Tag Archives: Mili Atoll

Calvin Pitts analyzes Amelia Earhart’s last flight

Calvin Pitts is best known for his 1981 world flight, when he and two co-pilots commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Wiley Post-Harold Gatty World Flight in 1931.  The 1981 flight was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum to honor the Oklahoma aviator Post. 

Calvin’s first co-pilot was Jerry Kuzia, an FAA inspector from Cleveland, who helped with many of the detail preparations during 1980.  After a cancelled clearance due to high-frequency radio failure over the Atlantic and the subsequent two week-delay, Kuzia ran out of vacation time.  NASA engineer Emmett Fry flew to Germany to replace Kuzia, and competed the flight back to Manchester, New Hampshire.

But instead of replicating Post and Gatty’s 15,474-mile world flight, an unforeseen circumstance changed their plans.  A clearance across Siberia was cancelled due to an HF radio failure over the Atlantic, which in turn caused a delay in Germany.  Additionally, several mechanical and red tape delays extended the trip to nearly 25,000 miles from Manchester, departing on June 23, 1981, instead of Post’s flight of 15,000-plus miles, which began exactly 50 years earlier, on June 23, 1931.  They flew a single-engine 1980 Beechcraft A36 Spirit of Winnie Mae, named after Post’s Lockheed Vega, the Winnie MaeTo read Calvin’s recollections of his around-the-world journey, please click here.

Calvin Pitts in 1981, with The Spirit of Winnie Mae and the thermos Amelia Earhart carried with her on her solo Atlantic Crossing in 1932.  The thermos was on loan from Jimmie Mattern, Wiley Post’s competitor who flew The Century of Progress Vega in an attempt to beat Wiley in the 1933 solo round-the-world race, but Mattern crashed in Siberia.  Calvin brought Amelia’s thermos along with him on his own successful world flight in 1981. 

During his long and accomplished aviation career as an instructor, corporate pilot, airline pilot, flight manager, training manager and engineering test pilot, Calvin has flown antique planes to airshows, trained pilots and flown a multitude of single and multi-engine aircraft, including Twin Otters, DHC-7s, Aero Commanders, Metro IIIs, Lear Jets and Boeing 727s.  He also worked for 10 years in public affairs for NASA at the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Calif.; and NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

Calvin, 84, lives with his wife Wanda in the small Kentucky town of Sadieville, where he has alog house on a small river, surrounded by wild life, fish, otters, beavers, and beautiful bluegrass and trees,and where he stays busier than ever.  Occasionally someone asks him to go flying, he says, “but time keeps flying even when I’m grounded.  It’s great to be alive with good health and lots to do with good friends.  Life has never been better, blessed and more challenging.

In the past year, his complimentary comments have been a welcome addition to this blog, and recently he told me much more about his longtime fascination with Amelia’s disappearance.  He’s known many of her friends, including Mae Post, Wiley’s wife; Gordon Post, Wiley’s brother; Clarence Page, Director of the former Oklahoma Air & Space Museum (now the History Museum of Oklahoma); Ernie Shults, Wiley’s mechanic, and Jimmie Mattern (1905-1988), who flew The Century of Progress Vega against Wiley Post in the 1933 solo around-the-world race, but crashed in Siberia.  “It was Jimmie who loaned me Amelia’s thermos from her Atlantic flight to carry on a successful flight RTW,” Calvin wrote in a recent email.  

Mattern carried the thermos with him in 1933, but failed to finish the flight,Calvin went on.  “Finally, Amelia made it all the way around the world with me, even with the delays, disappointments, conquered challenges and final success. I have pictures holding that thermos with the Spirit of Winnie Mae in the background before the flight, and with 99’ers drinking from Amelia’s thermos in Lexington, Kentucky after the flight.  Thoughts of her were very intense, especially as we flew near Howland after leaving Tarawa.  Ironically, our fight began with Wiley in New York, transitioned to Amelia over the Pacific, and then ended with Wiley and Amelia as we returned to have dinner with a close friend of them both, Fay Gillis Wells.  It was, to say the least, a surreal experience where you imagined you could actually feel their presence.

Fay Gillis Wells (1908-2002) was the first woman pilot to bail out of an airplane to save her life, and one of the original founders of the Ninety-Nines, the international organization of licensed women pilots that now numbers over 6,500 members.  “Her stories about Amelia were priceless,” Calvin wrote.  “Fay was not only an intimate friend of Amelia, but was also the person who arranged Wiley’s fuel stops in Siberia in 1933 where her father was a businessman.”

Fay Gillis Wells, the first woman to save her life by jumping out of an airplane in a parachute and a close friend of Amelia Earhart.  “She helped Amelia organize the ‘99s for female aviators,” Calvin Pitts wrote in a recent email.  “She lived in Alexandria, Va., allowing me a chance to have meals with her when I was transferred to Washington, D.C.  Her stories about Amelia were priceless.”

Ernie Shults, Wiley Post’s mechanic in Bartlesville, Okla., was another old-timer who knew Amelia, Calvin recalled.  His stories about the difficulties of the 1934-’35 stratospheric flights in a wooden plane with a normally aspirated engine were priceless.  Because of his mechanical stature, he had many contacts with Amelia.”  Louise Thaden, the first woman pilot to win the Bendix Trophy Race and who is largely credited, along with Amelia Earhart, as the co-founder of the Ninety-Nines, used an engine Shults rebuilt.  Shults passed away in 1997 at age 99.

Ernie Shults (right) and Paul Garber, “two good friends whom I have known for years,” Calvin Pitts wrote.  “I visited in the Shults’ home in Burbank, Calif., many times. We visited the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose in Long Beach, Calif.  Ernie  maintained the Pratt and Whitney engines on Howard Hughes’ plane, which was on display next to the Queen Mary.  I  took them flying in the Spirit of Winnie Mae after my ’81 RTW flight.  They were thrilled because they had also flown in the Winnie Mae Vega with Wiley Post.  He was Wiley’s mechanic. He became a father-figure for me.”

Still two more of Calvin’s aviation acquaintances were Joe Crosson and his wife, Lillian.  Joe was the first to fly over Antarctica and the first to make a landing on Mount McKinley’s glaciers, and was celebrated on radio, newspapers and even comic books.  He helped Wiley Post complete his first solo flight around the world in 1933, and flew to Barrow, Alaska to retrieve Post and Will Rogers’ bodies in 1935.  Post and Rogers stayed with the Crossons in Fairbanks before leaving for Barrow and their untimely deaths. 

“Lillian fed them their last meal before the crash,” Calvin quoted her as telling him.  “It bothered her, she told me, to think that they died a few hours later with her food in their stomachs.  She and Joe were good friends with Amelia, and Joe’s sister, Marvel, was a competitor of Amelia’s in air races and knew her very well.  Their family stories are treasures.  There were numerous others, which gives me the feeling that I knew Amelia.  (Italics mine.)

“Because of this,” Calvin continued, “with great information from EarhartTruth postings,  I have spent literally hundreds of hours reading and writing about Amelia’s disappearance.  Since I have a close friend who still lives in Saipan, my communication with her has verified the fact that the local rumors there are so well known, so numerous and so widely accepted that locals find it strange that Americans even question her presence there.  My friend lives near the Japanese Jail where Amelia and Fred were taken.  I have a passionate desire to visit Saipan, but age and expense will probably not allow me to realize that dream.  All of this, and much more, is merely a way of illustrating that I share your deep interest in The Amelia Story.”

Thus in Calvin Pitts and Saipan’s Marie Castro, we have two of the last living links to Amelia Earhart, slightly indirect though they may be.  I’ve never met Amy Kleppner, Amelia’s niece through her sister Muriel and only surviving direct relative, now 87, who publicly echoes the official, anachronistic crashed-and-sank line whenever asked.  But if anyone else is out there who knew Amelia and is still living, I’m unaware of it.

Calvin has also extensively investigated the 1935 deaths of Wiley Post and Will Rogers in a plane crash in Alaska, and has written critically about the U.S. government’s failure to conduct a proper investigation into the tragedy, but it’s his interest in the Earhart disappearance that concerns us now.

