In the opening sentence of my critique about Ric Gillespie and The International Group for Historic Recovery (TIGHAR) in the final chapter of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, I wrote the following: “Nobody in the history of Earhart investigations has made so much from so little as Ric Gillespie.” With this new phony claim from the TIGHAR chief, Gillespie appears more determined than ever to prove the validity of that statement.
The 26-year assault against common sense, logic and worst of all, the truth, which has been the hallmark of Gillespie’s Earhart-Nikumaroro fundraising campaign since a USA Today headline screamed, “A piece for Earhart puzzle on Jan. 4, 1991, continued its seemingly unceasing refrain Oct. 28. All of a sudden, we were knee deep into another super media-hype prelude to what Gillespie ostentatiously labels “Niku VIII,” but which is, more accurately, TIGHAR’s eleventh trip to the long-picked-over island of Nikumaroro, formerly Gardner, in the Central Pacific’s Phoenix Chain.
As a result, I’ve been derailed from my track of highlighting Paul Rafford Jr.’s estimable and controversial theories about Amelia Earhart’s last flight, and forced to confront the latest affront to the truth in the Earhart case by Gillespie, unarguably among the greatest obstacles to public enlightenment in the history of Earhart research, perhaps second only to the U.S. government itself, which has been actively suppressing the truth since 1937.
This new outrage, which Australian researcher David Billings warned me was coming, began with Discovery News’ mistitled story of Oct. 28, “Amelia Earhart Plane Fragment Identified” by way of Rossella Lorenzi’s mendacious pen. “A fragment of Amelia Earhart’s lost aircraft has been identified to a high degree of certainty for the first time ever since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937,” Lorenzi’s story began. “According to researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has long been investigating the last, fateful flight taken by Earhart 77 years ago, the aluminum sheet is a patch of metal installed on the Electra during the aviator’s eight-day stay in Miami, which was the fourth stop on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe.”
I need not repeat all the sordid details of the current iteration of this charade, or the disgusting phenomenon itself. Gillespie’s money-grubbing Nikumaroro boondoggles are well known to readers of this blog as well as anyone else with even a passing interest in the Earhart case. They also know his brainchild, TIGHAR, is the most inaptly named organization in modern aviation investigative history, and has never recovered and restored any aircraft, at least to this writer’s knowledge. For those few visitors who may be new and need more information to clarify all this, please see “June 2: Gillespie and TIGHAR — Again and Rossella Lorenzi, TIGHAR’s best friend” (Oct. 24, 2013).
Last year Gillespie was reported to be seeking $3 million to finance the high-tech submersible search operations off Nikumaroro, of which an unknown percentage goes to Gillespie’s “non-profit” organization and finances the lifestyle to which he’s become accustomed. But Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald reports that Gillespie’s new goal is a more modest $387,000 “to take an underwater vessel to Nikumaroro to get a closer look at that anomaly.”
(As an aside and something I shouldn’t have to say, neither I nor anyone else I respect who’s involved with Earhart research has ever been motivated by the remotest dreams of financial gain. My love and devotion to the truth in the Earhart disappearance is well known to those who have read Truth at Last and frequent this site, which had been as popular as a toxic waste dump before we broke all-time page-visit records Oct. 30. Clearly, many more discerning readers than usual, sick of reading Gillespie’s nonsense, went looking for an alternative – which, of course, would be the Marshall Islands, Saipan and the TRUTH. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide what you think motivates Ric Gillespie in his Earhart work.)
Lorenzi, along with the Miami Herald’s Garvin (see his Oct. 28 “Piece of metal may offer clue to disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s plane” for an example of just how truly bad the media adulation of Gillespie can get) has risen to threaten all time-supremacy of the media hacks who shill for Gillespie. The AP’s Richard Pyle’s sendoff love letter to Gillespie in 2007 just before TIGHAR’s departure for NIKU V, “Search team hopes high tech will solve Amelia Earhart mystery” still ranks as the most oppressively biased of all the pro-TIGHAR propaganda in this writer’s memory.
But Lorenzi has been diligently practicing her agitprop, and she isn’t far behind Pyle. Playing the faithful stenographer, deeper in her story she loyally reported the latest and most egregious Gillespie whopper, as she quoted him saying, “This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart” in touting his fourth-hand piece of old aluminum found in 1991 as the closest thing to aviation’s Holy Grail ever found.
