Today we return to the matter of the “one-way” phone conversation between Henry Morgenthau Jr., U.S. treasury secretary and confidante of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Malvina Thompson “Tommy” Scheider, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary, on the morning of May 13, 1938. Via Dictaphone, we have long had Morgenthau’s side of this conversation, which is interesting indeed. The document first appeared in the 1987 book Amelia: My Courageous Sister, by Muriel Earhart Morrissey, Amelia’s younger sister, and researcher Carol L. Osborne.
The late Col. Rollin Reineck’s distinguished Air Force career spanned 30 years, and his work is well known to readers of this blog. The mercurial Reineck served with great distinction as a B-29 navigator flying from Saipan in action against mainland Japan. In his Earhart work, Reineck was at times brilliant, at others less than coherent (see my Dec. 29, 2015 series of posts, starting with “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society: Part I of IV”).
During a patch of clarity, Reineck wrote at length about the Morgenthau incident in a piece titled “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection,” which appeared in the January 1997 edition issue of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. “Today, it ranks as one of the most compelling pieces of circumstantial evidence we have in our search for the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart,” Reineck wrote. “The memo is unclassified and was probably overlooked when they screened the Morgenthau files that were to be made public and put in the Hyde Park Library. To date, it is the only document concerning Earhart in his archival material. . . . [T]here was one person, more than anyone else, who probably knew the answer as to what happened on the fateful day in early July, 1937. That one person was Henry Morgenthau Jr., the secretary of the treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
My own take on the Morgenthau phone conversation, “Amelia Earhart and the Morgenthau Connection: What did FDR’s treasury secretary really know?” appeared on this blog on March 31, 2015. The below letter from Joe Gervais to Bill Prymak was presented in the October 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. Boldface, italic and caps emphasis both mine and in original AES Newsletter article.
EDITOR’S [Prymak] NOTE: The following reveals that secret papers relating to the Earhart mystery, are still cached in the basement of the US TREASURY DEPARTMENT, labelled “TOP SECRET” after 62 years! Why can’t the papers be released? Do we need to send Harrison Ford or Rambo to retrieve these papers’? Are these papers being denied because they could damage US-Japanese relations? Far Fetched? Read and judge for yourself.
Reference the below page of Senator [Daniel] Akaka’s report of March 1991. Gervais, [Randall] Brink, [John] Luttrell, [Dean] Magley, [Rollin] Reineck, Senator [Daniel] Inouye, and Senator Akaka have all been denied access to those 12 boxes. This cover-up by the executive branch of government is similar to the [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower/Gary Powers affair. This is a case of international magnitude between the U.S. and Japan. We have received no help from our ambassadors to Japan, such as [Edwin] Reischouer, [Douglas] McArthur [II], [Michael J.] Mansfield, [Walter F.] Mondale, etc. Why not put this on the Internet?
[Below is from Sen. Daniel Akaka’s (D-Hawaii) March 1991 report]
Senator Henry Morgenthau Jr.:
I’ve been given a verbal report. If we’re going to release this it’s just going to smear the whole reputation of Amelia Earhart. . . . and if we ever release the report of the ITASCA on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she has is gone. . . . and I know now Amelia Earhart disregarded all orders. . . . What happened to her the last few minutes. I hope I’ve just got to never make it public . . . I mean what happened. It isn’t a very nice story. . . . And, we have the report of all those wireless messages and everything else.
After reading the referenced memo of Secretary Morgenthau and comparing it with what we know today about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, I can certainly understand Col. Reineck’s assertion that there is a great deal more Amelia Earhart material in Secretary Morgenthau’s files or in the Treasury Department that has not been released and is still being withheld from the public.
In this regard, I also understand why Col. Reineck believes it is strange that of all the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. papers in the F.D.R. library at Hyde Park, only this one — albeit very significant, makes any reference to Amelia Earhart. Col. Reineck wonders whether this material was somehow accidentally overlooked when the Secretary’s papers were screened for public release by the government.
Col. Reineck advised me that other researchers who are colleagues of his, namely, Mr. Merrill D. Magley and Mr. John F. Luttrell, have tried through the normal “Freedom of Information Act” channels to obtain additional information from your department without success. This is true, Col. Reineck informed me, even though they had pin-pointed box containers T-33A and T-33B in the basement of the Treasury Department behind a locked metal wire cage as the Henry Morgenthau, Jr. files for 1937 and 1938. One of your personnel, Ms. Karen Cameron, described the material as relating to Amelia Earhart, but denied access on the basis of its being classified “TOP SECRET.” (End of Akaka report.)
As I said in my March 31, 2015 presentation, plenty of room exists for different interpretations of Morgenthau’s statements as recorded on the Dictaphone. Without having Mrs. Scheider’s side of it, we can never know for sure exactly what these two were really saying.
I have no doubts about two points relative to it, however. First, despite the treasury secretary’s thrice-repeated concern about the “reputation of Amelia Earhart” and how he wanted to protect it, I am convinced that Morgenthau cared only about the reputation of his boss, FDR, and how public knowledge of the truth in the Earhart matter would affect FDR’s political future.
Secondly, by May 1938 if not much earlier, Morgenthau was fully aware of Earhart’s captivity on Saipan and her probable if not certain death in Japanese hands. Based on Morgenthau’s comments to Scheider, many of which make little or no sense without Scheider’s replies, it’s difficult to believe that she was among the few who had been brought into the small circle of those who knew the unhappy truth, which would have been so deadly to FDR and his administration’s future.
