More interviews, some radio time, gathering footage continues

Hello readers of the Earhart on Saipan blog!

We did an interview with Catherine Rosario Perry today, on Saipan's 99.5 FM "Your Humanities Half Hour."  Rich Martini handled the history and journey of ARA, and how we came to be on the island, and why we felt it was worth pursuing the eyewitness reports that Amelia and Fred Noonan were seen many times by many people on the island.

We'll post a link as soon as it becomes available.

Catherine R Perry in action
"Your Humanities Half Hour" on 99.5

Rich discussed how he and Mike Harris had followed roughly the same path back in the 80's with regard to finding eyewitnesses who could tell their story about Saipan.  Mike filmed a number of interviews back then, and Rich pursued the Earhart story as a feature film.  When he wound up working on "Amelia" he decided to focus his efforts on the documentary version of the story, and included a number of interviews he had done with US Marines who claimed to find the Electra during WWII parked on Aslito airfield.
Rich with witness Delores Takamane across from the old jail

As Rich pointed out, he wasn't pursuing the "why" she wound up on Saipan, or even the "how" she wound up there.  He just zeroed in on eyewitness reports to see if they could be corroborated, either by other eyewitnesses, or people who could vouch for their witness' veracity.  And he said that he's found 17 new eyewitnesses that have never been recorded before on Saipan who claim they saw Amelia and Fred Noonan there after she disappeared.

Paul Cooper and Mike Harris speaking about the search
Will post the video of this talk in a few days
We're continuing our interviews with people, but back stateside.  As reported recently, Paul Cooper met a fellow who said he knew a gentleman in Texas who claimed he's a retired CIA employee, and that he witnessed the destruction of the airplane on Aslito field.  We're seeking an interview with him, who would be our seventh Marine to claim to seeing the Electra there (not including the ones who spoke to Tom Devine and Mike Campbell in their book).  This will be the 7th Marine that we have on camera telling his story.
Newsman Fred Goerner wrote "Searching for Earhart"
and visited Saipan three times in his research
Fred interviewed this woman in 1960.. but
no one bothered to put her on film. We will.
We are also speaking with the very first eyewitness to come forward, a Saipan native who lives in the US.  This woman has never been put on camera before, and so we felt it important to do so, and let her tell her story herself.

As with much reporting about Amelia Earhart and this saga - it all depends on the author's point of view, or preconceived idea, or conclusions about what really happened.  However, by way of a documentary, the audience is allowed to think for themselves, to hear the testimony themselves, and to make up their own minds whether they consider it to be false, manipulated, or too coincidental to be anything but true.  That's why the amount of eyewitnesses keeps growing.
This author, Oliver Knaggs, interviewed a number of people on camera for his book
We've also been able to track down the footage taken during a trip to Mili in the 1980's which will hopefully show those native islanders recounting their own stories about what did or didn't happen.  They claim they saw the Electra land there on the atoll in 1937, and the female and male who emerged from the plane were arrested by the Japanese and the plane was taken away by a Japanese barge.  We have testimony about where the plane went next, by other eyewitnesses.  And eventually those eyewitnesses all agree on the point that this female pilot and the man traveling with her, were taken to Saipan and incarcerated for being spies.

Hard to find book, however, Knaggs interviews some of
the same people who Mike Harris interviewed in 1983
Whether they were spies or not is subject to conjecture.  We know they were arrested as spies, because eyewitnesses were told by Japanese soldiers not to tell anyone what they'd see, or about the "American spies" upon fear of death.  We know that a Navy mechanic claimed to install Fairchild "Aerial Surveillance cameras (spy cameras) into her plane in Burbank.  We know that if she had been caught by the Japanese spying on them it would have been considered an act of war - as in 1937, when a spy was caught, it was considered an act of war.

But again, we aren't focusing on the why.  Just the what. As in "What happened?"

Lest we forget who we're talking about. American hero. Never thanked for her sacrifice to country.
Stay tuned...


CNMI Culture Center/Earhart Exhibit moves forward, along with more eyewitnesses, "In Veritas Libertas"

Captain Cooper met with the new Governor Eloy Inos and Lt. Governor Jude Hofschneider regarding the CNMI Cultural Center/Earhart Exhibit, moving the ball forward.

Lt. Gov Hofschneider, ARA's Paul Cooper & Gov Eloy Inos.
Photo by Robert Rustin
We'd like to thank the Governor for meeting with us, and helping steer us in the right direction!

Meanwhile, new eyewitnesses have come forward.

