We continue with our list of significant developments that have shaped and defined the modern search for Amelia Earhart through the years. As I wrote in the opening of this timeline, this is but one man’s opinion, and I make no sweeping claims as to its comprehensiveness. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome and will be considered for inclusion.
November 1966: Retired Marine Gen. Graves B. Erskine, deputy commander of V Amphibious Corps during the Saipan invasion, visits the radio studios of KCBS in San Francisco for an interview with Fred Goerner. While waiting to go on the air, Erskine tells Jules Dundes, CBS West Coast vice president, and Dave McElhatton, a KCBS newsman, “It was established that Earhart was on Saipan. You’ll have to dig the rest out for yourselves.”
June 1967: The ONI Report is declassified and transferred from the Naval Investigative Service (formerly the ONI) to the U.S. Naval History Division. From the day of its declassification, this document has been Exhibit Number One on the evidence list that reveals the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan. Moreover, the ONI Report offers a clear glimpse into the actual workings of the U.S. government’s longstanding practice of denial and deceit in the Earhart disappearance. Despite the mendacity, half-truths and misdirection that flavor its pages, the ONI Report remains the only official government statement ever released that indicates its knowledge of Earhart and Noonan’s presence on Saipan. Thus far, it is the closest thing we have to a smoking gun in the Earhart search.
November 1967 to April 1968: Donald Kothera and his so-called “Cleveland Group” visit Saipan twice in search of evidence supporting Earhart and Noonan’s presence and death there. Kothera’s interview of native Anna Diaz Magofna, who claimed to have seen the beheading of a tall white man as a 7-year-old on Saipan in 1937, is among the most compelling of the Saipan witnesses’ accounts. Kothera excavated a site that some believe is the same one Griswold, Henson and Burks exhumed in 1944.
1969: Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (First Edition) by Joe Davidson, is published by Davidson Publishing Co., Canton, Ohio. Davidson’s book chronicles Don Kothera and the Cleveland Group’s activities in 1967-1968 on Saipan and their return to the states. The book, though often overlooked and poorly written, contains a wealth of important eyewitness material.
1970: Amelia Earhart Lives: A Trip Through Intrigue to Find America’s First Lady of Mystery, by Joe Klaas, is published by McGraw-Hill (New York). This is the notorious book that introduced the disastrous Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth to the world. Irene Bolam, a New Jersey housewife mistaken for Amelia Earhart in 1965 by the delusional Joe Gervais, sued McGraw-Hill for defamation. A settlement was reached and the book was pulled from the shelves after seven weeks, but not before great damage was inflicted on all legitimate Earhart research, then and to this day.
Nov. 12, 1970: Japanese citizen Michiko Sugita tells the Japan Times that military police shot Amelia Earhart as a spy on Saipan in 1937. Sugita was 11 years old in 1937, and her father, Mikio Suzuki, was a civilian police chief at Garapan, Saipan’s capital. She learned about the execution of the American woman from military police at a party given by her father.
Aug. 10, 1971: In a letter to Fred Goerner, Retired Marine Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, the 18th commandant of the Marine Corps, writes: “General Tommy Watson, who commanded the 2nd Marine Division during the assault on Saipan and stayed on that island after the fall of Okinawa, on one of my seven visits of inspection of his division told me that it had been substantiated that Miss Earhart met her death on Saipan.”
1978 to 1982: Former Air Force pilot Vincent V. Loomis made four trips to the Marshall Islands, two to Saipan and one to Tokyo in search of witnesses and Earhart-related evidence. Loomis interviews witnesses to the Electra’s crash-landing in the waters off Barre Island, and is generally credited with solidifying the Marshall Islands landing scenario.
September 1979: South African Oliver Knaggs is hired by a film producer to join Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search. In Knaggs’ 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight, Knaggs recounts his 1979 and ’81 investigations in the Marshalls and Saipan. Her last flight corroborates much of the witness testimony gathered by Goerner and Loomis, and is the first published book to present the eyewitness account of Bilimon Amaron, who tended to Fred Noonan’s knee wound at Jaluit in July 1937.
June 1982: After years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged radio receptions, famed inventor Fred Hooven presents his paper, Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight, at the Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum. This was the genesis of the false “Nikumaroro Hypothesis,” which has so dominated public discussion since The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery’s (TIGHAR) first trip there in 1989. Later, Hooven reportedly changed his mind and fully embraced the Marshall Islands landing scenario, made famous by Vincent V. Loomis in his 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story after Fred Goerner laid its foundation in The Search for Amelia Earhart.
1983: Amelia Earhart: Her last flight, is published by a South African firm. A collector’s item, Knaggs’ book is worth the price for researchers interested in learning more about details of Vincent V. Loomis’ work in the Marshalls, and offers new evidence never revealed elsewhere.
June 1985: Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, by Vincent V. Loomis and Jeffrey Ethell, is published by Random House, a huge mainstream outfit, and recounts the aforementioned investigations by Vincent V. Loomis. The book’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review. After gushing that Loomis “interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents,” Hart writes, “The mystery is a mystery no longer.” Neither the U.S. government nor the entire establishment media got Hart’s memo.
