I don’t know why this page was so long in coming, or even why the idea finally dawned on me when it did, but the old cliché, “Better late than never,” just about covers it. Shortly after this “Earhart Research Page of Honor,” as it were, is published, I’ll also convert it into a permanent page at the top of the blog that can be seen and easily accessed by all.
Ironically, though several women have written fair to outstanding biographies of Amelia Earhart, not a single member of the fair sex can be found among the elite ranks of authors and researchers whose work, in its totality, has revealed the unvarnished Marshall Islands-Saipan truth about the wretched fates of Earhart and Fred Noonan at the hands of the pre-war Japanese military.
I can’t fully explain this phenomenon, but the nuts and bolts of genuine Earhart research have never been for the faint of heart. And lest anyone misconstrue this as an attempt to rank or evaluate the habitués of this page in any qualitative sequence, this gallery of important, deceased Earhart investigators is presented alphabetically. Their work speaks for itself, and any thorough examination of their fruits should engender a coherent understanding of their standing within this unique, distinguished group.
You may disagree with one or more of these selections, and if so, your comments are welcome. For those who think someone who belongs has been omitted, please wait until Part II has been published.
For your information and entertainment, I present the first of two parts of the “Earhart Research Page of Honor.”
“Earhart Research Page of Honor,” Part I
PAUL BRIAND JR.: Many observers of the history of investigations into the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan believe that Fred Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart is the seminal work in the genre, and all that followed sprang from the San Francisco radio-newsman’s initial Saipan forays.
But neither Goerner nor anyone else would have heard about Earhart and Noonan’s arrival at Saipan in 1937 if not for the 1960 book that started it all — Daughter of the Sky, by Paul L. Briand Jr., a Ph.D., Air Force captain (later promoted to major) and assistant professor of English at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In the closing pages of Daughter of the Sky, Briand presents the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, who saw Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at Tanapag Harbor as an 11-year-old in the summer of 1937, as told in 1946 to Navy Dentist Casimir Sheft on Saipan. Though few were even aware of it in 1960, as the revelations in Daughter of the Sky were suppressed throughout the establishment media, Briand’s book was the spark that exploded into the true modern search for Amelia Earhart.
In 1967, the State University of New York, Oswego, appointed Briand as a full professor and he taught there until his death in 1986 at age 66. For much more on Paul Briand Jr., please click here.
THOMAS E. DEVINE: When the Lord made Thomas E. Devine, He broke the mold. What He said when Devine returned to Him in September 2003 at age 88, only He and Devine know. But had I never met the Saipan veteran and author of one of the most important Earhart disappearance books, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident (Renaissance House, 1987), I wouldn’t have become involved with the Earhart story, and today I’d be doing something entirely different with my life. I can’t imagine what it would be.
In Eyewitness, Devine, an Army postal sergeant who saw the Earhart Electra on three separate occasions on Saipan in July 1944, reached out to his fellow veterans, urging them to report their own experiences that reflected the presence and deaths of Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan in the years before the 1944 U.S. invasion. Twenty-six former GIs heard and responded to Devine’s plea, and their stunning accounts were presented for the first time in With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart, our little-known 2002 book.
JOE GERVAIS: Gervais, whose important Guam and Saipan witness interviews in 1960 strongly supported Fred Goerner’s Saipan findings, was best known as the creator of the insidious Amelia Earhart-as-Irene Bolam myth, forever immortalized along with other crackpot ideas in Joe Klaas’ infamous 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives.
Gervais was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, Korean and the Vietnam War, serving as a command pilot of B-24, B-29 and C-130 aircraft with over 16,000 hours of flight time.
The man some called “The Dean of Earhart Research,” passed away at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 26, 2005 at age 80.
For more on Joe Gervais, please click here.
FRED GOERNER: The author of the only bestseller about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart ever penned, The Search for Amelia Earhart (Doubleday and Sons, 1966), Goerner is generally considered by the informed to be history’s greatest Earhart researcher. He was not without his faults, however, and made several mistakes and misjudgments along the way.
Most observers of the Earhart saga are familiar with the statement allegedly made by retired Navy Adm. Chester W. Nimitz to Goerner in late March 1965, just before the radio newsman left San Francisco to interview Marine Commandant Gen. Wallace M. Greene at his Pentagon headquarters in Arlington, Va. “Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese,” Goerner claimed Nimitz told him.
Unfortunately, from the moment Time magazine ripped Goerner’s bestseller The Search for Amelia Earhart in late 1966 as a book that “barely hangs together,” the sad truth about Amelia and Fred Noonan’s miserable deaths on Saipan in Japanese captivity was treated as a forbidden subject by the U.S. government and nearly all establishment media, and the Earhart Truth remains a sacred cow to this day.
Fred Goerner passed away at age 69 on Sept. 13, 1994.
For much more about Fred Goerner’ remarkable achievements, as well as his less well-known blunders, please click here; also see the index of Truth at Last.
JOE KLAAS: Probably the most talented writer of all Earhart researchers, Klaas, with the guidance of his longtime friend Joe Gervais, authored the most controversial — and damaging to the truth — Earhart book of all time, Amelia Earhart Lives: A trip through intrigue to find America’s first lady of mystery (McGraw-Hill, 1970).
But Klaas accomplished far more in his remarkable life than pen history’s most scandalous Earhart disappearance work. Besides Amelia Earhart Lives, Klaas wrote nine books including Maybe I’m Dead, a World War II novel; The 12 Steps to Happiness; and (anonymously) Staying Clean.
He began his World War II service by flying British Supermarine Spitfires as an American volunteer in the Royal Air Force. After Pearl Harbor, Klaas transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force and fought in the North African invasion of Morocco, as well as the Algerian and Tunisian campaigns, where he was shot down and captured by Arabs who sold him to the Nazis for $20.
Klaas spent 25 months in German prison camps, escaped to be recaptured and worked for the X-Committee that planned “The Great Escape” from prisoner-of-war camp Stalag Luft III. The camp was known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling and were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950).
Klaas died on Feb. 25, 2016 at his home in Monterey, Calif., at 95.
For much more on Joe Klaas, please click here.
OLIVER KNAGGS: South African writer Oliver Knaggs was hired in 1979 by a film company to join Vincent V. Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search. The Knaggs-Loomis connection is well known among Earhart buffs, but neither Loomis, in Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, nor Knaggs, in his little-known 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight mentioned the other by name. In Her last flight, a collector’s item known mainly to researchers, Knaggs recounts his 1979 and ’81 investigations in the Marshalls and Saipan, where his findings strongly supported those of Loomis, despite some unexplained disparities.
Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 without Loomis and armed with a metal detector in hopes of locating the silver container that the native eyewitness Lijon had described seeing a white man bury in 1937.
