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 suggesting 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 Devine, “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 has to do it. I know Amelia and Fred appreciate it, wherever they are.
Donald M. Wilson was a veteran of the Battle of Saipan, where he was both a rifleman and a chaplain’s assistant in the 2nd Marine Division, and where he no doubt heard stories about the presence and death of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in the pre-war years. He became an ordained minister and served as a pastor and assistant pastor in several churches in Ohio, Michigan and finally in Lake Pleasant, New York, where he passed away on Thanksgiving Day, 2012, at age 86.
Wilson was also an avid student of the Earhart disappearance, and he occasionally corresponded with fellow Saipan veteran Thomas E. Devine. In 1994, Wilson self-published Amelia Earhart: Lost Legend: Accounts by Pacific Island Witnesses of the Crash, Rescue and Imprisonment of America’s Most Famous Female Aviator and Her Navigator, an obscure anthology known chiefly to habitués of Bill Prymak’s Amelia Earhart Society of Researchers, where he was a respected member.
The following letter, from Wilson to Prymak in April 1994, appeared in the November 1998 Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, concerns a strange incident involving Wilson and an unidentified man that occurred at an unknown time and location, and in that regard it is reminiscent of several other accounts of unknown provenance that have been passed down to us through the years. It also reprises some of the more unpleasant possible scenarios of Earhart’s final days on Saipan, and I present it for your consideration. Boldface is mine throughout.
A STRANGE ENCOUNTER BY DON WILSON
Donald Moyer Wilson
One Woods Point
Webster, NY 14580
April 28, 1994
During a book signing recently, a man came up to me and said insistently that Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese and executed by them. He identified himself as a former Marine Corps colonel, who had spent three months at the Pentagon. He pulled out his wallet to show me some identification. Unfortunately, I did not look at it carefully, and do not remember his name.
He seemed to be bitter about his experience with the Pentagon. He said that he had worked with G-2 — Intelligence. He claimed that he saw secret documents about Amelia Earhart. He said there were two witnesses to her execution, not just one. He also said that she had been stripped at the time of her execution and previously raped by her guards. He also said (and I neglected to tell you this) something about her fingers or fingernails, that they had been mutilated, or possibly her fingernails had been pulled out. He also said (again I forgot to tell you this) that, as I recall, her body had been removed from the grave later, and cremated (possibly by Americans? — I’m not sure of this).
He said that the Earhart plane had been destroyed — I’m quite sure he said by Americans on Saipan. He was very reluctant to give more details, and when I suggested things like the name of the airfield on Saipan, he would neither confirm nor deny them. I spoke of the Freedom of Information Act, and asked where the materials might be obtained. He implied that the Navy might have them. As I recall, I asked him to get in touch with you,* and I believe I gave him your address. Also, he mentioned another individual briefly who might have the same (or different) information, and I again said I hoped he would supply more information.
A couple of thoughts have gone through my mind. He might be telling the truth and was torn between the desire to give information and the fear of risking retaliation of some sort for giving it. There is a slight possibility that he might have been discharged from the service for homosexual behavior. Or he might have taken information he obtained elsewhere, particularly the Unsolved Mysteries program with Tom Devine and Nieves Cabrera Blas, among others, and built on their stories — for the fun (?) of it. He asked me what my interest in Amelia Earhart was, but walked away before I could give him an answer.
(Signed) Don Wilson
*He Never Did
Prymak note: Don Wilson must sure wish he had collared this guy for subsequent interviews. (End of Wilson letter.)
Wherever this “Marine colonel” got this information in the early to mid 1990s, it didn’t all come from the Nov. 7, 1990 Unsolved Mysteries segment, “New Evidence Points to Saipan,” which featured Thomas E. Devine, Robert E. Wallack, Fred Goerner, T.C. “Buddy” Brennan and even crash-and-sank poster boy Elgen M. Long. Nothing was mentioned in that program about Amelia being stripped, horribly mutilated or her body’s removal from a gravesite, though all these things could well have happened during her captivity on Saipan. For more on this theme, please see my June 12, 2015 post, “Navy nurse’s letter describes gruesome end for fliers, but was it true?”
