devine, author of the 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, was a sergeant in the Army’s 244th Postal Unit, and came ashore at Saipan on July 6, just a few days before the island was declared secure. Devine was ordered to drive his commanding officer, Lieutenant Fritz Liebig, to Aslito Field, and there he was soon informed that Amelia Earhart’s airplane had been discovered, relatively intact. Devine later claimed he saw the Electra three times soon thereafter – in flight, on the ground when he inspected it at the off-limits airfield, and later that night in flames.
During that period, Marine Private Robert E. Wallack found Amelia’s briefcase in a blown safe in a Japanese administration building on Saipan. “We entered what may have been a Japanese government building, picking up souvenirs strewn about,” Wallack wrote in a notarized statement. “Under the rubble was a locked safe. One of our group was a demolition man who promptly applied some gel to blow it open. We thought at the time, that we would all become Japanese millionaires. After the smoke cleared I grabbed a brown leather attaché case with a large handle and flip lock. The contents were official-looking papers, all concerning Amelia Earhart: maps, permits and reports apparently pertaining to her around-the world flight.
“I wanted to retain this as a souvenir,” Wallack continued, “but my Marine buddies insisted that it may be important and should be turned in. I went down to the beach where I encountered a naval officer and told of my discovery. He gave me a receipt for the material, and stated that it would be returned to me if it were not important. I have never seen the material since.”
Other soldiers saw or knew of the Electra’s discovery, including Earskin J. Nabers, of Baldwyn, Mississippi, a 20-year old private who worked in the secret radio message section of the 8th Marine Regiment’s H&S Communication Platoon. On or about July 6, Nabers received and decoded three messages about the Electra – one announcing its discovery, one stating that the plane would be flown, and the final transmission announcing plans to destroy the plane that night.
Nabers was present when the aluminum plane was torched and burned beyond recognition, as was Sergeant Thomas E. Devine, among others who ignored warnings to stay away from the airfield, which had been declared off-limits.
In addition to the many soldiers, Marines and Navy men who saw or knew of the presence and destruction of Amelia Earhart’s Electra on Saipan, three U.S. flag officers later shared their knowledge of the truth with Fred Goerner, acting against policy prohibiting the release of top-secret information, likely in order to encourage the long-suffering Goerner in his quest for the truth.
In late March 1965, a week before his meeting with General Wallace M. Greene Jr. at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, former Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz called Goerner in San Francisco. “Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese,” Goerner said Nimitz told him.
The admiral’s revelation appeared to be a monumental breakthrough for the determined newsman, and is known even to many casual observers of the Earhart matter. “After five years of effort, the former commander U.S. Naval Forces in the Pacific was telling me it had not been wasted,” Goerner wrote.
In November 1966, several months after The Search for Amelia Earhart was released, retired General Graves B. Erskine, who as a Marine brigadier general was the deputy commander of the V Amphibious Corps during the Saipan invasion, accepted Goerner’s invitation to visit the radio studios of KCBS in San Francisco for an interview. While waiting to go on the air with Goerner, Erskine told Jules Dundes, CBS West Coast vice president, and Dave McElhatton, a KCBS newsman, “It was established that Earhart was on Saipan. You’ll have to dig the rest out for yourselves.”
General Alexander A. Vandegrift, the eighteenth commandant of the Marine Corps, privately admitted the truth to Goerner in a handwritten, August 1971 letter.
“General Tommy Watson, who commanded the 2nd Marine Division during the assault on Saipan and stayed on that island after the fall of Okinawa, on one of my seven visits of inspection of his division told me that it had been substantiated that Miss Earhart met her death on Saipan,” the handwritten letter states.
“That is the total knowledge that I have of this incident. In writing to you, I did not realize that you wanted to quote my remarks about Miss Earhart and I would rather that you would not.”
Vandegrift’s claimed source for his information, former Lieutenant General Thomas E. Watson, died in 1966 – very possibly the reason Vandegrift shared the truth with Goerner in that way. Legally speaking, Vandegrift’s letter is hearsay, and he probably assumed it would afford him a level of protection against any ramifications he might face for breaking his silence with Goerner.