Estella Cabrera holding a picture of her family.
photo by Chris Neltner
We got a call from Estella Cabrera, with an amazing story of her own involvement with the Earhart on Saipan story.  She brought along some photographs of her family, and told us her story on camera for the first time.  We are in the process of speaking with corroborating witnesses who have a similar or nearly the same story.  But we can't thank her enough for coming forward to help us.
Captain Cooper with the Cabrera family. Photo Chris Neltner
Then we spoke with Mr. V Santos.  Mr. Santos saw that we mentioned the testimony of Jack Salas, 82, who says that when he was 12, he was sitting with his brother and saw Amelia on the back of a Japanese truck.  There were two other prisoners on that truck - both wearing khaki pants, but shirtless.  Mr. Salas saw the "blond" woman with her arms tied behind her back and was startled to see his first caucasion person every - who happened to be a woman in khaki pants and shirts.

Mr. Santos contacted us to let us know he was also there in Chalan Kanoa and also saw Amelia on the back of the truck with two shirtless prisoners. (We did not publish the part of the two other prisoners on the website - and when he claimed he saw her with two other prisoners, that confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that he saw the same event ON THE SAME DAY in May of 1944.)

David M Sablan, Vincente Santos and Paul Cooper. Photo by Robert Rustin

Mr. Santos, former teacher, a well respected member of the community, had a prominent role as member
of the negotiating team that negotiated the political status of the CNMI
Mr. Santos read about the eyewitness from Chalan Kanoa, and because he also witnessed the same event, felt compelled to tell us about it.  Mr. Santos told us about the day when he came down from his family ranch into Chalan Kanoa (housing area where the executives of the sugar mill lived) to sell papaya to the Japanese/Okiinawans living there.  On that date he "saw two or three Europeans on the back of the truck blind-folded and hand-cuffed with two Japanese military guards standing at the back of the victims."  Mr. Santos followed the truck part of the way as it was being driven slowly as if they were showing off the "captives" to the residents of Chalan Kanoa and finally ended up in the school campus.

Lotan Jack's story as told to Mike Harris in 1983
The "three Europeans" were Amelia Earhart, and two American pilots who had been shot down recently just prior to the invasion in June of 1944.  These two pilots must have been pretty startled to see Amelia as a prisoner traveling with them.

Either way, it confirms Jack Salas' story.  Thank you very much Mr. Santos!!!

Manny Muna from Mike Harris' documentary

The story continues....

Oscar DeBrum from Mike Harris' 1983 footage
And like most of the unusual events we've experienced on Saipan, a gentleman in a local establishment struck up a conversation with a member of our team recently.  He recalled a story told to him by a veteran of Saipan told him back in the States, which corroborates what other US Marines have told us; that Earhart's Electra was found on Saipan by US Marines and destroyed there. We're finding out whether this veteran will tell us his story on camera.  Fingers crossed, as he would add yet another voice to the chorus of those who saw or heard about Earhart's plane being found and destroyed on Saipan.

Godfather's Bar & Grill - where most everyone on Saipan winds up
at some point in the evening.  And a good source of intel!
There's an old Latin saying that we at Aircraft Recovery Associates take to heart: In Veritas; Libertas
It's the same phrase that is emblazoned on the wall of the entrance to the CIA: "The Truth Will Set You Free."  We feel that this search for the truth on Saipan, while difficult and taxing, will be ultimately rewarding for everyone involved.  People from across the globe who've never been to Saipan will go there to see these same sights, to experience the same things so many experienced in one of the hardest fought battles in World War II.  The thousands of tourists who come every day from Japan, China, Korea and Russia will get a chance to hear the history of Saipan from a fresh perspective. They will also get to experience a part of the US they weren't aware of - despite being so far from our shores, it's just like Hawaii - the temperature remains around 82 year round, golf courses abound... Something tourists from Asia experience daily.

Aslito airfield from Jerry Facey's balcony. Thanks Jerry!
We are thankful for all the help the Saipanese people have given us in our quest. 

Everyone we interviewed, we told the same thing; we were looking for two things.  One is the location of the plane, which we would not take from the island if indeed we found it; the Electra belongs to the history and story of Saipan.  Whatever we find on Saipan will stay on Saipan (unless borrowed for a traveling exhibition of course).  But more importantly, we wanted to hear their stories of what it was like on Saipan prior to the war firsthand, what the experience was like for the families who survived the war, and finally, whether or not they'd ever met or heard anyone claiming that Amelia Earhart was on the island.

