Tag Archives: Thomas E. Devine

Ferris’ Saipan account closely mirrors Nabers’

World War II veteran and American Legion member Robert T. Stocker, of West Haven, Conn., sent the following “In Search Of” item to The American Legion magazine in January 1993.  It appeared in the August 1993 issue:

Saipan Marines who guarded Amelia Earhart’s plane at Aslito Field, or those aware of Navy Secretary James Forrestal’s presence there.  Contact: Robert T. Stocker . . . West Haven CT, 06516.

John N. Fletcher, of Elkhorn, Nebraska, immediately responded to Stocker’s request.  Fletcher, who piloted a B-25 while serving in Europe during World War II, had no eyewitness information, but his longtime friend, Howard Ferris, a Marine machine gunner who served on Saipan and died in 1979, certainly did, and told him all about it when they returned to their hometown of Frankfort, Kansas, after the war.

Undated photo of Army Air Force veteran John N. Fletcher, who contacted Thomas E. Devine in 1993 to relate the eyewitness experience of his friend Howard Ferris on Saipan in the summer of 1944.

In August 2008, Fletcher, 83, told me he flew C-47 Gooneybirds delivering the mail between Paris and Naples, Italy before his discharge in April 1946, and he had no firsthand Earhart information.  But Ferris’ remarkable experience lived on in his friend, and in the letter Fletcher wrote to Devine in September 1993 that vividly described it.  Following are excerpts of the letter, a copy of which Fletcher provided after I wrote him:

. . .  I have given this matter a lot of thought since receiving your letter and will tell you all I can remember about it.  Howard Ferris was a machine gunner in his unit of Marines, and after being wounded was returned to States from Pacific, and was an instructor at aerial gunner school, I believe at Alamagorda, N. Mexico.  He was discharged earlier than I was, and had been home for some time before I was discharged.  As soon as I arrived home, my mother said Howard was home and wanted to see me. It was a week or so later that I found him at his parent’s home, and spent at least 2 hours going over our wartime experiences.  Having been a pilot myself, he asked me what I thought of the story he told me.  I said Howard, anything, could be, we only know what we are told.

Howard said they received very short notice, I cannot remember his unit, but there were quite a large number of them, were sent immediately to this island, to guard duty.  They came from another island that his unit had taken from the Japanese just to do guard duty on an old hangar structure at end of a runway.  This hangar was not large, but he said small trees had grown up in front of big doors, so it was obvious nothing had come in or out recently.  At first they didn’t even know what was inside, and were quite put out they had been transported in from another island to do guard duty on an old hangar structure, when the place was crawling with Army personnel already there.

He also said it was guarded with (he named the amount) but I can’t remember the number [of troops guarding] around the clock.  His firsthand story to me was, while he was on duty, a vehicle full of high ranking army officers arrived to have a look inside.  They exchanged words, and a heated exchange followed.  The marine officer at the scene stood his ground, and refused them entrance.  The army men threatened the marine officer.  The marine said he was following his orders, the army then left with the remark that his orders would soon be changed.  Howard said that they were not seen againThis was about the time they learned (how I don’t know) there was an aircraft inside.

Some time went by, and the question all had was how long was this going to go on?  Their Captain, Howard said Captain Green or Greene said they were awaiting word from Washington on what to do.  By then all marines thought they were guarding the Earhart plane, or at least the crashed parts of it.  Howard was not present at the fire, but one of his buddies was.  The buddy said a truck arrived with many gas cans, and the guards saturated the entire hangar, the officers going inside with cans first and Captain Green personally started the fire, and it burned totally.  Howard said he was at the scene before they left and it had been one plane, twin engine, and twin tail, obviously not a P-38, it was a type neither U.S. or Japan had in the area.  It was burned and twisted so badly he could not tell if it had been in flying condition, or was a crash relic.  At any rate almost before the fire had cooled down all the marine unit was transported back to the island that they had left, when they left to guard the plane.  They were ordered to keep their mouths shut and that the incident never happened.

Robert T. Stocker (undated), World War II vet and friend of Thomas E. Devine, whose 1993 notice in the American Legion Magazine elicited a fascinating response from John Fletcher about this friend Howard Ferris’ Saipan experiences in the summer of 1944.

With the exception of the incorrect identification of the Marine guard as an officer, Fletcher’s report of Ferris’ Saipan experience mirrored Earskin Nabers’ story, which was presented here in a Sept. 17, 2022 post.

