Finding Amelia
Photo of Ric
   The research that made this book possible has been an eighteen-year voyage of discovery. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has been the vessel and I, as TIGHAR’s executive director, have been privileged to be the captain; but, like any skipper, I am only as good as the crew who work the ship. The facts presented in these pages testify to the dedication, intelligence, and generosity of the members of TIGHAR, without whom the boat would never have left the dock, let alone reached this point in our journey.  Any errors in interpreting the facts are mine alone.

    I am especially indebted to Dr. Randy Jacobson, without whose dogged pursuit of forgotten contemporary sources the true story of the Earhart disappearance could not have been told. Randy ferreted out the thousands of logs, letters, and official radio messages that detail the government’s involvement in the tragedy; but finding the documents was only the first step. He then translated the archaic radio shorthand into Standard English and assembled the messages chronologically, converting innumerable, and often obsolete, time zones to Greenwich Time. Finally, he entered the assembled mountain of data into a computerized database. The enormous, yet easily searchable, files included on the DVD that accompanies this book are the product of his years of tedious, meticulous work.
    Another special salute goes to Lt. Cdr. Robert S. Brandenburg, USN (ret). Bob’s patient tutelage in the ways of the Navy was of great help to a former army officer. More significant, his second career as a navy civilian scientist made it possible to quantify the credibility of the Earhart radio distress calls. Two of his research papers are included on the DVD.
    The members of TIGHAR’s then board of directors — John Sawyer, Peter Luce, Dr. Thomas King, Capt. Richard “Skeet” Gifford, Arthur Carty, and Russell Matthews — were unfailing in their support, both professional and financial, as were the thirty scholars, scientists, and expedition veterans of TIGHAR’s Earhart Project Advisory Council. During the writing process dozens of TIGHARs provided critical commentary on draft chapters, and many more donated critical cash as participants in the TIGHAR Literary Guild. Their names are included on the DVD.
    Any attempt to catalog all the TIGHAR researchers whose labors contributed to the book is doomed to failure, but I’ll mention a few and beg the forgiveness of the many I am sure to omit. Forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman of Photek coaxed valuable information from historical photos. Oscar Boswell, Capt. Skeet Gifford, and Lockheed/Martin engineer Tom Roberts brought their awesome aviation expertise to bear on the question of the Electra’s capabilities. Jerry Hamilton and Ron Dawson did unprecedented research on the life of Fred Noonan. Don Jordan brought two previously unknown Noonan letters to light. Russ Matthews reviewed the papers of Harry Manning. Bill Moffet did yeoman service squinting through weeks of microfilmed newspaper articles to find and catalog reports of radio distress calls from the Earhart plane. Ron Bright tracked down news coverage of the calls reported by Dana Randolph and Nina Paxton. Karen Hoy helped get accurate citations for newspaper references. Art Rypinski sorted out the history of the Bureau of Air Commerce. Historian Peter McQuarrie found the obscure British file that brought the castaway of Gardner Island from rumor to reality.
    Several individuals with personal ties to the Earhart story came forward and generously shared documents that shed new light on the events of 1937. Capt. Jim Bible provided scans of the letters his mother, Helen Day, received from her friend Fred Noonan. David Bellarts generously shared the recorded recollections of his father, Itasca’s chief radioman, Leo G. Bellarts. And then there is Betty Klenck Brown, who may have been the last person to hear the voices of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, and whose carefully preserved transcription of what she heard may reveal more about their fate than any existing document. Betty had the courage to come forward and subject herself to relentless cross-examination. She did so openly, cheerfully, and with sincere goodwill. My admiration and affection for her are immense.
    Finally, I despair of finding words to express my gratitude for the unceasing encouragement, editorial guidance, and, all too often, thankless support of my wife and partner, Pat Thrasher.
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