We continue our retrospective on the Smithsonian’s 1982 Amelia Earhart Symposium, which was the last time a group of informed individuals — and many that weren’t — gathered for the purpose of presenting and discussing salient and important aspects of the Earhart disappearance.
Following is the conclusion of Dean Magley’s letter to Joe Gervais as presented in the July 1998 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, in which Magley describes the people and events that defined the one and only Earhart symposium that the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has ever sponsored, or ever will, barring a completely unexpected change in the establishment’s policy of denial and deceit in the Earhart disappearance. Boldface is mine and in the AES original.
“THE GREAT DEBATE of 18 June 1982
at the SMITHSONIAN, WASHINGTON, D.C.” (Conclusion)
(A letter from Dean Magley to Joe Gervais, who could not attend.)
Elgen Long was introduced by his wife. He had a canned slide presentation complete with audio track describing why he thinks A.E. crashed just west of Howland. He is setting up a non-profit organization to raise five million dollars to locate the plane in 16,000 feet of water. He hopes to have found same, and promised to return to Air & Space Museum in 1987, to describe the proceedings.
Fred Goerner was smooth and professional, proving his radio background. He referred to your book twice in his talk but would not mention your name nor, do I think, the actual title of your book. At one point he said, “Those two guys who wrote a book in the early 70s.” He was very sarcastic as he said it. I guess there isn’t much love lost between you two — Ha!
He claims the Department of Defense funneled money through two people who gave to Purdue to purchase the Electra. He also said A.E. knew about the H. Frequency D.F. on Howland as per a letter to F.G. by Admiral? He waved the letter to us. He said A.E. had been directed to test D.F.’s. According to Admiral Winger [sic, probably Vice Adm. Joseph Wenger], the Japanese had better D.F.’s than us and were probably able to track her better than we could.
F.G. said General [Alexander A.] Vandergriff [sic] told him A.E. probably was on Saipan at one time. He referred to a “Smith’s Weekly Journal” of the 1938 article congratulating the U.S. on A.E.’s flight. He told of finding out on 6/17/82 that the F.C.C. conducted a study of A.E.’s communications and gave the results to the Navy. He didn’t say how he learned this, nor if he knew how to get ahold [sic] of the findings.
He claims a Professor [Fred] Hooven installed a D.F. in the Electra and says the Navy replaced it before the flight. He spoke of locating Lt. [John] Lambrecht (who led the three plane flight to Hull Island), and was informed by him that their original objective was to check three reefs southeast of Howland.
F.G. said Joe Gurr installed the radios in the plane and that Amelia could transmit even if in the water (while it still floated). He also told of Paul Mantz being removed as flight technical director before the flight, and being replaced by Mr. [Clarence I. “Kelly”] Johnson, of Lockheed, who later designed the U-2. F.G. claims he learned this fact in 1968.
Johnson told F.G. that A.E. trained for the flight in two (2) planes, and that he never saw photography equipment in the planes. A Tom McKean claims to have talked to the Japanese officer who interrogated A.E. as a prisoner.
Fred ended by saying that because of a personal health problem [cancer diagnosis?], he will bow out of the search and give all his reference material to Admiral Kent Carroll, head of Military Air Command.
[J.] Gordon Vaeth was the weakest link of the day. His main statement was that he feels the government has not tried to hide anything about A.E.! He used 20 minutes of the hour allotted, and could have been done in 5 minutes. He kept repeating that F.G. got him into the search but that this was all done in the ’60s.
Mr. and Mrs. Long left the theater as Vaeth was introduced. Mrs. Long did return 10 minutes into his talk. Vaeth quoted, H. Manning, an ex-editor of “Flying,” as saying A.E. was not on a government flight. Vaeth did say G.P.P. toured Saipan after the war, asking natives about A.E.
Vaeth’s biggest statement was telling that “According to the Japanese aircraft authority at the Air and Space Museum, the Zero is not a copy of the Hughes racer plane!!”
Claudia Oakes ended the meeting with the announcement that we could inquire of her in about one month, and audio tapes of the Symposium should be available. (This will prove if I misunderstood any of the information I’m passing on to you.) [See comment by Les Kinney, who has audio tapes of all presenters.] They also video taped the entire affair, but nothing was said of copies being available. It was also announced that Ann Pellegreno had been invited, but that she was having a porch installed on her home, and because of bad weather the previous week she had to stay home and supervise the installation!
At the lunch break I managed to talk to Muriel Morrissey and her daughter [Amy Kleppner]. They were ready to leave the theater, but did give me enough time to tell my Wally Schirra story. (Prymak’s note: see August 1994 Newsletter.) Amy sneered “Hrmph!” and turned away. Muriel took a couple of quick, short breaths, her eyes widened, then flicked sideways and then she sort of sagged, but said nothing. Amy then took her by the arm and they left. I intended to tell the story to Fay Wells, but decided that since she loudly proclaims A.E. to be dead, that in order to stay on her good side in hopes of getting additional information in the future, I decided not to mention it.
