Forum artHighlights From the Forum

May 28 through June 3, 2000

Subject: Lockheed 10A rides
Date: 5/30/00
From: Michael Holt, Doug Brutlag

Ric writes:

> we have (at least) two airplanes parked on the ramp. Step right
> this way folks and you can experience what it was like to fly in a Lockheed
> Electra. Step over here to this very similar twin-engined, twin-tailed
> aircraft of the same vintage and you can try your hand at shooting the sun
> just like Fred Noonan. This has possibilities.

Yeah, but some insensitive soul will, inevitably, point, comment that Noonan missed his mark.

This did trigger a question: was there some characteristic of AE's Electra that might have made Noonan's task a bit more difficult that it might have been otherwise? (I've never seen the airplane, as it was configured internally for that flight, in a cutaway drawing.)

Michael Holt

From Ric

Making good celestial obversations from an airplane in flight was a bit of a problem. On the Pan Am "Clippers" it was solved by a sliding hatch in the "roof." On NR16020 it was initially solved by installing a big flat glass window on the starboard side of the cabin back in what was, on the airline version, the lavatory. A flat glass window was also installed in the cabin door on the port side. Sometime between when the airplane came out of the repair shop in Burbank on May 19, 1937 and the time it departed Miami on June 1st, the big window on the starboard side was skinned over with aluminum. We don't know why, but in a telephone conversation I had with Earhart's mechanic Ruckins "Bo" McKneely before he died, he said (I'm paraphrasing), "That Noonan fella didn't hold with all the fancy navigation arrangements and said he could just take his sightings through the windshield up front."

During WWII aircraft used a plexiglas bubble called an "astrodome" installed in the upper fuselage for celestial observations, but I suspect that in 1937 the technology did not yet exist to fabricate an optically correct bubble.

As for Noonan missing his mark; it was never the plan for Fred to hit Howland by DR and celestial alone. He and everyone else knew that, unless he was phenominally lucky, assistance from radio navigation would be necessary to find Howland within the time constraints imposed by the flight's fuel reserves. In the end, no help from the radio was forthcoming and Fred was left to do the best he could with what he had.


From Doug Brutlag

I'd be interested in bringing the celestial nav intro program to the day of Lockheed 10A rides but I can't bring the Beech. I didn't mention this earlier because it pains me to relate this but the SNB-5 crashed 3 weeks ago in a landing accident and was damaged beyond economic repair. It appears that there was some pressure in the brake lines which locked the main wheels up on landing(in our grass strip) where suddenly without warning it went out of control and flipped over. It was a total loss. The good news is that my son, a good friend (who was flying it), and myself walked away with very minor injuries from what should have killed us all. Nothing against Carl Sagan but miracles do happen and are very much alive and well---if you could see what is left of my airplane.

Anyway, I still plan on offering celestial navigation training, particularly the "intro" flights I mentioned previously. For those forum members who are curious, it consists of about 3 hours of ground school, training on use of the sextant (I have an A-7 VERY similar to FN's sextant) and then if the 10A owners permit we could go up and shoot one LOP of the sun just like Fred. Everyone who participates will get a copy of my booklet "BETWEEN HEAVEN & EARTH---LET THE STARS GUIDE YOUR WAY" and the plotting sheet of their results of their"shot" of the sun. If I had the Beech the fee would be $75 which included the airplane ride, but since it won't be part of it, the cost would be much less-say $25/head. It might be kind of fun to have all the forum members together in a room for a skull session on the aspects of the Niku diversion-how it may have happened & why. Could be a great media opportunity for TIGHAR as well. What sayeth all ye forum members & Ric? (I took your reservation already Skeet.)

The Beech is featured in this month's issue of Flying magazine (June) page 40 left column if you want to see what once was a beautiful restoration.(sob).

Doug B. #2335

From Ric

I'm really sorry to hear about the loss of your Beech and glad to hear that no one was hurt. Of course, our planning for some kind of cooperative event with the Lockheed is still in the idea stage but we'll certainly plug in your offer to add a celestial navigation component.

Subject: Post-Loss Radio Signals
Date: 5/30/00
From: Hue Miller

Warren Lambing writes:

>I also am not advocating that the transmission heard in the U.S. were
>credible, but I stop short of calling them bogus. What I have always found
>interesting about HF, is that it can prove to be unpredictable (at least

--You mean like totally unpredictable, or variable within bounds?

>I suspect as time goes on some of principles use in understanding HF,
>could change in years to come (there already has been a theory challenging
>the principle that the radio signals bounce off the Ionosphere, but instead
>may follow the circumference of the Earth and increase in signal
>strength after it crosses the equator).

--Change in understanding okay; would that effect a change in observations also? Think about an analogy in other fields of science.

> long range weather forecasts (and your right it is apples to
>oranges), ( I am just not sold on its ability to accurately read and recreate the
>conditions that the transmissions took place).

--For the likelihood of daytime transmissions from a 50 watt transmitter reaching the US coast on those frequencies, you could stake your life on "NO WAY".

Nighttime, low horizontal antenna, maybe. I have used makeshift low, way less than optimum antennas on 7 MHz with about 70 watts out to about 1200 miles, but around that milage seemed to be about the limit. (That was using 1943 Navy equipment). (I'm not an old timer, however, just a medium-timer).

Over salt water, you could expect better results, and some have stated, substantially better results. So I, personally, would not want to discount that possibility out of hand. Unlikely, but not totally discountable.

BTW, in one of the clippings posted in that "AE Museum" referenced here recently, there was stated that were heard the call letters of AE's plane. I wonder how did AE or FN learn morse that quickly?