Lillian Crosson, Fanny Quigley and Joe Crosson (left to right) at Kantishna, Alaska in the early 1930s, whom Calvin Pitts knew and read about back in the day.  Joe Crosson was the first pilot to land at the mining camp, and Lillian fed Wiley Post and Will Rogers their last meal before their fatal plane crash in 1935. 

Calvin has asked me to keep the spotlight away from him and on his analysis of Amelia and Fred’s last flight in this post, but it’s important for you to understand and appreciate what he has achieved — and who he’s known — in his extremely impressive aviation career.  Calvin brings a lifetime of well-earned credibility, as well as objectivity and honesty, to his analysis of Amelia Earhart’s final flight

At a time when the entire Western establishment’s hatred and aversion to the truth in the Earhart disappearance has never been worse, it’s heartening that a man who has been a well-known figure within that establishment comes forward to fully embrace the truth without apology.  Following is Part I of Calvin’s analysis of Amelia’s last flight.

CLUES

Amelia Earhart: DISAPPEARING FOOTPRINTS IN THE SKY

By Capt. Calvin Pitts, PART I

Purpose

The following is a summary of a few clues which lead directly to Amelia’s fateful decision to disregard a previous Contingency Plan, designed by her and Gene Vidal, director of the Bureau of Air Commerce.  By intent, it appears she made a deliberate decision to forget what had been agreed upon, going instead to the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands — on purpose.  I posit here the tentative belief that ending up in the Marshalls was not the result of merely being lost, but was intentional, the details of which are just a little more than intriguing in the following post.

 

Introduction

Any attempt to unravel the not-so-mysterious mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance must deal with both a WHAT and a WHY.  After years of searching for answers by competent researchers, it is more than reasonably undergirded with solid evidence that the Electra’s pilot and navigator ended up on Saipan as prisoners of the Japanese.

After decades of work by men such as Paul Briand Jr., Fred Goerner, Jim Golden, Vincent V. Loomis, Oliver Knaggs, Thomas E. Devine, Donald Kothera and Bill Prymak, and recent investigations at Mili Atoll by Dick Spink and Les Kinney, as well as others like Mike Campbell writing about the answer to the Earhart disappearance, we can feel assured that we know WHAT became of the Electra pair.

They were captured by the Japanese near Barre Island at Mili Atoll where they crash-landed, taken to Jaluit Atoll, the Japanese headquarters in the Marshall Islands, and then flown to Saipan where they spent time in the Japanese Jail in Garapan, eventually dying while in captivity.

While that may be the end of the 1937 story, it is not THE END of the story that subsequent generations have extracted from tons of available evidence.  We now know WHAT happened to them.

But the question remains unanswered: WHY?

Why did the Electra with such precious cargo as two beloved aviation professionals end up so far from Howland, and in Japanese hands in the Marshall Islands, a hotbed of war activity?  Our government knew that a pending attack was coming by the Japanese on China.  Our government knew that those islands should be avoided by civilians.

This was the official flight plan, 2,556 statute miles from Lae, New Guinea to Howland Island. The 337-157 line of position, or sun line, passed through the Phoenix Islands, near Gardner Island, now known as Nikumaroro, and the popular theory, though completely false, is in part attributable to this phenomena.  (Map from Amelia Earhart’s Flight Into Yesterday: The Facts without the Fiction.)

Based upon firsthand sources, my actual course for the Electra is not a straight line from Lae to Howland Island.  Instead, due to a massive low-pressure system and serious thunderstorms sitting directly on the pre-planned course, the Electra flew directly east from Lae to the Solomon Islands, then northeast to the Nukumanu Islands (also known as Nukumanu Atoll and formerly Tasman Islands) hence northeast to Nauru Island, and then east toward Howland where the course turned dramatically northwest to the Marshalls from a distance approximating 200 miles from Howland, a small island 30-city-blocks-by-10-blocks wide.

Or could it be that the fact that our government knew these things was the very reason that The Amelia Story ended as it did?  That is not an idle question.

In fact, Japan’s declaration of war on China (July 7, 1937) which was the precursor of World War II four years later against the United States (Dec 7, 1941), did actually happen a mere five days after the Electra’s disappearance on July 2, 1937.

So, WHY did Amelia and Fred end up at the Marshall’s Mili Atoll, approximately 750 statute miles from their decision point northwest of Howland Island?

Our government knew all of this because they had already broken the Japanese Diplomatic Code, as well as all their naval codes.  Our leaders, especially President Franklin D. Roosevelt, knew that the Japanese were about to explode in war against China, at the time a U.S. ally. 

Our leaders, especially FDR, knew that war between Japan and China was on the horizon, if not with us.  THAT was no secret.  Our government, especially FDR, knew this.

But the world also knew something else, namely that Earhart and Noonan were actually making a civilian round-the-world flight at that very time, and would be passing within close proximity of serious military activity in the Marshall Islands.

Our government, especially FDR, knew all of this — and more. So why didn’t they issue a clear warning to Amelia to be extremely careful on that leg from New Guinea over the Gilbert Islands en route to Howland – or did they?

Has something been kept from the American public for over 80 years?  And one more WHY?  Why, after all these years, is it impossible to see the classified records that deal with what they call a mystery disappearance, especially the details about the Navy’s efforts to find Amelia, Noonan and the Electra?  If it truly is amystery, why not let us read the records for ourselves, so we can help solve this?  Why the secrecy?

Why is this civilian event, eight decades old, still off-limits to history researchers?  What is our government still trying to hide — and WHY?  Give that at least five seconds thought.  A civilian flight in 1937 is still off limits for researchers.  Why?  Give us the records and we’ll tell you why.

Two men who knew plenty more than they ever revealed about the fate of Amelia Earhart: Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. (left) and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1934. Neither man ever revealed his knowledge or was called to account for his role in the Earhart disappearance, her death on Saipan or the subsequent cover-up that continues to this day.

Nevertheless, in this search for a reasonable answer, there are some key events and realities which provide clues for removing another factual layer from thismystery onion.”  Aside from the government’s role, here is a sampling of a few clues which lead up to the point of Amelia’s fatal decision to change something significant in her plans.

1. Drift Bombs:  Noonan forgot the drift bombs at Lae, New Guinea, making it impossible with the drift indicator to determine daylight drift from the strong southeast crosswinds en route for the 2,556 statute mile, 18- to 20-hour flight in search of a very small island.  Not knowing the amount of drift complicated the question about how far north-northwest they were from their course upon arriving within about 200 miles of their destination.

Those bombs were ceramic-type cylinders filled with either bronze or aluminum shavings dropped from about 1000 feet, breaking as they hit the water and spreading a reflective surface on the water that could be tracked with the drift sight, estimating both the direction and speed of the wind. After dark, magnesium water lights were available.

Some Electras had a Mk IIB Pelorus drift sight which could be used on either side of the aircraft provided the Sperry “Auto Gyro Auto Pilot” created a stable flight. With turbulence, accuracy was virtually impossible.

Amelia’s sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, offered a description of how the Electra’s type D-270 Speed & Drift Indicator worked:An arrangement has been devised to open the cabin door about four inches, where it is held rigidly in place. A Pioneer drift indicator is mounted for use looking down through this aperture to check wind drift on the earth or sea below. For this work flares are used at night over water, smoke bombs in daylight.” (Morrissey, Muriel Earhart, Osborne, Carol L., Amelia, My Courageous Sister, Osborne Publisher, Inc., Santa Clara, 1987, p. 192)

There was some uncertainty regarding drift because Noonan forgot the “drift bombs.”

2. International Date Line:  They crossed the IDL when within about 200 statute miles of Howland.  Actually, according to my calculations on Google Earth, at an average ground speed of 145 to 150 mph, the Electra was within about five miles of the IDL at 1745z (Greenwich Mean Time, 6:15 a.m. local Howland time), when that important transmission of “about 200 miles out” was made, which was the time of sunrise at their destination.  If due to extreme fatigue or busyness, Noonan forgot to adjust for that change in days, then the accuracy of his celestial calculations would be off by at least 60 nautical miles or more.

Just before this critical time of 6:15 am (1745z), here is some of Noonan’s workload:  (We will assume that he had not been drinking the night before, and was not hung over, although there is one report to the contrary.  We will assume that he was only dealing with extreme fatigue caused by much loss of sleep.)

