Today we remain in Fred Goerner’s mid-1960s heydays, a few years before the The Search for Amelia Earhart became a bestseller in 1966 and just as Goerner had departed for his fourth visit to Saipan. From the January 1964 issue of the now-defunct Argosy (“For Men”) magazine, we present “I’ll Find Amelia Earhart,” which, to my knowledge, is the first of just two nationally published accounts of Fred Goerner’s early 1960s investigations on Saipan, this one covering his first three trips, from 1960 to 1962. A few years later, the September 1966 issue of True magazine published a long preview of the soon-to-be-published Search.
I found this story only recently; I think, but am not entirely certain, that it’s Goerner’s earliest published national account of his Earhart investigations. The story reflects his passion for the truth and determination to succeed against the increasingly trenchant stonewalling policies of the U.S. government he was beginning to experience, as the feds circled their wagons around another sacred cow. At this stage of his research, Goerner had yet to fully understand the true nature of the forces arrayed against him. Once again, just as in my last post, you are invited to compare the below story with the mendacious, ridiculous fare about the Earhart “mystery” we’re force-fed today, as the U.S. government’s Earhart disinformation machine continues to click on all cylinders, and more people than ever are ignorant about the facts.
As I always try to do with original material, I’m reproducing this article as it appeared in Argosy as closely as possible, using the same photos and cutlines and editing only for mistakes that would distract. Because of the its length, I’ll present “I’ll Find Amelia Earhart” in four segments. Forthwith is Part I, as we return to January 1964.
“I’LL FIND AMELIA EARHART!” Continued from page 25
before the war and were taken to Saipan by the Japanese.”
• A United States Naval Manpower Division Expert, who says, “The fliers, according to the Marshallese natives, were taken away on a Japanese ship – presumably to Saipan.”
• One of the most respected natives in the Marshall Islands, who backs up the stories of both: “The Japanese were amazed that one of the flyers was a woman.”
• A former U.S. Naval Commandant of Saipan, who states: “The testimony of the Saipanese people cannot be refuted. An ONI man was there, and regardless of what they tell you in Washington, the story couldn’t be shaken. A white man and woman were undoubtedly brought to Saipan before the war. Quite probably they were Earhart and Noonan. I don’t believe they flew their plane in here. They were brought by the Japanese from the Marshalls. I think you’ll find the radio logs of four U.S. logistics vessels will prove that.”
• A series of strange discrepancies appearing in the official logs of the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, Earhart’s homing vessel at Howland Island in 1937, and the U.S.S. Lexington, the Navy carrier dispatched to search for her and Fred.
• Literally hundreds of bits of information, none of which have been satisfactorily answered by official sources, that point directly to the Saipan conclusion.
• A strong feeling that Earhart and Noonan may be the key that will make public the truth behind one of the most incredible and least-known periods in United States Military Intelligence history – the twenty years that led to Pearl Harbor.
The evidence is so great that, as you read this, I will once more be on Saipan. This is the fourth expedition in as many years, and this trip may well provide the final answer we have so diligently sought.
For me, it began in April 1960, with Josephine Blanco Akiyama of San Mateo, California. The San Mateo Times had printed a series of articles in which Mrs. Akiyama was quoted as having seen “two white people, a man and a woman, flyers, on Saipan in Japanese custody in 1937.”
More than a little skeptical, I called her to ask why she had been late in making the story public.
“I told about it a long time ago,” was her reply. “I told a Navy dentist I worked for on Saipan in nineteen forty-five.”
The Navy dentist turned out to be Casimir Sheft, now in civilian practice in Passaic, New Jersey. Sheft didn’t know that Mrs. Akiyama had come to the United States, but he did back up her story.
“I tried to do something about it,” said Sheft, “but the naval officers I discussed it with didn’t seem interested in starting an investigation. I felt sure Washington knew about it anyway, so, when I returned to the States after the war, I forgot about it.”
The possibility of corroborative testimony seemed to me to be sufficient to warrant an expedition to Saipan. There was a ring of truth to the stories of both Mrs. Akiyama and Dr. Sheft, and it seemed logical to assume that if Josephine Akiyama, as a young girl, had learned about “two white flyers,” there must be others still alive on that island who knew something.
Permission to visit Saipan wasn’t easy to obtain. At first, it was denied, then, after various appeals, the Navy Department relented. Early in June 1960, I left for the Marianas. I paused at Guam for clearance and Navy transportation to Saipan, and the aura of secrecy was deepened when naval officials told me that, on Saipan, I was to behave myself and if I were a member of the military.
From the air, Saipan, a twelve-by-five-mile dot, appears to be a tropical paradise. On the ground, the impression is entirely different. Scene of some of the most brutal fighting of World War II, Saipan still shows the scars. The rusting hulks of tanks and landing craft are scattered on her reefs, and the shattered superstructures of sunken Japanese ships protrude above the surface of her harbors. The jungles have covered the craters and foxholes, but in a day’s time, enough live ammunition to start a small revolution can still be collected.
In the 1944 invasion, the United States forces suffered more than 15,000 casualties. The cost to Japan and the natives was even more dear. Twenty-nine [thousand] of 30,000 Japanese troops and an estimated half the native population were killed.
The cloak-and-dagger atmosphere was not dispelled at Saipan. Immediately after landing, Commander Paul Bridwell, head of the Naval Administration Unit, whisked me to his quarters overlooking Tanapag Harbor, and spelled out some basic rules for my behavior while on the island. I was not to go further north on Saipan than the administration area, and under no circumstances, was I to go over to the east side of the island.
“What’s this all about, Commander?” I asked. “What does this have to do with the Earhart investigation?”
“Not a thing,” was the answer. “Are you sure you’re here about Amelia Earhart?”
“Of course I am,” I answered. “What else? Why all the secrecy? Why can’t I visit other parts of the island?”
