World War II vet from Troy offers clues to Earhart mystery

World War II vet from Troy offers clues to Earhart mystery
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Navy veteran Pierce Criswell of Troy may have solved part of the mystery about famed American pilot Amelia Earhart’s disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 1937.
The 38-year-old aviation pioneer is recognized as the first female pilot to successfully complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. She completed that feat in 1932, flying solo from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland. She was also the first pilot to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean, in 1935.
Then, a couple of years later, Mrs. Earhart set her sights on flying around the globe. It was an achievement that would have fit well with her record-setting lifestyle, but it was a task she would never complete.
Criswell has tried to share his story about Earhart, but until now his account of the famed pilot’s fate has gone unpublished.
“I have recently watched three different documentaries on the Fox station about the whereabouts of Amelia Earhart,” Criswell wrote nearly a year ago in a letter to Fox News.
The 92-year-old served 30 months in the South Pacific during World War II. He decided to come forward with his story after viewing the Fox documentaries.
“I am an older man, but my memory is good,” he wrote.
Criswell served in the U.S. Navy’s 39th Navy Sea Bees Battalion during World War II and was in Saipan during 1944-45.
It was during his time there that he said he encountered a “gentleman from Saipan” who claimed to have seen Mrs. Earhart and an unidentified American in Japanese custody.
“There was a gentleman from Saipan who could speak English and he told me and my comrade Sea Bee, when we were stationed there, that the Japs had a man and an American woman named Amelia Earhart in custody in 1937. He said that the Japanese had killed the man who accompanied Amelia Earhart and took her down the road,” Criswell stated in his letter to Fox News. “I do not know whether she was killed at the same time as the man or not.”
He went on to state there was a small town “right down the road” called Garpan and there was speculation Mrs. Earhart was taken toward that town.
“As far as I know, I am the only individual living who could attest to the witness of this man. I do not remember this man’s name, but the Japanese had brought him up from the islands to work and that is how I met him,” Criswell stated.
The mystery that surrounds the fate of Mrs. Earhart and her Lockheed Model 10 Electra captured the world’s attention in the late 1930s and remains a mystery to this day. But, there is still a vivid memory that lingers for Criswell about his chance meeting with a gentleman from Saipan.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.29.13

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