(1)  due to the reported clouds north and northwest of Howland, was he able to get good celestial calculations for an approximate position?

(2)  what guess did he make for their unknown drift due to a strong crosswind, where the drift meter was not usable due to his forgetfulness?

(3)  plotting that position on a chart;

(4)  determining their distance from Howland;

(5)  relaying this information to Amelia, via a fishing pole and card, for an important radio transmission at 6:15 (1745z), Howland’s sunrise, in compliance with their standard calls at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour;

(6)  reviewing the “celestial landfall” approach;

(7)  reviewing the “expanding box” technique of increasing the search area;

(8)  fighting off the mental fog from extreme fatigue;

(9)  remembering to change charts when passing over the International Date Line;

(10)  preparing for the next fix 30 minutes later at 6:45 a.m. (1815z) where the deviation for the celestial landfall approach would be initiated;

(11)  did Noonan take another star or moon shot to update their position?;

(12)  did he forget to use a different celestial chart for the next day as they crossed the IDL?  If he did, then his calculations were all wrong.  This we will never know.  But the coincidence of the mandatory 6:15 (1745z) radio call occurring at the very same time they were crossing the IDL was ironic, and was no small matter.

A view of Howland Island that Amelia Earhart never enjoyed.  The island, a property of the United States, about 8,000 feet long and 2,600 feet wide, remains uninhabited, but has always been quite popular among thousands of birds that nest and forage there.

3.  Celestial LandfallDid Noonan suggest to Amelia that they use the “celestial landfall” technique for approaching Howland?  As an instructor with Pan Am, it was Noonan’s practice to teach new navigators the technique of using a celestial Line of Position (LOP) as an imaginarylandfall, whereby they would deliberately aim some miles north or south of their destination so that upon arriving at the celestial landfall, or sun line, they would know which way to turn toward their intended runway.

As one who professionally taught this method of approaching an island in an ocean, such as Wake Island on Pan Am’s scheduled route, it is inconceivable that he himself would not use it with Amelia when approaching such a small island as Howland.  It is reasonable to assume that Noonan aimed north rather than south of their destination for the simple reason that their emergency landing occurred in the Marshall Islands, north of Howland.

Complicating this is the matter of cockpit communication.  With their cramped quarters and navigation table between the two of them, how did Noonan explain this approach to Amelia?  Did he do this at Lae, and if so, did such a detailed explanation register fully during the pressure of executing such an approach while fatigued and being distracted by various radio problems?

4. Expanding Box:  In addition to the above, if one had difficulty locating an island with the celestial landfall approach, then Noonan taught an additional method which was called theexpanding box technique.  This maneuver consisted of a series of 90-degree turns with expanding legs of the box.  This expanding box around a given point would hopefully and eventually allow them to locate their island.  Time and heading, corrected for wind, was the key for executing this method of surrounding a point with an expanding box.

5. Explaining celestial landfall:  As it applied to this specific approach to Howland:

(A)  It was defined by the Line of Position (LOP) which occurred over Howland at 6:15 a.m. (1745z) sunrise.  That definition is an imaginary line perpendicular to the sun’s azimuth listed in the navigational almanac for July 2, 1937, i.e. 067 degree azimuth creating a perpendicular “sun line” or LOP of 337 degrees NW or 157 degrees SE. 

(B)  However, the LOP at that time actually consisted of an imaginary zone of approximately 60 nautical miles in width from 6:15 a.m. (1745z) to 7:17 a.m. (1847z), the length of time the sun’s azimuth (the direction of a celestial object from the observer, expressed as the angular distance from the north or south point of the horizon to the point at which a vertical circle passing through the object intersects the horizon)** remained at 067 degrees. That meant that 7:16 am (1846z) was the outside limit of the existence of a “sun line” of 157°-337°, because the sun’s azimuth changed at 7:17 a.m.

** Put that into street language:  Standing on Howland, you are standing at the center of an imaginary compass. Look due east.  That is 90 degrees.  Turn left 23 degrees. You are now looking at 67 degrees where the sun will break over the horizon.  That gives you the sun’s azimuth at sunrise, 6:15 a.m. on July 2, 1937, a number published in the almanac that Noonan possessed.

(C)  Translated:  When you have time to explore some of the sites below, you’ll begin to see the impossible job Noonan had in explaining the concept to Amelia, and the impossible task she had trying to fly accordingly.  If you’re on the 157-337 sun line or LOP between 6:15 a.m. (1745z) and 7:17 a.m. (1846z) within 60 nautical miles of Howland, you might have success.  If you’re a novice, you might want to think twice about actually trying this for the first time out over the open Pacific. 

For more information, see The myth of the “sunrise” LOP – Fredienoonan;  Single LOP Landfall procedure – Fredienoonan;  American Air Navigator, Mattingly (1944) – Fredienoonan.

6.  CONFUSION: At 8:43 a.m. (2013z, according to the Itasca log) almost 90 minutes after 1846z, Amelia made a radio call to the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca at Howland, stating that they were running north and south on the (sun) line 157°-337°.  That, of course, was impossible since the sun’s azimuth had changed from 67° about 90 minutes earlier, thereby making a 157°-337° LOP nonexistent.

The difference in heading or course was minimal, but that is not the issue.  Instead, the issue was the confusion illustrated by such a transmission.  Noonan had undoubtedly used those course numbers more than an hour earlier, but obviously failed to explain how they changed with the sun’s changing azimuth.  At 8:43 a.m. (2013z), Amelia was flying a heading, not a course.  And with a very strong crosswind from the east, her position east and west was changing by the minute, even if her NW heading was a constant 337 degrees.

The Coast Guard Cutter Itasca was anchored off Howland Island on July 2, 1937 to help Amelia Earhart find the island and land safely at the airstrip that had been prepared there for her Lockheed Electra 10E.

This confusion was greatly complicated by much additional radio confusion, which was extremely concerning to the Itasca crew who were doing their best to communicate.  (The Itasca log and radio transmissions will be discussed later.)

7.  Position:  At 8:43 am (2013z), making an estimated calculation of her average ground speed of approximately 145-150 mph, PLUS making an estimated calculation for drift divergence from her desired easterly course, PLUS making an estimated pattern calculation for the celestial landfall approach, PLUS making an estimated pattern calculation for the expanding box technique, PLUS her radio transmission at 8:43 (2013z) stating that she was running north and south on the  nonexistent (sun) line 157-337, all provide a reasonable and realisticarea of position some 150-200 miles NW of Howland.

At 8:43 a.m. (2013z), with the last transmission (was it?) from Amelia as shown on the Itasca log, it had been 20-plus hours since their takeoff from Lae at 10 a.m. local Lae time (0000z):

  • where they had a serious thunderstorm diversion and strong low pressure area;
  • where they bucked excessively strong winds;
  • where the clear night sky turned to overcast coverage making star sightings and celestial calculations impossible for long periods of time;
  • where the drift meter was useless due to forgetting the drift bombs at Lae;
  • where radio problems surfaced and transmissions from Lae and the Itasca were mostly unheard, a repeat of an earlier case of losing their receiver;
  • where the Itasca had sent numerous Morse code messages (shown in the Itasca log), which went unacknowledged by the Electra, a verbalized frustration expressed by Bellarts and his radio crew;
  • where there was confusion regarding direction finder homingon a signal which could not be received;
  • where previous radio problems and incompatible frequencies re-appeared;
  • where Amelia had discounted the pleas of George Putnam and Gene Vidal to abandon the flight in Lae;
  • where Noonan’s drinking problem re-surfaced in Brazil and Lae;
  • where the human factor of fatigue, due to excessive stress and lack of sleep reared its ugly head, and
  • where Amelia was down to one last decision concerning the pre-flight Contingency Plan to reverse course for the Gilbert Islands.

UNDER THESE CONDITIONS, IT IS EASY TO UNDERSTAND WHY DECISION MAKING COULD BE IMPAIRED AND MISTAKES COULD BE MADE.  BUT THE REALITY IS THIS:  MUCH OF THEIR RADIO CONFUSION WAS SELF-INDUCED, WHICH CREATED PROBLEMS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.