In assessing Vandegrift’s credibility, a sterling career culminating in his selection as the Marine Corps’ first four-star general is impressive enough. But Vandegrift also received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his actions at Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu in the Solomon Islands in 1942. In those days, receiving his country’s highest award for valor conferred upon its bearer the gravest moral responsibilities, and it’s safe to presume that the word of a Medal of Honor awardee, especially a former commander of the world’s greatest fighting force, was as good as gold. Moreover, Vandegrift had nothing tangible to gain from telling Goerner that Earhart had died on Saipan, and had no obvious reason to do so.
How Did Amelia Die?
It was common for locals to conclude that the Japanese military treated certain offenses with severe punishment, including execution by shooting or beheading. This included the early, though inaccurate account of Josephine Blanco about Amelia Earhart being shot soon after her arrival at Saipan. In 1983 Nieves Cabrera Blas told American author T.C. “Buddy” Brennan that she saw Amelia shot by a Japanese soldier in 1944, shortly before the American invasion.
However, the preponderance of Saipan witness accounts suggest that Amelia was not executed. According to Matilde F. Arriola and Joaquina Cabrera’s accounts, Amelia died from dysentery. Matilde noticed that one day the lady used the toilet many times that same day and that was the last time she saw her. The next day the caretaker came to ask for a wreath because the lady had died.
Mr. Jose Tomokane was Japanese himself, but we don’t know how loyal he was to his Emperor. I went to his house to talk to anyone in the family a few months after I came back from the States. In December I learned that the only child living today is the youngest son, Mitch Tomokane, and he is suffering from a bad heart problem.
My first question to Mitch, was, do you know how your father came to Saipan? Mitch said he came from Japan as an agricultural instructor during the Japanese era. He stayed on Saipan, got married and built his family, and he died in 1956 on Saipan. Another interesting thing was the location of the house today. The house Mitch is living today in is very close to the Japanese crematory. The only remaining part of the crematory is the base of the crematory statue.
So Mr. Tomokane, who may well have been an eyewitness to the cremation of Amelia Earhart, died four years before Fred Goerner arrived on Saipan. I was a Catholic nun then, here on Saipan, and as I recalled, Saipan was still strictly under U.S. Navy control. It was also secretly used by the CIA, which operated their spy school they called the Navy Technical Training Unit. I remember from reading Goerner’s book that he had a problem trying to enter Saipan because of this.
My dear people of Saipan, this is the story about the tragic incident that happened on our island in 1937. I’ve tried to make it easy to read for those interested in learning the truth of this extremely important historic event – a completely unnecessary tragedy that has yet to be recognized by mainstream historians.
After learning the truth of the lonely, wretched deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, we invite you to join us in supporting this most worthy and long overdue cause in giving the fliers the respect and dignity as human beings they deserve and building a memorial monument in their honor.
The people of Saipan had nothing to do with the deaths of Earhart and Noonan; however, given the fact that it happened on our soil, it is our responsibility as citizens of Saipan to recognize and acknowledge the truth, as painful and uncomfortable as the truth may be for many. If not now, when?
Let us not sit and do nothing while the Marshall Islands have long proclaimed the truth about the famous American aviators, most notably by creating four postage stamps in 1987, the 50th anniversary of their arrival at Mili Atoll, to honor and recognize the events of their arrival and pickup by the Japanese ship Koshu.
Never forget World War II! Over 3,000 American lives were lost to save your grandparents, great grandparents, other relatives and the entire Saipan community, which endured unimaginable suffering until their liberation in 1944.
Our CNMI Administration should step up with a gesture of sincere appreciation to the two great American fliers, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, and honor the heroic sacrifices they made at the hands of the militaristic pre-war Japanese on Saipan, and who were in fact the first American casualties of World War II.
“WE, the People” of Saipan most sincerely urge the CNMI leadership to support building the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument for these two great American aviators who met their tragic end on Saipan soil.
RESPECT among the CNMI is firmly rooted into our culture, so let us continue to preserve this beautiful legacy handed down through our elders and to the future generations.
To support the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, please send your tax-deductible contribution to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950.