In the entire history of reviews of the handful of books that present aspects of the truth in the Earhart disappearance, only two are memorable. The first was the Sept. 16, 1966 Time magazine unbylined attack against Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart, titled “Sinister Conspiracy?” and still available online, though you have to subscribe to the source to see it now. My commentary about Time’s hit piece, “The Search for Amelia Earhart”: Setting the stage for 50 years of media deceit,” was posted June 21, 2016; you can read it by clicking here. Goerner, a KCBS radio personality in San Francisco, was the only real newsman to ever seriously investigate the Earhart case.
The only other significant review of an Earhart disappearance work was Jeffrey Hart’s examination of Vincent V. Loomis’ Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, which appeared in William F. Buckley’s National Review in the Oct. 18, 1985 issue, but is no longer available online.
Hart wasn’t an Earhart researcher, and his belief about the reason Earhart reached Mili is the same pure speculation that Loomis advanced. But Hart was a well-known establishment pundit, critic and columnist, and wrote for National Review for more than three decades, where he was senior editor. He wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan while he was governor of California, and for Richard Nixon. Now 88, Jeffrey Hart is professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire. No one of similar stature has ever written a review of an Earhart disappearance book.
I’ll have a bit more to say, but here is Jeffrey Hart’s review of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, originally titled “The Rest of the Story.” Boldface is mine throughout.
AS A BOY I was thrilled with horror when Amelia Earhart disappeared somewhere out over the Pacific during the summer of 1937. She had been the first woman to fly the Atlantic, and now she and her navigator were trying to circle the globe at the equator. She rather disliked being called “Lady Lindy” by the press, because she wanted her own independent identity, but the odd thing was that she looked a little like Lindbergh: thin, with short hair and a wide grin, somehow quintessentially American.
On her last flight she and her navigator Fred Noonan, flew an advanced-model twin-engine aluminum Electra specially designed for the trip. It was known to the press as the “Flying Laboratory.” On July 2, 1937, all contact with the plane was lost, and searches by U.S. ships and planes failed to turn up any trace of Miss Earhart, Noonan, or the plane. As far as anyone at the time knew, they had simply disappeared into that vast blueness, like Hart Crane off the Orizzaba.
It turns out that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were the first casualties of the coming Pacific war with the Japanese. Vincent Loomis, a former USAF pilot with extensive Pacific experience, became fascinated with the Earhart mystery and made it his business to solve it, which he had done. lt is a remarkable, enormously romantic, and heartbreaking story. Loomis went to the Pacific, traveled around the relevant islands, and found natives who had seen the plane crash and had seen Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. He interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved, and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents. The mystery is a mystery no longer.
For all her frame and accomplishments, Amelia Earhart was an innocent flying out over the Pacific. She and Noonan were also incompetent navigators and did not know how to work their state-of-the-art equipment. They were thus more than a hundred miles off course flying right into the middle of the secret war plans of the Japanese empire* when they ran out of fuel and had to ditch the Electra. (Editor’s note: Amelia never claimed to be a navigator at all, but Noonan was recognized as among the best in the world at the time of the final flight.)
By 1937 the Japanese had long since concluded that war with the United States for control of the western Pacific was inevitable. They were hatching plans with Hitler to divide up the British, French, and Dutch possessions that would be vulnerable as a result of the coming European war. The projected Japanese empire, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, would have its large mainland anchor in a China the Japanese were attempting to conquer, and The Pacific islands would be the first line of defense against the U.S. Navy. The Japanese knew that the United States was unlikely to tolerate their geopolitical plans and would be decidedly hostile to any monopolistic co-prosperity sphere run from Tokyo.
The Japanese had acquired control of the key Pacific islands at the end of World War I under a League of Nations mandate. In violation of international law, they were pouring military resources into them. All Japanese military personnel worked in civilian clothes. Newly paved airstrips were marked as “farms” on the maps. Foreign visitors were absolutely excluded. If the local natives obeyed the Japanese rules they were treated fairly, and the Japanese even married some of them. An infraction, however, could mean instant death.
On July 2, 1937, bewildered and lost, Amelia Earhart crash-landed in the middle of all this, putting the Electra down and running into an atoll near Mili Mili a principal military position in the Japanese Marshall Island chain. The Japanese took her and Noonan prisoner and tried to figure out what to do with them. They could hardly release them, not knowing what they had seen. Perhaps the American fliers could blow the whistle on the whole secret operation. They might even be spies. Actually, they had seen nothing.
The two Americans were shipped to Japanese military headquarters on Saipan and jailed. The conditions were miserable, but not unusual for that time and place. The jail was not set up to serve food to the prisoners, mostly natives, whose meals were brought to them by relatives. But the jailers did provide the two Americans with soup, fish, and so forth, though of very poor quality, and with medical treatment. When an exasperated Fred Noonan threw a foul bowl of soup at a Japanese jailer, he was forced to dig his own grave and was immediately beheaded. Japanese culture was not especially permissive in 1937.