Many of the smaller details have yet to be learned, but we do know beyond any doubt that the doomed fliers met their tragic ends on Saipan. The U.S. government and its media toadies still do not want you to know the truth about the death of Amelia Earhart, for all the reasons I continue to re-emphasize and present to the few who are willing and able to accept the truth.
Today we conclude Fred Goerner’s 1964 Argosy magazine feature story, “I’ll Find Amelia Earhart.” When we left Part III, former Navy men Eugene Bogan and Charles Toole had contacted Goerner and shared their mutual wartime experiences in the Marshall Islands that pointed to Amelia Earhart’s presence there, launching Goerner’s Marshalls investigations, which were much briefer and less productive than his Saipan research.
We open the final part of “I’ll Find Amelia Earhart” as Goerner is contacted by another World War II veteran, this one from Saipan, who has some fascinating information to share:
Ralph R. Kanna, of Johnson City, New York, has worked seventeen years in a responsible position for the New York Telephone Company. In 1944, Kanna was sergeant of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 106th Infantry, 27th Division, during the assault on Saipan. Kanna’s duty was to take as many prisoners as possible for interrogation purposes.
“On Saipan, we captured one particular prisoner near an area designated as ‘Tank Valley,’ ” wrote Kanna. “This prisoner had in his possession a picture showing the late Amelia Earhart standing near Japanese aircraft on an airfield. Assuming the picture of the aircraft to be of value, it was forwarded through channels to the S-2 intelligence officer. But more important, on questioning of this prisoner by one of our Nisei interpreters, he stated that this woman was taken prisoner along with a male companion, and subsequently, he felt both of them had been executed. From time to time, I have told these facts to associates, who finally have convinced me to write.”
Kanna went on to list three Nisei interpreters who served with his unit during that period: Richard Moritsugu, William Nuno and Roy Higashi.
I have located and spoken personally with both Moritsugu and Nuno. Moritsugu, now living near Honolulu, is unwilling to discuss his part in the Saipan invasion. Nuno lives in Pasadena, California, and indicates that he was not with Kanna that day in 1944. I found Roy Higashi just three days ago. He is living in Seattle, Washington, and almost seemed to be expecting my call. He said he had something to tell me, but would rather do it in person. Higashi is bringing his family to San Francisco on vacation, and will contact me on arrival. I’m sorry I cannot include his information in this article because of the publication deadline.
Robert Kinley of Norfolk, Virginia, was a demolition man with the Second Marine Division. Pushing inland from Red Beach One, his squad came upon a house near a small cemetery. Kinley went inside to clear it of any booby traps. On a wall, he found “a picture of Miss Earhart and a Japanese officer. The picture was made in an open field, showing only a background of hills. The officer wore a fatigue cap with one star in the center.” Kinley says he took the picture with him, but everything was lost in July 1944, when he was wounded.
Robert Kinley then added a bit of provocative information. “The Japanese had a command post in a tunnel next to the house where I found the picture. My demolition team closed up the tunnel. You might be able to find more pictures or records in the tunnel.
Kinley sent along a map showing the location of the house, tunnel and graveyard. It coincides almost perfectly with the area Devine was shown by the Okinawan woman.
In September 1962, I went back to Saipan for the third time, but I had to do it on my own time and money. KCBS wasn’t uninterested, but there’s a limit to financial soundness in making assignments. I couldn’t drop it, though; there was just too much to go on, and no one in official places had been able to satisfactorily answer any of the many questions raised by the investigation.
Fearing that I might have become prejudiced, I took along Ross Game, the editor of the Napa, California Register, consulting editor to the nineteen Scripts’ newspapers in the West and Secretary for the Associated Press on the Pacific Coast. We picked up Captain Joe Quintanilla, Chief of Police of Guam, and his detective-lieutenant, Edward Camacho, and took them along, too.
