DATELINE: December 31, 2011
SUCCESS! Your contribution has enabled me to return to the island in February 2012 (visited previously in 2009) and use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to localize the 15 bodies for DNA identification. After the suspected site is processed, the bodies will be recognized by the US Government for return to the United States (they will not intervene until a positive site ID is completed). All funds raised will be used only for transportation (from the US to Micronesia and inter-island boat fees and costs associated with hiring local labor).
THANK YOU for your consideration and support.
DATELINE: August 20, 2011
For the past six months, I have been interviewing people who all have significant insight into the mysterious disappearance of the Pan Am Hawaii Clipper. The greatest source of detail has actually come in the shape of antique books written between 1936 and 1942. It is their name, places and dates have been discovered have proven to be a valuable anchor in learning more about the details of that era.
DATELINE: August 21, 2011
Sunday draws to a close and I find myself frustrated of the general lack of imagery of the passengers and crew available. If a reader happens to know of any photos (I have some but they are not that great in quality) of Mark “Tex” Walker, George M. Davis, William McGarty, John W. Jewett, Howard L. Cox, T. B. Tatum, Dr. Earl B. McKinley, Dr. Fred C. Meier, Kenneth A Kennedy, Wah-Sun “Watson” Choy. Any thoughts, advice or assistance is greatly appreciated.
DATELINE: August 26, 2011
It’s Official! This week, we made an agreement to utilize a new ground penetrating radar system on the concrete slab. I will be undergoing training at the GPR facility and then later this fall, the journey back to the islands is on.
DATELINE: September 7, 2011
This week I will be travel to two locations and conduct video interviews for the documentary & book. Additionally, I have hired an archivist to dive into a treasure trove of over 3 million photographs that could yield the best imagery to date of the passengers and crew of the Hawaii Clipper. Wish us luck!
DATELINE: September 8, 2011
Success! I have found some long-lost photos of the passengers and crew of the Hawaii Clipper! These will make a wonderful addition to the growing body of photographs and information being prepared for the book.
DATELINE: September 15, 2011
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit and interview the child (now senior citizen) whose parent was aboard the vanished Hawaii Clipper. To say it was an illuminating experience would do it no justice. I learned more than I believe has ever been publicly disclosed, especially on camera. I am grateful to all those that assisted and participated in the documentary taping. More to come soon.
DATELINE: September 20, 2011
Digging a bit further into a book about FDR, I came across a curious story about Vincent Astor, Amelia Earhart and others that were funded via ** ******* *** Bank to conduct “Unofficial” surveillance of the Japanese Mandate Islands in the late 1930s. This is a great moment in understanding why some players in this Pacific chess game of espionage were located in strategic locations at specific times. More to come!
DATELINE: September 26, 2011
Today is a huge day. Working with an archivist, we have discovered 37 antique photos that I will soon post on this site once they have been scanned. For anyone interested in this blog, I hope the discovery will be worth the wait. Thank you to all that have contacted me thru this blog as your wisdom and advice have proven fruitful.
DATELINE: September 27, 2011
As promised, the following are some images that you will only find on http://www.lostclipper. Thanks to all that helped them survive thru the years.
DATELINE: October 11, 2011
Last week was great in that folks are finding long-lost images of the Hawaii Clipper and her passengers & crew. THANK YOU for that! I can’t tell you enough how significant each and very new piece of this puzzle is and that together, we all can help each other solve the mystery once and for all. Attached are some of the latest “discoveries” made by our new family of researchers here on LostClipper.com!
SPECIAL shout-out to Lee Sherman and Craig Giacometti for finding and scanning this original print. Here we see the Hawaii Clipper in her 1937 configuration (most likely in Alameda, CA) undergoing maintenance.
DATELINE: October 21, 2011
TGIF. It’s been a long couple of weeks working out a few details of my next Pacific trip. However, things have shaped up and the icing on the cake has been the addition of a new set of images (almost doubles my personal library of the Hawaii Clipper and is passengers / crew). Thanks again for all the folks that have reached out to me and offered valuable insight, information and photographs; without you this effort would not be nearly as complete as you have all made it. We are, indeed, a family working together to make this project a successful effort. Have a great weekend!
DATELINE: October 22, 2011
Late additions to the archive. One is a tin lapel pin in the shape of a Martin M-130 Flying Boat, a post card and a few other artifacts. Enjoy!
DATELINE: November 7, 2011
A multi-talented group of explorers are sighing on for what could be an exciting visit to Micronesia in the coming months. From areal reconnoissance and underwater cinematography to interviews in Japan, a really nice a solid body of evidence with a dash of intrigue will certainly add the flavor of story I’ve been hunting for. Thanks for sticking with us!