Perhaps the most important question arising from the Morgenthau-Scheider phone conversation is this: What did Morgenthau mean when he said, “Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders”? Whose orders? To do what? And how did she disregard them? Some have attempted to explain Morgenthau’s reference to Earhart’s “disregard for orders” as her failure to follow the planned radio schedule and protocols between her and Itasca, but if that was the case, why all the secrecy on Morgenthau’s part?
And what are we to make of Morgenthau’s reference to “all those wireless messages”? Is he referring to some or all of the alleged “post-loss” radio messages that some believe came from Earhart in her downed Electra? Or others that remain undiscovered in top-secret files?
Rollin Reineck’s 1990s Earhart work bears fruit: Hawaii senator pledges to open secret Earhart files
Today, we’ll look at the first of two letters written in 1992 by Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye to Earhart researcher and retired Air Force Col. Rollin Reineck. This letter appeared, with much fanfare, as a “Special Newsletter” and comprised the entire November 1992 issue of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter. (Boldface and italic emphases mine throughout.)
Inouye served as a U.S. senator from 1963 until his death in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, he was President pro tempore of the United States Senate from 2010 until his death, making him the highest-ranking Asian-American politician in American history.
Inouye, a World War II veteran who fought in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, lost his right arm to a grenade wound and received several military decorations, including the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award. Returning to Hawaii, Inouye earned a law degree, was elected to Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives in 1953, and to the territorial Senate in 1957. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Inouye was elected as its first member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. Inouye never lost an election in 58 years as an elected official, and he exercised an exceptionally large influence on Hawaii politics. He died in December 2012 at age 88.
I list Inouye’s more significant bona fides because it’s important to understand this man was no lightweight public official, but a long-sitting U.S. senator and a Democrat who hefted serious weight and was a media favorite, for obvious reasons. Perhaps no other U.S. senator was as well-positioned to effect a real change in the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of stonewall and denial in the Earhart case as was Inouye.
Here’s how Prymak presented his announcement in the November 1992 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter:
“I look forward to celebrating together on November 3rd the joy of a successful campaign honorably waged,” Inouye wrote in the letter’s key sentence, “and the beginning of a new era of accomplishment and promise for Hawaii and our nation, which will include the initiation of legislation to open the secret files relating to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.”
Undoubtedly, Prymak and his AES friends considered this letter from the Hawaii senator a gigantic breakthrough with the strong potential to open the doors to the final resolution of the Earhart “mystery,” as they all still insisted on characterizing it. Under the Inouye letter to Reineck, Prymak was uncharacteristically verbose and enthusiastic in his accompanying commentary, much of which is presented below:
Senator Daniel K. Inouye, senior senator from Hawaii, in a letter dated 28th Sept., 1992, to Colonel Rollin C. Reineck of Kailua, Hawaii, said that he plans to initiate legislation that will open the secret files concerning Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance over 55 years ago, on July 2nd, 1937.
Col. Reineck has been researching the last flight of Amelia Earhart for over 22 years. From his research, he has concluded that the answer to the Earhart mystery does not lie in the Pacific where she disappeared, but rather in the secret files in Washington, D.C. Reineck says that the senator’s action will solve the 55-year mystery.
. . . Col. Reineck believes that she was on a government mission and went down in the Marshall Islands near Mili Atoll. The Japanese picked her up and transferred her to Saipan Island, in the Marianas, and then on to Tokyo. Sometime during WW II, Earhart was moved to the Japanese internment camp at Weihsien, China.
Ten days after the war had ended, an unsigned telegram was sent through State Department channels, from the Weihsien internment camp to Amelia Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, at the Earhart/Putnam home in North Hollywood, California.
The telegram read, “Camp liberated: all well. Volumes to tell. Love to mother.” Although unsigned, Col. Reineck strongly believes that this telegram was from Amelia Earhart. His belief, comes in part, from a 1990 State Department letter to Senator Inouye that says this message was located in 1987 — by a State Department clerk, with a top secret clearance — in the National Archives among other classified Earhart documents.
Although Col. Reineck, as well as other Earhart researchers, have tried to obtain additional information from the State Department and other government agencies concerning Amelia Earhart, their efforts have not produced any results.
Because of this, Col. Reineck has twice briefed Senator Dan Inouye on the Amelia Earhart story and asked for his help in obtaining the truth as to what happened 55 years ago on July 2, 1937. Col. Reineck feels that the information is secreted away in the files in Washington, D.C., and that it will take a presidential directive to free up the information similar to the President Kennedy assassination files.
. . . Colonel Reineck says that such action will be more than welcomed by all serious Earhart researchers as it will put an end, once and for all, to the many unfounded rumors and ridiculous claims that, in the past, have led to false hopes concerning one of America’s great heroines of the 20th century.
As we can see above, little did Prymak know in November 1992 — or anytime within the near future — that the foundational document for Reineck’s approach to the Hawaii senator was itself among the “many unfounded rumors and ridiculous claims” that Prymak was so quick to reference and denounce in his late 1992 commentary.
On January 3, 2017, I posted “Weihsien Telegram: Another sensation that fizzled,” outlining the entire story that had ignited one of the louder of the Earhart false claims. To catch up or re-orient yourself with all the morbid details, please click here.