AS ONE LOOKS BACK TO HONOLULU AT HARRY MANNING’S DECISION TO LEAVE THE FLIGHTDUE TO INADEQUATE RADIO CAPABILITY,” WE CAN APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT THEY HAD SET THEMSELVES UP FOR PROBLEMS WHICH NEED NOT HAVE HAPPENED.  FOR THIS REASON, ALONG WITH THE MILITARY CONNECTION, WE WILL NEXT TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT WE CALL THE RADIO DISCONNECTION.

FURTHER, IF THERE WAS A BIGGER PLAN IN PLAY, AS WE WILL EXPLORE, THEN THE RADIO ISSUES COULD TAKE A BACK SEAT TO WHAT MAY REALLY HAVE BEEN HAPPENING.

End of “Clues” Part I

Your comments are welcome.  Though I agree with much of Calvin’s analysis, some points of disagreement are to be expected in any analysis of Amelia’s last flight, when so much is yet unknown and educated speculation is the best anyone can do.  I will refrain from expressing my views until Calvin’s complete analysis is published.  For now, I want to extend my most sincere appreciation and thanks to Calvin for his learned and timely contribution. 

Advertisements

Did Nina Paxton hear Amelia’s calls for help? “Absolutely,” says longtime researcher Les Kinney

Another July has nearly passed, a month when, for decades, two things have been certain.  Many will flock to Atchison, Kansas for the annual Amelia Earhart Festival love-in on her July 24 birthday, and a new dose of recycled snake oil purporting to solve the so-called “Earhart Mystery” as dictated to media stenographers by Ric Gillespie of TIGHAR, the only “internationally recognized expert” to whom anyone should listen, will be injected into a culture sodden with lies about Amelia’s fate.  We’ve been watching this revolting circus of endless deceit for 30 years now, with no relief in sight.

Last year Gillespie brought cadaver dogs to Nikumaroro to search for the remains of the lost fliers.  Words fail to express how utterly ridiculous this idea was, once one understands how many people lived and died there since the late 1930s, none of them Earhart or Fred Noonan!  Even more ludicrous, the U.S. and world media reported this absurd spectacle as if it were a serious attempt to find the lost fliers, while an ignorant, incurious public looked on without a word of protest against this attack on all common sense.

(Editor’s note:  Soon after this post was published, TIGHAR’s Tom King Ph.D. wrote to inform us that “Ric didn’t take the forensic dogs to Nikumaroro; he opposed our taking them. You can blame National Geographic and me for that outrage.”)

Amelia turned 121 on July 24, but who’s counting? Once in a blue moon the lady who was part tomboy, part grease monkey and all pilot would dress up for a photographer, and at these times she could be quite stunning, as in the above. Happy Birthday, Amelia! (Courtesy Bachrach.)

We can fairly wonder why our esteemed media gatekeepers never asked TIGHAR’s boss why he would be looking for Earhart’s bones on Nikumaroro, when the bones found there in 1940 were long gone, and according to University of Tennessee professor Richard L. Jantz, were almost certainly Earhart’s?  On March 7, 2018, The Washington Post covered the story thusly: Bones discovered on an island are hers, a new analysis shows.” 

This July, Gillespie didn’t ask the credulous to believe that a jar of freckle cream, discarded pieces of aluminum, an old shoe sole, a zipper, a woman’s compact or even long disappeared human bones are proof that Earhart and Fred Noonan landed on Nikumaroro in the Phoenix Islands and died of starvation a week later on an island overflowing with food and water sources.

Gillespie has taken a more subtle approach this year, perhaps realizing that nearly everyone except the truly brain dead have had their fill of the annual hysteria and phony hype about the imminent “solution to the Earhart mystery” that he and his minions will soon produce.  These disinformation drills are always followed by absolutely nothing, as another worthless claim is debunked and falls by the wayside, relegated to the garbage pile of the assorted flotsam and jetsam that Gillespie and his cronies have scraped and dug out of Nikumaroro, where hundreds of native settlers and even U.S. Coast Guardsmen lived from the late 1930s to the ’60s.

In a lengthy paper titled “The Post-loss Radio Signals” he authored with Robert Brandenburg, Gillespie brings out his trademark bells, whistles, colorized graphs and charts that have long dazzled and bamboozled the unwary and made him infamous among the literate to proclaim:  “As with Dr. Jantz’s findings, the patterns and relationships emerging from the data show that TIGHAR has answered the 81-year-old question: what really happened to Amelia Earhart?”  None of this is new, and nothing Gillespie conjures up will ever place the lost fliers on Nikumaroro, because they were never there, as a mountain of legitimate evidence tells all who bother to take their eyes off the shiny objects TIGHAR is constantly waving at them.

The Washington Post, long a stalwart in the TIGHAR water-carrying brigade, led the way in this season’s current propaganda blitz with its July 25 story, Amelia Earhart’s last calls: Research suggests dozens heard radioed cries for help.”  Here’s the key excerpt from the Post story we will focus on forthwith:

On July 3, for example, Nina Paxton, an Ashland, Ky., woman, said she heard Earhart say “KHAQQ calling,” and say she was “on or near little island at a point near” . . . “then she said something about a storm and that the wind was blowing.”

“Will have to get out of here,” she says at one point. “We can’t stay here long.”

Note that the Washington Post says nothing about where the radio signals came from that Paxton claims she heard, despite the fact that Paxton named that location in some of her letters.   Of course not, because the Marshall Islands are nowhere near Nikumaroro, where Gillespie and TIGHAR’s cash cow lives. 

Fox News, along with the rest of the usual suspects, followed the Post story with its own version of the same agitprop, and three comments with my name and Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last were expunged shortly after they appeared on the Fox News site.  This was reported to me by staunch supporter William Trail, who notices such things.  When it comes to the Earhart story, Fox News is far worse than the hated Washington Post, which Fox demeans as being too liberal.  Can you blame me for despising this “fair and balanced” news Gestapo? 

At least the Post briefly mentioned Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last in its new article, and even provided a link to its July 11, 2017 story, which gave me a few paragraphs to vent, thanks to Amy B. Wang, the story’s co-author who took the time to briefly interview me.  Pigs will fly before Fox News or any of the other mainline media would even consider doing such a thing.

In a letter to Fred Goerner describing her July 3 radio reception, Nina Paxton wrote, “We lost our course yesterday and came up here.  Directly Northeast of a part of Marshall Islands near Mili Atoll.”  (Photo courtesy Les Kinney.)

Longtime researcher Les Kinney has plenty more to say about Paxton’s claims, and he doesn’t file his stories with Fox News, the Washington Post or any other news organizations, for obvious reasons.  Occasionally he brings his work here, where the truth is always welcome and most appreciated, especially when it sheds new light on nagging questions.

The last time we heard from Kinney was his March 9 dismantling of the aforementioned TIGHAR-Richard Jantz-bones fantasies.  Although we still differ over his belief about the identity of the figure sitting on the dock in the Jaluit-ONI photo of History Channel infamy, as far as I can discern, we agree on virtually everything else of significance. 

Without further delay, here’s some real Earhart news, courtesy of an Earhart researcher whose findings, with one well-known exception, will not be found in our corrupt media. (All boldface mine.)

The Nina Paxton Papers
By Les Kinney

At about 2:20 in the afternoon of July 3, 1937, Nina Paxton was fiddling with the tuner on her Philco radio in Ashland, Kentucky.  Suddenly, she heard Amelia Earhart “In a very clear strong voice.” For a few seconds, Nina attended to the needs of her five-year old son thinking Miss Earhart must be on a training flight.  When she then realized Amelia was crying for help, she listened and took a few notes.  A few minutes later, Earhart was gone.

Until her death on Christmas Day, 1970, Nina Paxton told anyone who would listen that Earhart had crash landed in the Marshall Islands.  She tried to remember everything she heard that day. She began standing vigil over her radio listening to the short wave band hoping to hear Amelia again.  A few years later, Nina wrote to Rand McNally looking for information on the Marshall Islands.  She developed a guilt complex and believed she hadn’t done enough to save Earhart’s life. She searched for new memories, words or phrases Amelia might have said on that early July afternoon that might have previously escaped her.  No one seemed to believe her.  In the mid-1940s, she wrote to the Office of Naval Intelligence, Walter Winchell, and the FBI.  Toward the end of her life she corresponded with Fred Goerner, the bestselling author of The Search for Amelia Earhart.  Nina’s letters always carried the same general message: Amelia Earhart landed in the Marshall Islands.