Knaggs found something metallic where nothing should have naturally been buried, brought it home to South Africa and had it analyzed by the Metallurgical Department of the University of Cape Town. The results confirmed that “in section the sample revealed what is described as a pin cover, rivet and body of the hinge,” Knaggs wrote. “In general the microstructures [sic] are consistent with a fine, clean low carbon steel . . . indicating that good technology was used in its manufacture. . . . The hinge could have come from something akin to a cash box and could therefore quite easily be the canister to which Lijon had referred.”
Thus Knaggs secured his place among history’s elite Earhart researchers by finding what may well have been the only “hard evidence” yet publicly uncovered. For much more on Oliver Knaggs’ Earhart investigative work, please click here.
Special thanks to Les Kinney, who provided a biography of Knaggs that included the following:
He was born in Pretoria, South Africa on January 22, 1924. He was educated at Kearny College in Natal. Knaggs was a combat veteran of WWII, serving in the Middle East and Italy. Following the war, his writing career blossomed. His articles were published in many of South Africa’s leading magazines.
His radio dramas were regularly featured on the national SABC network. His writing credits of 30 books include Amelia Earhart: Her Last Flight, published in January 1983, 500 short stories, and thousands of magazine articles.
Knaggs died at age 68 on September 8, 1992 in Cape Town, South Africa.
DONALD KOTHERA: Kothera’s significant contributions to the Earhart legacy are among the least known and appreciated by Earhart aficionados. Kothera, a former Navy man stationed on Saipan in 1946, along with “Cleveland Group” associates Ken Matonis, John Gacek, Jack Geschke and Marty Fiorillo, made investigative trips to Saipan in 1967 and ’68, producing important new witness information.
Among these witnesses was Anna Diaz Magofna, who claimed to have watched the beheading of a “tall, good-looking man with [a] long nose,” a white man who was probably Fred Noonan. Through an interpreter Magofna recalled that as a seven-year-old in 1937, she watched with about five other children as two Japanese soldiers oversaw two white people digging a hole outside a cemetery.
“When the grave was dug, the tall man with the big nose, as she described him, was blindfolded and made to kneel by the grave,” author Joe Davidson wrote in Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (First Edition 1969). “His hands were tied behind him. One of the Japanese took a Samurai sword and chopped his head off. The other one kicked him into the grave.”
Magofna didn’t know what happened to the other white person, whom she didn’t identify as a woman. She fled after watching the beheading, but the experience haunted her for years afterward. “I still remember the American man and how they cut his head off,” she told Kothera.
Four years after Everett Henson Jr. and Billy Burks shared their memories of the Saipan gravesite dig Marine Captain Tracy Griswold ordered them to do in late July-early August 1944, the Cleveland Group compared the gravesite location information provided by the former Marine privates with Anna Magofna’s harrowing childhood account. The spot Magofna recalled closely corresponded to the one described by Henson and Burks, but the former Marine privates did not return to Saipan to confirm it.
In Amelia Earhart Returns from Saipan (First Edition 1969), Texas veterinarian Davidson chronicled the group’s investigations, aided by thousands of feet of film shot by photographer Fiorillo. Overlooked by most researchers, Amelia Earhart Returns offers a wealth of new eyewitness information, in addition to Magofna’s.
End of Part I. Your comments are welcomed.
Even casual students of the Earhart disappearance have heard and read about the photos of Amelia and Fred Noonan allegedly found on Saipan during and after the June 15-July 9, 1944 Battle of Saipan. I’ve heard the wistful regrets that none of these photos have ever publicly surfaced, and have shared in the disappointment of those who believe things would be different if we just had one of these photos that show so clearly that Amelia Earhart was a prisoner of the Japanese. (Boldface mine throughout; italics Goerner’s.)
Ralph R. Kanna, of Johnson City, New York, assigned to the Army’s 106th Infantry Regiment on Saipan, was among the first of the former American servicemen to contact Fred Goerner during his early Saipan investigations. In 1961, Kanna told Goerner that as platoon sergeant of his intelligence unit on Saipan, his duty was “to insure [sic] that we would take as many prisoners as possible for interrogation purposes.” One prisoner captured in an area designated as Tank Valley had “a photo of Amelia Earhart standing near Japanese aircraft on an airfield,” Kanna wrote. The photo was forwarded up the chain of command, and when questioned, the Japanese captive “stated that this woman was taken prisoner along with a male companion and subsequently he felt that both of them had been executed,” according to Kanna.
He provided Goerner the names of three men who had served as interpreters for his unit. Goerner located only one of them, Richard Moritsugu, in Honolulu, whose voice “quavered and broke” on the phone when Goerner asked about Saipan and Sergeant Kanna. Moritsugu told Goerner he had no desire to discuss the war.
Robert Kinley, of Norfolk, Va., served with the 2nd Marine Division during the invasion and claimed he saw a photo of Earhart with a Japanese officer that he believed was taken on Saipan. Kinley said he was clearing a house of booby traps near a graveyard when the picture was found tacked to a wall. A Japanese mortar shell exploded nearby moments later, tearing away part of his chest. He lost the photo at that point and couldn’t remember if it was destroyed in the explosion or taken by one of the medics who attended him. Kinley wrote that the photo “showed Amelia standing in an open field with a Japanese soldier wearing some kind of combat or fatigue cap with a single star in its center.”
Sometime after the 1966 release of The Search for Amelia Earhart, Marine Col. Donald R. Kennedy, commandant of the 12th Marine Corps District, told Goerner he came into possession of photographs in Japan in 1945 that showed Earhart in Japanese custody. “He [Kennedy] says he turned them over to [General Douglas] MacArthur’s Intelligence Headquarters,” Goerner wrote to Jim Golden in 1969. “Marine Corps G-2 is now trying to trace what happened to the photographs after Kennedy turned them over.” Kennedy attempted “to get clearance from USMC Headquarters before he could go on record,” Goerner told Theodore Barreaux 19 years later. “After eighteen months, he got the clearance but with the proviso that this did not represent official USMC position.” Kennedy’s file contains nothing else of significance, so something must have derailed Kennedy from pursuing the matter further, a common occurrence in the Earhart search.
Just as Robert Kinley contacted Goerner about seeing a photo of Earhart on Saipan, Stanley F. Serzan, of Orange City, Fla., was among several veterans who told Thomas E. Devine, author of the 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident about seeing photos of one or both of the fliers. Serzan, a member of the 4th Marine Division on Saipan and a retired Bayonne, New Jersey, police officer, said one of his fellow Marines found a number of photos of Earhart and Noonan while searching a dead Japanese soldier. “I will never forget seeing those pictures of Amelia Earhart,” wrote Serzan, who died in 1995:
There were several Japanese officers with her and she certainly looked in good health. . . . The one picture I do recall to mind was one where Fred was standing sort of behind a Japanese officer to his right, and next was Amelia and then two more Japanese officers. There were other pictures of her and an officer alone and she was in sort of a fly jacket—and half a dozen others I don’t remember. All were taken outdoors—no buildings in sight. Trees in background. Fred appeared much taller than Japanese. I wish I had been able to get one of those pictures. When leaving Hawaii to come back to the mainland, we were told to get rid of the souvenirs because we would have to pay a duty. We threw tons of stuff away and we never were searched. We could have killed for being lied to like that.
