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Author Topic: File No. 4439  (Read 10557 times)

Bill Mangus

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2017, 09:01:23 AM »

True.  All the more reason to believe the bones were unceremoniously dumped in an unrecorded hole somewhere.

All this must have been truly "against the grain" for those accustomed to documenting everything.  That no trace of this has been found in personal records/recollections speaks to unwavering loyalty.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2017, 09:07:42 AM »

Unwavering loyalty and lingering guilt.  MacPherson died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1943.  You have to wonder...
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2017, 09:59:38 AM »

But what about after the war?  They (collectively the WPHC administrators) were efficient enough after Japan's surrender to remember they needed to ship Gallagher's trunks home.  I wonder what reason(s) they had for continuing to keep the discovery of the bones a secret?

I think the fundamental reason is that Amelia Earhart meant nothing to them.

I saw this often in Fiji--every day, often several times a day.

To citizens of the U.S., she is a big deal.

To citizens of the British Empire and then of Fiji, she was not a big deal.

We TIGHAR Forum members care.

They don't.

They remembered Gallagher and his family because he was "an officer and a gentleman."  They knew him, liked him, and grieved his death.  There was no natural connection with Amelia.  I doubt very much that the thought that they might hold the key to solving the "mystery" of her disappearance ever occurred to them.  There wasn't any "mystery" in need of solving.  She tried something hard, and died trying.  Big fizz.  It happened all the time in the "Golden Age of Aviation."

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Something about this must have been bothering them.

I doubt it very much.

Gallagher, maybe.

For a few months, until death caught up with him, too.

Quote
Perhaps a thorough search for diaries, journals or other personal recollections of the parties should be undertaken.

TIGHAR has been working on that search since 1997 or thereabouts.

Quote
Would the official records have been culled?

We know they have been culled.

There are at least 17 pages in the Ameliapedia about "Archival Searches."

Chris Tague and I read all of the available "outgoing correspondence" from Colonial War Memorial Hospital in the National Archives of Fiji.

I read all of the indexes to the WPHC archive in Auckland, NZ.  Then I asked to see all of the boxes that  1) were still in the archive  2) that seemed they might hold some clues about AE and FN.

My notes are in the Ameliapedia article, "WPHC Archives.".

I haven't tried to find the any of the 490 reels of microfilm that were sent from Fiji to the FCO, an acronym that means "Foreign and Commonwealth Office" (Macdonald to Sir Collin, 27 November 1978, PMB 1189/60).  I don't know how the contents of those microfilms would differ from the files available in Auckland. 

Whoever did the culling kept the original bones file intact.  It is in Auckland.  I held it in my hands and read it with my own eyes.  In ballpoint pen on the file itself under "Other Connected Papers", it reads:

R39
B946

The handwriting looks careless. Steve Innes, the director of the Special Collection that houses the WPHC Archives didn't recognize it as a call number.  I couldn't correlate the two numbers with any of the systems of indexing materials used by the WPHC.  We are looking for a sextant box with shoe parts and for a kanawa box with bones in it.  Two numbers for two boxes in a storage room?  If so, the storage room is gone and we have not found any index or catalog of its contents.
LTM,

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Bill Mangus

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2017, 10:25:40 AM »

Thank you Marty.  The archival search you and Chris conducted must have been exhausting.

A couple of thoughts: 

     Is it possible to determine when the culling was done?  That would lead to who did it also.

     Is it possible the files were microfilmed before the culling was done.  I know, unlikely because each file probably would have been reviewed before or as part of the process of going under the scanner/camera. 

     Room 39, Box or Bin 946?  Any old building directories or floor plans laying around somewhere?
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« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 10:29:21 AM by Bill Mangus »
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2017, 11:32:12 AM »

But what about after the war?  They (collectively the WPHC administrators) were efficient enough after Japan's surrender to remember they needed to ship Gallagher's trunks home.  I wonder what reason(s) they had for continuing to keep the discovery of the bones a secret?

I think the fundamental reason is that Amelia Earhart meant nothing to them.

Okay, but the episode was unusual, remarkable, and for a time, had the attention of the highest levels of local government.  Aspects of it might even have been seen, in retrospect, as hilarious - such as Isaac shutting down the port of Tarawa and incurring the wrath of the Resident Commissioner and Sir Harry.  It's the kind of story you "dine out on," but nobody did.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2017, 12:22:47 PM »

Here's another oddity.  In the days before DNA, a  weather-beaten, partial skeleton was impossible to identify unless there was some unique distinguishing feature. As MacPherson wrote on October 23, 1940, "Bones, per se, unless corelated with some known physical deformity or injury in the deceased (such as a healed fracture, etc.,) are of little value as regards identification..."
Had the Americans been contacted, MacPherson might have learned that Earhart had had a tooth extracted immediately before leaving Miami.  Even if teeth were missing from the skull, a recent extraction should have been evident.  He may also have learned that Earhart had had a Calwell-Luc procedure to relieve sinus pressure.  The tiny tell-tale hole in the skull would be hard to detect unless you were looking for it.