Things had changed in one year. My, had they changed! Commander Bridwell was gone; the Navy was gone; Mr. Schmitz was gone – and NTTU was gone. I should say NTTU were gone, since there were eleven of them.
The fence gates were open, and we went in. Commander Bridwell and the Naval Administration Unit had been a front for one of the most elaborate spy schools in the history of this or perhaps any country. The faculty consisted of civilian professors of espionage, the very same men whom I had addressed that night at the club. It’s hard to imagine the impact of coming out of the jungle and discovering a modern town of ninety two- and three-bedroom houses with concrete roofs, typhoon-proof and modern in every respect even to modern landscaping; a modern apartment house for the single members of the faculty; a library, snack bar, barber shop and theater-auditorium. Seven of the NTTU training facilities were located on the north end of the island and four on the east. For the spy-school student, there were sturdy, concrete barracks at each site and other concrete buildings in which classes were held.
For ten years, the students were flown into Kagman Field at night, taken in buses with the shades drawn to any of the eleven areas, trained in techniques of spying and a very specialized brand of guerrilla jungle warfare. Most of them never knew where it was they were being trained. When their courses were completed, they were dispatched on any one of a thousand missions, penetrating through or parachuting behind Communist lines. Nationalist Chinese, Vietnamese, and men from other areas were brought to Saipan, trained and then assigned.
Where did the NTTU go? Why did they go?
I can’t answer the first. I don’t know that I want to.
The second has to do with the focus of international attention the Earhart story placed on Saipan twice within two years, but more importantly, the United Nations inspection team for the Trust Territory of the Pacific gave Commander Bridwell and the Navy bad marks in 1961 for the administration of Saipan. They had done too much rather than too little for the people of Saipan. It was out of line with what the Department of Interior was doing for the rest of the people of the Pacific area. I don’t believe the UN team even knew about the NTTU. They probably got the same trip to Bridwell’s quarters I did. In any case, when the history of the post-World War II struggle between East and West is finally written, I’m sure Saipan and NTTU will be prominently mentioned.
We did some more excavation around the perimeter of the cemetery; this time outside the northern end, but found nothing. We needed Devine to show us the spot, but permission was still being denied to him. We did find where the house Kinley had entered once stood, and we found a huge mound which must be the command post he speaks of. It would be, of course, a major and expensive earth-moving job to open it up.
Ross Game, Captain Quintanilla, Eddie Camacho, Father Sylvan and I went back over every piece of testimony, and even managed to turn up some new leads. The consensus: They were more convinced than I. Two American flyers, a man and a woman, bearing an almost unmistakable resemblance to Earhart and Noonan had indeed been brought to Saipan by the Japanese in 1937.
The most important event of the third expedition came one morning at the mission house. One Jesus De Leon Guerrero, a native Saipanese, came to see me. Father Sylvan served as interpreter. Guerrero proposed a trade. He had been collecting scrap from the war for years and had a mountainous pile. If I would arrange a Japanese ship to come to Saipan to pick up his scrap, he would give me the conclusive answer to the mystery of the two American flyers.
I remembered several Navy and Department of the Interior people telling me that U.S. policy was that no Japanese ships were permitted to enter the former mandated islands.
I couldn’t have changed that policy if I had wanted to, which I didn’t. No story can be bought without being tainted. I told Guerrero, through Father Sylvan, that if he had anything to say to me, he’d better say it now. There would be no deal. Guerrero blinked, turned on his heel and walked out of the mission. The most striking thing about the whole conversation was that I recognized Guerrero. He was the native who had been in my Quonset that rainy night the year before. Father Sylvan told me later that the rest of the natives fear Guerrero. Before and during the war, Guerrero worked with the Japanese military police.
The trip in ’62 produced another vital piece of information. Ross and I went down into the Marshall Islands, and found Elieu [Jibambam]. Elieu teaches at the Trust Territory school at Majuro. He tells exactly the same story he told to Bogan and Toole in ’44. The American flyers landed near Ailinglaplap in 1937.
And now, as you read this, I’ll once more be on Saipan. There is one important difference this time. Thomas Devine is with me. After nearly a four-year effort, permission has finally been granted for him to enter the island.