“A lot of questions,” replied Bridwell, “but I’m afraid I can’t give you any answers. Just confine yourself to the area I’ve indicated and we’ll get along fine.”
You know about the bull and the red flag? Well, that’s how such a conversation affects a newsman. But I decided I had come on the Earhart story, and on the Earhart story I would work.
It’s an understatement to say that it’s difficult to conduct an investigation when half the territory is denied you, but Bridwell was very anxious to be of help. He gave me the names of some ten natives “who should know if Earhart and Noonan were on the island.” He personally led me to the natives and, to a man, they knew nothing. They were not only vague about everything before the war, I began to get the feeling I was listening to a phonograph record.
It was then I enlisted the aid of Monsignor Oscar Calvo, Father Arnold Bendowske and Father Sylvan Conover of the Catholic Church Mission at Chalan Kanoa. Nearly all of the 8,000 Chamorros and Carolinian natives who inhabit Saipan today embrace Catholicism. Monsignor Calvo, a native of Guam, Father Sylvan of Brooklyn, New York, and Father Arnold of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had not been on the island before the war. A Spanish Jesuit priest and a lay brother had operated the mission under the Japanese. Father Tardio returned to Saipan after the war, where he died. Brother Gregorio is stationed at the church mission at Yap.
Monsignor Calvo told me that the natives I had been led to by Commander Bridwell all worked for the Navy or a mysterious entity known only as NTTU, that inhabited the parts of Saipan I was not to visit, under penalty of no one knew what. Monsignor and the two priests had heard vague rumors about some white people help on the island before the war, but had not done any probing. They were glad, however, to help if they could.
I first laid some ground rules for the questioning: We would not ask people if they remembered the two white flyers captured by the Japanese before the war. We would first talk about recent years, then the period of the war, and finally pre-war Saipan. At a likely moment, Monsignor Calvo would ask, “Did you ever see or know of any white people on the island before the war?” If the reply was no, the questioning would be dropped. If the answer was affirmative, we would try to determine if a firm identification and a definite year could be established.
Here, I am going to lump together all the testimony gathered during the three trips, 1960, 1961 and 1962. In questioning nearly a thousand Saipanese, Monsignor Calvo, the fathers and I turned up twenty-three witnesses, and this is their story:
Two white flyers, a man and a woman, arrived at Tanapag Harbor in 1937. The woman had very closely cut hair, and at first, appeared to be a man. They were brought ashore in a Japanese launch and taken by command car into the city of Garapan to military headquarters. (Garapan was completely destroyed during the 1944 invasion.) After a period of time in the building, the pair was separated. The man, who had some kind of a bandage around his head, was taken to the military police barracks stockade at Punta Muchot, while the woman was placed in a cell at Garapan Prison. Shortly thereafter, probably after a few hours, the woman was taken from the prison back into Garapan to a hotel which served as a detention center for certain political prisoners.
The woman was kept at the hotel for a period of from six to eight months. Allowed a brief period of exercise each day in the yard, she was constantly kept under guard. After the aforementioned six to eight months, the woman died of dysentery. She was buried a day or so later, just outside a native cemetery near Garapan, in an unmarked grave. The man who had come to the island with her was taken with the woman’s body to the graveside, beheaded and buried with her. The Japanese said several times that the two had been American flyers spying on Japan.
Who are these witnesses? Men who worked for the Japanese at the Tanapag naval base; men and women who lived in Garapan near the Japanese military police headquarters; a native laundress who served the Japanese officers, and many times washed “the white lady’s clothes. In the beginning, she wore man’s clothes,” says this witness; a woman whose father supplied the black cloth in which the white woman was buried; a dentist who worked on the Japanese officers and heard what they said about the two American flyers; a woman who worked at the Japanese crematorium near the small cemetery and saw the man being taken to his execution, along with the woman who was already dead; a man who was imprisoned at Garapan prison by the Japanese from 1936 to 1944, and who saw the woman the Japanese called “flyer-spy.”
“Are you sure they are telling the truth?” I asked Monsignor Calvo.
“I’m certain,” he replied. “In the first place, these simple people couldn’t concoct a story like this. They come from different parts of the island. There would be immediate discrepancies. I’m a native myself, and I know when a lie is being told. Finally, they have no reason for telling a lie. Nothing has been paid to them. What can they gain?”
Another question was logical: “Why haven’t these people come forward before?”
Why should they?” Monsignor questioned back. “If you knew these people’s history, you wouldn’t wonder. They have never had self-determination. The Spanish conquered them first, then the Germans. The Japanese forced the Germans out in nineteen-fourteen, and used the island for their own purposes until the American invasion. The Japanese had so convinced the Saipanese that your forces would torture them if they were captured, that whole families committed suicide by throwing themselves off Marpi Cliff. Now you have a United Nations trust over Saipan, and they aren’t convinced you are going to stay. Two white people on Saipan before the war are of no interest to them. Why should they have told something that might have reflected badly on them?”
As we gathered testimony about the two flyers resembling Earhart and Noonan, a few tidbits about NTTU also came to light. NTTU, I learned stood for Naval Technical Training Unit. High wire fences surrounded the restricted area. Aircraft were landing at Kagman Field on the east side of the island in the dead of night. Large buses with shades drawn were regularly seen shuttling between the airfield and the jungle. There were a large number of American and civilian and military personnel within the restricted area, and they were seldom seen on the south end of the island. One native said he’d seen Chinese, presumably soldiers, moving through the jungle inside the restricted area. (End of Part I.)
In late October of this year, Ms. Carla Henson, daughter of the late Everett Henson Jr., contacted me for the first time, completely out of the blue. You will recall Pvt. Henson, who, along with Pvt. Billy Burks, was ordered by Marine Capt. Tracy Griswold to excavate a gravesite several feet outside of the Liyang Cemetery on Saipan in late July or early August 1944. This incident is chronicled in detail on pages 233-253 in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.
