Born from a Kickstarter campaign, veteran explorer Mike Harris Sr. and filmmaker Rich Martini have joined forces to examine the evidence that Amelia Earhart was on Saipan after she disappeared. They've been joined by a team of professionals from across the spectrum and are backed by a number of individuals with a desire to know the truth.
Stay tuned for more information...

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Friday

Evidence Earhart was on Saipan in 1937

In light of the recent competing headlines, I'm putting together a timeline of events for those who need to understand what actually happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.




1. As the History Channel show reported, Earhart's Electra encountered a storm near Howland that pushed the Electra off course and NW of Howland.  (As noted on this blog, I was invited to participate in the show, was part of the sizzle reel used to sell the show to History Channel.  But because I have my own projects, I deferred from participating. However, the show was accurate as to the research I've seen. The photograph and the evidence of why and how she turned to the Gilberts was new to me.) When Amelia turned to "fly to the Gilberts" as the show reported - the first island she came upon was not in the Gilberts - it was Endriken Isle in Mili.


Endriken Island - at high tide. Low tide you could "land a 747" according
to one researcher who's been there.
How do we know this for a fact?

First of all, a number of people saw her plane land.  The Queen of Mili Atoll was interviewed in Oliver Knagg's book "Amelia Earhart: Her Last Flight." I interviewed the cameraman who filmed that footage of his trip to the Marshalls. He confirmed the details that are in his book (and that the footage is in legal limbo but exists)
Pretty soon, it's going to be swamped. Google Earth


Oliver Knaggs on Saipan 1983
Looking at a cell before the metal bars removed.

On a recent trip to the Marshalls, Mike Harris, Les Kinney and Dick Spink all heard from islanders that claimed the Japanese had asked them to take her plane off of Mili atoll. 

Dick Spink spoke directly to islanders whose parents were fishing at the same fishing hole that exists to this day.  They brought a Japanese barge into the harbor, dragged the plane across the island, and put it aboard the Japanese barge.

Dick Spink found a number of pieces of the plane from his six trips to search the island.  He found a red painted piece of a cap, he found a piece of metal that could only fit her plane, and on their recent excursion, Les Kinney found a piece of rolled aluminum that could have come from her plane.  

I interviewed a retired NTSB official who showed me how the piece from her plane fit the exact same wheel - and in his professional opinion "the plane part could only come from her Electra."  That's not any opinion. That's a professional opinion of an NTSB investigator Jim Hayton who has testified before Congress.


Dick Spink, former NTSB investigator Jim Hayton, myself
and Mike Harris at Dick Spink's table, looking over the plane parts
and his extensive research. Photo copyright Dick Spink

So the History Channel episode only showed 1 piece from her plane. According to the NTSB expert I interviewed on camera, there is at least one other part for certain, and a smaller piece that could have come from her plane - in his professional opinion. 

The fact that no other plane parts from any other plane have been found in or near the island is also key.



NTSB Investigator Jim Hayton showing how this dust shield fit on the identical wheel rim,
unique to only this version of the Electra. It fit perfectly.
Photo Copyright Richard Martini 2014
The dust shield from the 1937 Electra manual. It describes the exact same
piece that Spink found. Copyright Richard Martini

Piece of a plane with red trim found on Mili atoll.
Comparing it to an actual piece of AE's Electra. Copyright Richard Martini.

Note the color red above - Not the same color to the eye
but analysis was inconclusive that it was the same paint.
Could have been.  But not definitively. Copyright Richard Martini.
So we know that a silver plane came down in Mili in July 1937. We know (as reported) that two caucasians survived, we know that one of them was a woman. The plane left behind a trail of it's being dragged across the island.  According to locals, it was put aboard a Japanese barge and taken away.

2.  The plane was first taken to Majuro, where a stevedore claims he first brought the Electra.  It was then taken, along with Amelia and Fred to Jaluit. (And from there she and Fred and the plane were taken to Saipan.)


Navy Vet Andrew Bryce, from Denver,
said he worked with a stevedore on Majuro who claimed he
moved the plane from Mili to a Japanese barge to Majuro. Photo Copyright Richard Martini
How do we know this for a fact?


Footage Copyright Mike Harris

Oscar de Brum, former Congressman from the Marshalls, who has testified before Congress, tells us in the clip at the end of this post, that he was there when his father took him to the dock and showed him the plane on back of the ship.  He remembers the moment clearly.  (Footage shot by Mike Harris in the Marshalls in 1980.)


Copyright Mike Harris

Bilimon Amaron was taken aboard the ship and tended to her and Fred's wounds.  His testimony was repeated in other places, both on camera and in print.  His reputation is beyond reproach - as his business partner of 40 years claims in his clip below.


Jaluit docks in the office of Naval Intelligence file.
Photograph demonstrates illegal fortification of the harbor
by the Japanese govt. contrary to their league of nations treaty.
They left the league in 1935, the dock was built in 1936

The photograph from the History channel shows a number of people on a dock in 1937. Photographic experts claim that the photo of Fred is a match.  

