|When the tide is out "a 747 could land here" said one expert.|
Sponsored by Parker Hannifin Aerospace Company, which had airplane parts on the original Electra, this expedition will gather new evidence as to whether or not Amelia Earhart's Electra came down on Mili.
|Courtesy Purdue University|
Mike Harris visited the Marshall Islands in the 1980's while investigating the Earhart saga. While he was there, he gathered accounts from a number of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen her and Fred Noonan after the Electra came down.
|Dick Spink, Jim Hayton, Rich Martini and Mike Harris|
|Amaron being interviewed by Harris in the 1980s. From Harris' footage shot in 1980.|
|Oscar DeBrum saw the plane on the Japanese ship. From Harris' interview in 1980.|
Andrew Bryce, WWII veteran said that he was stationed on Majuro, Marshall Islands during the war and that a stevedore had told him that he had transported the Electra aboard a Japanese barge to a Japanese ship from Mili. (Andrew's brother Douglas saw the Electra on Saipan, but that's another part of the story.)
|Andrew Bryce from "Earhart's Electra" spoke to a man who transported the Electra.|
Oliver Knaggs went to the Marshalls in the 1980's with a film crew and filmed islanders, including the Queen of Mili, who claimed they saw Earhart's Electra land at Mili. Other islanders said they had heard the stories, and knew where the plane came down.
|Lotan Jack and others were told to keep quiet about the female pilot/American spy the Japanese captured. |
From Mike Harris' 16mm footage shot in the 1980s.
Dick Spink, a school teacher from Seattle, who works frequently in the Marshall Islands, helped organize a trip to the exact spot where the islanders said they saw her plane came down. And as reported here and in other newspapers, the pieces that he brought back from Mili have been identified - "beyond a reasonable doubt" by NTSB forensic aviation expert Jim Hayton (who has testified before Congress) that they are likely from her Electra.
|APU cover with paint that resembles the trim from the Electra. Courtesy Dick Spink.|
That dust shield is listed in the Electra's manual, and is pictured belonging between the brake and the Good Year air wheel.
|Jim Hayton demonstrating how the piece fit on his Good Year air wheel, which is identical the the one on the Electra.|
Aviation expert Hayton owns one of those air wheels, and has demonstrated that it fits on the same air wheel that was on her plane. In his professional opinion, the dust shield could only have come from her Electra.
So Mike Harris, intrepid explorer, the man who hired Bob Ballard to help him look for the Titanic (and Ballard went back to the location with a new team where they had searched before, and actually found the ship) has mounted a new expedition to Mili Atoll, bringing along a team of experts.
|These were used to transport the Electra to the barge, according to locals. They're the same gauge as other Japanese rail cars used for sugar cane transport on Saipan and other islands. Photo courtesy Dick Spink.|
Mike is leading the following team:
Jared Abraham does surveys for the US Geological Survey Department using ground penetrating radar. (He was found by pilot Paul Cooper during our Saipan expedition). Les Kinney is a retired Federal agent who has 27 years of hard evidence that he's gathered about the government's knowledge of her disappearance, and is writing a book about his research, Jim Hayton is an expert in forensic aviation, called to many crash sites in the Pacific Northwest where he lives, and is friends with Dick Spink, the school teacher who has made four trips to this exact location on this atoll. The team is traveling with Martin Daly, who runs tours from these islands, as well as the son of Jerry Kramer, who was Bilimon Amaron's business partner for 40 years, and has vouched for Bilimon's "unassailable honesty." Also some folks from Parker Hannifin Aerospace Industries are on the trip as well.
Circumstances prevented yours truly from accompanying them on this epic leg of the Earhart saga, but I'm rooting for them from cyberspace.
They're going to be searching for more pieces of the Electra, as there have been eyewitness accounts of more pieces of the plane, as well as eyewitness testimony of people who are related to those who saw her plane come down.
For those concerned these might be airplane parts from "other Electras" or other airplanes - there were no recorded battles fought over these particular islands during WWII, and no other artifacts have been found from any other planes, despite four expeditions led by Dick Spink. The location of these pieces dovetails with the evidence, both local eyewitnesses and other evidence that will prove beyond a shadow of any doubt that she came down in Mili atoll in 1937.
The rest of the story will be told soon enough, but for now, where she came down will have to be rewritten by those who care about the historical record. Theoretical models exist of how and why the Electra should not have been able to make this same island chain where Louis Zamperini washed up ("Unbroken") after 47 days at sea (In Wotje), but theoretical models should not trump physical evidence that is backed up by eyewitness accounts.
The fact is that it appears now that Amelia flew the Electra all the way to Mili, and landed it on a runway of rough coral. When the tide is low, one eyewitness said "You could land a 747 on this atoll." It would have been low tide when her Electra arrived, when a number of islanders saw her bring the metal plane to the ground. Her amazing flying feat saved her life and that of her navigator Fred Noonan by making it this far, and the evidence will eventually prove what the rest of their journey was, as difficult as the evidence shows it to be.
So there now exists physical evidence of her amazing feat of skill, and exactly where her plane came down. Knock on wood, these explorers will bring back more.
|Lest we forget why we're doing this research. To honor the sacrifice of these two explorers; Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart. Courtesy Purdue University|
Thanks to Parker Hannifin Corporation, Aerospace Industries, who not only had original plane parts in the Electra, but their generous sponsorship for this expedition which may actually locate exactly where the Electra came down and provide more evidence for the solution of the Earhart puzzle.
Eyewitness Accounts: Published
EYEWITNESS: THE AMELIA EARHART INCIDENT BY THOMAS E DEVINE WITH RICHARD M DALEY
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.”
THE SEARCH FOR AMELIA EARHART BY FRED GOERNER
Goerner gathers dozens of eyewitnesses to Earhart’s incarceration and second hand info about her execution.
AMELIA EARHART: LAST FLIGHT
Amelia reveals she did not know Morse code (and neither did Fred Noonan)
AMELIA EARHART:HER LAST FLIGHT
By OLIVER KNAGSS
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.
AMELIA EARHART: THE MYSTERY SOLVED By ELGEN M LONG AND MARIE K LONG
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.
“WITH OUR OWN EYES – EYEWTINESSES TO THE FINAL DAYS OF AMELIA EARHART” MIKE CAMPBELL WITH THOMAS E DEVINE
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.”
AMELIA EARHART: LOST LEGEND - DONALD MOYER WILSON
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.