Jerome Steigmann, of Phoenix, a longtime member of the Amelia Earhart Society, sent Devine information provided by Frank Howard, of Pueblo, Colo. Howard told Steigmann that he was in the first wave of Marines to hit the beach on Saipan, and later “a buddy found two photographs in a Jap Officer’s outpost they had just captured . . . one with Naval officers, and one with Army officers,” Howard wrote. The below drawing by Howard appeared in the September 1992 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter, with the following narrative from Howard:
There were two photos, one with Naval officers, and one with Army officers. In one picture, the Naval officers must have left, as only the Army officers remained and Fred Noonan had his jacket off and had laid it on his lap, so it must have been a hot day, as the soldiers and officers were in short white-sleeved shirts, as was Amelia and Fred. The soldiers also had those curtain type sun shade cloths behind their necks, but they had those wrappings around their legs. Amelia and Fred seemed very tired and the day must have been at high noon. Amelia was wearing “jodhpurs” trousers with cuffs, and Fred dark trousers with cuffs. My buddy was killed in action, and I never saw the photos again. I enclose a sketch as best as I remember.
Another Amelia Earhart Society member, Col. Rollin Reineck (U.S. Air Force, retired), received a letter from Dale Chandler, a former radioman aboard the USS Rocky Mount (AGC-3), the flagship for the Joint Expeditionary Force attacking Saipan, Guam and Tinian in June-July, 1944. The following also appeared in the September 1992 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletter:
One afternoon in early July 1944, I was going to my shift in the radio room, and on the way I met one of the ship’s photographers. I asked him if I could see some of the photos of the invasion. He showed me a photograph of a man and a woman among other photos in a shoe box found in a captured Jap Officer’s billet. I could not tell who they were, but the photographer stated that they were Amelia Earhart and her “pilot” (sic). He further stated that it proved they were on Saipan in 1937, and not lost at sea. The photo was taken in front of the building where he had found the photograph. He said the building where the photo was taken was in the background, but was now partially destroyed by shellfire but parts of the building still standing were easy to recognize. I was 12 years old when the Earhart disappearance took place, and I assumed she was dead, lost at sea.
The snapshot was taken on the side of the building, and facing the camera she was on the left. She was wearing a kaiki (sic) jacket, breeches and a wrapping around her, below her knees. No hat. He was on her left wearing a dark jacket and pants, white shirt, no tie and his hat cocked on the side of his head. The photo went to CIC, now the CIA.
All of this information is true and accurate.
Nothing more is presented in the AES Newsletters about Chandler’s claim.
Joseph Garofalo, a former Seabee and Saipan veteran, claimed to have found a photo of Earhart in the wallet of a dead Japanese soldier. In a letter to Devine, Garofalo, of the Bronx, New York wrote that he “searched a dead Jap officer and it was in his wallet along with a picture of his family.” Garofalo continued:
As best I can remember the photo fit on the inside of the Jap officer’s wallet, it was in black and white, with sort of a sepia finish, which looked faded. It was about the third week after we landed [on Saipan]. Many of my buddies had seen the picture at that time. As you face the photo, Amelia Earhart was standing on the left-hand side, wearing pants and the shirt she was wearing had short sleeves, it was probably khaki; she looked very haggard and thin. The Jap officer was on the right wearing the traditional short visor cap and leggings. She seemed a few inches taller than the Jap. It has been 49 years ago, the description of the picture is still in my mind, and I consider it accurate.
None of the priceless photos Saipan veterans reported seeing have publicly surfaced. For years Devine tried to obtain a photo of Earhart an ex-GI claimed he found on Saipan in 1944. The man told Devine that a Japanese officer, a woman, and two children were standing with Earhart in the photo, which he gave to a friend along with other personal items after being wounded. Devine offered the man $10,000, but the trail dried up when the man, who had entered a veterans hospital, stopped responding to his correspondence.
In another near miss, Virginia Ward, of Waterbury, Conn., told Devine that her two cousins, Marines who were both badly wounded on Saipan, brought back photos of Earhart they found there. Both died within two years of their return to the states, and Ward never found the photos.
For much more on the substantial oral histories of American military veterans and their knowledge of Amelia Earhart on Saipan, please see Chapter IX, “Saipan Veterans Come Forward,” in Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, pages 180-204.
Today we take another look at the pioneering work of author Paul L. Briand Jr., whose findings revealed in his 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky, sparked the true modern search for Amelia Earhart. Written in 1966, as far as I know, “Requiem for Amelia” is Briand’s last published piece; it’s an excellent summary of everything he learned in the years since Daughter of the Sky was published in 1960.
“Requiem for Amelia” is a succinct summation of the evidence presented by the original Saipan witnesses, based on the interviews done by Fred Goerner and the “Operation Earhart” duo of Air Force officers Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger on Guam and Saipan in 1960, following closely in Goerner’s heels, and presented to America by Goerner’s The Search for Amelia Earhart (1966) and Joe Klaas’ Amelia Earhart Lives (1970).
“Requiem” comes to us courtesy of Broad Cove Media and Paul Briand (no suffix), the son of Paul L. Briand Jr., who “started the freelance business through Broad Cove Media in 2008 after retiring from the Seacoast Media Group of newspapers that includes the Portsmouth Herald and Foster’s Daily Democrat.” Thus I assume the editor’s note below was written by Paul Briand. Boldface emphasis is mine throughout; capitalization emphasis is Briand Jr.’s. We begin Briand’s story with a note from the editor, possibly Paul Briand, though it’s not possible to know for sure:
Editor’s note: “Requiem for Amelia” was written in 1966 as a follow-up to Paul L. Briand Jr.’s 1960 Amelia Earhart biography, Daughter of the Sky. It was written as Briand was about to retire as a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel. He was allowed to view the official Navy file on Earhart provided that this manuscript be reviewed for military security, which it was in February 1967. Briand died in 1986, still in pursuit of the truth behind Earhart’s disappearance.
“REQUIEM FOR AMELIA” (Part I of Two)
By Paul L. Briand, Jr.
“Where’s the rest of it?”
“That’s it. There is no rest.”
“No. That’s all there is.”
It was November 1, 1966. I had just finished reading the official Navy file on Amelia Earhart, and I wanted my theories confirmed. I had been waiting to see the file for more than five years, convinced that its pages had hidden for almost thirty years the secret to the mysterious disappearance of the famous flier. I was allowed to see the file as a scholar who would then submit his manuscript for clearance. It is a privilege allowed any scholar, writer or reporter working with official material.
