The so-called Richards Memo of Nov. 1, 1938 and retired Air Force Col. Rollin Reineck’s commentary on it appeared in the July 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. I’ve always wondered why this document received so little attention. Maybe I’m missing something. Obviously, other researchers haven’t been enamored of it, and some must have found its credibility to be dubious, but Reineck was not one of them. Here then, as close to the original piece as possible, is the Richards Memo and Reineck’s conclusions, presented for your information and entertainment. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
FROM THE DESK OF . . . . . . . . . Rollin Reineck
The attached memorandum (following page), dated 1 November 1938, is very significant as it relates directly to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in several ways. This memo was written by Army Air Corps Colonel (before the days of the U.S. Air Force) H. H. C. Richards, who was assigned to the War Department as the Liaison Officer for the Australian Air Force. Colonel Richards sent the memo to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2), War Department, who was probably an Army two-or-three star general.
The purpose of the memo was to clarify a letter that had been sent to the Information Division of the Liaison Office, alleging that Amelia Earhart had been shot down by the Japanese.
Colonel Richards says that this is definitely not the case, as it is known that Miss Earhart’s transmissions were heard by Army personnel (Army Air Corps Lt. Daniel A. Cooper and Army Signal Corps Lt. Henry Lau), who were stationed at Howland Island on 2 July 1937. These officers reported that judging from the strength of the radio signals received, Earhart passed quite close to the island, some fifty miles or less. Further, the Army personnel reported that Earhart stated she was turning north, and they continued to hear her at intervals. Her signals became fainter each time received, until finally she stated she was out of gas. That was the last they heard from her.
The significance of this memorandum is as follows:
1. The memorandum was between high level, senior staff officers in the War Department about the fate of Amelia Earhart.
2. The Army personnel (officers) on Howland Island could distinguish between the volume intensity of Earhart’s voice, and make reliable judgments as to her relative distance from Howland Island.
3. It dispels the theory that Earhart ditched close to Howland Island.
4. It enhances the theory that Amelia Earhart did land or ditched some distance north of Howland Island.
Editor’s [Bill Prymak] Comment: Why is top brass still pursuing this 14 months after she went down?? Is there more to this than meets the eye? (End of AES July 1998 entry.)
In Chapter 7, “Implement Plan B” of Reineck’s 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived, he begins by stating that he believed that “Earhart had five to six hours of fuel remaining” when her call was heard by the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca at 0843 Howland Island local time. He goes on to discuss Earhart’s alleged statement to Gene Vidal, who claimed that Amelia told him that “if she could not locate Howland, when she was down to four hours of fuel remaining, she would turn back to the Gilbert Islands. The author believes that Earhart remembered her secret conversations at March Field in Riverside, California, with Bernard Baruch and General [Oscar] Westover that advised: when you still have sufficient fuel remaining and you haven’t yet found Howland Island, implement Plan B, the alternate plan.”
She made no mention on her communications frequencies of 3105 and 6216 kilocycles (kcs henceforth) of her intentions of what she was to do when she couldn’t find Howland. However, it is believed by this researcher that Earhart disregarded all orders and used her new high frequency discrete channel that had been activated in her transmitter for communications, to tell Howland Island that she was headed north. It is believed that this high frequency channel was secretly installed, probably while she was in Miami, before her departure. The crystal for the new high frequency was inserted in place of the vacant 500 kcs low frequency crystal. The 500 kcs crystal became useless when Earhart eliminated her trailing wire antenna and decided not to use low (500 kcs) frequency, and use only high frequency for her communications and direction finding activity.
What was this “new high frequency discrete channel” that Reineck references, and why is no evidence of it in other researchers’ work? He can’t be talking about the well-known 7500 kcs high-frequency direction finder that she reported receiving Itasca’s signals on but “couldn’t find a minimum.” Reineck writes that he believes “she used this frequency to tell personnel on Howland that she was turning north and she continued to communicate her progress until she ran out of fuel.” Reineck went on:
These key messages are not recorded in the radio logs of the Itasca or Howland Island, but were heard by Army personnel on Howland as reflected in a memo from Colonel H.H.C. Richards to the Chief of Intelligence at the War Department. It was those short messages, heard by the Japanese, that not only helped the Japanese locate Earhart after she crashed at Mili Atoll, but told the Japanese that Earhart was turning north, probably for a specific purpose. The Japanese knew at this time that Earhart was not just searching for an alternate landing site, but purposely headed for a specific site that was within the Imperial Islands of Japan. Plan “B” had been compromised, because Earhart had disregarded all orders and broken radio silence.
