Went up to see Josephine Blanco Akiyama this past weekend and her husband Max, both from Saipan.
It was with Josephine that the story on Earhart on Saipan began back in the 1940's.
|Josephine Blas Blanco as a young girl on Saipan. Photo courtesy JB Akiyama|
She wasn't the first person to see Amelia, of course. The Queen of Mili atoll saw her plane come down and land in Mili (Oliver Knagg's book), then Amelia was seen by Bilimon Amaron (later Jerry Kramer's business partner, who Jerry vouches for "100%") - she spoke to Bilimon in English, unfortunately he didn't speak English, but heard the crew calling her "Ameera." (his words).
Then we have a host of new people who've come forward who saw Amelia on Saipan - some say she was the "first caucasian woman" they'd ever seen, and that she was dressed like a man, so needless to say her appearance on Saipan - as it would be anywhere in the world - was something that everyone noted.
However, because of the time and place - Saipan - people were afraid to come forward and discuss it. Which I confirmed with an extensive interview with Ms. Akiyama - who at 87 recalls these events as if they were yesterday.
|Tan Josephine today in Foster City|
|Mr. and Mrs. Juan Blanco. Photo courtesy JB Akiyama|
|The Blanco family, Josephine last row rear left. Korean|
brother in law who forgot his lunch is the groom. Juan Blanco front row. Photo courtesy JB Akiyama
|Dinner for Japanese dignitaries in the Blanco Home. Photo courtesy JB Akiyama|
|Old Garapan City, and a typical bicycle on its dirt street. Photo courtesy JB Akiyama|
|This was a hospital before and during the war,|
now home to the CNMI Museum - one of our witnesses says his mom
heard about Amelia and Fred being treated here. Photo courtesy JB Akiyama
|The Shinto Shrine. Prior to the war every single student had to go here at down and|
"salute" bow down to the shrine whether they were Buddhists or not. It was near here that
a student was murdered for not saluting a teacher properly. Photo JB Akiyama
|Dr. Schifft. Josephine is far right. She told Shifft about seeing the female|
pilot dressed as a man, and he told Paul Briand. Photo JB Akiyama
So here we are in 2013 interviewing a woman about what she saw, when she saw it, how she saw it. She told other stories about Saipan, all of which can be corroborated, about the war, about what happened to her family. The stories we've heard about the war are very common. She also told the dramatic story of having her home taken by the Japanese, how she snuck back into her home one day to get some fresh water and was almost executed, how she and her fellow students became slave workers for the military government, how they were abused - but also how when the shelling began, there was a moment when it looked like her family of ten would be killed by the falling bombs - and a Japanese soldier showed them an underground shelter -- which saved her life.
|Josephine around the time she came to the States. Photo courtesy JB Akiyama|
Including Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart.
|Fred & Amelia. Photo Purdue Archive|
Wrong place, wrong time.
But they both died patriots - because they were both killed for being Americans. Isn't it about time we honor that sacrifice?
Thank you Josephine for telling us this story on camera. Stay tuned...