Hue Miller

Subject: Computer Modeling
Date 5/30/00
From: Bob Brandenburg

Ric writes:

> Comparing Bob Brandenburg's modeling of the radio and antenna system to a
> long range weather forecast is comparing apples and oranges, but I share your
> skepticism that any such theoretical work can provide absolute answers - and
> I'm sure that Bob would agree. However, contrary to your impression, Bob's
> analysis does not debunk all of the alleged post-loss messages. In fact, the
> transmissions heard by Nauru on 6210 kcs on the evening of July 2nd are
> very credible and, in my personal opinion, were probably genuine. Some
> other signals heard later by US Navy Radio in Samoa could also have been
> the real thing, but the case for them is not as strong. The stuff heard in Hawaii,
> Midway, Wake and in the U.S. is almost certainly bogus.

I agree with with Ric's skepticism about the ability of computer models to provide absolute answers. After more than twenty years experience using and designing computer models, I consider myself to be one of the world's leading skeptics about such tools - - which is not to say that I don't think they are valuable tools. But they are just that - - tools.

No computer model can precisely replicate nature, but a good model can give a useful approximation. The key to using any model is to understand the application(s) for which it was designed, and how well the assumptions underlying the algorithms which drive the model approximate the processes being studied. Properly used, a computer model can provide useful approximations within some known confidence limits.

As it happens, a lot of my modeling experience was acquired while studying ways to intercept and locate the sources of HF transmissions by potential wartime naval adversaries, and to use HF transmissions to disrupt and confuse enemy communications, command and control (C3) systems. The idiosyncratic behavior of HF propagation is well known to all who use that medium. But it is interesting to note that the fluctuations in HF propagation behavior tend to operate within well-known statistical bounds. The HF propagation model which I use is called ICEPAC, an updated version of a time-tested, widely used model called IONCAP - - which is widely recognized as a world standard in the field. The model has many strengths, not least of which is an extensive empirical data base of observed and measured propagation behavior over many thousands of paths at one-hour resolution, for more than 60 years. Of particular interest to the Earhart project is the fact that the model takes into account locale-specific factors such as the inherently higher incidence of storm-generated electromagnetic noise near the equator.

But despite the technical power of the model, its outputs can be no better than its inputs. And there's a lot that we just don't know about technical specifics at either end of the propagation paths involved in alleged Earhart signal intercepts. But we can make conservative assumptions and test the likelihood that a given signal could have originated from NR16020. And the results we get are in terms of statistical distributions and probabilities. So there is no simplistic "Yes" or "No" result. But for the few signals that seem most likely to be genuine based on the available evidence, the confidence level is quite high. The details are in the 8th edition of the project book, so I won't go into them here.

Sorry if this post is too long and boring boring. When I started it, I planned to limit it to a few lines, but the thing took on a life of its own.

LTM, who hates uncertainty but thinks it's probably impossible to avoid.
Bob Brandenburg #2286

Subject: Re: Post-Loss Radio Signals
Date: 5/30/00
From: Hue Miller

I was looking at a 1937 copy of Shortwave Craft magazine last night, at the listings of broadcast stations, and I noted that the frequencies around 6210, and in fact 6210 itself, were occupied by a number of broadcast stations in South America. I was wondering if this would have made "interesting" listening for any signal from AE. Certainly a weak carrier, if it was fading in and out, and so weak no audio could be pulled out, could cause some distraction and maybe wasted effort.

Also, my semi-uninformed suspicion is that when AE's rdf could not null on the HF channel from the Itasca, she was well more than 100 miles, contrary to what she may have thought -- so the signal arrived via skywave reflection, and not direct wave -- I believe the skywave scattering is what disturbs and makes unusable HF-DF with a simple directional loop antenna.

You can experience how frustrating attempting this is. Use a portable transistor radio with shortwave coverage up to around 6.5 MHz at least. One of the simpler sets from the 1960s -- 1980s is ideal. They actually have a ferrite bar antenna on shortwave, besides on broadcast ("AM band"). But to be able to use this antenna only, you have to disable the whip, by folding it in or removing it. The ferrite bar thing is basically a loop antenna, but ferrite core and high amplification makes use of small diameter loop practical. (Some will point out that "automatic gain control" in the radio eliminates df-ing, but this isn't true for low level signals, as you can experience on the AM band.) If you tune in a weak station on the AM band, and rotate the radio, you can probably find a position of it so that the station disappears or is much weaker. With the station nulled, a line from you to the front of the radio is the line pointing directly to, or from the station. Now try this on the shortwave broadcast band around 6 MHz. You probably won't have any local type stations, or be able to hear anything in daytime, so your listening will be nitetime and totally skywave. You may find an arc where the station volume goes down, and you think you've found the null, but when you swing back around, you may found the null has disappeared. Or you can't get a null in the first place. You might also try this around 3880 around 2100, and on weekends, when the hams running classic radio gear are on the air. They tend to do monologues longer than usual 2-way radio, so these signals are ideal for df practice, plus the likelihood is greater that their signals are not really long distances from you. You wouldn't want your success in this attempt to have any weight in whether you survive or not.

Hue Miller

Subject: Re: Floyd Kilts Story
Date: 5/31/00
From: Ron Bright

I'm curious if any other Coast Guardman beside Kilts, for instance Coasties on supply missions, or those on the Loran Station from 1941-46, every reported hearing the skeleton/Earhart story from Niku natives. Forum member Willam Garman-Webster said that that story was circulating around the Island circa these times. I can't recall, but did any of the Loran Coasties ever find and record any artifacts or other evidence of the Earhart presence between 1941-46; was there a Loran logbook separately maintained?Apparently not. Again it seems if this was a popular folk legend coupled with the known possibility AE landed at NIKU the U.S. military guys would have initiated a bit of a search.