The naked eye, looking at the back of the woman crouching on the deck - looks like Amelia's shoulders and back. Having access to over 5000 photographs of her, and 30 hours of archival footage, I can say that I instantly spotted it when I saw the photograph. 


Copyright Mike Harris.
The photo also shows what Oscar de Brum and Bilimon Amaron claim they saw - the Electra on the back of the ship.  (In Bilimon's case, by the time he was visiting her aboard the ship, it was already in a sling at the back of the ship according to his testimony below.)


Copyright Mike Harris
As noted on this blog, two other eyewitnesses spoke about the fortifications of the harbor in 1937 and how they were arresting people for seeing them.  As mentioned early, two British subjects were executed for spying in the Marshalls in 1936, and De Bisschop's account refers to a British and American who appear to have "disappeared" for spying.

So a number of people claim to have seen Amelia and Fred and the Electra at Jaluit docks in 1937.  The photograph appears to corroborate their testimony - but it doesn't need to.  (Unless you inherently don't believe what islanders have to say.)

3. At least two people on camera claim they saw her, or their parent saw her come ashore on Saipan.  Josephine Blanco Akiyama, and a former Congressman from Saipan tell the same story - one who lives on Saipan, one who has lived near SF for 40 years - that of the two prisoners being led ashore and everyone told to "lower their eyes."  Clearly Josephone and the Congressman's father did not,and repeated their stories. (see the clip below where his father describes the same story that Josephine reports)


Ray's mom treated her in the hospital. Copyright Richard Martini
Many Saipanese saw her in Garapan - one woman's mother cleaned her clothes, Ray Guiterrez's mother tended to her in the hospital (which is now the war museum on Saipan) others saw her in her prison cell.  Ultimately they claim that she died in prison - Fred Goerner's witnesses in 1963 say she died of dysentery.


This man and his brother saw her on the back of a truck
in Garapan in 1937 when he was 12. "First caucasian woman I've ever seen,
dressed like a man, in Japanese custody.  It's not something you forget."
Another Saipanese businessman confirmed this story, as he saw
her on the same day further down the road. Copyright Richard Martini
She was buried and her body was dug up by two GI's.  Those GIs have been interviewed by a number of people, but in the Chicago Tribune in 1977, (UPI, January) they claimed they only partially recovered her body ("an arm and a partial ribcage").  


Her briefcase. Same case described by
two GIs who did not know each other.
This is her packing it for the last flight.
Her briefcase was found in a safe in Garapan by US Marine Robert Wallack. Inside her briefcase was her passport, maps and other papers "dry as a bone." 

Robert told me on camera that he was surprised, and kept the briefcase for two weeks before turning it over to the 82nd's Louis Wallace.  Wallace's assistant, Earskin Nabors cataloged the briefcase, and described it to me in an interview - the same case.

Both men described the briefcase to me - both had never seen a photograph of it. Their independent versions described the EXACT SAME BRIEFCASE.


Josephine saw her come up the docks in 1937. Photo copyright Richard Martini

Here's Josephine in 1937 with the Doctor with
whom she shared her story. It was he who directed
authorities to interview Josephine at the time. From her own book. Copyright Josephine Blanco
EJ Nabers, Copyright Richard Martini
Nabers decoded a message on June 19, 1944 that "Amelia Earhart's airplane has been found at Aslito airfield."  

He decoded the message in triplicate which Wallace had to sign.  (Nabers said he was "surprised" by his commanding officers lack of reaction.)  

Wallace ordered Nabers to "guard the plane" which he did for 24 hours. While guarding the plane, some "navy brass" came to see the plane and loudly declared "we know you have Earhart's airplane in there, we want to see it."  

Nabers refused their entry, to the point of drawing his service weapon.
"Orders is orders" he told me he said.



My friend Bob, who found her briefcase and held onto it for 2 weeks.
He turned it over to Nabor's CO. Copyright Richard Martini
Tom Devine, a US army vet in the postal service witnessed that conversation.  He said it to me on camera before I interviewed Nabers - and did not know who Nabers was.  


It was Devine's claim that he saw the Electra on Saipan
that prompted a state dept meeting in Tokyo with the Captain of
the Koshu and others, including General MacArthur
who promised to "get to the bottom of this."  He did not. 
Copyright Richard Martini
Nabers went on to say that he turned the briefcase over to a Navy man from ONI (whom I have been able to identify) and later, decoded a message they were going to fly the Electra.


Her initial cell, yards from where Fred Noonan
was reportedly kept. Copyright Richard Martini

Exterior of the cell Copyright Richard Martini

According to numerous eyewitnesses (in Tom Devine's books) a number of GIs saw the plane "fly around the field" on the south end of the island.  


Aslito had a number of intact hangars when it was liberated
on June 19, 1944
At about this time, Douglas Bryce, a radio repair man saw the plane in its hangar on Aslito.  He was told "Did you know they found Earhart's airplane?" and he and fellow soldiers drove down from Mt. Tapachou to see it. That testimony is in the footage below.  

Doug Bryce described the hangar to me in detail, and I was able to locate it precisely on the airfield, which matches photographs from the era.  It was one of the few hangars left intact.  Other people have said they saw the plane in the same hangar (including Nabers, who guarded it for 24 hours.)

Some of the wreckage on Alisito - but the Electra
was not only intact, but flyable.

Finally, Nabers reports that he decoded a message that said they were going to destroy the plane.  He and other soldiers went out to watch this occur - I've stood in the spot where they witnesses the burning of her plane. He gave me the names of the other fellows who went with them. He said at some point he realized "they shouldn't be there" but stayed to watch as the Electra was destroyed. 

A number of veterans saw the plane "on fire," reported that detail in Tom Devine's books - but Tom himself claims that he heard the explosion, and went down to the field - and the same plane he had seen close up only days before had been set afire. (see his clip in the footage below)


As Doug Bryce said in his interview "We all knew what
her plane looked like. It was the most famous plane
on the planet and had disappeared 7 years earlier."
Eyewitnesses seeing the same event - who had never met, yet repeated their stories to me on camera 70 years later.

Here they are discussing it on my camera:





And finally, the original press release prepared by the Foreign Office of the Marshall Islands.  I understand that they took the time to amend it - I guess so as not to not offend people - but the amended version does nothing to argue any facts differently than original one. I'm a journalist as well as a filmmaker.  And the amended press release does not refute the original press release, or amend it in any way.  I suggest allowing the truth to set one free is always allowable in all cases.  But I have posted both, to be fair, to show how they amended the original.  

That still doesn't mean the photograph is incorrect, or that it does not depict Fred Noonan, Amelia Earhart and the Electra on the back of a barge in 1937.  All it's doing is giving confirmation of the above eyewitness stories.  

Not conflicting. Not contrary. Some are by Caucasians for those who can only hear what Caucasians say - and some are from native islanders - for those who actually want to hear what they said or saw without the filter of a Caucasian point of view.

As noted earlier - an investigator has further documents that he's going to publish when he finishes his book.  Being meticulous,  he says he does not want to release his evidence without proof where his documents came from and how they got there.  I cannot reveal what's in them, only report I've been told that they confirm that everything in the above reports is accurate. -- That she came down in Mili, that the US intercepted and decoded that fact, but that they could not reveal they knew she had been arrested by the Japanese because it would prove they had broken their codes. And like Churchill and the Enigma machine revelations - "lives were sacrificed" for that intelligence. 

In this case, the lives of Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart.

Again, I don't know why these stories make people upset nor am I interested in arguing about it.  These are simply eyewitness reports of what people saw. They are consistent. They can be corroborated. 

There are no other islanders on any other island who've told any other story like them. If they were being made up - wouldn't someone have come up with some alternate story? 

These people's stories have been told without any promise of money, fame or other motivation. They just wanted to speak the truth about something they witnessed, or their family member told them. In the case of one interviewee, he said "I don't care what happens to me for telling this story, but I wanted to speak the truth."  Obviously this Saipan local had been threatened in the past or feared for what he said about Earhart. Why or by whom, I don't know.  I was startled to hear him say it on camera.

Some were ridiculed for years by others who are/were convinced their version is correct. But none of those dissenting people - the debunkers - have ever met or interviewed a single eyewitness to corroborate their claims or denials. That's telling in and of itself.  

Finally - I'm not interested in arguing about why these people took the time to speak to me on camera about something they witnesses, saw or heard - because it's clear to me why they've done so and should be to anyone with open eyes.

Here are excerpts of the above interviews:



2 comments:

  1. Good report! I also believe racism plays a part in the mystery. I lived on Saipan when I was a child, from 1981 to 1983, and I lived on Navy Hill. The Japanese Jail was near the foot of the hill and was one of the first places we visited. We were escorted by a Chamorro who worked with my stepfather and he told us, without batting an eye, that Amelia Earhart had been imprisoned in the jail. The numerous witnesses from Saipan and the Marshall Islands (over the years) always had me convinced that she and Noonan crash-landed and survived. It's so odd to me that their testimonies have been swept aside as tall-tales or outright lies. But of course, they are brown-skinned and speak broken English and this is where racism bogs down the research. I love the letter from the Marshallese government stating that the eyewitnesses of their islands are (or were) of good reputation and well respected in their community. I completely believe their testimonies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely agree. It's selective racism. The point is - if people were "lying" or "making it up" - why haven't they done that in any other place on the planet? And how do you get a Saipanese to lie or make stuff up that can be corroborated and is precisely what other people saw on the same day at the same time? It's just flat out racism. And those who argue it can't see it - can't see the forest for the trees. Show me a credible witness (two would be nice) that they saw her or fred or the electra in any other place than what these people have been saying consistently since THEY WERE FIRST ASKED. Thanks Navy Hill Girl. RM

      Delete

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.