After a while, Miss Earhart was allowed a limited amount of freedom and made friends with native families, some of whom Loomis interviewed. She was permitted visits to these friends, and her diet and spirits improved. In mid-1938, however, life in the tropics proved too much for her and she came down with a severe case of dysentery, weakened rapidly, and died there on Saipan. She does not seem to have grasped the significance of what she had stumbled upon and witnessed; ironically enough, she was a philosophical pacifist. The Japanese military asked the natives to provide a wreath for her, and she was buried with Noonan.
One curious footnote to the story is that the present Japanese government, democratic and pro-Western as it supposedly is, has been covering the whole thing up. Today’s Tokyo will not admit, in the face of absurdly obvious proof, that the imperial government was violating the terms of its mandate by militarizing the islands, claiming that everything the islands, claiming that everything going on had to do with “culture” and fishing — no one here but us Japanese Margaret Meads and a few fishing boats. Nor will today’s Tokyo admit that the imperial government lied fifty years ago when it covered up the Amelia Earhart matter. Of course no U.S. Navy search vessels were allowed anywhere near the Marshall Islands. The Japanese claimed that they themselves were doing all the necessary searching. Loomis shows that the “search ships” were in Tokyo Bay at the time. It is odd that the present government cannot admit to the demonstrable facts; it must represent some sort of face-saving. But Tokyo has run out of luck on this one. Vincent Loomis has the documents, the testimony of the Pacific islanders, local Catholic nuns, Japanese medics and seamen.
It is all very poignant. One sees that the Japanese military among whom Amelia Earhart lived for about a year could not begin to comprehend her, this woman pilot, this . . . American. But the evidence is that the Japanese who knew her, if from a very great cultural distance, nevertheless bemusedly admired her. (End of Hart review.)
Hart wrote an accurate, unbiased review of The Final Story, but neither the U.S. government or anyone else in the media got his memo that “the mystery is a mystery no longer.” Not only did they disagree, and still do, but Hart’s review has been expunged from the Internet, where the hard copy I have is taken from Encyclopedia.com in 2007. I don’t know when the review was removed, but there’s no doubt about why it’s gone, and I’m not going to repeat here how sacred cows get even better with age.
Within the past year, plugging the name Amelia Earhart into the Amazon.com search engine has resulted in over 1,500 results for books; recently, for some unknown reason, that number has fallen to “over 1,000” in the same category. Nevertheless, many books have been penned about our ageless American heroine, but of these thousand or so, only about 10 actually present aspects of the truth about the Earhart case. The rest, 99.9 percent, are biographies, novels, children’s books (the biggest sellers) and assorted fantasies — all except the good biographies only muddle the picture and further obscure the truth.
The indisputable fact that this phenomenon exists tells us something is very wrong with the media’s relationship to the Earhart story. For the most recent example of media propaganda and malfeasance, we need only turn to our trusted Fox News and its June 27 non-news piece, “Amelia Earhart signed document discovered in attic box.” Moreover, Fox News has never allowed my name or the title of Truth at Last to stand in the comments section of any of its Earhart stories, to my knowledge.
As I wrote at the top of this post, Fred Goerner was the only newsman to ever publicly advocate for the Saipan-Marshall Islands truth in the Earhart disappearance. When you consider the few important books written about the so-called “Earhart mystery,” consider also the authors of these works. Obscure non-journalists such as Thomas E. Devine, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Joe Davidson and T.C. “Buddy” Brennan produced the important tomes about the Earhart matter. Paul Briand Jr., who authored the seminal work of the genre, Daughter of the Sky, in 1960, was an English professor at the Air Force Academy. Bill Prymak, an engineer by trade, was not an author, but his assemblage of Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters is as important as any but a few of the books, though the newsletters are unavailable to the public.
Why hasn’t any newsperson, author or journalist except Fred Goerner ever investigated the Earhart story? The question is rhetorical, of course, as the few who read this blog know, but its answer reveals the real problem.
For the few who pay attention to the ongoing saga of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, today marks another year’s passing, the 81st, and it’s not been uneventful.
Most will recall last July’s History Channel flap over the bogus claims about the Office of Naval Intelligence photo found at the NARA Archives in College Park, Md., by researcher Les Kinney several years ago and presented in the odious Morningstar Entertainment-produced “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” To refresh your memory, here is my review of that July 9, 2017 abomination: “History’s ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence’: Underhanded attack on the Marshalls-Saipan truth.”
Much more was written here during that time frame about that over-hyped disinformation drill, but at the end it was all smoke and mirrors. Just as the lowlifes who ran that deceitful operation had planned, nothing changed in our cowardly media. Our Fourth Estate’s aversion to publishing anything related to the truth continues unabated, and anything even hinting at the Marshalls-Saipan truth continues to be blacklisted across all news and media outlets, as does Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Early in 2018, however, something quite unexpected finally appeared on the heretofore dismal Earhart horizon, with the announcement that appeared in the Feb. 7 Marianas Variety (“Micronesia’s Leading Newspaper Since 1972″), “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan.”