Though Nabers was a private, not an officer, and no report has mentioned an officer guarding the hangar, Ferris’ recollection of the encounter with “high ranking army officers” who wanted to enter the hangar and were challenged by the Marine who “stood his ground” is too much like Nabers account to be coincidental.

Fletcher didn’t remember Ferris saying anyone from Washington was present at the hangar.  “They waited for word from Washington on what to do with the object of their guard, Fletcher wrote.  Though his recollection that Ferris said the guards saturated the entire hangar with gas is missing from the Devine and Nabers accounts, it doesn’t completely contradict them, nor does Fletcher’s incorrect identification of Lt. Col. Wallace R. Greene as a captain But Fletcher’s statement that Ferris’ unit was sent from an unnamed island to Saipan and returned there upon completion of their clandestine mission at Aslito Airfield remains puzzling.

Two decades later, Ferris told Fletcher that Greene had been named commandant of the Marine Corps.  “In Howard’s words, ‘What does that tell you?’” Fletcher wrote.  “The other thing he would shake his head about was that not one word of this incident was ever reported back to the U.S. during, or after the war.  Like Captain Green [sic] had said, it never happened.”

John Fletcher passed away at 88 on July 17, 2013, at Arbor Manor in Fremont, Neb.  Robert T. Stocker, Sr., 90,  passed away on Aug. 12, 2016 at the VA Hospital in West Haven.

Nabers’ Saipan account among GIs’ most compelling

Readers here are familiar with Thomas E. Devine’s 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, the former Army postal sergeant’s dramatic recollection of his three eyewitness encounters with the Earhart Electra on Saipan during the U.S invasion in summer 1944, the final time watching as the Earhart plane was torched, strafed and burned beyond recognition.  Devine closed Eyewitness with an emotional plea to any and all with similar knowledge to step forward in support of his efforts to establish the truth:

. . . But now, after four decades of exhaustive study and analysis, I can unequivocally substantiate the presence of Earhart and Noonan on Saipan in 1937 as well as their deaths and subsequent interment in an unmarked grave in the southern outskirts of Garapan.

I am determined to return to Saipan and authenticate the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.  I appeal to readers to join me in this effort by supplying any documents, foreign or domestic, which have bearing on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, her navigator Frederick Noonan, or their Lockheed Electra.  Should you merely hold memories in the shadows, I urge you to correspond with me now.  The challenge is there and the burden of proof is ours to share. 

Thomas E. Devine, whose involvement with events surrounding the discovery and destruction of Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E as a 28-year-old Army postal sergeant on Saipan in July 1944 shaped the rest of his life.  Devine’s 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, is among the most important books about the Earhart disappearance ever penned.

After his 1963 Saipan visit with Fred Goerner to search for the gravesite shown him by an Okinawan woman there in 1945, Devine would never return, for a variety of frustrating reasons — mainly the CNMI and Saipan governments’ concerted opposition to his plans — an outcome he never imagined.  But as a result of his appeal in Eyewitness and elsewhere, 26 former GIs who served on Saipan contacted him and shared their experiences relative to Earhart and Noonan’s presence and deaths there, and this formed the basis for our 2002 book, With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart.

Robert E. Wallack, of Woodbridge, Conn., a short drive from Devine’s West Haven home, contacted him shortly after learning of Eyewitness’s publication.  With his gregarious personality and riveting account of his discovery of Amelia Earhart’s briefcase in a blown safe on Saipan, he became the best known of all the GI witnesses.  For much more on Wallack’s account, see my Sept. 28, 2015 post, Son Bill tells Robert E. Wallack’s amazing story.

Earskin J. Nabers, of Baldwyn, Mississippi, also had a Saipan story to tell, every bit as compelling and important as Wallack’s, but it almost never got out.  The low-key Nabers was content to live a quiet life in rural Mississippi, and never sought attention, despite the fact that his story features more twists, turns and chapters than Wallack’s, and is the most fascinating and complex of all the Saipan GI witnesses.

Nabers was a 20-year-old code clerk in the H & S Communication Platoon of the 8th Marines during the invasion of Saipan.  In October 1992, a friend showed him this notice placed by Devine in the spring edition of Follow Me, the official publication of the 2nd Marine Division Association, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:

I am seeking to contact any of the Marines, who, during the
invasion of Saipan, were placed on guard duty at Aslito Field,
to guard a padlocked hangar containing Amelia Earhart’s
airplane.

The hangar was not one of those located along the runway.
It was located near what may have been a Japanese administration
building, and an unfinished hangar at the tarmac, in the southwest
corner of the airfield.