I did manage to meet Claudia Oakes in her office on June 17, and related the [Schirra] story [to be posted here in near future]. She had no reaction. She was so intent on watching something outside her office door, I’m not sure she heard anything I said.
At your suggestion I asked the proper person at WREX-TV (where I work) to ask for the revised episode on A.E. of the “In Search of . . .” series. We were turned down for that specific tape. Of course, they would have been happy to send their demo tape, but we declined.
About a month ago, Grace McGuire was interviewed on Good Morning America (ABC). I missed seeing the program, so I went through proper channels and asked for a tape of it to use in a news story. We were foiled again, even though we are the ABC outlet here.
I have listed on separate paper some questions. I would appreciate it if you would answer on the same paper and return in the envelope I am enclosing.
Please let me know if there is anything further I can do. I will contact Bobbie Trout and some of the others I met in D.C. I will let you know what results. I am also enclosing names and addresses of some of these people in case you wish to reach them.
If you ever have occasion to be in Chicago — even if for just a layover — please advise. I would like to meet you. Rockford is only a 1.5 hour drive from O’Hare, and I arrange my own time.
MERRILL DEAN MAGLEY
5216 Village Ct.
Rockford, IL 61108
Since the close of that event nearly 40 years ago, we’ve seen and heard little more than mainstream media infomercials masquerading as news stories that advertise and support the latest trending disinformation and deceit from the conga line of phony Earhart “experts.”
The major goals of these miscreants are to extract as much money as possible from the gullible and uninformed, while keeping that same public eternally ignorant about the Earhart disappearance. Worse, there appears to be no end to this shameless contempt for the truth, lying in plain sight since the early 1960s, and the chances that another Earhart symposium will be held within our lifetimes are slim to none. When it comes to the Earhart case, the news is almost never good, despite the best efforts of the faithful.
As we continue our trek through these ever-more interesting times, perhaps the most significant public discussion about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the June 1982 Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum, continues to fade from sight and memory.
Only the most well-informed even recall this event, or that it occasioned the great inventor Fred Hooven, after years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged post-loss radio receptions, to present his paper, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight,” the first academic, objective analysis of the Earhart post-flight transmissions.
Hooven’s thesis became better known as “The Hooven Report” and established him as the creator of the McKean-Gardner Island landing theory, soon to become TIGHAR’s infamous “Nikumaroro hypothesis” that continues to haunt us to this day, long after Hooven abandoned it. For more on Hooven’s work, see Truth at Last pages 56-57, 303-304 or click here.
For reasons clear to those of us who understand the truth, the symposium was not covered by Smithsonian Magazine or any other publications that I’m aware of, nor do I have a transcript or audio tape of it. The only significant mention of the event that I have can be found in the July 1998 edition of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, which contains the below letter from little-known Earhart researcher Dean Magley to Joe Gervais, who needs no introduction to readers of this blog.
Forthwith is the first of two parts. Boldface emphasis mine throughout, underline emphasis in original AES article.
“THE GREAT DEBATE of 18 June 1982
at the SMITHSONIAN, WASHINGTON, D.C.”
(A letter from Dean Magley to Joe Gervais, who could not attend.)
Dear Joe, 6/25/82
I thought I should bring you up to date concerning my attending the symposium on A.E. in D.C. on 18 June 1982.
I did make contact with Bob Jones and we were together the entire day. Nice fella. He is also very interested in the Lindbergh kidnapping, and a fellow named Olson, whom Bob had written but received no answer from, sat right in front of us for one session. Bob was so excited he could hardly concentrate on the speaker.
The audience totaled around 400. The first 5 or 6 rows were reserved for various preferred
people. I never learned how they were selected, but Bob and I weren’t included. Those who [attended] were, included the afternoon speakers: Sally Chapman, granddaughter of G.P.P. [George Palmer Putnam] who is writing a book on G.P.P.; Grace McGuire, A.E.’s look-alike who is to complete A.E.’s flight plan this year; Don Kothera and wife; Paul L. Rafford, Jr., who claims to be a close friend of Bill Galtin, the radio operator on Itasca; Milton R. Shils, an insurance man from Philly who had a picture taken of him at age 13 with A.E. and 4 or 5 others; Amy Kleppner, Muriel Morrissey’s daughter; [Evelyn] Bobbi Trout, charter member of the 99’s and her companion, Carol Osborne, who inherited some large collection of flying memorabilia; [William] Polhemus, the navigator on Ann Pellegreno’s [June-July 1967] duplicate flight; Cmdr. H. Anthony who was in charge of the search for A.E. (who relieved [Itasca Cmdr.] W. K. Thompson?); and possibly 30-40 others who were not introduced and I did not learn their names. One of these was a young lady of about 30 who had short cut hair like A.E., actually resembled her, and wore a new, shorter version of the leather coat A.E. wears in the first picture of your book. She also audio taped the entire program. She got out of the hall before I could talk to her. Darn!
