Forum artHighlights From the Forum

January 6 through 13, 1999

Subject: Noonan and Radio
Date: 1/6/99
From: Bob Williams

To: Mike E.

In the 30s, all Pan Am Captains were required to possess a Radiotelegraph Second Class License. The company had training classes to prepare them for the tests.

The research done here on Noonan shows that he was a very intelligent man. He went from school drop out to Merchant Marine Captain without any formal training. I think he would have also been able to obtain the license. I have known several that obtained that license when they were teenagers.

Pan Am Flight Radio Officers (FRO), had the Radiotelegraph Second Class license. The FCC would not give them credit for time/experience, on that license, for a Radiotelegraph First Class license because they were not sending telegrams for the passengers like the Radio Officers on ships did. This was always a sore spot with the FROs.


From Ric

But is it believable that a guy who once had the expertise to get that license could, within just a couple of years, be able to only "recognize an individual letter sent several times" (as Chater says)?

Subject: Re: Noonan and Radio
Date: 1/7/99
From: John Rayfield

I have known several that obtained that license when they were teenagers.

I obtained my 1st Class Radiotelephone License when I was 18. By that time, I also held an Advanced Class Amateur radio license (which required a code speed of 13 wpm - I could copy about 15 wpm solid). None of those tests (except the code test ) were really THAT hard. It just took some good studying. I might have gotten the Commercial ticket sooner, if I'd had a good teacher in electronics class and hadn't had to study 'on my own'.

Ric asked:

> But is it believable that a guy who once had the expertise to get that license could, within just a
> couple of years, be able to only "recognize an individual letter sent several times" (as Chater says)?

Not at all likely. I hadn't copied hardly any CW (code) for at least 8 years, and sat down and was up to around 18 wpm solid (from about 15 wpm solid, 8 years previous) after spending a few hours on it. Once learned, most people do not 'forget' Morse code. Anyone who was able to pass a 20 wpm test could EASILY copy at 10 to 15 wpm, MANY years later, with very little 'refreshing' of their memory, in my opinion. I would guess that within just a few hours, they would probably be back up to 20 wpm or so - depending, of course, upon the individual.

If it's true that Noonan could only "recognize an individual letter sent several times", then I don't believe that he ever really 'learned' code and I don't believe that he ever held a 1st or 2nd Class Commercial Radiotelegraph license. Just my opinion.

John Rayfield, Jr.
Springfield, Missouri

Subject: More Noonan and Radio
Date: 1/7/99
From: Mike Everette

Thanks to Bob for setting me right, re the Pan Am requirements for their captains. Did the same extend to navigators? As a curiosity, when if ever was this requirement done away with?

This puts some interesting light on the subject of Noonan and Radio... and raises some more interesting questions regarding Noonan and the AE flight.

As one who has "been there and done that" with respect to the Second Class Radiotelegraph license, I do not -- repeat, do not -- agree with any assessment of someone who held that level of license as being so non-proficient in morse code that he/she "could only recognize an individual letter sent several times." The FCC commercial radiotelegraph exam consisted of both a sending and receiving test. One had to send at 20 words per minute. Sending code is not that hard (unless we may be excused for sending with such antirhythm that it sounds like bovine byproducts hitting a flat rock, or with such "creative" rhythm that one has a "fist" with a "Banana-Boat Swing"). Receiving Morse at 20 words per minute is quite another matter. It is not for the faint of heart, or for those with any questionable ability. One had to copy perfect Morse for at least one minute. The examination not only included plain-language words or text, but also numbers, punctuation marks, and -- and -- "coded groups" such as XJSRT QMFXL WYGWB etc etc.... in other words, no way to "anticipate" the next letter in a word or group.

Try it some time. One doesn't simply study for this type of test, to get good enough to pass it. Morse proficiency is a skill which must be cultivated. It is a lot like learning to speak and think in another language. And 20 wpm is difficult.

The theory part of this exam is an experts' level test. I agree, that anyone who took this exam and passed it had to be intelligent (and yes, that would include Fred Noonan -- and myself, thanks very much).

If Fred Noonan had such a license, attesting to his radio expertise, what does that say about all the radio problems AE seems to have had? I believe AE originally wanted to have a third crew member, a radio operator -- Harry Manning. When Manning backed out of the second attempt, why could Noonan not double up as radio operator? And why did AE leave her CW key behind? Noonan would have surely known how to use it. He also would have surely known that 500 KHz was a frequency on which CW (morse) emission was employed, not voice. That knowledge is basic to a Third class license, let alone a Second.

What I have always wondered, is this: If AE had Noonan aboard, an ex-Pan Am navigator who pioneered the Pacific, and who undoubtedly knew the workings and capabilities of the PAA Pacific DF net, why in the bloody blue blazes did her radio not have even one single Pan Am frequency installed? Can someone enlighten me whether either 3105 or 6210 was one of the freqs PAA used? (I bet it was not.) If it was, why did they never ask for a bearing from PAA? Let's not stop with the PAA frequency question. Why did she not have a frequency used by the Royal Navy, the French Navy, or the USN (or perhaps, the Imperial Japanese Navy -- we were not at war with Japan then), if she was to be over water -- especially in parts of the world which were not "American" skies? Well, sure, they all guarded 500 KHz... and, if Noonan was indeed radio-proficient, he could surely have established communication -- if, if, if, the aircraft had carried the proper antenna for 500, which it did not. The Western Electric transmitter she used was available in a five-frequency model, in addition to the three-frequency one she had. Those extra radio frequencies might have made a lot of difference.

There are a lot of things which do not add up. Yet.