Reineck cites the Richards Memo as the verification that Army personnel were on Howland, specifically Army Air Corps Lt. Daniel A. Cooper and Army Signal Corps Lt. Henry Lau, but he doesn’t mention Navy Radioman 2nd Class Frank Cipriani, who was also on Howland at that time, and who was sent there by Admiral Richard Black to man the high frequency direction finder that Black had set up there. For more details on Reineck’s “Plan B” theory, see pages 103-113 of Amelia Earhart Survived.
What are we to make of Reineck’s theory, specifically as it relates to the Richards Memo? Has anyone ever seen statements from anyone on Howland that support his claims that they heard Earhart announcing that she was “turning north”? I certainly have not, but the ever-imaginative Reineck weaves an interesting scenario, one in which many of his speculations seem to fit — and we know that Earhart did land at Mili. But the Richards Memo has received scant attention from other researchers.
What do you think?
We continue our brief inquiry into possible resting places for our heroine, Amelia Earhart, and the great Fred Noonan, her overlooked and misunderstood navigator. In my last post, “Amelia Earhart held in Saipan’s Garapan Prison: Was she also buried somewhere nearby?” we saw more witness testimony that strongly suggested Amelia was buried on Saipan, just as so many others have told us. Boldface emphasis is mine throughout.
Today we take a brief look at an Earhart burial theory suggested by a few of the more fanciful types who’ve speculated on this mystery, although its exact origin isn’t clear. To introduce this bizarre idea, we present a letter from one of the most speculative and imaginative of all notable Earhart researchers and authors, retired Air Force Col. Rollin C. Reineck, who needs no introduction to regular readers of this blog. Reineck’s letter to the director of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Louise Foudray, and her response, which follows after my brief comments, were published in the February 1999 issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters.
Rollin C. Reineck
1127 Lauloa St.
Kailua, HI 96734
24 October 1998
Amelia Earhart Museum
Atchison, Kansas 66002
The other day I received the enclosed letter from a researcher.
I find it interesting in two respects. First, it indicates that Goerner had some inside information that Earhart was killed on Saipan and that her remains were returned so the United States.
Secondly it eliminates the Arlington National Cemetery as possible place where AE could have been buried had her remains been returned to the U.S.
When I read the letter, specifically that part of the 6th para. “I can’t be specific, but why don’t you look in the most obvious place.” I immediately thought of her home in Atchison, Kansas, as the most obvious place.
(Editor’s note: Here Reineck was referring to an Oct. 9, 1998 letter from Ross Game to Bob Ross, which was presented in our Dec. 20, 2019 post, Game letter suggests possible Earhart burial site. In the letter’s sixth paragraph, Game wrote, “Just before the CIA assistance [he and Goerner were receiving] was cut off I pleaded with our contact to tell me where the Earhart remains had been placed after being brought from Saipan. The reply: “I can’t be specific, but why don’t you look in the most obvious place.’ ” Game and Goerner’s subsequent investigations of Arlington National Cemetery came up empty.)
When you get a minute, I would appreciate your comments.
Aloha, Rollin C. Reineck
Reading Game’s account of the cryptic response from the unidentified CIA man about how he might find Amelia Earhart’s gravesite brought to mind a long litany of negative responses from officials that Donald Kothera’s wife, Florence, received during her brief fact-finding foray in Washington. D.C., as chronicled near the conclusion of Joe Davidson’s highly underrated 1969 book, Amelia Earhart Returned from Saipan.
“I do not remember going on any grave digging detail,” former Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold had told Kothera, John Gacek and Davidson at his home in Erie, Penn., in answer to their queries about his role in the 1944 Saipan grave-digging incident as recalled by Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks. Before Kothera and friends left, Griswold, not content with leaving them flat, asked whether they had “checked with the National Morgue? You might be surprised what you would find there.” We continue, quoting directly from Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last:
Rather than ignore Griswold’s devious suggestion, Kothera sent his wife, Florence, to Washington to “check with the National Morgue.” Florence soon learned that no such entity exists, but a phone call to the ever-helpful Griswold redirected her to the National Archives, as if the answers might be found there. Three days later, her bureaucratic goose chase had taken her not only to the National Archives, but to the Naval History Office, Japanese Embassy, U.S. State Department, Chief of Naval Intelligence, and Navy Annex as well. Along the way, she told several officials how she felt about their inability to produce any answers about Earhart, Griswold, or the remains he had removed from Saipan. Florence Kothera learned a hard lesson from her frustrating Washington experience: Nobody in the U.S. government has ever offered anything helpful about the fate of Amelia Earhart.
