S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Amelia Earhart”

Amelia Earhart Died on Saipan Scenario Fiction

The airways and television were abuzz about the “new” photograph that purports to show Earhart and Noonan on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands in Japanese custody. At 8:00 PM, Sunday, 9 July 2017, the History Channel broadcasted a two-hour show claiming that this photograph solves the mysterious disappearance of the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

As a longtime aficionado of the Earhart mystery, I can categorically assert that Earhart and Noonan are not in this picture.Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 5.41.01 PM.png

The following comments are courtesy of TIGHAR.

  • If the flyers were in Japanese custody, where are the Japanese soldiers? Where are the weapons?
    • No one is guarding anyone.
  • Earhart’s hair was much shorter than the hair of the person sitting on the dock who is purportedly Earhart.
  • On the around-the-world flight, Earhart wore a dark, long-sleeved shirt.
    • The woman on the dock is wearing a white shirt.
  • Noonan wore dark trousers and a dark shirt.
    • The man purported to be Noonan wears a wears a white outfit.
  • The man purported to be Noonan has a receding hairline on the right side of his face.
    • Noonan’s receding hairline was on his left side.

***

There is no concrete evidence that Amelia Earhart landed in the Marshal Islands, was captured by the Japanese, taken to Saipan, and died there. NONE. The apocryphal evidence is not enough to make a convincing, provable argument.

The Japanese capture theory is that Earhart crash-landed on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 767 nautical miles NNW of Howland Island—her destination. She and Noonan were picked up by natives. The Japanese found them, took them prisoner as spies found within their very tightly controlled “Bamboo Curtain,” a vast area in the central Pacific that included the Marianas, Marshalls, Carolines, and other islands (taken from the Germans in WWI). The Japanese took the flyers to Jaluit Island on a Japanese ship towing the Electra on a barge. A few days later, the flyers were on Saipan and imprisoned. Noonan was executed (he was a Navy Reserve lieutenant commander). Earhart died of some disease. It’s a great tale. Until some undisputable evidence is proffered, the Saipan scenario remains a fable.

There are no Japanese records. No USA records. No Marshall Island records. No documents. No photographs. No bones that would pass a DNA test. No verifiable parts of her Electra. No eyewitness testimony that’s credible (taken under oath and in the proper setting). Several islanders had averred that they saw Earhart and Noonan in the islands. The islanders tended to tell the questioners what they believed the questioners wanted to hear. Several American G.I.s told researchers about their experiences related to Earhart and Noonan on Saipan. However, not one produced concrete evidence. Accordingly, there is no irrefutable evidence that Earhart died on Saipan while in Japanese custody. None whatsoever. Not even a smidgen.

Actual facts about Amelia Earhart’s flight from Lae, New Guinea, en route to Howland Island:

  • On 2 July 1937, at 1000 hours, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed Lae, New Guinea, with 1,100 standard US gallons of fuel on board.
    • Destination was Howland Island—2,223 nautical miles to the east.
    • Anchored off Howland Island was her guard ship, the USCG Itasca.
    • On average, the twin-engine Electra consumed about 38 US gallons per hour, including takeoff, the climb to altitude, descent, etc.
  • I’ve computed (all factors considered) that her ground speed was about 117 knots from Lae to near Howland.
  • 0720 hours, 2 July, Amelia Earhart transmitted, “We must be on you, but we cannot see you but gas is running low….” (She had crossed the International Date Line.)
    • Her radio transmitter had only 50 watts of power.
    • On board the USCG Itasca the signal strength of the 0720 message was #5, the highest level: loud and clear.
  • Chief Petty Officer Radioman Leo Bellart, USN, senior radio operator on board the Itasca, estimated that the Electra was about 100 nm to 150 nm from Howland.
  • Her flight time from Lae to near Howland was about 19.6 hours.
  • Earhart’s fuel reserve would have been about 88 gallons if she had arrived at Howland Island. That is about 2.3 hours flight time, or 264 nautical miles.