When the pair had removed the skeletal remains of two individuals and deposited them in a large container that Henson later described as a “canister,” Henson asked Griswold what the impromptu grave-digging detail was all about. Griswold’s reply, “Have you heard of Amelia Earhart?” has echoed down though the decades and continues to reverberate among students of the Earhart disappearance.
On Nov. 22, Carla, 66, long ensconced as the “Agent of First Impressions” at ABC10 in Sacramento, Calif., sent me the below KCBS press release in its original July 25, 1966 format, created about a month before The Search for Amelia Earhart was published. Thanks to Carla, on this day after Christmas 2017, I’m privileged to present this rare treat you will see nowhere else.
Because the remaining four pages of the 1966 release do not reproduce well in this format, I’m typing them afresh while making every effort to duplicate the original in every way possible, including paragraph indents and page numbers. Compare the content of the below piece, as true today as it was then, with the ambiguous and confusing information typified by the Nov. 25 Pacific Daily News story, “Chamorro man shares Earhart theory that she was a prisoner on Saipan,” discussed in my last post, “Recent Earhart stories aim to confuse and deceive,” and you can see how much real progress has been made in the Earhart case by our esteemed media — mainstream or any other kind — during the past 61 years. Less than none is the pathetic truth.
San Francisco, July 25 . . . A KCBS Reporter who spent six years investigating one of aviation’s greatest mysteries charged today that famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Frederick Noonan — who mysteriously disappeared during a Pacific Ocean flight 29 years ago this month — were in fact captured by the Japanese in the Marshall Islands and accused of spying for the United States. Transferred to Japan’s Pacific military headquarters, Saipan Island in the Marianas, Miss Earhart later died of dysentery, and Mr. Noonan was executed. They were buried in an unmarked grave near a native cemetery on Saipan. (Bold face mine throughout.) In 1944, representatives of the U.S. Government, after Saipan had been wrested from the Japanese during World War II, recovered the Earhart-Noonan remains in secret. The public was never informed.
These incredible conclusions to one of the 20th century’s greatest mysteries were revealed today by former U.S. Marines, and are supported by a six-year investigation into the 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart by KCBS Radio of San Francisco, The Napa California Register, The Scripps League of Newspapers and the Associated Press. The investigation, begun in 1960 by Fred Goerner of KCBS Radio and joined three years ago by the other media, entailed four expeditions to the Marianas and Marshall Islands, the questioning of literally hundreds of persons, and probes in the Far East and Washington, D.C. Goerner has just completed a book, “The Search For Amelia Earhart,” detailing the investigation, which will be published next month by Doubleday and Company and The Bodley Head Press Ltd. of London, England.
First word of the recovery of the remains of Earhart and Noonan came from Everett Henson, Jr., now an appraiser for the Federal Housing Administration in Sacramento, California. In 1944, Henson served as a Private with the U.S. 2nd Marine Division during the invasion of Saipan, a 12 x 5 mile island 115 miles north of Guam.
“One day,” said Henson, “a Captain in Marine Intelligence took me and another Private to a small native graveyard. We searched around outside the graveyard until he found a grave that was marked only by some small white rocks. Then he had us open it up and take out the two people inside. I asked him what we were doing, and he said,
‘Did you ever hear of Amelia Earhart?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Then that’s all I should have to say.’ He warned us not to say anything about it, but that was more than twenty years ago. I can’t see any harm in telling the truth now.”
Henson recalled that the other Marine Private’s name was Billy Burks. After a search of several months, Burks was located in Dallas, Texas. When questioned, he told a story almost identical to Henson’s, although the former Marines had not seen each other since the end of World War II.
Contacted in Washington, D.C., General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., currently commandant of the Marine Corps, states, “I do not quarrel with the theory that Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan went down in the Marshall Islands, but the Marine Corps does not take a position on the recovery of any remains on Saipan Island.”
Two other former U.S. Marines, Captain Victor Maghokian, USMC, Ret., of Las Vegas, Nevada, and W.B. Jackson of Pampa, Texas, have testified they learned in 1944 that Earhart and Noonan were held for a period of time by the Japanese in the Marshall Islands and that some of the personal effects of Miss Earhart were recovered and turned over to U.S. Intelligence. General Greene also declines to take a position for the Marine Corps in regard to the findings in the Marshalls. Additionally, three former U.S. Navy men, Eugene Bogan of Washington, D.C., Charles James Toole of Bethesda, Maryland and John Mahan of Berkeley, California, testify they learned that Earhart and Noonan were held for a period by the Japanese in the Marshalls.
With the help of Senator Thomas Kuchel of California and Ross P. Game, Editor of the Napa California REGISTER newspaper, access has been gained to classified files held by the U.S. Navy and State Departments. Both Departments have denied over the years that such files existed. Perusal of this data indicates a deep involvement on the part of the U.S. Government and President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Earhart flight and the unavoidable conclusion that Amelia Earhart and
Frederick Noonan were on a several-fold mission for the United States at the time of the disappearance. It is believed that President Roosevelt was aware that Earhart and Noonan were quite probably in Japanese custody, but that he chose to avoid the issue because of strained relations between Japan and the United States and the isolationist policy that existed with the U.S. Congress at the time. It is further believed that the 1944 information and findings concerning Miss Earhart and Mr. Noonan were suppressed because of their possible bearing on the Presidential election of that year.
Literally hundreds of Pacific Island natives were interviewed during the four expeditions to Saipan and the Marshall Islands. Thirty-nine eyewitnesses, who were able to choose Miss Earhart’s photo from a series presented to them, were found. When the testimony of these witnesses is combined the story emerges:
Amelia Earhart and Frederick Noonan made a forced landing in the Marshall Islands in the vicinity of Jaluit and Mili Atolls. They were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, the Japanese headquarters for that area, and then transported to Saipan in the Marianas, Japan’s overall headquarters for the Pacific. Miss Earhart died of dysentery sometime between eight and fourteen months after her capture, and Mr. Noonan was executed after her death. They were buried in a common grave outside the perimeter of a small native cemetery south of the city of Garapan, Saipan.