Please contact: Thomas E. Devine,
81 Isadore St., West Haven, CT 06516
(Yes, I was there.) Thomas E. Devine

Marine Corp. Earskin J. Nabers at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 1946, just before his discharge and return to his Baldwyn, Miss., home.  As a code clerk in the communications center of the 8th Marine Regiment on Saipan in July 1944, Nabers decoded the top-secret message announcing the discovery of Amelia Earhart’s Electra in a hangar at Aslito Field. (Courtesy Sandra Nabers Sealy.)

The following is Nabers’ reply to Devine (handwritten), dated July 11, 1992:

Dear Thomas,

I want to apologize first for not writing earlier.

I will start from the first. I was a code clerk in the H & S Communications Plt. It was made up of wire section, radio section and message section.  I was in the message section, all the messages came through our message center.

We were on mopping up duty on opposite end of Saipan from where we landed (the South end).  The message came over our field radios.  I decoded it and I was quite excited when I read the message.  The message read (the best I remember) that Amelia Earhart’s plane had been found at Aslito Field, this was about the middle of the morning.

(We had to get Col. [Clarence R.] Wallace to sign all the messages that came through the message center.)

Shortly after we received the message, Hq. 8th moved back to bivouac area.  I was dropped off at the Hangar for guard duty [at] the main road that went by west side of hangar.  The road that went out to hangar, I was placed on the right side, just as it left the main road.  And there was an Army man on the opposite side. He had arrived on the island just a few days before.  I don’t remember his name but I think he was from Minnesota.  I stayed on duty first day, that night, most of next day.

We were told not to let anyone go in.  There was a jeep come by with some officers in it.  They wanted to go in to see the plane.  We told them our orders, they said what if we go anyway.  We stepped in front of the Jeep, and told them that it would be in the best interest of all involved for them to turn around and leave.  There was some other people come and checked us out, but they did not go in, they were just checking on security.

After I went back to my platoon there was another message come through that said something about destroying the plane.  Myself and two more boys went back down to the airfield to see it destroyed.  (the message give the time it was supposed to be destroyed)

The best I can recall the plane was pulled on the field by a jeep (driven by some Marines.  I have got ahead of myself, the first time we went down there wasn’t anything done to plane it was the second day that the plane was pulled on the field but we went both times and we learned the second time from a message that come off the radio.

Saipan’s Aslito Airfield just after its capture by the 165th Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division on June 18, 1944.  Standing hangars and Japanese aircraft, though damaged, belie skeptics’ claims that the Navy’s pre-invasion aerial bombardment leveled all buildings, and therefore Amelia Earhart’s Electra could not have been housed and discovered there.  (U.S. Army photo.)

Picking up from the plane being pulled on the field.  The plane was facing north after the plane was parked and jeep moved.  A plane come over real low and the next pass he strafed the plane and it went up in a huge fireball.  (We were sitting on the west side of the airfield about one hundred yard from plane.  We were on higher ground.  As far I remember, the ones that pulled the plane on the field and us guys from H & S 8th were the only ones there.  We were not there officially, you know how Marines were, got to see what was going on.)

. . . This is a bit sketchy, but I hope it is worth something to you, as you know not everyone believes us.  I told about it a few times & got the look as if to say that guy must have got shell shocked & had one guy tell me that can’t be so.  I will stand by what I have said and I will place my hand on the Holy Book and repeat the whole thing over.

If ever I can be of any help to you in any way feel free to call on me.  I guarantee that I will reply pronto.

Best Wishes,
Earskin J. Nabers

P.S. about not writing earlier, I had a problem to come up in the family that left me emotionally or I should say took the most of my time thinking about it.  But thank God everything seems to be working out for the best. E.J.N

During an October 1992 phone conversation with me, Nabers, a receiving clerk in Baldwyn, repeated the details of his account.  He added he was able to get a look into the padlocked hangar through a small opening between the doors.  Nabers described a silver, twin-engine civilian plane.  He said he couldn’t make out the registration marks from his vantage point.  Neither could he discern its registration as he witnessed the Electra’s destruction because, “It was dark and we were too far away to read them.”

We’ll hear more from Earskin J.  Nabers in future posts, and I promise you won’t be bored.  For more on what we’ve already done about American military personnel on 1944-’45 Saipan and their experiences that revealed the presence and deaths of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan there, please see “Veterans recall seeing Earhart photos on SaipanandKanna’s letter among first of GI Saipan witnesses,” my March 13, 2020 and Jan. 4, 2022 posts.

