Amelia Earhart returns to USA surfacing as Irene Bolam, a ‘simple New Jersey housewife’
Part Three of a series
Editor’s Note: The book ‘Amelia Earhart Lives’ — co-authored in 1970 by Major Joe Gervais (MJ) and Joe Klaas — alleged that ‘simple New Jersey housewife’ Irene Bolam was in fact Amelia Earhart, who returned to the USA surreptitiously after World War II. Over the years, various reports have surfaced that Gervais and Klaas were discredited when publishing house McGraw-Hill recalled the book from shelves following a lawsuit by Bolam.
Gordon Allison Jr. (the author of this series) was a good friend and confidante of Gervais. Allison contends that McGraw-Hill did so to cut its losses. No retraction statement was ever made! “Remember, when the government wants things hushed up, things happen,” says Allison.
Allison recalls that his friend, MJ, always said, “Prove me wrong!” Maybe the powers-that-be thought intervening years would make the public quest for answers evaporate. Wrong! Allison hopes this series will help gain redemption for his friend Gervais, who doggedly pursued the quest for the rest of his life.
Allison notes that Tod Swindell is another Amelia Earhart researcher who met with Major Gervais prior to MJ’s death. If you want to dig deeper into this mystery, check Tod ’s website, www.Irene-Amelia.com.
By Gordon Allison, Jr.
My first introduction to information about the Earhart mystery was Fred Goerner’s book, The Search For Amelia Earhart, published in 1966 by Doubleday & Company. Goerner was a CBS Radio newsman in the San Francisco office. CBS paid for several trips for him to traipse around the Pacific to interview people in the same time frame as MJ was there.
Goerner made trips to Saipan twice and is remembered for diving in the waters around Saipan looking for Amelia’s Lockheed Model 10E Electra. He brought a starter motor and generator off the engine of a twin-engined airplane back to the US. Analysis of the starter and generator showed the bearings in both, as well as capacitors in the generator, were Japanese made. Bendix stated the components were copies of their designs, but not exact. My guess is that the airplane was a twin-engine Japanese Betty bomber.
Admiral Chester Nimitz arranged for Goerner to meet high level US military people. Goerner also placed Fred Noonan (Earhart’s navigator for the 1937 round-the-world flight) and Amelia in the Marshall Islands after they were supposed to have died crashing into the ocean.
Like Gervias, Goerner had people “tailing” him. That has to mean something. Goerner claimed to have talked to one of those people and later had a meeting with someone higher up in their organization. The organization was not directly identified, but a really good guess would be CIA. The higher-up contact indicated there were some sensitive installations in the areas where Goerner was searching and hoped those would not be disclosed. The higher-up promised Goerner he would get the exclusive story on what was going on, but that never happened.
Last week, in Part II of this series, I reported that Amelia Earhart’s best friend, Jackie Cochran, flew a B-29 bomber to Tokyo and brought a woman dressed as a “Nun” out of Japan right after the war was over. Some reports say a group of “Nuns.” Is it possible the “Nuns” were Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan?
Jackie Cockran’s husband was Floyd B. Odlum, a millionaire back when a million dollars was worth something. He was a movie executive at RKO, financier, lawyer, and a friend of Howard Hughes. Odlum had financed some of Amelia’s aviation exploits. Jackie may have been the one to convince General Dwight David Eisenhower to run for president in 1952. She flew to Europe to show Ike a film of a rally arranged at Madison Square Garden to show him that he was very popular and could win the US presidency.
According to Gervais, Amelia surfaced as Irene Craigmile, who married Guy Bolam, identified as an executive with Radio Luxemborg. The Bolams’ properties included homes in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Europe , Sanford, NC! Floyd and Jackie Cochran Odlum also owned properties next door to several of the Bolam’s homes.
Another lady pilot, Viola Gentry, was also a friend of Amelia, and a founding member of the “Ninety-Nines” (99s), an aviation group made up of the first 99 women pilots licensed between 1903 and 1933. Gentry was born in Rockingham, NC, and received her pilot’s license in 1924, the first woman pilot in North Carolina. For many years, the 99s sponsored a women pilots’ race that became known as the “Powder Puff Derby.” The women usually fly as teams of two or three pilots. Airplanes gather either on the east or the west coast and race from the starting coast to the other coast. There are fixed stops along the race route. The planes take off at given times and race to the next overnight stop. They buzz the field and get a time of arrival before landing. One of my instructor pilots, Margaret Ringenberg, was an avid racer who entered every year with her daughter. Margaret also was a former WASP pilot. NBC TV news anchor Tom Brokaw wrote about her in his book, The Greatest Generation. Margaret gave Tom a flying lesson when he went to Indiana to film her for the NBC Evening News. But I digress.
Viola Gentry invited Major Gervais to present a program at a meeting of the Long Island Early Flyers’ Club at the Club’s expense in 1965. MJ had been in contact with Gentry about his research regarding the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and his contention that Amelia had assumed a new identity as Irene Bolam.
To her credit, Gentry invited him to present a program to the Club on the status of his hunt to find Amelia. The day before the meeting, MJ visited William Van Dusen, an Eastern Airlines executive, in Connecticut. More about that next time.
MJ was somewhat taken aback when he learned that Irene Bolam wouldn’t be at the Club meeting. But at some point, she and her husband, Guy, walked down the lawn towards MJ. Gervais asked permission to take her picture with her husband and she agreed. MJ was surprised to see Irene Bolam wearing several medallions around her neck – ones that Amelia had won!
MJ (who always came prepared) asked Guy Bolam if he knew the name of a certain person (who at the time headed Radio Luxemborg). Bolam replied no – yet the person should have been known to Bolam – it was supposedly his boss at Radio Luxemborg! Strange!
After Amelia Earhart Lives was published in 1970 — outing Irene Bolam as the real Amelia Earhart — Irene Bolam sued McGraw-Hill and claimed she was just a “simple New Jersey housewife,” not Amelia Earhart. However, at the press conference she called, it was easily descerned that Irene handled the reporter’s questions like an expert, not a simple housewife!
Next week in Part 4 of this series, the already convoluted plot thickens! The recollections in this series of articles are copyrighted by Gordon Allison, Jr., 2017.