It was physically impossible for Amelia Earhart to fly to Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands—767 nm distant.

The following is a simple Monte Carlo Simulation regarding the fuel needed for an Earhart flight from near Howland to Mili Atoll. All numbers are within 10% to 15% error.

  • Continuing with Earhart’s standard fuel consumption rate (38 gal/hr), it would take her 6.6 hours flight time to reach Mili Atoll. (767 nm ÷ 117 knots = 6.6 hours)
  • Such a flight requires 250 gallons of fuel. (6.6 hours x 38 gal per hour)
  • Fuel remaining in the Electra when near Howland would be 88 gal

Amelia Earhart did not have enough fuel to reach Mili Atoll.

Also, I wonder if she were physically and mentally able to complete a flight of an additional 6.6 hours to Mili Atoll—a total of 25.6 continuous hours in flight. When close to Howland, she had been flying for about 19 hours. On this around-the-world flight, Earhart had been flying off and on for forty-four exhausting days, covering 21,000 nautical miles by the time she had arrived at Lae, New Guinea.

I’m working on an extensive, opinion-neutral monograph that explores the five most publicized scenarios that purport to explain Earhart’s mysterious disappearance, and that evaluates dispassionately their credibility.

For background, I’ve attached the Bamboo Curtain scenario that’s in my monograph.

The Japanese Mandated Islands

Background. To understand the keen interest in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, it’s essential to set the world’s political stage, including the festering issues that would lead to World War II in the Pacific in December 1941.

World War I began 28 July 1914 in Europe, the Mideast, China, and the Pacific islands. Japan declared war on Germany and captured the German Treaty Ports in China: Tsingtao, Hankow, and Tientsin, for example. The Imperial Japanese Navy pursued the German East Asiatic Squadron into the German Pacific Island Colonies—the Marshall Islands, Carolines, Marianas, Solomon, New Britain, and many other island groups. The Japanese Admiralty chose not to pursue the German fleet further. Rather, the Japanese navy occupied these islands. These former German colonies are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls lying about two thousand miles astride the Central Pacific, from Saipan to Guadalcanal.

In 1920, the League of Nations mandated these former German Pacific Colonies to the Empire of Japan with the proviso that Japan would not annex or militarize them, would keep shipping lanes open for all maritime traffic, and would “administer these territories as a sacred trust to develop them for the benefit of the native peoples.”

In February 1933, Japan left the League of Nations and sealed this vast area of the Central and Southern Pacific within the “Bamboo Curtain,” protecting it from all intrusions. The Imperial Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in preparation for the upcoming war with the Occidentals.

The United States Navy knew to a near certainty that a Pacific war with the Empire of Japan was inevitable. Officials were seriously concerned by their lack of intelligence from inside the Bamboo Curtain.

FIN

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 6.06.00 PMPlease visit my website to see information about my book titled Aviators, Adventurers, and AssassinsThe lead novella is Amelia. It is the log of a naval intelligence officer researching the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan (navigator), and her Lockheed Electra model 10E aeroplane. His findings change the history of World War II.

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The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 5.57.39 PM.png

2 July 1937

At 0843 hours, local time, Amelia Earhart transmitted this in-flight message, “We must be on you but cannot see you…but gas is running low.”

Radio operators aboard the USGS Itasca—her guard ship anchored off Howland Island—recorded in the Log Book, “Her voice was loud and clear.” Accordingly, her aircraft, the Lockheed Electra model 10E, must be within 100 nautical miles of the ship. All following efforts to establish either radiotelegraphic or voice communications with Earhart failed.

A few minutes later she transmitted, “We are running on line north and south on the line 157/337. Will repeat this message on 6210.” These were the last words heard from the famous aviatrix.

