New Guinea - Amelia Earhart & Fred Noonan, en route to Howland Island, 2 July 1937

Discussion in 'Pre-1960's Missing' started by Dark Knight, Mar 31, 2007.

  1. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Running out of fuel is a very likely possibility. Amelia in her last transmission to Itasca stated clearly that she didn't have much fuel left.

    But running low on fuel is something all pilots prepare for, and because of that possibility, there are contingency plans. They wouldn't just have flown around in orbit waiting to crash into the ocean. They would have been searching for a suitable available island or atoll to land on or near.

    Fred Noonan was one of the most accomplished and experienced navigators of the era. He could very well have chosen a route which would have put the Electra into waters near islands, such as the Carolines, the Gilberts, or others.

    There is quite a bit of testimony from various islanders that, in fact, an airplane with two aviators (some state one was a woman) went down near Milli Atoll and that they were rescued or captured by the Japanese. Many of those accounts indicate that they were taken to Saipan where they later perished at the hands of the Japanese.
     


  2. PrairieWind

    PrairieWind Verified Attorney

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    I used to think the "captured by the Japanese, taken to Saipan" theory was just as crazy as the "alien abduction" theory. But then I heard some of the evidence and have found it quite compelling. Unfortunately, none the leads on physical evidence has led very far. I certainly don't discount it completely, but I still stick to the idea the went down in the ocean. I think Noonan would have thought that they were very near Howland Island and the USS Itasca. I think they spend their last drops of fuel trying to find their original destination. I am always open to options, but that is still the theory that makes the most sense to me.
     
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  3. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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  4. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]
    Japanese Kempeitai (Secret Police) Officers

    The theory that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were captured and held prisoner by the Japanese is not all that far fetched - although admittedly, it runs contrary to the official "Lost at Sea and Never Found" story.

    Whether or not Fred and Amelia were on any kind of espionage mission, it is a fact that they were flying close to the Mandated Islands during the course of their flight from Lae to Howland. The Japanese were certainly monitoring that flight and very probably considered it a threat to "their" territory and to their little scheme for Pacific Domination.

    Different countries tend to look back on World War II with different start dates in mind. In America, it is always 7 December 1941 (a date which will live in infamy). England remembers the start as 1940. Of course, Poland and Czechoslovakia might argue that it began in 1938.

    But for Japan, the war began in July 1937 with their invasion of China (they had previously taken large parts of Manchuria). And who should go down in the Pacific at just exactly that time? Even if Fred and Amelia were not in any way engaged in espionage, the Japanese would have assumed that they were.

    If they had managed to land or ditch safely in the Marshall Islands (or other nearby islands), the Japanese would have wanted to "rescue" them and see what they knew. Their record of treatment of Americans during the war shows how ruthless and murderous they were. Many downed aviators (in fact most who were captured in the islands) were imprisoned, tortured, and executed - usually at the hands of the Kempeitai.

    "The second world war began in Asia, with the Japanese invasion of China in July 1937; it ended there with Japan’s surrender on 15 August 1945..."

    Analytic Introduction
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
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  5. PrairieWind

    PrairieWind Verified Attorney

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    I guess it could be argued that the war began with Japan's invasion of Korea in 1910. So in that respect, WW2 in Asia, began before WW1 in Europe.
     
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  6. Betty P

    Betty P Well-Known Member

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    Good link, Richard. The Japanese definitely would have been concerned that Amelia and Fred were on a spying mission for the US to see how many islands the Japanese were occupying. The south Pacific was a big chess game of island hopping and conquering for many years. Getting air fields on strategic islands was very important and the US Navy definitely would have been keeping a close eye on that activity. Same with the movement and composition of the Japanese naval and air fleet.

    Had the Japanese taken Amelia, Fred and their plane, they would have hidden the plane promptly. The Japanese would never have admitted it and the US military, had they discovered any evidence, would never have made that public.
     
