Josephine Blanco Akiyama, whose childhood sighting of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor in the summer of 1937 ignited the true modern search for America’s First Lady of Flight, returned to her birthplace Oct. 6 and was warmly welcomed by family and friends at an invitation-only reception hosted by the Amelia Earhart Memorial Committee at Garand’s Fiesta Resort and Spa Oct. 9. (Boldface mine throughout.)
At the reception dinner, also attended by reporters from the Marianas Variety, Saipan Tribune and Saipan’s KSPN2 News, Josephine, appearing well at 92, who’s lived in San Mateo, Calif. since 1957, said she still “still vividly remembers her only encounter with the American aviator,” Lyn C. Lirio wrote in her Marianas Variety story Oct. 11, headlined, “2 say they saw Amelia Earhart on Saipan.”
This happened in 1937, Josephine said; she was 11 years old and didn’t know the woman’s name until much later, nor did she say anything publicly about it until she was 20 years old, working on Saipan as an assistant to Navy dentist Dr. Casimir Sheft.
In her story, Lirio cited two key paragraphs from the 1960 book that started it all, Daughter of the Sky, by Paul Briand Jr.:
In the summer of 1937 Josephine was riding her bicycle toward Tanapag Harbor. She was taking her Japanese brother-in-law, J.Y. Mastsumoto, his lunch and was hurrying along because it was nearly 12 noon. Josephine has a special pass to the Japanese military area near the harbor. Not even Japanese civilians were admitted to the area unless they carried the proper credentials. The young girl rode up to gate, stopped her bicycle, and presented her pass. The guard allowed her into the restricted area. On the way to meet her brother-in-law, Josephine heard an airplane flying overhead. She looked up and a saw a silver two-engine plane. The plane seemed to be in trouble, for it came down low, headed out into the harbor, and belly-landed on the water.
The plane crash-landed in the harbor. She and her brother-in-law joined the people who gathered to watch. She saw the American woman standing next to a tall man wearing a short-sleeved sport shirt, and was surprised because the woman was not dressed as a woman usually dressed. Instead of a dress, the American woman wore a man’s shirt and trousers; and instead of long hair, she wore her hair cut short, like a man. The faces of the man and woman were white and drawn, as if they were sick.
The most surprising aspect of the evening featured Joaquin Salas, a relatively unknown native Chamorro, whose claimed eyewitness account was discussed in Rich Martini’s “Amelia Earhart on Saipan” YouTube video, but, to my knowledge, has been otherwise unreported, telling the group he was also 11 years old when he saw Earhart on Saipan — in front of his family’s house in Chalan Kanoa. Lirio continued with Salas’ account:
“I saw a Japanese military truck. They were loading three people — two men and one lady. A Japanese soldier used black ribbons to tie their hands. They parked in front of our house. We were watching them,” he said, adding that it was the first and last time he saw Earhart. “I don’t where the Japanese took them.”
Lirio added that Rep. Donald Barcinas, president of the memorial committee, “said their plan to build an Amelia Earhart monument on island has the support of the Marianas Visitor Authority, the Department of Public Lands, the Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.” This sounds encouraging, but with the exception of a recent significant donation by a local, independent couple, the vast majority of contributions to the memorial has come from U.S. contributors, and remains a relative pittance.
Rep. Barcinas said Josephine’s eyewitness account “is a living testimony — she is a living history, and we are very proud and honored to have her here. She is in the books written about Amelia Earhart.”
Meanwhile, Saipan’s other newspaper, the Saipan Tribune, whose coverage of the monument issue has been tepid since the proposal was announced last February — see “$150K requested for Amelia Earhart statue” and “Group behind Earhart memorial seeks assistance from Rotary Club” — showed up, but one can only wonder why they bothered.
A moving photo of Josephine with two of her nephews at the dinner is nice, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine a more halfhearted effort than the Tribune presents in “I saw Amelia Earhart,” by reporter Erwin Encinares. This mediocrity wasn’t even on the Tribune’s front page, but was buried somewhere back in the paper. I had to actually search for it in the online edition because it wasn’t even listed on the first page of the local news items, which themselves were buried.
“Two persons reportedly saw on two separate occasions the lost aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart on Saipan, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean,” Encinares wrote in his uninspired lead, which went downhill from there. In addition to turning off virtually anyone who might have been remotely interested, Encinares got Josephine’s current age, 92, wrong (93), as well as her age when she saw Amelia, 11, not 12 as he wrote.
The Saipan Tribune should have opted out of this event rather than undermining it with this poorly written story that, in fact, signaled its readers that the occasion of the return of the most important of the Saipan eyewitness is all but meaningless to them. Moreover, the story contained nothing about the planned Earhart memorial monument.
To read the Saipan Tribune story, which has garnered no “Likes” and one comment — a correction of another factual error in the story — since its publication on Oct. 11, please click here.
TV is always more effective in our video-centric media culture, and the Saipan KSPN2 News (Saipan’s Destination Channel) story was far better than the Saipan Tribune’s lame effort, though its report on the Oct. 9 event didn’t air until Oct. 15. The three-minute, 40-second segment featured Ashley McDowell interviewing Josephine at the dinner, with cutaways to file footage of Amelia and still shots of Josephine and Dr. Casimir Sheft. McDowell’s visit to Tanapag Harbor, where Josephine saw the fliers in 1937, was a nice touch.
Otherwise, McDowell’s decision to display, or more accurately, flash the July 1, 1960 front page of the San Mateo Times, with its 100-point banner headline proclaiming, “Amelia Earhart Mystery is Solved,” which readers have seen many times on this blog, highlighted a mostly flat, disappointing report, much too low-key and uninspired than this rare occasion demanded. Having the famous Josephine Blanco Akiyama live and lucid at 92 was a miracle in itself, but you’d never know it by watching this video.
The segment ended with McDowell voicing no real conclusion or telling point, and again, nothing was said about the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument. On a scale of 1 to 10, this was a 5 at best, and it likely didn’t change any minds among the uninformed masses on Saipan. It’s also fair to ask whether the ugly local politics surrounding the memorial initiative — overwhelmingly against it from the beginning — exerted an insidious influence on the tone, content and efficacy of the KSPN2 News report.
On the other hand, some credit is indeed due to KSPN2 News, as Saipan’s Destination Channel is the only TV news station in the world that has produced two important stories recently about Amelia Earhart, Marie Castro and the proposed Earhart Memorial Monument (see “Saipan TV News supports Earhart monument“), while not a single American media outlet has breathed a word of it. Thus, the U.S. establishment’s total and absolute hatred for the truth in the Earhart disappearance remains stronger than ever, and the 81-year travesty shows no signs of abating.
Marie Castro sent me below prayer that she wrote for the special occasion of Josephine’s visit, lovingly prepared to close the evening’s events of Oct. 9. “I told Allen [Marie’s nephew] to play the recorded music, “Amazing Grace” on the background while I read the prayer,“ Marie wrote. “I hope the people will be inspired and believe this significant event of 1937.”
Thank you for your amazing grace which is enabling Mrs. Josephine Blanco Akiyama, the last living person to witness the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan here on Saipan in 1937 to be with us here tonight with the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument group.
81 years is a long, definitely overdue, time for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan to be given the recognition they deserve as human beings who unfortunately met their death on Saipan soil.
Tonight, as we acknowledge their presence here on our island, we ask that you guide our efforts to honor the memory of these two great American aviators with a memorial to be built in their honor.
This is our prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
God Bless us.
In an overdue but much-needed and appreciated development, on Oct. 1, Saipan’s KSPN2 News presented the first-ever TV news interview with Marie S.C. Castro, 85, whose strident advocacy for the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan has been the subject of several posts on this blog since the plan was announced in the Feb. 7 Marianas Variety story, “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan.”
“Every human being that dies,” Marie told reporter Ashley McDowell, “we have to give the honor they deserve as human beings. And I was thinking that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were never given anything to honor them or to acknowledge them here on Saipan.”
Thanks to the technical skills of longtime Oakland, Calif., supporter David Kaspiak, you can watch the three minute, 30-second KSPN2 News piece by clicking here: KSPN2 News.mp4.
McDowell finished the segment by announcing that “Josephine Blanco [Akiyama], who says she saw Amelia Earhart and the navigator Fred Noonan at Tanapag harbor here in Saipan when she was just 11 years old” would be coming to Saipan Oct. 7, and promised a report. Co-anchor Adrianna Cotero added the final touch by enthusiastically telling McDowell, “What a great idea to have a monument here on Saipan!”
Among the several fine stories have been published here and in the Marianas Variety on the proposed Earhart Memorial Monument, was “Marie Castro: An iron link to Saipan’s forgotten past,” which appeared in the March 28 Marianas Variety, with a longer version here on April 2,“Marie Castro: Iron link to Saipan’s forgotten history,” in praise of this brave woman whose vision birthed the bold but highly unpopular initiative to build an Earhart memorial on Saipan. But these print-based efforts have done little to improve the ugly politics that surround this movement, which, according to one informed source, are running 99-1 against its success.
Undeniably, TV’s power to persuade and change minds is far greater than newspapers or radio, and this interview is a badly needed boost. In attempting to convert even small numbers of the historically ignorant and propagandized on Saipan, only via TV can the truth break through the stone wall of massive resistance.
Saipan TV: The Visitors Channel (SaipanTV.com) is clearly not connected with any of the American alphabet networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC or Fox, actually the worst of them all for its blatant hypocrisy — or any other U.S. establishment news source, or this interview with Marie Castro would never have been contemplated, much less have seen air. Unsurprisingly, nobody the United States has touched the story of the proposed Earhart monument on Saipan, which should remind everyone how much the Earhart truth continues to be hated, ignored and denied by our establishment and its media toadies.
The news of Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s imminent visit to Saipan was likely an important factor in the decision by the independent station’s management to do the interview with Marie Castro shortly before the most famous of all the Saipan Earhart eyewitnesses returned to her birthplace.
Please consider contributing to the proposed Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument. This is a most deserving and worthy cause that has, sadly, been largely ignored. You can make your tax-deductible check payable to: Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument, Inc., and send to AEMMI, c/o Marie S. Castro, P.O. Box 500213, Saipan MP 96950. The monument’s success is 100 percent dependent on private donations, and everyone who gives will receive a letter of appreciation from the Earhart Memorial Committee. Thank you for whatever you can give.
For the few who pay attention to the ongoing saga of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, today marks another year’s passing, the 81st, and it’s not been uneventful.
Most will recall last July’s History Channel flap over the bogus claims about the Office of Naval Intelligence photo found at the NARA Archives in College Park, Md., by researcher Les Kinney several years ago and presented in the odious Morningstar Entertainment-produced “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.” To refresh your memory, here is my review of that July 9, 2017 abomination: “History’s ‘Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence’: Underhanded attack on the Marshalls-Saipan truth.”
Much more was written here during that time frame about that over-hyped disinformation drill, but at the end it was all smoke and mirrors. Just as the lowlifes who ran that deceitful operation had planned, nothing changed in our cowardly media. Our Fourth Estate’s aversion to publishing anything related to the truth continues unabated, and anything even hinting at the Marshalls-Saipan truth continues to be blacklisted across all news and media outlets, as does Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
Early in 2018, however, something quite unexpected finally appeared on the heretofore dismal Earhart horizon, with the announcement that appeared in the Feb. 7 Marianas Variety (“Micronesia’s Leading Newspaper Since 1972″), “Group to build Amelia Earhart monument on Saipan.”
On Feb. 14, Marianas Variety published my letter to the editor, “Amelia Earhart’s Saipan fate,” that enthusiastically welcomed the news of plans to honor the First Lady of Flight at the location of her tragic and untimely death sometime after she failed to reach Howland Island in early July 1937. You might recall my March 2 post that announced that recent development on Saipan, “Finally, some good Earhart news from Saipan.“
Several stories have been published here and in the Marianas Variety on the proposed Earhart Memorial Monument, including “Marie Castro: Iron link to Saipan’s forgotten history,” in praise of the intrepid soul who birthed the bold plan to build the Earhart Memorial Monument on Saipan, and who continues her brave efforts, with little help, and hopes that need serious bolstering in light of the very bad politics that surround the memorial initiative on Saipan.
The situation on Saipan is a constant concern, and a minor miracle will be necessary to bring the Earhart memorial to the light of day — a wonder for which we will sincerely thank Marie Castro, her unyielding devotion to the truth and her constant prayers for moving God to grant, if indeed it ever happens.
I think today’s anniversary is an appropriate time to present what I define as my general Position Statement regarding the Earhart matter, especially its relationship to our broken culture and the feckless media who are largely responsible for creating it. I’ve sent various parties versions of the below statement, and have updated and revised it slightly to conform as closely as possible to the current state of affairs. I only wish that just a few in the media who have not been bought and sold by the establishment would grow a backbone and step forward to support what is clearly not an “aviation mystery,” but an obvious truth lying in plain sight, as well as a worthy and long overdue cause.
Many won’t like the words they read below, and will strongly disagree with this little treatise, learned the hard way during 30 years of focus and work on the Earhart matter. But nobody will send anything that credibly refutes any of it, because the truth doesn’t change and is not a matter of opinion, but a specific, discrete series of events that occurred involving the doomed fliers, beginning on July 2, 1937. All who desire to rebut the below are welcome to send their statements to the comments section, so that others can judge for themselves the merit, or lack of same, in those assertions.
Following is my statement on the Earhart situation, and I’m sticking to it. Boldface is mine throughout:
The very idea that the disappearance of Amelia Earhart is a “great aviation mystery” is arguably the most despicable of all the prevailing myths of mainstream American history. So effective has the U.S. government been in creating, maintaining and protecting this straw man as the unquestioned narrative, that it has become a fixture in our cultural furniture, and because of its universal acceptance by the gullible, incurious masses, the phony phraseology “Earhart mystery” defines and dominates all public dialogue about the Earhart case, while the fact of Amelia’s wretched and unnecessary demise at the hands of the prewar Japanese on Saipan is ignored or labeled “conspiracy theory,” advanced only by and for the fringe conspiracy lunatics of society.
But deep in the bowels of the U.S. government security apparatus, some are well aware of the fliers’ true fate, and they protect the physical evidence that would reveal the truth that lies in the deepest recesses of our top-secret archives. I explain all this in my book and in my blog, and won’t go on at length here.
Discerning individuals who examine the popular Earhart “theories” soon find not a scintilla of evidence for either crashed-and-sank or Nikumaroro that doesn’t break down under the slightest scrutiny. Not a single artifact in a dozen trips since 1989 that’s been scrounged up from the Nikumaroro garbage dumps has been forensically linked to Amelia Earhart or Fred Noonan, despite the constant drumbeat of our corrupt media establishment telling us to buy this snake oil. Many of the ignorant and gullible have indeed bought it, much to their chagrin as they realize the Nikumaroro bill of goods is rotten at its core.
Actually, no real “theories” exist in the Earhart disappearance, as the word is properly defined. We have the truth — supported by several dozens of witnesses and documents — that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan crash-landed in the Marshalls, were picked up and taken to Saipan by the Japanese, and died there at some unknown date before the American invasion in June 1944, likely as many as six years before the Battle of Saipan. Several small details remain unknown, but the big picture is lying in plain sight, as clear as the nose on Fred Noonan’s face, obvious to all but the blind and the agenda driven.
And we have enormous, transparent lies. First came the original crash-and-sank myth born in 1937 with the Navy-Coast Guard’s search findings — briefly logical until overcome by the facts — which finally became so ludicrous and unacceptable by the late 1980s that a new deception to distract the sheeple was necessary. Thus was born the current Nikumaroro virus, which continues to be the media’s default position and infects virtually everything Earhart. Even the brain dead are no longer fooled.
The truth is that both of these canards have been glorified and raised to the status of “theories” by a deep-state establishment desperate to protect the checkered legacy of our president at the time of Earhart’s death, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Thus, when this case is discussed by those considered to be knowledgeable professionals, whose names are well known to readers of this blog and need not be mentioned now, normal rules of investigation, including analysis of evidence and the scientific approach, are thoroughly ignored, and truth is the first casualty.
As I constantly stress in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and here on my blog, the truth in the Earhart case has been a sacred cow in Washington since the earliest days of the search. The time is long overdue for the truth to be recognized and accepted, and for the parasites who have made their livings by peddling lies about Amelia’s sad fate to go away and find more honest ways to earn their livings. (End position statement.)
These are the nuts and bolts, the essence of the endless rigmarole about the so-called Earhart mystery, which I write about constantly in what is usually a vain effort to educate those willing to learn about this ongoing American travesty, this stain upon our great nation’s history.
No end is in sight, but even if it’s only here on this blog, I’ll continue to expose the lies and enlighten those who remain unblinded by the panoply of falsehood that currently rules the Earhart matter, an insidious rot that has stripped all vestiges of truth from the Earhart situation, and it’s only getting worse.
If President Donald Trump were aware of the disgraceful 81-year suppression of the facts in the Earhart disappearance, I’m confident he would do his best to effect full U.S. government disclosure of the truth, to slay this sacred cow and put a long-overdue end to this ridiculous spectacle of a bogus mystery that’s been solved since the early 1960s, at the very latest. But who will tell him?
Donald M. Wilson was a veteran of the Battle of Saipan, where he was both a rifleman and a chaplain’s assistant in the 2nd Marine Division, and where he no doubt heard stories about the presence and death of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the pre-war years. He became an ordained minister and served as a pastor and assistant pastor in several churches in Ohio, Michigan and finally in Lake Pleasant, New York, where he passed away on Thanksgiving Day, 2012, at age 86.
Wilson was also an avid student of the Earhart disappearance, and he occasionally corresponded with fellow Saipan veteran Thomas E. Devine. In 1994, Wilson self-published Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend: Accounts by Pacific Island Witnesses of the Crash, Rescue and Imprisonment of America’s Most Famous Female Aviator and Her Navigator, an obscure anthology known chiefly to habitués of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society of Researchers, where he was a respected member.
The following letter, from Wilson to Prymak in April 1994, appeared in the November 1998 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, concerns a strange incident involving Wilson and an unidentified man that occurred at an unknown time and location, and in that regard it is reminiscent of several other accounts of unknown provenance that have been passed down to us through the years. It also reprises some of the more unpleasant possible scenarios of Earhart’s final days on Saipan, and I present it for your consideration. Boldface is mine throughout.
A STRANGE ENCOUNTER BY DON WILSON
Donald Moyer Wilson
One Woods Point
Webster, NY 14580
April 28, 1994
During a book signing recently, a man came up to me and said insistently that Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese and executed by them. He identified himself as a former Marine Corps colonel, who had spent three months at the Pentagon. He pulled out his wallet to show me some identification. Unfortunately, I did not look at it carefully, and do not remember his name.
He seemed to be bitter about his experience with the Pentagon. He said that he had worked with G-2 — Intelligence. He claimed that he saw secret documents about Amelia Earhart. He said there were two witnesses to her execution, not just one. He also said that she had been stripped at the time of her execution and previously raped by her guards. He also said (and I neglected to tell you this) something about her fingers or fingernails, that they had been mutilated, or possibly her fingernails had been pulled out. He also said (again I forgot to tell you this) that, as I recall, her body had been removed from the grave later, and cremated (possibly by Americans? — I’m not sure of this).
He said that the Earhart plane had been destroyed — I’m quite sure he said by Americans on Saipan. He was very reluctant to give more details, and when I suggested things like the name of the airfield on Saipan, he would neither confirm nor deny them. I spoke of the Freedom of Information Act, and asked where the materials might be obtained. He implied that the Navy might have them. As I recall, I asked him to get in touch with you,* and I believe I gave him your address. Also, he mentioned another individual briefly who might have the same (or different) information, and I again said I hoped he would supply more information.
A couple of thoughts have gone through my mind. He might be telling the truth and was torn between the desire to give information and the fear of risking retaliation of some sort for giving it. There is a slight possibility that he might have been discharged from the service for homosexual behavior. Or he might have taken information he obtained elsewhere, particularly the Unsolved Mysteries program with Tom Devine and Nieves Cabrera Blas, among others, and built on their stories — for the fun (?) of it. He asked me what my interest in Amelia Earhart was, but walked away before I could give him an answer.
(Signed) Don Wilson
*He Never Did
Prymak note: Don Wilson must sure wish he had collared this guy for subsequent interviews. (End of Wilson letter.)
Wherever this “Marine colonel” got this information in the early to mid 1990s, it didn’t all come from the Nov. 7, 1990 Unsolved Mysteries segment, “New Evidence Points to Saipan,” which featured Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. Wallack, Fred Goerner, T.C. “Buddy” Brennan and even crash-and-sank poster boy Elgen M. Long. Nothing was mentioned in that program about Amelia being stripped, horribly mutilated or her body’s removal from a gravesite, though all these things could well have happened during her captivity on Saipan. For more on this theme, please see my June 12, 2015 post, “Navy nurse’s letter describes gruesome end for fliers, but was it true?”
Many of the smaller details have yet to be learned, but we do know beyond any doubt that the doomed fliers met their tragic ends on Saipan. The U.S. government and its media toadies still do not want you to know the truth about the death of Amelia Earhart, for all the reasons I continue to re-emphasize and present to the few who are willing and able to accept the truth.
Many eyewitnesses and several investigators have established the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan, but only one of these alleged eyewitnesses has ever claimed she actually watched Amelia’s execution. The stunning account of Mrs. Nieves Cabrera Blas, who was interviewed extensively in the mid-1980s by Texas real estate man-turned-Earhart-investigator T.C. “Buddy” Brennan, remains perhaps the most provocative of all the first-person testimonies to have ever been taken on Saipan. (Boldface mine throughout.)
Besides listening to Mrs. Blas’ incredible story, Brennan, author of the 1988 book, Witness to the Execution: The Odyssey of Amelia Earhart, excavated yet another alleged Earhart gravesite on Saipan in 1984. Manny Muna, a child there during the war years, told Brennan several Earhart stories, but nothing approached the blockbuster potential of the alleged eyewitness account of Mrs. Blas, an 83-year-old native who had never been interviewed before Brennan came to her home in November 1983. If her story was true, Amelia lived much longer on Saipan than most researchers have believed.
Initially, Mrs. Blas feared that Brennan was affiliated with the CIA, but he assured her that he only wanted to inform Amelia’s long-suffering family about her true fate. More than once, Brennan had to convince Mrs. Blas that U.S. officials weren’t lurking nearby, determined to send her to an American prison for telling civilian investigators what she knew about the famous pilot’s death.
Before the war, Nieves Cabrera lived on a farm near Garapan, and part of her family’s land was next to a fence the Japanese built to protect their base. One day, she said, they were told Japan was at war with the United States and only her family would be permitted to work in that area. Mrs. Blas’ account as told to Brennan, Mike Harris and Brennan’s son, T.C. Brennan II, is the highlight of Witness to the Execution:
Before the war one day there is great excitement. It is said that the Japanese have captured two spy people. They are holding them in the town. Many of us go there to see the two spies. I saw them in the square where the Japanese police building was. The Japanese guards made them take off all the clothes, everything they had on their bodies.
It is then we can see that one of the spies is a woman. Both of them were wearing trousers and I had believed both were men. I had never known before a woman who wore men’s trousers. The man seemed to be hurt and had a bandage on his head. The woman was wearing a watch, and some rings and some kind of medal. They take these, then put her back in the cells. We learn in the village the woman’s name is Amelia Earhart and she was a flyer and an American spy.
Realizing he might be onto something big — “an eyewitness placing Earhart and Noonan on Saipan, a source never before contacted by anyone!” — Brennan asked Mrs. Blas if she saw Earhart again. “Not for many years,” she told him, but she heard Earhart had been kept in “the little prison building . . . and never brought outside the fence again.” Through Rosa, their native interpreter, Brennan learned it wasn’t until several years after the war had started that Mrs. Blas and her family were “surprised to be bombed by ships and airplanes.” She said the Japanese told them it was the Americans and ordered her family to seek shelter in the caves. The Cabrera family eventually returned to their farm, where she picked up her story:
Then one day I am working . . . and I see three Japanese motorcycles. Amelia Earhart is in a little seat on the side of one motorcycle. She is wearing handcuffs and she is blindfolded. I watch and they take her to this place where there is a hole been dug. They make her kneel in front then they tear the blindfold from her face and throw it into the hole. The soldiers shoot her in the chest and she fall backwards into the grave.
Mrs. Blas said she “ran from that place so the soldiers do not see me. Later, I go back to see if they bury her, and they had.” An unidentified local had informed Mrs. Blas that Brennan was a “good person,” so she acceded to his pleas and led the group to a spot below a huge parking lot surrounded by a seven-foot security fence.
Brennan and Harris returned to Saipan several months later, sometime in mid-1984. Brennan wasn’t precise with his dates, but he and Harris calculated that Mrs. Blas watched the alleged Earhart execution on a day between the February 1944 U.S. naval and aerial bombardment of the island and the June 1944 invasion. The day after their arrival, Brennan and Harris excavated the site with the assistance of a native equipment operator, a front loader, and two additional hired hands as Mrs. Blas and Rosa looked on. When the digging was finished, a “trench roughly four feet wide and about 12 feet long,” according to Brennan, and at least five-and-a-half-feet deep yielded nothing of interest until a strange piece of cloth suddenly appeared.
“It was not a random scrap of torn cloth,” Brennan wrote, but was “cut to a distinct pattern, portions of a stitched hem were faintly discernible. The top was cut straight and measured slightly over 24 inches in length. It was the bottom portion that puzzled us. The center segment was a uniform width of about six or eight inches, but on each side it had been cut in even arcs to form thin bands at the top.” As Brennan and Harris stood in the ditch looking over their find, Mrs. Blas peered down on them with no doubt about its provenance, as Rosa translated. “She believes that is the blindfold Amelia was wearing,” Rosa said. “The soldiers removed it and threw it into the grave just before they shot her.”
Though he needed only the parking lot manager’s permission to dig, Brennan had agreed to complete the job on a Sunday, a condition he would later claim seriously compromised their efforts. “We could have been within a foot of our artifacts,” Brennan told Harris afterward. “Until we get permission to cover at least a 10- to 15-square-yard area we can’t prove or disprove anything. . . . I believe we came within inches of finding human remains out there today. And I believe that when we do find them they will be those of Amelia Earhart.”
In closing Witness to the Execution, Brennan said efforts to “validate the blindfold developed into a real Catch-22 situation,” without explaining his use of that term, and that “publicly funded crime labs” performed this kind of analysis. A “formal, signed, official report would have to wait for the future,” Brennan wrote, and claimed the blindfold was “made of cotton fiber, consistent with fabrics in general use during the early ’40s. There is nothing to indicate it was woven more recently than fifty years ago. Yes, it could well have survived that length of time underground.”
Mrs. Blas told a fascinating story, but it’s been contradicted by many who place Earhart’s death within months, or a few years at most, of her arrival on Saipan. Her gravesite’s location, relative to any known community or landmark, was never described by Brennan, but it was not the site revealed to Thomas E. Devine by the unnamed Okinawan woman in 1945, nor was it the gravesite outside the Liyang Cemetery excavated by Marine Privates Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks under the direction of Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold sometime after the island was secured on July 9, 1944, and to which an entire chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last is devoted. Devine offered an alternate scenario that he thought could explain Mrs. Blas’ story, while preserving the integrity of the Okinawan woman’s site, which he never doubted was the true Earhart burial place.
“Mrs. Blas may have been confused by prior events that have taken place on Saipan,” Devine wrote:
I recall the ONI Report, I was allowed to read at their office in Hartford, Connecticut, stating white women were not a rarity on Saipan, since a Russian woman writer had arrived on the island in the early 1930s. But there is no report of her departure. And since Vincente Taman had bragged about burying a white woman in the Tanapag village area, as did Jesús Salas, it could very well have been the Russian woman writer. Mrs. Blas, as well as other residents of Saipan, no doubt recalls the existence of a cemetery in the Tanapag area, where burials took place.
When I observed this piece of rag, I recalled rags such as these were used as sweat bands by prisoners, as well as civilians, working at labor in the hot sun on Saipan. But I cannot imagine Brennan coming along with a rag saying it was in there since that time, when the bones are gone and the teeth are gone and the rag survived. The Brennan- [Ray] Rosenbaum [ghostwriter] book is a repeat of prior misinformation; the exhibition and interpretation of a piece of rag is extraordinarily bizarre.
Devine’s critique of Brennan’s blindfold claim was valid, but the Texan interviewed three significant witnesses for the first time ever — Lotan Jack, Manny Muna and Nieves Cabrera Blas. The “prior misinformation” Devine referenced was undoubtedly anything suggesting a Marshall Islands landfall by the fliers—the accounts of Oscar deBrum, John Heine and Queen Bosket Diklan, for example. Devine’s aversion to Earhart’s Marshalls landing was among his greatest flaws as a researcher, and prevented him from developing a true vision of the events that led to her arrival on Saipan.
Whether Mrs. Blas witnessed the execution of Amelia Earhart or not, and regardless of Brennan’s dubious blindfold claim, Witness to the Execution is a valuable contribution to Earhart research. The witnesses it presented further established the most important truth about the fliers’ fate, a reality that the American and Japanese governments continue to ignore — that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan died on Saipan. Brennan recognized this, and concluded his book on that note:
That Earhart and Noonan were incarcerated in Garapan Prison is no longer open to speculation. They were there. People like David Sablan, a highly respected businessman, and Manny Muna, an ex-senator, as well as members of their families remember the appearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan. (Italics Brennan’s.)