Continued . . . Amelia Earhart

Today, July 24 marks her 115th birthday.

Earhart search returning to HI without plane pics

Associated PressBy OSKAR GARCIA | Associated Press – Mon, Jul 23, 2012

HONOLULU (AP) — A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart’s final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain.

But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday.

“This is just sort of the way things are in this world,” TIGHAR president Pat Thrasher said. “It’s not like an Indiana Jones flick where you go through a door and there it is. It’s not like that — it’s never like that.”

Thrasher said the group collected a significant amount of video and sonar data, which searchers will pore over on the return voyage to Hawaii this week and afterward to look for things that may be tough to see at first glance.

The group is also planning a voyage for next year to scour the land where it’s believed Earhart survived a short while after the crash, Thrasher said.

Thrasher maintained touch throughout the search with TIGHAR founder Ric Gillespie, her husband, and posted updates about the trip to the group’s website. The updates tell of a search that was cut short because of treacherous underwater terrain and repeated, unexpected equipment mishaps that caused delays and left the group with only five days of search time rather than 10, as originally planned.

During one episode, an autonomous underwater vehicle the group was using in its search wedged itself into a narrow cave, a day after squashing its nose cone against the ocean floor. It needed to be rescued.

“The rescue mission was successful — but it was a real cliffhanger,” Gillespie wrote in an email posted online last week. “Operating literally at the end of our tether, we searched for over an hour in nightmare terrain: a vertical cliff face pockmarked with caves and covered with fern-like marine growth.”

Thrasher said the environment was tougher to navigate than searchers expected.

The U.S. State Department had encouraged the privately-funded voyage, which launched earlier this month from Honolulu using 30,000 pounds in specialized equipment and a University of Hawaii ship normally used for ocean research.

The group’s thesis is based on the idea that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan landed on a reef near the Kiribati atoll of Nikumaroro, then survived a short time.

Previous visits to the island have recovered artifacts that could have belonged to Earhart and Noonan, and experts say an October 1937 photo of the shoreline of the island could include a blurry image of the strut and wheel of a Lockheed Electra landing gear.

The photo was enough for the State Department blessing, and led to the Kiribati government to sign a contract with the group to work together if anything is found, Gillespie said at the start of the voyage.

A separate group working under a different theory plans its third voyage later this year near Howland Island.

Earhart and Noonan were flying from New Guinea to Howland Island when they went missing July 2, 1937, during Earhart’s bid to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.


Amelia Earhart’s beauty case found? Conclusion to mystery nears

The mystery continues! Not sure if anyone else has been following the news about the recent search for Amelia Earhart but it looks like the answer may be near . . .

Amelia Earhart’s beauty case found? Conclusion to mystery nears

Previous articles: Previously dismissed radio signals were credible transmissions from Earhart

World War II Vet Shares Experiences With Local Students

World War II Vet Shares Experiences With Local Students

Jose Wirebaugh, 89, Served In Army Air Corps During World War II


Escondido students get living Memorial Day lesson from WWII vet
May 26, 2012 2:00 pm  •  By GARY WARTH

Teacher Jason Filizetti wanted his students at Escondido Community Day School to have a Memorial Day lesson they wouldn’t forget, so he called in his grandfather.

“This is such a powerful way for them to see the people who protected the world,” Filizetti said Thursday about his guest speaker, Jose Wirebaugh. “If it weren’t for them, who knows where we’d be today?”

Filizetti had heard many of his grandfather’s World War II stories while growing up, but had never heard the presentation Wirebaugh has given to classes for the past 30 years. He got his chance when his grandfather was in town on a visit from Arizona.

At the end of his talk, students asked about unfamiliar words and phrases from another era: What was D-Day? What’s a Yank? What’s the BBC? What’s a POW?

But mostly, they just listened to Wirebaugh’s 90-minute recollection about flying 58 bombing missions, an almost unimaginable number at a time when the death rate on bombers was said to be 5 percent a mission.

“Out of 760 guys who went over with my bomb group, I’m the sole survivor who walked ashore in New York City,” Wirebaugh, 90, told students.

Drafted into the Army Air Corps at 20 years old in 1942, Wirebaugh was trained as a flight engineer and assigned to fly on B-24s with the 392nd Bomb Group in Tring, England. A bomb group had about 600 men.

“This was my original crew that I went overseas with in a B-24,” he said, standing in front of a projected black-and-white photo of smiling young men in uniform. “On my 17th mission, all of these guys were dead.”

Wirebaugh said 60 B-24s took off for a bombing mission that day. Six returned.

“I had breakfast with 660 guys,” he said. “I had dinner with 49.”

The horrific air casualties from the mission devastated the 392nd and left a lingering toll on Wirebaugh, whose nerves were shattered for two weeks.

“I couldn’t hold anything in my hand,” he said. “I couldn’t feed myself. I couldn’t shave.”

Wirebaugh was transferred to Molesworth, England, to fly in B-17s with the 303rd Bomb Group. He made 44 flights with the group’s division leader, Brig. Gen. Alvin Arbor, who at 37 was known as “the Old Man” to his young troops.

“I would have given my life for him,” Wirebaugh said. “He gave his life for me.”

It was the fearless Arbor who volunteered 12 of his B-17s to fly tins of gasoline to refuel Gen. George Patton’s stranded tanks. After delivering the fuel, the crew had to take off downwind because they could not turn around, a feat never attempted in a B-17.

Arbor pulled it off by pushing the engine beyond its maximum load, and all other planes followed with his instructions, which included “pray to God your flight engineer has got a rosary in his pocket.” All engines had to be replaced after their safe return.

Wirebaugh had more trouble sharing the story of his 35th mission, also with the Old Man. Three engines were gone, the final one was overheating and six of the 10-man crew were dead when Arbor told him to find a way to lighten the load or risk spending the rest of the war as a POW.

After chopping up and discarding everything they could, Wirebaugh suggested putting parachutes on the dead crew members and dropping them over Germany. Arbor agreed, but asked to save at least one of the fallen, who was chosen at random by drawing a dog tag from a helmet.

“From that night, until last night, I prayed for those five guys, because when they were found, the Germans didn’t know who they were,” Wirebaugh said, breaking down in tears at remembering the event almost 70 years later. “They couldn’t tell the Red Cross (the names of the Americans) because we pulled the dog tags. I’m still very sentimental over that.”

On his final mission with Arbor, Wirebaugh said he was flying with an inexperienced navigator when they found themselves over London, a fatal mistake because any plane over the city would be fired upon.

With anti-aircraft flak darkening the sky, their B-17 was blown apart and two crew members were killed. Arbor knew his plane was doomed, then ordered Wirebaugh and the others to parachute out. Wirebaugh was only persuaded to jump after Arbor put a pistol under his chin.

Wirebaugh jumped, but said he didn’t realize that Arbor would not follow him. Instead, Arbor remained at the wheel to crash into the River Thames rather than risk killing a Londoner if the plane hit the ground.

“Flying in a bomb group, it was everybody’s feeling that the next day would be our last,” Wirebaugh told students about the many lives he saw lost in three years. “That’s how you lived. You couldn’t depend on the next day.”

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