According to the evidence in the file, Amelia Earhart was not on a spy mission for the United States Government when she disappeared in 1937. For years I had been convinced that she was. The findings in the official file also revealed that if Amelia ended her flight on Saipan, she did by accident and not by plan. I was cheered by this because it supported the conclusion in my biography about Amelia Earhart, Daughter of the Sky, published in April 1960. My evidence in the book was slight, however, based as it was on the eye-witness testimony of a Chamorro native girl who later married and emigrated to San Mateo, California.
But her testimony was so startling — that AE had crash-landed on Saipan, was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and later was executed as a spy — it appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the country. One of the papers was the San Mateo Times, which featured the local tie-in with Josephine Blanco Akiyama, my native girl. It was this story that CBS Correspondent Fred Goerner ran with to best sellerdom six years later in his book, The Search for Amelia Earhart.
Amelia Earhart had been America’s greatest woman flier. In 1928 she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger; in 1932 she flew across the Atlantic again, this time alone; in 1933 she broke her own transcontinental speed record from California to New Jersey; in 1935 she conquered part of the Pacific, from Hawaii to California. Not satisfied with these accomplishments, however, she wanted to face the one great challenge which remained . . . the world. She made her plans to girdle it at the equator, a 29,000 mile flight. No one had done it before. Not even Lindbergh.
In May of 1937 Amelia Earhart set out on her world flight from Miami. With her in the twin engine Lockheed Electra was one of the best navigators available, a pioneer from the Pan American flights to the Orient, Fred Noonan. By July, after flying 22,000 miles in forty days, they had reached Lae, New Guinea, the last stop before Howland Island, Hawaii, and home. Of these legs, the most difficult was the 2,556 miles to Howland, a tiny speck of island amid an eternity of ocean. To reach it, the navigation would have to be perfect.
The fliers never reached their destination. Although the Coast Guard cutter Itasca had been anchored off Howland to help beam them in, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were lost somewhere over a possible area of 450,000 miles in the South Pacific.
The Navy ordered a search. For a sixteen-day period Navy and Coast Guard ships, including at one time or another the aircraft carrier Lexington with its full complement of 63 planes, the battleship Colorado, the four destroyers Perkins, Cushing, Lamson, and Drayton, the minesweeper Swan, and the cutter Itasca, searched the Pacific where her plane could have been lost. Not a trace of the fliers was turned up. The world was stunned.
One of the great mysteries of the century remained unsolved, until in April of 1960, when it was first suggested in my Earhart biography Daughter of the Sky that the flier crash-landed on Saipan and was executed as a spy.
Amelia Earhart was lost and I had looked for her. I looked for her in 1957 and 1958 while conducting research for my book. I looked for her in 1960 and 1961 while two officer-colleagues of mine conducted investigations on Saipan and Guam. I looked for her again, most recently, this year in Washington, D. C., because I was convinced after almost ten years of research that her whereabouts were hidden in a government vault marked SECRET. During the summer of 1960, two Air Force officers stationed on Okinawa, Captains Joseph A. Gervais and Robert S. Dinger, read my book, wanted to believe my conclusion, but suggested that I needed more supporting evidence. I agreed.
We formed “Operation Earhart” and they went to Saipan and Guam to see what they could find. They interviewed 72 people, most of them natives who corroborated my testimony from Josephine Blanco. Gervais and Dinger also uncovered information to indicate that AE’s flight to Saipan was not accidental but deliberate, that she was on a spy mission. The evidence gathered by the captains, however, was immediately put under a security clamp by the U. S. Air Force in the Far East until it could be checked. Later, Gervais and Dinger took leave and brought their findings to me at the Air Force Academy. I wrote the story and submitted it to the Department of Defense for clearance in February 1961. I had decided later, on this title: “ONE LIFE FOR HER COUNTRY: The Last Days of Amelia Earhart.”
Then, because President Eisenhower was on a trip to the Far East and had cancelled a visit to Tokyo because of student riots, the Department of Defense denied clearance to the manuscript on the grounds that its contents would jeopardize Japanese-American relations. But I was convinced, nevertheless, that my conclusions about Amelia Earhart on Saipan were correct and that she must have been on a planned spy mission for her government.
I was silenced and I did not know what to do. In the spring of 1961 Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. came to the Air Force Academy to be the guest speaker at its annual Assembly. I prevailed on two officer colleagues to intercede with him on my behalf.
At Mr. Schlesinger’s suggestion, I wrote him a memo. Trying to help me, he wrote to Rudolph A. Winnacker, official historian of the Department of Defense. Mr. Winnacker, also trying to help, wrote in turn to the Army, Navy, and Air Force historians. They responded, but with no encouragement. The Navy answer was to the point: “ . . . the files contain nothing to indicate Amelia Earhart was a spy or that she was known or suspected to have landed on Saipan . . . ”
During the summer of 1961, Ambassador [Douglas, nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who became the commander of the Allied occupation of Japan immediately after World War II] MacArthur in Tokyo was queried by the Secretary of State, Christian Herter, concerning Amelia Earhart. In his preliminary report on July 15, MacArthur said an initial search of Japanese files “has uncovered no indications Amelia Earhart was executed by the Japanese.” Then he added: “CHECK WILL BE CONTINUED, HOWEVER, AND GOJ (GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN) HAS LOCATED EIGHT PERSONS WHO MIGHT HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF CASE. THESE INCLUDE ADMIRAL HOSHINA AND FOUR FORMER STAFF MEMBERS CONCERNED WITH SAIPAN AREA; GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL NOW WORKING WITH FONOFF; MEMBER OF FORMER JAPANESE NAVAL LIAISON MISSION IN SAIPAN; AND CAPTAIN OF JAPANESE WARSHIP KOSHU WHICH SEARCHED FOR EARHART IN COLLABORATION WITH US NAVY IN 1937.”
But on August 10, message number 445, at 3 p.m., he reported: “FOREIGN OFFICE INFORMS US GOJ HAS COMPLETED EXHAUSTIVE INVESTIGATION WHICH REVEALED NO BASIS WHATSOEVER FOR RUMOR JAPANESE EXECUTED AMELIA EARHART ON SAIPAN IN 1937. ALL AVAILABLE JAPANESE RECORDS SEARCHED AND ALL FORMER OFFICERS AND OFFICIALS CONTACTED (REFTEL) DURING COURSE INVESTIGATION. MACARTHUR”
Unfortunately for me, neither the Schlesinger-Winnacker correspondence, nor the MacArthur-Herter interchange, was shown to me; moreover, Mr. Schlesinger did not answer my memo to him — but he doubtlessly thought the Air Force would — which it did not. On November 21, 1961, after the supposed bones of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan had been found on Saipan by Fred Goerner, my manuscript was finally cleared by the Department of Defense for publication. The bones, however, proved to be those of Orientals, and there wasn’t a publisher in America interested in my story — not unless I had concrete proof-positive information, which didn’t have. Nor has anyone since.