***

In the mid-1930s, Amelia Earhart was an American icon personified. Her aviation exploits dominated the media. We heard radio broadcasts of her setting new records and heard her speeches, we read the headlines and stories that flooded our newspapers of her exploits, and we saw her in newsreels and her new Lockheed Electra—Purdue University’s flying laboratory to garner aviation’s unknown secrets. In 1937, she started her second attempt to fly around the world as near to the equator as possible. She vanished before reaching Howland Island in the Central Pacific. Where she disappeared and why are the two key questions that are unanswerable with the intelligence we have today.

Pundits and charlatans have proposed numerous scenarios to explain her disappearance. Some are ridiculously bizarre. For example, she became Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s sex slave, or she was the woman broadcaster, “Tokyo Rose.”

Following are five scenarios that prevail in the extant literature—some with no, or minimal credence—none are conclusive.

  1. Amelia Earhart crashed landed in the Japanese controlled Mandate Marshall Islands. She survived; the Japanese captured and interned her. She was repatriated after the war and returned sub-rosa to the USA using the nom de guerre Irene Craigmile Bolam.
  2. Earhart was a Trojan horse. She crashed on purpose in the Marshall Islands so the U.S. Navy could find her and collect intelligence on Japanese fortifications during their search.
  3. Earhart was lost, crash landed inside the Japanese-mandated islands. They captured her and Noonan and imprisoned them on Saipan where they died.
  4. Earhart landed her Electra on the reef at Gardner Atoll in the Phoenix Group. She and Noonan and survived for a while, and the pair died as castaways.
  5. Amelia Earhart missed Howland Island. Out of fuel, the Electra crashed into the ocean and the flyers drowned.

***

The Commander of Naval Intelligence tasked one of his officers, Commander Gregory Thompson, to ferret the facts of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. His startling discovery is revealed in “Amelia,” printed in S. Martin Shelton’s book Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins.


Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 6.06.00 PM.png

Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins will be available as a free eBook download July 2–5.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last: Second Edition

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-10-50-05-am

Rating – Three Stars

For the aficionado of the Amelia Earhart disappearance, Campbell’s book is a must-read. He has assiduously reviewed the relevant literature regarding her last flight and, with keen ingenuity, he has compiled a compelling account that purports to unmask the enduring enigma of that flight. From the pertinent publications, he has excerpted eyewitness accounts (and second- and third-hand narratives), relevant documents, and technical details, and has assembled this substantial information into a coherent chronology.

Background: On 21 May 1937, in Oakland, California, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, started an around-the-world flight in her customized Lockheed Electra model 10E. At 1030 hours on 2 June 1939, they departed Lae, New Guinea, bound on a nonstop flight to Howland Island—2,333 nautical miles distant. They vanished. And the mystery has endured.

With deductive reasoning, Campbell concludes that Amelia Earhart landed her Lockheed Electra model 10E on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands. There is no credible data to explain Earhart’s decision to fly into the Marshall—a dangerous action. Under a 1920 League of Nations mandate, the Japanese controlled the Marshall Islands—the Carolines and the Marianas. Japan sealed off this vast area of the Central Pacific within the Bamboo Curtain. In secret, during the 1930s, the Imperial Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in preparation for the upcoming war with the Occidentals.

Members of the Japanese Navy captured Earhart and Noonan, and took them to Saipan, the Japanese Navy Headquarters in the Pacific. The pair were interrogated, and imprisoned as spies. Eventually, a Japanese officer beheaded Noonan, and Amelia Earhart was either killed or died of disease. Their bodies were buried in unmarked graves.

The rebuttal to this scenario is that there are no artifacts, no photographs, and no written documents—we have nothing tangible. This lack of hard evidence is especially curious. The Japanese were obsessively driven to keep meticulous documentation and to keep Military Headquarters in Tokyo well informed of any out-of-ordinary activities. The capture of the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart would certainly have engendered a flurry of message traffic and entries into the diaries of senior officers. To date, no credible records exist. The Japanese were avid photographers, and many Saipan witnesses averred that they saw photographs of Earhart displayed by Japanese soldiers—yet no such photograph survives.