73 Mike E.

From Ric

Indeed, things do not add up if Noonan held a Radiotelegraph License and had both theoretical and practical expertise in radio. However, we have no evidence that he had any of those things and considerable evidence that he did not. If Noonan was an experienced sailor and a crackerjack navigator who was hired by Pan am for his navigational, not his radio ability; and if his experience at Pan Am did not provide him with an in depth familiarity with the technical aspects of the Pan Am DF system; and if Earhart's world flight was never intended to rely heavily upon radio navigation; and if whatever DFing there was to be done was primarily AE's responsibility; and if no part of the world flight route except Miami to Brazil and later Hawaii to Oakland was over Pan Am territory; then things add up pretty well.

LTM, Ric

Subject: Brains Wanted
Date: 1/11/99
From: Barbara Norris

From Ric

I'd like everyone to pay special attention to the following call for assistance from our Development Director for Education, Barb Norris. The educational aspect of the Earhart Project is the most important part of what we do and the National Science Foundation grant we're going after could be the key to realizing the project's eduactional potential. Barb is not asking for your dollars. She's asking for your brains. (I'M the one who is after your dollars.) If you have the qualifications and the desire to help out, please respond directly to her at [please email for this address].

Thanks and Love to mother, Ric

As everyone reading the forum knows, fundraising for all of TIGHAR's research is ongoing. In late February, we have the opportunity to submit a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for possible funding. If we are fortunate enough to be awarded a grant, it could provide us with a substantial amount of money that will allow the development of educational/instructional materials to be used in conjunction with the Niku IIII expedition. The NSF is known to grant generous sums but it has rigid and specific guidelines that must be adhered to. As you'd guess from their name, the major focus of their interests lie in areas of Science, Math and Technology (SMT).

While I'm knowledgeable in the field of education, my expertise is primarily in Language Arts, Social Studies and across-the-curriculum unit development. There are hundreds of interdisciplinary applications, and while the NSF is happy to hear about them, the emphasis is on SMT. So here's where you might be of help.

Given the subject matter of the Earhart Project, it's necessary to the grant application content that we provide examples of how Science, Math and Technology can be applied. If any of you are teachers and/or have had experience writing curricula, it would be beneficial (and greatly appreciated) to have your suggestions and input about ways that the AE research can be incorporated into teaching SMT. For example, navigation can be directly correlated to aspects of measurement and trigonometry. The proposal would need to state specifically what that would look like in terms of teaching a middle or high school math class. Get the idea?

Our overall approach so far has been that any aspect of the research can be adapted, adjusted and modified to meet the needs of students from third grade to high school. Consideration needs to be given to curriculum and material development, as well as assessment. So all you educators reading the forum, put on your thinkin' caps and see what you can come up with for the good of the cause.

In hopeful anticipation,

Barbara Norris, TIGHAR Development Director for Education

Subject: Gerald Gallagher's Brother
Date: 1/11/99
From: Fred G.

Terrance Hugh Gallagher 6207239, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusilliers, one of four killed by a fire in a store at Ta' Qali airfield on 21 March 1942, buried at Pembroke Cemetery, info from Commonwealth War Graves Commission. His parents from Kensington, London.

From Ric

Excellent info.

Questions: Is (was) Ta' Qali airfield on Malta?

Where is Pembroke Cemetery?

I wonder if the Gallagher's Kensington address was a wartime convenience or if they were, in fact, city folk.

The Irish Fusiliers. What does this tell us about the family? Could anyone join the unit or did you have to, for example, be a British subject living in Ireland?

Subject: Re: Gerald Gallagher's Brother
Date: 1/12/99
From: Frederick Galea

Both Ta' Qali airfield and Pembroke cemetery are at Malta. The Royal Irish Fusiliers were predominantly Catholic.

Frederick Galea, Malta

Subject: Wreck Photo Hoax?
Date: 1/13/99
From: Chuck

Has it occurred to you that the wreck "photo" could be a composite constructed as a cruel hoax with PHOTOSHOP by a"talented" techie having access to many wreck photos?????????????????????? You fill in the blanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From Ric

Yes, that occurred to us. But if it's a hoax it wasn't done in PHOTOSHOP. The Wreck Photo was kicking around long before digital mischief was available. Jeff Glickman at Photek noticed a couple of features which could possibly be traces of an older, cruder type of illusion, but there's no way to be sure. The answer to your question is, yes, it is possible that the photo is a hoax. If so, it's a very clever one.

Subject: Re: Wreck Photo a Hoax?
Date: 1/13/99
From: Dennis McGee

Ric wrote:

"The answer to your question is, yes, it is possible that the photo is a hoax. If so, it's a very clever one."

Most early (pre-1980s) doctored photos are fairly obvious, especially if the forger need to provide any detail in the finished product. There are so many variables to deal with -- lighting angles/intensity, seasonal adjustments, subject-to-background angles, compatible focus, etc. etc. Just check out some of the Cold War stuff from the USSR and China -- these guys had unlimited resources to do their jobs and usually came up with an obviously inferior product. You know the ones -- where heads are transposed onto different bodies, American "spies' captured in Southeast Asia wearing cold weather gear etc. Photos are always suspect until you can view the actual negative, that is where the rubber meets the road.

But with today's digital stuff . . .all bets are off. It's just too damned good. The new technology has removed some of the mystery out of life. Yeah, it's fun to play with but with today's more skeptical world doctored photos -- i.e., "Forest Gump" -- anything is possible.

((In case our readers didn't know, a lot of the "Forest Gump" scenes were done digitally. "Apollo 13" -- same thing, all of the shots of the Saturn V rocket (and others) were done on computer. Director Ron Howard even bragged that they didn't use a single frame of stock NASA footage for the film.))

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