Amelia Earhart becomes a pawn in U.S. – Japanese back channel negotiations during World War II !

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Did Earhart shed her identity?

Eventually returning to USA disguised as a nun?

This cover is believed to be the only surviving copy, inadvertently left behind when Earhart departed with many others – meant to accompany her on the 1937 around-the-world flight.

By Gordon Allison Jr. | Copyright 2017

Part Two of a four-part series

Editor’s note: Last week, Allison described how he met Major Joe Gervais, co-author of a book titled ‘Amelia Earhart Lives’ written in the early 1970s. In this second installment, Allison credits the two-hour documentary produced by the History Channel (and broadcast on Sunday, July 9) as possible corroboration of a theory that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan did not crash land in the Pacific Ocean, but rather safely landed on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The History Channel program placed Amelia on Saipan – specifically, in Garapan where the Japanese jail is located. There is a picture on Google Earth of the old Japanese jail. What happened from there?


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The Las Vegas home of Major Joe Gervais (I called him ‘MJ’) home was broken into by some very good burglars. In fact, they stole nothing, but left four rolls of official US Navy 16 mm movie film in his locked SAFE! The Las Vegas police investigated and found no marks on the doors or locks or windows and no evidence on the safe. Strange!

Joe Gervais and his co-author Joe Klaas went through every frame of the film and found a couple grainy pictures that they published in their book. One appears to show an object (airplane) on the beach and there is a Japanese flag in the background.

The History Channel attempted, without success, to duplicate the radio messages Amelia sent after the airplane landed. Some ham radio operators claimed to have heard Amelia’s radio transmissions, but the frequencies she used were not good for long distance communications with little radio signal power.

The Japanese had 11 radio direction-finding (RDF) receiver sites amongst the islands where they were in control. The US had five sites – one on the Coast Guard ship Itasca, another on Howland Island itself, and three RDF stations owned by Pan American Airways. Pan Am produced three one-page typed reports, one from each of its sites, showing Amelia’s transmissions, which triangulated her location around Knox Atoll, adjacent to Mili Atoll. MJ had copies of the Pan Am stations’ reports showing the bearings to Amelia’s airplane.

Before her around-the-world flight, Amelia told a news reporter “off the record” that she was not planning to come back as a media celebrity. She was tired of her husband, famous book publisher George Putnam, always pushing her to set more records and do more publicity stunts.

Amelia had a plan that the OSS could go along with. She would fly a spy mission to Truk or Saipan in a faster airplane (Electra XC-35) than the one she flew to Lae, New Guinea (Electra M-10), and she would make contact with the Itasca at Howland Island and continue on to Hull Island. There a runway built by Pan Am awaited Amelia and Fred. The government gets its spy pictures, Amelia comes back with a new identity, Fred could have a new name, and all parties are happy!

Obviously, the spy mission plan failed, and Amelia and Fred were captured. Maybe they were on Mili Atoll at some point and maybe not. I would like to know who says the History Channel picture is bogus! Could the US government have planted the idea that the picture was taken earlier (1935) than when Amelia could have been there? The refuting picture looked very grainy. Would the magazine it supposedly came from have published a picture that poor?

But we do know they were on Saipan at some point. We know the Japanese captured them. MJ has two pictures in his book that appear to indicate Amelia was in Tokyo and presumed to be at Emperor Hirohito’s Imperial Palace. One was planted in MJ’s safe. Yes, another break-in!

So why was Amelia taken to the palace? Japan had declared all its citizens were warriors for the cause. But, suppose Japan let the US know it had two American spies and would keep them safe if Hirohito was not charged with war crimes. George Putnam was taken to a listening station in China for him to hear broadcasts by Tokyo Rose. Putnam said, “ It isn’t Amelia!” Guess what! Hirohito wasn’t charged with war crimes, but other Japanese military staff were brought to trial!

Another interesting circumstance is that celebrity millionaire and aviator Howard Hughes had an airplane built for him to set speed records called the H-1 Racer. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institute. Before WWII, the tooling for that airplane disappeared from Lockheed. There is speculation that the tooling ended up in Japan as perhaps a ransom for Amelia and Fred Noonan.

Consider these facts: The Japanese Zero fighter had an engine the same size as the H-1, it flew at a speed within one mile per hour of the H-1, and it could climb to about the same altitude as the H-1. Could the tooling have been given to Japan as ransom for Amelia? That could be a huge reason we will never know the whole story!!

In Part One, I briefly mentioned Jackie Cockran, Amelia’s best friend. Jackie earned her pilot’s license in a mere three weeks! As of 1980, Jackie was an aviatrix who held more aviation records than any man or woman. She was the first woman to break the sound barrier with the help of Chuck Yeager. I believe she was responsible for convincing General “Hap” Arnold to form the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) to relieve male pilots from transporting aircraft around the world and flying target training missions so more pilots were available to fight in World War II.

As an adjutant to General Arnold in charge of the WASPs, Jackie had flown bombers during the war. She retired from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force Reserve. Immediately after the victory in Japan, Jackie flew a B-29 bomber to Tokyo and brought a woman dressed as a “Nun” out of Japan. Some reports say a group of “Nuns.” The Amelia and Fred trail gets cold at that point.

Next time, we’ll look at where Amelia ended up in the good old USA after the war. How was she making her money? I have another slight connection to this story too. Any information that County Compass readers have that would add to this story, please contact me through the newspaper.

The recollections in this series of articles are copyrighted by Gordon Allison, Jr., 2017.


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