Not aware that the remains of the “American man and woman flyers” had been removed in 1944, members of the 1961, ’62 and ’63 Saipan expeditions excavated around the same cemetery. In 1961, human remains were found, but a study by University of California anthropologist Dr. Theodore McCown indicated the bones represented four or possibly five people and were not those of Earhart and Noonan.
What happened to Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10-E ten-passenger airliner remains a mystery. Parts of a pre-World War II aircraft were recovered from Tanapag Harbor
Saipan, in 1960, but proved to be of Japanese manufacture. Some testimony exists that the plane was also taken to Saipan by the Japanese and was possibly destroyed in the 1944 U.S. invasion which leveled large areas of the island. Twenty-nine thousand of 30,000 Japanese troops were killed during the invasion along with hundreds of natives. The United States forces suffered more than 15,000 casualties.
Commenting on the Earhart “mission” a former member of U.S. military intelligence, who declines to be identified at this point, says, “If the Soviet Union had downed Francis Gary Powers’ U2 plane but not announced it for their own reasons, do you think the United States would have said that Powers was lost on a spy mission over Russian territory? The same principle applies to Earhart. If the Japanese didn’t announce her capture, the United States certainly was not going to make an issue out of it. Japan was ready for war. She launched the full-scale invasion of the China mainland just five days after Earhart and Noonan disappeared. Japan was militarily committed to that invasion and couldn’t afford an altercation with the League of Nations or the United States over what she had been doing to prepare the mandated islands of the Pacific for war. The truth is Japan was not ready to take on the United States until four years later.”
Goerner’s book in its closing chapter calls for an investigation by the U.S. Congress into the circumstances of Earhart’s disappearance. (End of KCBS press release.)
On the front page of the foregoing, it states, “Fred Goerner and Everett Henson Jr., mentioned in this release, will be available for recording interviews Monday morning, July 25 , Studio E, KCBS Radio, Sheraton-Palace Hotel, San Francisco,” and recipients are advised that “Long-distance telephone-tape interviews will be available also.” I’ve never found any evidence that even a single media organization accepted KCBS’s invitation to interview either Goerner or Henson. It might have happened, but precious little evidence reflecting any such interviews survives. Clearly, by 1966, our media’s aversion to the truth in the Earhart disappearance was already beginning its growth to the full metastasis we see today.
Congress has never done a real investigation of the Earhart disappearance. In an event that appears to have been completely suppressed from the public, in July 1968 Goerner appeared before a Republican platform subcommittee in Miami, chaired by Kentucky Governor Louie Broady Nunn.
In his four-page presentation, “Crisis in Credibility — Truth in Government,” Goerner laid out the highlights of the mountain of facts that put the fliers on Saipan and appealed to the members’ integrity and patriotism, doing his utmost to win them to the cause of securing justice for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Nothing eventuated, of course, and I have the record of Goerner’s brief congressional encounter only because I briefly had access to his files, now housed at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, which continues to ban Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last from its bookstore.
Agent of First Impressions
In a recent email, Carla Henson described her job as “Agent of First Impressions,” an inventive title I hadn’t heard before, as “running the front desk and lobby at Sacramento’s ABC television station, focusing on giving clients and customers what they are looking for, selling the station and sending them away with a ‘human touch.’ The last impression can be as important as the first; we want them to come back.” Based on our correspondence, it’s quite evident that Carla is a valuable member of the ABC10 team.
Carla enjoyed a 30-year career working in sales and administration for Tower Records, spending the first 14 years in Sacramento, followed by 16 years at Tower’s Nashville, Tenn., headquarters before returning to Sacramento in 2001. “It is my good fortune to say that I got up every day for 30 years and loved my job!” Carla wrote of her Tower Records experience. “I traveled the world.”
Carla corresponded with Fred Goerner after her father’s death in 1982, and remains extremely interested in the Earhart case. She’s kindly forwarded many photos, documents and other war memorabilia her father left, and we doubtless will be hearing more from her in future posts.
Frederick J. Hooven, famed for his engineering inventions, was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1905, met Orville Wright as a child and by age 15 was a regular visitor to the Wrights’ Dayton laboratory. After graduating from MIT in 1927, Hooven was hired by General Motors, and rose to vice president and chief engineer of the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation Corporation by 1935. His Hooven Radio Compass, which he later sold to the Bendix Company, is now known as the Automatic Direction Finder or ADF, was installed in Amelia Earhart’s Electra in 1936, but was later replaced by an earlier, lighter unit.
When he died in 1985, Hooven held a total of 38 American patents, as well as many foreign patents in fields such as avionics, bomb sights, automotive ignition and suspension systems, photographic typesetting and medical technology. His inventions include 17 radio and aviation navigation and landing instrument systems, bomb-release systems, six automotive ignition systems, three medical instruments, six photographic type compositions and seven other automotive inventions (axles, brakes, springs, suspensions, plus a complete engine, the 1966 Olds Toronado).
In his 1966 letter of introduction to Goerner, below, the first of many from Hooven to his soon-to-be friend and Earhart research associate, he discusses his radio compass, his meeting with Amelia and what he believed was the fatal decision to remove his invention from the Electra. Many more would follow through the years. (Bold emphasis mine throughout.)
December 5, 1966
Mr. Frederick Goerner
277 Park Avenue
New York City, N.Y. 10017
Dear Mr. Goerner:
I just finished reading your book on Amelia Earhart. I started the book with a good deal of skepticism, but now that I have finished it I find that I share your conviction that this whole matter must be clarified and honor rendered to those to whom it is due. I can add a small and perhaps interesting sidelight to the Amelia Earhart story. My contribution does nothing either to strengthen or weaken your conclusions, but I believe if my story had been different, Miss Earhart would not have been lost .