Why has such an effort been necessary? What about Japan? This long after the war, wouldn’t she be willing to admit an incident involving two white flyers?
The answer is no. It involves far more than the detention of Earhart and Noonan. Japan has categorically denied building military facilities in the mandated islands prior to Pearl Harbor. In the war crimes trials in Tokyo in 1946 and ’47, Japan stated, “The airfields and fortifications in the mandated islands were for cultural purposes and for aiding fishermen to locate schools of fish.” It is obvious that Japan cannot admit an incident involving two American flyers before the war without also admitting a far graver sin – the necessity for covering up their activities in the mandates. If Japan ever concedes that the islands were used for military purposes, it will represent a violation of the League of Nations Mandate, a breach of international law, a most serious loss of face and the loss of the last chance to get the islands back.
Is there any other way to clear up the mystery, through extant records perhaps?
I don’t know. The records that might shed light upon this matter seem beyond our reach. According to the United States Navy, Army and other departments of the Government, the following have been declared “missing, destroyed, or returned to Japan”:
- Twenty-two tons of Japanese records captured on Saipan, which were never interpreted.
- The radio logs of Commander Bridwell’s four United states logistics vessels.
- Records of a physical examination of both Earhart and Noonan, including dental charts made by Navy Chief Pharmacist Mate Harry S. George, in Alameda, in the year 1937.
- The large bulk of Naval intelligence records for the Pacific from 1937 to 1941.
In spite of the fact that the Navy sent the carrier [USS] Lexington to Howland Island in 1937 and spent some $4,000,000 in a fruitless search, their official position today, at least to CBS and the Scripps’ League newspapers, is that “the Earhart-Noonan disappearance is a civilian matter. There has been and is no reason for this Department to make an investigation.”
Bridwell told me an ONI man conducted an investigation in 1960 after my first visit, and the testimony could not be shaken. The Navy maintains there has been no investigation at all. As recently as four months ago, Captain James Dowdell, now Deputy Chief of Naval Information in Washington, vehemently denied to Ross Game that the Navy was withholding any information, and indicated that the Navy hadn’t conducted any investigation. Yet, just two months ago, the U.S. State Department stated in a letter to me, “The State Department does have a limited amount of information about the Earhart matter which is Classified, but the Navy Department has informed us that they conducted a complete investigation in 1960, and there’s nothing to the conjecture that Earhart and Noonan met their end on Saipan.”
(Editor’s note: Goerner was shown part or all of the then-classified 1960 ONI report in April 1963, and he commented briefly on its contents on pages 236 and 307 of The Search for Amelia Earhart, First Edition. Based on the publication date (January 1964) of this article, he clearly had seen the classified report in plenty of time to mention it here. Why he didn’t disclose this fact in this article is unknown to this observer.)
As I said earlier in this article, I can’t really blame the Navy Department for its evasiveness. The Navy was fronting, at any cost, for the CIA, and it’s going to be a wee bit embarrassing, at the very least, to clear the record now.
Were Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on a spy mission in 1937? I simply haven’t the space to begin that discussion here. Let me simply say that those “two American fliers’ on Saipan are I believe, the key to an even more incredible story: The twenty years in the Pacific before Pearl Harbor and the bitter battle between departments of our Government over what to do about the Japanese mandated islands.
There are many who say that the enigma of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan is best left untold. “Embarrassment of Japan at this time would not be wise,” they say. “What good can it do to rake over old coals?”
My answer is a simple one. With most Americans, the individual still counts. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan fought a battle for most of their lives against the sea and the elements, not against men bent on war. We orbit men around our earth and turn our eyes to the stars and what may lie beyond because of the courage and contribution of such as Earhart and Noonan.
If they won their greatest victory only to become the first casualties of World War II, the world should know. Honor for them is long overdue.
When all is considered, a single question remains: If the two white flyers on Saipan before the war were not Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, who were they?
Within the next few days, we may know the answer. (End of “I’ll Find Amelia Earhart.”)