Saipan site of the wreck of Magellan's Concepcion -
another buried treasure but they left a chest of gold!
What we found is that by asking the Chomorro people to tell us their stories, they were able to reconnect with the emotions and feelings from that era.  Sometimes it would be to wipe away a tear for the horrors that they witnessed, for the loss of the loved ones.  Sometimes it would be honor their mother and father and to repeat the stories they'd heard as children about the difficulties they experienced.  These stories are unique to Saipan and belong to history, and as such should become part of the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas) cultural center.  These stories are living history and should be preserved as such as much as the story of Earhart's journey to Saipan, her and Fred Noonan's incarceration there, their deaths, and the discovery and destruction of the Electra.  These events have never been explored in depth, and deserve to be.

Mike Harris and Rich Martini at the old church -
site where Marine Robert Wallack found Earhart's briefcase
These are new stories about Amelia Earhart, stories that have never been published before, stories that are corroborated by other details, are part of history.  In the case of one piece of testimony, an avowed skeptic when we first arrived learned from testimony that there was a distant relative who claimed to have seen both Earhart and her Electra on Saipan. This person had to reconsider their earlier skepticism, as the relative was beyond reproach.

Photographer Robert Rustin. Thank you Robert!
This gentleman's mother was a nurse in Saipan's hospital prior to the War -
She told her son the story of a woman pilot and her navigator who were
brought into the hospital in 1937
The hunt continues.  We are continuing the search, and compiling the results.  We will be presenting them as soon as we can.
New eyewitness testimony suggests Amelia Earhart
spent up to 7 years incarcerated here before being executed
perhaps weeks or even days prior to the American invasion. 
In the meantime, thanks to all the people of Saipan who went out of their ways to make us feel at home, to work tirelessly on our behalf, to encourage us to keep us the hard but rewarding work of finding the truth of this story.

Another day comes to a close...

Stay tuned...


The Airfield, The 2nd Eyewitness, The One who started it all...

Greetings from the page dedicated to finding the truth about whether or not Amelia Earhart and her Electra were ever on Saipan...

Digging on the airfield.
Note the Japanese bunker in background
Digging has continued at Alsito Airfield.  It took us a long time, and we jumped through all the hoops, but Captain Cooper was able to put shovel to dirt so to speak, in an attempt to dig up one piece of an airplane.
Digging at Alsito airfield. Captain Cooper and Jerry Facey assisting. Photo by Robert Rustin
It's a long shot to be sure.  But the logic goes like this; we have a number of people who claim they saw Amelia Earhart incarcerated on Saipan.  New eyewitness testimony, never before published, filmed live on Saipan with the eyewitnesses themselves.  We have old eyewitness testimony, shot by filmmaker Mike Harris when he was here in the 1980's at the start of this story.  We have eyewitness testimony, some on camera, some on paper of US soldiers who claim they saw Earhart's Electra on Aslito airfield.  We have new eyewitnesses to that effect, that have never been published or interviewed before.
Hydraulic Fluid Level Indicator
What they claimed was fairly simple, if not puzzling.  They claim they found her plane intact in a hangar on the field on or about June 19th, 1944. They claim the plane was guarded by US Marines, and then after a couple of weeks, the Electra was flown around the airfield, near Naftan point.  Then they further claim that the plane was taken out on the runway, covered with gas, and torched by US forces. We have various eyewitnesses to this event, two on camera who tell their story from two different points of view, and a number of others in print who describe watching the plane burn.  We aren't looking for the why of these events, even though we are aware how startling they are.  We are focused on "then what?"

So what happened to the plane after it burned?

And does aluminum burn along with other plane parts?
Electra in a museum in Tucson, Arizona
And how to differentiate from the many other planes that were destroyed on Aslito airfield, including Japanese zeroes (made from an aluminum alloy) and the many US planes that burned or crashed there?

Our premise is this; the Electra was made of an unusual alloy of aluminum.  Each part of the plane was identified, or stamped, and x-rayed in Burbank after it was repaired from her first mission.  If there is a plane part to be found, it would not be rusted, it would not be filled with moss (as the lesser aluminum alloy of Zeroes are) and it would be identifiable by the part number stamped on it or from its x-ray image.
Under the Electra during her Last Flight
We're only looking for one piece.

However, the airfield is large - and what we need to do is use various different pieces of equipment that can differentiate between ferrous material and aluminum. We are focusing on areas where eyewitnesses claim they saw the plane burned. By that process of elimination we are hoping to find one piece of the Electra.

Again, we aren't making up the story that the plane burned at Aslito. We are following the eyewitness reports of over a dozen US Marines who claim to have seen it there, seen it fly, or seen it burned.  Its possible that in the subsequent years, every piece of the plane was dug up and used as scrap metal.  It's possible that the plane was removed entirely from the field.  But that's not likely - as we know it was destroyed on the runway, and the standard operating procedure is still the same for burning planes - to push it off the runway and bury it.
Double rivets on the engine. The propellers were unique as well.
Needless to say there's a number of options for where the plane is buried.  And we're going through them one by one.