Perhaps the most interesting document in the official file is an exhaustive report, a Navy investigative report [known to readers of this blog as the ONI Report] on the alleged location of Amelia Earhart’s grave. Compiled in November 1960, it is nine pages long and has a number of supporting documents, most of them photos of the Chamorran cemetery and surrounding area taken by Thomas E. Devine, from Connecticut, who had claimed he knew the location of the Earhart grave. Devine had written to me in the summer of 1960, telling me his story; but I was not interested. My Captains Gervais and Dinger had already written to me, telling me they had found the “one and only gravesite” of Amelia Earhart.
Here is the reporting official’s [ONI Special Agent Joseph M. Patton] synopsis:
Request was made for the evaluation of and comment on information furnished by Thomas E. DEVINE, who claimed that he had been told where Subject’s (Amelia Earhart’s) grave was located on Saipan, M.I. Enclosures (1) through (9) were furnished by DEVINE and their locations were described by DEVINE. Investigation at Saipan, M.I., developed that the location of enclosure (9) was erroneous as described by DEVINE. The building was located in Camp Susupe, several miles from the walk on fishing dock as mentioned by DEVINE. The Chamorran woman seen in enclosure (9) was in Camp Susupe and did not need rounding up. In 1937 the location shown in enclosure (9) was farm land under cultivation by the BLANCO family.
No evidence was disclosed by this investigation that Subject landed an airplane on Saipan. Mrs. Antonia BLANCO stated that her daughter (Josephine, the same who had furnished me with the conclusion for “Daughter of the Sky”) claimed to have seen a white woman of Subject’s description at Saipan prior to WW II. Mr. Jesus SALAS said he had overheard Japanese military people talking about the crash of Subject’s plane at Jaluit Atoll, in the Marshall Islands; and Mr. Jose VILLA-GOMEZ said that he overheard a similar conversation.
Some of the testimony in the report itself was very startling to me: Native guards during Japanese rule “stated they had known of no plane crash in Tanapag until the Military planes fell there during the bombing raids in 1944.” It refuted what I had learned from Gervais and Dinger. As startling is a copy of a letter from the civilian administrator, Saipan, to the Navy liaison officer to the trust territory high commissioner:
Now to the police. We contacted all presently available men who were policemen in 1937. None of them knew anything concerning the alleged incident. Next, we contacted all persons who were remembered as being jail wardens in 1937. Still no news of Amelia. Next, to Dr. Jose TORRES who worked in the Japanese hospital. Again no news. Jesus GUERRERO, a detective for the Japanese Government. No knowledge. Next, talked to Saipanese labor foremen who were in charge of labor gangs in the Garapan-Tanapag Harbor area. Again no soap.
Incredibly, the testimony of all these people as reported in the official file does not square with the testimony gathered for me by Captains Gervais and Dinger. It was as Department of Defense historian Rudolph Winnacker had said of my findings: “. . . contrary testimony by people who might have been expected to know.”
Contrary indeed! The evidence uncovered by Captain Joseph A. Gervais and Captain Robert S. Dinger in the summer of 1960 fully corroborates the story of Josephine Blanco Akiyama, first presented in Daughter of the Sky, in which the Saipan native girl saw a twin-engine silver plane fly overhead and crash land at Tanapag Harbor, about noon time one summer day in 1937. From the plane emerged two fliers, one of them a woman. Josephine, who later identified the fliers as Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart, learned later that they had died. Who is telling the truth and to whom?
Here’s my evidence: While Josephine Blanco was bicycling toward the Japanese installation with her brother-in-law’s lunch and looked up to see Amelia’s Electra fly over low and crash, other Chamorro natives witnessed the same event at the same time.
One was Josephine’s brother-in-law, J. Y. Matsumoto. Having been found and interviewed by Gervais and Dinger, he acknowledged that the incident was one that both he and Josephine witnessed, just as Mrs. Akiyama has related it. He confirmed that he did see the plane crash, that two Americans were apprehended, and that one of them was a woman.
Another Saipan native was Thomas [“Buko”] Blas, then 45, a construction worker at the time, who had just started to eat his lunch. As he sat looking out over Tanapag Harbor, Blas heard a plane overhead; looking up, he saw that it was very low, then watched with fright as it hit the tops of trees edging the Sadog Tasi area, pitch down out of control, and crash land on the beach 100 feet in front of him, very close to the Japanese Chico Naval Air Base.
Blas clearly remembers that the plane was two-motored, aluminum-colored, and had no Japanese markings. Many other workers, coming from all directions, gathered at the scene. Barred from getting too close to the plane by Japanese Navy personnel, Blas nevertheless saw that one of the pilots was lying face down on the ground, apparently injured, and that the other pilot had climbed out of the plane to help him.
Japanese officers and soldiers, however, kept the pilots separated, pushing and shoving the standing one away from the one lying on the ground, even knocking him down with the butt of a rifle. The injured one turned on his back, and as he tried to get up a Japanese soldier placed a bayonet at his throat.
Then a surprising thing happened. Blas could see that the fliers were certainly not Japanese; they looked more like Europeans, more like Americans because of their light coloring.
The Japanese, rather than search the pilots for concealed weapons, quickly stripped them and to their amazement, and embarrassment, one of the pilots, naked and undeniable, was a woman. Greatly disturbed, the Japanese quickly dressed the woman and the man; then with considerable irritability, they loudly complained that the poor Americans had no more men pilots and now had to use women for their military aircraft.
Blas said that both fliers wore flying jackets and well-washed khaki trousers, and that the woman wore a long-sleeved black shirt. But to his surprise, the woman had her hair cut short just like the man. The Japanese now took many photographs of the crash scene and the pilots. Then they dismissed all the workers in the Chico area, telling them to go home immediately. (End of “Requiem” Part I.)
Jesus Guerrero, the detective for the Japanese Government briefly referenced in a letter “from the civilian administrator, Saipan, to the Navy liaison officer to the trust territory high commissioner,” was in fact Jesús De Leon Guerrero, also known as Kumoi, a sinister character who collaborated with the Japanese police during the war, an enforcer whose job was to “keep the rest of the natives in line and his methods hadn’t been gentle,” Fred Goerner wrote in The Search for Amelia Earhart.
Many Saipanese said Guerrero was the man who could best answer his questions about events before and during the war, and Goerner had more than one unpleasant encounter with the surly Chamorro, whom he described as a “tough, bitter, hate-filled man who looks his reputation.” Goerner used the pseudonyms Francisco Galvan and Kobei for Guerrero in Search, but Guerrero was named correctly by Joe Klaas in Amelia Earhart Lives and by Thomas E. Devine in Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident.