DATELINE: December 1, 2011
Well, for all of those of you who have asked to help but now sure how, here is your chance!! Check out this new website:
DATELINE: December 12, 2011
Just got back from a trip to Ohio and visited the Wright-Patterson Air Force base to interview a world war II engine specialist in reverse engineering. Here are some of the photos of our research. Thanks Julie for your amazing work!!!!
DATELINE: December 15, 2011
A small college of photos while researching a similar engine used on the Hawaii Clipper. Thank you again to all at Wright-Patt!!
DATELINE: January 2, 2012
Happy New Year!
Thanks so much for all your thoughts, words of wisdom and wonderful advice. We were successful in meeting the $3,600 goal to finance the return to Micronesia. However this time, I am going back with GPR equipment, a multitude of maps and a lot clearer picture of the location of the passengers and crew of the Hawaii Clipper. I am certain this journey will finally deliver the answers we all have been seeking.
Stay tuned, the journey has begun. Let’s go hunting!
DATELINE: January 15, 2012
Exciting news! A friend of mine that also happens to be an amazing artist has designed a “rough” conceptual poster for the project. He may call it a rough but I think it looks pretty darn amazing. He well do a few tweaks next week but for now, I wanted to share it with you all.
I’ll be happy to pass on any comments you might have. Also, last week I completed GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) training with the unit I will be bringing to Truk Lagoon. A HUGE special thanks goes out to the folks at GSSI www.geophysical.com and specifically to Ken Corcoran who helped me with his sterling advice, expertise and extra effort in helping to use the unit on the other side of the planet.
DATELINE: January 20, 2012
This was a very good week for finding accurate photography of our research targets. Shown here, this image was recovered from the National Archives in Washington DC just yesterday depicting an Imperial Japanese Navy Hospital in Truk Lagoon soon after the war ended. As you can see, it is in good shape and will be a prime candidate to start the ground evaluation in February. Thanks for everyone’s input!
DATELINE: January 21, 2012
Superb !!! I wish you the very best of luck and commend & praise you for your commitment to the pursuit of the answer to this amazing mystery. I wish I could be there with you and very much wish I could have been in a position to help with many other aspects of the project but I also feel so fortunate to have found you a year or so ago !! God Speed Thanks Ted Wyman
DATELINE: February 8, 2012
One week to go before heading back to Truk. I can tell you it has been an exciting yet foreboding time for me because what is literally at stake. Other than a GPR unit going missing in transit (and found), changes in travel plans, finances being altered and a host of their unforeseen circumstances, I still remain steadfast in pursuing this very worthy goal. Will I actually find these long-lost flyers or have I wasted twelve years of my life looking for them? Is this a fantasy or shortly to become a reality? These and a thousand other thoughts race thru my mind as the clock ticks closer to Chuuk time. Stand by.. Engines are set to throttle up.
DATELINE: February 26, 2012
I write this entry from the island of Moen, just about a mile north of where the passengers and crew of the Hawaii Clipper lie entombed in a concrete slab. Being in the FSM for two weeks has been enlightening and frustrating at the same time. I say this because, although the local clansmen have been open and accommodating, their respect driven nature (which can appear as being timid) and observance for tradition can make a request for information take days.
Traveling to and from the island of Tonoas, often in heavy seas, takes up to an hour and leaves me feeling beat up before I even set foot on dry land. Then it’s a hot and humid hike thru the dense forest to interact with a local villager that often has a look like who the heck are you and why are you standing on my property. Having a local guide will allow you to not only conduct a search but also keep your head on your shoulders because they do walk around with machetes (for clearing jungle, not cutting heads off). 🙂
I have solved some mysteries and discovered new ones… not the way I had planned this to go. I examined multiple locations, scanned slab sites, and have only succeeded in ruling out slabs that do not have the entombed Americans. To be clear, I am highly disappointed at my inability to locate their final resting place but at the same time encouraged that I DO know where they are not. My friend Tony Johnson, who is working the locations with me, reminds me this is a process of ruling out places to identify what remains. I know he is correct but I still feel unsuccessful.
So, tonight I leave Truk Lagoon more informed, better educated, a treasure trove of new data but still unable to determine how far or near I actually walked next to their remains. I know deep in my gut, that I am a stones throw from the slab, however the seventy-four years of tropical growth, the passage of time and loss of eye witnesses has become a huge barrier and only extra continued effort will solve this mystery. I leave this place believing more than ever before, that the missing passengers and crew of Pan Am trip 229 could hear my voice if they were able.