April 1, 1987: Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, by Thomas E. Devine, is published by Renaissance House Publishers (Frederick, Colo.). Eyewitness is Devine’s first-person account of his Earhart-related experiences in the summer of 1944, which included his personal inspection of Electra NR 16020, Earhart’s plane discovered at Aslito Field. Also chronicled is Devine’s return to Saipan in 1963 with Fred Goerner, when he located the gravesite of a white man and woman who had “come from the sky” before the war, according to an unidentified Okinawan’s account to him in 1945.
July 1988: Witness to the Execution: The Odyssey of Amelia Earhart, by T.C. “Buddy” Brennan is published by the same Renaissance House that released Eyewitness a year earlier. During three trips to the Marshalls and Saipan in the early 1980s, Houston real-estate executive Buddy Brennan interviews several Marshallese and Saipan natives with knowledge of the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan. One alleged eyewitness. Mrs. Nievas Cabrera Blas, claims to have seen a white woman shot and buried near her home just prior to the American invasion in 1944. Brennan’s excavation produces a rag that he claims is the blindfold worn by Amelia Earhart, an impossible-to-prove theory.
March 16, 1992: at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, announces that the Amelia Earhart mystery “is solved.” The “evidence” Gillespie presents includes a battered piece of aluminum, a weathered size 9 shoe sole labeled “Cat’s Paw Rubber Co., USA,” a small brass eyelet and another unlabeled heel the group found on Nikumaroro during TIGHAR’s highly publicized second trip there in October 1991. These items, elaborately displayed and labeled in a glass case, all came from Earhart or her Electra, according to Gillespie. All this material is later thoroughly and scientifically debunked, and nothing that Gillespie and TIGHAR have brought back from Nikumaroro in 11 trips has ever been forensically linked to the fliers.
1993 to present: Australian aircraft engineer David Billings, working in Papua New Guinea, has an interest in locating World War aircraft wrecks there. In 1993 he reads of the possibility that Earhart’s Electra aircraft might have been seen by some Australian army soldiers while on patrol in the jungle on New Britain Island in 1945. After contacting the actual veterans, he learns that they have a “patrol map” from their wartime patrol, during which they saw the aircraft wreck. In 1994, one of the veterans, Donald Angwin, preparing the map for Billings to view, finds some writing on the map which came into view after Angwin removed some old tape on the border.
Billings finds a reference written as “600 H/P S3H1 C/N1055” which together form identifiers for Earhart’s Electra aircraft by identifying the horsepower rating of the engines, the Pratt & Whitney designation for the engines she used and, last of all, the actual Electra aircraft serial number, expressed as a Construction Number: “1055.”
These letter and number codes matches Amelia Earhart’s Electra NR 16020. The letters and numbers given as a reference on the map border are believed to be the same “string of letters and numbers” seen by the patrol warrant officer on a small metal tag that he removed from the engine mount tubing of one engine at the crash site. This written evidence and the description of the wreckage given by the veterans gives rise to the New Britain theory, the theory that Earhart had carried out her contingency plan to return to the Gilbert Islands. The theory posits that on finding the Gilberts, Earhart took stock of her fuel remaining and then attempted to make Rabaul on New Britain. According to Billings, Amelia’s choice was simple: crash-land on the Gilberts or continue on with the possibility of safe landing or the same crash-landing later in the day. The wreck seen in 1945 is some 45 miles from Rabaul. (Courtesy of David Billings.) We will have much more on the New Britain theory in a forthcoming post.
Sept. 13, 1994: Fred Goerner dies at age 69 in San Francisco.
June 13, 1996: Vincent V. Loomis dies at age 75 in Pensacola, Fla.
May 2001: The infamous “Weishien Telegram” a speed letter sent from the liberated Japanese internment camp at Weishien, China, on Aug. 28, 1945, once believed to have been sent from Amelia Earhart to George Putnam, is proven to have originated with Turkish author and world traveler Ahmad Kamal by researcher Ron Bright. Putnam had agreed to look after Kamal’s aging mother when Kamal left for China, thus the “Love to Mother” close that, misunderstood as coming from Amelia, created sensational speculation. Bright’s findings are initially published in the May 2001 edition of TIGHAR Tracks newsletter.
Sept. 1, 2002: With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, by Mike Campbell with Thomas E. Devine, is published by a small Ohio company. With Our Own Eyes presents the eyewitness accounts of the 26 former GIs who served during the Saipan Invasion, and came forward to advise Thomas Devine of their own experiences on Saipan that indicated the presence and death of Amelia and Fred on the Japanese-controlled island in the prewar years.
Sept. 16, 2003: Thomas E. Devine dies at age 88 in West Haven, Conn.
April 2005: Legerdemain: Deceit, Misdirection and Political Sleight of Hand in the Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by David K. Bowman is published by AuthorHouse. Legerdemain is notable in that it brings together, for the first time, many of the strangest and most obscure Earhart tales, clearly demonstrating the extent to which the Earhart case has been stigmatized by fantasists since its earliest days. Legerdemain is republished in June 2007 by Saga Books of Canada, and in e-book format by Vaga Books in March 2014.