Regular readers of this blog are familiar with David Martin (DCDave.com), the award-winning writer and retired federal economist who reviewed both editions of Truth at Last, “Hillary Clinton and the Amelia Earhart Cover-up,” in August 2012, and “Amelia Earhart Truth Versus the Establishment” in May 2016. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
In summer 2017, Martin helped clear up the confused mess surrounding the media’s relationship to the bogus claims in the History Channel’s presentation of the 1930s-era Office of Naval Intelligence photo of the dock at Jaluit, in which Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were mistakenly identified, writing three pieces focusing on “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” the History Channel’s odious July 9, 2017 Earhart special — “Press Touts Dubious Earhart Photo,” “Earhart Photo Story Apparently Debunked,” and “ ‘Earhart Photo’ Debunker Debunked?”
In March 2018, Martin teamed with Hugh Turley to publish their groundbreaking book on the 1968 death of famed Catholic monk and mystic Thomas Merton, whose sudden demise in a Thailand hotel has been unanimously accepted as accidental electrocution by an electric fan. The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation claims that a “careful examination of the official record, including crime scene photographs that the authors have found that the investigating police in Thailand never saw, and from reading the letters of witnesses, they have discovered that the accidental electrocution conclusion is totally false,” and leaves no doubt that Merton was murdered, likely by an element of the U.S. deep state — another cover-up, another sacred cow exposed, another important book to which the establishment media will never direct the public.
Now, at last, Martin has turned his lengthy, six-part 2003 disquisition, “Who Killed James Forrestal?” into his long-awaited The Assassination of James Forrestal, published on May 21, just one day short of the 70th anniversary of Forrestal’s murder.
Forrestal’s shocking death in the early morning of May 22, 1949 at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland was particularly disturbing to Thomas E. Devine, the late author of the 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, who was certain that Forrestal was on Saipan in July 1944 when Amelia Earhart’s Electra was burned and later buried along with hundreds of tons of other war refuse below Aslito Airfield, which is now Saipan International Airport.
Whether the Navy Secretary was actually on Saipan or not in July 1944 — and we’re virtually certain he was not physically there, as I discuss at length in Truth at Last (pages 72-75) — Forrestal was very close to the top of the chain of command that ordered and executed the burning beyond recognition of the Earhart Electra on Saipan.
Whether the first secretary of defense’s death was connected to his involvement in the Earhart case remains unknown, but his passing was a crushing blow to Devine’s hope that the truth would eventually be revealed. “However James Forrestal met his death,” Devine wrote, “he took with him what he knew about Amelia Earhart’s plane, which he examined and ordered burned on Saipan in July 1944.”
Navy hospital officials were quick to label Forrestal’s death a suicide, but “many question the theory that Forrestal entered a sixteenth-floor diet pantry, tied one end of his bathrobe sash to a radiator, looped the other end around his neck, and stepped out the pantry window,” Devine wrote. “Neither do skeptics believe that Forrestal deliberately leaped from the sixteenth-floor window to the third-floor bridge which connected the two wings of the hospital. The skeptics are convinced that Forrestal was murdered.”
Devine was unaware of The Death of James Forrestal, a virtually unknown 1966 book by Cornell Simpson (a pseudonym) that presented a compelling case for Forrestal’s murder and was entirely ignored by the American media, and before Martin’s “Who Killed James Forrestal?” in 2003, the only previous work of any significance to shine light on Forrestal’s murder.
Forced to resign by President Harry Truman in March 1949 after less than two years in office as the nation’s first secretary of defense, Forrestal was soon taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital to undergo treatment for operational fatigue, at the recommendation of noted psychiatrist Dr. William C. Menninger. Ten days after his admission, Captain B.W. Hogan, the hospital’s commandant, reported that Forrestal was “underweight, had low blood pressure, a secondary anemia and a neuromuscular weakness characteristically found in cases of exhaustion . . . [but] the only psychiatric symptoms present are those associated with a state of excessive fatigue.” Forrestal’s condition, Hogan said, was “directly the result of excessive work during the war and post-war years.”
Forrestal was held for seven weeks as a virtual prisoner in his sixteenth-floor room in the hospital’s tower. He was allowed visits only from his wife, two sons, Truman, and Louis Johnson, his successor as defense secretary. His attending physician, Dr. (Captain) George N. Raines, prohibited Forrestal from seeing four people he specifically wanted to see: his brother Henry; two priests, Monsignor Maurice S. Sheehy and Father Paul McNally, S.J.; and a friend whose name has never been disclosed. Sheehy, a former Navy chaplain and close friend, made seven trips to the hospital from nearby Catholic University in Washington, and each time was barred without explanation from seeing Forrestal. “His blood is on the hands of those who kept me from seeing him,” Sheehy wrote in the American Mercury after Forrestal’s death.
Henry Forrestal was finally allowed to see James after threatening to go public about his brother’s confinement and virtual isolation. At the hospital, Henry said James was “acting and talking as sanely and intelligently as any man I’ve ever known.” Johnson also found Forrestal “was like his old self and in good health” during an April 27 visit. When Raines admitted that James was “fundamentally all right,” Henry made train reservations for Washington and notified Raines that he intended to take James out of the hospital May 22 to complete his convalescence in the country, “where he would not be cooped up in a room with nothing to do and nobody to talk to,” according to Simpson. But at approximately 1:50 a.m. that very morning, James Forrestal was found dead.
At his Beacon, New York home, Henry told Simpson that James “positively did not kill himself. He said his brother was the last person in the world who would have committed suicide. . . . James was having a good time planning the things he would do following his discharge. Henry Forrestal recalled that Truman and Johnson agreed that his brother was in fine shape and that the hospital officials admitted that the patient would have been released soon.” Monsignor Sheehy also “seriously suspected that Forrestal had been murdered.”
The Death of James Forrestal presented a compelling case for the murder of the staunch anti-Communist, likely at the hands of Soviet operatives and spies within Washington’s heavily infiltrated establishment, including the Truman White House. “This outrageous treatment of the Forrestal case meshed perfectly into the standard Washington practice of concealing from the public Communist-connected scandals,” Simpson — whoever he was, and Martin has a very good idea — wrote.
Martin disagrees with Simpson’s verdict as to the killers’ identities and motivations, but I won’t spoil that aspect of The Assassination of James Forrestal by naming his most likely villains in this review. He draws from the Willcutts Report, likely made public and declassified in 2004 as a result of his third Freedom of Information Act request; key witness Edward Prise, the Navy hospital corpsman who was the last to admit seeing Forrestal alive; and many other sources to convincingly demonstrate the absurdity of the idea that Forrestal would throw himself out of a 16th floor window at Bethesda Naval Hospital to a death he most certainly did not desire.
No soothsayer is required to foresee that The Assassination of James Forrestal, because of its very nature as the slayer of yet another establishment sacred cow, will be ignored or dismissed by our esteemed national opinion molding apparatus (NOMA, a term Martin has coined, which he says is comprised to “various degrees by the GAME: government, academia, media, and entertainment”) in the coming months and years. Only the extent of the media blackout of this book, already under way, has yet to be determined.