Ron Bright

From Ric

Curious though it may be, none of the veterans of Unit 92 that we've talked to have any recollection of hearing any story about bones or Earhart while on Niku. In late 1944 or early 1945, PBY pilot John Mims asked about the airplane parts he saw being used by the locals and was told about the airplane that was there when the people first came to the island, but there was no connection to Earhart mentioned and nothing about any bones. Kilts heard about bones, but apparently was told nothing about an airplane, in the spring of 1946. Remember that Kilts was not part of the Loran unit stationed on the island but came along after it was de-activated to store it away.

Some of the Coasties did come upon the "Seven" site in about September of 1944 but had no idea what it was. When they asked the locals about it nobody seemed to know anything.

So the telling of the bones or the airplane story to outsiders was apparently very selective and no outsider (that we know of), including Gallagher, was told both stories. Bauro Tikana, Gallagher's clerk and interpreter, knew a vague version of the bones story but not the airplane story. The same is true of second-generation former-residents in the Solomon Islands. And yet both Emily in Fiji and Tapania in Funafuti knew both stories and connected them as part of the same story. Interesting, to say the least.


Subject: Windows in NR16020
Date: 5/31/00
From: Ross Devitt

> On NR16020 it was initially solved by installing a big flat glass
> window on the starboard side of the cabin back in what was, on the airline
> version, the lavatory. A flat glass window was also installed in the cabin
> door on the port side. Sometime between when the airplane came out of the
> repair shop in Burbank on May 19, 1937 and the time it departed Miami on
> June 1st, the big window on the starboard side was skinned over with
> aluminum.

Does that mean there were originally FOUR windows in the rear of the Electra?

One in the Port Fuselage, one in the Starboard Fuselage, directly opposite the Port one, and one in the Port Door...


From Ric

That is correct, depending upon what you mean by "originally." As delivered in July 1936, the airplane had only two windows in the cabin. These were the aftmost standard airline windows and were directly opposite each other. Then in January of 1937 a window was installed in the cabin door on the port side and a larger-than-standard window was installed on the starboard side. This last window is the one that was later skinned over in Miami.

Subject: Re: Post-Loss Radio Signals
Date: 5/31/00
From: Ross Devitt

> Also, my semi-uninformed suspicion is that
> when AE's rdf could not null on the HF
> channel from the Itasca, she was well
> more than 100 miles, contrary to what she
> may have thought -- so the signal arrived via
> skywave reflection, and not direct wave --
> I believe the skywave scattering is what
> disturbs and makes unusable HF-DF with
> a simple directional loop antenna.

I seem to recall the Chater Report confirming AE's inability to get a null reading when she was testing the equipment at Lae -- so it would also appear possible she was VERY close to Itasca.


From Ric

It is usually assumed that Earhart's failure to get a null on the Itasca's signal was due to the signal being transmitted (at her request) on a frequency far higher (7500 kcs) than her DF could respond to -- but you make an interesting point.

Subject: Re: The Floyd Kilts Story
Date: 5/31/00
From: Tom King

>Remember that Kilts was not part of the Loran unit stationed
>on the island but came along after it was de-activated to store it

That's a bit confusing, actually, or confused. The newspaper story says he was involved in dismantling the station, but the Unit 92 log reports Kilts and his team arriving awhile before the station was actually closed, and remaining until everyone went home. Powrzanis, the only other member of the team we've found alive, told me that they were deactivated immediately after the Gardner work. And the log says they were there to make repairs, not to dismantle. Since it was so late in the game, the repairs may well have had to do with mothballing the facility, I imagine, but the point is that Kilts' time there does seem to have overlapped at least with that of some regular station personnel.


From Ric

I somehow had it in my head that Unit 92 ceased operations in December 1945 but, reviewing the paperwork, it looks like it may have stayed operational until it was designated as on "Caretaker Status and Secured" in May of 1946.

Subject: Floyd Kilts
Date: 5/31/00
From: Tom King

Following are excerpts from the notes I took when Chuck Boyle and I went through the Loran Station log. Most of the log entries are HIGHLY repetitive, so what I did was note those days when something happened, and provide an example of a typical day's entry. Note the relationship between the arrival of Kilts and the closedown of the station.


February 1946 8 Basswood arrives 1545, departs 1830, delivers new weapons carrier, supplies, new personnel, stores, etc.
  15 PBY from Canton, movies, etc. Arrives 0615, departs 0645
  26 Basswood arrives. Following men reported for temporary duty for replacing vertical radiator:Kilts, Lloyd C, (3056-052), CCM, USCGR in charge, Harris, I.W. (697-567), MOMM 3/C USCGR, Powrzanas, John F. (695-565), CM 3/c USCGR, Neal, John J (624-110), MOMM 3/c USCGR, Downing, John F (593-488) F2/c USCGR, Menard, Joseph W (558-816) S1/c USCGR, Portheo, Lucien L. (798-157) S1/c USCGR.
March 1946 2 Peterson relieves Finn
  21 Captain's Mast; Punishment to Barnes 677-254 for 2 hours AWOL, Berman 670-837 for misapp. Govt' prop and awol, Carr and Dionne for misapp. Govt. prop.
Also received 110 drums diesel oil from Basswood, 3 bags mail. Pay
  22 Finn departs, presum. on Basswood.
  23 1330-1600 Liberty to village.
  30 1330-1630 Liberty to village.
April 1946   24 enlisted on duty
  6 Liberty to village usual times
  11 transfers, must be ship in.
  13 liberty to village
  14 transfer Forrest Harmon for medical aid -- plane?
  20 CO Mast 3 men sleeping on watch
  22 secured transmitting, commenced caretaker status
  27 Basswood in, launched boat for return Canton, liberty to village 1330-1530
  28 Basswood sails.
    Typical: 0730 Chow down, 0800 colors, 0815 turn to, 1130 Chow down, 1430 turn to, 1730 chow down, 1900 colors, 2200 lights out. These under "record of miscellaneous events of the day" Weather, clouds, wind, barometer, etc. also covered. Complement 1 off, 16 enl.
May 1946 5 1330 Liberty to village, back 1630
  10 Everyone departs, placed in caretaker status.