2011 to January 2015: Dick Spink, of Bow, Washington, travels five times to Mili Atoll’s Barre Island area, where many believe Earhart crash-landed her plane on July 2, 1937. Working with Australian Martin Daly and groups of locals armed with metal detectors on the tiny Endriken (Marshallese for “little”) Islands, about a mile east of Barre, the group’s discoveries included a small aluminum plate and a circular metal dust cover from a landing-gear airwheel assembly that appeared to be consistent with an Electra 10E. According to Spink, Daly found both the plate and the circular metal dust cover in the same area during different searches. The artifacts have no serial numbers, thus they cannot be attached solely to the Earhart Electra.
Summer 2012: TIGHAR’s Ric Gillespie meets and is photographed with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to embarking on trip number 10 to Nikumaroro. Discerning observers know this photo is compelling evidence that the U.S. government continues to be actively engaged in the business of disinformation in the Earhart case, and at this point was dropping all pretense that the “official” Navy-Coast Guard 1937 verdict has any validity whatsoever.
June 2012: Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, by Mike Campbell, is published by Sunbury Press (Mechanicsburg, Penn.). Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last presents many new findings, eyewitness accounts and analysis, and never-before-published revelations from many unimpeachable sources including famed U.S. generals and iconic newsman and Earhart researcher Fred Goerner’s files that reveal the truth about Earhart and Fred Noonan’s deaths on Saipan, as well as the sacred cow status of this matter within the American establishment. The book is blacked out by the mainstream media.
April 2013: The Earhart Enigma: Retracing Amelia’s Last Flight, by Dave Horner, is published by Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, La. The Earhart Enigma presents another comprehensive and compelling case for the Marshalls-Saipan scenarios in a different literary style than Truth at Last, and is an important addition to the small but growing collection of works that present aspects of the truth about Amelia’s tragic loss.
March 2016: Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, Second Edition, is published by Sunbury Press. The new edition adds two chapters, a new foreword, rarely seen photos, and the most recent discoveries and analysis to the mountain of overwhelming witness testimony and documentation presented in the first edition.
With the recent finds of several small artifacts on one of Mili Atoll’s tiny Endriken Islands, any or all of which may have once been parts of Amelia Earhart’s Electra, as well as the emergence of a rare 1937 U.S. newspaper clipping, a new look at the origin and evolution of the “fishing boat pickup” story and how it fits into the Earhart saga might be instructive.
In the wake of the Battle of Kwajalein, fought from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 1944, on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, several discoveries were made relative to the presence of Amelia Earhart at different locations in the Marshall Islands, including Kwajalein in the years before the war. The below story appeared in the Benton Harbor (Mich.) News Palladium on March 21, 1944, under the headline “Clue Obtained To Mystery of Amelia Earhart,” by Eugene Burns, an Associated Press war correspondent posted at Majuro, the capital and largest city in the Marshalls:
MARSHALL ISLANDS, March 4 – (Delayed) (AP) The possibility that Amelia Earhart Putnam, world famed aviatrix, ran out of gas in the Marshall Islands and was taken to Japan has been revived by a remark of a mission trained native to Lieutenant T. Bogan, New York City.
Lieutenant Bogan, a representative of the Marshall Island military governor, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said Elieu, the 30-year-old native, limited himself to these statements and stuck to them: “A Jap trader named Ajima three and a half years ago on Rita island told me than an American woman pilot came down between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap atolls and that she was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat and the trader Ajima heard that she was taken to Japan.”
Elieu insisted that he heard of no man being with the “American woman pilot.” Fred Noonan flew with Miss Putnam as navigator on her world-girdling trip in 1937.
Since the story was an Associated Press release, we can be reasonably sure that it appeared in a number of newspapers throughout the country, including the New York Daily News, the New York Sun and the Oakland Tribune, according to Bogan’s 1961 account to Fred Goerner in The Search for Amelia Earhart, but this story made very little impression on a nation still at war. Thanks to various investigations in the Marshalls over the past 65 years, we know that much of this story that Elieu passed to Burns was incorrect in many details, but its major thrust, that she landed in the area and was picked up by the Japanese, was certainly true.
In 1961, shortly after Goerner returned to San Francisco after his second trip to Saipan and an unsuccessful attempt to visit Kwajalein, he was called by John Mahan, a local realtor and former Navy yeoman stationed on Majuro in 1944. “Amelia Earhart crash-landed somewhere between Majuro, Jaluit, and Ailinglapalap in the Marshalls,” he told Goerner. “We knew it back in 1944.” Mahan said several Marshallese natives who served as interpreters, among them Joe and Rudolph Muller, told him the Japanese picked up two American fliers, “a man and woman, and brought them for a while into either Jaluit or Majuro, then took them to another island. They said it was 1937, and the Japs thought they were spies.”