Not yet content, Lorenzi gleefully rubbed salt in the wound by adding, “In 10 archaeological expeditions to Nikumaroro, Gillespie and his team uncovered a number of artifacts which, combined with archival research, provide strong circumstantial evidence for a castaway presence.” The unwashed are expected to assume that Lorenzi’s so-called “castaway presence” is Amelia Earhart, but she declined to mention that none of the assorted crap dragged out of the Nikumaroro ground has ever been linked to Amelia or Fred Noonan. Lorenzi also conveniently forgot to mention the U.S. Coast Guard LORAN Station, with real, living Americans, that was operating on the island from 1944 to 1946, or the hundreds of Gilbertese settlers who also lived there from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. Details, details, details.
Once Lorenzi’s story hit the wires, nearly everyone in the mainstream horde broke their necks jumping on the TIGHAR bandwagon, among them ABC, NBC and CBS News, CNN, the Associated Press and on down the line to the major websites and newspapers in cities big and small. Even Joseph Farah’s normally conservative World Net Daily joined the party, which became a full-court press of TIGHAR propaganda worthy of the finest Joseph Goebbels production. I even heard it on news breaks between The Savage Nation on my local Jacksonville AM station. Everyone was gleefully announcing that a piece of the Earhart plane had been found, thanks to Ric Gillespie and TIGHAR, and we could all sleep better that night. For a while it was like the Second Coming, and I simply couldn’t take it.
But, as it turned out, these arrogant media types had stepped in it big time, proving yet again that investigative journalism has long been a dead art, replaced by political operatives who pretend to be journalists and have no hangups about ethics or honesty. Almost as quickly as Gillespie’s claim had been circulated throughout the media biosphere, one man stepped forward to pour ice water all over the TIGHAR parade.
Gary LaPook, an experienced celestial navigator, attorney, former airline pilot and member of the Stratus Project and Amelia Earhart Society, recalled this piece of aluminum from bygone days, and knew it possessed a characteristic that unequivocally rules it out as coming from the Earhart Electra. On Oct. 29, a day after Lorenzi’s proclamations were published, LaPook sent the below report to the AES online forum:
Aluminum used in manufacturing aircraft is known as “Alclad” and has specification “24 ST” and the aluminum sheets are marked. You can see on the surface of Ric’s piece of aluminum the “D” in the word “ALCLAD.” All the photos of Earhart’s plane and, other planes from 1937, show that the aluminum is marked “24 ST” and is was not marked “ALCLAD.” We know that the marking was changed by World War 2 but Ric claims that it is uncertain when the changeover was made and that some 1937 aluminum might have had the “ALCLAD” marking instead of the “24 ST” marking. Obviously, if Ric were to admit that this marking only happened after 1937 then his new fund raising piece is a scam. When confronted with all the photos of Earhart’s plane under construction showing “24 ST” he explains it away by saying the “patch” was applied in Miami and that Miami had a different batch of aluminum with the new marking.
O.K. Since Ric is proffering this aluminum as evidence of Earhart’s plane being on Nikumaro then he has the burden of proof that it was made in 1937 and not in WW2. He always tries to turn this around and demands that others disprove that it was 1937 aluminum but it is his piece of evidence so he has the burden of authenticating it. If 1937 aluminum was marked “ALCLAD” then why hasn’t Ric been able to come up with even one photo of it from 1937 to substantiate his claim?
LaPook sent a web link to a site that discussed aluminum markings from the 1930s: https://aluminummarkings.wordpress.com, as well the TIGHAR artifact that showed the “AD” of “ALCLAD,” adding that Gillespie even named the photo “AD on skin.”
“Before you send any money to TIGHAR ask Mr. Gillespie to produce a piece of 1937 aluminum bearing the markings “ALCLAD,” LaPook wrote on TIGHAR’s Facebook Page. “He claims that his “patch” was installed on Earhart’s plane in 1937 but it clearly shows the “AD” in ALCLAD that wasn’t used until 1941. . . . Aluminum was not marked with the word “ALCLAD” until 1941 so the “AD” on Mr. Gillespie’s piece of aluminum disqualifies it as coming from Earhart’s plane. It is Mr. Gillespie’s burden to prove that this marking was used in 1937 and he has never been able to find any such proof or to produce an authentic piece of 1937 aluminum with this marking on it. Demand that he do so before you send him any of your money.” LaPook said these posts were gone from the TIGHAR Facebook page the next morning.