From Ric

Pretty interesting. I note that Kilts arrives aboard Basswood for temporary duty on February 26 and is not listed as departing. I wonder if he stayed there right up until the shut-down in May or left and came back? In the San Diego Union article he says he heard the bone story in March of 1946. I'm just wondering how much time he spent on the island.

One name above popped out at me. "Govt' prop and awol, Carr and Dionne for misapp. Govt. prop." I corresponded a bit with Joe Dionne back in 1993 and he sent some photos. I didn't pursue his recollections very much because at that time we were focused on events early in the unit's stay on Gardner when Dick Evans and Herb Moffitt saw the "water collection device" which we now know to be the water tank at the "Seven" site. Joe Dionne, of course, was there at the end and may remember Floyd Kilts. I just tried his phone number and got his answering machine, so he's apparently still kicking. I'll try him again later. I wonder what government property he and Carr misappropriated when they went awol. What do you wanna bet they stole the new weapons carrier?

Subject: Earhart and HF/DF
Date: 5/31/00
From: Hue Miller

Ric writes:

>It is usually assumed that Earhart's failure to get a null on the
>Itasca's signal was due to the signal being transmitted
>(at her request) on a frequency far higher (7500 kcs) than her DF
>could respond to -- but you make an interesting point.

Cam Warren has recently enjoyed some success in learning more about the RDF equipment. This equipment tuned up thru 8000 kc/s and was part of intense Navy experimenting in these years to determine how HF-DF on aircraft could be made workable. Unfortunately, it could not be made reliably, simply, repeatably effective, and the experiment was eventually canned, somewhere in the same pre-war time span. Unfortunately, AE seems to have taken part in that experiment, by becoming a user of this equipment and it's troublesome feature, even if she didn't quite realize it. Cam & I have read a Navy document dated 1936 on the RDF unit and the problems associated with using it. It's pretty interesting reading, and explains the theoretical problems without math, but, it is many paragraphs and pages long, and probably would put to sleep anyone without a burning interest in the problem. I am positive AE would not have wanted to wade thru this text, maybe she would have even tuned out a lecture on the same topic -- IF it were offered. As for FN, who knows if he was ever made aware of the problem?

Hue Miller

From Ric

Cam Warren has provided me with a description of his position on this subject and expressed his willingness for it to be passed along, provided it is properly credited.

I will post Cam's paper "Hypothesis -- Earhart's Secret Mission" as a separate posting for the forum's consideration.

Subject: Cam Warren's Hypothesis
Date: 5/31/00
From: Cam Warren

As promised, here is Cameron Warren's paper. I will give others a chance to respond before I make any comment.

Hypothesis: Earhart's Secret Mission by Cam Warren

Contrary to widely held beliefs, Earhart's Electra was fitted with a Bendix High Frequency Direction Finder system intended to locate Howland Island. Until recently, there was little or no information to support this statement. That has now changed.

Government documented facts:

The US Coast Guard, originally the Revenue Service, a part of the Treasury Department, was using HF/DF in its pursuit of "rum runners" in the early 1930s. Improved equipment was a high priority.

With the Japanese becoming increasingly belligerent on the West Coast of the United States, HF/DF was enlisted to monitor their activities. In Germany and England similar equipment was on the market.

With war in the Pacific increasingly likely, our Navy began fitting radio direction finding gear in its PBY patrol aircraft. It was built by Radio Research Labs (acquired by Bendix in early 1937). The earliest Bendix gear was designated "RDF-1". In mid-1937, an advanced model, the RDF-2, was being delivered and installed on a "Rush" basis. (Note that radar was still on the drawing board).

Top secret Naval Intelligence reports revealed the Japanese seaplane tenders (specifically the Kamoi) were using HF/DF as a "homing device" for their aircraft. Frequencies being used were in the 40-meter (wavelength) band.

Related information:

According to contemporary news stories, one of the justifications for the Purdue University financing of Earhart's "Flying Laboratory" was that it would be utilized to develop aircraft direction finders for commercial use.

Vincent Bendix was one of the financial backers of the project. Flushed with the success of his automotive products, Bendix was seeking other fields to conquer, and his personal interest in aviation (the Bendix Air Races) led him to avionics. He formed Bendix Radio in January 1937, and simultaneously acquired Radio Products Co. (Dayton, Ohio) and Radio Research Labs of Washington, D.C. Both companies were building DF equipment, the first for the US Army, the second for the US Navy. Brilliant engineer Frederick Hooven was the founder (?) of the first firm. One of his products (actually a LF automatic DF, later called the "radio compass") was first installed on the Electra, but was replaced by the more sensitive and selective Navy gear, which was capable of HF use and better suited to long range operation in the Pacific.

