Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Stateside: The People vs. the Executive Office

Stateside with Rosalea

The People vs. the Executive Office

The problem with being a natural-born quilter is that you can take scraps of information - for the most part totally unrelated - and patch them together into an enormously elegant and satisfying theory without realizing that the only thing holding it together is some even-more-unrelated material. I do it all the time, relying on the good sense of anybody reading what I write to act as an antidote to my fantastical imaginings. But what if I took those ideas seriously and began to embark on actual bona fide research to prove or disprove the theory?

I have just spent the best part of two days in the company of people who are doing just that kind of research into an unsolved mystery that took place 65 years ago, and many of them have been carrying on that research for most of those 65 years. At least, some people think it's a mystery. Others, like former Lockheed employee and aviation historian Carol O. Osborne, think that oats is oats and anyone who says it's barley is ignoring historical fact: that on July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart's plane ran out of fuel and she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, drowned at sea near Howland Island in the Pacific.

Heaven knows, I didn't go to the Amelia Earhart Symposium at the Western Aerospace Museum on May 17-18, 2002, in order to become intrigued about that pioneering pilot's disappearance. She flew. She fell out of the sky. Joni Mitchell wrote a song about it. End of story. I went to the seminar because I'd seen the list of presenters and it was, I thought, a goldmine of people who would be able to help me with my research into the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War - radio operators, retired Navy captains, combat fighter pilots.

But such is the seductive power of the intrigue surrounding Earhart's disappearance, that by lunchtime on Saturday, I was as hooked as investigative journalist Joe Klaas was in 1965 in Las Vegas when he met with retired US Air Force Major Joe Jervis, and ended up writing a book called `Amelia Earhart Lives!' about Jervis's insistence that a woman in New York - Irene Bolam - was AE. After watching some video and looking at the self-published xerox book by another researcher, Tod Swindell, who employed the methods and expertise of forensic anthropologists to compare IB and AE physically, I think Joe Jervis was right.

Swindell's book is called "The People vs. the Executive Office" and it is his use of that title that really got my interest. For two days, many knowledgeable people had been explaining their theories and supporting them with the fruits of their research to the point where I felt like I was trying to separate black sheep from white in a computer game that kept randomly changing the colour of the sheep. Just when I thought all the facts had been marshalled in support of one theory, those same facts would be marshalled in support of another, completely opposite one.

The consistent theme - unless you accept the events at face value as Osborne does - seemed to be the deliberate obfuscation by the executive branch of government at the time and ever since. "The facts were regarded differently by the presidential cabinet than the view given to the general public," said Swindell at the seminar, after quoting a comment supposedly made at the time by the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Gibbon: "We have evidence the thing is all over. Sure. Terrible. It would be awful to make it public." His boss was asking Gibbon's opinion during the course of a telephone conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt's secretary when the First Lady was trying to get the search for Earhart renewed.

What is the truth?

When you're in a room with someone who states categorically that at 11.40 am on August 6, 1944 he (Bob Ross) and two other US Marines were looking for snipers on the island of Saipan and found Earhart's plane under some palm trees, do you doubt him? No, not until someone comes along and says that by that time of the war Saipan was flattened and there were no palm trees left standing. That naysayer, Dana Timmer, is convinced the plane is still underwater about 60 miles northwest of Howland Island and he has gone to great expense to try to recover it.

Was Earhart's body disinterred, as our Bob Ross tells us, by PFC Hansen and PFC Burke in Saipan, or was she taken prisoner by the Japanese, imprisoned in Shanghai, then liberated at the end of the war and given a new identity and an MI6 husband so she wouldn't reveal she was on a spying mission in the Japanese-mandated Marshall Islands in 1937? Heck, Bob Ross wasn't even in the list of seminar presenters but popped up in a gap when the projector wasn't working! But does that make him any more or less credible than USN Captain (Ret.) Ed Melvin who knew Art Kennedy - Earhart's aviation engineer - who told him that she once said to him: "Can you imagine me being a spy?"

What is the truth and how do you establish it? Or to phrase the question in the way a presidential cabinet might understand it - what is the truth and to whom do you owe it?


lea_barker@hotmail.com
Lea Barker
California
Sunday, May 19, 2002


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news