From Gallagher on down (Gallagher, Resident Commissioner Barley, Vaskess, MacPherson), just about everyone who knew about the incident recognized that the numbers on the sextant box were the best clue to the castaway's identity.  Finding a sextant box with numbers on it would be like us finding an airplane part with numbers on it. It's technology. It's traceable.   Ya gotta find out what the numbers mean. 

There was a misconception, at first, that Gallagher had found a sextant.  MacPherson wrote, "Up till the present the number on the sextant case appears to afford the most hopeful means of identification. The instrument itself moreover, if a good one, should have engraved on it a number assigned either by the Bureau of Standards in the case of the United States, or the National Physical Laboratory in the case of the United Kingdom. This number indicates as a rule the result of tests for which compensation requires to be made in using the instrument."

Right on, Jock. So what did Sir Harry do? On June 9, long after it had been decided that the bones were not Earhart's, the sextant box, but not the file, was sent to Commander Nasmyth, a meteorological officer, for his option on its origins.

"Dear Commander Nasmyth,

With reference to our telephone conversation relative to the identification of a sextant and box which I mentioned as having been found and which you were so good as to say you would examine, I regret to state that on further examination it was discovered that no sextant had actually been found but only a box thought to have contained a sextant.

I am forwarding the box to you with this letter and His Excellency would be grateful if you would examine it with a view to determining its use and origin if possible.

Sincerely,

Secretary to the High Commission"

 
We don't know what was said in the phone call.
Then, on August 5, 1941, Sir Harry takes possession of the file, retrieves the box from Nasmyth (without learning his opinion of it), and personally takes it to Harold Gatty who says it's not a box for the kind of instrument used in trans-Pacific aviation.  No mention of the numbers.
Again, we have no idea how much Sir Harry told him but it's obvious that Sir Harry wanted to know whether the box might have an aviation context. We do know that Gatty had worked with Fred Noonan at Pan American and we can safely assume that Gatty knew that Noonan had disappeared with Earhart in 1937. 

Sir Harry returned the file and the sextant box to Vaskess on Oct. 8, 1941 and asked him to find out what Nasmyth thought. Vaskess gave the job to Paddy MacDonald who wrote on October 11:
"I have spoken to Captain Nasmyth who replied as follows:- "As the sextant box has no distinguishing marks, & since it was discovered that no sextant had been found, all I have been able to find out is that the make of the box – that is – the dovetailing of the corners – makes it appear to be of French origin."

No distinguishing marks?????  The box has two numbers on it! 
This looks to me like Sir Harry personally taking steps to insure that the file contains entries that give the appearance that a responsible attempt was made to identify the box.  This stinks.
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Bill Mangus

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2017, 12:35:22 PM »

Seems like Gatty would have know that FN was in the habit of carrying a mariner's sextant has a "preventer".  That should have made the hair stand up on the back of his neck. 

A bio of Gatty is available on Amazon for $68 -- a bit pricy for me!

Has anyone read it for information on AE/FN/Sextant box?
Bill Mangus
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« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 12:51:42 PM by Bill Mangus »
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2017, 03:00:00 PM »

Is it possible to determine when the culling was done?  That would lead to who did it also.

I did not see any way of determining when culling was done.  Many files in the finding aid in the archives in New Zealand are marked "destroyed."  The names of the files are still in the index, but the contents are not in the Archive. 

I don't remember any "destroyed" file names that I thought would be helpful in locating the bones. 

Bruce T. Burne was highly critical of Paddy MacDonald, the WPHC staffer who shipped the archives to England in 1978.  I guess Paddy discarded materials that Burne would have kept.

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Is it possible the files were microfilmed before the culling was done.


Yes, of course it is possible.

Likely?  I don't know.

I don't remember asking where the reels of microfilm are located at present.  It might be fun to look at them and see what they contain.

Quote
Room 39, Box or Bin 946?  Any old building directories or floor plans laying around somewhere?

I never saw any building directories or floor plans in the materials that I examined in Fiji and New Zealand.
LTM,

           Marty
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2017, 04:08:52 PM »

Has anyone read it for information on AE/FN/Sextant box?

I have a copy of "Gatty -Prince of Navigators" (by Bruce Brown, Libra Books, 1997). There is only one reference to Noonan and it's pretty nasty.