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  7. PrairieWind

    PrairieWind Verified Attorney

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    I used to think the idea that Amelia and Fred had been captured by the Japanese to be an absurd theory. But after I read up more on that theory I understood it better. I still think the most likely scenario is that they simply ran out of fuel looking for Howland and went into the ocean. But I don't totally rule out the other options. I think the Gardner Island theory is certainly plausible, and the Japanese theories, but maybe to a lesser degree. I also don't rule out that it was possible the Navy had asked Amelia to, while not go out of her way to spy, but perhaps just photograph any islands they flew over.
     
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  8. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    There are some problems with theories that involve Amelia and Fred conducting an espionage mission over the "Mandated Islands" which were, in fact, being occupied and fortified by Japan.

    Most of their flight was during the hours of darkness, making photography difficult, if not impossible. If they arrived over any of those islands after dawn, they would have risked being detected and intercepted by Japanese fighter planes.

    There is no evidence or documentation that they had anything more than a cheap Kodak Brownie camera on board the plane.

    The US Navy had much better planes to use if a reconnaissance flight was desired over the Islands. The Catalina PBY had a longer range and was more suited to such a mission. Being an amphibious plane, it could land and take off on water, and it was also armed so that it could defend against any interceptors. While the Japanese might want to claim territorial "no fly" zones for a few miles around the islands, they had no right to forbid other countries from flying in that area of the Pacific.

    Amelia was having radio problems during her flight. She could not hear any transmissions from Itasca or Howland Island, and her own transmissions were somewhat garbled or unintelligible at times. She may have THOUGHT that she was near Howland Island, but she did not see it and the Coast Guard Cutter Itasca did not see or hear her airplane.

    She most certainly would have sought an alternate place to land after failing to find Itasca or Howland.
     
  9. AC4RD

    AC4RD Well-Known Member

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    If I might offer an entirely uninformed opinion, AE's "radio problems" were primarily that the <modsnip> woman didn't bother to learn how to use her radio effectively. If she had set up scheduled times for two-way contacts, if she had kept her Morse code key on the airplane and used 500KHz, and if she had learned how to use her brand-new RDF loop (Elgen Long's book says pretty clearly that she didn't, and she was NOT able to operate it on the test flight out of Hawaii), then she and Fred might have made it.

    IMO and MOO, it's essentially certain that she and Fred splashed somewhere near Howland. The radio officers in effect prove it: "Her radio signal was so loud we went outside to see if we could see her plane." (paraphrase from memory) For an AM transmitter on direct, non-atmo-bounced signal at HF (3105 / 6210) this pretty much proves that she was near the _Itasca_ at that time. I've spent hundreds of hours operating shortwave transmitters and receivers, including to all parts of the Pacific and Asia, and I'm very confident in saying that. (YMMV and you're free to say I'm wrong if you like.) The Electra was CLOSE to the _Itasca_ for that to have happened. She didn't have time to go anywhere else, with very low fuel.

    I have no problem discounting the "eyewitness" accounts. Fred Goerner goes to an island with a fistful of dollars, finds an interpreter, and gets stories of seeing a white woman etc. Soldiers say they saw a plane that looked like an Electra being burned and were told it was AE's. This isn't evidence of anything useful, IMO. There are people who are certain they saw a supposedly-dead Elvis in a Burger King in Memphis, but that doesn't mean they actually did see him. Eyewitness testimony, translated, especially after 20 years, is (IMO) essentially useless in evaluating stories.

    Another important point: If AE had given up on Howland and went to find another landing place hundreds of miles away, "skosh fuel" and no guarantee she could find it, given that she'd just failed to find Howland, she'd have *said so*. It's inconceivable to me that she'd give up on her original plan without letting the watchers know she was doing so--so they would know where to look.

    The story is that she left the Morse key behind to save weight. If that's true, it was a stunning <modsnip> choice, IMO, even if she didn't have decent Morse code skills. (And Fred Noonan, long-time long-distance navigator, would certainly have been able to use Morse.) I've got a dozen code keys and the *heaviest* of them isn't more than 4 pounds, max. That's less than a pint of water weighs. And it could have saved her life.