Mahan referred Goerner to Eugene Bogan, his commanding officer on Majuro, who recalled that a Majuro native named Elieu, a schoolteacher with a reputation for integrity among the Marshallese, was the source of the Earhart information. Shortly after the Navy arrived on Majuro, Elieu overheard a conversation about the Japanese preoccupation with secrecy, Bogan continued, “and asked if they knew of the white woman flier who ran out of gas and landed between Jaluit and Ailinglapalap.”
Elieu wasn’t an eyewitness but had heard the story from a Japanese friend named Ajima, a trader with a company the Japanese used as front to cover military activities in the Mandated Islands. The woman was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat and taken to either Jaluit or Majuro, Ajima told Elieu, and later to Kwajalein Atoll or Saipan. No man was mentioned in the story, “because the Japanese would have been greatly impressed by a woman pilot,” Bogan said.
This was Goerner’s introduction to the Marshall Islands landing scenario, the “front-end” of the Earhart disappearance story, so to speak, which he didn’t investigate quite as extensively as Amelia’s Saipan presence as revealed by the Chamorro witnesses, as well as the GIs who fought in the Battle of Saipan in the summer of 1944.
In Search, page 165 of the first edition, we have Bogan’s key statement to Goerner via Elieu’s story: “A Japanese fishing boat picked her up and brought her into either Jaluit or Majuro. Then she was taken presumably to Kwajalein or Saipan.”
Most Earhart enthusiasts are familiar with the famous July 1949 interview given by Amy Otis Earhart, Amelia’s mother, to the Los Angeles Times. But many don’t realize that unless they’ve seen the original Times article, they probably missed some or all of the most revealing and provocative statements Amy made that day. The newspapers clips that I’ve seen edited Amy’s remarks to various degrees; I don’t know why this occurred, only that I’ve seen the entire interview only in the original Times version of the interview.
Among Amy’s most interesting comments in the July 24, 1949 Times article are those where she repeats allegations she made in a May 1944 letter to Neta Snook. Virtually all newspapers included Amy’s statement that she believed Amelia landed on a “tiny atoll” in the Pacific, and “was picked up by a Japanese fishing boat that took her to the Marshall Islands, then under Japanese control.”Eugene Burns’ March 1944 article could well have been the source of Amy’s statement about the fishing boat pickup, but her statements weren’t limited to this aspect of her daughter’s loss.
Amy also told the Times that Amelia “was permitted to broadcast to Washington from the Marshalls, because the officials on the island where she was taken — I can’t recall the name of it believed she was merely a transocean flier in distress. But Toyko had a different opinion of her significance in the area. She was ordered taken to Japan. There, I know, she met with an accident, an ‘arranged’ accident that ended her life.”
Five years earlier, in Amy’s May 6, 1944 letter to Neta Snook, she told Amelia’s first flight instructor that she had information brought to her “by a friend a few days after Amelia’s S.O.S [in July 1937] who was listening to a short-wave radio when a broadcast from Tokyo came in saying they were celebrating there, with parades, etc. because of Amelia’s rescue or pick up by a Japanese fisherman. That was before the war you know, and evidently the ordinary Jap had no knowledge of their military leaders’ plans so were proud of the rescue and expected the world to be. That young girl drove 27 miles at 11 o’clock at night, and through a horrid part of Los Angeles to tell me. It was too late when she arrived at my house in North Hollywood, but the next day I went with her to the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles and asked him about it.”
Of course by the time Amy saw anyone at the consulate, nobody knew anything about the fishing boat story. But she never forgot it, and later in her letter to Snook, she wrote, “So the hope is only the finding out what happened after the Jap fishing boat picked her up from the small island where she had landed. One can face anything she knows is so, but unless she goes through the torture of not knowing, it is not possible to understand the agony connected with uncertainty, nor the loopholes it leaves for the imagination to get in its work.”
In my Dec. 9, 2014 post, “Amy Earhart’s stunning 1944 letter to Neta Snook,” I expressed doubts about the veracity of Amy’s claims that Amelia was allowed to broadcast for a few days from the Marshalls after being captured by the Japanese. I still have these doubts, because although many alleged post-loss messages were reported in the Pacific area as well as the United States in the days immediately following July 2, none of them contained anything that could have been construed to mean that Earhart and Noonan were in Japanese custody, much less taken to Tokyo. Most were incomprehensible snippets.
But what of Amy’s claim of the “short-wave radio . . . broadcast from Tokyo [that] came in saying they were celebrating there, with parades, etc. because of Amelia’s rescue or pick up by a Japanese fisherman” that Amy’s “young girl” friend (probably Margot DeCarie, Amelia’s secretary) in Los Angeles drove 27 miles to tell Amy that night in 1937? Could this have really happened as Amy was told? Can’t we assume the broadcast would have been in Japanese? Did Margot DeCarie speak Japanese, and if not, how did she understand its message?