I installed on Miss Earhart’s Lockheed one of the first prototypes of the modern aircraft radio direction-finder. Before she embarked on her flight, however, this was removed, and installed in its place was the old-fashioned null-type direction-finder that she carried with her. The modern instrument would have given her a heading on the transmitter of the cutter Itasca at Howland Island even under poor reception conditions and it would have shown her without ambiguity that her destination was still ahead.
The modern direction finder that I invented in 1935 had some important points of superiority over the old simple null-type that had been used ever since before 1920. We called it a radio compass then. It is always called the ADF today. It uses a conventional antenna in addition to the directional loop, the result being that it is possible to listen to the station at the same time a bearing is being taken. It is so much more sensitive that it is possible to use a much smaller loop, contained in the familiar streamlined cigar-shaped housing that is still to be seen on all but the very latest models of commercial and military aircraft.
Most importantly, by using the signal from the non-directional antenna as a point of reference, the modern instrument is able to indicate the true direction of the transmitter from the receiver whereas the null-type indicator could do no more than tell that the transmitting station was somewhere along a line that passed through the center of the loop-antenna. Obviously, to obtain a useable null with the old system the signal must be several times louder than the background noise. With the radio compass, a useable bearing may be taken on a station that is not readable through the noise. All of these things combine to convince me that Miss Earhart would have reached Howland Island if the radio compass had still been installed in her airplane.
We built six of these prototypes. I was at that time vice president and chief engineer of the Radio Products Division of Bendix Aviation, which was one of the small companies later combined into Bendix Radio. Vincent Bendix had retained Harry Bruno as his personal public relations counsel and he distributed these prototypes where he thought they were most likely to get his name into the papers. One of them went to Dick Merrill and Harry Richman, and we installed it on the Northrup Alpha they flew across the Atlantic and landed in Ireland. They both told me they owed their lives to the radio compass.
Harry had broadcast to his public over their 50 watt transmitter until the airplane ‘s battery was flat, so when they reached England they were able to use only their receiving equipment. It was foggy and they flew around for 24 hours before they found a hole they could get down through. They said they surely would have been back over the ocean if they had not had the radio compass on board. Just to bear out your contention about the transmitting range of the 50 watt transmitter I listened to Harry on my receiver in Dayton, Ohio on 3100 kilocycles until he was about halfway across the Atlantic.
Another prototype was turned over to the United States Army Air Corps at Wright Field. We installed it in a B-10 and connected the output to the directional control of the automatic pilot. I rode in this airplane on a nonstop flight from Dayton to Dallas, Texas and back. During the entire flight the pilot never touched the controls of the airplane. It was guided over the entire distance by the radio compass, which was tuned in to local broadcast stations and radio beacons along the way.
The pilot of that airplane was a very close friend of mine, George Holloman, who lost his life in the South Pacific during the war and who gave his name to Holloman Field . Later on, the same radio compass was installed in an ancient Fokker C-151 which made the first completely automatic takeoff and landing at Wright Field in 1937. Later the same year at Muroc Air Force Base, that airplane made the first completely automatic unmanned takeoff and landing. Another of these prototypes went to the Department of Commerce and one I personally installed for American Airlines on the first DC-3 to go into commercial passenger service.
Miss Earhart brought her airplane to Wright Field in Dayton where I made the installation of our equipment. I spent most of the day with her and I concur with your description of her. She was attractive, charming, gracious — a real lady. She had with her a pretty young girl straight from the sticks, named Jacqueline Cochrane. We had lunch together in the cafeteria at the Field. So far as I know Miss Cochrane is still living and should be able to verify this part of the story.
I don’t remember when I learned that the radio compass had been removed from Miss Earhart ‘s plane before she took off on her world flight. The Radio Research Company of Washington, D.C. was another Bendix division. Its vice president was Laurence A. Hyland, who is now, or was until very recently, vice president and general manager of Hughes Aircraft. Hyland had been a Navy man and his company manufactured the standard Navy aircraft direction finder. As I understood it, Hyland convinced Miss Earhart that she should not trust such a new fangled device as my radio compass and that she would be much safer with the good old reliable instead. From what you say about the Navy’s involvement in the affair, it could well have been that the Navy persuaded her to take out this piece of equipment that had been developed in connection with the Army Air Corps.
You can see why I read your book with more than casual interest and would like to see such a grand lady take her proper place in history.
Frederick J. Hooven
Hooven’s contention that if Amelia had used his radio compass she “would have reached Howland Island” was, of course, based on the assumption that she was actually trying to locate and land at Howland, and was not embarked on a far different and possibly covert flight plan. Many factors that have been presented and discussed in earlier posts argue for that, but we simply don’t know for sure.
After years of studying data from the Pan Am intercepts and other alleged radio receptions, Hooven presented his paper, Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight, which became known as The Hooven Report, at the Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum in June 1982. Citing the bearings on the signals reported by the three Pan Am radio stations and the Howland Island high-frequency direction finder supplied by the Navy, Hooven asserted it was “undeniable” that the transmissions had originated from the downed fliers.
“Five bearings were taken on the weak, wavering signal reported on the frequency used by the Earhart plane,” Hooven wrote, “and four of them, plus the 157-337 position line of the last message all intersected in the general area of the Phoenix Group. This constitutes positive evidence of the presence of a transmitter in that area which could only have been that of the downed plane. No hypothesis purporting to explain the events of the last flight can be credited that does not offer a plausible explanation of these signals, and why they originated along the plane’s announced position line at the only location, except for Baker and Howland, where there was land.”
