Research Document #21
A Letter Home From Sid Harvey
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The first attempt by the U.S. Navy to search for Amelia Earhart was the dispatch of a PBY Catalina flying boat from Pearl Harbor to Howland Island. Weather forced the flight to abort, but a letter written by the commander of that flight has come to light which provides new information about the orders under which the flight was operating.
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July 24, 1937

Dear Mother: —

Your recent letter to us and the birthday cards to the girls were much appreciated. We have wondered for a long time whether you had seen our colored movie and how you liked it. It was our first attempt in colors and at first we were a little skeptical how it would turn out and were pleasantly surprised at most of the scenes.

I am glad Norma and Ernest heard my one big broadcast. It being quite late at night there I doubted whether any of you would hear it. I seemed to get quite famous as a result of my flight when I thought that I would be ridiculed for turning around in the face of bad weather. In any event the flight never had much chance of success because of the distance involved, total lack of any facilities in that area and total lack of information as to where to look. My prospects for cracking up were about 10 to 1 after searching for a little over 10 hours. I would have had to land down there by sundown in the open sea which had heavy swells with numerous white cap showing. There is no anchorage available either for a plane or ship so the Itasca would have tried to take me in tow for several days until our small tender could arrive to hoist me on board. Even the tender would have broken the plane’s hull, because the plane was bigger than her available space. So in view of those prospects my orders on leaving here were not to hesitate to return if any adverse conditions were encountered. I attempted to get through or around the storm for over two hours – couldn’t get through and it seemed too big to go around. I went about 370 miles to the west – over my course to get around. Having encountered heavy rain, snow, sleet and ice I had to give up, when my fuel ran low to the point that I could just get back to Pearl Harbor bucking a 30 knot head wind which is the prevailing wind in this area. As it turned out the average wind on the return trip was only about 15 knots, therefore I had gasoline to spare when I landed here. It was a hazardous flight – in the face of the existing conditions – coupled with the fact that it was a single plane flight out of all shipping lanes and only one ship in the 1650 (nautical) miles between here and Howland. If I had gone down enroute it would have been four days before the nearest ship could have gotten to me.

Needless to say I am glad it’s behind me.

We are all well and working hard – including the girls who are busy as bees every minute of the day —

Love to all

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