Gatty went to work for Pan Am in 1935.
"Trippe put Gatty to work immediately, having him assist his own people mapping the San Francisco-China Mid Pacific Air route and develop a series of navigation techniques for long distance ocean flying.  His partner in developing those techniques into a kind of manual for Pan Am navigators was a boozy ex ship's navigator named Fred Noonan.  He subsequently earned a place in history as the navigator who disappeared over the Pacific with Amelia Earhart during her own around-the-world flight." (P.164)

There's no indication Getty ever flew with Noonan or even flew as a navigator for Pan Am.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2017, 05:58:29 PM »

There's no indication Getty ever flew with Noonan or even flew as a navigator for Pan Am.

Roger Kelley and I met with Harold Gatty's son, Ron, a couple of times in Suva.

Fascinating character!

Not much to say about AE and FN:
  • Met Amelia Earhart at least once. "All I remember of Amelia is a smile--charming and open."
  • Gatty also met Fred Noonan, who was a good friend of Harold Gatty. He never saw Fred out of control due to drinking. Fred and his father enjoyed themselves. Drinking was open and accepted. Noonan was a warm and competent man. Of course, Gatty was only 8 when Fred and Amelia disappeared. Clearly this recollection needs to be taken with a grain of salt. A young boy may not have stayed up late at night with the men.
LTM,

           Marty
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2017, 02:16:47 PM »

The entire collection of Pacific Islands Monthly is now digitized and online at http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-310385031#
(Note: the database works fine in Safari but won't work in Firefox)

This is a tremendous resource for our research.  The magazine reported on virtually everything that was going on around the Pacific.
How well did they cover the Earhart disappearance in 1937?
Looking at the period during which the bones investigation took place - September 1940 through August 1941 - should give us important context and help us track who was doing what. 
How much news was there about the war in Europe?
What were the big concerns?

Names to watch out for:
Sir Harry Luke - WPHC High Commissioner and Fiji governor
Henry Harrison Vaskess - WPHC Secretary
Patrick MacDonald - WPHC Ass't Secretary
Dr. D.C.M. MacPherson - Central Medical Authority for WPHC and Acting Central Medical Services for Fiji
Dr. D.W. Hoodless - Central Medical School Principal
Dr. Douglas Hemming - Colonial War Memorial Hospital surgeon and possibly Central Medical Services
J.C. Barley - Resident Commissioner, Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony
Francis Holland - Acting Resident Commissioner, Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony
Dr. Kingsley Steenson, Senior Medical Officer, Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony
Dr. Lindsay Isaac, Acting Senior Medical Officer, Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony
David Wernham, Acting Adminstrative Officer, Tarawa, Gilbert & Ellice Islands Colony
Gerald Gallagher, Officer in Charge, Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #26 on: September 11, 2017, 02:28:02 PM »

From the July 23, 1937 issue.   Not totally accurate but the last paragraph, although not true, is interesting.
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Bill Mangus

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #27 on: September 11, 2017, 03:24:19 PM »

From page 63 of same issue:

Bill Mangus
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« Last Edit: September 11, 2017, 04:22:11 PM by Bill Mangus »
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Bill Mangus

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #28 on: September 11, 2017, 08:16:26 PM »

Here are some other articles I've found.  Strangely no mention of the death of Gallagher that I've found yet.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: File No. 4439
« Reply #29 on: September 12, 2017, 05:48:06 AM »

Here are some other articles I've found.  Strangely no mention of the death of Gallagher that I've found yet.


Verrier made a lucky escape from Tarawa, too.  From the Ameliapedia article:

  • Entered the colonial service in 1939.
  • In 1941, Tarawa was the main port and the location of the Central Medical Authority (namely, Verrier), although the headquarters were on Ocean Island.
  • The people whom he served petitioned to have Verrier permanently stationed in the Ellice Islands.[1]
  • Fall, 1941: Verrier lost three cameras at Tarawa when the staff fled from the Japanese invasion. For Verrier to have acquired the box of bones, they would have to have been sent back to Tarawa from Fiji by the time of the invasion. If he or the Tarawa office had the bones in 1941, they probably got destroyed or became lost in the invasion. It also seems highly unlikely that the return of the bones to Tarawa after the last entry in the bones file (19 August 1941) would have gone unrecorded.
  • After WWII, any files found intact on Tarawa were brought to Suva. Some of them had been buried and had coral sand in them when Tofiga was sorting them out.
  • 20 March 1942: date given in WPHC records for name change from "Isaac" to "Verrier."
  • 24 March 1942: Name change announced in the WPHC Gazette.
LTM,

           Marty
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