According to several knowledgeable researchers, Hooven later abandoned the Gardner Island idea after Goerner convinced him that regardless of the location of the source of questionable radio signals that inspired it, too many people had lived on Gardner for too many years without any trace of the Earhart Electra ever seen on the island. I’ve tried without success to locate any documents that reflect Hooven’s alleged reversal, which I believe actually occurred.
Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight established Hooven as the creator of the Gardner Island (Nikumaroro) landing theory, not the executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), Ric Gillespie, who has yet to credit Hooven publicly, at least to this writer’s knowledge. If he has finally done so, I expect to be corrected quite loudly and quickly, and will report it here. Lacking any other plausible alternative to the Marshalls-Saipan reality, our establishment media continues to deny the truth and force feeds this rubbish, this long-debunked “Nikumaroro hypothesis,” to an incurious, gullible public, and to mislead all who remain willfully ignorant.
Today we return to the early 1960s correspondence between San Francisco radio newsman Fred Goerner and Leo Bellarts, the chief radioman aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Itasca on July 2, 1937, who retired from the Coast Guard as a lieutenant in 1946. My Feb. 6 post, “Revisiting roots of the real search for Amelia,” began with Bellarts’ November 1961 letter to Goerner, in which the nearly incredulous Bellarts asked, “why you believe Earhart wound up on Saipan”?
Bellarts’ certainly that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan rested “peacefully on the bottom of the sea, no farther than 100 miles from Howland,” was based entirely on the increase in Earhart’s signal strength in her last transmission. “She was so loud that I ran up to the bridge expecting to see her coming in for a landing,” Bellarts told Elgen Long in a 1973 interview.
In his reply, Goerner brought Bellarts up to date on his findings during to Saipan visits, including “three file cabinets filled with the most painstaking research concerning every aspect of the disappearance [that] has given us very strong reasons to believe Earhart and Noonan were on Saipan for an indefinite period prior to the war.” The KCBS newsman also posed several new questions for Bellarts, many about the Electra’s radio transmission capabilities, as well as those of Itasca and the high-frequency direction finder supposedly set up on Howland Island. Bellarts’ response follows.
1920 State Street
15 December 1961
Mr. Frederick A. Goerner
San Francisco 5, California
Dear Mr. Goerner:
Your letter of November 30th arrived December 13th, and I wish to thank you for your reply to my letter. I also wish to thank you for the additional papers you forwarded with your letter. They were very interesting.
First, I will attempt to answer your questions. I have kept a scrapbook on the Earhart case and it contains much information. Therefore, I will not have to rely on a memory of twenty-odd years. Your letter and enclosures will be an interesting addition to my scrapbook.
In answer to your first question regarding people stating that the Earhart radio could not be heard more than 50 to 100 miles. In my opinion this is someone talking about something they know nothing about. This is completely false. I agree with the statement contained in “Facts About the Final Flight” that a 50-watt transmitter airborne will certainly transmit dependably to 500 miles under normal conditions. During nighttime hours, this distance could be multiplied several times under favorable skip conditions. I did not notice any skip conditions during her flight and believe that her signals were copied “ground wave” as they continually built up to the time of her final transmission when she was very loud and could be easily copied on the ship’s loudspeaker. THIS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TRUE UNDER SKIP CONDITIONS. (Caps Bellarts’ throughout.)
At this point I wish to state that we were using a CGR-32-1 type receiver on Earhart’s frequency and by present day standards is a poor receiver. I am sure that if present day receivers were then available, we could have read her signals very much better and at an earlier hour.
As to the time and content of all messages changed in the July 5th messages from the contents of the July 2nd messages bewilders me. This point I was completely unaware of. It appears that there was a bit of the “Press Reports” incorporated somewhere along the line. You may check the authentic receptions from the plane and draw your own conclusions.
In regard to the “30 minutes of gas remaining,” this will be answered in the listing of messages from the plane in the summation of her last messages.
The people stating that the Earhart radio was not functioning properly make such statements on pure guess work. Amelia never stated that our signals were too weak for a minimum, BUT “We received your signals but unable to get a minimum; please take bearing on us,” etc. No mention was made of weak signals or the reason she could not obtain a bearing: Too great a signal, too weak a signal, fading, night effect (which there were none), and other causes. As far as we knew on the ITASCA, Earhart encountered no equipment failure — at least she reported none. Actually, in this case, I believe that our signals were too strong.
Earhart was not alerted to the fact a special D/F had been set up aboard the ITASCA because there was none! No D/F was aboard during her flight that would cover her frequency of 3105 or 6210 KCS. The only D/F was a standard low frequency finder capable of taking bearings of broadcast stations and frequencies below 500 KCS.
There was, however, a high frequency D/F installed on Howland Island for the express purpose of taking bearings on Earhart. This equipment was set up and in operation during her flight, completely aligned and in position. This equipment was NOT ship’s property but was borrowed in Honolulu through the efforts of the C.G. District Radio Electrician, Mr. Anthony. I believe this D/F was actually Navy property.
Lt. Cooper of the U.S. Army Air Force was aboard the ITASCA for two reasons that I know of. Mr. Cooper was assigned the duty of surveying the airfield and placing the required markers, flags, etc. He was also available for any technical assistance that Earhart might require after landing on Howland. Memory tells me he had two enlisted assistants.
Actually, the USS SWAN and USS ONTARIO were assigned as weather ships. The ITASCA never worked either ship and I must rely on my memory for that information because, as you say, there is nothing in the log regarding the ONTARIO. As for the reason the ONTARIO didn’t hear Earhart, it was very simple. The receivers aboard that ship could not receive on her frequency. The ONTARIO and the SWAN were small tugs and were one radioman ships, maintaining only schedules for weather through Navy radio Samoa or Honolulu. I was not familiar with their schedules. The equipment aboard the ONTARIO was low frequency rigs and could not operate on anything above 500 KCS for transmitting and could not receive above 3000 KCS. The SWAN was somewhat out of the picture, being stationed between Howland and Honolulu.