A photograph of the Loop Coupler for the RDF-1(? or prototype) show a five-band frequency selector switch, the RDF-2 Coupler had a six-position switch. This establishes that both systems provided coverage above 4,000 kilocycles; certainly to 7,500 kc, the frequency Earhart requested be broadcast from the Itasca. (7500 was just above the amateur 40 meter band, where the hams had been getting remarkable long distance communication results.)

Technician Joseph Gurr has testified he installed a "multi-band" receiver in the Electra prior to the aborted first leg of the round-the-world flight (Oakland to Hawaii). It was delivered in a crate marked "US Navy". A publicity photograph shot in late February (1937) at Burbank shows Bendix engineer Cyril Remmlein and Amelia displaying the Bendix Coupler and Loop.

Remmlein later flew to Oakland with Amelia to check out the installation. In her posthumously published book Last Flight Earhart refers to her Western Electric receiver as being installed "under the co-pilot's seat" and also refers to her "Bendix Direction Finder".

Undocumented modifications to the radio antenna(s) and DF gear were made in Miami by "moon-lighting" Pan Am technicians. Pan-Am's offer to track the plane over the Pacific was turned down.

A portable HF/DF system (tuned to 3105 kc) was installed on Howland Island. Reliable testimony from two different sources establishes that this came from the Naval Intelligence listening station at Heiea, Hawaii. The Navy wanted to send one of their own operators to run it; a plan vetoed by Comdr. Thompson of the Itasca, who borrowed a radioman (Cipriani) from another CG ship. He was unfamiliar with the gear and never obtained a useful "fix" on the Electra. The Bendix RDF system was classified (originally "Secret") and little (if any) information was released to the press. Former Pan-Am employee and Earhart researcher Paul Rafford tells of a new loop being installed in Miami. It's possible this was part of the latest RDF "upgrade". Earhart's communications receiver (the Western Electric) was inoperable in the vicinity of Howland.

Reasonable Conclusions:

Putnam negotiated a "deal" with Vincent Bendix; a convincing demonstration of the Bendix HF/DF (if the R-T-W flight was the success he hoped for) in exchange for the use of the equipment and (probably) a substantial cash donation. The Earhart participation was "hush-hush" and not to be mentioned in insecure communications. This quite likely led to patently false information supplied to the Itasca and elsewhere, concerning the frequency coverage of the Bendix equipment. The original Western Electric communications system WAS retained in the Electra for that specific purpose. The Bendix receiver (RA-1?), which was part of the RDF installation COULD have been utilized as a communications receiver, but was not. In order to simplify operation, the RA-1 (and coupler) was probably pre-tuned to 7,500 kc, since that was to be the "homing" frequency. (This explains why the ONLY signal heard by Earhart was that transmitted by the Itasca on 7,500 kc.)

The admitted retuning of Amelia's W.E. receiver (to 6,540 kc) by the Lae radio operator (Harry Balfour) was responsible for her subsequent failure to tune in signals from the Itasca on 3,105 kc. (Note: the ship had NO radiotelephone transmitting capability on 6,210 kc.) Treasury Secretary Morgenthau's curious remark (in a telephone conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt's secretary) regarding Earhart's "disregard of orders" may well have been in reference to Amelia's perceived breach of security. (She had mentioned "7500" in a telegram over an open commercial radio channel.) Amelia's indifference to thoroughly learning radio and DF operating techniques (or carrying a trained radio operator aboard) was the greatest single contributor to her subsequent loss. And a further factor was her apparent refusal to allow Fred to operate the equipment. (Ego perhaps, or orders from Putnam, who wanted the flight to be an all-Amelia show).


The majority of research on this subject was done by Fred Goerner, subsequent to his well-known book, The Search for Amelia Earhart (1966). Follow-up work performed by Cam Warren, who verified Goerner's contributions and uncovered certain other rare government documents, never before introduced.


Subject: Re: Kilts
Date: 6/1/00
From: Ron Bright

The Basswood log re Kilts' stay at Niku from Feb April 46 is quite interesting. Sounds like the Coast Guardsmen also fraternized with the natives at the village. Would any of the artifacts collected by TIGHAR (that may be related to AE) been visible in 1946 and simply not regarded as anything worthwhile. When Kilts gave his story to the reporter did he by any chance identify or give any clues to the identity of the native, (male, female, title etc.), who passed on the Earhart/skeletal connection? (That is probably a stupid question)

Has Kilts' full story been published on the Forum? In March of 1946, how many natives were on Niku? Anyone we know?

Ron Bright

From Ric

My understanding is that the information Tom related is from the Unit 92 station log, not the Basswood log. We, of course, have no way of knowing what various Coasties may have seen in the village but, perhaps significantly, the souvenirs collected by Coast Guardsman Dick Evans consisted of fans made of bird feathers, a sharktooth sword, and a woven hat. U.S. Navy PBY pilot John Mims, on the other hand, has kanawa wood boxes and a model canoe with inlaid pieces of aircraft aluminum. Evans and Mims had contact with the locals during the same time period (1944) but the Coasties' visits were, reportedly, fairly structured affairs while Mims seems to have had more opportunity for individual, casual interaction. It may be that the difference in souvenirs is pure chance, but it may also be that kanawa wood and aluminum were both in limited supply while feathers and shark teeth were plentiful. It may be that Mims was a "special" visitor who may have had better stuff with which to trade and, therefore, got better stuff.

The significant thing here is, if kanawa wood boxes with aluminum inlays were valuable this late in the war it would seem to imply that the supply of kanawa wood and aluminum -- and maybe the skill to fashion the boxes -- was in shorter, rather than greater, supply. That would argue for a pre-war, finite source of thin-gauge aluminum rather than inceasingly abundant sources of wartime aluminum.