On Feb. 14, Marianas Variety published my letter to the editor, “Amelia Earhart’s Saipan fate,” that enthusiastically welcomed the news of plans to honor the First Lady of Flight at the location of her tragic and untimely death sometime after she failed to reach Howland Island in early July 1937. You might recall my March 2 post that announced that recent development on Saipan, “Finally, some good Earhart news from Saipan.“
Several stories have been published here and in the Marianas Variety on the proposed Earhart Memorial Monument, including “Marie Castro: Iron link to Saipan’s forgotten history,” in praise of the intrepid soul who birthed the bold plan to build the Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan, and who continues her brave efforts, with little help, and hopes that need serious bolstering in light of the very bad politics that surround the memorial initiative on Saipan.
The situation on Saipan is a constant concern, and a minor miracle will be necessary to bring the Earhart memorial to the light of day — a wonder for which we will sincerely thank Marie Castro, her unyielding devotion to the truth and her constant prayers for moving God to grant, if indeed it ever happens.
I think today’s anniversary is an appropriate time to present what I define as my general Position Statement regarding the Earhart matter, especially its relationship to our broken culture and the feckless media who are largely responsible for creating it. I’ve sent various parties versions of the below statement, and have updated and revised it slightly to conform as closely as possible to the current state of affairs. I only wish that just a few in the media who have not been bought and sold by the establishment would grow a backbone and step forward to support what is clearly not an “aviation mystery,” but an obvious truth lying in plain sight, as well as a worthy and long overdue cause.
Many won’t like the words they read below, and will strongly disagree with this little treatise, learned the hard way during 30 years of focus and work on the Earhart matter. But nobody will send anything that credibly refutes any of it, because the truth doesn’t change and is not a matter of opinion, but a specific, discrete series of events that occurred involving the doomed fliers, beginning on July 2, 1937. All who desire to rebut the below are welcome to send their statements to the comments section, so that others can judge for themselves the merit, or lack of same, in those assertions.
Following is my statement on the Earhart situation, and I’m sticking to it. Boldface is mine throughout:
The very idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is a “great aviation mystery” is arguably the most despicable of all the prevailing myths of mainstream American history. So effective has the U.S. government been in creating, maintaining and protecting this straw man as the unquestioned narrative, that it has become a fixture in our cultural furniture, and because of its universal acceptance by the gullible, incurious masses, the phony phraseology “Earhart mystery” defines and dominates all public dialogue about the Earhart case, while the fact of Amelia’s wretched and unnecessary demise at the hands of the prewar Japanese on Saipan is ignored or labeled “conspiracy theory,” advanced only by and for the fringe conspiracy lunatics of society.
But deep in the bowels of the U.S. government security apparatus, some are well aware of the fliers’ true fate, and they protect the physical evidence that would reveal the truth that lies in the deepest recesses of our national security apparatus, known only to these scant few custodians of this precious evidence. I explain all this in my book and in my blog, and won’t go on at length here.
Discerning individuals who examine the popular Earhart “theories” soon find not a scintilla of evidence for either crashed-and-sank or Nikumaroro that doesn’t break down under the slightest scrutiny. Not a single artifact in a dozen trips since 1989 that’s been scrounged up from the Nikumaroro garbage dumps has been forensically linked to Amelia Earhart or Fred Noonan, despite the constant drumbeat of our corrupt media establishment telling us to buy this snake oil. Many of the ignorant and gullible have indeed bought it, much to their chagrin as they realize the Nikumaroro bill of goods is rotten at its core.
Actually, no real “theories” exist in the Earhart disappearance, as the word is properly defined. We have the truth — supported by several dozens of witnesses and documents — that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan crash-landed in the Marshalls, were picked up and taken to Saipan by the Japanese, and died there at some unknown date before the American invasion in June 1944, likely as many as six years before the Battle of Saipan. Several small details remain unknown, but the big picture is lying in plain sight, as clear as the nose on Fred Noonan’s face, obvious to all but the blind and the agenda driven.
And we have enormous, transparent lies. First came the original crash-and-sank myth born in 1937 with the Navy-Coast Guard’s search findings — briefly logical until overcome by the facts — which finally became so ludicrous and unacceptable by the late 1980s that a new deception to distract the sheeple was necessary. Thus was born the current Nikumaroro virus, which continues to be the media’s default position and infects virtually everything Earhart. Even the brain dead are no longer fooled.
The truth is that both of these canards have been glorified and raised to the status of “theories” by a deep-state establishment desperate to protect the checkered legacy of our president at the time of Earhart’s death, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Thus, when this case is discussed by those considered to be knowledgeable professionals, whose names are well known to readers of this blog and need not be mentioned now, normal rules of investigation, including analysis of evidence and the scientific approach, are thoroughly ignored, and truth is the first casualty.
As I constantly stress in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and here on my blog, the truth in the Earhart case has been a sacred cow in Washington since the earliest days of the search. The time is long overdue for the truth to be recognized and accepted, and for the parasites who have made their livings by peddling lies about Amelia’s sad fate to go away and find more honest ways to earn their livings. (End position statement.)