    Bad planning, bad preparation, insufficient training led to a watery grave near Howland. Just MHO and MOO, but I'm absolutely certain of it, myself.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2021
  10. PrairieWind

    PrairieWind Verified Attorney

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    I don't really know what her radio/morse skills were nor Fred's. It is an interesting question. I remember some time ago there being a discussion about her radio and or antenna having been damaged and resulting in her not being able to receive transmissions, thus no ability to direction find the Itasca. I remember watching a documentary some time ago about the analysis of her radio transmissions received by the Itasca and the Itasca radio operators reported her signal as very strong. So I would agree that it seems she was likely in the area, but just couldn't locate Howland. It does seem odd to me that given that she knew she was in the area, and knew she was running low on fuel, it would be odd to try to make it to Gardner Island without saying so. It would have made more sense to just continue to search for Howland and the Itasca. I don't totally discount the Gardner Island theory, but it just seems to me that if they did actually make it there, there would have been more obvious evidence of them being there.
     
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  11. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    There were a number of problems which contributed to Amelia's communication deficiencies.

    A long trailing antenna was left behind at some point during her round the world flight. It would have made transmission and reception on her HF radios better, but it was taken out of the plane to reduce weight. Amelia felt that she could get along OK with the wire antenna which was attached to the top of the Electra. Unfortunately, it has been theorized, that there were probably technical problems with that system.

    Amelia could not hear any of the transmissions from Itasca when her radio was set to that wire antenna, and her own transmissions (which would have gone out using that same antenna) were garbled and hard to understand. It has been theorized that the problems may have been due to a relay switch inside her radio, which allowed switching between transmit and receive on the wire antenna. The direction finding loop antenna was wired directly into her radio and did not go through such a relay.

    She kept asking Itasca to take a bearing on her and let her know what it was. Itasca was unable to do this, mainly because she did not stay on the air (radio) long enough.

    At 0742 local Howland time, Amelia was heard to say: “We must be on you, but cannot see you — but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.”

    The circular loop direction finding antenna on the top of the cockpit was attached to the same radio, but was for Receive only. She was attempting to get a direction cut on Itasca toward the end. When using that antenna, she quite possibly felt that she had gotten a line of position.

    Her final inflight radio message occurred an hour later, at 08:43 (local Howland): “We are on the line 157 - 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait.”

    There are different theories as to what that "line 157-337" meant, but I feel that it was quite possibly that she thought that she had gotten a direction finding (DF) cut from Itasca on her loop antenna. The direction finder worked much like an old AM radio which has a loop antenna inside its case. The strongest signal can be heard when the back - or the front of the radio is pointed at the station. The aircraft's loop antenna could not tell if the station was in the direction of 157 degrees (southeast) from the plane OR if it was the reciprocal bearing of 337 degrees (northwest).

    Amelia certainly made some mistakes or had bad practices in regard to her radio operation. Here are some things she did NOT do:

    She did not make regular Position reports in a standard manner such as: Position (lat/long), Time (of that position), True Heading, Airspeed, Next planned position, at (ETA).

    When transmitting, she did not stay on the air long enough for Itasca to get a cut on her.

    She insisted on only using voice transmissions and did not use Morse Code. Even without her Morse Key, she could have used her microphone transmit switch to send Morse Code.

    She did not send any emergency messages out over 500 Khz, which is and was the international frequency for such messages.

    Fred Noonan was a long range celestial navigator and one of the best at the time. He also held a Second Class radio operator's license - which meant he was schooled in radio communications and had the ability to send and receive Morse Code at somewhere between 10 and 16 words per minute.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2021
  12. AC4RD

    AC4RD Well-Known Member

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    Gentlemen, nice to "meet" you. I'm in almost total agreement, but Richard, if I felt sure I was near Howland and I was low on fuel, to me (MHO only) it would make more sense to fly a search pattern expanding outward, hoping to find Howland, than take a chance on being able to find Gardner Island, with very low fuel on board. That's just my opinion, and I am NOT a pilot. Prairie, AE had to pass a 5wpm Morse test (according to Long's book) to get her flying license. Five words per minute is the same thing Boy Scouts learned when I was a lad. (We had fire then, but hadn't yet invented the wheel in those days.)

    As Richard said, Noonan had to pass a faster level of sending and receiving for his license; I think (don't know) he would have used it extensively as a navigator prior to the AE flight.

