Earhart found?

n the Dec. 24, 2004, edition of General Aviation News, I found the article “Ready for an adventure?” written by Meg Godlewski. It mentions Nauticos and the expedition they are organizing to find Amelia Earhart this month. She and Frank Noonan disappeared July 2, 1937. Your article says that “No trace of them has been found, so far.” Yes Meg, they were found.

Through the public libraries we have several books written on this subject under the name Amelia Earhart. The book that tells us about them is “World Flight, The Earhart Trail,” by Ann Holtgren Pellegreno. It is a very interesting book. Pages 211 and 214 tell us about Amelia and Frank.

Maybe Nauticos would like to read this book, if they have not done it yet.

Dario Bran, Sr.
Tampa, Fla.

Editor’s Note: The search for Amelia Earhart continues this month as the Nauticos team is set to begin its 2005 expedition aboard the RV Mt. Mitchell. During the six-week adventure, the vessel will search 1,000 square miles of ocean at depths of up to 20,000 feet using scan sonar.

We forwarded this letter to Nauticos for their response, which follows:

Unfortunately, nearly 70 years of confusion and obfuscation surround Amelia’s disappearance. Our approach is based on the extensive research of Elgen and Marie Long and a comprehensive “renavigation” of the flight from Lae. The Longs spent decades tracking down every rumor and theory, including the one in the Pellegreno book.

The stories related by Ann Pellegreno in “World Flight” on pages 211-214 are the old Saipan stories from World War II. These are primarily based on anecdotal evidence from the memories of Thomas Devine and Josephine Blanco (a native daughter of Saipan of Chamorro descent).

According to Devine, he saw Earhart’s Electra (NR16020) unblemished at the Japanese airfield on Saipan. Earhart’s plane disappeared in July 1937 and the Battle of Saipan occurred in June 1944. If you check the battle reports for the airfield in question, you will find it was bombed heavily and shelled unmercifully for days before the invasion. During the land battle that followed, control of the airfield changed back and forth about five times. The heavy artillery, mortar and small arms fire destroyed everything of consequence at the airfield. No plane on that field that was there from the start of the battle would have survived.

It also seems unlikely that U.S. pilots would not have noticed the presence of a non-Japanese plane, especially since the Earhart plane had been so widely reported and known to aviators of the time. Further, had this plane been sitting around the airfield for seven years, it is likely to have been seen long before by Japanese and local citizens and undoubtedly be part of the memories of many people.

I lived on Saipan and I know the island first hand. Extensive efforts have been made to identify every piece of old airplane, tank and ordinance dropped. I visited the jail where Amelia was allegedly held and died. I talked to the woman who said her family took food to a female prisoner in the jail. They allege that she gave them a ring, but it has been lost. During the Japanese period in Saipan, virtually no one in Saipan spoke English. Most spoke either Chamorro, Carolingian and limited Japanese. The extent of communication with any alien Caucasian would be very limited. If a female prisoner were there, she could have been almost anyone.

According to Josephine Blanco-Akiyama, she was taking a lunch to Tanapag Harbor where her brother-in-law worked. While she was there, she saw a white woman with short hair get out of a plane that landed in Tanapag Harbor. Earhart’s plane was not equipped for water landings. After World War II ended, Josephine worked as an assistant to a navy dentist. She told this story to the dentist and he later repeated it to newspaper reporters.

Elgen and Marie Long interviewed the dentist at his home in New Jersey approximately 30 years ago. He was a great story teller, but had no personal knowledge of Josephine’s story.

As it happened, Marie Long became acquainted with Josephine Blanco-Akiyama, who operated a beauty shop in San Mateo, Calif., where the Longs lived. Marie became a customer. They interviewed her formally and visited with her on numerous occasions. They found Josephine to be sincere, but their conclusion was that it was a young girl’s vague memory that became embellished over the years.

These stories were what got Fred Georner going on his book “The Search For Amelia Earhart.” Among the many pieces of “evidence” that are often used is a photo of Amelia in a car driven by an Asian male. This picture was found by GIs in a bar in Saipan after the war and was widely reported to be “proof” of her presence in Saipan. The photo resides in the archive of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and was taken by a Honolulu photographer when Amelia was in Hawaii several years before her last flight.

Many of these tales have surfaced over the years. They involve many locations where Earhart was reported to have crashed and been captured, including Mili, Jaluit, Tinian, Saipan, Chuuk (formerly Truk), Gardner Island, Hull Island, New Britain, and several of the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. The Longs counted about 30 different tales.

It is only natural for people to hope that “Amelia was here,” but the evidence is sketchy in all cases. People want to believe they have a connection to Amelia because she is so compelling. Sadly, they fail to recognize that these stories make finding the real Amelia story harder.

It is the belief of our team that Earhart was doing exactly what she said she was and that she fell victim to the hazards of such a bold flight in that time and place. She deserves to have her legacy defined and refined by resolving the mystery of her disappearance.

Charlotte Vick
Nauticos Team Member

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