Not content with the above comments, Bill Prymak, obviously in a rare, joyful mood of celebration, next presented readers with the longest, most comprehensive biography of Col. Rollin Reineck to be found in the AES Newsletters — or anywhere else, for that matter. I present large portions of this below:
“WHO IS THIS MAN, COLONEL ROLLIN REINECK?”
Colonel Rollin C. Reineck was 17 years old when Amelia Earhart was attempting to circumnavigate the world in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra. He recalls the excitement that the trip generated and the suspense created when she was reported lost on the way to tiny Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
However, Col. Reineck’s interest in the fate of Amelia Earhart really ignited when he was assigned, in January 1942, to the Army Air Corps Navigation School at Kelly Field, Texas. His class was instructed by Army Air Corps officers that had been trained by Pan American personnel.
During the celestial phase of the instruction, the students reviewed, in detail, the Amelia Earhart flight and theorized the various possibilities as to her fate. Subsequently, a training flight was scheduled to simulate the “single line of position (LOP) technique” of locating a destination. Col. Reineck modestly says, “I hit the destination area within a mile and got an A for the flight.”
Col. Reineck’s interest in Amelia Earhart’s last flight has continually grown since those cadet days of early 1942. However, the pressure of his military career kept him from getting heavily involved,. When he retired in December of 1970, Col. Reineck was able to devote more of his time to this project. He has worked closely with [former] Major Joe Gervais and more recently with Bill Prymak in trying to sort out the available evidence. Col. Reineck is not writing a book [at that time] and has never solicited a single penny to carry out his work. He says his total objective can be summed up in three words: Facts and Truth.
Col. Reineck is quick to point out that no one, as yet, has any direct evidence or sufficient circumstantial evidence to conclude what really happened on July 2nd, 1937. However, he adds that there is a tremendous amount of quality circumstantial evidence that supports the theory that Amelia Earhart was not just on a stunt flight, but was some kind of government mission and that she did survive her flight, WWII and returned to the United States after the war with a new identity as Irene Bolam.
“I strongly believe,” says Col. Reineck, “that the solution to the Earhart mystery does not lie in the Pacific where she disappeared, but in the secret files of the various departments and agencies in Washington, D.C. And until those files are declassified — by a presidential directive, similar to the JFK files — and made available to the public, the Earhart last flight and related events will remain a mystery. Possibly forever.”
. . . Colonel Reineck USAF (Ret.) is a graduate of the University of California. In January 1942 he became an Army Air Corps Navigation Cadet and [was] assigned to Kelly Field Navigation School, Texas. Upon graduation in June 1942, he went immediately overseas with the 93rd Bomb Group (B-24) as part of the 8th Air Force. He completed his first combat tour in April 1943 and was assigned as staff navigator for the Second Air Division, 8th Air Force.
In June 1944 Col. Reineck volunteered for B-29s and was assigned as chief navigator for all of the B-29s on Saipan Island, in the western Pacific. After the war, Col. Reineck completed pilot training. He subsequently served in the Strategic Air Command Hq., the Far East Air Forces Bomber Command Hq., Air Force Hq., The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pacific Air Force Hq., and the Minuteman Missile Systems Program Office. Col. Reineck also took an active part in the Korean War, but says that although he was willing to go to Vietnam, there wasn’t much of a requirement for an old colonel.
Col. Reineck’s awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster. Col. Reineck retired in December 1970 and now resides in Hawaii with his wife Esther. (End of Prymak’s tribute to Reineck.)
Rollin Reineck’s outstanding service record was indeed that of a true war hero — honorable, courageous and accomplished. His record of achievement in the most stressful and demanding of combat environments makes his later advocacy of some of the most far out of the fringe Earhart conspiracy ideas all the more puzzling.
In addition to Reineck’s active promotion of the Weishien telegram canard, we also see that Prymak alluded to Reineck’s devotion to the false Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth. Reineck was among the most prominent and enthusiastic of those who continued to believe in and promote Joe Gervais’ absurd idea, introduced to the public in Joe Klaas’ 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives. For much more on this unfortunate aspect of Reineck’s legacy, please click here.
In our next post we’ll see Inouye’s second letter to Reineck, as well as the actual legislation that the Hawaii senator presented to Congress.
Today we present Ross Game’s reply to Rollin Reineck’s October 1998 letter, in which the retired Air Force colonel and noted Earhart researcher asked him if he could shed any light on Fred Goerner inexplicably dropping his well-known conviction that Amelia Earhart had landed at Mili Atoll on July 2, 1937, a belief that has long been supported by a variety of witnesses.
As was Reineck’s letter in our previous post, this one appeared in the February 1999 edition of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters. (Boldface and italic emphases mine throughout.)
Ross P. Game
Post Office Box 176
Napa, CA 94559-0176
Telephone (707) 255-4693
October 27, 1998
Dear Colonel Reineck,
I received your letter of October 24 and I hope in the next day or two, health permitting, to contact Bob Ross to arrange a meeting in the near future.
Up to the time of his death I didn’t ever get the impression from Fred Goerner that he had any doubts about the Earhart plane coming down in the Marshalls. It was known, beyond doubt, that Amelia and Fred Noonan were brought to Saipan by the Japanese. We found evidence (obtained in interviews with natives — recalling the “white woman and white man” when they were children) on Saipan and in the Marshalls and had fantastic assistance in that phase of the investigation from Catholic missionary-priests able to speak the native languages.
