Hot off the presses, and about to hit the street:
Just back from Seattle where we interviewed Dick Spink and Jim Hayton.
|Dick Spink, Jim Hayton, Rich Martini, Mike Harris|
You may not have heard of them before, but you're going to be hearing about them in the future. They're about to become household names.
Here's the news story from the KC star:
What the story does not include - I have eyewitness reports of every moment from the point that plane came down to when it was found by US Marines in Saipan in June of 1944.
Dick is a school teacher, a well respected member of his community who happens to design boats for countries worldwide, who use his unique designs as river and ferry boats. He's spent a lot of time in the Marshall islands and considers his friends there family. He was intrigued when they started telling him the stories of seeing Earhart's plane come down on a nearby atoll in 1937.
Jim Hayton is an aviation expert who has testified before Congress and the NTSB about plane crashes.
Having gone to the University of Chicago, his journey and path led him into aviation where he is one expert they consult when there's an accident in the Pacific Northwest. He also is a fan of the Electra, and purchased three Goodyear Airwheel that fit the Electra way back when he was a kid. Over the years, he used two on other planes, but still owns one. The same airwheel as was on Amelia's Electra.
Dick heard the rumors that Earhart had come down in Mili Atoll, a place that he's been to before, and could lead an expedition to. He went out with his camera, and investigated what he'd heard and knew about Earhart coming down in Mili.
The key difference in Dick's expedition, with respect to Oliver Knagg's trip to Mili in 1983 and Vincent Loomis' trip in 1985 is that Dick went to where the two fishermen actually said they saw her plane come down.
For those familiar with the story - Vincent Loomis book "The Final Story" documents his trip to these islands in 1985 to interview those who saw the plane come down. And Oliver Knaggs, a journalist from South Africa, went out in 1983 and wrote "Her Last Flight" - both recounting the same stories of locals who claim they saw her plane come down. They interviewed some of the same people, and footage of their testimony resides in a film vault in Florida.
In "Final Story" Loomis demonstrates how evidence shows she had more fuel on her plane than she actually knew. Evidence shows that on three occassions she "accidentally" flew 200 miles to the north of where she was supposed to go - and her radioman Harry Manning said it was "BECAUSE SHE HAD A TENDENCY TO DRIFT WHILE SHE WAS FLYING THE PLANE." He mentioned how she had drifted "200 miles" to the north when he flew on the Electra with her. (He was supposed to be on her world flight, but got off after her crash in Hawaii.) Harry Manning. If the Electra drifted 200 miles North, she would have enough fuel to make it to the Marshalls. But the important detail is THAT MANY PEOPLE SAW HER COME DOWN, MANY SAW HER AND THE PLANE AFTER SHE DISAPPEARED.
But Dick followed up on these stories recently, because he knows and loves the people of the Marshalls, and with the help of a local "chief" or "king" of the islands, went out and found a small piece of a plane and brought it back to Seattle to his friend Jim Hayton, the aviation expert.
And Jim said that it looked like a piece from her plane, could be part of an Electra - but while looking over Dick's footage discovered something that looked more promising.
|The Good Year Airwheel from the Electra|
So Dick went back and recovered that piece Jim saw - which Jim identified immediately as being a dust shield that came from between the brake unit and the wheel itself of the Electra. The size is correct, and as he put it "could only have come from an Electra built identically to her plane." HE RECOGNIZED THE PIECE FROM THE PHOTOGRAPH AND KNEW EXACTLY WHAT IT WAS.
He also explained to me: "The reason it is made of aluminum instead of steel, is that, since it is attached to the magnesium wheel, a steel dust shield would instantly corrode the wheel."
There were no other planes on this island, and no air battles fought overhead or nearby. So it's the only pieces from an airplane that they could find during their search.
I had the opportunity to access an Electra 10E manual where the piece is clearly identified - as the piece that Jim said that it was. He was correct about the manufacture of the airwheel, and the identity of the piece, both of which are in the manual for the Electra.