Kilts did not identify his sources by name but his primary informant apparently had a very limited command of English and he had to find an interpreter (maybe the island's radio operator?) to help. In 1946 there were roughly 100 settlers on the island. (Notice that we're avoiding the inaccurate and politically incorrect term "native." The colonists who lived on Niku were no more native to the island than were the Americans or the British.)

We'll put the text of Kilts' 1960 newspaper article up on the website as a Document of the Week.


Subject: Re: Cam Warren's Hypothesis
Date: 6/1/00
From: Frank Westlake

>From Cameron Warren:
> Follow-up work performed by Cam Warren, who verified
> Goerner's contributions and uncovered certain other
> rare government documents, never before introduced.

I can purchase documentation at the local news stand that will convince many people that aliens exist and have been seen on Earth. If I tell you this, that aliens exist and have been seen on Earth, I would hope that you would read my documentation before you decide if it should be believed. If you do read my documentation you will probably not come to the same conclusion that many others have. You state that you have documentation supporting your claims but you have not yet, as far as I know, shown it to us. Do you expect us to believe you on faith?

Frank Westlake

Subject: Re: Cam Warren's Hypothesis
Date: 6/1/00
From: Dennis McGee

A strange thing happened when I printed out Cam Warren's hypothesis from my PC -- the paper had conspiracy written all over it. Hm-m-m-m.

Regretfully Cam's hypothesis is not much of a hypothesis; it is more a collection of random "facts" with no documentation, selected bits of alleged "related information," and a list of conclusions that are anything but "reasonable." Cam's paper reeks of the Amelia-as-government-spy genre. He advertises this hypothesis as prime rib but it looks, smells, and tastes more like goulash.

The gaps in his reasoning are appalling. For example he states that a photo of the "RDF-1 show[s] a five-band frequency selector switch, the RDF-2 Coupler had a six-position switch. This establishes that both systems provided coverage above 4000 kilocycles, certainly to 7500 kc . . . " How he arrived at that conclusion is a mystery. Another example; his "reasonable conclusion" that Bendix "(probably)" paid Putnam to use the Bendix equipment is unsubstantiated by any documentation.

A final example: "And another factor was her apparent refusal to allow Fred to operate the equipment." The only people who could vouch for that statement died in 1937, and Cam offers no proof that AE did not let FN operate the equipment.

All in all Mr. Warren's attempt to further his AE-as-government-spy hypothesis is long on speculation and short on documentation, a common condition for most conspiracy theories. When he can offer solid documentation of his "government documented facts," "related information," and "reasonable conclusions" maybe he will gain the creditability and wider audience he so desperately seeks.

LTM, who also didn't believe the Warren Commission
Dennis O. McGee #0149

From Ric

>who also didn't believe the Warren Commission

Different guy.

Subject: More From Mims
Date: 6/1/00
From: Ric Gillespie

We've just received the following additional (and unsolicited) recollections from Dr. John Mims who, as Lt. (jg) John Mims in WWII, saw aircraft aluminum and an aircraft control cable being used as fishing tackle by the colonists on Gardner Island. The "Colonel Laxton" he refers to is Paul B. Laxton who was the Western Pacific High Commission's District Officer for the Phoenix Group during and after the war.

I was not aware that Laxton ever held any military rank, but in 1949, as Assistant Lands Commissioner for the Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony, he spent three months on Gardner reorganizing the colony. We have a long report he subsequently wrote to his superiors and an article entitled "Nikumaroro" which he wrote for the Journal of the Polynesian Society in 1950.

At any rate, here are Dr. Mims' recollections:

Personal Recollections of Colonel Laxton in WWII, by John P. Mims of Tuscumbia, Alabama, in March of 2000. Transcribed by Mims's daughter Rosemary Fisk.

The Colonel and I became good friends in 1944-45 while on the Island of Canton. He was the officer in charge of the Islands under the British Flag, and I flew the circuit around the Islands carrying supplies, mail, and men (mostly Coast Guard). He was rather short of stature (5'7" to 5'8"), and was almost always alone even though he was very outgoing and clever and loved parties. He was always dressed very neatly in a jungle hat, khaki shirt and shorts with matching socks and sandals. He was waited upon by two Micronese men from the islands.

He depended on me to help protect the natives from exploitation by the sailors. He often invited Lt. Wahlgren (my navigator) and me to an afternoon tea or to a fish dinner prepared by the native men.

After seeing the large fish on Gardener with the large aluminum hook (hand made) and the approximately 25 foot leader that was an obvious airplane control cable and the native boy saying it came from a plant that was there when they came, I asked him if the British had lost a plane there. He replied that no British planes had been there, and neither had the Americans lost any planes there (PBys were the only ones flown in the area).

I asked him if this could be a part of Amelia Earhart's plane, and he said it could well be, but he had little interest in a story of a lost pilot, since the war was in progress. Also, he joked that the woman was American and that the 4th of July and Thanksgiving with the Americans was about all the American history he could take.

He did at one time mention that bones were found and that the natives were more interested in the shoes they found on the two dead European people. He did not say, or I can't remember what he said happened to the bones.

Also, he planned to spend as much of his life as possible among the natives and on these islands. He seemed to have no interest in marriage or family, but got very excited when any British or American woman came through the island.

He gave me an award in a fruitless search for an island chief lost at sea during a storm. On parting he saw me off, wished me well, and invited me to visit him on the islands or in Britain.

I can only remember receiving one letter from him after the war. I was in London and the letter was post-marked in the Fijis.

