Almon A. Gray was a pioneer in aeronautical communications, a Navy Reserve captain, flew with Fred Noonan in the 1930s and was an important figure in the development of the Marshall Islands landing scenario.
Upon expiration of his Navy enlistment he signed on with Pan American Airways, in 1935 Gray helped build the bases to support the first trans-Pacific air service, and was first officer-in-charge of the PAA radio station on Wake Island. After the San Francisco-Hong Kong air route was opened in late 1935, he was a radio officer in the China Clipper and her sister flying boats. Later he was assistant superintendent of communications for PAA’s Pacific Division.
The following letter, to confirmed crashed-and-sank researcher Cameron A. Warren, appeared in the February 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. It was written on Sept. 1, 1994, just over three weeks before Gray’s death at 84 on Sept. 26, 1994 at his home in Blue Hill, Maine. Boldface emphasis mine throughout.
[Editor’s comment] From a man who flew with Fred Noonan and who was considered to be one of the top radio men in his day.
HC 64 Box 270-207
Blue Hill, ME 04514
Sept. 1, 1994
Cameron A. Warren
P.O. Box 10588
Reno, NV 59510
Dear Mr. Warren,
I greatly appreciate your letter of Aug. 20th and certainly agree that in naming Keats Reef as the theoretical point of Earhart’s touch down I made a poor selection. As I mentioned in the article, I was unable to obtain any significant information about the reef. I believe however that the basic theory is sound. Briefly, I envisage that Earhart was homing with the DF in a general westerly direction on the signals from the broadcast radio station at Jaluit. Her gas tanks were virtually empty. She sighted land close to her track and made an emergency landing on it. Beyond reasonable doubt the land was in the Marshall Islands.
The landing was made about mid-afternoon of July 2, 1937, Howland date. The Radio equipment in the aircraft was started up later in the afternoon and was used intermittently for at least three days without molestation. Many radio listeners at numerous sites reported hearing distress signals from the plane but were not taken seriously. (In retrospect I believe that most of them were genuine.) The quality of the transmissions was very poor and virtually no useful information was passed in all that time. However the peculiar characteristics which made the transmitted voice signals unintelligible, were unique and served to identify the signals as coming from the Earhart plane whenever they were heard.
With what I have here plus what I consider as very good bearings from the PAA Adcock RDFs at Wake and Midway, I feel quite comfortable in believing that Earhart landed in the Marshalls. The homing track to the Jaluit Radio Station makes me believe that the most likely locale would be the very northern part of Mili Atoll.
I had hoped that during my lifetime we would know precisely what happened to the Earhart flight and where. I now would be delighted to merely get general acceptance of the notion that Amelia and Fred were alive and reasonably well in the Marshalls as late as a week after they disappeared.
Again, thanks for your letter!
Almon A. Gray
copy: Bill Prymak
For a comprehensive review of all that’s been presented on this blog about Almon Gray, please click here.
The below document is likely a U.S. Navy intercept of a July 5, 1937 message sent by someone in the Japanese government in Tokyo with the code name”OIMATSU,” possibly someone in the Imperial Japanese Navy, to the Japanese Naval Attache, Washington (Captain Kengo Nakamura Kobayashi, see comments for more) concerning the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. (Boldface and italic emphasis mine throughout.)
Researcher Tony Gochar, of Guam (see pages 263-264 Truth at Last), sent me this declassified dispatch in November 2020 after he received it from a source in Washington. Others may be aware of this message, but it was the first time I’ve seen it, and it appears to be significant, a document that Vincent V. Loomis, whose mid-’80s Tokyo research revealed Japan’s lies about its search for Earhart in the Marshall Islands, would have showcased in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.
Note that the date is just three days after Earhart, Fred Noonan and Electra NR 16020 went missing. Our copy isn’t easy to read, so here’s the message:
We are in receipt of intelligence reports to the effect that the U.S. Navy is launching a large scale search for the lost Miss Earhart. Since it is believed that she went down in the vicinity of the Marshall Islands area, the Government of the South Sea Islands has ordered all ships (lookouts?) and communication facilities to cooperate in the discovering of her. We (several words crossed out) have communicated our desires to assist in this search, through our Ambassador in Washington, to the U.S. Government.
This offer was made not only as an expression of good will, but for the purpose of preventing the United States’ merchant and fighting vessels which are searching for Miss Earhart, from coming too close to the Marshall Islands. (End message.)
Hand printed below the above is “*Chief of Bureau of Military Affairs, Navy Department.” When this message was declassified is unknown, as is Tony Gochar’s source.
“The document begins by saying they (IJN) ‘are in receipt of intelligence reports,’ ” Gochar wrote in a Nov. 9, 2020 email. “My opinion is that these intelligence reports are from Japanese radio intelligence and DF (Direction Finding) stations in the Pacific area. The second sentence seems crystal clear: ‘Since it is believed that she went down in the vicinity of the Marshall Islands area.’ How did they know this on July 5, 1937? Their intelligence reports would have provided this detail.”
Naysayers who reject the truth will find it extremely difficult to find an interpretation for this message that keeps the fliers and the Electra out of the Marshall Islands and Japanese captivity. Based on 84 years of government-media lies and denial, we know that this virtual smoking gun will never be acknowledged by any mainstream media organization — or any other kind, for that matter.
Few will hear about this, but that doesn’t stop us from continuing to speak the truth to those willing to hear and accept it.
Most observers of the true history of research into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart are familiar with the work of Vincent V. Loomis, the former U.S. Air Force C-47 pilot, who, with his wife, Georgette, made four investigative trips to the Marshall Islands in the late 1970s-early ’80s, finding and interviewing several extremely important witnesses, which led to the publication of his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.
Loomis’ most important findings came in 1981, when he went to Tokyo seeking confirmation of statements contained in a 1949 CIA inter-office memorandum he found in National Air and Space Museum files. The G-2 intelligence document revealed the United States was extremely interested in the Earhart case, and in 1949 had asked Japan to provide any and all relevant information it possessed. The unstated purpose of the American government’s renewed interest in the case may have been to discredit Amy Otis Earhart’s July 1949 statement to the Los Angeles Times that she believed the Japanese were involved in Amelia’s demise. Attached to the memo were clippings of a July 25, 1949 United Press story, “Mother Tells Fate of Amelia Earhart,” reporting Mrs. Earhart’s statements to the Times, as well as an August 1949 story in Japan’s Nippon Times, “UP [United Press] Tracing of Story Famed Aviatrix Was Nabbed By Japanese Still Proving Futile.”
The following article was written by Bill Prymak but came largely from the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, It appeared in the July 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Following Prymak’s piece, I’ll have some additional comments.
JAPANESE CAUGHT RED-HANDED IN A LIE?
By Bill Prymak
Was or was not the KAMOI at Jaluit during the period July 2, 1937? In a memo to James Golden dated 14 October 1976, Fred Goerner referred to documents that fuel the fire: “Interesting point: The comments of the Japanese officers in 1949 are the exact opposite of the same officers in 1971. In the enclosed documents, the officers maintained the KAMOI searched for AE in 1937.
In an article in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings in 1971, the same officers maintained that the KAMOI had nothing to do with the search in 1937; indeed, they claimed the KAMOI was in Japan at the time of AE’s disappearance.” (Preceding boldface emphasis Prymak’s, remaining boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
Were the Japanese lying the first time, in 1949, or were they covering up on 1971? You decide from the following:
Vincent Loomis, author of Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, describes how during a visit to Japan in 1981, he found a G-2 document on Amelia Earhart, dated Aug. 4, 1949:
“After the war, U.S. Intelligence (G-2) was ordered to investigate the Earhart disappearance from the Japanese side,” Vincent V. Loomis wrote in his introduction to the above document, which he labeled “Central Intelligence G-2 Memorandum — 1949.”
“The resulting report, reproduced here for the first time, is remarkable in that the Japanese managed to convince G-2 they had searched the Marshalls quite thoroughly when in fact they had not. The 12th Squadron and the Kamoi were listed as having searched the area when, as found in their logs, they were in port in Japan. The Koshu was also listed as part of the search, but as having found nothing.
“The Japanese lied quite convincingly both in 1937 and in 1949, but their statements could not be proven as such until the ships’ movements were determined through research in Japan in 1981.”
Far from being uninterested in her loss, the U.S. government had pressed the Japanese for as much information as they could obtain. American intelligence agents were unable to find any Japanese Navy records pertaining to Earhart, but interviews were carried out with Japanese personnel who had supposedly searched for the Electra after it was lost on the way to Howland.
According to the document, the Japanese Navy’s 12th Squadron, assigned to the Marshalls in 1937, was instructed by Tokyo, after a request from the U.S. government, to send the Kamoi, a seaplane tender, and several large flying boats, using the sea to the south of Jaluit as a central search point. Later the survey ship Koshu was ordered into the area. Both ships were listed in Japanese news releases of the day as primary search vessels. The Japanese testified that the Kamoi led the rescue effort, but no traces of Earhart were found. The investigation was closed.
. . . Once settled into a marvelous hotel (nothing like my wooden barracks of 1945), I was interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper about my quest for Amelia Earhart. Other journalists and a television station heard of my efforts, and before long I had a number of allies among these newspeople. One reporter told me that he had tried to interview Japanese veterans who had served during the period of Earhart’s loss, but there was a loud silence on the subject. The new generation of Japanese wanted to know the truth, many actively searching out contacts on my behalf.
The next day my Japanese interpreter, Ty Yoneyama, and I started to dig into the history of the Kamoi and the Koshu. We found a recent book on naval ships by a Japanese civilian publisher, which listed the Kamoi docked in Japan by July 10, 1937. Because Earhart had gone down on July 2, we suspected the Kamoi could not have taken part in the search as reported to American intelligence in 1949. The Koshu was listed as a coal-burning ship of over 2000 tons, assigned to the Marshalls in July 1937. My first thought was of Tomaki [Mayazo] loading coal aboard the ship he described to me. Had it been the Koshu?
Jyuichi Hirabayashi, a veteran who had served aboard the Kamoi from early 1936 through July 10, 1937, had responded to the ad we placed in several Japanese newspapers asking for Kamoi personnel. After my arrival in Japan, we called him and he came to meet us with the ship’s log entries, numerous papers and an extensive collection of photos from his tour. We quickly got down to business.
Hirabayashi confirmed that the Kamoi, contrary to the U.S. intelligence report, was nowhere near the Marshalls when the Electra went down. The day Amelia was lost, the ship was docked in Saipan, leaving on July 4 for Ise Bay, Japan, where it docked on July 10. All of this was shown to us from the Kamoi’s official records.
Clearly the Japanese had lied to the United States in 1949. What were they trying to hide, and why had they gone to so much trouble to make the Kamoi appear as if it were on a search mission?
Hirabayashi then described the two types of seaplanes operated from the ship. Both were craned onto the water and retrieved with canvas slings, a method that was short-lived in favor of lift points on the aircraft. Bilimon Amaron had recalled seeing canvas slings around the silver aircraft on the fantail of the ship he boarded at Jaluit. Though he was more intent on treating the wounded white man with blue eyes, Bilimon had not missed this important detail. The Electra would have been recovered in the same way the Japanese picked up their seaplanes.
The names of the four ships in the Japanese Navy’s 12th Squadron were provided by Hirabayashi – Kinoshima for mine-laying, Kamoi for seaplanes, Yunagi and Asanagi, which were light cruisers. Not only was the Kamoi not involved in the search, but the entire 12th Squadron, which was supposed to combing the seas south of Jaluit, was actually docked in the home islands. The Koshu had not been a part of the squadron.
On July 2, 1937, the Koshu was anchored at Ponape, where it received orders to proceed to the Marshall Islands and “search” for Amelia Earhart. By July 9, it was on its way, while the Kamoi and the remaining 12th Squadron boats steamed for Japan.
Only the Koshu, capable of retrieving small floatplanes, took part in what the Japanese promised was a search, but its log entries revealed no search effort. With a specific mission to perform, it went straight to Jaluit and anchored there on July 13. While loading coal, Tomaki had been told by the ship’s crew that the ship had arrived seven to ten days after the aircraft came down. Though July 13 was eleven days after the crash, the time frame was very close. The Koshu left for several days, and then returned to Jaluit. At this point Bilimon Amaron would have boarded the vessel to treat Noonan. After Bilimon and his commander left the ship, it sailed for Truk and Saipan on July 19, the date the Japanese government officially gave up its search for Earhart. Hirabayashi remembered the Kamoi having two ship’s doctors, while the Koshu had none. It was quite clear why Bilimon and his superior had been called aboard to treat Noonan.
Thus the words of Vincent Loomis. If the KAMOI and the rest of the 12th Squadron were [sic] in Marshallese waters, the cover-up by the Japanese suddenly becomes enormous, involving the forging of many Japanese Naval vessels’ official logs.
To strengthen the presence of KAMOI and the 12th Squadron in the Marshallese waters we have interviews by witnesses seeing this fleet described by Fred Goerner, Buddy Brennan, Captain [Alfred] Parker (who was in Jaluit in 1937), and other serious researchers. Joe Gervais and I, during our trek to Jaluit in 1997, found two elderly ladies who had been on Jaluit in 1937, and they emphatically insisted that it was the KAMOI that brought the American lady pilot to Jaluit. Mr. Hatfield, in our 1991 interview at Jaluit, also insisted that (principally thru Mr. Lee, who had just died) it was the KAMOI!
WHO SHOULD WE BELIEVE? (End of Prymak article.)
Those paying attention to the foregoing could be forgiven for questioning Prymak’s intent after reading his closing paragraph, in which he inexplicably seems to argue for the presence of Kamoi and the 12th Squadron in the Marshalls after Loomis had all but proven that scenario was well-nigh impossible.
There’s nothing in Buddy Brennan’s Witness to the Execution that qualifies for Prymak’s endorsement of witnesses that “strengthen the presence of KAMOI and the 12th Squadron in the Marshallese waters,” as he wrote in his close.
We know about Captain Alfred Parker, English-speaking skipper of the Swedish Motorship Fijian, bound from San Francisco to New Guinea and other south sea ports in March 1937, from a 1993 letter from Fred Goerner to J. Gordon Vaeth. “The FIJIAN exploded on March 25, 1937 near the Marshall Islands,” Goerner wrote [caps emphasis in original]. “It burned and sank after the explosion, but Parker and his crew members were rescued by the Japanese ship SJIKO MARU and taken to Jaluit in the Marshalls. Parker and his crew were kept at Jaluit for 28 days, and were finally put aboard the Japanese ship KASAGI MARU and shipped to Yokohama, Japan, with stops at Kasai, Ponape, Truk and Saipan. . . . Parker testified to U.S. authorities that the Japanese seaplane carrier KAMOI had arrived at Jaluit mid-April, 1937, with three supporting destroyers. The ships commenced bombing exercises, and one of the Kamoi’s planes crashed, and the two occupants were killed.” The dates Parker reported for the Kamoi‘s presence in the Marshalls do not establish her in the search area during July 1937. For more, see Truth at Last, pages 172-173.
The witnesses Prymak himself interviewed on 1991 and 1997 trips to the Marshalls “two elderly ladies” and Mr. Hatfield, are really all he has, which, frankly, are not much when compared to the other side of the discussion. Their accounts are sketchy at best. See “Conclusion of Bill Prymak’s “The Jaluit Report,” posted Nov. 2, 2019 and “Bill Prymak’s ’97 Marshalls witnesses, Conclusion” of Feb. 28, 2020 for details. What else can explain why Prymak would take the other side of the discussion, which hardly qualifies as an “argument” at all. It’s quite possible that Prymak was just playing devil’s advocate, taking the other side in the Koshu debate, simply for the sake of argument. If I’m wrong about that, someone will surely let me know.
A few years after Loomis’ revelations, Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki confirmed the Koshu’s movements in July 1937, though the agenda-driven Aoki would concede nothing else. “Looking at the navigation logs of the Koshu,” she wrote, “it is clear that on the 13th [of July] she entered port at Jaluit and 6 days later, on the 19th turned back toward Truk and Saipan. Looking at all of this, even though the special assignment ship Koshu took part in the search, there is absolutely no evidence that she rescued the American woman pilot.”
Vincent V. Loomis passed away in June 1996 at 75.
Today we conclude our two-part look at Bill Prymak’s 1997 investigative foray to the Marshall Islands, as seen in the May 1997 issue of his Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. (Boldface and italic emphases are both Prymak’s and mine; capitalization emphasis is Prymak’s.)
We begin with an interview with Teresa Amaron, the little-known daughter of the best known of all the Marshalls witnesses, Bilimon Amaron. Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas does the honors.
“INTERVIEWING THE NATIVE WITNESSES”
by Bill Prymak (Continued)
interviewed by Joe Klaas
In 1937, Bilimon Amaron was a 17-year-old medical assistant for the Japanese Navy, and treated injuries of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at the Japanese seaplane base on Jaluit Atoll. His University of Hawaii graduate daughter, Teresa Amaron, stated this on the last day of the AES expedition, Jan. 29 to Feb. 10, 1997.
“He told me the same thing he told Joe Gervais and Bill Prymak in 1991,” confirmed Ms. Amaron, Judicial Clerk in the Marshall Islands Federal Courthouse. “Many people knew it at the time. A tall, thin woman flying around the world, and her co-pilot or something like that, crashed at Mili Atoll. They were brought to Jaluit on a Japanese ship. My father was taken to the ship to treat their minor injuries. They were brought to him in custody by two Japanese guards. He saw their broken airplane on the back of the ship. Nobody knew at the time who they were, but they obviously were Amelia Earhart and her navigator. Later that night, the ship left with them in custody.”
Bilimon Amaron’s brother at Jabor and other survivors of his generation, verified the story, adding to the long list of more than 60 eyewitnesses quoted by name in AMELIA EARHART LIVES and since, who saw Amelia Earhart alive and at Mili Atoll, Jaluit and Saipan. Not one eyewitness has ever reported seeing her or her Lockheed 10E Electra anywhere near the Phoenix Islands southeast of Howland Island where my 1970 book mistakenly speculated she might have landed. I was wrong, and so is anyone else under that illusion.
Those who said Amelia Earhart went down in the Marshalls include Bill Van Dusen; her mother, Amy Otis Earhart; Adm. Chester W. Nimitz; Adm. Richard B. Black; Cmdr. Paul W. Bridwell; Fred Goerner; Oliver Knaggs; Vincent V. Loomis; Queen Bosket Diklan, of Mili Atoll; Lt. Col. Joseph C. Wright; Randall Brink; Robert H. Myers; Capt. George Carrington; Jim Donahue; Lockheed Historian Roy Blay; John and Dwight Heine, who saw her at Jaluit [Editor’s note: No evidence for this claim that I’m aware of]; Marshallese President Kabua Kabua; Oscar DeBrum; and more.
In addition, 60 people have related that they saw her in 1937 at Saipan. [Editor’s note: Technically speaking, we do not have anywhere near 60 eyewitnesses from 1937 Saipan on record, though it’s possible that many or more could have seen her at or near the Kobayashi Royakan Hotel while she was kept there. An unknown number of eyewitnesses feared Japanese reprisals, even long after the war.]
And last is the tale of two delightful elderly women weaving floor mats while sitting on the grass in the shade of a shack on JABOR. Joe Gervais and I had just come from the home of a native too feeble to tell us of the happenings in 1937. We were told, “this man knew.” “Knew what? was never tested. His eyes told us he had a story to tell, but the voice, and the body, just couldn’t make it.
As we passed these two pleasant, older women, my eyes fixed upon the feet of one of the ladies. Her toes were anchoring three palm fibers leading up to her nimble fingers as she created a masterpiece of weaving; but it was her story that captured our attention. Both women were well into their seventies, and had been on JALUIT before the war. They aptly described Bilimon and how he treated two “American pilot spies” several years before the war. But what made this interview so memorable was that even though no Japanese ships were discussed, one of the gals looked me in the eye (the older natives rarely do that!) and stated, “It was not the Koshu . . . IT WAS KAMOI.” KAMOI, she kept repeating, and I just thought it was extraordinary for an old Marshallese woman to remember the name of an obscure Japanese boat unless its presence connected with a very special event in her life many years ago. Very strange.
“THE CREDIBILITY OF THE WITNESSES”
How credible are these witnesses interviewed during our latest trip to Jaluit? To discredit these people, you’d have to brand them as liars, embellishers, storytellers, fabricators, or worse. The Marshallese are kind, simple, loving people that really don’t have it in their makeup to lie to their (1) priests, (2) schoolteachers, (3) local government officials or (4) the interpreters who translate their experiences to visiting researchers.
I can’t imagine BILIMON AMARON, in failing health and dying, lying to his brother and daughter about his experience that he began telling to Matson Shipping Lines officials in the late 1940s . . . a story he had never wavered on thru all the years.
Why are Chamorro natives of Saipan, a thousand miles distant, describing the same wounds to an American man accompanying an American lady pilot, who were seen on Saipan in 1937, the same wounds as described by Bilimon Amaron? Why did Cmdr. Paul W. Bridwell, USN, in charge of Saipan during the 1960s, state that Earhart & Noonan went down in the Marshalls and were brought to Saipan? Why does every serious researcher — GERVAIS, KLAAS, GOERNER, LOOMIS, BRENNAN, KNAGGS, totally believe in the natives’ experiences, while the armchair critics who never set foot on these islands continue to [attempt to] debunk these witnesses? Why does the U.S. government repudiate their statements?
Yes, statements do vary, and witnesses sometimes contradict other witnesses. But considering the deleterious and noxious effect 60 years has on one’s memory, variations will manifest themselves. For example, the half-dozen or so witnesses interviewed on Jaluit have stated:
Lady pilot went down between Jaluit and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between the Gilberts and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between Ebon and Mili;
Lady pilot went down between Arno and Mili.
But everybody states that BILIMON AMARON was called out to treat Noonan’s wounds. And the locus of all touchdown areas is MILI. All witness experiences are told to researchers from memory; there is no written word, no photograph.
Why the ceaseless and incessant denial by the U.S. Government? Why all the official secrecy about the Earhart Flight? Let me put forth one possible rationalization: Suppose that the Navy had been monitoring the Japanese communications and ship movements in the Pacific sufficiently to have learned, or at least to have gotten a pretty good idea, that the Japanese had abducted Earhart and Noonan. What could they have done?
They could not have taken action short of a military intervention to recover the flyers, and they could not have announced the fact (even if they were certain of it) without revealing the extent of their coverage of Japanese communications and operations, and therefore, their source of knowledge. It would also have raised an enormous storm of protest and indignation, as well as being a national humiliation that we could ill afford, if we did not take bold action to recover the flyers. It could also be that we were pretty sure, but not sure enough to raise an international incident about it.
This would explain all the secrecy, the strident insistence that the messages received from the plane were all hoaxes, and the equally strident insistence that the plane had fallen into the sea. It would explain the tampering with the ITASCA log to read “one-half hour of fuel left,” the male/chauvinistic references to Earhart sounding “hysterical,” etc. Since no such policy could have been decided without White House consultation, it would even explain the White House interest in the situation. (End of Bill Prymak’s 1997 “Interviewing the Native Witnesses.”)
“Interviewing the Native Witnesses” is not all Prymak produced in the wake of his 1997 trip to the Marshall Islands. Already seen on this blog is “An interview with Marshalls icon Robert Reimers: ‘Everyone knew’ of AE’s landing, tycoon said”; yet to be published here is a photo essay devoted to the “The Great Naval Seaplane Base at Emidj,” which we’ll get to at some point.