As promised last week, here is the second installment of excerpts from Marie Castro and Mike Campbell’s short book, Marie Castro: My Life and Amelia Earhart’s Saipan Legacy. Specifically, the next two columns will contain interesting facts from U.S. military personnel’s eyewitness accounts about Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan being on Saipan in 1937
The American GI witnesses on Saipan –Part 1
“The Battle of Saipan, fought from June 15 to July 9, 1944, was one of the most important battles of the Pacific War. The U.S. 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions, and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lt. Gen. Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Infantry Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Yoshitsugu Saito.
The loss of Saipan, with the death of 29,000-plus Japanese troops and heavy civilian casualties, precipitated the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and left the Japanese mainland within the range of Allied B-29 bombers. Saipan would become the launching point for retaking other islands in the Mariana chain, the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944 [and a direct strike from Tinian, which ended the War of the Pacific in August of 1945].”
The victory on Saipan was also important for quite another reason, one you will not see in any of the official histories, yet. At an unknown date soon after coming ashore on D-Day, June 15, American forces discovered Amelia Earhart’s Electra 10E, NR 16020, in a Japanese hangar at As Lito Field, the Japanese airstrip on Saipan.
Thomas E. Devine, author of the 1987 classic, Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, was a sergeant in the Army’s 244th Postal Unit, and came ashore on Saipan on July 6, just a few days before the island was declared secure. Devine was ordered to drive his commanding officer, Lt. Fritz Liebig, to As Lito Field, and there he was soon informed that Amelia Earhart’s airplane had been discovered, relatively intact. Devine later said he saw the Electra three times soon thereafter –in flight, on the ground when he inspected it at the off-limits airfield, and later that night in flames.
During that period, Marine Pvt. Robert E. Wallack found Amelia’s briefcase in a blown safe in a Japanese administration building on Saipan. “We entered what may have been a Japanese government building, picking up souvenirs strewn about,” Wallack wrote in a notarized statement. “Under the rubble was a locked safe. One of our group was a demolition man who promptly applied some gel to blow it open. We thought at the tim that we would all become Japanese millionaires. After the smoke cleared I grabbed a brown leather attaché case with a large handle and flip lock. The contents were official-looking papers, all concerning Amelia Earhart: maps, permits and reports apparently pertaining to her around-the world flight.
“I wanted to retain this as a souvenir,” Wallack continued, “but my Marine buddies insisted that it may be important and should be turned in. I went down to the beach where I encountered a naval officer and told of my discovery. He gave me a receipt for the material, and stated that it would be returned to me if it were not important. I have never seen the material since.”
Other soldiers saw or knew of the Electra’s discovery, including Earskin J. Nabers, of Baldwyn, Mississippi, a 20-year old private who worked in the secret radio message section of the 8th Marine Regiment’s H&S Communication Platoon. On or about July 6, Nabers received and decoded three messages about the Electra – one announcing its discovery, one stating that the plane would be flown, and the final transmission announcing plans to destroy the plane that night.
Nabers was present when the aluminum plane was torched and burned beyond recognition, as was Sgt. Thomas E. Devine, among others who ignored warnings to stay away from the airfield, which had been declared off-limits.”
*Stay tuned for the last part of the military eyewitnesses next week.
Our labor woes are curable
Saipan makes its money from tourism. To stay competitive with other destinations, our hotels and resorts have to be up to date and new properties need to come online to replace or enhance the existing tired hotels we have now. Plus those existing tired hotels need to be remodeled and brought back up to their former glory. All this construction and remodeling requires skilled construction labor—a commodity in short supply on Saipan.
Why don’t we have enough workers to complete the new hotel in San Antonio, the IPI resort hotel in Garapan, the new mid-price hotel in Tanapag, the resort in San Roque or the ocean view hotel above Vestcor Village on Capita Hill? All these are projects are already underway. They have been partially completed for years and all are without the basic necessity of any construction project—skilled construction workers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are the problem. These U.S. bureaucracies, controlled from 8,000 miles away, artificially inhibit the supply of construction labor they allow to enter our small islands.
We don’t have anything close to enough welders, plumbers, electricians, masons, or carpenters needed to do these jobs on Saipan, so they need to come in from outside. There are tens of thousands of such skilled workers ready and willing to come here. They are located fairly close by in the Philippines, China, Korea, Taiwan, etc., but the U.S. government keeps the marketplace for labor from working as it should. Our tiny economy is delicately balanced. It needs now, and will continue to need in the future, outside workers in construction, hospitality and other industries from time to time. We are being strangled by USCIS and CBP. Why? Either benign neglect, or a desire to keep the CNMI economy on its knees. Either way we need to cure this systemic problem or dry up and die as a viable economic entity.
Is there a cure? Sure there is. Call for Covenant 902 talks and force the issue with the US.. Let us control our own supply of labor and our own immigration policy. We can determine the right amount of temporary construction workers to let in and when to send them back home better than the U.S. can. Right now, a very unfair system is strictly enforced here in the CNMI while these same U.S. agencies allow millions of illegals to pour across the borders of the U.S. mainland. Millions of illegals from Mexico, Central America, and, yes, Asia, are allowed into the U.S. without so much as a whimper. In fact, they are encouraged to flood in by being given access to free services instead of being deported. This disparity is killing the CNMI economy. On purpose…or by accident? You be the judge.
Next week we’ll look at a U.S. admiral and two general’s Earhart on Saipan confirmations in Part 2 of military excerpts from Marie Castro and Mike Campbell’s book, and maybe have space to talk about the global smarming narrative.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Bullying is a horrible thing. It sticks with you forever. It poisons you. But only if you let it.
Bruce Bateman (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Bruce A. Bateman resides on Saipan with a wife, a son, and an unknown number of boonie dogs. He has owned and operated a number of unusual businesses and most recently worked as the marketing manager for MVA. Bruce likes to read, travel, tinker with bicycles, hike, swim, and play a bit of golf. He is opinionated and writes when the moon is full and the mood strikes.