Rivets on a piece of aluminum from a plane found near the field
On the eyewitness front, we have a new eyewitness who corroborates the story of Jack Salas, who claims that in 1944 he saw the American woman flyer in the back of a Japanese army truck, her arms bound and wearing a black bandana.  This new witness has come forward only because of our reporting what Jack Salas said - because he also was there in Chalan Kanoa and saw the very same truck, identifying her as Amelia Earhart.  He too said it appeared as if the Japanese were showing their prisoners off to the islanders for some reason.  He too said it was a big event to see the first caucasian woman ever - dressed not like a woman, but like a man.  Not something ever seen on Saipan, not something anyone might forget, despite the years since seeing her on that truck.

Jack Salas's story  of seeing Earhart for 30 minutes on the back of a truck
corroborated by another Saipanese islander yesterday
Also on the eyewitness front, we've been granted an interview with the woman who was the very first person to report seeing Amelia Earhart on Saipan.  We are going to interview her in her home in a couple of weeks, and she has more of her story to impart.  Merely from a historic perspective, no one has taken the time to put this woman on camera to hear her story first hand.  And it's been 70 years since she first told it.  Don't you think its about time to hear her in her own words?

We do.

Thanks for tuning in....


Digging continues....

Digging on Aslito airfield has commenced.
Captain Cooper overseeing a dig sight - Photo Robert Rustin
We're not digging up the whole field mind you, and of course we have a limited area with which we can work.  But finally, after 8 weeks, the permits have come in.  Kudos to Captain Paul Cooper who has kept after it, and those who helped them get the permits - and special thanks to the HPO and the archaeologists involved - Marilyn and Mike - who are on hand to make sure that every proper protocol is kept.
Aslito airfield - Photo Google Earth
So again, we have two avenues that we are pursuing at the moment.  One is interviews with people who claim they personally saw, or have information regarding someone who saw Amelia Earhart or Fred Noonan on Saipan.  To date we have 17 eyewitness reports, and most of them are new - have never been recorded or published before.  The process we took in our interviews was fairly simple; please tell us your memories (or your mother or father's memories as best as you can recall) about what Saipan was like before the war, and then what it was like during the war.
Aslito in June of 1944. Not far from one of our sights looking North West
The War began for Saipan on June 10th, 1944, because that's when US forces came to the island.  It was a fierce battle for Saipan, and for all the US veterans who survived it, any one of them can tell you how difficult that battle was.  It was the same for the Chomorro, the native people who were living on Saipan.  They had become part of Japan in the earlier part of the century, and there was a robust economy built on sugar cane. The Japanese ran the government offices, but by all accounts, there was little strife, and virtually no problem with their administration until the war with the United States began.
David M Sablan, Mike Harris, Paul Cooper not far from where
David's family hid in caves during the invasion
Then, as the reports go, the Japanese rules became stricter - and according to one historian, once soldiers who were battle hardened in Manchuria (fighting in China) arrived in Saipan, the Japanese soldiers became brutal, and treated the islanders as slaves.  However, there were many families that spoke Japanese fluently, and these people kept their jobs and kept their lives as long as they conformed to the newer, stricter laws.
Aslito from the South side of the field 1944
Once the U.S. forces arrived, then both the Japanese and the islanders searched for safety in the many hundreds of caves that dot the island.  And depending on whether the US thought there were Japanese soldiers or civilians inside these caves, that dictated whether or not they would survive.

We've heard these stories over and over - and the details are all verifiable with historical records.
The camp in Chalan Kanoa with Chomorro natives
And then we ask if they or any of their family had ever heard anything about a female pilot being incarcerated or on the island.  As mentioned in a previous post, the Saipanese are extremely careful about saying what they saw or did not see - about they heard or did not hear.  In all the interviews, we did not find one person who volunteered information that wasn't asked.  They were extremely careful to say "I did not see this personally, but my mother said that she did."  Or "I was sitting there with my brother, so he can confirm these details, but I saw a white woman sitting in the back of a truck with her hands tied.  And she was tall and thin and wore khaki clothes.  And the truck was parked for 30 minutes, so it was not something I could forget at 12 years old, because I had never seen a white person before, let alone a woman with her hands tied behind her back and a black bandana across her forehead. It's not something you could ever forget."
Chalan Kanoa village in 1944 - US Territory ever since
So far we have 15 of these accounts on camera and are scheduled to film two more very soon. Each has its own detail and carries its own weight.  We will let the audience make up their mind whether all these individuals have somehow been coerced into telling their story.