Readers should note that this article well summarized the state of Goerner’s Earhart research in late 1963, before his fourth trip to Saipan in December 1963. Some of Goerner’s most important findings and ideas would undergo radical changes in the coming years, and long before his death in 1994, he would actually renounce his belief in Earhart’s Mili Atoll landing. In future posts I will endeavor to flesh out as much of these small mysteries as I can.
Today we move along to Part III of Fred Goerner’s January 1964 Argosy magazine opus, “I’ll Find Amelia Earhart.” When we left Part II, Goerner and missionary priest Father Sylvan Conover were trying to locate the gravesite of “two white people, a man and a woman, who had come [from the sky] before the war” that an otherwise unidentified Okinawan woman had shown to Devine in August 1945, and which Devine later wrote about extensively in his 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident.
We continue with Part III of “I’ll Find Amelia Earhart”:
Father Sylvan and I matched the photograph to the terrain as best we could, and one of the natives showed us where a small dirt train had run past the southern boundary of the cemetery. Pacing off “thirty to forty feet to the left,” we arrived in a grove of trees, and with a crew of eight Carolinian natives, excavation began. We went to a depth of six feet among the trees, and then moved slowly to the west. About one o’clock, the afternoon of September twenty-first, Commander Bridwell, who had been watching the proceedings, let out a shout and brushed the natives back from a newly opened area.
Dozens of pieces of skull and many teeth were visible at both ends of a shallow grave not more than two feet in depth. Large teeth were found at one end, smaller ones at the other – indication that at least two individuals, perhaps a man and a woman, had been buried head to foot. As quickly as Bridwell had moved, several shovelfuls had been thrown aside, so, for the next four days, we sifted every bit of earth for a dozen feet around. Seven pounds of bones and thirty-seven teeth were recovered. The island’s doctors inspected the remains, and generally agreed that the grave had been occupied by a man and a woman. The dentists felt there was a strong possibility that the people had been Caucasians, as some of the teeth appeared to contain zinc-oxide fillings; the Japanese had never used that material.
The afternoon the excavation was completed, we carefully wrapped the remains in cotton, and Father Sylvan placed the package in the church vault.
That night came the strangest experience of my life. I was staying in what was laughingly referred to as the “Presidential Suite.” It was nothing more than a Quonset hut, about twenty-five yards above the commander’s quarters. I don’t know what awakened me. It was about two o’clock in the morning and it was raining quite hard outside. As I sat bolt-upright on the cot, there was a flash of lightning, and I saw a man in the room by the door. I jumped from the cot and yelled at him, “What do you want?”
As he turned, I saw he had a machete in his hand. He stared at me for a second, then ran out through the front of the hut, banging the screen door behind him. I pursued him to the door, and in the glare of the running light on the front of the hut, I got a good look at him as he raced across the asphalt road and plunged into the jungle. He was a native – a man I was to hear a lot more from later.
As I tried to figure out what had happened, I was shaking so badly I could hardly light a cigarette.
“Were you really awake? Did you really see the man, or did you dream it?” I questioned myself. Wet sandal marks around the room leading from the door answered my question.
“What did he want?” was the next logical challenge. Certainly not my life. If he had wanted, he could have killed me as I lay on the cot. Expensive motion picture and still cameras and tape-recording equipment rested on the cot next to me. Several hundred dollars in cash was exposed on top of the bureau next to my passport. Nothing had been taken. Nothing had been disturbed. Nearly a year was to pass before the realization came as to what my visitor sought: The package of human remains I had given to Father Sylvan for safe-keeping.
The next day, I asked Bridwell for permission to take the package to an anthropologist in the States for study. He didn’t want the responsibility, and cabled Washington for clearance.
That night, as we waited for Washington’s answer, I received a mysterious summons by phone from a man named Schmitz. I was to be admitted to the NTTU area for the purpose of addressing their personnel on the subject of Amelia Earhart. A civilian in a handsome new car picked me up at my Quonset, drove me by circuitous route through the jungle, up a hill and deposited me in front of a night club! I mean a night club – complete with canopy leading from the road, dance floor, bar and stainless steel kitchen.