LaPook told Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald and Bruce Burns of the Kansas City Star about this, and it forced Garvin to write another story, “Investigators search for Amelia Earhart’s ghost in old Miami Herald” Oct. 30, and its title did nothing to indicate the grave nature that message’s effect might have on Gillespie’s fund-raising efforts. In his story, Garvin saved the most important fact – the “money quote,” so to speak, for the end of the story:
The most important evidence, however, is the linkage of Gillespie’s scrap to Earhart’s plane through study of the photo. And it’s on that point that LaPook and other his other critics insist most adamantly he’s wrong. They says [sic] telltale evidence on Gillespie’s scrap of wreckage prove it wasn’t manufactured until several years after Earhart crashed. The scrap bears a visible stamp of an A and a letter D — probably part of the label 24ST Alclad, the type of aluminum its [sic] made from.
But, LaPook says, Alcoa Inc., the company that manufactured the aluminum, didn’t start stamping it with the 24ST Alclad designation until 1941. Before that, it used the abbreviation ALC. “There are hundreds of photos of aluminum pieces stamped ALC,” LaPook said. “It’s just beyond doubt.”
Ron Bright of the AES, a former TIGHAR member who knows Gillespie and keeps much closer tabs on developments at TIGHAR than this writer, shared some perspective on the origin of the object of this controversy, the rectangular piece of aluminum found on Nikumaroro in 1991. This itself begs the question: Why did Gillespie wait 13 years to come out with his claims about the provenance of the aluminum sheet?
“At this time in 1991, Ric claimed that the piece fit exactly the underbelly of the Electra that suffered the damage at the March 1937 ground loop,” Bright wrote in a Nov. 1 email. “He said the airplane skin revealed that the type of aluminum, the thickness, and the size and style of the rivet ‘matched perfectly with an area on the underside of the Electra.’ The rivet pattern ‘was close,’ he wrote, and the repair at Burbank would account for the differences. The manufacturer’s label on the artifact (D?) established that it was a grade of aluminum authorized only for repairs [see “News Alert” from TIGHAR, July 2007].
“So in July 2007 this was the origin and analysis of the piece,” Bright continued. “Then came along that pesky Miami ‘patch’ that now he thinks fits the aluminum piece. How it got on to Niku is another fascinating story.”
Further confusing the matter, “In TIGHAR Tracks of 2001,” Bright wrote, “he [Gillespie] indicated that the damage to the piece ‘is consistent with being torn from the aircraft by powerful surf action. The piece has no finished edges and was literally blown out of a larger section of aluminum sheet from the inside out with such force the heads popped off the rivets. The artifact was found on the islands southwestern shore in the debris washed up by a violent storm.’ You have to say that TIGHAR can spin the bottle many ways!”
Woody Rogers, another AES member, was slightly more succinct in summarizing his views on the evolution of this particular piece of aluminum as it advanced through various stages of significance in TIGHAR’s collection of alleged Earhart artifacts. “I have the photo series from 1991 showing the controversy about this piece of skin, including the retired Lockheed Engineer that said that piece didn’t come from anywhere on an Electra,” Rogers wrote in a Nov. 1 email. “A few months later Ric moved the patch location to the rear of the bottom fuselage that had been extensively patched. The engineer pointed out that the repair patches were drilled in the same location where the original holes in the stringers [a strip of wood or metal to which the skin of an aircraft is fastened] were drilled.
“Unfortunately,” Rogers continued, “I’m on the road in Pennsylvania and will be traveling for a few months so I don’t access to any of my research, so this is from memory. So now we have three locations that this piece of aluminum supposedly can from. IMO, it’s just another bottle of snake oil for public consumption so Ric can garner more donations to pay himself his outsized salary. It’s beyond me why people financially support this guy.”
There was another bit of good news for the home team during this latest episode of TIGHAR media mania. The Kansas City Star contacted me and asked for my thoughts, a stunning surprise and the first time any establishment newspaper has asked my opinion since Donna McGuire, of the same Kansas City Star interviewed me over 11 years ago not long after With Our Own Eyes was published. On Aug. 3, 2003 “Chasing Amelia,” McGuire’s six-page cover story for the Sunday Star Magazine discussed the ideas of the late Thomas E. Devine and David Billings, who believes Amelia turned around and landed in the jungle of New Britain, an island off the coast of Papua New, Guinea.
Brian Burns story, “Has the key to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the Pacific been found in Kansas?” was a far more even treatment of Gillespie’s ideas than the pro-TIGHAR puffery the Miami Herald pushed on its helpless readers. Besides presenting Gary LaPook’s information in a way that laymen could quickly understand, Burns talked to Lou Foudray, curator of the Earhart Birthplace Museum, who was quite kind to Gillespie, and myself, who, after watching this spectacle for 26 years now, was in no mood for such political niceties.