The Assassination of James Forrestal begins with a poignant note of praise from Phillip F. Nelson, the eminent author of LBJ, the Mastermind of the JFK Assassination; LBJ, from Mastermind to “The Colossus”; Remember the Liberty; and Who Really Killed Martin Luther King, Jr.?
David Martin’s book The Assassination of James Forrestal focuses on the historic truths related to the systemic harassment and consequent death of James Forrestal in May, 1949, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. It is a long-overdue, hugely important, work of “revisionist history.” The timeworn myths intended to support his “suicide” – which had originally been planted by such muckraking columnists as Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell, then repeated by the authors of several biographies of Forrestal – have been systematically deconstructed by Martin (a.k.a. “DCDave”).
This profoundly important book describes in detail one of the earliest plots of the “Deep State” as it was constituted post-WWII: The plot to remove all impediments to the creation and successful launch of the nation of Israel, through silencing the most influential and prescient voice cautioning his country, and the world, about the long and possibly endless tail of retaliations, recriminations and retributions that lay ahead. The history of that land, still resonating with the repercussions he predicted, proves James V. Forrestal’s legendary wisdom.
The findings of the still unknown Willcutts Report were presented in a brief summary released Oct. 11, 1949, stating Forrestal had died from his fall from the sixteenth story. Nothing was said about what could have caused it, except to make it clear that the Navy was in no way responsible. Suicide was not cited as a cause of death despite the original press reports and propaganda perpetuating the idea that the first secretary of defense killed himself, nor did the Willcutts Report, comprising hundreds of pages of witness interviews, conclude that Forrestal committed suicide.
In Chapter 1 of The Assassination of James Forrestal, “The Case for Assassination,” Martin discusses the shortcomings of the well-known 1992, 587-page Forrestal biography, Driven Patriot, the Life and Times of James Forrestal, by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley. In concluding his “Secret Investigative Report” subsection, Martin tells us:
The willingness of the authorities to withstand the thoroughly justified charge of cover-up by not releasing the results of their investigation, including the transcripts of witness testimony, speaks volumes, as does the extraordinarily deceptive description of the case by the likes of such establishment figures as Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley. Their account is replete with deceptions, but there is none greater than this withholding of the information that all the key witness testimony has been kept secret, along with the results of the investigation itself, and that the investigation did not conclude that Forrestal committed suicide.
. . . By leaving out the vital information that the official record of the case has been suppressed, Hoopes and Brinkley, cobbling together an account based on a hodgepodge of dubious sources, leave the reader with the impression that we know more about what happened than we really do.
“From their Wikipedia pages we learn that Hoopes, a former Under Secretary of the Air Force, among many government positions he held, was a member of the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale University and that Brinkley, who is a commentator on CNN, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,” Martin writes in a Chapter 1 footnote. “He was also the protégé of popular historian, Stephen E. Ambrose. As establishment historians, Hoopes and Brinkley’s credentials are impeccable.” Indeed, Hoopes, who died in 2004, and Brinkley, who continues to occasionally haunt cable news, were and are highly respected creatures of the establishment, and it is precisely therein that the problem lies.
Ironically — or coincidentally — I had my own experience with Hoopes, and it was anything but pleasant. Early in my Earhart education, in September 1992, I wrote to Hoopes. a former undersecretary of defense under Forrestal from 1948 to 1949, and then an international affairs executive at the University of Maryland, College Park. I described Thomas Devine’s work and asked Hoopes for his thoughts, naively figuring he must have known something, based on his close relationship to Forrestal. Hoopes feigned interest initially, but lost the first information package I sent, and after receiving another, he flatly and rudely rejected Devine’s account, telling me our “correspondence should end” and threatening legal action should I use anything he wrote to me without his permission. Nine years later, Hoopes ignored my request for permission to quote from his letter in the 2002 book I wrote with Devine, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart. A real sweetheart and a class act, was Mr. Hoopes.
There’s far more in The Assassination of James Forrestal that will convince the reader that the universally accepted story that James V. Forrestal committed suicide is a blatant falsehood, thanks to David Martin’s singular perseverance in finding the truth. Martin, who has a doctorate degree and is a historian of the first rank, is also a gifted poet whose singular epigraphs flavor the beginning of each of his chapters and lend added depth to his already captivating narrative.
For example, here’s the one from Chapter 1, “The Case for Assassination”:
Not for Human Consumption?
The water from the well of truth
Is to most folks undrinkable.
That is because of their distaste
For things they find unthinkable
Or another, from Chapter 13, “Historians Unmoved”:
In the universities
You’ll find our finest minds.
The problem isn’t with their brains
Oh no, it’s with their spines.
The Assassination of James Forrestal is a 335-page masterpiece to which our feckless, corrupt media will not be directing the masses, a historical tour de force that only the scant few of our wise and enlightened will discover and enjoy. It’s a steal at an inexpensive price that I strongly encourage all who care about our nation’s history to purchase and read.
Occasionally I’m asked how my preoccupation — some might call it an “obsession” — with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, now in its 31st year, began, sometimes in tones that victims of rare, terminal diseases might hear when questioned by the insensitive. (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
In March 1987, I left active duty in San Diego after nine years working in radio and newspapers as an enlisted Navy journalist, confident that a good civilian job was just around the corner. But the radio stations in the Southern California area weren’t impressed, and so I returned to my hometown Washington, D.C. area, where I found employment as the sports editor of a small Northern Virginia weekly newspaper.
After a brief but intense stint with the paper, where the pay was low and the hours long, I was fortunate to find more lucrative and stable employment — though not in sports writing, my preference and strength — and returned to the Navy as a civilian writer with the Navy Internal Relations Activity, in Rosslyn, Va., as assistant editor at Navy Editor Service (now defunct). The NES was a monthly publication that was sent to all U.S. Navy and Marine Corps ships and shore stations for use in their local publications. The stories focused on Navy and Marine news and policies, but occasionally I was asked to write about less mundane subjects.
In late March 1988, just a few months after re-joining the Navy, so to speak, such an opportunity arose, when I was tasked to write a story about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart for the odd occasion of the upcoming 51st anniversary of her last flight. Much later, the irony of a Navy civilian employee and former sailor writing about an event that was so intimately connected to the Navy in so many ways — both overt and covert — eventually struck me, but at the time my knowledge of the big picture in the Earhart travesty was nonexistent.
To research the story, I read the only four books on the Earhart disappearance available at the Washington Navy Yard Library, now the Naval History & Heritage Command. In order, these were Amelia Earhart Lives, by Joe Klaas, the 1970 sensation that burned brightly and briefly before Irene Bolam filed suit for defamation against the publisher of that scandalous tome; Amelia Earhart; The Myth and the Reality (1972) by Dick Strippel, a Navy apologist whose fish-wrapper simply restated the official Navy-Coast Guard crashed-and-sank finding, as it was already beginning to wear thin; Vincent V. Loomis’ Amelia Earhart: The Final Story (1985), the best collection and presentation of evidence for Earhart’s Mili Atoll landing ever; and Thomas E. Devine’s 1987 opus, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, the former Army postal sergeant’s eyewitness account of his amazing experience on 1944 Saipan. There, Devine, along with at least a few dozen other GIs, witnessed the presence and destruction of Amelia Earhart’s Electra, a key event in one of the greatest cover-ups of the 20th century.