On Majuro in 1979, Judge Kabua Kabua, the chief magistrate on Jaluit in 1937, told Vincent V. Loomis he heard about the “lady pilot” from the Japanese. “Part of the story, I heard, her plane ran out of gas and she came down near Mili,” the judge said. “The Japanese picked her up in a fishing boat and took her to Saipan, the Japanese headquarters.”
Through Loomis’ 1981 Tokyo investigation, we know that Koshu, which wasn’t a part of the 12th Squadron, was anchored in Ponape on July 2, 1937, and at 5 p.m., July 6, Lieutenant Yukinao Kozu, the ship’s radioman, logged the official order for the ship to depart Ponape for the Marshalls to join the Earhart search. Koshu was steaming for Jaluit on July 9, arriving there just after noon July 13. “That night she took on coal,” Loomis wrote. “One of those loading the fuel was Tomaki Mayazo, who heard the crew members excitedly mention they were on the way to pick up two American fliers and their aircraft, which had crashed at Mili. The next day the ship steamed out of Jaluit for Mili Mili, where it picked up both the Electra and its crew.”
If Koshu did pick up the fliers at Mili Mili, located in the southwest part of Mili Atoll at least 20 miles from Barre Island, in the northwest part of the atoll, it’s possible they were taken to Mili Mili by this alleged fishing boat. However, we have no accounts or evidence of their presence at Mili Mili besides Loomis’ statement.
When Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki visited Fred Goerner at his San Francisco home in June 1982, the fishing boat story was among the first topics he raised. “Did you know that on July 13, 1937, a Japanese newspaper reported that Amelia Earhart was rescued by Japanese fisherman?” Goerner asked the young woman who told Goerner that she wanted to help his cause, something she never came close to doing.
The claim that a Japanese paper published a story about Amelia’s pickup in the Marshalls was directly related to a “most urgent” message sent by Japanese foreign minister Koki Hirota to Japan’s British ambassador, Shigeru Yoshida, in London, also on July 13, 1937, and reported by Loomis in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story. “The Advertiser here [in Japan] reports that they received a London international news dispatch at 2:00 AM today to the effect that a Japanese fishing boat had rescued the Earhart plane,” Hirota wrote. “Please verify this and confirm by return.”
Panic descended upon “the small circle of Japanese officials who knew what was happening in the Marshalls,“ Loomis wrote. “Had the truth leaked out from one of their classified sources – radio, a letter, a loose statement? Or even worse, had the secret diplomatic code been broken? Would the Americans press them for more details or would they accept this as rumor? A few tension-ridden days passed, and nothing more came of this coincidental near exposure of the truth.”
Aoki told Goerner that she would look into the fishing boat story, but her findings further confused the matter (see pages 147-148 of Truth at Last). Aoki wrote that “the Tokyo Asahi Shimbum [newspaper] dated July 15  reported, ‘The report of the rescue is without foundation,’ ” and so she concluded, “Goerner’s theory of the Japanese fishing boat rescue is extremely weak.”
Aoki was eager to dismiss the fishing boat story, but her report of the newspaper’s July 15 printed retraction of the article nonetheless proved the fishing boat pickup story had appeared two days earlier, as Goerner’s information indicated. But why did one newspaper retract a story that had appeared in another two days earlier?
I’ve never seen an original copy of the story that allegedly appeared in the Japan Advertiser newspaper on July 13, 1937, or the July 15 retraction of the story in Tokyo Asahi Shimbum. But thanks to Woody Peard, an enterprising researcher in Santa Maria, Calif., we’re now one step closer to the original Japanese story.
In December 2014, Woody, an avid Earhart collector who’s amassed hundreds of newspapers, magazines, scrapbooks, article cutouts, documents, philatelic covers and other memorabilia on Amelia and Fred Noonan since 1998, made an amazing find on eBay – an American newspaper that reported on the Japanese fishing boat pickup story’s Japanese origin.
The below story appeared at the top of page 1 in the July 13, 1937 edition of the Bethlehem (Penn.) Globe Times.
For those not able to easily read this clip, here’s the top three paragraphs:
Vague and unconfirmed rumors that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan have been rescued by a Japanese fishing boat without a radio, and therefore unable to make any report, found no verification here today, but plunged Tokio [sic] into a fever of excitement.
The Navy Department had no official word of any such rescue, but were striving to ascertain the position of the fishing boat rumored to have effected the rescue.
Tokio newspapers had a virtual field day. Stories speculating about the rumors were given a tremendous play, competing with developments in North China for the most prominent display.
The rest of the story, filed by Paul Brooke, an International News Service correspondent aboard the carrier USS Lexington, is an update on the carrier group’s ocean search for the Earhart plane, suspended July 19 after 262,000 square miles of ocean was searched by Navy and Coast Guard ships. Only one other researcher has ever told me he has a copy of this story in an American newspaper from July 1937; obviously very few U.S. newspapers ran it.