March 16, 2012
Time has certainly flown since my last post and I’m sincerely sorry for the delay. I thought I would bounce back quicker from the time change however it took me over a week to “get right.” Since that time, I have still had to do some traveling but soon, I will be able to get back to pouring over all the hours and hours of video footage shot in Micronesia. I plan to creat a short video montage of what I saw on this last trip and will post it on Sunday.
So the long and short of it is that I am still convinced the remains of the passengers and crew of the Hawaii Clipper are indeed on the island of Tonoas, but the jungle has really been aggressive in its takeover of all concrete slabs. The best part of this trip was to finally dispel a lot of hearsay and myths. For one example, I was led to believe there were few concrete slabs on the island due to cost and necessity of having such heavy foundations in a remote tropical location. Not true… Not by a long shot. There are a tremendous amount of slabs, tall, short, thick, thin, you name it, it’s there. Scanning some of those slabs was both difficult and arduous. However, a brand new approach to discovering the actual location was developed out of it and I am happy to say, will save us time and effort int he future. Joe Gervais and Charlie Hill, the two people who had really developed this research early on and had provided some materials actually missed quite a lot. I wish Joe was still around these days so I could ask him why he made mention of things that were seemingly not important while ignoring obvious facts. I understand he was actually looking for Amelia Earhart and not the clipper, however, I would have hoped that once he recognized the connection between Ron Jackson’s book China Clipper and his own in-person interviews; that he would have gone back and cleared up some of his research. Charlie Hill too,in his book “Fix on the Rising Sun” collaborated with Joe to push the theory even further however neither man ever went back to Truk Lagoon to validate the research. Charlie sadly and quite suddenly passed a couple of years ago as did Joe some years earlier. Charlie said I was the last torch-bearer… I sincerely hope not. Time has been my enemy and as the days turn into months and years, even the most vivid memories fades to shades of gray. Stay tuned, more to come soon!
DATELINE: March 18, 2012
As promised, a short video montage of my trip to Micronesia. THANK YOU to everyone that helped financially, materially and spiritually. You ALL are my foundation and strength. A LOT more is on the way!
DATELINE: June 18, 2012
Wow! How time has flown. As you may or may not have known, I have been overwhelmed by video productions outside my Hawaii Clipper endeavors so of course, updating this blog was put on hold. I am happy to say that I have turned a corner and can now re-engage into this effort.
Although I may have been away for a bit, momentum actually never stopped on this project. I have a new asset in the islands working to keep looking and interviewing some of the local populace about clues as to the final resting place of the passengers and crew of trip #229.
On the lighter side, my dear friend Bill took a couple of photos of what he called “the mother of all pot holes.” He was not kidding. If you ever wanted to know how difficult it could be navigating road obstructions on the island of Moen could be, check this out:
That’s the real deal… but I don’t remember seeing a tow truck around… who knows, may still be there when I return.
I heard (so this may be untrue) that the next morning this car was missing the two wheels so let that be a lesson to you on where you park your island car. Capice?
Also, looking from these photos, you will see the challenges that abound with regards to logistics. In Chuuk (Truk Lagoon), roads were installed by the Japanese military and never maintained after the war. On most of the islands, the remain as simple foot pathways where people may use the rare ATV, motorcycle or death-defining pick up driver. Only on Moen (in this part of the lagoon) has the most advanced road which is slowly being laid down. I think in two or three years the road will be completed baring addition delays due to weather, corruption or technical / land owner disputes. For the most part, you will eventually get to where you;re going.. but you may need a spine adjustment after you get there. Hmm, now there is an idea, open a chiropractor’s off in Chuuk. Hmmmmmmm.
DATELINE: June 19, 2012
Great news! I was interviewed by aviation Author / Writer John Geoghegan about the Hawaii Clipper documentary! How cool is that! I’m hopeful that as news trickles out about this effort that the momentum will increase. Thanks everyone for your continued well wishes and support!
DATELINE: June 25, 2012
Fred Noonan: 1893 ~ 1937 (declared dead 20 June 1938)
Although much has been written about Amelia Earhart and her untimely demise in the South Pacific, comparatively little has been written about her navigator / flying companion Fred Noonan and the intricate connections he and AE had with Pan Am and the great flying clipper boats. In this VERY brief synopsis, I will try to encapsulate some highlights of his career and its proximity to the Hawaii Clipper.