Skeptics said Nina could have gotten her information from newspapers, radio, and seeing the 1943 movie Flight for Freedom.  The fact that Nina waited a full week to tell her local newspaper didn’t help her credibility.  On July 9, 1937, the following brief article appeared in the Ashland Daily Independent. It differs from Nina’s notes from July and August 1937.  Nina had more to say than the local reporter sent to print:      

Mrs. C.B. Paxton, 3024 Bath Avenue, told the Independent she heard the distress message of Amelia Earhart noted American woman flyer lost in the Pacific ocean last Saturday afternoon at two o’clock.  Miss Earhart and her navigator Frederick J. Noonan, last were heard from in the air at 2:12 EST last Friday when they said they had only a supply of gas good for thirty minutes.

This news story appeared in the Ashland (Kentucky) Daily Independent on July 9, 1937.

The message came in on my short wave set very plain,” Mrs. Paxton said,and Miss Earhart talked for some time.  I turned the radio down one time to talk to my little child and then turned it back up to catch the last part of the message.

I didn’t understand everything Miss Earhart had said,” Mrs. Paxton told the Independent, because there was some noise.  She gave the following message as she understood it:

“Down in ocean,” then Miss Earhart either said ‘on,’ ‘or’ [sic] near little island at a point near. . . .” After that Mrs. Paxton understood her to say something about “directly northeast,” although she was not sure about that part. “Our plane about out of gas.  Water all around very dark.” Then she said something about a storm and that the wind was blowing. ‘Will have to get out of here,’ she said. “We can’t stay here long.”

The message was preceded by Miss Earhart’s call letters, “KHAQQ calling, KHAQQ calling.”      

Because Nina’s letters in the 1940s were so passionate, I suspected what she had to say was true.  Why would she lie? Nina was educated, married, a registered nurse, and had no bone to pick.  When I started investigating her background, I found out she died a widow in Ashland, Ky., Christmas Day in 1970.  She left no family.  Her husband passed away in 1954.  Her son got into one scrape after another until he ended up in prison.

It took me three years and quite a bit of luck to locate the Paxton papers.  Eventually, I discovered Nina’s Earhart files at tiny Mars Hills University in the mountains of western North Carolina.  They were donated to the university by a wife of a doctor that had worked with Nina in the 1950s.  The Paxton box had been collecting dust in a library storeroom since 1975.

I planned to report the Paxton findings in the book I am writing on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.  Recent events caused me to change my mind.  TIGHAR just released a new Post Loss Radio Study touting the claims of Betty Klenck in 1937 as a 15-year-old claimed to have heard Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on her home radio for several days.  None of the post-loss radio messages collected by TIGHAR give a location where Amelia and Fred went down.  The Paxton papers tell us Earhart and Noonan went down in the Marshall Islands.  Mars Hills University recently put a few of Nina Paxton’s letters on the internet:  http://southernappalachianarchives.org/ /show/4It is time to share my findings.

There are over a hundred letters, some notes, and a few newspaper and magazine clippings making up the Paxton material.  I copied them all.  The first letter is dated July 14, 1937.  Nina continued to write and offer insight into the Earhart disappearance until close to her death.  After reviewing all the files, it appears there might be a few writings and reference notes missing.

At about 2 p.m. on July 3, 1937, local time, Nina Paxton heard Amelia Earhart’s distressed voice announce she had gone down in the Marshall Islands.  Nina had no idea where the Marshall Islands were located.  Nor did she know the call sign for Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra wasn’t KHABQ.  After hearing Earhart on her radio, Nina went to the Ashland Police Department and then to a nearby Coast Guard Station to report what she had heard. They laughed at her and said the call sign for Earhart’s Electra was KHAQQ.  It was for this reason that Nina didn’t tell the local press of Earhart’s distress message until July 9, 1937.  Nina had no idea the call sign for Earhart’s previous plane, a Lockheed Vega, was KHABQ.  A tired, exhausted, worried and emotionally drained Amelia Earhart blurted out her old call sign the day Nina heard the distress message on July 3, 1937.  It would have been an easy thing to do.

“There is a picture of Amelia and Fred on the internet standing next to the tail of the Electra looking over such a map,” Les Kinney writes.  “If they relied on that map, Fred would have only had a general idea where he and Amelia had gone down.”

Nina Paxton heard the only post-loss radio report giving a specific location where Amelia and Fred landed.  During the two months following Earhart’s disappearance, Nina enclosed her rough notes in the letters she sent to Mrs. Noonan, George Palmer Putnam, Walter Winchell and Congressman Fred M. Vinson.  Nina typed the rough notes out twice and tried not to embellish what she had heard.  She created spaces where she was unsure of a word or phrase.  The first rough note is without a heading.  The second one is titled, “Call of a Courageous Lady.”  She didn’t like that either and scratched it out.

In some of her later notes, which aren’t on Mars Hill’s web site, Nina wonders why Amelia used the time of her arrival as 2:20.  She possibly thought Earhart might have converted the time to Eastern Standard Time and makes that point in later letters.  Nina puts this confusion in parentheses.  Nina’s two rough notes held by Mars Hill University seem to be a cumulative compilation she completed sometime in August 1937.  Nina says “the plane was damaged in landing near a part of Marshall Islands.” Amelia says Noonan was injured, and that he “doesn’t walk very well, and that he (Noonan) bruised his leg badly when landing.”

(Editor’s note:  This detail about Noonan’s leg injury is directly reflected by eyewitness Bilimon Amaron’s account to several researchers, including Vincent V. Loomis.  See pages 107-108 in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.)

In a letter to George Putnam dated Aug. 5, 1937, Nina writes she found a piece of scratch paper she had written while listening to Earhart. Miss Earhart mentioned three little islands.  The little one (perhaps a reef) they were on, north of Howland Island at a point very near an island she called “Marshall.”  (Sadly, this little piece of scratch paper is missing from the Mars Hill holdings.)  Rather naively, Nina tells George Putnam in a letter dated Aug. 5, 1937, “If there is an island known by the name of Marshall and it can be contacted, I believe it well worthwhile to do so at once as I am sure Miss Earhart, and Captain Noonan will be found in this area.”  

Early researchers Vincent Loomis and Oliver Knaggs in the late 1970s and early 1980s focused their attention on the middle of three islands at Mili Atoll.  On my recent trips to Mili Atoll, we discovered airplane artifacts in the middle of three small islands.  Nina’s rough notes indicate she heard Earhart say, “Directly north-east of a part of Marshall Islands, 90 ****173 longitude and 5 latitude. We missed our course yesterday and came up here.”

This section of the “Sketch Survey” of Mili Atoll taken from U.S. and Japanese charts focuses on the northwest quadrant of Mili Atoll, where Barre Island is clearly noted.  Native witnesses saw the Electra come down near Barre, and Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were seen embarking the Electra and seeking shelter on one of the tiny Endriken Islands nearby.  Recent searches of the area by Dick Spink and Les Kinney have uncovered several artifacts that might have come from the Earhart Electra, but testing has not solely linked them to the Earhart plane to the exclusion of all others. 

No one knows whether Fred Noonan carried sectional maps for the Marshall Islands.  The U.S. Navy hadn’t the opportunity to map the area since the Japanese took control in 1914.  It wasn’t on their planned route and its likely Fred had to rely on an old British map of the Pacific from his seafaring days.  There is a picture of Amelia and Fred on the internet standing next to the tail of the Electra looking over such a map.  If they relied on that map, Fred would have only had a general idea where he and Amelia had gone down.

When Nina heard Amelia Earhart on the afternoon of July 3, 1937, she scratched down a few words where Amelia said they had landed. 90 ******173 longitude and 5 latitude.  If you look on a map, 5 degrees North latitude and 173 East longitude is not far from Mili Atoll.  (End of “Nina Paxton Papers.” )

I devoted nine pages of Chapter III, “The Search and the Radio Signals,” in Truth at Last, a section titled “The ‘Post-Loss’ Radio Messages,” (pages 40-49 TAL 2nd Ed.) to an examination of most of the significant alleged receptions from Amelia, but omitted Nina Paxton’s claims because at the time I wasn’t enthusiastic about them and hadn’t properly researched the Paxton claims to write about them intelligently.  Thanks to Les Kinney, we’re now much smarter about Nina Paxton.