Mr. Schmitz (I never learned his full name) met me at the door and escorted me to the bandstand and waiting microphone. For the better part of an hour, I told an audience of several hundred, including many wives, of the investigation. Afterward, the applause was warm and prolonged, and many came forward to ask questions or contribute bits of information that had been heard from the natives. Mr. Schmitz and I had a drink at the bar and chatted for a while and then I was driven by the same circuitous route back to my “Presidential Suite.”
Just before I left the island, Bridwell began to cooperate. The invitation to NTTU had worked wonders. He readily admitted, “An ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence] man [Special Agent Joseph M. Patton] has been here checking on what you turned up last year. Most of the testimony couldn’t be shaken. A white man and woman were undoubtedly brought to Saipan before the war.”
The commander went on to expound his own theory: “I don’t believe Earhart and Noonan flew their plane in here. I think you’ll find that they went down near Ailinglapalap, Majuro and Jaluit Atolls in the Marshalls. The Japanese brought them to Saipan. A supply ship was used to take them to Yap in the western Carolines, and a Japanese naval seaplane flew them to Saipan. That’s why some of your witnesses said they came from the sky.”
“What have you got that’s tangible to prove that?” I naturally wanted to know.
“I think you’ll find all the proof you need,” replied Bridwell, “contained in the radio logs of four U.S. logistic vessels which were supplying the Far East Fleet in 1937. Remember these names: The [USS] Gold Star, [USS] Blackhawk, [USS] Chaumont and [USS] Henderson. I believe they intercepted certain coded Japanese messages that you’ll find fascinating reading.” (Editor’s note: Goerner reported nothing more about these four U.S. Navy ships in Search, or anywhere else, to my knowledge.)
Returning to San Francisco October 1, 1961, I was still without the last key to the Earhart puzzle, and without quite a few keys to NTTU. A few days later, a strange call came to me at KCBS from a Mr. Frederick Winter of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“I’d like to visit with you regarding a matter of national security,” he said.
“Of course,” I replied. “Come on up to our studios in the Sheraton-Palace.”
“Thanks, but I’d rather not,” rejoined Mr. Winter. “I’ll meet you in the lobby.”
“How will I know you?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about that,” assured Mr. Winter. “I’ll recognize you.”
Mr. Winter located me without any trouble, and suggested that we drop into the coffee shop for a bite of something. As long as I live, I’ll never forget that conversation. Mr. Winter had a dish of strawberry ice cream, and I had a cup of coffee. We talked, there in the coffee shop, about one of the best-kept, most important U.S. Intelligence secrets since the end of World War II.
“Mr. Schmitz has alerted us,” began Winter, “that you have turned up a good deal of information regarding NTTU and Saipan. Washington has asked me to talk to you about the matter and to ask you to withhold this information from publication or broadcast until you are given a release. We know you to be a good American, and we hope you will comply.”
I agreed. Mr. Winter didn’t know that I had already made that decision.
The conversation lasted a little more than a half-hour, and then, with a hearty handshake we parted. I have not seen Mr. Winter since, although we’ve had one brief telephone conversation.
Was Mr. Winter really from the CIA? I wondered for a while myself. I hadn’t asked for identification, but I wouldn’t have known the proper card anyway. For protection, I wrote a note to John McCone, head of the CIA in Washington.
“We’re happy to inform you that Mr. Frederick Winter is the man he represents himself to be,” was the answer.
Lengthy conversations began with the Navy Department about whether an expert was to study the remains. The Navy stipulated a number of things that must be done before the package could be released; among them was written permission from the next of kin. There was no definite indication the remains were those of Earhart and Noonan, but the Navy wanted as much time as possible and was taking no chances.
Dr. Frank Stanton of CBS flew out from New York, and the entire situation was discussed. We all strongly felt that nothing should be broadcast or printed before a positive identification of the remains could be made. If identification was not possible, the package could be returned to Saipan without publicity. The primary consideration should be for next of kin.