It must be said that when I first interviewed Dr. Mims about his wartime experiences in 1995 he did tell me about making inquiries with the British official on Canton Island about the possibility of a British aircraft being lost on Gardner, although I don't think he mentioned Laxton by name. At that time he said nothing about suggesting to the official that the parts he saw on Gardner were from Earhart's airplane or that he later was told that bones were found, etc.

Dr. Mims has been a TIGHAR member since 1995 and remains very interested in our investigation. It is not possible to know whether his current familarity with the facts we have uncovered has stirred new and genuine memories, or has caused him to remember more than actually happened. That John Mims flew several resupply trips to Gardner Island in late 1944 and early 1945 is documented in official U.S. Navy flight manifests that detail every person and every sack of mail, case of beer, and jar of mayonnaise he carried there -- and yet, he has no recollection of the wreck of the Norwich City and when asked to annotate a map, he placed the Loran station on northwest rather than the southeast tip of the island. Such are the vagaries of human memory. Still, his quote of Laxton's facetious reason for not being interested in Earhart, the American lady, has the ring of truth.


Subject: Re: Cam Warren's Hypothesis
Date: 6/2/00
From: Roger Kelley, Amanda Dunham

I too, would appreciate it if you would promptly state your source of information. I would think it a grand adventure if I might go directly to your source, confirm that it is authentic and repute your critics on your behalf.

Roger Kelley, #2112

From Amanda Dunham

>According to contemporary news stories, ...

Why? Because the press was so much more accurate then than they are now???

Amanda Dunham

Subject: AE, FN, and Morse
Date: 6/2/00
From: Vern Klein

Hue Miller wrote:

> I wonder how did EA or FN learn morse that quickly?

Ric, What do we know of Almon A. Gray, U.S. Naval Reserve (Ret.), author of the article, "Amelia Didn't Know Radio?" And of "Noonan biographer, Michael A. Lang" who is cited as saying that, as of about 1931, Noonan held a Second Class Commercial Radio operator license? This license required the ability to send and receive Continental Morse code at a speed of not less than 16 words/minute.

From what we know of Fred Noonan, I can easily believe he might have obtained such a license. He may have barely passed the code test, as most first-time applicants do, and then didn't touch a key or copy a word of code thereafter.

In any case, I suspect that Fred, perhaps Amelia too, played down whatever code ability they had because they did not want to do CW. We should also keep in mind that, assuming you do know the code but lack expertise, it's a lot easier to send than to receive. I think there's little doubt that Fred could have pounded out any of the reported messages even though he might not have been able to read the same messages at 5 WPM -- or at any speed.

If Amelia had made any effort to learn the code in the expectation that she might have to pass the radio test, she might have been able to do it too. She got out of the test, but would some CW proficiency have been required?

Vern Klein 2124

From Ric

You make some interesting points. I haven't seen confirmation that Fred held a commercial radio license but I don't have any reason to doubt those who say that he did. Should be easy enough to check. Volunteers?

Subject: Re: Cam Warren's Hypothesis
Date: 6/2/00
From: Hue Miller

Dennis McGee writes:

>The gaps in his reasoning are appalling. For example he states
>that a photo of the "RDF-1 show[s] a five-band frequency selector
>switch, the RDF-2 Coupler had a six-position switch. This establishes
>that both systems provided coverage above 4000 kilocycles, certainly
>to 7500 kc . . . " How he arrived at that conclusion is a mystery.

[quoted from NRL Radio Materiel School manual, 1936]

The type RDF-2 direction finding equipment was designed for use on large flying boats and if found sufficiently successful in meeting service requirements, will replace the present ......

It differs from the Type RDF-1-A direction finder in that a special hydraulic mechanical arrangement and autosyn indicator system permits its installation on the hull of the aircraft near the tail.......

.....While this pamphlet was in the process of being written, [1936] the first actual service installation tests with the Type RDF-2 direction finder were being conducted and for this reason it was impossible to give more detailed information on the installation of this equipment in aircraft. the electrical circuits of the direction finder proper are identical to the Type RDF-1-A, the only other interesting feature is the autosyn motor indicator system permitting the operator to.....

The desired frequency range is selected by sections S1, S2 of the frequency band switch. This switch assembly has seven positions, the frequency range for each position being given on a frequency bands chart concealed inside the inner....

These ranges, and the circuit combinations employed to cover them, are as follows: [circuit components list omitted]

1 500 - 590 Kcs
2 590 - 700 Kcs
3 700 - 1050 Kcs
4 1050 - 1570 Kcs
5 1570 - 3000 Kcs
6 3000 - 5400 Kcs
7 5400 - 8000 Kcs

[end quote]

It's pretty hard to count switch positions from a photo unless the photo is clear enuff that you can read ALL the control markings.

The original text and drawings have been scanned in by Mike Hanz:

"No manual, but the DF chapter from the NRL manual may help. See for the Word document.

The figures [technical drawings ] are more difficult to include.....,, and If you don't have point and click capabilities, be advised that the URLs are case sensitive. Also keep in mind that although they are relatively small (<~100KB), they blow up to a decent [big!] size because of the .gif compression, so you'd best file them off to your hard disk for viewing/printing. "

--via Hue Miller

From Ric

Thanks Hue. There is actually some very good and useful information here but the conclusions Cam Warren has drawn from it are absurd.

As Cam says, publicity photos taken in late February 1937 show a device which looks just like the RDF-1 Coupler apparently about to be installed in the Electra. (Cam says that the guy in the photos showing the box to Amelia is Bendix engineer Cyril Remmlein but he doesn't say how he knows that.) An article in the March 1937 issue of Aero Digest shows a picture of the same device and describes it as a new "local control Bendix direction finder for use with conventional receivers."