So what are we to believe?  Did Amelia Earhart send radio messages from her downed Electra, transmissions that were heard by Nina Paxton in Ashland, Ky., by Pan American Airways, U.S. Navy stations in the central Pacific and numerous amateur radio operators in the continental United States?  I’m not technically smart enough to claim any special insights, but I’ve presented the educated verdicts of several experts in radio propagation and reception capabilities of the day in several posts.  For what its worth, I think Nina Paxton’s account could be the most compelling of all these alleged messages, and should be taken seriously at the very least. 

You can find an extensive discussion of the significant post-loss messages in the three posts I wrote on this subject in 2014:

Earhart’s “post-loss messages”: Real or fantasy? published April 30, 2014, followed by Experts weigh in on Earhart’spost-loss’ messages two weeks later, and finally Amelia Earhart’s alleged ‘Land in sight’ message remains a curiosity, if not a mystery | Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last on May 27, 2014.

Another credible account puts Amelia in Marshalls

We’ve seen the account of Ted Burris, a federal employee on Kwajalein in 1965, who was told by an old Marshallese man of the nearly certain presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan near Ebeye Island in 1937. In today’s post we return to the vaults of the Amelia Earhart Society to examine more evidence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s Marshall Islands landfall. 

Reverend Joseph C. Wright, a Presbyterian minister from Gulfport, Mississippi, was an Air Force major on temporary duty at Guam in the spring of 1967. Writing to Fred Goerner in July 1967, Wright recalled that while visiting his brother-in-law on Majuro Atoll, he and a Majuro-based missionary made a “field trip” to Mili Atoll, 80 miles away.

The inset paragraphs, edited slightly for clarity, are taken from Wright’s letter to Goerner, and appeared in the July 1998 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.

The 228-ton cargo ship, Mieco Queen, Majuro Atoll. Marshall Islands, in May 1980. Built in 1956, the Mieco Queen clearly had seen some rough seas since since the days when she carried Joseph Wright to Mili Atoll's Enajet Island in 1967.

The 228-ton cargo ship, Mieco Queen, at Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, in May 1980. Built in 1956, the Mieco Queen had seen some rough seas since the days when she carried Joseph Wright to Mili Atoll’s Enajet Island in 1967.

I am a member of the Air Force, S.A.C., in a B-52 Unit that just recently returned from a six months TDY [temporary duty] in Guam. While there I had the great fortune to wrangle myself a 10 day leave to visit Majuro in the Marshalls. My brother-in-law is principal of the High Schools there, and in addition I knew an Assembly of God Missionary, Sam Sasser, who, with his family have been living there for over five years. It was an act of God (or Providence) that allowed me to make the contacts that we were able to, which was part of a Grecian Odyssey in itself.

Our Trust Territory aircraft arrived in Majuro on a Wednesday morning, 26 April 1967, a few hours after the klunker [sic] vessel, the Mieco Queen, had departed for a supposedly five-day field trip to Mili Atoll. Sasser, a native sailor, and myself elected to take a 14 ft, 40 hp motor boat across 15 miles of stormy ocean late in the afternoon to try to catch the “Queen” at Arno Atoll that evening. After 3 tries at “jumping the reef,” we successfully got into the rolling ocean swells and after four tough hours (no life vests) caught the vessel at 8:00 P.M. that night.

With rough weather and a breakdown aboard the ship, we extended to almost three weeks. The trip to Mili was tremendous, and the discoveries were even more exciting. They hadn’t seen half a dozen white people in over 25 years! The missionary effort was tremendous, and on Mili Island itself, which had been completely bombed out in WWII, we explored war wreckage that had been completely untouched since the War.

All kinds of Betty bombers, fighters, and the most exciting – a wrecked American P-38. I identified it, and recovered his little brass radio call sign dash panel plate — the guy turned out to be quite a hero, which is another story, and which I intend to follow through and identify.

During the voyage, Wright met Captain Leonard deBrum, “master of the vessel, Mieco Queen,” who told him of three people on a Mili island who might have information about the Earhart mystery. Wright’s letter to Goerner continues: 

Leonard deBrum, at this Majuro home in 2003.

Leonard deBrum, then 87, at his Majuro home in 2003. (Photo courtesy Sue Rosoff.)

But the most thrilling discovery was to locate the specific island that Amelia Earhart crashed on. Yes, it is circumstantial evidence, but here is the story: I became good friends with Capt. Leonard de Brum, the master of the vessel, Mieco Queen, and himself [sic] is quite an exciting legend in the Marshalls. We discussed the Earhart mystery, and I let him read the concluding chapters of your book. Yes, he had heard rumors of the lady American flyer, but didn’t pay much attention, or put much stock in them. It had been so many years ago. So he referred Sasser and myself to three aged people on a particular island in the Mili Atoll.

On Enajet Island, Wright asked an old man if he remembered an American airplane landing in the area many years ago.

Thru the interpreter I asked him if “many years ago do you remember an American airplane being in this part of the world.” Keep in mind that this old guy hasn’t even seen white people in many years. He puzzled and remembered by “so and so dying, somebody else getting married, having babies, etc. – then went on, “yes, it was thirty years ago, and I remember very well now, because the person from the airplane was not a man, but a lady with man’s clothes and man’s haircut.

“Also she had a man with her with white cloth around his head,” he continued. . . . . “But we could not be curious. It was in Japan times and they were very hard people. One woman would not cooperate and they cut off her head . . . but the story was that these people had papers and hid them in a hollow hole of a May tree. In a couple of days the Japs came and took the two people away, and also the wreckage.” 

During his 1989 visit to Mili Atoll, Bill Prymak took this photo of a village on Enajet Island.

During his 1989 visit to Mili Atoll, Bill Prymak took this photo of a village on Enajet Island.

Several months later, Wright sent Goerner two photos of the old man, and with the help of Dirk Ballendorf, a Peace Corps official on Saipan, the native was identified as Lammorro, then living on Mili Island. No further contact with Lammorro was ever reported. Wright’s story was published in the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald on July 3, 1992.

Joseph Wright’s report enhances the likelihood that the American fliers were taken to Kwajalein Atoll soon after their July 2 disappearance. In their 2001 essay, Next Stop Kwajalein,” published only on the AES Website, Amelia Earhart Lives author Joe Klaas and Joe Gervais speculated that some Marshall Islands reports of a plane landing on the water were not, as most assumed, sightings of Earhart’s Electra, but of a Japanese seaplane with the American fliers aboard. The authors’ analysis focused on Burris’ account, and “Next Stop Kwajalein” will be the subject of a future post.

Marshalls stamps reflect fact of Amelia Earhart’s Mili Atoll landing

Anyone familiar with the Earhart saga knows that in 1987 the Republic of the Marshall Islands issued a set of four commemorative stamps and envelope covers in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Amelia’s crash-landing off Barre Island, in the northwest section of Mili Atoll, on July 2, 1937.

The story depicted in the stamps is based largely on the narrative in Vincent V. Loomis’ 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, though not all of it can be considered accurate. For example, no evidence exists to support the idea presented by the authors of the one-page information sheet issued with the stamps that the fliers were taken from Jaluit to Truk, and then to Saipan. On the contrary, we have plenty of witness testimony that Earhart and Noonan were taken from Jaluit to Kwajalein, and then to Saipan. 

Likewise, the statement that Earhart and Noonan, once realizing they were lost, “implemented their contingency plan and turned into a WNW course for the Gilberts,” and eventually found themselves at Mili Atoll, is speculation and not a known fact. Though this could have happened, we simply do not know precisely how or why Earhart and Noonan landed off Barre Island, only that they did indeed do so.

Marshall Islands 1987 stamp

Shortly after publication of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, in the summer of 2012, Frank Benjamin, an Earhart researcher and educator who was teaching at Anne Arundal Community College, in Arnold, Md., sent me the syllabus for his course, “Mysteries of History and Science.”

The Earhart disappearance was the featured event in “Mysteries of History and Science,” and Truth at Last was the only textbook named in the syllabus.  To my knowledge, this was the first and only time this book has been the textbook for a college course, thanks to Benjamin.