I visited Amelia Earhart’s sister, Mrs. Albert Morrissey, in West Medford, Massachusetts, and presented the facts of the total investigation.
She thanked me for my efforts and granted permission on behalf of Amelia’s mother, who has since passed away [Oct. 29, 1962] at ninety-five years of age.
A week later, I met Mrs. Bea Noonan Ireland, the remarried widow of Fred Noonan, now living in Santa Barbara, California. She also gave her consent to do whatever was necessary to write an end to the mystery.
Dr. Theodore McCown, University of California anthropologist, was then asked to do the study should the Navy release the remains. He agreed.
It was another month before Navy permission was granted, and unfortunately, we had to learn of it from a wire service. A previous arrangement had been made for Father Sylvan to take the package from Saipan to Guam, address it to Dr. McCown, and ship it by commercial airliner to its destination.
Navy permission went direct to Saipan, and Father Sylvan carried through with his part. Someone on Guam, however, perhaps a customs official, leaked the story to a representative of Associated Press, and it was on every broadcast and every paper in the country before we could do anything to stop it.
There was nothing to do but admit we had been pursuing the investigation.
Dr. McCown’s study took a week, and his findings were disappointing in the extreme. Instead of two people, we had found three, perhaps four. At least one man and one woman were represented by the remains, but the strongest indications were that these people had been indigenous to the Saipan area. The “zinc-oxide” fillings that had excited the dentists on Saipan turned out to be calcified dentine. X-rays showed there were no metallic fillings present. “The hypothesis that the remains represented those of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” wrote Dr. McCown, “therefore is not supported.”
Privately, however, McCown told us, “Don’t be discouraged. You may have missed the actual grave site by six or sixty feet. That’s the way it is with archeology. In all my experience, I have never known a story with as much testimony supporting it as this one, not to have some basis in truth.”
Thomas Devine was also disappointed. His disappointment turned to frustration when he saw a complete set of photographs I had taken of our excavation and the surrounding area.
You were on the wrong end of the cemetery,” he wrote. “I’m sure now that the site was outside the northern perimeter, not the southern. There was a small dirt road that ran by the north side, too. Did you try to match that one photo against the mountain from the north side?”
I admitted I hadn’t because the jungle had grown too high in that area.
Nineteen sixty-one’s news reached the front page of nearly every newspaper in the nation, and a number of persons were motivated to come forward with bits of information. (Editor’s note: Here Goerner exaggerates the media coverage his investigation received, as I’ve found no evidence that any major newspapers published a single story about Goerner’s four Earhart investigations on Saipan in the early 1960s. Many smaller newspapers around the country did run stories produced by the San Mateo Times, Associated Press and United Press International, as shown in this clip from the Desert Sun, a local daily newspaper serving Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley in Southern California. But I’ve searched in vain for any traces of Goerner’s early 1960s Saipan investigations in papers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune or Los Angeles Times, to name just a few of the prominent newspapers that blacked out news of the search for Amelia Earhart on Saipan.)
Eugene Bogan, now a Washington, D.C. attorney, had been the senior Navy military government officer at Majuro Atoll in the Marshalls after the January 1944 invasion. Bogan claimed that several natives told him that two white flyers, one of them a woman, had landed their airplane near Ailinglapalap, close to Majuro, in 1937, and were taken away on a Japanese ship bound for Saipan. “The name of one of the natives is Elieu [Jibambam],” Bogan said. “Elieu was my most trusted native assistant.”
Charles Toole, of Bethesda, Maryland, now an expert in the Manpower Division of the Under Secretary of the Navy, had been an LCT (landing craft tank) Commander, plying between the same islands in 1944. “Bogan is absolutely right,” said Toole. “I came across the same information myself.”
Why didn’t Bogan and Toole file an official report on their findings?
“We were discouraged by the senior officer responsible for that over-all area in the Marshalls,” they replied. “The reason he gave was that there wasn’t any sense in raising false hopes at home that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan might still be alive.” (End of Part III.)