Looks to me like Earhart simply decided to replace the Hooven Radio Compass (which used a separate receiver) with a Bendix loop and RDF-1 Coupler that would hook right up to her Western Electric 20B receiver. She was sacrificing greatly simplified operation for the sake of saving, according to Hooven, about thirty pounds of weight.


Subject: Re: Cam Warren's Hypothesis
Date: 6/3/00
From: Ron Bright

I'm not sure what the fuss is that AE had Bendix equipment aboard the Electra. Is it controversial or in dispute? Many researchers list the Bendix direction finder as part of her equipment. CDR H.M. Anthony, USCG, said he saw the direction finder in AE's cockpit in Hawaii in 1937.The New York Herald Tribune of March 7, 1937, for instance, reports that a "last minute addition to the navigation equipment is a Bendix direction finder, installed during the last week. Its loop, carried on the outside of the ship just above the cockpit, is adjustable..." The paper also adds that a Western Electric two-way radio communication system was aboard. The inference is this information came from CDR Clarence Kelly at Burbank,Ca. As you know other sources report that Mr. Richard Black furnished a Navy high frequency direction finder that was set up on Howland.

Another newsclipping relates that Vincent Bendix was one of the sponsors of AE's project and said the plane was equipped with Bendix parts and instruments. No source listed as this was a newspaper account. Goldstein and Dillon in Amelia also report that AE carried a "Bendix (miniaturized) direction-finder receiver,covering frequency ranges of 200 to 1500 kilocycles and 2400 to about 10,000 kc..." So if George Putnam made a deal with Bendix, so what.

Maybe I'm in the minority but I don't follow that the Bendix directional finder supports the spy mission theory. Other than the unproven, undocumented conspirarcy versions I thought most of the solid evidence negated the secret mission diversion theory.

Question to Mr. Warren: why did this Bendix df equipment installation support a secret Naval Intelligence spy mission? Because the equipment was "classified"? Was it "Confidential" or "Secret"?

Maybe I'm confusing radio equipment and directional finders and maybe in fact no one can provide more credible evidence of the Bendix installation.

Clarification please of what AE really had, if possible, in the Electra?

Ron Bright

From Ric

You're correct Ron. All of the available primary sources appear to confirm what we can see in the photos. As configured for the first World Flight attempt, the Electra carried one transmitter (a Western Electric 13C mounted to the floor in the aft cabin), one receiver (a Western Electric 20B mounted under the copilot's seat), and a coupling device (a Bendix RDF-1 mounted on the instrument panel) that permitted the Bendix loop antenna to be used with the Western Electric receiver for direction finding. Although the antenna arrangement was somewhat different for the second attempt, the number and type of radios seems to have remained the same.

Clearly, the RDF-1 was not "classified" or it wouldn't have been featured in an Aero Digest article about new products on the market. Cam's allegation that the device supplied to Earhart was an experimental, secret RDF-2 with different frequency capabilites ignores the description of the RDF-2 as identical to the RDF-1 except that it had a special drive that allowed the loop antenna to be mounted in the tail of the airplane and be remotely rotated. Earhart's loop was, obviously, not like that.

Most of the confusion about Bendix radio equipent aboard the Electra seems to arise from a semantics problem about what is meant by the term "direction finder." Yes, the airplane had a "Bendix direction finder" (loop and coupler) but Elgen Long, for example, is quite sure that the aircraft carried a separate Bendix receiver exclusively for direction finding and goes into great detail about it, but I've never seen any evidence that any such radio was aboard the airplane.


Subject: Re: Kilts article up
Date: 6/3/00
From: Ross Devitt

[From Ric: I'll reply to the Wombat's questions as we go.]

>"They were about through and the native was walking along
>one end of the island. There in the brush about five feet from the
>shoreline he saw a skeleton.
>"The island doctor said the skeleton was that of a woman. And
>there were no native women on the island then.

Island Doctor ?????? Was there such a person?

From Ric: No. There may have been a Native Medical Practioner or, more likely, a Native Dresser. The former had rather extensive medical training while the latter just knew some first aid.

>Farther down the beach he found a man's skull, but nothing else.

This is something I don't recall seeing discussed. The skeleton identified as a woman's and the skull identified as a man's... !

From Ric: Other versions of the story told by the settlers talk about two skeletons -- a man and a woman.

>"The magistrate was a young Irishman who got excited when he
>saw the bone.

I imagine "bone" singular is a typo..

From Ric: Yes. Should be "bones."

>This same account was related by the doctor to New Zealand officials.

Another one I hadn't seen discussed...

From Ric: Kilts was under the impression that the island was under New Zealand adminstration so he may be referring to Gallagher's notification of the authorities in Fiji.

>At low tide the smoothest coral in the world is exposed for 200
>yards. From the air it looks as if you could dry your nets there, fly
>your kite, or, alas, land your plane.
>Actually, this smoothest coral is slashed with canyons six to 10
>feet wide and 40 to 100 feet deep. At the ends of the 200 yards,
>the hard beach drops deceptively, 100 feet or more at one spot.
>A plane attempting a landing there would be dashed to pieces.

I recall bringing up the danger of trying to land on "apparently smooth" coral in my earliest posts, but Ric assured me that I (and Kilts apparently) not having seen the incredibly smooth coral on Gardner, was wrong. I wonder what Kilts was drinking when he imagined all those canyons etc...

From Ric: The canyons are there. They're fingers that reach shoreward from the reef face in many, but not all parts of the island.


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