Among the materials Frank sent me was the original information sheet that described the creation of the 1987 Marshall Islands stamps and covers, issued by the Marshall Islands Philatelic Bureau. Below, for both the discerning collector and the slightly interested, is the contents of the sheet’s contents, and some of the covers and stamps that it described. Marshalls Stamps masthead

The disappearance of American aviatrix Amelia Earhart during her around-the-world flight attempt in 1937 has been one of aviation’s great unsolved mysteries. Recent investigations by Vincent Looms and David Kabua (son of Marshalls President Amata Kabua) have led to eyewitness accounts of what happened to Earhart and her navigator Frederick Noonan. This issue is based on those accounts.

The Amelia Earhart commemorative is the Marshall Islands CAPEX ’87 issue, released concurrently at Majuro, capital of the Marshalls, and Toronto, Canada. Earhart tended wounded soldiers in a Toronto hospital during World War I, and her first brush with the excitement of aviation came at the Toronto Aero Club Fete of 1918.

Her associations with Canada continued: her 1928 flight, in which she was the first woman to fly the Atlantic, went from Boston, MA, Halifax, NS, and Trepassey, NWF to Carmarthen Bay, Wales; her flight of 1932, when she became the first woman to solo the Atlantic, was routed from Teterboro, NJ to St. John, NB, to harbor Grace, NWF and on to Culmore, Ireland.

This set of four postage stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia Earhart's last flight. The stamps (clockwise from top left) are titled: "Takeoff, Lae, New Guinea, July 2, 1937; USCG Itasca at Howland Island Awaiting Earhart; Crash Landing at Mili Atoll, July 2, 1937; and Recovery of Electra by the Koshu." Frank Benjamin elarged and mounted these stamps, and they are an impressive part of his unique Earhart display.

This set of four postage stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s last flight. The stamps (clockwise from top left) are titled: “Takeoff, Lae, New Guinea, July 2, 1937; USCG Itasca at Howland Island Awaiting Earhart; Crash Landing at Mili Atoll, July 2, 1937; and Recovery of Electra by the Koshu.” Frank Benjamin enlarged and mounted these stamps, and they are an impressive part of his unique Earhart display.

At 10 a.m. on July 2, 1937, Earhart’s Electra took off from the Cliffside runway at Lae, New Guinea bound for Howland Island, via the Nikumanus and Nauru; if she reached it all right, the remaining legs to Hawaii and California would be easy. A Guinea Airways pilot [probably Jim Collopy], who saw her takeoff, commented that the craft was so overloaded that it dropped off the end of the runway and wet its props in the Gulf of Huon before Earhart could get to flying speed.

Awaiting her on Howland Island, 2500 [actually 2,556] miles away, was the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, equipped with the latest navigation and communication devices. Commander Warner K. Thompson had search lights aimed skyward all night as a beacon; with the dawn, the Itasca began burning bunker oil, which put out a black plume visible for thirty miles around. An experimental Navy direction-finding unit (DF) was set on Howland itself, and officers also scanned the skies with binoculars.

One of four covers issued in June 1987 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Amelia Earhart's landing off Barre Island, Mili Atoll, in the Marshall Islands.

One of four covers issued in June 1987 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s landing off Barre Island, Mili Atoll, in the Marshall Islands.

All through the night and the next morning, radio operators struggled to establish two-way communications with the Electra. Earhart’s transmissions would drift in and out, but she seemed unable to understand messages the Coast Guardsmen were sending, and she never stayed on the air long enough for them to fix her position. Each succeeding broadcast seemed more desperate and confused, until, two hours after sunrise locally, her last message: “We are on the line of position 157-337. We are running north and south.” Then, fifty years of silence.

Thinking they were south of Howland Island, but unable to find it, Earhart and Noonan implemented their contingency plan and turned into a WNW course for the Gilberts. However, since they were north of Howland, their new course carried them directly over Mili Atoll, most southeasterly of the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.

Two Mili fishermen on Barre Island, Lijon and Jororo Alibar, saw a silver plane approach and crash-land on the nearby reef, breaking off part of its right wing. The two Marshallese hid in the underbrush and watched as two white people exited the wreck and came ashore in a yellow raft. A little while later Japanese soldiers arrived to take hold of the fliers. When the shorter flier screamed, the Marshallese realized one was a woman. They remained hidden until long after the captives were taken away.

Another of the four covers issued in Jun2 1987. this one depicting a native Marshallese, probably Lijon, a Japanese officer and the Japanese survey ship Koshu, which some believe loaded the damaged Electra on its stern and eventually took it to Saipan.

Another of the four covers issued in Jun2 1987. this one depicting a native Marshallese, probably Lijon, a Japanese officer and the Japanese survey ship Koshu, which some believe loaded the damaged Electra on its stern and eventually took it to Saipan.

The Japanese Navy Survey Ship Koshu was sent from Ponape to Barre Island to pick up Earhart’s Lockheed Electra. The canvas sling the Koshu normally used for plucking Japanese seaplanes from the water was still around the big silver bird when the ship returned to Jaluit on July 19, where Japanese Medical Corpsman Bilimon Amaran [sic], who treated Noonan’s crash injuries, boarded the ship and saw Earhart.

The Koshu then sailed immediately for Truk, where Earhart and Noonan were taken aboard a flying boat to Saipan, the Japanese military headquarters in the Pacific. Saipanese Josephine Blanco witnesses the Japanese plane land in Tanapag Harbor, and she was taken by her brother-in-law, a Japanese working at the base, to see the Americans.

Earhart and Noonan were considered spies by the Japanese and so were held on Saipan for questioning. Their fate remains unknown.

This stamp [sic] is based in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, by Vincent Loomis. It was designed by William R. Hansen, Lunar Artist-Apollo 16, who also designed the CPAEX cancel and cachet and wrote this panel. The House of Questa printed the issue to the standard commemorative specifications.

Marshalls Stamps Info Postmark

I should not have to mention that Loomis was not alone in his findings that revealed the presence of the lost fliers at Mili Atoll in early July 1937. The investigations of other authors and researchers, including Fred Goerner, Oliver Knaggs, Bill Prymak, and most recently Dick Spink and Les Kinney have strongly corroborated the truth depicted in the 1987 commemorative stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Islands. But what has always been accepted as fact by the Marshallese people continues to be denied by the U.S. government and falsely labeled a “mystery,” while virtually nobody ever questions or challenges one of the greatest lies in American history.

An interview with Marshalls icon Robert Reimers: “Everyone knew” of AE’s landing, tycoon said

Once again we dip into the archives of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters to present another of  the late Bill Prymak’s invaluable contributions to Earhart research, an interview with the legendary Robert Reimers just a year before his death in 1998.  Without Prymak’s efforts, the voice of this well-known Marshallese entrepreneur would likely never have been heard outside of his beloved islands. The following piece appeared in the May 1997 issue of the AES Newsletters, and is presented for your information and entertainment, as always.

INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT REIMERS by Bill Prymak

The passengers queuing up at the Majuro International Airport for the Air Micronesia flight to Honolulu were getting restless. The flight was already one hour late, there were no seat reservations, the plane was overbooked (as usual) and the terminal was crowded and hot.

Quite inconspicuously, but with obvious authority, an elderly couple (the man deeply tanned and spry), were ushered to the head of the line and escorted to the airplane. Not feeling slighted, but curious, I asked one of the airport security men who the couple was.

With great reverence he whispered, “Why that is our Mr. Robert Reimers, with his wife.”

Robert Reimers, founder, CEO, and genius behind the sprawling Robert Reimers Enterprises, Inc. (RRE as it is known), has hotels, shopping centers, hardware stores, travel agents, and dive boat operations at Majuro. And flung across the vast length and breadth of the Marshall Islands, RRE owns perimeter hotels, fuel depots, stores and nearly every commercial enterprise that exists on the outer atolls and islands. He is number ONE. Even his address: P.O. Box 1, Majuro, Marshall Islands, tells you of his station. 

Robert Reimers, the top businessman in the Marshall Islands in 1991, told Bill Prymak that the Mili Atoll landing of Amelia Earhart in 1937 was common knowledge among his people. Reimers passed away in 1998.