Bilimon Amaron from Mike Harris' footage in 1983
We've also located some of the original footage shot by Mike Harris back in 1983.  So when someone says "My mother said this" we will be able to show that woman actually saying what they remember her saying.  And in the case of Bilimon Amaron, who saw Earhart on a Japanese ship while in custody, and the Electra sitting on the back of the ship in 1937, we have his caucasian business partner for 40 years, who says emphatically "I knew Bilimon extremely well.  And if he said that he saw something, I can swear that he would never make something like that up.  He was an honorable man, and I worked with him for 40 years as a business partner."  I mention that his business partner was caucasian, merely as a touchstone to earlier posts, where we talk about the inability of so called researchers to understand that an islander might actually be accurate when recounting the story of seeing Earhart on a ship, where all the soldiers spoke of her as "Ameera."  It's not about the ethnicity or memory of the witness; it's about the ability of the interviewer to actually hear the answer to their question.

Captain Cooper in action - photo Robert Rustin
Breakfast nook with Jerry Kramer & Jerry Facey -
thanks for your support! (with Mike and Paul)
Finally, we had a tip that there might be some parts of an airplane buried in an industrial parking lot not far from the airport.  And like all tips that we can follow up on, we did.  In this case, we were far from the field, far from any logical place a piece of an Electra (an unusually high aluminum alloy) might be.  But we followed the tip and dug in that particular place.  So far - nothing.  But that was yesterday, and today we are digging near the airfield itself, near an area where eyewitnesses claim to have seen the Electra burned.

Some Japanese ruins from the original airfield - Google Earth
Stay tuned....


A recap and further adventures...

We are still in the hunt.

Captain Cooper at the old Japanese jail - photo Robert Rustin
Captain Cooper reports from Saipan that our permits are in order to being digging at Alsito airfield.  There may be one or two more hoops to jump through, but basically he's on the runway, his engines running.  Here is Captain Cooper in today's Saipan Tribune:

Facility to host exhibit on female pilot
A team of researchers doing investigative work in the Northern Marianas on the mystery surrounding famed American aviatrix Amelia Earhart's disappearance is reviving efforts to have a CNMI Cultural Center built on Saipan.

Capt. Paul H. Cooper, one of two guest speakers at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting yesterday, said the center could accommodate not just the world-class Amelia Earhart exhibition the team is putting together but also the CNMI museum.

Cooper said he found the 2005 plan for the proposed $20-million center during discussions with Chuck Jordan, who served as director of the Office of Planning and Statistics for the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

“This program is something that Saipan needs,” said Cooper, a pilot for Southwest Airlines, adding that their team already created a committee to do due diligence to ensure that the project prospers.

According to Cooper, there are grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other funding sources that could subsidize the construction of the center.

“There's plenty [of] available grants to do this project. We just need the people of Saipan to get behind this. We're gathering our resources to bring this forward. I'm excited to be able to share this with you today because the center is what's best for Saipan,” he told Rotarians.

Cooper's team is doing research on Earhart, the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, who disappeared in 1937 aboard a Lockheed Electra Model 10 during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

“Our reason is to solve this aviation mystery that's been plaguing the world for the last 70 years,” said Cooper.

The team is composed of Cooper, film director, producer, screenwriter, and freelance journalist Richard Martini, and aircraft recovery lead investigator Michael Harris.

Harris, who also appeared before the Rotary Club of Saipan in January, said at the time that his visit is to make a documentary on the Naval Construction Battalions, popularly known as Seabees “because we didn't want the word to get out about the Amelia Earhart research that we're doing,” said Cooper.

“A lot of people out there don't want us to succeed,” he said.

Cooper said eyewitness accounts from a dozen U.S. Marines, plus over 200 from various Pacific territories attest that Earhart's plane was shot down and was taken to several islands before it was finally brought to Saipan.

“Her airplane was found here in 1944 by the U.S. Marines when they invaded Saipan. It was flown after they found the airplane then it was destroyed,” he said.

According to Cooper, some 20 eyewitnesses they interviewed on Saipan corroborate that Earhart indeed spent time on island during the Japanese occupation of the Northern Marianas.

Another group, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, is convinced that Earhart went down in Nikumaroro island, about 400 miles southeast of Earhart's intended destination, Howland Island.

“They don't have one piece of evidence. They don't have an eyewitness. Now, have I found a piece of the airplane? Not yet. But I'm close, I believe. The way the dominoes have fallen since I've been here, if my footsteps weren't guided by God, it would not have been possible for me to discover what I've discovered since I've been here. The whole team has just been totally blessed with this experience,” said Cooper.