These are the nuts and bolts, the essence of the endless rigmarole about the so-called Earhart mystery, which I write about constantly in what is usually a vain effort to educate those willing to learn about this ongoing American travesty, this stain upon our great nation’s history.
No end is in sight, but even if it’s only here on this blog, I’ll continue to expose the lies and enlighten those who remain unblinded by the panoply of falsehood that currently rules the Earhart matter, an insidious rot that has stripped all vestiges of truth from the Earhart situation, and it’s only getting worse.
If President Donald Trump were aware of the disgraceful 81-year suppression of the facts in the Earhart disappearance, I’m confident he would do his best to effect full U.S. government disclosure of the truth, to slay this sacred cow and put a long-overdue end to this ridiculous spectacle of a bogus mystery that’s been solved since the early 1960s, at the very latest. But who will tell him?
In November 2006, Amelia Earhart Society member David Bowman told the online Yahoo! Earhart Group about a story he wrote for the Walpole, New Hampshire-based Mysteries Magazine, “The Psychic World of Amelia Earhart.” In 2005, Bowman self-published Legerdemain: Deceit, Misdirection and Political Sleight of Hand in the Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, which would be published by Saga Books of Canada in 2007. Informative and entertaining, Legerdemain includes several strange and obscure Earhart tales, demonstrating the extent to which the Earhart disappearance has been stigmatized by fantasists since its earliest days.
In researching “The Psychic World of Amelia Earhart,” Bowman made a fascinating discovery. The Jan. 7, 2003 edition of The Kwajalein Hourglass, the weekly newsletter at the U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll, ran an article titled, “Did Amelia Earhart land on Kwajalein Atoll?” by Eugene “Gene” C. Sims, who was stationed there as a GI in 1945 and returned to work as a civilian from 1964 to ’71, and from 1983 to ’86.
Sims recalled his youth in Oakland, Calif., during the 1930s and how he grew to idolize Earhart after seeing her at the local airport. When Fred Goerner’s book was published in 1966, Sims was working on Kwajalein, and was soon inspired to pursue his own Earhart investigation. “I was surprised to hear them speak so openly about the white-skinned lady and man that came to Kwajalein in 1937,” Sims wrote. An unidentified Marshallese man told Sims that as a 12-year-old in 1937, “a large Japanese ship came into the harbor” and he saw “a white lady and man on the deck,” a rare sight in those times. Sims wrote that because Goerner had been denied access to Kwajalein in the early 1960s, “Goerner was never to learn [the] concrete proof that Amelia was on Kwajalein and Roi-Namur in 1937.” Sims continued:
Much of this proof was based on the testimony of a Jaluit woman named Mera Phillip. She had been the cook and interpreter for an American lady captured by the Japanese and held prisoner on Roi in 1937. The Mera Phillip story was further confirmed in 1993 by statements from John Tobeke, a Marshallese working on Roi.
Tobeke stated that when he was about 6 years old and living on Roi, he saw a white woman twice over a period of three months. In addition to the testimony he gave to Neal Proctor, an instructor from the University of Maryland who was visiting Kwajalein, Tobeke was shown pictures of three different white women. He successfully identified the picture of Amelia as the woman he had seen while a child on Roi in 1937.
Neither Mera Phillip nor John Tobeke had ever been mentioned in Earhart literature before they appeared in the pages of The Kwajalein Hourglass, where Jane Toma first reported the following accounts of Tobeke and Philip in 1993.
By Jane Toma
It’s one of the great mysteries of the century. What happened to Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in the summer of 1937 when they disappeared in the Central Pacific? Island folklore suggests Earhart was on Roi at one time. (Bold emphasis mine throughout.)
Speculation about their disappearance has been the subject of countless articles, books and documentaries. Some suggest that Earhart’s reputation as an exceptional pilot was due more to the efforts of her publicist husband George P. Putnam than her prowess as a pilot. She simply ran out of fuel, they say, and crashed into the ocean.
Others implicate her as a spy in the Japanese mandated islands. They argue that she and Noonan were captured and executed.
Some theories, which have gained national attention recently, place the duo in the Marshall Islands and suggest the following scenario: The twin-engine Lockheed Electra Earhart was flying, went down off Mili, where she and Noonan were captured. The two were sent to Jaluit, Kwajalein and eventually to Saipan. where they were held prisoner and finally executed.
Stories about Earhart being in the Marshalls are not new to old timers on Roi, who have heard about an American man and woman, believed to be Noonan and Earhart, who were there before the war.
Listed on historical guide
The Roi-Namur Kwajalein Atoll Historical Guide prepared by KREMS states under “Site of Japanese Main Aircraft Hangar”: “Under a pile of debris in one corner of this hangar, a Naval Intelligence commander came across a blue leatherette map case embossed in gold leaf with the letters A.E. The map case was empty, but it is believed to have belonged to Amelia Earhart.”
John Tobeke, a Johnson Controls World Services employee, recalls seeing an American woman twice when he was a child living on Roi.
It was about 1937, he says. and he was about 6 years old. Tobeke says that a woman from Jaluit named Mera Phillip cooked and interpreted for the American lady. Phillip had attended missionary school on Kusaie (now called Kosrae) and knew English.