Also I got to examine a piece of the actual Electra, that had been retrieved from the plane before it left. And to my untrained eye, the paint from the original piece Dick found, and the paint from the actual plane looks mighty similar. Forensic spectrometry could solve that riddle. (The owner of the piece was emphatic in the disbelief she landed in Mili, and is in no way associated with my search for the Electra. A respected pilot, I won't mention their name with regard to any part of this story, as per their request.)
I'm not posting photos of their find until after they're posted in the media and papers, and I'll leave that to them to license their work in any way they see fit. Both Dick and Jim are not in the Earhart discovery game, are not treasure hunters, but are experts in their respective fields. Dick knows a lot about the islands where these parts were found, and Jim knows alot about where on an Electra they would go.
So. Where does that leave us?
First, I know there was a "piece of the Electra found" last week - which is reportedly, according to forensic testimony, a piece of a PBY plane that was found on Nikaumaroro and identified 22 years ago by Elgen Long (who spoke with National Geographic and Can Imaging Analysis Solve Mystery of Amelia Earhart's Disappearance?) - that the piece matches a PBY plane exactly. I'm in awe of those folks' ability to command media attention at every swing of the bat, and wish the same for Dick and Jim, as they've gone a long way and have a great story to tell.)
But this discovery, if verified, will be the linchpin to the story on these pages - that is repeated in the footage to the right of this page, with eyewitness testimony from those who saw her after she came down, saw her incarcerated, saw the plane.
(IT'S 36 MINUTES LONG)
Watch that footage to see that there are eyewitnesses to her coming down in Mili, eyewitnesses to her plane being picked up by a barge and taken to a Japanese ship, eyewitnesses who saw the plane aboard the ship, eyewitnesses who saw her and Fred aboard that ship, eyewitnesses who saw the ship follow a route to Japan. (Saipan had been part of Japan since 1914, and for purposes of clarity, and common sense, it should be referred to as such, since the Japanese considered it home territory, the way we considered Pearl Harbor home territory. Their Pacific military headquarters were located there as well.)
|Her plane was found by US forces on this airfield in June of 1944. In the foreground is a plane that was burned, but the wings were not destroyted.|
At least two eyewitnesses saw Amelia and Fred come ashore in Saipan in 1937, other eyewitnesses saw her on the island from that point forward, and according to the testimony we recently got from eyewitnesses in Saipan, more than one person saw her up until 1944 when the US invaded.
|Fred Noonan's piercing blue eyes were identified by people who saw him aboard a Japanese ship who had never seen the color before. Amelia and Fred were wounded, they were treated and taken to Japan (Saipan) where the were incarcerated, according to numerous eyewitnesses. (See the footage to the right for some of their accounts).|
Eyewitnesses saw the plane in a hangar at the airfield on Saipan before the war, and then during the invasion by the Americans, US Marines reported finding the plane in a hangar in June of 44. Many people saw it, many we've spoken to and filmed - enough that it doesn't make a lick of sense how or why they would make something like this up. After all, US Marines aren't prone to making stuff up. And if they were, we would have heard stories of her on Okinawa, Tawara, or other islands they also fought and died for.
And these US Marines also saw it fly on Saipan in June of 44.
So that could only mean that her plane had been repaired in the ensuing seven years, and also would account for why the planes that attacked Pearl Harbor had knock off Electra (Pratt & Witney) engines. And US Marines reported seeing the plane not only at the airfield, but also watched as it was destroyed by US forces for reasons beyond my capacity to understand, or desire to know.
Fred was reportedly executed early on, Amelia was reportedly executed later on. There were more than one location where islanders claim she was buried - we have a couple of accounts of her death, one who claims she saw her shot, another who claims her father, brother in law of the police chief at that time period, ordered her beheading. And we have two reports that claim the story of her cremation. We also have the crematorium on camera.
Was she buried or cremated? Again, it's not a piece of the story that's worth pursuing or pinning down. It's important that Amelia be remembered not for how she died, but for how she lived.
She died because she was an American. For that alone she deserves to be honored.
So. These exciting developments have not gone unnoticed by the national media, and from what I understand, will soon, within hours, or days become part of the official revision of this story.
And we have Dick Spink the school teacher, and Jim Hayton the aviation expert to thank for supplying this amazing, fantastic piece to this overall puzzle. Thank you!