Notwithstanding the excellence with which Campbell has penned this exposé, I’m chagrined at his arrogant dismissal of all other scenarios that explain Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. In one instance, Campbell gives short shrift to Commander Warner K. Thompson’s 106-page report that was highly critical of Earhart’s piloting skills and decried her radio-technique ineptness. Forthrightly, Commander Thompson, captain of the USS Itasca, blames Amelia Earhart’s serial incompetence for her demise. Also, Campbell tends to reject evidence that counters his rock-solid dogma. Simply put, his singlemindedness in castigating the apostates with scandalous rhetoric and schoolboy name-calling denigrates in large measure his professional standing.

Campbell conducted only marginal original research. Rather, he has relied on secondary sources. He acknowledges missives and oral commentary from Bill Prymak, Thomas Devine, and Jim Golden. His three key publication sources were:

  • Fred Goerner, The Search for Amelia Earhart
  • Thomas E. Devine, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident
  • Vincent V. Loomis, Amelia Earhart: The Final Story

 As the thorough author Campbell is, he includes numerous photographs; Fred Goerner’s “Island Witness List”; a declassified COMNAVMARIANAS radio message to CNO, Subject: Amelia Earhart; a Selected Bibliography including reports and other documents, magazine, newspaper, and blog articles; and an Index.

Campbell writes with deft skills and unbridled passion in this seminal work. His narrative is infectious—a page-turner par excellence. His coherent assembly of the relevant material reflects incredible organizational skills and true dedication to his conviction.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

 

Malaysia Flight 370: Will they find it?

A couple days ago, Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, announced that they have resumed the search for Malaysia Flight 370. Recall that this flight disappeared on 8 March last. Speculation posits that the Boeing model 777-200 ER crashed into the Indian Ocean some 1,200 miles west of Australia. A cadre of nations formed to search team for the missing aircraft using all manner of technical equipment. After six-weeks of searching, researches found no trace of the flight. All clues were apocryphal. Authorities called-off the search to regroup.

Since, two oceanographic ships have mapped 23,000 square miles of a remote area, that is located to the northeast of the original search area—an area largely unknown to scientists, They’ve produced three-dimensional maps that show that the seabed is laced with volcanoes, crevasses, plateaus, and ridges. Depth ranges from about 2,000 feet to about 20.000 feet (almost four miles). On station now is the Dutch-owned and Malaysian-sponsored ship Fugro Phoenix—an oceanographic survey ship. Scheduled to arrive on station shortly are the Fugro Discovery and the Fugro Equator.
Furgo Discover

Furgo Equator]

Furgo Phoenix

I’m skeptical that they will find Flight # 370. The search area is fraught with hazards and I’m not sure that their search technology has the capability to find the aircraft—if it is there. Since this aircraft disappeared, a notion tugs at my reason the Malaysia Flight # 370 is elsewhere.

Malaysia Missing Flight

It’s now thirteen weeks since Malaysia Flight 370—a Boeing model 777 aircraft disappeared.  It’s not where the searchers heard the pings in the Indian Ocean: about one-thousand miles off the coast of western Australia.  Searchers are at a loss.  Flight 370 seems to have vanished into the ether, or elsewhere.

Today, I received an email written by Colonel Bryant Beebe, USAF (ret.).  Now, he flies a Boeing 777 for American Airlines. I’ve added a few explanations of his abbreviations in red parentheses.  After reading Colonel’s Beebe’s email, what are to conclude?

Here’s the Colonel’s email.

“Just a quick update with what I know about the Malaysia 777 disappearance.  The Boeing 777 is the airplane that I fly.  It is a great, safe airplane to fly.  It has, for the most part, triple redundancy in most of its systems, so if one complete system breaks (not just parts of a system), there are usually 2 more to carry the load.  It’s also designed to be easy to employ so 3rd world pilots can successfully fly it.  Sometimes, even that doesn’t work…as the Asiana guys in San Fran showed us.  A perfectly good airplane on a beautiful, sunny day…and they were able to crash it.  It took some doing, but they were able to defeat a bunch of safety systems and get it to where the airplane would not help them and the pilots were too stupid/scared/unskilled/tired to save themselves

There’s many ways to fly the Boeing 777 aircraft and there are safety layers and redundancies built into the airplane.  It is tough to screw up and the airplane will alert you in many ways (noises, alarms, bells and whistles, plus feed back thru the control yoke and rudder pedals and throttles.  In some cases the airplane’s throttles ‘come alive’ if you are going to slow for a sustained period of time)  All designed to help.  But, it’s also non-intrusive.  If you fly the airplane in the parameters it was designed for, you will never know these other things exist.  The computers actually ‘help’ you and the designers made it for the way pilots think and react.  Very Nice.

Now to Malaysia.  There are so many communication systems on the airplane.  3 VHF (Very High Frequency) radios. 2 SatCom (Satellite Communication) systems.  2 HF (High Frequency) radio systems.  Plus Transpoders and active, ‘real time’ monitoring through CPDLC (Controller to Pilot Data Link Clearance) and ADS B (Air Data Service) through the SatCom systems and ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) thru the VHF, HF and SatCom systems.  The air traffic controllers can tell where we are, speed, altitude, etc as well as what our computers and flight guidance system has set into our control panels.  Big Brother for sure!  However, most of these things can be turned off.

But, there are a few systems that can’t be turned off and one, as reported by the WSJ, is the engine monitoring systems (not sure what the acronym for that is, but I’m sure there is one….it’s aviation…there has to be an acronym!).  The Malaysia airplane, like our 777-200’s, use Rolls Royce Trent Engines (as a piece of trivia….Rolls Royce names their motors after rivers….because they always keep on running!)  Rolls Royce leases these motors to us and they monitor them all the time they are running. In fact, a few years back, one of our 777’s developed a slow oil leak due and partial equipment failure.  It wasn’t bad enough to set off the airplane’s alerting system, but RR (Rolls Royce) was looking at it on their computers.  They are in England, they contact our dispatch in Texas, Dispatch sends a message to the crew via SatCom (Satellite Communication in the North Pacific, telling them that RR wants them to closely monitor oil pressure and temp on the left engine.  Also, during the descent, don’t retard the throttle to idle…keep it at or above a certain rpm.  Additionally, they wanted the crew to turn on the engine ‘anti ice’ system as the heats some of the engine components.

The crew did all of that and landed uneventfully, but after landing and during the taxi in, the left engine shut itself down using it’s redundant, computerized operating system that has a logic tree that will not allow it to be shut down if the airplane is in the air…only on the ground.  Pretty good tech.   Anyway, the point was, that RR monitors those engines 100% of the time they are operating.  The WSJ reported that RR indicated the engines on the Malaysia 777 were running normally for 4 to 5 hours after the reported disappearance.  Malaysia denies this.  We shall see.”

Here are my thoughts.

  • It’s extremely difficult for an aviator to make a serious error in piloting the Boeing model 777.
  • To shut down all the communications system requires an aviator to have in-depth knowledge of the basic design of this aircraft.
  • One or both of the aviators of this aircraft colluded to divert this aircraft away from it’s intended course—to Beijing.
  • One or both of the aviators pirated Malaysia Flight 370.
  • This aircraft is elsewhere.  (I have an educated guess, but will refrain from disclosing it for now.)

Famous Missing Flights

Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared over six weeks ago. The primary search instrument is damaged, and for now, the hunt for this airplane is on hold.  Some of the searchers wonder if this airplane is in the wide area in which they are looking.   Meantime, let’s review some of the more famous aircraft disappearances.

 

8 May 1927.    Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli

Charles Nungesser, French flying ace with 43 aerial victories, and Francois Coli, his expert navigator, departed Le Borget airport, Paris, bound for New York City in their biplane dubbed L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird).  Their goal was to be the first persons to complete a successful transatlantic flight.  Sometime after they cleared the Irish coast, they disappeared somewhere in the North Atlantic.  Researchers did not fine the bodies or wreckage of the aircraft.  The fate of Nungesser and Coli has spawned a raft of conspiracy theories and is called the “Everest of aviation mysteries.”

1

Charles Nunesser

2

L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird)

 

8 November 1935.  Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his co-pilot John Thompson “Tommy” Pethybridge.

 

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, the famous Australian aviator and his co-pilot John Thompson “Tommy” Pethybridge were attempting to break the England to Australia speed record in their Lockheed Altar dubbed the Lady Southern Cross.  Currently that record was held by C. W. A. Scott and Tom Campbell Black.  The pair disappeared on their leg from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, somewhere over the Andaman Sea.  Searchers did not find wreckage or were bodies were recovered.

3

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

4

Sir Charles Kingsford Smih and the Lockheed Altair, Lady Southern Cross

 

 

2 July 1937.  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.

 

 Image: Amelia Earhart

During the summer of 1937, Amelia Earhart (famous aviatrix) and Fred Noonan (expert navigator) attempted to fly around the world in her Lockheed Electra model 10E.  Her planned course was to track as close to the equator as possible.  On 1st of June 1937 she departed the Oakland Airport.  After numerous stops en route. she landed at Lae, New Guinea, on  29 June.  Completing minor repairs, she departed Lae on 2 July, at 1000 hours, local time.  Her goal was Howland Island, a spec in the Pacific, about 2,200 nautical miles east.  She made several en route position reports.  But on her approach to Howland, some 300 miles out, and for reasons we do not know, she became disoriented.  She tried to communicate with the Coast Guard cutter Itasca, her guide ship stationed at Howland, but failed to get a bearing on this ship.  No trace of the Electra or her or Noonan have been found.  [For a more detailed story regarding Amelia Earhart please see my anthology titled (Aviators, Assassins, and Adventurers).]

 

18th March 1937, American aviator Miss Amelia Earhart is pictured with her ,Flying Laboratory in which she is attempting to fly around the world from her oakland, California, USA base

Amelia Earhart and the Lockheed model 10E

 

 

29 July 1938 Pan American World Airways, Martin M-130 Flying Boat

Early in the morning of 29 July 1938, Pan American World Airways Martin M-140 flying Boat Hawaii Clipper lifted off from Apra Harbor, Guam, bound for Manila—about 1,400 nautical miles west and about a twelve-hour flight.  Hawaii Clipper’s registration number was NC14714 and its call sign was KHAZB.   On board were nine crew members and six passengers

 

 

7

Pan American World Airways, Martin M-130 Flying Boat

 

 

 

Every half-hour, William McCarty, the Flight Radio Operator and Navigator, transmitted to Manila and Guam a position report and weather conditions. His last report, at noon, was routine: altitude is 9,100 feet, ground speed is 112 knots, scattered rain, and cumulus clouds with tops at 9,200 feet. At the time, the Hawaii Clipper was about 680 nautical miles out from Manila. During the next several minutes, Eduardo Fernandez, radio operator at Radio Panay (Manila), tried to raise the Hawaii Clipper—to no avail. His numerous radio requests for information during the next ninety minutes to the aircraft went unanswered. At 13:30, Pan American officials in Manila declared the Hawaii Clipper missing and broadcasted the distress call on 121.5 mega-cycles to all stations. This distress call was repeated every five minutes for twenty-four hours.  No trace of this flying boat has been found.

 (To read more about this story please see my anthology titled Aviators, Adventurers, and Assassins.)