Woody has been focused on the Earhart saga since 1998, and has a fascinating family connection, beginning with his grandfather, a career Marine officer who graduated from the University of Kansas in 1909. “After serving with the 1st Marine Division in France during World War I, he took a year of international Law at the Sorbonne,” Woody wrote in an email. “He was also the Judge Advocate General for the Eastern Seaboard from 1916-1936, an ONI agent for his entire career and an aerial photo reconnaissance specialist. He was moved to Hawaii in early 1936 as the XO [executive officer] of the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor. Comments made by my father over the years, also a career marine, test pilot and accident investigator led me to believe my grandfather was transferred there to be in charge of security for Earhart’s flight. That was the beginning of my obsession with the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance.”
Like most ruled by logic, reason and respect for facts, Woody is convinced Amelia and Fred died on Saipan, but he believes the Earhart Electra is buried on Taroa, an island on Maloelap Atoll in the Marshalls about 185 miles from Mili Atoll, and the site of a major Japanese airfield during the war. He plans to return to Taroa for a fourth time after he raises the money he needs for a ground-penetrating-radar search, and is seeking a financial backer. Woody is on Facebook and invites comments. I wish him luck, but don’t believe the Electra is on Taroa. The sooner he crosses this idea off his list, however, the sooner he will come to fully support the Saipan truth.
The Japanese fishing boat pickup of Earhart and Noonan is a common thread in the Marshallese saga of the American fliers for a very good reason, but what transpired between the fliers’ July 2 landing and their pickup by the Japanese at an as yet unknown date is largely still unknown.
Through Vincent V. Loomis Tokyo 1981 research in Tokyo, which was later supported by Fukiko Aoki, we know that the Japanese survey ship Koshu was anchored in Ponape on July 2, 1937, was underway for Jaluit on July 9, arrived on July 13 and “the next day steamed out of Jaluit for Mili Mili, where it picked up both the Electra and its crew,” Loomis wrote. We also know that Koshu returned to Jaluit on July 19 (see pages 157-158 of Truth at Last.)
Marshallese eyewitnesses John Heine and Tokyo have told investigators about seeing a silver airplane on a barge in different locations, and many others knew of it. In 1997 the elderly Robert Reimers, then 88 and the most powerful man in the Marshalls, told Bill Prymak, “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” (see Truth at Last pages 173-174).
Thus it seems clear that the July 13 reports of the “fishing boat pickup” of Earhart and Noonan involve another, unnamed and unidentified vessel, and that the Koshu could not have been the fishing boat alluded to in the July 13 stories. Unfortunately, we have no account from any eyewitness or even hearsay witness that indicates the identity of this vessel, what the fliers were doing or where precisely they were, between the time of their Mili landfall and the unknown time of their pickup.
Once again, even as it seems the big picture in the Earhart disappearance is coming into better focus, the process of actually “getting a visual,” so to speak, on what really happened continues to elude us, as many nagging smaller mysteries present themselves without hinting at easy or quick solution.
“Silver container” recovered on Mili Atoll islet was indeed “hard evidence” in Earhart case (Part 2 of 2)
In my previous post we heard the accounts of Marshallese fishermen Lijon and Jororo as told to Ralph Middle on Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, and passed on to Earhart researchers and authors Vincent V. Loomis and Oliver Knaggs in 1979. The story as related by Middle was that before the war they watched as an airplane landed on the reef near Barre Island, “two men” emerged from the airplane and produced a “yellow boat which grew,” climbed in and paddled to shore.
Hiding in the island’s dense undergrowth, Jororo and Lijon saw the pair bury a “silver container” on the small island, and soon the Japanese arrived. After one of them screamed upon being slapped during the ensuing interrogation, the fishermen realized one of the men was actually a woman. They remained hidden and silent, fearing for their lives.
The existence of the silver container as described in Lijon’s account is supported by a little-known passage written by Amelia herself, in the final pages of Last Flight, her abbreviated 1937 book in which she chronicles her world-flight attempt. On page 223, Amelia wrote that she and Noonan “worked very hard in the last two days repacking the plane and eliminating everything unessential,” to help offset the burden the fully loaded fuel tanks would place on the engines, especially on takeoff from Lae. “All Fred has is a small tin case which he picked up in Africa,” Amelia wrote. “I notice it still rattles, so it cannot be packed very full.”
Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 with a metal detector but without Loomis, hoping to locate Lijon’s silver container, and he soon met Lorok, “who owned the island of Barre and several others,” he wrote. Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon alone had seen the plane come down, but he’d died several years ago. Lorok said he was 11 years old, living on Mili, when he heard Lijon tell his story. How Jororo, a co-witness in the original story told by Ralph Middle, was no longer present in Lijon’s account as related by Lorok, has never been explained by Knaggs, Loomis or anyone else. The accounts as presented in the books by the two authors are all we have on this incident.
Lijon was “out fishing in the lagoon near Barre, when he saw this big silver plane coming,“ Lorok told Knaggs. “It was low down and he could tell it was in trouble because it made no noise. Then it landed on the water next to the small island. He pulled in his fishing line and went quickly to see if he could help. When he got there he saw these are strange people and one is a woman. He hid then because he was frightened; he had not seen people like these. He watched as they buried something in the coral under a kanal tree. He could tell the man was hurt because he was limping and there was blood on his face and the woman was helping him. He waited there in his hiding place until he saw the Japanese coming and then he left. . . . Later we were told the people who crashed were Americans.” Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon later said, “The Japanese had taken her to Saipan and killed her as a spy. They were making ready for the war. They didn’t want anyone to see the fortifications.”