“Strength of Signal” certainly strengthened my conviction, and that of others who heard her last transmission, that she was very close to Howland Island. I started my radio career in the USCG in 1924, and believe that I can distinguish when a 50-watt transmitter is close aboard or not. Honestly, we in the radio room could actually hear her voice so near the breaking point that at any moment I expected her to go into an hysterical scream. Giving her plenty of leeway, she must have been within 200 miles when she crashed. Actually, I believe it was much less.
The 157-337 message regarding a position of the Earhart plane was taken as a sunline position, of course not complete. Actually, I believe that she became so upset that she failed to send the entire message which would have given the ITASCA something to go on in the search. As a result, we could only assume that she crashed somewhere before arriving at Howland. She certainly did not pass overhead at 1000 feet without seeing the large smokescreen the ITASCA was laying. I have a photo of that which also shows cloud formations.
I have no idea as to the assumptions of the LEXINGTON as to what Earhart’s speed was. As to the laying out of a search plan, I am sure that this was done as well as could be expected with the scarcity of information at hand.
Yes, I know Bill Galten but I’m afraid there is a misunderstanding as to his rate at the time of the Earhart search. Galten was a very good and reliable radioman THIRD CLASS. Galten actually relieved me for breakfast that fateful morning. He also maintained the radio log from 0718 to 1035 when I assumed radio log and actual watch. From the first time we heard Earhart, to the last time at 0843, I don’t believe that I was out of the radio room more than 15 minutes, having heard all of her transmissions. I don’t believe that I have seen Galten for over 20 years. However, I believe that he is now a Retired Chief Radioman.
Now, if I may, I would like to make a few comments on portions of your letter and also the enclosure which I appreciate receiving.
On the main matter for conjecture, as you say, “How did Earhart and Noonan reach Saipan?” To me, there is only one answer, if there is an answer. They may have reached Saipan but certainly NOT on the Electra she flew from Lae. The only possibility as far as I’m concerned is that they crashed very close to Howland Island and were fortunate (?) enough to land near a Japanese fishing boat or other Jap vessel which was in that vicinity.
To all known information, no Japanese vessels were anywhere near Howland during that time. Considering the strength of her signals, she was certainly not near enough to any island (except Baker) that she could have possibly landed on. It must have been a sea crash. The Marshalls, Gilberts or Phoenix groups are definitely ruled out in my book. (Editor’s note: At the time of this letter, neither Bellarts, Goerner or any other American researcher knew about Bilimon Amaron’s eyewitness account, nor those of any of the other Marshall Island witnesses to the crash-landing of the Electra off Barre Island, Mili Atoll.)
In quoting Time magazine of July 19, 1937, I would like to quote from an article regarding Earhart. “Several facts made it clear that much more than simple bad luck was involved. Before the hop off, when capable Navigator [sic] Noonan inspected what he supposed was an ultra-modem “flying laboratory,” he was dismayed to discover that there was nothing with which to take celestial bearings except an ordinary ship sextant. He remedied that by borrowing a modem bubble octant designed especially for airplane navigation. For estimating wind drift over the sea, he obtained two dozen aluminum powder bombs. For some reason, these bombs were left behind in a storehouse.
The Coast Guard Cutter ITASCA, which had-been dispatched from San Diego to Howland Island solely as a help to the flyers, would have been able to take directional bearings on the Earhart plane if the latter could have tuned its signals to a 500 KC frequency. The plane’s transmitter would have been able to send such signals if it had a trailing antenna. Miss Earhart considered all this too much bother; no trailing antenna was taken along.” The ITASCA was entirely unaware of this and, as a result, did not know that she was unable to transmit on 500 KCS.
As to why the LEXINGTON was called into the search, I will quote from the above-mentioned magazine again. “When word that the Earhart plane was lost reached the U.S., husband Putnam wired an appeal for a Navy search to President Roosevelt. But even before the message reached Washington, Secretary of the Navy [Claude A.] Swanson had ordered the Navy to start hunting.”
To add a little sidelight to the search, were you aware that the U.S. Battleship COLORADO served as an oil barge for the USCG cutter ITASCA?
Under a New York dateline, Dec. 4, 1961, there appeared a story about a “Mrs. Clara [Trenckman] Studer, Rome, Italy, who has spent months here studying records of Miss Earhart’s last flight” etc. This same article contains the following: “Mrs. Studer, a writer who collaborated on a book with Miss Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, and helped form the woman pilots’ organization the “Ninety-Nines,” said Miss Earhart’s name and fate “must be cleared” before 1965 when she is eligible for election in the Hall of Fame. Mrs. Studer and other friends of the flier also fear chances of an Amelia Earhart stamp being published next year have been hurt by the story that she was spying on Saipan.”
(Editor’s note: An online search shows no evidence of any book that Clara Studer and George Putnam wrote together. Studer did author a 1937 book, Sky Storming Yankee: The Life Story of Glenn Curtiss, and in 1933, Studer was the New York-based editor of The Ninety- Niner newsletter. To see the Jan. 15, 1933 edition, please click here.)
Now that I have answered your questions to the best of my ability, may I ask just what connection has Mrs. with CBS, and also the connection, if there be one, between CBS and Mr. Putnam? If Miss Earhart’s name was to be cleared of the spy charge, wouldn’t it be a logical conclusion that an intense investigation be made just how Earhart and Noonan arrived at Saipan (if they did)? My conclusion remains the same; that is, the Electra and its passengers are on the bottom of the sea west of Howland Island, yet very near the island.
In closing, I would like to add that you are quite the “Quiz Master.” However, if there is any doubt in your mind, I see no reason why you should be otherwise. In addition, the enclosure “Facts about the Final Flight” contains several remarks that I would disagree with, but I have never doubted that she crashed very close to Howland Island.