Rudely, Louise Foudray did not respond directly to Reineck’s sincere letter, but wrote a brief note more than three months later to Bill Prymak, whom she presumed would publish it in his Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, and he promptly did.
Jan. 28, 1999
I have not responded to [the above from] Col. Reineck, so will do so via the newsletter.
We have joked for years about the 2 large cement mounds in the basement of the birthplace. One for Amelia Earhart, one for Fred. If she requested they be “entombed” together, it’s ideal. According to certain sources, this may be true.
[Researcher] Art Parchen observed these “mounds” recently and said he didn’t think so.
When the new fiction book comes out, maybe we’ll know. The lady researching for the book says, “’You are going to be surprised”!
These are exciting times! I can just “feel” an answer coming — can you?
Bless you all and “Happy Hunting”
I don’t know to which Earhart fiction book Foudray was referring, but considering the numerous tomes of varying uselessness published since 1999, it couldn’t have been terribly compelling. The very idea of producing more Earhart fiction is a insult to Amelia and her legacy, which had already been muddled, nearly beyond redemption, by decades of disinformation and fiction.
That’s about it, I have only the basics on this one. The source of the birthplace basement theory remains a mystery, at least to me. Others may be out there besides Alex Mandel, who has personally visited there several times and rejects the Earhart-Noonan interment idea, who might have their own stories or insights. Special thanks to Alex for his assistance with the photos.
We rejoin the saga of Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye’s attempt to release the secret Earhart files by drafting Congressional legislation in 1993. Longtime Earhart researcher and author Col. Rollin Reineck (U.S. Air Force, retired) was far from a single-minded devotee of the truth, as we’ve already seen in several posts, but we also must give the colonel his just due. (Boldface and italics emphases mine throughout.)
If not for Reineck’s diligence, Inouye would never have become informed and motivated enough about the Earhart disappearance to actually step out from the establishment mob and risk his proverbial neck for the truth.
I find it beyond ironic that Inouye was not just the only U.S. senator to ever actively advocate for total disclosure of the secret Earhart files, but that he was a Japanese-American citizen who narrowly escaped internment during World War II. With 50 more like him, we might write “Case Closed” to the Earhart disappearance.
Inouye was one of only seven members of the U.S. Senate to be awarded the Medal of Honor; five of those were cited for their valor during the Civil War. Sen. Robert J. Kerry (D-Nebraska), whose actions came in Vietnam in 1969, shares the 20th century senatorial distinction with Inouye, whose story is an inspiring chronicle of selflessness, courage and devotion to duty and comrades.
Born in Honolulu in 1924 to Japanese parents who had emigrated from the mainland, Inouye was surrounded by anti-Japanese sentiment during his childhood, graduating from high school in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor.
Inouye immediately tried to enlist in the military, but was rejected with a draft classification 4C, which stood for “enemy alien,” unfit for duty, but after more than a year, the Army finally dropped its enlistment ban on Japanese-Americans. He quickly enlisted and volunteered for the storied 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese-American combat unit that fought in southern France and Germany.
Promoted to sergeant in his first year, and after a major battle in the Vosges Mountains of France in the fall of 1944, Inouye received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. During that offensive, he was hit by a German round right above his heart, but two silver dollars he had stacked in his shirt pocket stopped the bullet. He carried those coins with him through the rest of the war, but the worst was far from over.
On April 21, 1945, Inouye was near San Terenzo, Italy, leading his platoon on an attack on a mountain ridge against enemy troops who were guarding an important road junction when they were ambushed by three close-range machine guns. During the attack, he was shot in the stomach, but Inouye was undeterred and destroyed the first machine gun position by himself with grenades and gunfire. He and his squad then attacked the second machine gun nest, successfully destroying it. For the rest of the late Senator Daniel Inouye’s Medal of Honor story, please click here.
We come now to possibly the highest point of the 12 years Bill Prymak invested in producing the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter (1989-2000) for his friends and fellow researchers. As we can see below, Prymak’s February 1993 newsletter trumpets the news that his friend Rollin Reineck had persuaded Sen. Inouye to write legislation that would, if approved and enacted, end 56 years of government denial and deceit, as reflected by Inouye’s letter to Reineck, followed by the bill that he would soon introduce.