    Amelia just made some really bad choices. My father-in-law used to say the old adage about "There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots ..."
     
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  13. PrairieWind

    PrairieWind Verified Attorney

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    AC, nice to meet you as well. I would agree, it would seem to have made far more sense to continue to try to locate Howland rather than try to divert to Gardner. She had to know she was in the vicinity anyway. Plus, without knowing exactly where she was, it would seem foolish to try to set out for Gardner. AE and Noonan were smarter than that I think. I don't totally reject the Gardner Island theory, but it just doesn't seem to make sense to me.
     
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  14. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    "Setting out for Gardner" is probably not likely. Although there are some who believe that she did ditch or land her plane there, it has never been proven conclusively. If she landed there, it would more likely have been that she happened upon it by chance while looking for Howland Island and out of gas.

    We really don't know exactly how much more flight time remained after Amelia's last transmission. They had passed by the Gilbert Islands while enroute to Howland. It is possible that she decided to turn back and attempt to find one of those islands when she could not find Howland. Depending on where she actually was, reaching an island in the Gilberts or (if north of course) in the Marshalls might have been possible.

    There is much testimony and belief among Marshallese that her plane landed on or near Barre Island in Mili Atol, which is east of Jaluit island where a radio station operated by the Japanese existed at the time.

    Speculation: It is possible that she may have acquired the Jaluit signal on her direction finding antenna and simply homed on it. But it is also possible that the Japanese intentionally transmitted on the same homing frequency assigned to Itasca to lure her off course into their area.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2021
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  15. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Meaconing is the interception and rebroadcast of navigation signals. These signals are rebroadcast on the received frequency, typically, with power higher than the original signal, to confuse enemy navigation. Consequently, aircraft or ground stations are given inaccurate bearings.

    Meaconing is more of a concern to personnel in navigation ratings than to radio operators. However, communications transmitters are often used to transmit navigation signals. Since communications personnel operate the transmitters, they must know how to deal with any communications problems resulting from meaconing.

    Successful meaconing can cause aircraft to be lured into "hot" (ambush-ready) landing zones or enemy airspace, ships to be diverted from their intended routes, bombers to expend ordnance on false targets, or ground stations to receive inaccurate bearings or position locations.

    The term 'meacon' is a portmanteau of masking beacon.

    LINKS:

    Meaconing - Wikipedia

    What does MEACONING mean?

    https://informationtechniciantraini...ntrusion-Jamming-And-Interference-Miji-88.htm

    List of World War II electronic warfare equipment - Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
     
  16. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]
    An Australian POW, Sgt. Leonard Siffleet, who was captured in New Guinea about to be beheaded by a Japanese officer with a gunto, 1942.

    This was a common practice by the Japanese military forces with captured Allied personnel during World War II. Some believe that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan may have suffered a similar fate on Saipan after being picked up in the Marshalls and transported there by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

    LINK:

    Shock pics show Japanese troops killing British Sikh POWs for TARGET PRACTICE in WW2
     
  17. Quiet Time

    Quiet Time Well-Known Member

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    Question..

    If Fred Noonan was better w/the operating the radio, why wasn't he in charge of that?
    Or allowed to use Morse code?

    ETA: Was everyone in agreement that AE could handle the flight?
     
  18. AC4RD

    AC4RD Well-Known Member

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    Richard, I had never heard of "meaconing" before this--darned interesting, thanks! Quiet Time: She handled the flight well enough except for that hop to Howland; IMO she'd have been fine if she had learned to use her radio gear (JMO.)

    And why Noonan wasn't running the radio is a good question. The radio control and RDF control box were in the cockpit, visible in photographs. I know Noonan spent most of the flight back in the body of the plane and that, because the fuselage was crowded with extra fuel tanks, he and AE passed messages back and forth with a stick (this is all in Elgin Long's book.) It may be that Noonan couldn't get to the cockpit physically. It sounds unlikely on the face of things, but IDK. And AE had handled the radio well enough apart from that.

    And Moderator: SORRY I used that word for "poorly informed" that had to be snipped. My bad.
     
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  19. Quiet Time

    Quiet Time Well-Known Member

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    DBM
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2021
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