At 17, young Noonan started working as an enlisted seaman on the British vessel Crompton. From 1910 to 1935, roughly 25 years at sea (and land), he rose from a deck hand to boatswain’s Mate, all the way up to Quartermaster and Navigator. Within that time, he met his first wife at a dance recital in New Orleans and later married her on July 11, 1927. About that time he seriously considered entering the still wild and untamed world of aviation, and having successfully learned the art of celestial navigation while at sea, it seemed like a new way to move up the ladder of his career. Not only did Noonan learn to be a fine navigator aboard aircraft, he became one of the very best, if not THE best of his time.
Starting with NYRBA (New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line seaplane service in the mid 1930’s, the company merged with Pan Am on August 19, 1930), he quickly found himself in company with a wide-eyed set of aerial entrepreneurs and adventurers. Although he did move around the company is a variety of roles such as field manager and instructor; navigation was his strength. An alleged weakness however was alcoholism. While most can argue that booze seriously hampered his career, I have found no evidence of that. In past interviews of long since retired skippers of Pan Am flying boats that “Fred was a drunk and would sometimes get out of the seaplane and walk right off the pier into the ocean” were more rare than I would have been led to believe. One might suppose falling off a dock could be the influence of exhaustion for example, the Alameda to Manila trip took twelve days and often exceeded the limits placed on crew rest by the Department of Commerce. It was actually later proven by DoC flight surgeons that by routinely examining the crews of the clippers before and after each trans-pacific flight, dangerous levels of fatigue existed so there is truth there for sure. Whether it be drunkenness, fatigue, emotional strain from his personal life or the combination of all those factors and more, the man was still a brilliant navigator.
I personally lean toward the assertion that Fred drank no more than anyone else and that early Amelia Earhart researcher Fred Goerner concocted the idea to help spice up his Search for Amelia book. I believe there were mentioning’s in some her writings for the concern of his late night drinking and sleeping in past departure times, however his navigation abilities were usually quite sound and I think he was a good choice for navigation. However, he may not have been the best person if you consider the huge need for communications and triangulation for position finding. He was fond of AE and wrote to Bea, his second wife that she was a fine airman and could do the job as well as any man. In another interview, the father of a Pan Am clipper that was also a clipper pilot for Pan Am and had worked with AE mentioned how she must cut a hole in her aircraft to accommodate a radio antenna and she snapped back “No one is cutting hole in my pretty airplane.” He then recalled that he was convinced his face would flash thru her mind when she and Fred determined they were lost at sea and had they listened to him and others that said the same thing, that they might have actually located Itasca.
Flash forward almost exactly a year to July 29, 1938 and nearly a month after Fred was declared dead, the Hawaii Clipper is forever lost. It has been proposed that Noonan was a desirable target to kidnap along with Earhart due to his very in-depth knowledge of Pan Am navigation, communication protocols and other potential sensitive information, however no one may ever know for sure. Both had both flown on the flying boat and many of the clipper crew had actually helped AE with preparations for her first trans-ocean flights including first officer Mark Walker, who was a highly skilled and exceptional pilot. He was noted to actually participate with Howard Hughes and Earhart in some of the H1-Racer speed trials. On one such event Walker was at the controls headed to Hawaii and following Earhart from behind. These people knew and worked with each other and collectively mourned the loss of each other and their missing colleagues. Pan Am was nearly at the focal point for many of Earhart’s flying aspirations, publicity events and personal life. With Juan Trippe as a stanch supporter and of his fellow compatriots, she had a huge destiny to fulfill.
DATELINE: June 30, 2012
Some of you have been asking to see photos of Chuuk (Truk Lagoon) from the air. Why not I say so here goes. Thru good fortune and some local connections, I was able to charter an aircraft and pilot that would fly me on the actual bombing routs used by the US Navy on Operation Hailstone in 1944. For two days in February, Navy aviators pounded this area with relentless destruction however to their great credit, were able to keep civilian casualties to a miraculous low level. The occupying Japanese Navy and Army forces did not fair to well however which they viewed (and still do) as direct retribution for the Pearl Harbor attack years earlier.
Among the images you will note the lone standing lighthouse on the island of Moen, a connecting bridge built by the Japanese often seen from afar on the island of Dublon (Tonoas) and Xavier High School back on Moen.
Surveying the islands now seventy plus years later, I am amazed at the growth of vegetation over a land once scared with massive construction and later, bombardment. For example, the island of Etten, once nearly 95% devoid of trees and made to resemble the deck of an aircraft carrier, is now totally shrouded in 50-foot trees. Although the scars upon the land may now be camouflaged, they are easily visible once you are back on the ground. In the coming days I will show this visually with images of paths that were once boulevards. The general lack of road rebuilding are the unfortunate
My sorties over these islands showed me that while they are not massive in size, they are a great deal larger and far more difficult to traverse due to the complexity of the Chuukese society.
DATELINE: July 9, 2012
Meet Francis Xavier Hezel, or as most folks know him, Fran. He is one of the most knowledgeable people on Micronesia and its customs. Fran is by trade a Jesuit Priest and has served the islands since 1963 and is a sterling educator, avid writer and go to man for most researchers like myself. Fran was kind enough to spend some time with me in Washington DC and posed for my camera while we ate pizza and spoke about the history of Truk Lagoon and the other islands before, during and after world war II. This is one great guy and I wish him the very best in all his endeavors and I thought you all should meet him too, Check out his blog at www.wheresfran.org.
DATELINE: July 10, 2012
Choy Wah Sun aka. Watson Choy
Watson was a very savvy entrepreneur. His parents had emigrated from China to California to take advantage of the opportunities of a growing nation. Back in the early days of the 20th century, Chinese migrants had few choices for employment. Other than working on a railroad in some far flung western territory, a laundry or in food service, there was little else to do. Generally the lack of understanding how different our great societies were, a language bearer and customs often undermined their intelligence, hard work ethic and desire to gain wealth. The outright discrimination stemmed from earlier national practices like the US Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act the Geary Act. Both legislations outlawed any Chinese from migrating to the US (the only time the law was used to single out a particular race to prevent immigration) and significantly contributed to a national bias.
Watson must have pondered to himself at sometime as to what opportunities were realistic for a man in a land where racism and bigotry were almost at their near height. The son of bean sprout farmers, surely he felt his chances of success were little.. or did he? Watson developed a charm, whit and intelligence to open three successful restaurant enterprises and win public favor with anyone that knew him, even the upper class caucasians of New York City. Soon, he was undergoing a new enterprise, one that could influence the lives of literally millions but at the same time, place his own life in jeopardy.
Choy was a card caring Republican, a member of a restauranteurs union and even a member of a fireman society. From interviews with family members, Wah Sun had also had a driven personality and was wise beyond his years. In one instance, he successfully calculated by putting a restaurant with modern features, neon lighting and exotic nuances in the hustle & bustle of Journal Square (adjacent to a route many professionals and laborers took in and out of Jersey city on their way to the docks), the he could glean the eyeballs of thousands with his posh new digs. And that’s exactly what happened. The often shrewd but very savvy entrepreneur was certainly cut out to make things happen. One thing that did not happen so well however was his return visa application for an upcoming trip to China aboard the infamous Pan Am flying boat — Hawaii Clipper.
Although he raised a reported three million dollars from charitable giving of his patrons, friends and connected social elites to help the embattled Chinese government of Chang Kai Chek, he could not get a guarantee that once he left the states with his war funds, that he could get back in. In October of 1937 during a review of his application, he stated that he had never been outside the US and had only lived in California, New Jersey and New York and planned to reside in Boston, however, the US Department of Labor had qualms about his testimony.
His plan was to convert the hard cash into gold-backed bank notes that he could easily carry in a brief case and deliver to his brother Frank, a General in the Chinese Air Force, that would see to it’s safe transportation behind enemy lines. The very thought of such a journey to his ancestral homeland under siege was undoubtedly one of mixed emotion; to visit your home and perhaps see the friendly faces of family while at the same time, to know a slaughter is happening to those very same people and that his very presence could jeopardize his own life. Watson was not only a man of entrepreneurship; he was a man of courage and I believe because of his deep running conviction to help China, that rogue Japanese agents did successfully capture the Hawaii Clipper, hijack it to an Imperial Japanese Navy seaplane base in Truk Lagoon and then murder him and his fourteen fellow passengers and crew.
On my second journey to that very island, I met with people convinced Wah Sun is still there, under a weathered concrete slab and awaiting his return ticket home. Although it has been over seventy years now and his 3 million in bank notes were allegedly recovered in Siapan by US Marines in 1944, he himself, must surly be brought back to his adopted county.
A later lawsuit on behalf of the Choy’s was filed for the sum of $52, 718 against Pan Am Airways System in a Federal Court by his brother Frank, the administrator of Watsons’ estate. Frank asked the court to penalize Pan Am $50,000 for wrongful death of his brother, $1000 for his baggage and a refund of his prepaid airfare of $1718.0. The suit was later dropped.