I was captivated from the very first pages of Amelia Earhart Lives, swept up in the Earhart saga for reasons I couldn’t even explain to myself. And upon finishing Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, the only Earhart book ever written by an eyewitness, I found Devine’s address and sent him a copy of my story’s first draft, along with a letter expressing my interest and admiration for his book, not really expecting him to reply,
I don’t have a copy of my first letter to Devine, but when I received his April 7 reply, below, I was elated, despite the fact that he wasn’t exactly bubbling over with praise for my initial effort. In retrospect, he was more tolerant and polite than I would have been, considering his long and contentious involvement with the Earhart story:
My April 12 response needs little introduction, but I assured Devine that I was “on your team” in all this, and that his letter had moved me to make some adjustments to my original draft. Following are the first three paragraphs:
Devine replied right away, and in his April 16 response he informed me that Eyewitness “was published to disseminate my own eyewitness involvement in this matter, and to counteract much misinformation already published.” After discussing a few of the problems he had with my story, including “misinformation” from Vincent V. Loomis and Fred Goerner’s books, he closed by writing, “Mike, I do appreciate your interest in this very serious matter, and would be pleased to acquire the report when it is released.”
Here’s the lead of the six-page story published in the May 1988 issue of Navy Editor Service, not available online:
The story presented the views of Klaas, Strippel, Devine and Loomis, was among the most popular I wrote during my two years at Navy Editor Service, and was published in countless Navy and Marine Corps newspapers and other publications. My Earhart education was in its infancy in 1988, as my reference to the disappearance as a great “mystery” attested. But I had already become another victim of “Earhart fever,” thanks in part to Devine’s letter, which meant so much to me and helped to cement my resolve to learn as much as possible about this captivating story.
Thus began a 15-year correspondence that lasted until just a few months before Devine’s death in September 2003 at age 88, and which resulted in the 2002 book that we co-authored, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart. Following is the review I wrote for Eyewitness on Amazon.com in December 2012:
Thomas E. Devine’s “Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident” joined the ranks of Fred Goerner’s 1966 bestseller “The Search for Amelia Earhart,” Paul Briand Jr.’s “Daughter of the Sky” (1960) and Vincent V. Loomis’ “Amelia Earhart: The Final Story” (1985) as one of the most important works ever written on the Earhart disappearance the moment it was published in 1987 by a small Colorado publisher. By 1987 the truth about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan’s presence and deaths on Saipan was being blacked out in almost every corner of the mass media, and thus this book was largely suppressed and sold less than 4,000 copies; compare that to the over 400,000 that Goerner’s book sold in 1966, when the government and media establishment were caught unprepared to deal with the truth that Goerner discovered on Saipan.
As a result of Devine’s call for Saipan veterans to come forward to support his eyewitness experience on Saipan that established Earhart’s presence there, more than two-dozen former soldiers, Marines and sailors called and wrote to Devine, and their accounts are presented for the first time in the book I wrote in cooperation with him, “With Our Own Eyes,” published in 2002.
Ten years later, “Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last” (2012) presents many stunning new findings, eyewitness accounts and analysis, and never-before-published revelations from unimpeachable sources including famed U.S. military generals and iconic San Francisco newsman Fred Goerner’s files that reveal the truth about Amelia Earhart’s death on Saipan, as well as the sacred-cow status of this matter within the U.S. government. “Truth at Last” explodes the popular myths that Amelia Earhart’s Electra, NR 16020 crashed and sank in the waters off Howland Island on July 2, 1937, or landed on the reef of Nikumaroro Atoll, where the hapless fliers perished soon thereafter of thirst and/or starvation, which has become the most popular falsehood ever perpetuated about Earhart’s fate.
Without Devine’s book, this writer may never have become engaged in the more than 20 years of intense research that went into the production of “Truth at Last,” which presents the most comprehensive case ever for the Saipan destiny of Earhart and Noonan. Anyone remotely interested in the Earhart disappearance would be wise to purchase “Eyewitness” before supplies run out. It is a book for the ages, firmly in the line of truth established by Briand and Goerner in the early 1960s. (End Amazon review.)
My Amazon review of Eyewitness focused on the positive aspects of Devine’s book and its vital connection to the creation of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last. In itself, Devine’s Saipan experience as an eyewitness to the Earhart Electra’s presence and destruction was more than enough to recommend Eyewitness as an extremely important piece of the Earhart saga.
But Devine was never content with what he had learned “with his own eyes” on Saipan; instead, he claimed expertise in areas about which he knew nothing, and eventually I realized that the man I thought was the world’s leading Earhart expert had feet of clay.
For example, despite the overwhelming evidence supporting the fliers’ Mili Atoll landing, Devine refused to consider it, insisting that Amelia flew directly from Lae, New Guinea to Saipan, an unthinkable 90-degree error. He attributed this to an imaginary injury on takeoff to Fred Noonan that left him unable to navigate or even communicate with Amelia from the earliest moments of the flight.
To my knowledge, no researcher has ever joined Devine in this delusion, and his obstinate refusal to take off his blinders and see the Marshall Islands truth isolated and reduced him to a sad, solitary figure for which the Earhart research community — in itself a small, diverse group of eccentric characters who, for the most part, are no longer with us — had little use. For more on Devine and his tunnel vision regarding Earhart’s Marshall Islands landing, please see Truth at Last pages 176-178.
Devine’s errors weren’t limited to his ideas about how the Electra reached Saipan. His claim that James Vincent Forrestal, secretary of the Navy in 1944, was personally present on Saipan when the Earhart plane was destroyed in July 1944, has also been shown to be false. Worse, Devine resorted to fabricating evidence to support this claim. I won’t elaborate here on that unfortunate chapter of my relationship with him, but those interested can find all the unhappy details in Truth at Last, pages 210-215.
Devine’s failings were significant and self-imposed, but without his generosity and willingness to share his findings with me over the 15 years of our association — I wish I could say “friendship“ — I would never have begun my own search for Amelia Earhart. I’ll forever cherish Devine’s 714-page unpublished manuscript, “Bring Me Home,” which he gave me in June 2001, when it seemed he wouldn’t live another day.
I sometimes ask the audiences I address at my infrequent presentations, “Who has ever aspired to become an Earhart researcher? Can you imagine your son or daughter telling you that they’ve decided to devote their lives to studying and solving the ‘Earhart mystery’? You’d probably send them to a psychiatrist or some other mental health professional as soon as possible.” At that, a few politely laugh, but most just look at me blankly.
It’s lonely, frustrating work, but it’s real, and somebody should do it. I know Amelia and Fred appreciate it, wherever they are.