Meanwhile, Mike Harris Sr. reports from Florida that he's been successful at locating some of the footage that he shot back in 1983 of islanders speaking on camera about seeing or hearing stories about Amelia Earhart being on Saipan.  This footage has been mistakenly identified as coming from "T.C. "Buddy" Brennan" when it was Mike who was directing the documentary and had hired the cameraman.  For whatever reason, Mr. Brennan released a video and a book about the expedition, but neglected to tell Mike that he was using his footage in either.  We've come that much closer to rectifying that oversight.  Mike will soon have a print of his footage in hand, so we can access it and blend it with what we've shot on Saipan.

Mike Harris shooting on Saipan

We've also had progress on two fronts; we have been able to locate some of the footage shot during the Oliver Knaggs expedition on Mili and Jaluit back in the 1980's.  After an exhaustive search, we are in the process of discussing what exists in VHS or 16mm form.  We will report back to you what condition this footage is in - but for those Earhart researchers who've been able to see Oliver Knagg's book, this footage will do a lot of clearing up the Mili portion of the story.  (Islanders reported the Electra coming down in Mili in 1937, these are eyewitness interviews with people who claim to have witnessed that event.)

Also we are pursuing an interview with someone who was instrumental in the Earhart saga.  We were able to interview her brother on Saipan, and god willing, we will do an interview with this woman who had a key role in the sighting of Amelia Earhart on Saipan.  The point of this being that we are asking people to just tell us what they saw - and when compared with other stories, eyewitness accounts, a fuller picture comes into view.  This person can also gives us an accurate portrait of what it was like on Saipan during the war years - and that information is priceless in terms of living history. 

Robert Rustin and David Dougherty - thanks for your help
Saipan, as we've come to learn, played a key role in world history.  Once the airfield was taken by the US forces, the air war was essentially won.  It was this key moment when bombers could refuel on their path to Tokyo.  And within months, the airfield had been expanded, and then a larger one was built three miles away on Tinian, where bombers could fly around the clock.  And of course, it was on Tinian where warfare changed forever, with the introduction of Fat Man and Little Boy into the lexicon of warfare.  It was this airfield that changed the way war has been fought since, and perhaps forever.

Aptly named Forbidden Island - another mystery of Saipan

By the way, one tidbit we've learned while on Saipan.  Japan was developing an atomic bomb at the same time the US was developing its own.  The story, as we've been told it from two sources is this; the Germans had a submarine not far from Saipan where Japan and Germany were doing a joint effort in the race to develop an atomic bomb - the bomb to end all bombs.  And when the first bomb destroyed Hiroshima, as the story goes, when word made it to this submarine, the three Japanese scientists went into their quarters and committed harakiri.  This story is not part of any history program we've come across, and if true, would change the argument about the necessity of dropping an atomic. If these fellows had been successful, the world would certainly have been a different place - and I probably wouldn't be writing this sentence...

Stay tuned... 


Amelia's Ring, a prison tale and a ghost story...

Digging continues on Saipan.

Captain Paul Cooper has been diligently pursing all leads, sometimes with a magnatometer, sometimes with a GPR, and sometimes with intuition. (Helped by a shovel and some good luck).
Talking to Connie about the ring - photo by Robert Rustin
Connie Kaufer, a relative of the woman who Amelia gave a ring to, has been helping in the effort.  She met with Robert Hunter, curator of the CNMI museum on Saipan (an excellent museum if you're even in the area), and Connie described the ring so that he could generate some sketches.

Meanwhile, Paul has been on site with the help and assistance of the photographer Robert Rustin, looking in the ruins of the family home to see if it can be located.  It was lost during a typhoon, went under the floorboards... and perhaps is still there.

Looking for the ring - photo by Robert Rustin
One of the friends of this blog, Woody Peard, contacted us about the ring.  He supplied us with a photograph that was sent to him by Ann Pellegreno.  Ann is the aviatrix who recreated Amelia's flight in 1967, flying in an Electra.  While she was in Lae, New Guinea, she met the famed photographer James Francis, who has done a number of books about the history of the island.

At some point she was given this photograph - I'm not sure if it was taken by Francis, but if memory serves me correctly (and I think the story of the photograph can be found in "Last Flight" - Amelia's book about her last flight) she met with a local mission on the island, and a number of people came to meet the famed Aviatrix after she had dinner with them.  I've been looking at photos of Amelia and her last flight for 30 years, and I have seen another foto of this same meeting - not sure if it was the same photographer, or if it was with someone else's camera - and I have to dig through the files to find out where it currently is being held.

Lae with AE and Fred - photo courtesy Ann Pellegreno & Woody Peard

But the story is that the woman on the far left of the photograph is holding a ring in her hand, and it's been reported that that was the ring that was given to Amelia before she left on her last flight.

Holding what looks like a ring - Photo courtesy Ann Pellegreno & Woody Peard
And may, perhaps, be the same ring that Amelia gave to Mathilde Arriola (interviewed by Fred Goerner and Father Arnold in 1960 for "Searching for AE") when Amelia was incarcerated on Saipan.  Forensic technology can help us get a better view of the bauble in the woman's hand, as well as help us see if there are any written accounts of this woman giving her that same ring.  But we're on a path and we are pursuing it.

Sam being interviewed by Alexie of the Marianas Variety & Saipan Tribune
photo Robert Rustin
We also got a request from Sam McPhetres, local historian and co founder of the Northern Marianas College.  Sam has been instrumental in our research, helping us with searching the archives for eye witness accounts, and many other leads.
Scott Russell from the NMI Humanities Council - photo Robert Rustin

Sam had one request; could we help him drain the large water tank located in the middle of the jail in Garapan?  This cistern contains water that hasn't been disturbed since 1944, when the jail was taken by US forces.  Sam suspected there was a detention room under that cistern, a "hot box" for prisoners who were given extreme punishment.  With all the permits involved with getting our first shovel into the ground, we thought it was unlikely we'd be able to fulfill that request.  However, Captain Cooper insisted that he could and would do so, and here's some photos of that historic event.

Draining the cistern at the jail - photo Robert Rustin
 Finally, we had a wonderful interview with Tan Escolastica, who has been a historian of sorts, one of the frequently interviewed people on Saipan for her memory of people and events.  We spoke to her first when we arrived on the island, and then a few weeks later when she helped us find an old hidden cemetery, and finally, another interview where she wanted to recount a profound vision she had the night before.  She was in her home and saw a figure appear in the hallway.  She described the figure as tall, thin, wearing khaki and when she turned towards Tan Escolastica, she clearly saw that it was Amelia.
Tan Escolastica telling her story. Photo Chris Neltner
Science will tell us that because of the stirring up of events, the search for her plane, that this "vision" of Amelia's ghost was just an imaginary event.  That may very well be the case.  However, as we've outlined in previous posts, we've left no stone unturned in our search. And that includes interviews with "dowsers" who were able to pinpoint ley lines on Saipan that Paul Cooper also found independently, and in my case, it involved a psychic who I happened to meet while working on the feature film "Salt."  I was having lunch with an old friend, and this old friend had brought her friend Pattie Canova to our brunch.  At some point, Pattie offered to do a "reading."

Pattie Canova -
I told her that was very kind, I didn't need to do a reading, as I've done my own research into the world of ESP, and I was very comfortable with the results I'd gotten - no need to do one.  She insisted, and I said "Ok."  She had me flip over some playing cards and said "You're doing a project about a female pilot.  Is it Amelia Earhart?"  I look at my friend in chagrin, assuming she must have said something.  I didn't know that Pattie is renowned in NYC, and does this kind of thing for a living.  I've become friends with her and believe beyond a shadow of doubt, she knew nothing about the famed flier.

Amelia and her Electra
So I set aside my skepticism for an hour - and instead of trying to get her to prove she was accurate, I dove into an interview with someone, or something that knew more about Amelia Earhart than anyone I've spoken to, past or present.  And I know a lot about her - from family secrets, to other secrets that have never been published, but were part of my research for the film "Amelia."

So - when we say that it could have been Amelia's ghost visiting Escolastica - we mean literally that whatever energy that is out there in the Universe that contains the engrams of memories that belong to the Aviatrix, it may very well have made a visit to this gentle older Chomorro, who is very religious, who has never claimed to have seen Amelia on Saipan, despite knowing many folks who have, and who isn't making this claim to satisfy any modicum of fame, fortune.. or to appear on this blog.

So.  Take it for what you will.  A dear elderly lady, who has been instrumental in helping the historians of the island, gave us a call and wanted to tell us about her encounter with Amelia's ghost.  We will include a transcript of it when we get around to completing our book, film and exhibit; Earhart on Saipan.

Thanks for tuning in....

This webpage examines the eyewitness accounts and other evidence that shows Amelia and Fred were arrested and taken to Saipan. There were over 200 individuals who claimed they saw her, this site examines who they were, and what they heard or saw. It includes details of evidence the Electra was found on Saipan, interviews with people who saw her and the Electra before and after they were taken to Saipan. Interviews with over two dozen Saipanese who claim they saw her there and over a dozen US Marines who claim they found the Electra, her passport, briefcase and other details.