Jose Quintanilla, trained at the FBI Academy and head of the police on Guam, took a leave of absence to assist us. He came up with evidence identical with what we had obtained from natives of the islands.
Without exception those who recalled the “white people” were able to pick Amelia’s photo from a series of pictures spread out on the ground. When she first was brought to Saipan in 1937 she was indeed a novelty because Earhart and Noonan were the first Caucasians they’d ever seen and the woman was wearing a coat which was most unusual to the natives (her leather jacket) and had hair cut like a man.
In Washington files we learned that George Palmer Putnam was secretly brought to the Saipan gravesite after the island had been captured by U.S. Marines and the remains “secretly” removed under the direction of an intelligence officer (we even obtained his name, thanks to the CIA).
Let’s keep in touch.
Clearly the most notable aspect of Game’s letter is that he fails to answer Reineck’s question — and mine as well — about what might have caused Goerner to change his mind about where he believed Amelia Earhart landed her Electra on July 2, 1937. To this day, no substantial, or perhaps more accurately stated, acceptable reason, has surfaced to explain why Goerner decided to unceremoniously dump his formerly rock-solid belief that Amelia landed her Electra at Mili Atoll.
By 1998, when Rollin Reineck contacted him, Game was obviously far removed from his former role as a confidant to Goerner. In my inch-thick file of correspondence between Game and Goerner, the last letter, from Game to Goerner, was sent in August 1992. In none of the material does Goerner inform Game of his remarkable rejection of his original Mili belief, so succinctly stated in the close of The Search for Amelia Earhart.
Precisely when Goerner changed his mind isn’t known, but it could have been as early as 1970, when in an April 17 letter to Fred Hooven, he discussed his plans to search the area southeast of Howland and Baker Islands, and northeast of McKean Island in the Phoenix group for “a reef and sandbar which have been most recently reported in 1945 and 1954, but have never been landed upon or investigated at a distance closer than two miles.”
Game’s response to Reineck certainly leaves no doubt that he was unaware of Goerner’s change, which we can find emphatically spelled out in Goerner’s stunning April 1993 letter to J. Gordon Vaeth, in which he flatly announced, “I now can state without equivocation that I DO NOT BELIEVE THE AE ELECTRA LANDED AT MILI.” (Emphasis Goerner’s.)
For much more on this, please see Chapter VII, “Goerner’s Reversal and Devine’s Dissent,” pages 172-176 of Truth at Last.
I have nothing that indicates Reineck and Game ever “kept in touch,” after this letter from Game, though it’s entirely possible, and have no evidence that Game and Bob Ross ever got together for a meeting. Bill Prymak’s AES Newsletters, although full of information unavailable anywhere else, are far from exhaustive.
For more on G.P. Putnam’s visit to Saipan, please see pages 239-241 in Truth at Last.
When Fred Goerner’s bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart rocked the nation in 1966, selling over 400,000 copies in an age when many 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. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
In 1968, Goerner appeared in Miami before a Republican platform subcommittee chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn. Calling his presentation “Crisis in Credibility—Truth in Government,” a title that perfectly describes the appalling corruption that so pervades our current ruling class, Goerner appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, and did his utmost to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia and Fred Noonan. Nothing happened then, either.
Occasionally someone suggests that I should write to the president, or that they’ve written to their congressmen, to demand action in the ongoing Earhart travesty. I tell them it’s a waste of time, based on what we know and all that’s gone before, but I never try to actually discourage these vain appeals to our rulers. Those who care enough about the truth to actually sit down and write a letter are to be respected and applauded for their diligence, despite the fact that all their letters will be ignored.
In 1997, well-known Earhart researcher Rollin Reineck thought he’d take a shot at it, and he sent the below missive to President Bill Clinton in hopes of effecting a miraculous breakthrough in the Earhart case. Reineck could have saved a stamp, but then we wouldn’t have this letter to serve as a fine example of the sort of good-faith appeals to our nation’s leaders that continue to be ignored.
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
8 June 1997
Subject: Public release of information relating to Amelia Earhart.
Dear Mr. President:
The second of July, this year, will mark the 60th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. This single episode remains the greatest unsolved air mystery of our time.
The issuance of your 17 April 1995 Executive Order (12958) declassifying all government documents that were 25 years old should have shed some light on this specific area of interest. However, it has produced no results to this date.
From circumstantial evidence, most researchers feel they know the answer to this 60-year-old mystery, but they also feel that the “HARD COPY OF FACTS“ are still sealed away in the files of the intelligence community in Washington, D.C.
Consequently, I am writing to ask you, as President of the United States, to issue another Executive Order. This time directing that the various military and other intelligence agencies as well as the CIA immediately release — to the public — all materials in their files relating to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart so the world may finally know the truth.
Ms. Earhart was the heroine of her era. She epitomized the ideals of women and American feminism, and is still an inspiration to all women today. The cheers, accolades and outpouring of emotion received by another young lady who just completed emulating the Earhart around-the-world flight in the same type vintage airplane reaffirms the desire of the world to know the facts and the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart.