I vented to Burns as long as he could stand it – about 10 minutes — and in his story he tried to be fair, considering that his assignment was to feature Gillespie. “Others, like Florida researcher Mike Campbell, denounced the latest news as one more example of the wide-eyed treatment Gillespie routinely has received from a media establishment eager to play up his Earhart disappearance scenarios at the expense of others,” Burns wrote. “Every time he goes over there, he grabs whatever he can find and then tries to link it up to Earhart,” said Campbell, author of ‘Amelia Earhart: The Truth At Last.’”
Later in his story, Burns returned to this writer, and gave the truth a rare public airing:
Gillespie’s fundraising efforts, meanwhile, bother Campbell, who believes that Earhart and Noonan never landed on Nikumaroro but died in Japanese captivity on Saipan after first landing in the Marshall Islands. President Franklin Roosevelt, upon learning of their imprisonment, declined to intervene, he said.
“Today the media establishment is still protecting Roosevelt,” he said. If stories spread of Roosevelt’s refusal to help Earhart, Campbell said, “his legacy would be ashes.”
Burns promised that the title of Truth at Last, as well as my FDR quote would be in his story when it reached his editor’s desk, and so it was. He even called me the next day to make sure my quotes were accurate, a gesture of professional courtesy I had never experienced from a newspaper. I was amazed that this unnamed editor, who I later learned was Donna McGuire, who had interviewed me for a story in 2003 following publication of With Our Own Eyes, let my indictment of FDR stand, and thanked Burns for his efforts. Although its coverage of the Earhart situation was greatly welcomed, this was an anomaly, a one-off phenomena that tells us only that the Kansas City Star does not share the establishment’s aversion to the truth in the Earhart disappearance, and will treat the story unencumbered by political considerations. The sad, inescapable truth is that this policy, once taken for granted, is so rarely found in today’s ultra-politicized “news rooms.”
Will any in the media print retractions or apologize for their massive, irresponsible blunder? Of course not. They’ve never admitted error in their coverage of the Earhart story; it’s rare enough when they print a retraction about anything else. Where Earhart is concerned, nothing is off limits and the truth remains a sacred cow and an orphan. But word will get around about this, and perhaps they won’t be quite as fast to pull the trigger when Gillespie issues his next grand proclamation. How many times must a TIGHAR cry wolf before he’s ignored? Who knows, but why should we think the limit has been reached now?
They’ll be back as soon as Gillespie comes up with another sellable (note I didn’t say “plausible”) reason to go back to his ocean-bound piggy bank, telling us all once again to pay attention, the answers to the “Earhart Mystery” are within reach, just over the horizon. If the TIGHAR boss can just get the funds he needs, he’ll soon find aviation’s Holy Grail.
Despite the recent revelations that exposed Gillespie’s aluminum sheet as a pretender, don’t be surprised if he continues to push the same story despite all evidence to the contrary. The rest of the media, based on their past complicity in their shameless promotion of Gillespie’s agenda, may well simply ignore the facts and continue to push falsehoods down the throats of an ignorant, basically unconcerned public. Failing that, who knows what he might next come up? With Gillespie, it’s always something.
“No hard evidence” in Earhart case? Knaggs’ find on Mili refutes skeptics’ claim (First of two parts)
Even casual observers of the Earhart case know that the major weapon used by skeptics and critics of the truth, the blind crash-and-sankers, the Nikumaroro morons and the rest who refuse to accept the obvious about Amelia and Fred Noonan’s Mili Atoll landing and deaths on Saipan is their never-ending cry, “Where is the physical evidence? No hard evidence has even been found!” (Boldface emphasis mine throughout.)
Forget the many dozens of witness accounts from natives, Saipan veterans and other sources that so clearly points to the truth. Only when the Electra is finally discovered, they say, will the Earhart puzzle be solved. Until then, all theories are acceptable – except the hated Saipan truth, of course, which is little more than a “paranoid conspiracy theory,” far too “extremist” to have any validity. These bozos are quite happy to keep Amelia and Fred in cold storage for eternity, floating out there in the unfathomable ether where the world’s great mysteries abide.
They’re wrong, as usual. Hard evidence has been found and analyzed, and it tells us a compelling story. Most of the doubters are unaware of this evidence, but it makes little difference. Even if the Earhart plane was somehow miraculously found underneath the Saipan International Airport’s tarmac amid hundreds of tons of wartime refuse, where, as Thomas E. Devine has told us, the plane has been since it was bulldozed into a deep hole several months after it’s torching in the summer of 1944, the naysayers wouldn’t accept it. And our corrupt media, which has been so invested for so long in perpetuating the government’s big lie that Amelia’s fate remains a mystery, would take all pains to thoroughly ignore and suppress news of the discovery.
