Amelia Earhart’s disappearance 80 years ago again becomes hot topic in wake of History Channel snafu
In a four-part series, local man offers his own surprising insights into possible plight of famous female aviator!
Editorís note: Gordon Allison Jr. has followed the story of Amelia Earhart since he was a teenager. He became more interested after becoming a commercially rated pilot. As luck would have it, in the early 1970s Allison worked with a technician at Motorola Semiconductor in Phoenix, a fellow pilot, who asked him if he thought Amelia could still be alive. After Allison read the book his friend recommended, Amelia Earhart Lives, the possibility of the crash landing in the Pacific killing Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan seemed far less likely. Over the next four weeks, Allison will share details that you probably havenít heard before about Amelia. Sit down, strap yourself in, and come along for the ride!
By Gordon Allison Jr. | Copyright 2017
Way back in the early 1970s — after reading the book, Amelia Earhart Lives — I called the co-author, Major Joe Gervais, who lived in Las Vegas. The conversation lasted about an hour and was recorded. Major Joe invited my friend and me to fly up from Phoenix to visit him one weekend. And so we did! This was the beginning of a long association, and Iím proud to say ëMajor Joeí became a friend for life. If you want to read the book, look for the author of record, Joe Klaas, who was also a military pilot.
This series of articles will answer the questions: ìWhy do I believe Amelia Earhhart died while in a care facility in July of 1982 here in the U.S.? How did she get along, living on $1 million per year of our tax money? And what happened to Fred Noonan?
When I met Major Joe (MJ) about 1974, I was fascinated by the tales he told about the search he called ìOperation Earhart.î He was a trained US Air Force accident investigator with stories to tell about some of them – especially the B-52 crash in Spain where atomic weapons were torn apart and radioactive materials were spread all over the countryside. He had checked on things regarding Amelia when his Air Force job took him to far-flung parts of the Pacific Ocean. When he got close to the answers he was seeking, the Air Force asked him to give up his search or take retirement. MJ and one of his two fellow Air Force researchers retired, and the other gave up the project.
MJ continuously monitored the FAA records to check on the aircraft registration number, N16020, which was the number for Amelia Earhartís Lockheed Model 10E Electra. Imagine his surprise when he found two different airplanes listed with the same registration number, but having two different serial numbers!
Then MJ came across FAA records with pictures of a crash involving that plane!! Now you ask yourself: How can Ameliaís airplane crash in December of 1961 on the California-Nevada border? . . . when everyone knows she perished in the Pacific somewhere? The obvious answer is that there is at least one other airplane that she flew on the publicity stunt in which she disappeared. Or could it be she and Fred Noonan flew that plane to some destination where she landed and they were taken back to the US?
This was 1937. Why not complete the trip and come home a hero? Well, Amelia was not planning to come back to celebrity status. She was leaving George Putnam, her husband of some six years. She had confided to her very best friend, Jackie Cochran (also a famous aviatrix) that she was not going to return from this round-the-world flight. Could something be going on here?
It seems the Office of Strategic Services (now CIA) devised a plan for a ìfamous woman pilotî to fly around the world, and when in the Pacific, to change course to divert to Japanese-held Saipan. There, during a quick over-flight, this famous aviator would take pictures of the Japanese pre-World War II build-up, and return to give our military some intelligence on what was happening in the Pacific — where outsiders were not allowed to go.
Enter the USAís favorite builder of spy planes, Lockheed!
Think P-38 Lightning, U-2, SR-71, Aurora and maybe others we donít even know about. Lockheed built a faster airplane than Ameliaís Model 10, the XC-35, which looked very much like Ameliaís airplane. The XC-35 could fly over 30,000 feet in altitude and had a pressurized cabin. Its speed would allow Amelia and her navigator Fred to fly from Lae, New Guinea to Saipan and then on to Howland Island in the time Ameliaís Model 10 would take to go directly from Lae to Howland ñ one highly publicized leg of her around-the-world flight.
Amelia was not the best pilot in the world. Her first attempt at the round-the-world flight started in Oakland, CA and went to Hawaii. She crashed the plane on takeoff for the second leg of the flight. Her airplane was taken back to Burbank, Calif. and repaired. Ameliaís husband at the time (famous book publisher George Putnam) sent a telegram to President Roosevelt apologizing for Amelia crashing the airplane. Think about that for a moment! Why would a failed airplane stunt warrant a telegram to the President of the United States? Suppose the US Government secretly paid Purdue University to buy the Lockheed Model 10 for Ameliaís flight? Why would any university buy an airplane for a publicity stunt when the US was working its way out of the deep Depression of the 1930s?
MJ showed me a picture of a twin engine airplane with Amelia and George Putnam standing in front of it. This airplane had also crashed. Ameliaís face showed deep distress like she had killed someone on the ground. The picture was believed to have been taken at the Burbank Airport. Did she crash in the Pacific or did she make a good emergency landing? MJ also told me that before Amelia made her round-the-world flight, she had a ìcabinî in Wyoming with an airstrip where she could fly-in for some rest and recreation. I never heard of any crashes in Meeteetse, WY.
There is an old saying, ìAll roads lead to Rome.î It seems that in Ameliaís case, all roads lead to Saipan. It seems just about every Amelia researcher places her there. On the History Channelís production last Sunday night, July 9, you may have missed something important. They briefly showed a dental bridge that may have belonged to Amelia. However, the investigators said nothing much about it.
It could be very significant as Iíll show you later on in this series of articles. Next week in Part 2, weíll look at where Amelia and Fred ended up during World War II (well after her alleged disappearance) and how Amelia got back to America — in one piece.
The recollections in this series of articles are copyrighted by Gordon Allison, Jr., 2017.