I, and others like me, have been trying to piece together exactly what happened on that fateful day of 2 July 1937. Personally, I have spent over 26 years — a third of my life — searching for the truth about this great and courageous lady of the air. From this research, I have concluded:
Without presenting supporting evidence of any kind, the United States Government has always taken the position that Miss Earhart died at sea after ditching her airplane (attachment I). Yet, in direct contradiction, we researchers have evidence, including statements made by noted Americans, as well as others, who were in a position to know the facts and the truth about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. For instance:
1. The late Henry Morgenthau Jr., Secretary of the Treasury for President Roosevelt, stated (attachment 2) in a telephone conversation with Malvina Scheider, secretary for Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, “Amelia Earhart absolutely disregarded all orders. We have evidence that the thing is all over. And, if we ever release the report of the Itasca (Coast Guard vessel standing off Howland Island) on Amelia Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone.”
2. Mr. Carl Heine, a missionary who had lived in the Marshall Islands for 48 years (executed by the Japanese during the war), reported seeing a letter in the Jaluit Post Office on 27 November 1937, addressed to Amelia Earhart. The address read: Amelia Earhart, Marshall Islands, Ratak Group, Maloelap Island, South Pacific Ocean (Attachment 3). Mr. Heine felt it interesting that someone would be writing to Amelia Earhart in the Marshall Islands, and that the return address on the envelope was the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood, California. It appears to be more than a coincidence that Ms. Earhart’s personal secretary lived at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel at that time.
3. The late five-star Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Chief of Pacific Operations during WW II said, “She did go down in the Marshall Islands and was taken prisoner by the Japanese.” This statement by Admiral Nimitz (attachment 4) can be seen today in the Earhart Room of the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.
4. General Alexander Vandegrift, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps during WW II, said (attachment 5), “It was substantiated that Miss Earhart met her death on Saipan. This information was given to me by General Tommy Watson, who commanded the Second Division during the assault on Saipan.”
5. Graves P. Erskine, who commanded the 5th U.S. Marine Corps Division at Iwo Jima and was on the staff of Gen. Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith during the invasion of Saipan and served in intelligence capabilities, said (attachment 5), “We did learn that Earhart was on Saipan and that she died there.”
6. Mr. Robert Reimers, native of the Marshall Islands, was born in 1909, when the Germans occupied the Islands. He has spent his life as an entrepreneur and is the genius behind the Robert Reimer Enterprises Inc. of the Marshall Islands. In a recent interview Mr. Reimers stated among other things, “It was widely known throughout the Islands by both the Japanese and the Marshallese that a Japanese fishing boat found Amelia Earhart, her navigator and the airplane near Mili Atoll. They were brought to Jabor where one of our people (Billamon Amoron [sic] attachment 6) treated them. They were then taken to Kwajalein, and from there to Truk and then to Saipan. There was no mystery . . . everybody knew it.”
7. In addition, there have been numerous reports by our GIs in the Marshall Islands and on Saipan of seeing photographs and other memorabilia of Ms. Earhart in the Marshalls and on Saipan. Each and every one of these reports states that the found material related to Earhart was turned over to Officers in the field never to be seen again.
8. After the liberation of the Japanese Weihsien Internment Camp, China, messages (attachment 7) were dispatched, dated 21 August 1945 to the next of kin, or other interested parties of the internees. One of those messages was addressed and delivered to G.P. Putnam, 10042 Valley Spring Lane, North Hollywood, California. The message read, “CAMP LIBERATED, ALL WELL, VOLUMES TO TELL, LOVE TO MOTHER.” G.P. Putnam was Amelia’s husband and 10042 Spring Valley Lane, North Hollywood, California, was where they lived as man and wife before she departed on her around the world flight. Although the message was unsigned, there is little doubt as to who wrote the message. G.P. Putnam responded to the message 10 days later.
(Editor’s note: Reineck’s claim was later proven to be absolutely false by Earhart researchers Ron Bright and Patrick Gaston. The telegram was actually sent from the Weihsien Camp by a man named Ahmad Kamal, a close personal friend of George Putnam. Amelia Earhart was never at Weihsien, but this idea survives among some inhabitants of the Earhart fringe.)
Although I have worked with both the State and Treasury Departments, as well as the National Archives, I have not been able to obtain information to reconcile these various viewpoints and happenings on what should be a matter of fact.
Which version concerning Earhart’s disappearance are we to believe? Why can’t the people of the United States be told the truth about this event that took place almost 60 years ago? How could the release of the true facts of this historical event possibly affect the security of this country today, or have any other significant consequences? What will it take to set the record straight and get the truth about the fate of Amelia Earhart?
In May 1938, the Honorable Hattie W. Caraway, Senator, of your State of Arkansas, said on the floor of the U.S. Senate: “Amelia Earhart was a courageous woman who was one of the 12 most notable women of the past 100 years.” Senator Caraway went on to say that: “She was a woman who symbolized, to a remarkable degree, the courage, the pioneering spirit and the broad achievements of American womanhood” (Attachment 8).
What Senator Caraway said on the floor of the Senate in 1938 was true then and it is true today. Amelia Earhart was indeed a very courageous woman who served her country well in time of need. It is only fitting that the truth now be known and that her name be placed in the HALL OF FAME with other great Americans so that her countrymen and women of today and tomorrow are made aware of her noble deeds. Mr. President, you can make it happen by directing the immediate release to the public of all CIA, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard and other intelligence files relating to Ms. Amelia Earhart.
Your early response to this letter would be appreciated.
Rollin C. Reineck
Colonel USAF (Ret.)
Of course, Reineck received no response from Bill Clinton, not early nor at any other time. Clinton likely never even saw Reineck’s letter, which was probably deposited into the nearest circular file by one of an army of lackeys paid exorbitant amounts of taxpayer dollars to screen White House mail and remove these little annoyances from the president.
This is the inevitable fate of any attempts by our good citizens to appeal to the better angels of those who keep our national secrets. To begin with, these people have no better angels, as their spiritual protectors likely gave up on most of these lowlifes long ago. Secondly, and most importantly, the Earhart case remains among Washington’s most precious sacred cows, a status that will almost certainly remain unchanged for decades to come. Welcome to the Earhart saga.
In today’s final post of our four-part series, “Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society,” we rejoin the litany of famed Earhart researcher Joe Gervais’ better known gaffes; following that, I will try to bring the entire mash pit of absurdities that characterized the Irene Bolam chapter of the Earhart saga into some kind of coherent perspective, and put this pest of a lingering Earhart myth to bed for now.
“Irene Bolam and the Decline of the Amelia Earhart Society,” Conclusion of four parts
“What is the hardest task in the world? To think.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
In 1987, Joe Gervais led the voices claiming that the notorious “Weihsien Telegram” (later known as the “Love to Mother,” or LTM, message), a 1945 “speedletter” addressed to George Putnam and sent from a liberated Japanese internment camp in China, proved that Earhart had been held by the Japanese throughout World War II. In 2001, Ron Bright led an investigation that found the message had originated with Turkish author and world traveler Ahmad Kamal, who had known Putnam well enough to ask him to look in on his elderly mother before he left on a trip to China in 1939.
Fred Goerner, in a 1992 letter to Rollin Reineck, traced the discovery of what he called the “Weihsien Camp message” to Sandra Rangel, an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s. Rangel found the telegram among State Department records that were being routinely declassified following the normal 30-year classification restrictions, and wrote to Goerner about it in March 1971, telling him she found it a file under the name of George Palmer Putnam, not Amelia Earhart. Goerner obtained copies of the Weihsien records in 1975 and shared them with Earhart researcher Patti Morton in 1983.
In 1987 Los Angeles Times reporter Paul Dean contacted Morton after asking Goerner for leads about an Earhart story, and Morton told Dean about the Weihsien message. Dean then used it as a “hook for his article,” according to Goerner, which opened the floodgates to the knee-jerk Earhart theorists’ proclamations. “As I feared,” Goerner wrote, “Mr. Gervais and others immediately began to claim that the message proved Earhart had been a Japanese prisoner and to claim it as proof for their various theories. Within a few days, Mr. Gervais had given his claim to a Las Vegas newspaper. It proved NOTHING OF THE KIND. It only proved that SOMEONE had sent a message to George Palmer Putnam.”
Goerner went on to castigate Reineck for his insistence that Morton was withholding “secret information” from him (Reineck), and said Morton was “outraged by the Gervais statements,” among which was that Morton had agreed “to do a book” with Gervais. Morton thought Gervais was “totally unprincipled,” Goerner told Reineck, and reminded him of Gervais’ checkered history of phony Earhart claims, as well as Reineck’s role in disseminating them:
The incredible attempt to use the Weihsien message by Mr. Gervais to support his scenario is but another in a LONG, LONG list of misinformation Mr. Gervais has presented to the media as fact; for instance, by my count, Mr. Gervais has presented at least three photographs to the media which he alleges as proof that Earhart was in Japanese custody and returned to the U.S. as Irene Bolam. All bogus. You, Mr. Reineck, were a part of the last photo fiasco, and you were quoted widely in the press claiming the photo showed Earhart after the disappearance.
. . . Now that you know the photo was taken in Hawaii in 1937, why have you and Gervais not released that information to the media? Shame on everyone.
Item: The Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam theory.
The preceding are hardly the only examples of Gervais’ penchant for creative research, whereby he discovered a vast array of conspiracies and Earhart connections where none existed, but they are among the better-known cases. Certainly the native interviews he conducted in the Marianas in 1960 with fellow Air Force officer Robert Dinger were enormously important in establishing the presence of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan. These seminal accounts remain invaluable, but something happened to Gervais after he concluded his Saipan investigations, and it manifested itself in disastrous fashion that August 1965 day on Long Island.
Though it’s impossible to quantify the damage Amelia Earhart Survived inflicted upon the public’s perception of Earhart researchers, the popular idea that most who pursue the solution to the so-called Earhart mystery must be cranks or otherwise marginal individuals can, for the most part, be laid at Gervais’ doorstep, and Klaas’ too, as David Billings explained:
Joe Gervais convinced Joe Klaas that the woman he had seen at the Sea Spray Inn in 1965 WAS Amelia Earhart based on a spiritual feeling he had experienced which was influenced by a couple of adornments that the woman wore which were not what he thought they were. Klaas did not go and look at the lady himself, nowhere does he say that he did that, therefore he accepted what Gervais said holus-bolus. Now, if it were you or I and we wanted to be sure, we’d go and have a look. He never did. He never researched what Gervais told him, he never questioned Gervais, he wrote it down because as he often says, “I am a journalist.” What are journalists always after? A scoop. Klaas believed he had a scoop and he went off half-cocked and published that dreadful book. That dreadful book has affected every Earhart researcher since to one degree or another.
The unregenerate Klaas, now 95, has never publicly disavowed what he has described as the strongly “implied” contention in Amelia Earhart Lives that Earhart assumed the identity of Irene Bolam, though occasionally he has admitted the book contained other, less-serious errors. In an April 2007 message to the AES forum, Klaas reasserted his long-held, fence-straddling position on the Earhart-Bolam issue, cloaking it in the same quasi-legal terminology that failed to sway a New York court in the 1970s, and ended with McGraw-Hill’s substantial out-of-court settlement award to Irene Bolam:
My book, which was first published by McGraw-Hill, never stated outright that Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart. We presented all the evidence . . . and left it up to the reader to speculate.
But the vigilant Mandel was having none of Klaas’ hair-splitting Bolamite doublespeak that April day, and immediately brought the matter to the attention of those forum members who might, understandably, have been confused by Klaas’ statement:
As it follows from Mr. Joe Klaas’ message, his book “never stated outright that Irene Bolam was Amelia Earhart,” and the ones who think otherwise make “understandable misunderstanding.” Sorry but it is difficult to agree with this statement, because of following facts. Mr. Joe Klaas’ book was actually . . . how the IB theory was revealed to public – that knew nothing about this theory before this book. And the book’s title was: “AMELIA EARHART LIVES.”
The book clearly proclaimed the concept of the author (Mr. Klaas) and his friend who proposed the theory (Mr. Gervais) that she “lives” in another, living (then) real person – Irene Bolam. Let’s just see the real things: it is exactly what the book proclaimed, not anything else. The name of the author, Mr. Joe Klaas, was on the cover of the book, and it is still my firm opinion that the writer is fully, unconditionally and personally RESPONSIBLE – before the readers, the public, the society, and the history – for the information, concepts and statements made in the book. Always and without exceptions.
The concept of the real, national and international, historical mysteries about the very real people to be considered as just a “fascinating game of research and deduction,” completely ignores this important aspect of public and social RESPONSIBILITY of the ones who make the public statements, and it is why I always definitely disagreed with this concept.
From the period well before the book’s publication and until today – for all these decades – Mr. Joe Klaas apparently did never claim that he is not sharing the theory generated by his friend, Mr. Gervais. His own support of the theory is obvious and clearly visible from the contents and tone of his own comments in the book, particularly its final phrase: “Joe Gervais is on your trail, Amelia. There’s no use trying to die, for he’ll follow you wherever you go, and as long as he shall live, you shall live.”
If it is not the full and unconditional support of the Mr. Gervais concept, then it is very hard even to propose any definition (of) what else it is. It is far more than can be expected or demanded from “just the hired writer” – and clearly represents Mr. Klaas’ own position – that he never rejected btw, neither publicly nor (as far as I know) on the “closed forums” like AES. The proof is just below, in Mr. Joe Klaas’ today’s message, where he clearly states that he still believes in “Joe’s and my theory of what actually happened to Amelia Earhart.”
Sorry dear colleagues, but “JOE’s AND MY theory” in this quote is not my words. And for all the following period after 1970, including the current times, Mr. Joe Klaas made it maximally clear for everybody that he still supports his theory and believes in it – as he did when writing the book.
After McGraw-Hill returned the rights to Amelia Earhart Lives to Klaas after many years, the book was republished as an Authors Guild Back-In-Print Edition by iUniverse, and has been available on the Internet for purchase since 2000. As for Prymak, it’s hard to know the extent of the damage he could have prevented by revealing the details of the 1992 Gervais-Mary Eubank incident to the Earhart community in the years immediately following it, but he might have disabused Reineck of his ill-advised impulse to write Amelia Earhart Survived. Prymak eventually admitted his role in keeping the lid closed on the blockbuster Eubank-Bolam connection, but he never quite publicly apologized for it.
Although Gervais might even now be considered as “the Dean of Earhart research” by a remaining few who lack all discernment, Fred Goerner rightly earned the honor that some of the good old boys of the AES once so cavalierly accorded Gervais. As Ron Bright, no advocate of the Earhart-on-Saipan scenario that informed Goerner’s vision and investigations, once wrote, “No one did more research than Goerner.” Goerner’s findings remain treasures; many of his letters are more important and germane than ever, because they direct us toward the truth, unlike the charlatans and government apologists dominating the popular media culture during the past several decades, or the obtuse Bolamites.
Thomas E. Devine, whose experiences on Saipan launched him upon a lifetime quest to establish the truth and whose influence on this writer’s early Earhart education was immense, lacked Goerner’s creative abilities, national connections and imagination, but his contributions to the Earhart investigation were significant and lasting, and no one was ever more driven or dedicated than Devine. Like Goerner, Devine was fallible and wrong in some of his key conclusions, and even dishonest on occasion, but he never approached Gervais’ notoriety. Moreover, unlike the notorious Gervais, Devine’s positive contributions to Earhart research far outweighed his failings.
By September 2006, the escalating conflict between the forum’s Bolamite faction and its reality-based counterparts reached critical mass, apparently precipitated by Billings and Mandel’s continuing demands that Reineck produce his long-promised forensic evidence. On Sept. 10, Jo Ann Ridley, the genteel co-author of High Times Keep ‘Em Flying: An Aviation Autobiography (Fithian Press, 1992), set the day’s tone by announcing her withdrawal from the AES. Citing the “inexplicable toleration of schoolyard bullies in what should be friendly exchanges,” Ridley expressed her regrets that “the AES is no more, in its original sense,” and concluded by observing that “personal attacks, harassment and grudge-holding do not lead to truth-finding.”
