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Author Topic: Earhart's pistol  (Read 15686 times)

Gary LaPook

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Earhart's pistol
« on: October 06, 2012, 02:12:08 AM »

In the past we discussed whether Earhart gave a pistol to Balfour prior to her departure from Lae. (See links to these prior discussions at the bottom of this post.) The reason that this is relevant is that many have relied on a published account that she left her Very pistol (flare pistol, flare gun) with Balfour to support speculation that she may also have left other emergency equipment behind and then use this speculation to explain why she was not spotted by the Navy search pilots, either at sea or on Gardner, and to also explain why none of these things had been reported by settlers or found by the many TIGHAR expeditions. I showed that the report that she had left a "Very" pistol was based on a letter from Balfour to Holbrook that had been modified from its original wording (by Mary Lovell or someone else) and quoted in Mary Lovell's book. Others then copied from Lovell and propagated this erroneous information throughout the Earhart literature. The actual wording in Balfour's letter said that she left her "automatic pistol" with him. I recalled that I had read, a long time ago, that Earhart carried a Colt .32 ACP caliber Model 1903 Pocket Pistol and this pistol meets the description in Balfour's letter as an "automatic pistol." Balfour also wrote in a letter to Leo Bellarts that Earhart had given him "her pistol and ammunition." David Bellarts provided me with a copy of this letter to his father and it is attached. Note this letter says simply "her pistol and ammunition," it does not say "Very pistol" or "flare pistol" and "flares" or "flare cartridges."



Ric asked me to provide "documentation." I read through all the Earhart books I have and those at the library. Then it occurred to me that I may have read it in a firearms magazine. There are many of these magazines so researching them seemed to be impossible. I decided to take a chance that I had read the article in the "American Rifleman" which is the official publication of the National Rifle Association and so I contacted the NRA and asked them to research articles in their magazine. See attached letter to the NRA.

I received the attached response.


It turns out that the article had not been published in the "American Rifleman" but the letter states that Earhart did, indeed, have a Colt Pocket Pistol. The NRA consulted Mr. Keefe who confirmed that Earhart carried a ".32 ACP Colt Model 1903," just as I had said. I don't know who Mr. Keefe is but it is clear from the letter from the NRA that he is an expert in these matters that the NRA turns to and relies on to have this type of information. If Mr. Keefe is good enough for the NRA then he is good enough for me.

So I think this constitutes the "documentation" that Ric had requested and provides corroboration that Balfour's statement was accurate, that she had given him her "automatic pistol," not an emergency signalling pistol, and so puts to rest the speculation that she had left her Very pistol and other emergency equipment behind.


https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10422.html#msg10422

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10520.html#msg10520

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10549.html#msg10549

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10683.html#msg10683

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10686.html#msg10686

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10561.html#msg10561

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10648.html#msg10648

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10686.html#msg10686

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,555.msg8280.html#msg8280

https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,592.msg10561.html#msg10561

gl

« Last Edit: October 07, 2012, 10:15:32 AM by Bob Lanz »
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Bill Roe

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Re: Earhart's pistol
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2012, 08:21:53 AM »

So Gary -

What you have effectively done is to provide exceptionally strong evidence that not only did she go down with a life raft, she also had a flare gun? I need to simplify your research here and understand the implications.  As I'm sure others have the same interest.
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Gary LaPook

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Re: Earhart's pistol
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2012, 12:18:41 PM »

Excellent research, Gary.  I agree with the reliability of the NRA - they are very professional and thorough.  That does seem to settle the issue of what sort of handgun AE was known to have carried.

So many possibilities remain, however.  If we accept that her personal firearm, now clearly identified by your effort, was indeed what Balfour was speaking of, I'm still not sure how we arrive at a certainty that the Very pistol was still with her and at the ready at the crucial moment. 

I'm trying to recall how we "know" a Very pistol was with her on the world trip.  Can you refresh me on that?

Her husband said so on July 2, 1937 as quoted in the July 3, 1937 New York Herald Tribune.

It is item 23 in the Luke Field Inventory.


23    *1    "    Signal Pistol, No. A-56, Mark III, one inch

Item three in the "Known Facts" section of Dowell's report. Dowell was commander of the Lexington group.


gl
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Earhart's pistol
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2012, 03:15:31 PM »

This thread is a classic example of invalid methodology leading to unwarranted conclusions.
Both of the Balfour letters Gary cites were written many years after the event in question.  They represent only what he thought he remembered at the time the letters were written.
Gary says that the letter to Holbrook referred to an "automatic pistol" but he provides no citation for that assertion.
Gary says that the phrase "pistol and ammunition" in the second letter does not refer to a flare pistol and its ammunition because it does not say "Very pistol" or "flare pistol" or refer to "flares" or "flare cartridges."  This is "would have" reasoning which, as I have pointed out many times, is invalid.
As for taking as Gospel the word of "Mr. Keefe" no matter who he works for - the less said the better.
Trying to use this kind of reasoning to support the contention that Earhart had a pistol (other than a flare pistol) with her - let alone any kind of conclusion about what else she might have had with her, is absurd.
Unless someone can offer real evidence that Earhart had a pistol with her on the world flight, this thread is dead.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2012, 03:17:49 PM by Ric Gillespie »
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Earhart's pistol
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2012, 04:21:47 PM »

Unless someone can offer real evidence that Earhart had a pistol with her on the world flight, this thread is dead.

I meant what I said. I will remove posts that do not meet that standard.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Earhart's pistol
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2012, 08:00:24 AM »

My reason for stopping this thread was because Gary's whole line of reasoning was flawed.
Gary cites two letters written by Harry Balfour, the radio operator at Lae. Balfour was there and if his letters had been written within days or even weeks of the events he was describing, they would carry considerable weight as primary source documents. However, the letters are recollections written down many years later. His memory may or may not have been accurate.  There is no way to tell unless we can find a written source that is contemporary with the event and had access to the information.  For example, if Eric Chater, in his July 25, 1937 letter describing Earhart's activities in Lae, had written, "Desiring to lighten her load, Miss Earhart gave Mr. Balfour her Colt .32 caliber pistol." we could be sure that Balfour's later recollections were accurate.  Dowell's July 20, 1937 report was five days closer to the event than Chater's letter, but Dowell (commander of the Lexington Group) had no access to information about what equipment Earhart had with her in Lae.
(Dowell's list of "Known Facts" is rife with inaccuracies. He has the plane's registration number as "X-16020" - the number it carried while it was still in the Experimental category before Lockheed delivered it to Earhart.)
Likewise, Putnam may have known what was aboard the plane when it left Miami but he had no way of knowing what was aboard when it left Lae a month later.
There are photos of AE holding and presumably firing a handgun. Someone at the NRA may be able to produce records showing that AE owned a handgun (although, to my knowledge, that has not been done). None of that has anything to do with proving that she had a handgun with her on the world flight.

Flawed investigative methodologies are why previous investigations of the Earhart disappearance have gone nowhere. We do no one any favors by perpetuating them on this forum.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2012, 08:03:42 AM by Ric Gillespie »
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