But that’s for another time. This post is the first of two that will present and discuss the hard evidence that was found at Mili Atoll, evidence that all but proves the reality of our heroes’ presence at Mili Atoll in July 1937. So that readers can best understand the sequence of events that led to the discovery of this artifact, a bit of background is in order.
Amelia Earhart: The Final Story among best ever penned
Former Air Force C-47 pilot Vincent V. Loomis and his wife, Georgette, traveled to the Marshalls in 1978 hoping to find the wreck of an unidentified plane Loomis saw on an uninhabited island near Ujae Atoll in 1952. Loomis never located the wreck, which he fervently dreamed was the lost Earhart plane, but in four trips to the Marshalls he obtained considerable witness testimony indicating the fliers’ presence there. Loomis’ 1985 book, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story, was praised by some at a time when big media’s rejection of information supporting Earhart’s survival and death on Saipan had yet to reach its virtual blackout of the past two decades, and is among the most important Earhart disappearance books ever written.
The Final Story’s most glowing review came from Jeffrey Hart, writing in William F. Buckley’s National Review. After gushing that Loomis “interviewed the surviving Japanese who were involved and he photographed the hitherto unknown Japanese military and diplomatic documents,” Hart flatly stated, “The mystery is a mystery no longer.” Of course, the U.S. government didn’t get Hart’s memo, and continued its abject silence on all things Earhart.
On his first flight to Majuro, Loomis met Senator Amata Kabua and Tony DeBrum, commission officials seeking Marshallese independence from the United States. Kabua, a descendant of the first king of the Marshalls, Kabua the Great, said Earhart had come down in the islands and that her plane was still there. DeBrum told Loomis, “We all know about this woman who was reported to have come down on Mili southeast of Majuro, was captured by the Japanese and taken off to Jaluit. Remember, the stories were being told long before you Americans began asking questions.”
Among the witnesses Loomis interviewed at Mili Mili, the main island at Mili Atoll, was Mrs. Clement (Loomis provided no first name), the wife of the boat operator Loomis had hired. Mrs. Clement said her husband knew nothing, but she recalled that she had seen “this airplane and the woman pilot and the Japanese taking the woman and the man with her away.” She pointed out the area – “Over there … next to Barre Island” – as the spot where the plane had landed, but she offered no other information.
Loomis next sought out Jororo Alibar and Anibar Eine on Ejowa Island, hoping to confirm the story he heard from Ralph Middle on Majuro. Middle’s story was that two local fishermen, Jororo and Lijon, told him that before the war they saw an airplane land on the reef near Barre island, about 200 feet offshore. “When ‘two men’ emerged from the machine, they produced a ‘yellow boat which grew,’ climbed aboard it and paddled for shore,” Loomis wrote. “Jororo and Lijon, only teenagers, were frightened, crouching in the tiriki, the dense undergrowth, not quite knowing what to do.” Shortly after the men reached the island, the fishermen saw them bury a silver container, but the Japanese soon arrived and began to question, and then slap the two fliers, Middle said. When one screamed, Jororo and Lijon realized it was a woman. The pair continued to hide, watching in silence, because “they knew the Japanese would have killed them for what they had witnessed.”
The natives’ description of “the yellow boat which grew” is especially compelling for its realism, as it reflects their relatively primitive understanding of what only could have been an inflatable life boat produced by Earhart and Noonan after the Electra crash-landed, possibly on a reef. No inventory of the plane’s contents during the world flight is known to exist, but several sources support the common-sense idea that the fliers would not have departed Lae without such a vital piece of emergency equipment.
Amelia, My Courageous Sister, Muriel Earhart Morrissey and Carol L. Osborne’s 1987 biography, contains a photocopied story from the March 7, 1937 New York Herald Tribune, “Complete Navigation Room Ready to Guide Miss Earhart.” Discussing emergency items the Electra would carry on the first world flight, the unnamed reporter wrote, “In the fuselage will be a two-man rubber lifeboat, instantly inflatable from capsules of carbon dioxide.” In the July 20, 1937 search report of the Lexington Group commander, under “Probabilities Arising from Rumor or Reasonable Assumptions,” Number 3 states, “That the color of the lifeboat was yellow.”
In September 1979, South African writer Oliver Knaggs was hired by a film company to join Loomis in the Marshalls and chronicle his search. The Knaggs-Loomis connection is well known among Earhart buffs, but neither Loomis, in The Final Story, nor Knaggs, in his little-known 1983 book, Amelia Earhart: Her last flight (Howard Timmins, Cape Town, S.A), 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.
Knaggs wasn’t with Loomis when Ralph Middle told him about Lijon and Jororo at Majuro in 1979, and wasn’t there when Loomis interviewed Jororo. Knaggs wrote that “our leader [Loomis]” had told him of Lijon’s story, which he didn’t believe initially, but later, when a village elder repeated it, Knaggs became interested. Knaggs returned to Mili in 1981 without Loomis but armed with a metal detector in hopes of locating Lijon’s silver container, and establishing his own claim to fame in the search for Amelia Earhart.
In part two of this post, we’ll look at what Knaggs found, what the experts said about it and what it means in the continuing search for Amelia Earhart.
We’re just a week out from July 2, the 77th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s fateful flight, but it’s safe to say that no one will mention it, especially anyone in the media, whether it’s the mainstream or the so-called alternative variety.
Since TIGHAR’s previously announced plans to visit and search Nikumaroro for the eleventh time in August 2014, at an announced cost of $3 million for an operation that will yield nothing except another nice payday, have apparently been derailed or postponed (please advise if you know differently), our stalwarts in the truth-seeking media have been silent, and they will likely stay that way on July 2. The reason for this silence is quite simple: If they can’t broadcast falsehoods and propaganda about Amelia Earhart, they won’t do anything at all. How do I know this? Twenty-six years on this story, and two books, have given me a perspective that few, if any, have on this topic.
For those few discerning souls who visit this blog regularly, I know this might sound like a broken record bordering on sour grapes, but please bear with me. The overwhelming majority of media people are not interested in the Earhart disappearance, and the rest actually detest the truth. (See “Frank Benjamin: ‘We are brothers in pain!’” Jan. 28, 2014, and “A look back at 2013,” Jan. 1, 2014, for more.) Again, you might ask how I know this. Since the publication of Truth at Last in June 2012, I’ve undertaken several massive emailing campaigns designed to inform the media and everyone else I can think of about Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last and the worthiness of the cause.
It’s hard to estimate the number of people I’ve contacted, but it’s far more than enough to reflect how most Americans perceive the Earhart disappearance, and must be somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 email contacts.
Groups that I’ve targeted, wrongly believing that they might be more receptive to the message than average citizens, included but were not limited to every talk radio station and host in the United States; every major newspaper and many hundreds of smaller papers in the country; thousands of Navy veterans; history departments and libraries at higher learning centers including the Universities of Kansas, Maryland, Florida, North Florida, Alabama and Florida State; all or most public libraries in Kansas, Minnesota, Maryland, Texas and Florida; all seniors assisted living centers and community centers in the Jacksonville, Fla., Gainesville, Fla., and southern Georgia areas; every aviation museum bookstore in the country (about 180); every public and private high school in the Jacksonville area; and even the entire fac ulty of Gonzaga High School, in Washington, D.C., where I graduated in 1968 and which ignored me without a single exception. Along the way, of course, were countless angry emails demanding to be taken off my mailing list, and worse.
Besides the radio and print outlets listed under my website’s Media Page, I can count the positive responses from the above list on two hands. Doing the math is unnecessary here, and it’s far too depressing. I can’t think of another subject that Americans would be less interested in than the one to which I’ve devoted so much time and effort. Such is the putrid state of interest in poor Amelia’s fate that even the minimal standard one-half of 1 percent return that marketers expect from any ad campaign is an impossible pipe dream when the topic is the Earhart case. If this two-year, mass-mailing experiment has proven anything at all, it is that the media’s enthusiasm for the TIGHAR search is entirely synthetic and contrived, and doesn’t in any way reflect a public demand for information in the Earhart matter.
I’ve recently suspended the email campaign, having surpassed my tolerance threshold for rejection months ago. As we approach July 2, I’m not booked on a single radio program, and not one newspaper, or even blogger, has accepted the below commentary for publication. So rather than hide my light under a bushel, my July 2 commentary is herewith offered. A much longer version, with the same title, “The truth in the Earhart ‘mystery’ is a sacred cow,” has been among the top 25 most read at Veterans News Now since mid-June of 2013.
The commentary’s success at VNN is a rare but illustrative anomaly, and demonstrates that a compelling presentation can attract discerning readers who are interested in the truth. The other light shining in the distance is that of Kay Alley, the vice chair of the Kansas Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, whose enthusiasm and advocacy in this cause has moved her committee members to approve my appearance at their sectional conference in Wichita, Kansas, at the end of September. I’ll have two hours to change some hearts and minds, and will do my best. (See “A point of light emerges,” March 8, 2014.)
The truth in the Earhart “mystery” is a sacred cow
July 2 is the 77th anniversary of the loss of Amelia Earhart, America’s “First Lady of Flight,” and Fred Noonan, her navigator, during their world-flight attempt in 1937. No missing-persons case in history has been as misreported and misunderstood. In fact, the popular myth that the Earhart disappearance remains among the 20th century’s greatest mysteries is a complete falsehood, the result of decades of government propaganda aimed at perpetuating public ignorance in the Earhart matter.
The ugly truth is that the flyers and their twin-engine Lockheed Electra 10E crash-landed at Mili Atoll in the central Pacific’s Marshall Islands, were picked up by the Japanese and eventually taken to Saipan, where they suffered wretched deaths at the hands of their barbaric captors. This unpleasant reality has been dismissed and repackaged by the American media so successfully that it now permanently resides in the dustbin of fringe conspiracy theory. But in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the flyers’ landing and recovery by the Japanese survey ship Koshu are commonly accepted facts. In 1987, the Marshallese government issued four postage stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the events.
San Francisco newsman Fred Goerner’s 1966 bestseller, The Search for Amelia Earhart, was the first of several books to reveal the truth. Among Goerner’s witnesses was Manual Aldan, a Saipanese dentist who treated Japanese officers and spoke their language. “The name of the lady [flyer] I hear used,” Aldan told Goerner in 1960. “This is the name the Japanese officer said: ‘Earharto!’” In 1965, retired Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz told Goerner, “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.” Not a whisper about Nimitz’s revelation can be found in any mainstream media product in the past several decades.
In his 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, former Army Sgt. Thomas E. Devine recounts his Saipan experiences that exposed the prewar presence of the American flyers. In July 1944, Devine and other GIs watched as Earhart’s Electra was burned and later bulldozed into a pit with tons of war refuse, destroyed at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s direction after its discovery at Saipan’s Aslito Airfield. Our nation was not prepared to confront Japan in 1937, and if Earhart’s abandonment on Saipan by the popular president became known, FDR’s political future would have turned to ashes. Soon after FDR learned of the flyers’ capture, likely through Navy intercepts of Japanese radio communications, the Earhart matter became a sacred cow, the truth deeply hidden until Goerner revealed it to a fascinated nation whose outraged call for Congressional action was roundly ignored.
With Our Own Eyes: Eyewitnesses to the Final Days of Amelia Earhart (2002) presents the accounts of 26 Saipan veterans whose Earhart-related experiences corroborated Devine’s. Ten years later, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last, this writer’s expansive follow-up to Own Eyes, overwhelmingly confirmed the truth with many new findings, witness testimonies and documents. Convicted murderers are regularly sent to their deaths based on the smallest fraction of the evidence Truth at Last offers that places Earhart and Noonan on Saipan — far exceeding any objective standard of proof.
A mountain of evidence reveals the tragic fate of Amelia Earhart on Saipan, yet nothing the media tell us about the so-called Earhart mystery ever hints at the truth. The recycled theories are transparently false, but the establishment’s goal of diverting Americans away from the facts never changes, nor does the continuing travesty of official denial. Will this pathetic state of affairs ever end?
Frank Benjamin is an Amelia Earhart enthusiast par excellence. Frank, 74, a semi-retired college science teacher who lives with wife Suzanne in the bedroom community of Galena, on Maryland’s eastern shore, has distinguished himself in recent years for his avid support of the truth in the Earhart disappearance. He contacted me several years before Truth at Last was published, in connection with his own serious probe into a murky area of Earhart research, and even drove down twice to Knoxville, Tenn., from Galena to visit.
On one occasion, he assisted me at a veterans business event at the Knoxville Convention Center, helping me accost unsuspecting East Tennesseans with the truth in the Earhart case and the new book where they could find it. We sold just six books that day, but consoled ourselves by telling each other what a great job we did “planting a few seeds.” Although a few thousand souls might have passed our booth, we were able to talk to perhaps a hundred or so. Overall, the day’s experience was instructive — and very deflating. Most couldn’t have cared less about Amelia Earhart.
Frank is also quite a world traveler; he’s been to the Marshall Islands and Saipan more times than he can recall, and hopes to return at least once more to the Marshalls to visit Mili Atoll and the uninhabited and nearly inaccessible Barre Island, where our best evidence indicates Amelia made her wheels-up landing in the Mili Lagoon. Nearly every summer Frank flies to Japan to walk its more remote beaches in search of the decorative glass balls that local fisherman use to secure their nets and eventually wash ashore to be claimed by enterprising scavengers like Frank.
Over recent years, Frank has been assembling a fascinating exhibit – some might call is a display – that reflects his devotion to the truth in the Earhart case (pictured above, at Atchison, Kansas in July 2013). Among the many curiosities comprising this one-of-a-kind Earhart memorial are an elegant print of a painting of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief Pacific Fleet, which Frank procured from the Navy History Center at the Navy Yard in Washington along with another, similar print, which Frank generously presented me; a beautifully enlarged and mounted set of four postage stamps issued by the Republic of the Marshall Island in 1987 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amelia’s landing at Mili Atoll; and an original painting depicting a forlorn Amelia behind bars at Saipan’s Garapan jail, as reported by many native witnesses to researchers such as Fred Goerner, Joe Gervais and Vincent V. Loomis.
Many photos, clippings and other assorted memorabilia, including the front page of the July 1, 1960 San Mateo Times, proclaiming “Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved,” direct from Saipan and courtesy of Times reporter Linwood Day and Fred Goerner (below), make Frank’s display unforgettable for anyone with even a modicum of interest in the Earhart story.
On Dec. 1, Frank brought his exhibit to the Massey Aerodrome & Museum, in nearby Massey, Md., hopeful that those attending its Eleventh Annual Open Hangar Day would be drawn to the alluring layout, seeking to learn about the Earhart “mystery.” Many hundreds came to Massey for the Open Hangar Day, Frank recalled, but very few bothered to approach him or his display.
“Mike, the airshow in Massey WAS WORSE than Knoxville!” Frank wrote in an email. “At least there (in Knoxville), people passed by the display; here they did not even bother. And their reaction to my going to bat for the Marshall Islands-Saipan “Truth” was really zero. Nobody cares, as I guess that you already know. I have to find a new way to get the message out there, but I do not know what it will be.”
In deference to Frank’s wishes, I won’t name any of better-known personages who attended the 2013 Amelia Earhart Festival during the third week of July, whose less-than-friendly treatment of Frank and his message revealed their support for the establishment’s aversion to the truth, reflected in a policy that forbids even the mention of Amelia Earhart and Saipan in the same sentence.
After being led to believe by Chamber of Commerce types that he would be allowed to sell his special Earhart “MIST” (”Marshall Islands-Saipan Truth) T-shirts screened with the same image of an imprisoned Amelia that graces his commissioned painting (below), and several dozen copies of Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last at Atchison, event officials coldly informed Frank that such activity was prohibited soon after he arrived.
Still, at Atchison, Frank managed to collect a small amount of “psychic income” from a few good souls who appreciated his efforts, unlike his bleak experience at Massey. “I was recognized at the luncheon for my extensive display on the Saipan Truth (it did come out real well, and was an eye-catcher!) and [Birthplace Museum Director] Lou Foudray went around telling everyone what a wonderful job I had don’t,” Frank told me in a recent email. “But it means nothing, as I got an ear-full from the Irene Bolam people, and it left me tired, and asking why had I bothered to do this at all? I could sell none of the books, nor my T-shirts, and at the last minute I was removed from the ‘Meet the Authors’ because they already had three speakers, and there was concern that people would run over the time allotted.”
Atchison is Amelia’s birthplace, and the week’s events were all part of the town’s annual devotions to its most famous citizen. We can expect at least a minimal interest in an elaborate, creative exhibit dedicated to her memory and those who have stuck out their necks to offer the truth about an event that’s still promoted as one of the “great mysteries of the 20th century.”
The reception Frank received at Massey is far more reflective of the public’s vast indifference and lassitude when it comes to the fate of Amelia Earhart. Most under 60 years old have barely heard of her, and are hard pressed to tell an inquisitor anything about Amelia except that “she was lost in the Pacific Ocean, wasn’t she?“ Certainly, many of our seniors, especially those over 85, are almost always interested, as many of them can remember sitting in front of their radios as children with their mothers and fathers, anxiously awaiting news of the lost fliers in 1937.
Amelia’s loss is real to these people, and when I’m able to tell them what really happened, they’re usually amazed and appreciative. But 77 years of propaganda and lies have succeeded in convincing the vast majority of the American public that the Earhart mystery won’t be solved, so what’s the point, and who really cares anymore? This is the sad reality of the Earhart case, as Frank and I have learned up close and personally.