Knaggs found only one kanal tree when he searched Barre and two small, adjacent islands, and the intense heat and humidity made the going tough for his group. The next day, however, the wife of his native guide led them to another nearby island where she had seen a part of an old airplane when she played there as a child. They found no wreckage, but saw a “large, rotting trunk of a tree that could have been a kanal [years ago] and there was also a small kanal growing nearby,” Knaggs wrote. The detector soon responded, and about a foot-and-a-half down they found a “hard knot of soil that appeared to be growing on the root of a tree. Cutting into it, we discovered a mass of rust and what looked like a hinge of sorts.” Doubting that the shapeless lump could have once been the metal canister buried by the American fliers, Knaggs chipped away at his find but found nothing else.
Knaggs kept the hinge and brought it home to South Africa, where it was analyzed by the Metallurgical Department of the University of Cape Town. The results confirmed that “in section the sample revealed what is described as a pin cover, rivet and body of the hinge. In general the microstructures [sic] are consistent with a fine, clean low carbon steel . . . indicating that good technology was used in its manufacture.” Knaggs regretted not bringing the entire mass back for analysis, but “the hinge could have come from something akin to a cash box and could therefore quite easily be the canister to which Lijon had referred,” he concluded.
Lijon’s eyewitness account, as reported by Ralph Middle to Loomis and by Lorok to Knaggs, and reportedly supported by Mili’s Queen Bosket Diklan and Jororo, is among the most compelling ever reported by a Marshall Islands witness. The profoundly realistic description of the “yellow boat which grew,” combined with Knaggs’ recovery of the deteriorated, rusted hinge in a place where nothing of the sort should have been buried, lend additional credibility to Lijon’s story. Lorok told Knaggs that Lijon had spoken the truth about what he saw, and what could better explain the presence of a metal hinge on the tiny, uninhabited island, buried near a dead kanal tree?
The hinge wasn’t much to look at, of course, and will certainly never attain “smoking gun” status in the Earhart matter. It wasn’t sexy, it wasn’t Amelia Earhart’s Electra, her briefcase that was found in a blown safe on Garapan by Marine Pfc. Robert E. Wallack in the summer of 1944, nor even one of the many photos of Amelia and Fred in Japanese custody reportedly found by American soldiers on Saipan. Regardless of its appearance, its provenance qualified the old, rotted hinge as solid, hard evidence of the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on a small island near Barre Island, Mili Atoll in July 1937. I have no idea what has happened to this artifact, nor do I even know if Oliver Knaggs is still alive, though I’m nearly certain he’s now deceased. Anyone with information is kindly asked to contact me through this blog.
The Marshallese people have never forgotten the story of the woman pilot, and it’s become a part of their cultural heritage. In 1987 the Republic of the Marshalls Islands issued a set of four stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia’s landing at Mili Atoll. (See earlier posts: “Frank Benjamin: ‘We are brothers in pain!’ ” Jan. 28, 2014; and “Dave Martin to the rescue,” Aug. 11, 2012.)
Thus, in the Marshall Islands, the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan is far from the “great aviation mystery” it’s constantly proclaimed to be in the United States and most of the Western world. To the Marshallese, the landing of the Electra at Mili, the Japanese pickup and transfer to Saipan are all stone, cold facts known to all.
“No hard evidence” in Earhart case? Knaggs’ find on Mili refutes skeptics’ claim (First of two parts)
Even casual observers of the Earhart case know that the major weapon used by skeptics and critics of the truth, the blind crash-and-sankers, the Nikumaroro morons and the rest who refuse to accept the obvious about Amelia and Fred Noonan’s Mili Atoll landing and deaths on Saipan is their never-ending cry, “Where is the physical evidence? No hard evidence has even been found!” (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
Forget the many dozens of witness accounts from natives, Saipan veterans and other sources that so clearly points to the truth. Only when the Electra is finally discovered, they say, will the Earhart puzzle be solved. Until then, all theories are acceptable – except the hated Saipan truth, of course, which is little more than a “paranoid conspiracy theory,” far too “extremist” to have any validity. These bozos are quite happy to keep Amelia and Fred in cold storage for eternity, floating out there in the unfathomable ether where the world’s great mysteries abide.
They’re wrong, as usual. Hard evidence has been found and analyzed, and it tells us a compelling story. Most of the doubters are unaware of this evidence, but it makes little difference. Even if the Earhart plane was somehow miraculously found underneath the Saipan International Airport’s tarmac amid hundreds of tons of wartime refuse, where, as Thomas E. Devine has told us, the plane has been since it was bulldozed into a deep hole several months after it’s torching in the summer of 1944, the naysayers wouldn’t accept it. And our corrupt media, which has been so invested for so long in perpetuating the government’s big lie that Amelia’s fate remains a mystery, would take all pains to thoroughly ignore and suppress news of the discovery.
But that’s for another time. This post is the first of two that will present and discuss the hard evidence that was found at Mili Atoll, evidence that all but proves the reality of our heroes’ presence at Mili Atoll in July 1937. So that readers can best understand the sequence of events that led to the discovery of this artifact, a bit of background is in order.
Amelia Earhart: The Final Story among best ever penned
Former Air Force C-47 pilot Vincent V. Loomis and his wife, Georgette, traveled to the Marshalls in 1978 hoping to find the wreck of an unidentified plane Loomis saw on an uninhabited island near Ujae Atoll in 1952. Loomis never located the wreck, which he fervently dreamed was the lost Earhart plane, but in four trips to the Marshalls he obtained considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, was praised by some at a time when big media’s rejection of information supporting Earhart’s survival and death on Saipan had yet to reach its virtual blackout of the past two decades, and is among the most important Earhart disappearance books ever written.
The Final Story’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review. After gushing that Loomis “interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents,” Hart flatly stated, “The mystery is a mystery no longer.” Of course, the U.S. government didn’t get Hart’s memo, and continued its abject silence on all things Earhart.
On his first flight to Majuro, Loomis met Senator Amata Kabua and Tony DeBrum, commission officials seeking Marshallese independence from the United States. Kabua, a descendant of the first king of the Marshalls, Kabua the Great, said Earhart had come down in the islands and that her plane was still there. DeBrum told Loomis, “We all know about this woman who was reported to have come down on Mili southeast of Majuro, was captured by the Japanese and taken off to Jaluit. Remember, the stories were being told long before you Americans began asking questions.”
Among the witnesses Loomis interviewed at Mili Mili, the main island at Mili Atoll, was Mrs. Clement (Loomis provided no first name), the wife of the boat operator Loomis had hired. Mrs. Clement said her husband knew nothing, but she recalled that she had seen “this airplane and the woman pilot and the Japanese taking the woman and the man with her away.” She pointed out the area – “Over there … next to Barre Island” – as the spot where the plane had landed, but she offered no other information.
Loomis next sought out Jororo Alibar and Anibar Eine on Ejowa Island, hoping to confirm the story he heard from Ralph Middle on Majuro. Middle’s story was that two local fishermen, Jororo and Lijon, told him that before the war they saw an airplane land on the reef near Barre island, about 200 feet offshore. “When ‘two men’ emerged from the machine, they produced a ‘yellow boat which grew,’ climbed aboard it and paddled for shore,” Loomis wrote. “Jororo and Lijon, only teenagers, were frightened, crouching in the tiriki, the dense undergrowth, not quite knowing what to do.” Shortly after the men reached the island, the fishermen saw them bury a silver container, but the Japanese soon arrived and began to question, and then slap the two fliers, Middle said. When one screamed, Jororo and Lijon realized it was a woman. The pair continued to hide, watching in silence, because “they knew the Japanese would have killed them for what they had witnessed.”
The natives’ description of “the yellow boat which grew” is especially compelling for its realism, as it reflects their relatively primitive understanding of what only could have been an inflatable life boat produced by Earhart and Noonan after the Electra crash-landed, possibly on a reef. No inventory of the plane’s contents during the world flight is known to exist, but several sources support the common-sense idea that the fliers would not have departed Lae without such a vital piece of emergency equipment.
Amelia, My Courageous Sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey and Carol L. Osborne’s 1987 biography, contains a photocopied story from the March 7, 1937 New York Herald Tribune, “Complete Navigation Room Ready to Guide Miss Earhart.” Discussing emergency items the Electra would carry on the first world flight, the unnamed reporter wrote, “In the fuselage will be a two-man rubber lifeboat, instantly inflatable from capsules of carbon dioxide.” In the July 20, 1937 search report of the Lexington Group commander, under “Probabilities Arising from Rumor or Reasonable Assumptions,” Number 3 states, “That the color of the lifeboat was yellow.”
In September 1979, South African writer Oliver Knaggs was hired by a film company to join Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search. The Knaggs-Loomis connection is well known among Earhart buffs, but neither Loomis, in The Final Story, nor Knaggs, in his little-known 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight (Howard Timmins, Cape Town, S.A), mentioned the other by name. In Her last flight, a collector’s item known mainly to researchers, Knaggs recounts his 1979 and ’81 investigations in the Marshalls and Saipan.
Knaggs wasn’t with Loomis when Ralph Middle told him about Lijon and Jororo at Majuro in 1979, and wasn’t there when Loomis interviewed Jororo. Knaggs wrote that “our leader [Loomis]” had told him of Lijon’s story, which he didn’t believe initially, but later, when a village elder repeated it, Knaggs became interested. Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 without Loomis but armed with a metal detector in hopes of locating Lijon’s silver container, and establishing his own claim to fame in the search for Amelia Earhart.
In part two of this post, we’ll look at what Knaggs found, what the experts said about it and what it means in the continuing search for Amelia Earhart.