Robert Reimers, the top businessman in the Marshall Islands in 1991, told Bill Prymak that the Mili Atoll landing of Amelia Earhart in 1937 was common knowledge among his people. Reimers passed away in 1998.

This man, I said to myself, has got to be interviewed!!

Once we were aboard and seated on the plane, I was able to finagle Mr. Reimers’ grandson into swapping seats with me, and for the next three hours I had a fascinating insight to one of the most powerful and influential men in the whole Marshall Islands. My interview:

 AES: Mr. Reimers, we just came back from Jaluit . . . do you personally know much about the Island?

 REIMERS: Bill, I was born at Jabor (Ed. Note: main island and town at Jaluit Atoll), in 1909, and was raised there until 1935, when our family moved to Likiep Atoll. Tourists never visit Jaluit; what made you go there?

AES: Some of my group had been there before. We wanted to see the children again, and we were looking for additional information on Amelia Earhart.

REIMERS:  Ah, yes, the Earhart woman . . . why are you Americans still looking for her and her airplane?

AES:  Mr. Reimers, she has never been found, and her sister, still living, and other family have been searching for so many years . . . they deserve to know.

REIMERS: Ah yes, family.  I know family very well; do you know I have eleven children and sixty-seven grandkids?

AESThat is remarkable. We have observed that family ties are very strong in the outer islands. Can you tell me some of your experiences with the Japanese before Word War II?

REIMERS: The Germans had made Jaluit their commercial headquarters before WWI, but you’re not interested in events that far back. When the Japanese Navy kicked out the Germans, they sealed the (Marshall) Islands to all foreigners. Those very few Americans and other foreign nationals that did sneak under the curtain were shown only what the Japanese wanted them to see, and that was very little. About 1930, I had established myself with the Japanese as a responsible trader, and I did much commerce with them right up until and through WWII. I even supplied them with construction materials and local labor for their island projects.

AES: In what kind of “projects” were you involved?

REIMERS: Well, before 1935, it was mainly commercial and communication facilities: harbor dredging; wharves; docks; hospitals; and big, tall radio towers. But after 1935, the Japanese began some military projects like the airfields at Wotje and Maloelap. I had a good business relationship with them. But after 1936, they began bringing in foreign construction laborers, and conditions got worse for my local people.

AES: When did construction work begin at Emidj?

In June of 1946 Dr. Leonard Mason snapped this shot of Robert Reimers standing on the stern of an outrigger canoe with two friends as they sailed across the lagoon, probably at Kwajalein.

In June of 1946 Dr. Leonard Mason snapped this shot of Robert Reimers standing on the stern of an outrigger canoe with two friends as they sailed across the lagoon, probably at Kwajalein.

REIMERS: Emidj was a very secret place, and even my local people had little access to this area. I was one of the few Marshallese allowed in because I delivered construction materials regularly.  Jabor docks were built in 1936, and the seaplane ramps and docks for the naval base at Emidj were started about the same time. My shipping records were all taken by the Japanese when the great war started, but I am sure of the dates I just mentioned. Military construction projects at Mili did not start until 1940.

AES: What hospital facilities were available in 1937 at Jaluit?

REIMERS: The Japanese converted the old German hospital at Jabor to a very small medical facility, and at Emidj they built a hospital because so many workers, mostly Korean, were there working on the concrete phase of the seaplane naval base.

******************************

A meal break was taken at this point, so I had time to reflect on what he had stated so far. Mr. Reimers has a remarkable memory, and perfect command of the English language. At first glance, and after listening to him, you’d swear he was only sixty or so. His wife, hearing the conversation but not participating, obviously understood every word, with her smiles, nods, and concurrence to her husband’s words. Without any doubt, this man was telling it as it indeed happened. When everyone finished their meal, we continued:

AES: Many of your people that we interviewed at Jabor and Emidj, notably the elders, speak of the brutality of the Japanese against your people during the war years. They described how for the theft of a coconut, a head was severed . . . how Emidj became the execution center for both Allied prisoners of war, and the local population. Can you comment on this tragic chapter in your country’s history?

REIMERS: Remember, Mr. Bill, I called Likiep Atoll my home during the war period, but I was conscripted by the Japanese military to continue my supply lines of materials to their many island bases. And some of my travels took me back to Jabor. Emidj was very secretive, but the stories you hear today from the elders ring true. I must add that towards the end of the war, when things were going badly for the Japanese, my people feared for their lives, and fled to unoccupied islands to escape what they expected as mass slaughter for those who stayed. These times were very bad for the Marshallese . . . the elders remember as I do.

AES: In July of 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator disappeared, and the Western world did not hear from them again. Can you help me, and her family, with any information you may have regarding the possibility of her being down in your islands?

REIMERS:  It was widely known throughout the Islands by both Japanese and Marshallese that a Japanese fishing boat first found them and their airplane near Mili. They then transferred them to a bigger boat. They were brought to Jabor, where Bilimon [Amaron] treated them. Oscar deBrum, and the Carl Heine family (including the boys), were living there and knew of this. They were then taken to Kwajalein and from there to Truk and then Saipan. There was no mystery . . . everybody knew it!

AES: But Mr. Reimers, the Japanese strongly denied seeing the two American aviators. They even sent airplanes and ships out to search for her. How can this be?

REIMERS: Even in 1937, an intrusion in these islands was a very serious offense. And in the case of Earhart, a woman pilot, great cover and secrecy was placed upon them by the Japanese. But, of course, these are our islands. And my people — even in their fear — proved very resourceful knowing about such things.

AES: Did you personally know Bilimon, and the Heine family?

REIMERS: I knew Bilimon very well, and rest easy if you worry about his story of treating the two Americans. You will never fmd a more honest man. You know, of course, he died last year. He was a good man. And the Heine family . . .  John and Dwight’s parents were executed during the war. I grew up with them, and they were the finest missionary people I had ever met. John and Dwight knew about the Americans, but would never talk much.

Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais pause with the iconic Earhart eyewitness Bilimon Amaron at Amaron's Majuro home in 1991.

Bill Prymak and Joe Gervais pause with the famed Earhart eyewitness Bilimon Amaron at Amaron’s Majuro home in 1991.

AES: Researchers like Joe Gervais, sitting across the aisle, have visited your islands several times. Even as far back as 1960, he made several trips to SAIPAN where he met the same curtain of silence. Do the natives not care, or are they still fearful of the Japanese?

REIMERS: It is difficult for Americans to understand the fright and fear of my people during the war. At any moment the Japanese could come smashing into your house and take away any possession you may have, and then march you off to prison—or even worse. After the war, these fears did not die easily. There are some old timers who still think the Japanese might come back. It would not be wise to discuss things deemed secret during the great war. People saw so much killing, they may say, “Why the big fuss over one lady flyer? We saw thousands die!”

AES: Ah, but Amelia was special to the American people.

******************************

I could hear the 727’s engines power back for descent, and Mr. Reimers’ eyes told me the interview was concluded. After expressing my deepest gratitude, I wished him well, and told him our group would come back again to his Islands.

“Don’t forget,” he chided with a parting smile, “call me, and I’ll  find the right boat you. Maybe one of mine will do the job. Good Luck! Find your Amelia.”

POSTMORTEM THOUGHTS:  Three hours with Mr. Reimers certainly taught me a great deal more about the man and his country than the above highlights reveal. Here was a man of intense pride, unquestioned integrity, and now in his mid-eighties, a very private person. I kept imagining what it would be like, to be at his side in the mid-thirties, sailing with his men and boats between the islands, dealing with the Japanese as they prepared for their inevitable confrontation with America. Couldn’t we magically just once turn that clock back, only for a day, to be with Bilimon that summer morning in Jabor, 1937, and truly see the cast of characters that played out that historic event? Oh, my kingdom for a camera, and all I ask for is only one photograph. (End of Prymak article.)

Robert Reimers died on Sept. 27, 1998; his wife Lupe followed on July 23, 2000. They are survived by seven children: Richard (Kietel), Francis (Teruo), Vincent, Ramsey, Minna, Ronnie and Reico; and hundreds of grand-, greatgrand and great-greatgrandchildren. For more information on the life of Robert Reimers, please click here. 

%d bloggers like this: