The Morgenthau Transcript
Numerous authors have used a transcript of one side of a 1938 telelphone
conversation between Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau and Eleanor
Roosevelt’s personal secretary Malvina “Tommy” Thompson as evidence that
Amelia Earthart had been covertly working for the U.S. Government.
The transcript is available from:
259 Albany Post Rd
Hyde Park, NY 12538
The document contains a total of 24 pages but almost all of the
references to the phone call are on one page. The original purpose
of the transcript was to record the details of a Treasury Department
staff meeting which took place on May 13, 1938, concerning the
WPA, relief, commodities, etc. The secretary transcribed everything
that was said, including Morgenthau’s side of the phone call that
interrupted the meeting. What he said can easily be misconstrued
to imply that a terrible secret was being kept.
H. M. Jr = Henry Morgenthau Jr.
H.M. Jr.:(on White House phone)
Oh, hello.- Oh, thanks. Hello, Tommy (Malvina Scheider). How are you?
This letter that Mrs. Roosevelt wrote me about trying to get the report
on Amelia Earhart. Now, I’ve been given a verbal report. If we’re
going to release this, it’s just going to smear the whole reputation
of Amelia Earhart, and my ..... Yes, but I mean if we give it to this
one man we’ve got to make it public; we can’t let one man
see it. And if we ever release the report of the Itasca on Amelia
Earhart, any reputation she’s got is gone, because- and I’d
like to- I’d really
like to return this to you.
(continuing) Now, I know what the Navy did, I know what
the Itasca did, and I know how Amelia Earhart absolutely
disregarded all orders, and if we ever release this thing, goodbye
Amelia Earhart’s reputation. Now, really– because if we give
the access to one, we have to give it to all. And my advice is
that – and if the President ever heard that somebody questioned
that the Navy hadn’t made the proper search , after what those
boys went through – I think they searched, as I remember it,
50,000 square miles, and every one of those planes was out, and
the boys just burnt themselves out physically and every other
way searching for her. And if – I mean I think he’d get terribly
angry if somebody – because they just went the limit, and so
did the Coast Guard. And we have the report of all those wireless
messages and everything else, what that woman – happened to
her the last few minutes. I hope I’ve just got to never make
it public, I mean.–O.K. – Well, still if she wants it, I’ll
tell her – I mean what happened. It isn’t a very nice story.
–Well, yes. There isn’t anything additional to something like
that. You think up a good one. – Thank you.
(to Chauncey )
Just send it back.
I mean we tried - people want us to search again those islands, after
what we have gone through. You [meaning Gibbons] know the story, don’t
We have evidence that the thing is all over, sure. Terrible. It would
be awful to make it public.
The Morgenthau Transcript is a classic example of information
that must be reviewed in its correct historical context to be understood.
In those days, the Coast Guard was part of the Treasury Department
so Morgenthau was technically the head of the Coast Guard. At the
end of the unsuccessful search for Earhart, Commander Warner K.
Thompson, the captain of the Itasca, wrote up a long report
entitled “Radio Transcripts Earhart Flight” which reproduced
all of the radio traffic pertaining to Earhart’s flight,
disappearance and the search, interspersed with Thompson’s
narrative and commentary. The report is dated 19 July 1937. In
accordance with Coast Guard regulations prohibiting the release
of private messages (many of the radio messages were non-government)
the report was classified and not made public. That was convenient
for the Coast Guard from a public relations standpoint because
Thompson’s report (not officially
declassified until 23 September 1985) thoroughly trashes Amelia
Earhart and lays the blame for the flight’s disappearance
entirely upon her as an incompetent, willfully negligent, and ultimately “frantic” pilot.
Not surprisingly, Thompson fails to mention the numerous errors
made by the Coast Guard. He also altered some of the messages received
from Earhart – when compared to the original log – so as to support
his own theory and justify his own actions. Of course, nobody knew
this at the time. What Morgenthau had in his hands was an indictment
of an American hero.
Meanwhile, Earhart’s friend and technical advisor Paul Mantz
was not at all convinced that a thorough search had been carried
out of the most likely place for the flight to have gone down –
the islands of the Phoenix Group. At the time of the search, he
and Putnam had both publicly expressed their opinion that the plane
was probably on an uninhabited island or reef. Mantz had seen Thompson’s
report at the San Francisco Coast Guard headquarters immediately
after the search but had not taken any notes. On April 26, 1938,
knowing that AE and the First Lady had been friends, Mantz sent
a letter to Eleanor asking if she could intercede with the Treasury
Dept. to get him a copy of the report. On May 10, 1938 Mrs. Roosevelt
wrote a note to Morgenthau saying
“...Now comes this letter. I don’t know if you can send the
man these records, but, in any case, I am sending you the letter
and let me know whatever your decision may be. Affectionately,
Hence the follow-up call on May 13, 1938 by Eleanor’s personal
secretary. Now read the transcript again. It makes perfect sense.
The reference to Earhart disregarding orders is quite indicative
of the basic problem AE had with Thompson. She considered the Coast
Guard to be there to help her and, in typical Amelia style, she
told them what she wanted them to do. Thompson was not about to
take instructions from a girl and, whether by negligence or design,
largely ignored the schedules and protocols Earhart had specified.
The true significance (or rather insignificance) of the Morgenthau transcript
was fully exposed as early as 1987 in Carol Osborne’s book Amelia My Courageous
Sister. That has not prevented conspiracy authors from peddling it as
something it is not.