The Saipan Veteran Eyewitnesses

Lest we forget these fellows - whom I interviewed in 2003.  All three are no longer with us, but all three were on Saipan, their stories have been corroborated by a number of sources, plus I went to Saipan and filmed 15 near eyewitnesses who said the same things these three GI's said. 

Thomas Devine saw her plane, saw it destroyed, Robert Wallack found her briefcase, passport - held onto them for two weeks before he turned it over to the CO for Julious Nabers - who Devine witnesses guarded the Electra (but didn't know it was him, until Julious repeated the same story word for word of what he told people who tried to enter the hangar "order is orders" - a corroboration from Devine without him knowing it was one.  

Nabers decoded the message that said they had found her plane in July 44, guarded the plane for 24 hours - as in the entire day without sleep - was only given half a peanut butter sandwich (odd but telling detail), later saw the briefcase that was turned over to his CO (Clarence R. Wallace, whose uniform hangs in a frame in Quantico) Nabers also watched the plane destroyed by US military, and gave the SAME DESCRIPTION as did Devine, even thought neither ever met.  

Later, on Saipan, we interviewed 15 new eyewitnesses who told the same story. She was brought there, incarcerated, died in custody - was dug up by two GI's (as was Fred) and partially recovered - the plane was found, and after some weeks deciding what to do about it, the "people who can decide these things" decided to destroy it.  It was buried at the end of the runway at Aslito where it's steel frame rests to this day.  Not a theory, not a belief, not an opinion.  Just what people consistently report.

Here's an article from USA TODAY:

HAGATNA, Guam — A man with ties to Saipan shared information that promotes a theory that Amelia Earhart was brought to the island and held prisoner 80 years ago. 

William “Bill” Sablan, who lives on Chamorro, said his uncle Tun Akin Tuho worked at the prison where Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were taken prisoner in Saipan.

The History Channel shared the theory that the two were taken prisoner in a recent TV special called Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.

Eighty years after Earhart made her voyage around the world, people are still trying to figure out what happened to the famed pilot.

The theory shared by History’s TV special says Earhart was captured and executed on Saipan by the Empire of Japan. The U.S. government and military knew it (and even found and exhumed her body). And both governments have been lying about it ever since.

Sablan’s uncle’s story fits this theory.

In 1971, he was speaking with his uncle and cousin about his dream of becoming a pilot when his uncle mentioned the people that were held prisoner in Saipan.

His uncle described an American woman and man taken to a Saipan prison in the mid-1930s by ship. He said they were found with a plane on a southern Pacific Island under Japanese control.

Sablan said Earhart was brought to Saipan, for it was a hub for the Japanese.

His uncle said that he remembers the woman and man because Caucasian people were rare on Saipan. The prison was usually quiet, but the pair's arrival caused a commotion.

“They had no reason to be there,” Sablan said.

His uncle said the plane they were flying was dropped somewhere in the ocean before coming to Saipan.

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The uncle said that the two were in the Saipan prison for two or three days before they were killed.

Sablan said it's possible the U.S. found and relocated the remains.

According to news files, in 1960 a CBS radio man, Fred Goerner, spoke with at least a dozen reliable witnesses from Saipan, who shared that before the war, two white people arrived on Saipan — described as “flyers” or “spies” — and they were held in the Japanese jail.

They said the flyers were tall and one of them was a woman, but her hair was cut short and she was wearing men’s clothing, files state.

The year was 1937, the same year Earhart and Noonan were lost.

The History TV special theory rests on an ambiguous photograph, said to have been taken in 1937, that might show Earhart and Noonan alive on a dock in the Marshall Islands. At the time, the islands were controlled by Japan.

A Japanese military history blogger Kota Yamano undermined a new theory that Amelia Earhart survived a crash in the Pacific Ocean during her historic attempted around-the-world flight in 1937.

The history blogger posted the same photograph that formed the backbone of a History channel documentary that argued that Earhart was alive in July 1937 — but the book the photo was in was apparently published two years before the famed aviator disappeared.

A retired federal agent said he discovered the image in 2012 in the National Archives in College Park, Md. The blogger said he found the same image digitized in Japan's National Diet Library.


Josephine Blanco, center, hugs her nephew, Harry Blanco, as John Blanco, also a relative, looks on. 
(Erwin Encinares)

Two persons reportedly saw on two separate occasions the lost aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart on Saipan, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Josephine Blanco, a 93-year old who reportedly saw Earhart in the Tanapag Harbor in 1937, noted that at the time, she didn’t know it was Earhart. She was 12 years old at the time.

“I cannot say she is pretty because I saw her from a distance,” Blanco said yesterday at a welcoming dinner at the Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan.

“I didn’t even go inside [the harbor area],” she said, adding that it was a commotion in the area that caught her attention. She said she was halfway toward the harbor, and that was where she caught a glimpse of a woman’s figure.

“I didn’t go there to look for somebody or meet somebody. I just happened to be there,” she said, adding that she found out it was Earhart only after World War II.

WWII started in 1939.

“I didn’t tell anybody, I didn’t know about her,” Blanco said. “Only my family knew—my sister worked [in the area], and she knew too.”

Blanco mentioned other family members who knew of Earhart, but noted that they have all passed away.

Eighty-five-year-old Joaquin T. Salas was 11 when he believed he saw Earhart in 1944.

Salas noted that he is unsure if the woman he saw then was Earhart, but was sure that he saw her on a Japanese military truck with three others.

“There were two men and one lady, a blonde. They put one ribbon on her face, and her hands were tied,” he said. The truck parked in front of their house, which was across the post office in Chalan Kanoa today.

Salas said he watched them stay in front of their residence for about an hour.

“After that, they took off. I don’t know where they went,” he said.

Salas was able to reproduce through a drawing what he remembers were the positions of the military truck.

Salas believes the Japanese captured Earhart, and that they parked in front of their house at that time.
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.