She told some of the Marshallese people that the lady said she was captured by the Japanese and was on Mill and Jaluit before she came to Roi. The Japanese wanted to know why she came and she told them she lost fuel. The lady told Mera that she was with a man. but they had been separated. The American woman also confided to Mera that she thought she would be going to Saipan.
Tobeke adds that the woman lived on Roi for about three months, but the Japanese never talked about her. They were very secretive and suspicious of the Marshallese people, he explains.
University of Maryland instructor Neal Proctor visited Mili last summer to pursue some of the stories he had read about Earhart being there. He heard several accounts about her from Marshallese residents on Mill. Proctor also talked to Tobeke on Roi Namur and finds his recollections credible.
“John described her as a tall woman with short blonde hair, like mine, dressed in a Japanese uni form. He also picked her out of a photograph of three women.” Procter explains.
Grave on Saipan
Johnson Controls technical writer Bill Johnson says stories about Earhart being on Saipan were common when he lived there from 1963 until 1967. “When I lived on Saipan, a friend of mine, who was a retired Navy chief and married to a Saipanese woman, took me to a place in the jungle and said, ‘Bill, that’s where Amelia Earhart is buried.’ ”
“I also knew Amelia’s aunt Kathryn Earhart. On one occasion, when I had lunch with her in Hawaii. I asked her about the stories of Saipan, but she refused to talk, saying, ‘the Navy closed the books on that years ago.’ ”
Kwajalein resident Margaret Smith heard stories about the famed aviatrix both on Saipan and in the Marshalls, where she worked and attended school.
“There was a lot of talk about Earhart being held in jail and executed there,” Smith says. “The media people came several times to investigate those stories.”
In 1979, Smith was surprised to hear about Earhart on Jaluit. “I was teaching social studies on Jaluit and talked to Lee Komiej, a Marshallese policeman during the Japanese administration,“ Smith says. “I wanted to know more about the different administrations (German, Japanese and American) and when the war started.
“Komiej said the first indication something was happening was when a woman was picked up on Mili. Komiej said he overheard the Japanese talking about her and they suspected she was a spy.” Smith said the Marshallese were also suspicious and thought it was very strange that a woman would be a pilot and wear trousers. She added that the woman was light with short hair. “Komiej heard she had been picked up on Mili, and taken to Jaluit, which was the administrative center of the Marshall Islands during German and Japanese times. She left Jaluit and went to Kwajalein. The last Komiej heard was that she went to Saipan.”
The Marshall Islands Journal reported recently that an American news team was on Majuro working on an Earhart story which is scheduled to broadcast early in 1994. Maybe it will shed some new light on the 53-year-old mystery. (End of Kwajalein Hourglass article.)
John Tobeke’s statement to Neal Proctor that Mera Phillip told him that the “woman [Amelia Earhart] lived on Roi for about three months” could not have been true, based on the vast witness testimony that has Earhart and Fred Noonan arriving on Saipan during the summer of 1937. Tobeke was a child at the time Mera shared her very personal information with him, and he could easily have confused three months with three weeks, or even less. Recall that Josephine Blanco Akiyama reported seeing the American lady flier, Amelia Earhart, at Tanapag Harbor on Saipan sometime in the summer of 1937. She was never more specific than that regarding the date of her initial sighting.
Tobeke’s story is another that links to former Marine W.B. Jackson’s account as told to Fred Goerner about three Marines who discovered a suitcase with women’s clothing and an engraved diary in a room they described as “fitted up for a woman” on Roi-Namur in February 1944. Was this the same room where Mera Phillip served the captured American flier her non-Japanese meals?
The foregoing has become an increasingly rare phenomenon in recent years — real journalism in the Earhart case, without the lies and political agendas meant only to confuse and misdirect — and found, most surprisingly, in a U.S. government affiliated newspaper. Obviously nobody at the Kwajalein Hourglass thought it was necessary to get these stories approved by their superiors in Washington before they published them in the small newsletter that serves the local U.S. Army community on Kwajalein.
If media organizations such as the former History Channel, now known simply as History, Fox News, CNN, the Associated Press and the rest of the lying establishment shills were serious about informing the world about the facts in the Earhart disappearance, instead of pushing fake news about phony photos and ridiculous myths about giant crabs eating the lost fliers, we might have more stories like the gems Jane Toma and Eugene Sims gifted to us. Unfortunately, articles that reveal previously unknown eyewitnesses in the Marshall Islands are extremely rare, so don’t expect to see more like this anytime soon.
From forgotten files of the Earhart lunatic fringe: The incredible tale of Ellis Bailey and USS Vega
In Chapter 13 of the second edition of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, titled “Griswold, Henson and Burks,” I present the story of Capt. Tracy Griswold and Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks, the three Marines who excavated what might well have been the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan from a gravesite just outside the Liyang Cemetery, on the outskirts of southern Garapan, in late July or early August 1944.
The original version of the chapter included the strange account of Ellis Bailey, whose incredible story, if true, would have lent great credibility to the claims of Henson and Burks, who were told by Griswold that they had just excavated the remains of Amelia Earhart. Twenty-one years later, they both separately identified Griswold from photo lineups, while the former Marine Intelligence captain denied ever knowing them or ordering them to excavate skeletal remains on Saipan.
I was reluctant to include Bailey’s story in The Truth at Last, because it did nothing to advance the truth, so I decided to cut his section from the final manuscript. I still feel it’s quite instructive, in that it shows the extreme lengths that some of the Earhart-addled will go to gain attention. The Earhart chase has badly infected some with its own peculiar strain of fever, and those carrying the bug can usually be identified by their ridiculous claims. The recent History Channel imbroglio, which I have written about at length, is a prime example of this awful malady. Earhart lore is replete with many other examples, but Bailey’s fantasy, at least for me, was one of the most believable, well-conceived fabrications ever; it certainly caught my attention and spurred me to make a serious effort to confirm it.
For a time, it did appear that a series of amazing letters forwarded to me by Bill Prymak in 2008 might hold the key to unlocking the next stage of the government’s top-secret operation to return the fliers’ bones to the United States in 1944. Below is the unpublished section of Chapter 13 of Truth at Last, “Griswold, Henson, and Burks.” Obviously, this passage will make far more sense to those who have the book, and can place it in the original context.
Between 1991 and 1999, Ellis Bailey, of Middletown, Iowa, wrote seven letters to Prymak, describing a series of remarkable events he witnessed aboard the USS Vega (AK-17), a Capella class cargo ship that carried a crew of 439 and displaced 11,500 tons, during operations off Saipan and in the Marshall Islands during July and August 1944. Bailey’s recollections of the remarkable incidents remained clear and consistent throughout his letters, and though he offered his own strange ideas about the meaning and the significance of the events, the core of Bailey’s account never changed. He never indicated his Navy rating, or job, in his letters, but a copy of the “Muster Roll of the Crew” of USS Vega for Sept. 30, 1944, shows that Bailey was a storekeeper first class (SK1).
In Bailey’s final letter to Prymak, titled “Amelia Earhart,” he recalled that Vega came to Saipan the “first part of July 1944,” and that after dropping anchor a group of Marines came aboard and informed Bailey and others that someone had just found “Amelia Earhart’s helmet,” somewhere on the island, but they offered no details.
The next day, Bailey “got permission to go ashore,” and “tried to visit Aslito Airfield” but was told it was restricted and off-limits. “While waiting for a ride back to the ship I talked to boat crew members who were discussing an important meeting of top General and Admirals,” he wrote. “One had come in that day. The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was there and he probably called the meeting.” With this, Bailey joined the handful of GIs claiming knowledge of Forrestal’s presence on the island during the invasion – an allegation that has never been officially confirmed, and which further research indicated was not possible.
The scuttlebutt Bailey said he heard about Amelia Earhart, Aslito Airfield, and Forrestal during Vega’s early July stop at Saipan was mere prologue to the astonishing episode he claimed he witnessed when the ship returned to Saipan later that month. The morning after the crew unloaded 61 tons of dynamite, the captain received orders to “take on fuel and supplies, enough to go 1,000 miles to Majuro and to take a government intelligence officer and two boxes of human remains that were two Caucasian flyers lost at sea seven years earlier,” Bailey wrote. “One was a woman.” [Italics mine.]
The next day, the intelligence officer, who had “no insignia but lots of authority,” came aboard with two boxes, “the remains of the flyers,” according to Bailey. “They were taken to the bridge and put under 24-hour guard,” he wrote, and the captain was ordered to steam to Majuro. Four days later Vega reached the Marshalls capital, Majuro, and while waiting for a “whale boat to be lowered to take him to shore,” the intelligence officer, apparently addressing Bailey, said, “I expect you are wondering why you are here. Seven years ago two Caucasian flyers were lost at sea. One was a woman. I came to see and talk with the two natives that had seen and talked with the flyers.” The agent returned to the ship the next morning, and ordered the captain to set sail for Kwajalein.
Upon arrival at Kwajalein, a small contingent of Marines came aboard and “told us that the day before one of their group was on . . . Roi Namur, [and] found Amelia Earhart’s suitcase of clothes and her diary in a barracks,” Bailey continued. “They had taken it to the man in charge of Kwajalein [Rear Admiral Alva D. Bernhard, who died in 1955]. The government officer with no insignia took the guarded boxes of the remains and left the U.S.S. Vega at once.” According to Bailey, the agent never mentioned any names in connection to the boxed remains, and Bailey himself didn’t believe the bones were those of Earhart or Noonan. The remains “weren’t the American flyers, they were British, which makes the whole situation so confusing,” Bailey wrote.
The Marines’ story about the discovery of Earhart’s suitcase, clothes, and diary on Roi Namur mirrored W.B. Jackson’s 1964 account to Fred Goerner, but Bailey’s story began to unravel when it became apparent their find did not occur “the day before,” Vega arrived, as Bailey wrote, because Kwajalein was secured in early February 1944, and by April 1, four months before Vega allegedly arrived at Kwajalein, 14,000 thousand Americans occupied the main island, with 6,500 more on Roi-Namur.
Bailey’s repeated references to the “British flyers” lost at sea at the same time as the Earhart flight must have originated with The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection, by James A. Donahue, among the most bizarre Earhart conspiracy books ever. Contrary to Donahue’s fanciful scenarios, no evidence has ever supported the idea that two British flyers, male and female, were operating anywhere in the Pacific area at that time. Writing to Ron Reuther in 1992, Goerner described The British Connection with Robert Myers’ Stand By To Die as one that “perfectly represents the totally irresponsible weirdo fringe which has been omnipresent in the Earhart matter since 1937.” In The British Connection, Donahue “has used photos and benign basic research and stitched the wildest kind of fiction to them and it is without any proof or ANY reference to source,” Goerner wrote.
“You’ll see that Ellis read too many AE books,” Prymak, who met Bailey in the “very early ‘90s,” wrote in a note attached to Bailey’s original letters. As a researcher who had seen and heard nearly everything during his four-decade investigation into the Earhart mystery, Prymak never put much stock in Bailey’s story. “Ellis spoke at the [August 1993] Flying Lady Symposium in [Morgan Hill] CA and at Atchison [Kansas],” Prymak wrote in a March 2008 email. “Both times he was a very ineffective and poor speaker, losing his thought process as he went along. He became very ‘unbelievable,’ and that is why I never seriously wrote about him in the AES Newsletters.”
Bailey’s imaginative ramblings reflected a few of the most implausible scenarios found in Earhart literature, but the remote possibility that his story about the intelligence agent and the canisters might be true was too compelling for me to immediately dismiss out of hand. Admittedly, I hoped against hope that Bailey’s story would prove to be true. If it were, another missing piece in the Earhart puzzle — the transport of the fliers’ remains off the island of Saipan — could be placed into the final solution.
My efforts to find any surviving members of the 1944 Vega crew who might have corroborated Bailey’s story were unsuccessful, but Tony Gellepis, of Santa Clara, Calif., a fireman aboard Vega from 1940 to 1942, was skeptical about Bailey’s alleged shore visit at Saipan during early July 1944. “In all my six years experience on various supply ships, shore leave was never granted while the ship was ‘swinging on the hook [anchored in the harbor],’ especially so during war time,” Gellepis, 87, told me in a July 2008 email. “Shore leave was granted only after the ship was docked and secured, if at all. And Bailey claims he went ashore the next day while Vega was at anchor! And this guy was set to go to Aslito Field? Incredible! I consider this to be a stretch, an embellishment.” Gellepis passed away in 2016 at age 96.
Much to my disappointment, a November 2008 trip to the nearby National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Md., to verify Bailey’s affiliation with Vega and its purported movements during the key dates, confirmed that Prymak and Gellepis’ doubts were well founded.
Vega’s deck logs for July and August 1944 reveal the ship was not at Saipan in early July, as Bailey claimed, but anchored at Eniwetok Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, though July 21, when it left for Saipan, arriving July 25. Vega anchored in Tanapag Harbor until July 31, per Bailey’s account, but then departed for Guam – not Majuro – in convoy with the cargo ship USS William Ward Burroughs (AP-7), LST (landing ship tanks) 341, and the destroyers USS Stockham (DD-683) and USS Trisdale (DE-33), reaching Guam Aug. 1.
On Aug. 15, Vega left Guam en route to Eniwetok, its home operating base in the Pacific war zone, arriving Aug. 20. The muster roll of the Vega for the quarter ending September 1944 does establish that Ellis Orrin Bailey, a storekeeper first class (SK1), was a member of its crew, having joined the ship’s company Nov. 16, 1942. Otherwise, as Prymak observed, it seems obvious that Bailey, who died in 2004, had indeed read too many Earhart books. And though he didn’t author one himself, Ellis Bailey’s serial letter-writing adventures qualify him to join James A. Donahue, Robert Myers and others who will remain unnamed here among the disreputable ranks of Fred Goerner’s “totally irresponsible weirdo fringe” in the annals of Earhart lore. (End of unpublished Ellis Bailey section.)
Without doubt, the ranks of the Earhart-addled have not been yet filled, as the lure of instant attention and imagined fame is usually sufficient to ensnare these unprincipled characters in its unsavory web. Your humble correspondent will keep a sharp lookout, and if the story is wild or ridiculous enough to merit mention, you’ll see it here.
Lest those who might have thought the latest chapter of the continuing Amelia Earhart disinformation campaign had come to a neat and tidy close with the July 11 report from The Guardian online that the photograph of the dock at Jaluit in the Marshall Islands had been found in a Japanese travel book published in 1935, we now have another, not unexpected, loose end. You might recall that The Guardian reported that “The image was part of a Japanese-language travelogue about the South Seas that was published almost two years before Earhart disappeared.”
“Does it get any worse than this?” I wrote in my July 12 review of the latest History Channel propaganda effort, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” “If the report is true, whatever the photo claims that began with NBC’s Wednesday, July 5 promotion barrage, are now entirely destroyed, discredited and defunct.”