Taking Ridley’s cue, the conscientious Reineck soon declared his resignation, as well. “The crude and ungentlemanly behavior of David Billings and Alex Mandel towards me and my research goes well beyond any measure of common decency and certainly beyond my tolerance level,” Reineck announced, astonished that he might be asked for any evidence to support his incredible claims.
Joe Klaas soon followed suit, complaining that the forum “has deteriorated to mean-spiritedness,” which inspired several others in the flock to join the exodus. But like everything else in Bolamville, nothing was quite as it seemed, and the mass resignations proved to be little more than theatrics. No one, including Ridley, ever removed their names from the online membership roll, and all posted occasional messages to the forum in the months following their grand withdrawals. Not surprisingly, of all who had announced their departures, only Reineck returned to regular forum participation, and fairly quickly, as if nothing had ever occurred to keep him away.
More serious researchers had sought greener pastures years earlier, most while continuing their AES affiliation. Ron Bright, once a dues-paying member of TIGHAR, formed the Electra Research Group in 2002, “primarily to approach the various theories from a different standpoint,” he said. “We found about ten guys that seemed fed up with TIGHAR and AES, and wanted to exchange opinions and criticisms without the rancor.”
By July 2006, Alex Mandel, starved for reasoned discussion after years of fruitless debate, established the Amelia Mary Earhart Research International Club and Association, also known as AERA. Mandel’s group, though small, continues as a viable forum for Mandel’s vision of “serious scholarly study of the life and career of the pilot Amelia Mary Earhart, the research of her disappearance in 1937, promotion and protection of her legacy, and providing exact and accurate information about Amelia Earhart for everybody interested.”
In late summer 2006, but unknown to me until much later, the hardcore AES Bolamite faction, led by Reineck and Klaas, formed their own private online forum, the “AESurvived” Yahoo! Group, where they could freely discuss the latest developments in their constantly evolving fantasies without the distractions of inconvenient reality. Since then, virtually nothing of this group’s activities or correspondence has come to my attention.
Irene Madeline O’Crowley Craigmile Heller Bolam was born on Oct. 1, 1904 in Newark, New Jersey, and died of cancer on July 7, 1982 in Edison, New Jersey. With few exceptions, nothing else written about this poor woman was either true or necessary. We can only wonder, in light of the alleged lucrative financial settlement Bolam received from McGraw-Hill after Joe Klaas only implied she was Amelia Earhart in Amelia Earhart Lives, whether Reineck and his publisher would have dared to publish Amelia Earhart Survived if Bolam were alive today.
One might reasonably question the need to engage in a lengthy discussion of such an illogical notion as the IB theory in a blog purporting to present the truth about the Earhart matter. The time and effort spent in deconstructing this odious fantasy could be more wisely spent elsewhere, it can be argued, and focusing on the Bolamite credo grants it a legitimacy it could not otherwise achieve. If only this were so, speeding the eradication of this pox on the Earhart legacy would be so much easier – it could simply be ignored. But as we have seen, despite the theory’s abject lack of merit, producers of the National Geographic Channel’s History Undercover series devoted an entire segment of their Earhart program to the IB theory in 2007. If a book as feckless as Amelia Earhart Survived can persuade the National Geographic Channel into re-introducing the Bolamite thesis to millions of uninformed viewers, what damage might a cleverly produced tome by a creative, newly inspired Bolamite protégé yet inflict? We also have the recently published book, so shamelessly and irresponsibly promoted by the UK’s Daily Mail and Fox News, that has already outsold Reineck’s fish wrapper, and reintroduces the same Bolamite folderol to a public that remains largely ignorant about the Bolam lies.
Many demonstrably false and damaging ideas are granted currency by those who cultivate and embrace the politically correct mindset of “tolerance” for all “sincerely held” beliefs. This so-called open-mindedness and respect for “individual rights,” especially in regard to the weird and aberrant, is normally an innocuous conceit when the opinions in question are confined to the occasional eccentric or misfit. However, when these pernicious ideas are allowed to be broadcast to an uninformed public as facts, as was done in Amelia Earhart Survived, still being sold on the Net, and the new book that I refuse to even name, those who can do something about it are bound to act – as decisively as possible – in the service of truth and justice. All ideas are not equal.
Since Joe Gervais embraced his misbegotten conviction that Amelia Earhart “became” Irene Bolam more than 40 years ago, an ersatz mythology complete with its own dogmas and history evolved in support of the Bolamite belief system. It has not been my purpose to examine, item-by-item, ad nauseam, every minute precept of this phantasmagoria. Rather, I have attempted to describe a phenomenon that nearly defies understanding, not only in its own bizarre and fantastic essence, but in the inexplicable thrall by which it captivated and bound its adherents.
In 2005, Alex Mandel collaborated with Ron Bright, Bill Prymak, and Patrick Gaston to write “Amelia Earhart’s Survival and Repatriation: Myth or Reality?” Mandel’s 12,000-word paper, which I completely re-wrote for public presentation because English is Mandel’s third language, came to be known as “The Atchison Report,” and is the most comprehensive examination and systematic debunking to date of the myths, deceptions and lies that animated the IB theory and continue to be propagated by its remaining adherents.
Some 50 copies were distributed to researchers and other interested parties at the annual Amelia Earhart Festival in Atchison, Kansas, in July 2005, with the hope that armed with this in-depth study, serious Earhart students can help to exterminate any vestiges of this stubborn parasite wherever it raises its ugly head. Sadly, the perfidious Bolamite Creed still lives, despite our best efforts.