There were basically three types of people represented: Those who say A.E. was taken by the Japanese but is now dead; those who agree with you that she still lives; those who say she was lost in the drink. One young man age 20-25, raised four or five questions with reference to your book. I did not get his name.
Muriel Morrissey spoke first. She spoke mainly of their childhood. Muriel is getting a little senile, I think. She did say “the Lindberghs didn’t get along too well.” I don’t know how she got on that topic. She also said, “We should have a true answer soon” (as to A.E.’s disappearance). This brought a murmur from the crowd. Questions from the audience asked for an explanation of her “true answer” statement. She flustered, then looked down at the front row of the audience and asked Elgen Long if she should say anything further. He indicated ‘no.’ She then said more would be told in the afternoon session.
Fay Gillis Wells — quite robust — speaks with authority. She had her entire talk on 3 x 5 cards and read it word for word. It was very well written and delivered. She was a foreign correspondent in 1933 in Russia, and handled the logistics for Wiley Post on his world flight. She also accompanied Nixon on his trip to China. She said there will soon be three new books on A.E. She vehemently denies that A.E. is alive. You recall when I spoke to her on the phone a month previously and mentioned there are some who think A.E. lives, she broke in almost before I could finish my statement said, “THAT’S PREPOSTEROUS! That poor woman in New Jersey should be left alone.” I have just realized that Fay was asked if she knew Irene Craigmile by the young man I mentioned earlier. Her reply was to the effect that she didn’t know what he was talking about but no, she didn’t know any Irene Craigmile. The young fellow then said Irene Craigmile is now Mrs. [Irene] Bolam and is pictured in your book, “A.E. [Amelia Earhart] Lives.” Fay said, “Oh, I’ve never read that book!”
Twice in her talk or in answering questions, Fay said, “A.E. would not throw her life away on a crazy spy mission.” She also said a TV series “distorts history,” and blasted an NBC three-hour production. I’m not sure what she was referring to on the NBC bit. She also stated that A.E. was born in 1897, and that Muriel Morrissey was here to back her up. Mrs. [Florence] Kothera asked her about her letter to Gen. [Wallace M.] Green asking about Privates [Everett] Henson [Jr.] and [Billy] Burks. Fay said she had never written to Gen. Greene. Mrs. Kothera then opened her scrapbook and said, “I have a copy of his answer to you, and if you would like me to read it, I will.” Fay then said, “Oh well, if I wrote a letter to the Marine Commandant, then I guess I did.” (Nothing had been said about his title by Mrs. Kothera!!) The Kotheras (who did the bulk of the research for “Amelia Earhart Returns From Saipan”), told me before the sessions started that they had letters from Henson and Burks stating that the government had NOT contacted them to ask about A.E.
Fay indicated throughout her talk that there is no way A.E. is alive, and tried to let on that she has not actively looked into her disappearance. Fay called Amelia “A.E.” and G.P.P. “Gyp.”
Fay also said A.E. paid for publishing the 99’s Newsletter. She mentioned Clara Livingston as helping Fay set up the 25th Anniversary Commemorative Stamp. I asked her if she believed in ESP as did A.E. and Jackie Cochran. Her answer was negative. She announced that May 22-24, 1983, would be a super big get-together in Atchison, Kansas. I can’t recall why she said it would be rated so highly though.
[Retired] Admiral [Richard B.] Black was introduced as having been given a medal for the Saipan-Tinian assault. (This means he may have been privy to firsthand information.) He said the H. Frequency D.F. [high frequency direction finder] was offered to him by a young lieutenant whose name he can’t recall (or I may have misunderstood) on Oahu. He told of the Itasca circling Howland on July 1 to calibrate it. It worked free. It was battery powered and they did lose some of their power so they were not at their best when they were needed. His opinion is that she crashed in the ocean after running out of gas about 10 A.M. He was on the Itasca until 5 A.M., when he went ashore to be with the H.F.D.F.
At the end of his talk (which seemed to be one he has given several times), he said: “And now for the first time I have an addendum.” He then stated that a Capt. Carter (whom he cannot now locate) told him a Japanese ship entered Jaluit* Harbor (with a white man and woman as prisoners). Black now believes they were A.E. and Fred Noonan. He offered no further information.
* The AES visited Jaluit and harbor in 1997. (End of Part I.)