I didn’t need a report from a Japanese blogger to convince me that the claims made by Les Kinney, Morningstar Entertainment and the History Channel, first broadcast nationwide by NBC News on July 5, were false and totally without substance. I was the first to publicly denounce Kinney’s assertions for the delusions (at best) that they were, and I’d known about this shameless plot to grab headlines under false pretenses for many months, since a reader from Pennsylvania procured the same photo from the National Archives in College Park, Md., and sent it to me.
Now Karen Earnshaw, a journalist who lives in the Marshall Islands and wrote June 26, 2015 and July 9, 2015 stories in the U.K.’s Daily Mail online about Dick Spink’s discoveries at Mili Atoll’s Endriken Islands, has informed me in a July 16 email about a Marshallese government press release she found on Rich Martini’s blog. Here is the release:
It’s not easy to read this rather fuzzy document, so here is its content:
The Republic of the Marshall Islands is following your investigation of the Amelia Earhart mystery with great interest. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, confirms that the photograph found in the US National Archives is the dock at Jabor on Jaluit Atoll.
Jabor Dock was built in 1936. The events of this period are still recalled by our eldest citizens. The claim that Jabor dock was already built in 1935 does not match the historical record. Therefore, it would not have been possible for any photos to have been taken of the Jabor dock in 1935. The dock simply did not exist. The elders who confirmed that Amelia and her navigator were brought to Jabor are of the highest standing and reputation in our community.
The ministry hopes this helps the record straight.
It’s interesting to note that there is no Internet site for the Republic of the Marshall Islands; the closest I can find to an online presence is a website for the Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the United States of America.
The obvious question is, who are the “your” referred to in the first line of the press release? Closely following that, we can ask who besides Rich Martini and TIGHAR, who I’ve been told also has posted it, was this release sent to? Surely they weren’t the only recipients of this highly significant statement from the Marshallese government. I think it’s perfectly obvious that the Marshalls statement was sent to many, if not every major player in the American media. How Martini and TIGHAR obtained it is irrelevant. What is relevant is that no one else in our media has paid any attention to it.
Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, N.Y., who writes letters and editorials to newspapers locally and nationally in support of the truth, contacted the Marshalls Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was informed that the press release did originate with the Marshallese government. So at least we know this is a legitimate document.
So what does this latest revelation, which so directly contradicts The Guardian report about the 1935 origin of the photo, really mean? It must be insignificant, based on the complete silence emanating from our esteemed media, and indeed it does mean little. But the media isn’t interested in it for entirely different reasons. They’ve already played their roles with the phony photo claims in advance of the History Channel’s Earhart special. As far as the establishment media is concerned, the Marshalls-Saipan truth has been discredited, and the public is once again flummoxed and confused about all aspects of the Earhart case. Mission accomplished.
It’s more than likely that the Republic of the Marshall Islands, an independent nation that doesn’t answer to the United States on all matters related to its Earhart propaganda program, was simply not informed by the appropriate parties that the current operation was over. Some in the Marshallese government might actually have been trying to be helpful and set the record straight about the provenance of the photo in relation to the dock at Jaluit. I’m sure their efforts were not appreciated, judging by the overwhelming media silence that has greeted the press release.
Meanwhile Martini has now joined the vision-challenged Les Kinney in insisting, despite all evidence, that the photo does indeed reflect the presence of Earhart and Noonan, in effect doubling down on the insanity most thought had been put to rest — and seemingly has been, with the exception of these two luminaries. Martini has apparently decided that he has nothing better to do than to team with Kinney on his grave-digging detail to incoherence and irrelevance in the Earhart chase. But is this really a case of the blind leading the blind, or is it something altogether different, something far more sinister than mere incompetence?
On his blog, Martini further muddles the picture by injecting the interesting but complex and unverifiable tale of the “bottle message” found on a beach in France in October 1937 that some have unsuccessfully tried to tie to Earhart by way of French explorer Eric De Bisschop. I decided long ago not to venture into these very murky waters that demand too much speculation to ever be accepted as fact. If you want to be thoroughly confused, I suggest you visit Rich Martini’s blog, where you will come away with far less clarity than you arrived with.
For those who still fail to understand what has recently transpired despite my best efforts to explain this deviously planned disinformation exercise as clearly as possible, I can only suggest that you carefully re-read the previous posts on the History Channel travesty, and to review Dave Martin’s Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression to see how many of them fit nicely into the despicable drama we’ve seen unfold since NBC News kicked it all off with their promotion blitz on July 5.
The bottom line is that “Earhart Fever,” a condition I’ve seen work its insidious ways on far better than these two, is alive, well and highly contagious. Its victims can be identified by their abject willingness to say or do anything that will bring them a moment’s more attention than they otherwise deserve, which is little or none at all.
Readers of this blog can continue to trust that this correspondent will always tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My integrity and credibility are all I have, and they are infinitely more valuable to me than a few minutes on a third-rate History Channel Earhart special.