An Amelia Earhart Saipan Connection!

By Ken McKinney

"I lived in Saipan for 13 years through the 90’s and into mid 2000. Having lived there so long, I heard stories about Amelia Earhart being executed on the Island of Saipan. I have also been to the old Japanese jail on many occasions. One story I heard and have never seen in print, was a story told to me by a WW II Veteran who spoke of his experiences during the war.

The year was 1994 and I had attended a veterans reception party for returning Vets for the 50th Commemoration of the Invasion of Saipan. I met one Veteran, however I don’t recall his name or the exact branch of services he served in, but I believe it was with the U.S. Army. This man related his experiences to me and was quite adamant about a story of the U.S. Armed Forces capturing the airfield. As he continued his story, he stated that he was with one of the first squads to arrive at the airport. As he and his squad were inspecting the airport looking for the enemy, they came across a hanger that had been damaged, but not too heavily, by the bombing that had occurred during the invasion.

This Veteran told me that as he looked inside the hanger, he discovered a silver, two-engine aircraft hangered inside. The plane had some minor damage but looked to be in relatively perfect condition. He and others in the squad said they had recognized the plane as the same type of aircraft that Amelia Earhart had been piloting when she was reported missing. I recall that I must have been looking at him in disbelief and he said that he was telling ‘the gods honest truth.’ Then he added more to the story. After running around the airport and finally securing-in, he reported to his CO and told him of the plane they had found in the damaged hanger. At about that time, a man ‘in a suit’ who was near or in the command post asked to be taken to the hanger. The Veterans CO told him to take man in the suit to the hanger to see the airplane that they had found, AND to follow his orders.

After the Veterans squad had taken the man to the hanger, the man walked around the damaged plane, and then came out of the hanger. He then ordered the squad to burn the hanger. This Vet told me that he and his squad did as they were told and burned the hanger and aircraft to the ground and to keep quiet about what they had seen. The Vet told me that he had been carrying that story around in his head since the war and that on occasion when mentioning it, nobody would listen to him. I asked him if he was sure of what he had seen and he said, ‘It was the middle of the invasion battle, don’t you think I would remember a man-in-a-suit and his insistence that they burn the hanger and a perfectly good airplane, and never tell anyone what we saw? I agreed, as it might be pretty hard to forget something like that.

In the end, the Vet who told about many things, including the big Banzai attack, seemed happy and relieved to tell someone who would listen, that story. Over the years I have misplaced his contact information, but I have not forgotten that story. I eventually stayed on Saipan for another 12 years.

As far as excavation of the area near the prison, I believe if there were any graves from that prison they were paved or bulldozed over long ago and would be difficult if not impossible to locate. However, I did hear of a place where Amelia was supposedly interred. I had hoped to someday do some investigating there but upon a visit to the Island last June 2009, that area was destroyed by construction and totally gone with any evidence that might have been there, under asphalt. I was very upset about that. Damn progress.

As a final note, I do remember seeing the letters AE carved into one of the prison cell walls. The jail itself is still standing, and as far as I know will never be torn down but just left to deteriorate. There was a Japanese hospital next to the jail (50 or so yards North) that was converted into the Islands museum."

Editors note: "The mystery continues."