I hope that I have cleared up some points regarding this case. If I can be of any further assistance, don’t hesitate to “start quizzing.” THE INFORMATION THAT I HAVE GIVEN YOU IS FOR YOUR INFORMATION ONLY AND I DO NOT WISH ANY PUBLICITY ON MY PART.
Leo G. Bellarts
In a March 2, 2015 post titled “Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga,” I introduced the late Jim Golden, a close friend of Fred Goerner and, in the day, a near-legendary figure in Earhart research circles. Golden, whose unique career included eight years as a Secret Service agent in the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, two years as Howard Hughes’ chief of security in Las Vegas, and a stint in the U.S. Justice Department, from where he tried to help Goerner search for the elusive top-secret Earhart files that President John F. Kennedy had allowed Goerner and California newspaperman Ross Game to see briefly in 1963, just before JFK’s assassination in Dallas.
Among the secrets Golden shared with Goerner was the revelation that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were brought to the islands of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll by air from Jaluit Atoll by the Japanese in 1937, a fact he learned from Marine Intelligence officers during the American invasion of Kwajalein in January 1944.
During several telephone conversations I had with Golden in the summer of 2008, he recalled his experiences as a 19-year-old enlisted Marine photographer in the intelligence section of the 4th Marine Division during the Kwajalein campaign.
“The Marines wrote up a detailed report capturing the info that related that in 1937 two white persons, a male and female were brought by plane to Roi,” Golden told me, “the man with a white bandage on his head and the woman with short-cut hair wearing men’s pants, who were taken across a causeway to the Namur Admin building. Three days later taken out to a small ship in the lagoon, which then departed. I read the report myself. This report would routinely be forwarded to 4th Div. Intel, then on to the U.S. Navy. This report must have been the first sighting [sic] of her capture by the Japanese by U.S. forces at that time.”
The following story, “FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate,’” by one Leon Freilich, appeared in the Jan. 3, 1978 issue of the Midnight Globe tabloid newspaper, which at some later date changed its name to the familiar Globe that adorns check-out racks in supermarkets and other retail stores nationwide, along with its better-known rival, the National Enquirer. It first appeared in the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter’s June 1992 issue.
“FDR’s Amelia Earhart ‘Watergate’”
The late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt covered up the truth behind aviatrix Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance and created his own Watergate — nearly 40 years before Richard Nixon.
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She tried in 1937 to fly around the world and disappeared into the Pacific. Now a top-level Justice Department official, James Golden, charges that FDR withheld the facts of her disappearance for his own ends.
“Amelia Earhart was killed in the line of duty, and President Roosevelt refused to let it get out,” Golden, director of enforcement for the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in Washington, D.C., told MIDNIGHT GLOBE.
“She was a spy for the Navy. She didn’t just ‘disappear,’ as Roosevelt led the press and public to believe. Amelia Earhart was taking reconnaissance shots of Japanese naval facilities when her plane was forced down. She died at the hands of the Japanese.”
Similar accusations of a cover-up have been leveled in the past, and a book [The Search for Amelia Earhart] detailed some of the charges several years ago. However, this is the first attack on Roosevelt’s credibility by a top figure in the federal government.
Why did FDR stonewall the facts? “Amelia Earhart was a glamorous aviatrix and America’s favorite woman adventurer,” Golden said. “For some reason, she’d agreed to use her round-the-world flight as a mask for a spying operation. In those days spying was considered the lowest of the low in this country. So when she lost her life, Roosevelt was afraid he would lose millions of votes in the next election. Consequently, he stifled the truth.”
How does the high-level government prober know this? “There’s a top-secret file with all this information in the White House,” he revealed to MIDNIGHT GLOBE. “It can’t be released, except by the President. “But two of my friends in the intelligence community have seen it. I consider them wholly reliable. They told me the file includes a four-page summary of Japan’s secret report on the Amelia Earhart case.
“This summary relates that she and her co-pilot [sic], Fred Noonan, were captured by Japanese forces on July 2, 1937, near Saipan, the Central Pacific headquarters for Japanese ships. The Japanese took the two there and kept them under heavy interrogation for a year and a half. Then they beheaded Noonan. Amelia Earhart died the very next day. The records said the cause of death was dysentery, but even if that’s true, the blame belongs on her captors, who kept her penned up in primitive conditions.”
The file confirmed what Golden had learned first-hand during World War II. “I was a Marine intelligence officer [actually a private first class] and landed on Saipan [actually Kwajalein] in January 1944,” he said. “Some of the elders described to me in minute detail how a white woman and man had been seized from a fallen giant bird.
“That would be their plane. And the pair were kept on the island as prisoners until the Japanese chopped off the man’s head. The woman — Amelia Earhart, of course — was never seen again.
“The natives’ testimony plus the secret file fit together too neatly to spell anything but the full story. I’m telling you this not to embarrass the U.S. government. My motive is simply this: Amelia Earhart gave her life for her country, and it ought to have the good grace to thank her for it.” (End of Midnight Globe article.)
In an October 1977 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune story on Golden, “Prober says Amelia Earhart death covered up,” Golden, then with the U.S. Justice Department, told reporter Richard Williams that President Franklin “Roosevelt hid the truth about Miss Earhart and Noonan, fearing public reaction to the death of a heroine and voter reaction at the polls. . . . What really bothers me about the whole thing is that if Miss Earhart was . . . a prisoner of the Japanese, as she seems to have been, why won’t the government acknowledge the facts and give her the hero’s treatment she deserves?” Golden asked.
Sadly, Golden passed away unexpectedly at his home on March 7, 2011 at age 85. As I wrote in closing “Jim Golden’s legacy of honor in the Earhart saga,“ in 2015, “We’ll never see the likes of Jim Golden again, and I hope someday we’ll meet in a much better place.”
More on Jim Golden’s amazing life and contributions to the Earhart saga can be found in the pages of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.