Eyewitness Accounts: Published


Pg 40. “Glancing out on the runway ramp.. an area not the main part of Aslito Field, but an extended arm of the airstrip at the southwest corner… Near an embankment was (AE’s plane). (LATER) .. a muffled explosion at Aslito Field erupted into a large flash fire… I crouched and crawled toward the airfield. When I could see what was burning, I was aghast! The twin engine plane was engulfed in flames! I could not see anyone by the light of the fire… in July 1944.”


Goerner gathers dozens of eyewitnesses to Earhart’s incarceration and second hand info about her execution.


Amelia reveals she did not know Morse code (and neither did Fred Noonan)



South African journalist gathers numerous eyewitnesses at Mili, Majuro and Jaluit. There is footage of these interviews, but it exists somewhere in Miami – still trying to locate the negative.


Elgen shows how the original plan devised by radio man Harry Manning was adhered to by the Coast Guard Itasca – they didn’t know Manning got off the plane in Hawaii and wasn’t on the electra. So 90% of all their communication was in Morse code – something neither AE or FN knew.


PG 32. Robert Sosbe, 1st battalion 20th Marines, 4th marine division) Sosbe said he saw the Electra before and during its destruction) “on or about D+5 after our infantry had captured Alsito, the night before, then were driven off, only to capture it again, our Co was called up to fill a gap between our infantry and the 27th Army infantry. The trucks carrying us stopped off the opposite side of the runway from the hangars and tower about 3 to 5 hundred yds. This two engine airplane was pulled from the hangar to off the runway where it was engulfed in flames from one end to the other. I can still remember exactly the way it burned, how the frame and ribs because it was visible. It was about half dark. It burned approximately 15-30 minutes.”

Same page: a letter from Earskine Nabers: “I am seeking Marines who were placed on duty at Aslito to guard a padlocked hangar containing AE’s plane. 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.

The follow up letter (pg 33)

…”we had to get Col. Clarence R Wallace to sign all the messages that came through the message center.) 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….

Pg 34 The best I can recall the plane was pulled on the field by a jeep.. the plane was facing north after the plane was parked and jeep moved. A plane came over real low and on 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 yards from the plane. We were on higher ground. As far as I remember, the (men) that pulled the plane on the field and us guys from H & S 8th were the only ones there.”

Pg 36 Marine Capt Earl Ford of Fallbrook, CA, artillery master sgt with 2nd Marines. Interview 6-7-88 by Paul Cook. “The aircraft was about 100 yards (from me) maybe less. We all saw it. No way we could miss it. A civilian twin engine. No way it was military. American aircraft in civil registration… some officers were saying it was Amelia’s… it had only two windows on the side, back here.”

Arthur Nash, Air Corps Corps, P47 group on Aslito. Claims he saw the plane on July 4, 1944 (book says 1945, must be a misprint based on following) pg 40:

“After landing on Isley.. at 2:30 pm, Japanese soldiers were running around the airstrip, one killed himself in the cockpit of a P47D with a grenade…” I slept fairly well (in the hangar) and (in the morning) wandered over to a large hole in the hangar wall facing the other hangar. The hangar floor and the area between the hangars was littered with debris, displace with siding from the hangars, maybe 65 yards apart, but close enough to get a good look at a familiar aircraft outside the other hangar. My eyesight was acute and what I saw was Amelia Earhart’s airplane!... the next morning I went over to see it but it was gone.”

Jerrell Chatham, 1st platoon, I company, 3rd regiment, 2nd marine deivions: “I was driving trucks .. on Saipan… when we went ashore I saw the hangar where Amelia Earhart’s plane was stored, I also saw the plane in the air. They told us not to go close to the airplane hangar and we did not…”

Pg 44: Howard Ferris, US Marines: “Sent to Saipan for guard dutey… an old hangar structure at end of a runway. This hangar was not large,.. small trees in front of big doors.. (then he recounts the same Marine argument that Devine and Nabers recount – where some Navy brass attempted to get in, but a Marine (Nabers) refused them entry.)” 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.. and it burned totally.

Pg 50 Robert Sowash, 23rd regiment 4th Marines Division: “I saw a plane in a building that was not a military plane.. I remember other Marines saying it was the same as Earhart’s. Later the place was cordoned off..”

Pete Leblanc, 121st Naval CB’s, 4th Marine division: “some of our guys were sneaking over towards the airfield to try and see (AE’s plane). We heard there were guards there. Then it was burned up later.”


Over 200 eyewitnesses as gathered by all the different authors with the various reports of her landing on Mili, being brought to Jaluit and incarcerated in Garapan prison.