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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Historic WWII photos of Saipan unearthed

Hagley’s photo GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan—Recently discovered rare Kodachrome slides taken on a remote Pacific Island during World War II will lead Gregg Hagley of Grand Rapids and his two sons on a historic journey.

Staff Sergeant Raymond H. Hagley of the 73rd Bombardment Wing of the 20th Air Force took the slide photos while stationed at Isley Field on Saipan in 1944/1945. Before Hagley passed away in January 1991, he gave the slides to his son, Gregg Hagley. “I knew they were special, just how special I wasn’t sure until recently,” Hagley said.

The fully restored slides are remarkable in color, content, and composition. They show details of the island rarely seen by historians. Kodachrome slide film was not widely used during World War II.

Gregg, who resides in Byron Center, Michigan and his sons, Dan, of Wilder, Kentucky, and Scott, of Ada, Michigan, are planning a trip to Saipan in November this year. They will present prints of the slides to Timothy P. Vilagomez, Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands, and to the CNMI Museum of History in honor of Ray Hagley.

“We just know how proud our grandfather would be knowing we are going back to Saipan in his honor,” Dan and Scott said.

Gregg, Dan and Scott will film the entire journey and produce a documentary of their experience. The film will highlight Saipan as the island paradise it is today and as it was in the war-torn years of 1944 and 1945.

The Hagleys also plan to add some mystery and intrigue to their film.

Aside from its significance as a strategic air base during World War II, Saipan might hold the key to solving a 70-year-old mystery, the disappearance of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart. One theory behind the mystery is that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were held captive by the Japanese on Saipan. Several eyewitness accounts had Earhart’s Lockheed Electra hidden somewhere on the island. But no airplane hangars were thought to exist after the American invasion. One of Ray Hagley’s color slides clearly shows an intact hangar on the island.

Hagley’s color slides also caught the attention of Allied Artists. Allied Artists is producing a film based on Earhart’s disappearance titled The Lost Flight of Amelia Earhart. Several of Ray Hagley’s images now appear on Allied Artists’ website promoting the film, www.ameliaearhartmovie.com.

The Hagleys have created a website to promote their planned documentary entitled “Mystery of Saipan”, www.mysteryofsaipan.com.

Gregg is president of Hagley Group Advertising and Marketing located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dan is a senior aquatic biologist at Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky. Scott is a partner of Wynott Advertising and Design of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dan and Scott are both graduates of Catholic Central High School and Michigan State University. (PR)

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