14 December 1944.  Glenn Miller (famous big-band leader of the 1930s and 1940s)

8

Major Glenn Miller, USAAF

 

Major Glenn Miller boarded the Noorduyn UC-64 “Norseman” shortly before it departed from the Royal Air Force Base at Clapham, Bedforshire in the United Kingdom bound for Paris.  Glenn Miller was to lead his Army Air Force band in concerts for soldiers.

 

9

Noorduyn UD-64

 

 

The Norseman disappeared over the English Channel.  No trance of Miller, the pilot, or the aircraft have been found. There are no tangible clues to this tragedy.  The Glenn Miller Orchestra was one of the most famous of the big-bands.  His signature tunes were: Moonlight Serenade, Chattanooga Choo Choo, String of Pearls, Pennsylvania 6-5000, Tuxedo Junction, In the Mood, and Elmer’s Tune

 

5 December 1945.  Navy Flight 19

 

It was a bright, sunny day.  At 1410 on 5 December 1945, five Grumman TBM Avengers, comprising Flight 19, departed Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale.   Turning east, the formation headed out over the Atlantic on the first leg of a routine training exercise. The flight leader was a flight instructor and the other well-qualified pilots had between 350 to 400 hours flight time.

10

Grumman TBM Avengers

 

At 1545 hours the flight leader transmited, “Cannot see land,” he blurts. “We seem to be off course.”   A few minutes later he said, “We cannot be sure where we are,” the flight leader announced. “Repeat: Cannot see land.”  Shortly another aviator said, “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”  Later the tower operators heard, “It looks like we are entering white water.  We’re completely lost.”  For a few moments, the pilot rambles incoherently before uttering the last words ever heard from Flight 19.

Radio contact was lost before the exact problem was determined, and no traces of the planes were ever found in the Bermuda Triangle. Nothing from Flight 19 has been found.

Adding to the mystery of Flight 19, a Martin PBM seaplane with a 13-man crew was launched to search for the missing TBM aircraft.  For reasons we do not know, it also disappeared and has no trace has been found.

 

23 November 1953.  Northrop F-89C.

On the evening of November 23, 1953, operators at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Air Defense Command Ground Intercept radar identified an unusual target near the Soo Locks. The Duty Officer ordered an F-89C Scorpion jet from Kinross Air Force Base scrambled to investigate this radar return.  First Lieutenant Flex Eugene Moncla was the Scorpion pilot; Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson was the Scorpion’s radar operator.

Wilson had problems tracking the object on the Scorpion’s radar, so ground radar operators gave Moncla directions towards the object. Flying at 500 miles per hour, Moncla eventually closed on the object at an altitude about 8000 feet.

11

Northrop F-89C Scorpion

                                                      

Ground Control tracked the Scorpion and the unidentified object as two “blips” on the radar screen. The two blips on the radar screen grew closer and closer, until they merge into one radar return.  Assuming that Moncla had flown either under or over the target, Ground Control thought that the Scorpion and the object would again appear as two separate blips Rather, the single blip disappeared from the radar screen, then there was no return at all.  Attempts were made to contact Moncla via radio, but this was unsuccessful. A search and rescue operation was quickly mounted, but failed to find a trace of the plane or the pilots.

Some wags claim that the Scorpion was captured by a Unknown Flying Object (UFO).

 

16 March 1962.  Lockheed L-1049. Super Constellation.  Flying Tiger Line, Charter Flight 739:

Lockheed Super Constellation

Lockheed L-1049. Super Constellation

This U.S. military flight departed Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, bound for Air Force Base, Clark Field in the Republic of the Philippines.  On board were approximately 96 passengers and eleven crew members.  Flight 739 disappeared over the Western Pacific without a trace.  The pilots did not broadcast a distress radio call. If they used visual identification methods, such as flares or markers they were not seen.   The U.S. Civil Aeronautics board ruled that it was “unable to determine the probable cause of the incident.”  All 107 souls were declared missing and presumed dead.

FIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amelia, 2009 Film Review

ImageFox Sunlight Pictures.  Mira Nair, director.  Hilary Swank and Richard Gere lead actors.  Ron Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan screen-play writers.  111 minutes.   2009.

So I’m tardy with this review.  Not so.  I published it in In Sync magazine in its January 2010 issue—shortly after I viewed this film.  Now that my new social media is functioning, I’m publishing it again.  It synchronizes with my upcoming short story book Aviators, Adventurers, and Assassins which contains a flagship documentary-style novella that reveals the skullduggery extant on Earhart’s last flight, entitled Amelia.   (See sheltoncomm.com)

I’m an ol’ codger.  Amelia Earhart was an icon in my youth.  As an eight-year old nipper, I remember clearly where I was and what I was doing when I heard on the radio broadcast that Amelia Earhart was missing somewhere near Howland Island in the Central Pacific.  Yes, I’m that young.  With the massive search conducted by the US Navy, I was confident that they’d find her.  To no avail, unfortunately.    Accordingly, I have a vested interest in Amelia Earhart.

To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, Amelia is an awful film.  It’s a great film.

Let’s explore “awful” first.   Amelia is a mishmash of miscellaneous scenes that lack coherence and purpose.  This film stumbles along some path I cannot discern.  If the viewer does not know the details of Amelia’s life, they may well wonder, when the lights come on, What was this film about?  

Infrequently does Amelia engender empathy.  Without empathy, there is no involvement, entertainment, or communication.  On the whole, directing and acting are pedestrian—save Swank, from time-to-time.  Gere is wooden—not the robust hustler that was George Putnam.

I cringed that far, far too many close-ups show the actors staring into space looking at something off screen, or infernally smiling about something we cannot fathom or see.  Amelia is more of a romantic film than an autobiographical film of the dynamic aviatrix.  Perhaps, I expected too much.

Technical errors are myriad.  No need to discuss here; there’re posted on IMDb.   However, I’ll discuss a few that particularly vex me.   This film overlooks the fact that Amelia Earhart was a mediocre pilot, at best.  That’s what killed her.  She was over confident, stubborn, and had a narcissistic ego.  She believed Putnam’s publicity.  She failed to listen to her mentor, Paul Mantz, about learning Morse code and using the long-range antenna to transmit its signals.  She was palpably ignorant about radio procedures and its technical factors.  Her refusal to practice radio protocols with her guide ship, the USCGC Itasca is particularly troubling and is the direct reason of her death.

The last scene is a disaster—a collage of technical nonsense.  Earhart is lost.  She cannot find Howland.  She is low on petrol.  And she cannot communicate with the Itasca with congruity.  Again prior knowledge of these few critical minutes is essential to understanding this scene and her fate.

If I were directing this last scene, we’d see the Electra from a high-angle, rear shot flying over the ocean and receding in size until it disappears.  On the soundtrack, we hear the twin-engines on the Electra purring loudly.  As the Electra decreases in size, the volume of the engines reduces in synchronization with the visuals. Mixed with the engine sounds, we faintly hear the jumbled voice radio-communications between Amelia and the Itasca. This voice also fades in volume.  Shortly we hear the engines supper, cough, and quit, one by one.  Then silence as the Electra disappears from view.

It’s a great film.  I was disappointed that Art Direction did not get a nomination for an Academy Award.  Airplanes, props, costumes, and automobiles set an authentic 1930s ambiance.  Swank is Amelia—outstanding look-alike with makeup, hairstyle, and clothes.  Most of the flying scenes of the ol’-time airplanes are spectacular—even the computer generated.  The blending of newsreel footage into the narrative is excellent.  Lastly, the Richard Rogers and Lorentz Hart tune Blue Moon sung by a pretend Billie Holiday stirs the soul.

 

 

 

 

 

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