 

In Memoriam: Honoring the Earhart Truth Seekers

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.

Some say this was the last photo taken before the flyers’ July 2 takeoff from Lae, New Guinea.  Mr. F.C. Jacobs of the New Guinea Gold Mining Company stands between Amelia and Fred.  Note that Fred looks chipper and ready to go, not hung over from a night of drinking, as has been alleged.

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.

Paul Briand Jr., circa 1959, who 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky, presented the eyewitness account of Josephine Blanco Akiyama and initiated the modern-day search for Amelia Earhart.

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.

Thomas E. Devine, circa 1987, around the time that Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident was published and about four years before I met him in person and spent the day with him at his West Haven, Conn., home in early February 1991.

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.  

Devine passed away at his West Haven, Connecticut home on Sept. 16, 2003.  For much more on his eyewitness experiences and contributions to Earhart research, please click here.

 

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. 

Joe Gervais, left, and Rollin C. Reineck, circa mid-1990s, overlooking Honolulu, Hawaii.  Still esteemed by some as the greatest of Earhart researchers, Gervais can count among his contributions the vile and false Irene Bolam-as-Amelia Earhart theory, which his friend Reineck unsuccessfully tried to reprise in his unsuccessful 2003 book, Amelia Earhart Survived.

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.

In this undated photo from the mid-1960s, Fred Goerner holds forth from his perch at KCBS Radio, San Francisco, at the height of his glory as the author of The Search for Amelia Earhart.

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.

Joe Klaas, circa 2004, who survived a death march across Germany in 1945 and wrote Amelia Earhart Lives, passed away on Feb. 25, 2016.

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.

Oliver Knaggs, author of Amelia Earhart: Her final flight, at Garapan Prison, Saipan, circa 1981.

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.  

Don Kothera’s often-overlooked contributions to Earhart research were chronicled in Joe Davidson’s Amelia Earhart Returns to Saipan. (First of three editions, 1969.)

“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. 

Kothera passed away on June 14, 2013 at his Las Vegas, Nevada home.  He was 85.  For more on Kothera and the Cleveland Group, please see Truth at Last, pages 245-251 or click here.

End of Part I.  Your comments are welcomed. 

Veterans recall seeing Earhart photos on Saipan

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 voicequavered and brokeon the phone when Goerner asked about Saipan and Sergeant Kanna.  Moritsugu told Goerner he had no desire to discuss the war.

Fred Goerner, center, on Saipan during his first investigative visit there in June 1960, left to right: Native witnesses William Guerrero Reyes and Josepa Reyes Sablan, Goerner, Monsignor Oscar Calvo, and Rev. Father Arnold Bendowske of the Saipan Catholic mission.  Photo courtesy San Francisco Library Special Collections.

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 attemptedto 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.

Stanley F. Serzan, of Orange City, Florida, a retired Bayonne, New Jersey, police officer, claimed he saw several photos of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan found on a dead Japanese officer on Saipan.  (Courtesy Stanley Serzan.)

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.

Joining Ralph Kanna and Robert Kinley, who claimed to have found photos of Amelia Earhart on Saipan, was Seabee Joseph Garofalo, pictured here on Saipan in July 1944.  While assigned to Naval Construction Battalion 121 during the invasion, Garofalo found a sepia photo of Amelia Earhart inside the wallet of a dead Japanese officer.  He lost the photo on Tinian several weeks later.  Garofalo, the founder and curator of the Bronx Veterans Museum, passed away in March 2016 at age 95.  (Courtesy Joseph Garofalo.)

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.

Paul Briand Jr.’s “Requiem for Amelia,” Part I

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 Earhartduo 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.

You’re kidding.

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. 

Cover of the first paperback edition of Daughter of the Sky, published by Pyramid publishers in May 1967.

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.

An undated photo of Paul Briand Jr., left, and Joe Gervais, two of the three members of “Operation Earhart,” formed in 1960.

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 fileshas 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.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Douglas MacArthur II on the June 27, 1960 cover of Time magazine.  MacArthur was the nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and according to Time, he was ”the principal architect of present-day U.S. policy toward Japan,” which meant that he was among the U.S. establishment principals in perpetuating the big lie that Amelia Earhart was never  on Saipan.  He died in in 1997.

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.

Unlike the other witnesses Joe Gervais and Robert Dinger questioned on Guam, 45-year-old Thomas “Buko” Blas claimed he was an eyewitness to an airplane crash on Saipan in 1937.

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 tokeep 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. 

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