Prymak’s closing comment: “The above, hopefully, will be the fruition of many years of hard, dedicated effort to break down the doors of the State Department, where the Colonel is certain that files on Amelia Earhart never seen before by the American people lay sequestered. Everybody owes him a debt of gratitude for his untiring efforts and perseverance in what we all hope will be a major breakthrough in the Earhart mystery. GOOD SHOW, COLONEL.”
Nothing more was ever heard of Inouye’s proposed bill, and the AES Newsletters are silent as well. Thus has been the fate of all efforts aimed at breaking through the stone wall erected by the U.S. government and its agencies that protects the secrets of the Earhart disappearance from the public. Even an important, highly placed U.S. senator’s actual proposed legislation was dead on arrival, with no chance of passage whatsoever.
Congress has yet to do anything approaching a real investigation of the Earhart disappearance. When Fred Goerner’s bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart, rocked the nation in 1966, selling over 400,000 copies in an age when far more Americans actually read books, untold numbers of congressmen and senators from coast to coast were besieged by constituents demanding that they get to the bottom of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Nothing happened.
In an event that appears to have been completely suppressed from the public, in July 1968 Goerner appeared before a Republican platform subcommittee in Miami, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn.
In his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility — Truth in Government,” Goerner laid out the highlights of the mountain of facts that put the fliers on Saipan and appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, doing his utmost to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Nothing eventuated, of course. I have the record of Goerner’s congressional encounter only because I briefly had access to his 900-plus files, housed at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, which continues to ban Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last from its bookstore.
In 1997, Rollin Reineck took another shot at it — an extreme longshot, to be more accurate — and wrote an excellent letter to President Bill Clinton in hopes of achieving a miraculous breakthrough in the Earhart case. This time Reineck had no inside connection, and his missive probably never got past a GS-11 screener. This has been the fate of all attempts to reveal the truth about the Earhart disappearance — among the most sacrosanct of the U.S. government’s sacred cows — to the American public. And so it goes.
The late Rollin C. Reineck was a war hero, retired Air Force colonel and an original member of the Amelia Earhart Society, whose passion for Earhart research often produced fascinating, informative work. At other times, Reineck’s penchant for the spectacular and bizarre led him into areas populated by Fred Goerner’s “lunatic fringe,” and these ill-conceived forays have somewhat tainted his reputation among Earhart researchers.
Reineck’s authorship of the dreadful Amelia Earhart Survived (Paragon Agency, 2003), his failed attempt to resurrect the long-discredited Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart myth, was a sad day for the former B-29 navigator and the clueless who signed on to that travesty.
The below letter from Reineck to Ross P. Game reflects Reineck’s better angels, and touches on the theme of our previous post, to wit: the possible location of the grave site of Amelia Earhart, and he adds two additional, more important questions, which will be addressed forthwith. It also appears to be Reineck’s first contact and introduction to Game.
Rollin C. Reineck
1127 Lauloa St.
Kailua, HI 96734
Mr. Ross P. Game 24 October 1998
Post Office Box 176
Napa, CA 94559-0176
Dear Mr. Game,
Your letter of 9 October 1998 to Mr. Bob Ross was forwarded to me for information.
I have been studying the Earhart mystery for almost 29 years, and have been a admirer of Fred Goerner for the same period. His work helped everyone get interested in the Earhart affair. Hopefully, because of his tremendous research, we’ll solve this mystery some day.
I had corresponded with Mr. Goerner on several occasions and have a large file with his answers and views on all aspects of the Earhart Story. As a side note, we both graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Although I was a few classes ahead of him.
I find your anecdote about where the Earhart remains had been placed extremely interesting. I would have guessed Arlington, just as you did. l’m glad to know that you did a thorough investigation of that possibility.
I do have a couple of questions about the Goerner thinking that perhaps you can answer for me:
First, Fred Goerner originally believed that Earhart went down in the Marshalls and was taken captive by the Japanese. They, in turn, took her to Saipan. Later in life, he seemed to reject this theory and expressed the view that she went down about 80 miles southeast of Howland. My question is, what evidence did he have to validate or substantiate that later view?
Second, I have been told that Goerner made a tape just before he died concerning Earhart. What did he say on the tape? Where is the tape now and how can I hear the tape?
I would appreciate any assistance you can provide. We’re still actively looking.
Aloha Rollin C. Reineck
Colonel USAF (Ret.)
P.S. I am not associated in any way with TIGHAR.
In our next post, we’ll see how Game responded to Reineck’s questions. Reineck passed away in 2007 at his home in Kailua, Hawaii.