Nate Heller’s Girl Amy

July 18th, 2017 by Max Allan Collins

The History Channel’s documentary on Amelia Earhart as a Japanese POW in Saipan has been called into question. “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” which I watched on July 9, was two hours with seemingly an hour of commercials, a docudrama restaging an investigation into Earhart’s (and navigator Fred Noonan’s) disappearance at sea eighty years ago.

Utilizing a documentary style more suited to Bigfoot, ancient aliens or maybe an episode of Pawn Stars, the show did a fairly good job of summarizing the theory I explored in the 1999 Heller novel, Flying Blind. Islanders were interviewed, actual locations visited, a supposed gravesite excavation undertaken, and so on. Admittedly, it had a real Geraldo/Capone vault feel.

I know a lot of Heller fans were watching, the media having gone gaga over a supposedly newly discovered photo of Amelia and Fred on a Marshall Islands pier taken just after they disappeared in 1937. Forensic examiners declared the vague figures in question were “very likely” to be Earhart and her navigator.

The ratings had barely settled when Japanese military history blogger Kota Yamano called foul on the photo, citing the inaccuracy of the declared date, saying the picture had been published in a Japanese-language travel book in 1935, two years before Amelia, Noonan and their Lockheed fell off the planet.

I chatted with my son Nate about this, and shared some thoughts, seeking his wisdom as someone who knows a lot about Japanese culture. Nate has lived in Japan and, as many of you know, works as a freelancer translating Japanese books, manga and video games into English. The kid knows his stuff. (The “kid” is also in his early thirties.)

My reaction was this: the media was instantly accepting of the validity of the photo; and then just as immediately took the debunking at face value. What amused me was how many “experts” on line and on cable news said that if the Japanese had taken Amelia prisoner, and then she died in captivity (possibly executed), their government would surely have come forward and told us. After all, we’re friends now, right?

I’m sure the friendly folks who brought us Pearl Harbor would say “So sorry” and admit to imprisoning and slaughtering one of America’s most beloved historical figures. Right?

This isn’t to say that I think the debunking is fake. It does strike me that no one in the United States (that I know of) has examined the book in question – that the evidence comes only from Japan. And it’s all too typical that we immediately accept the debunking, just as quickly as we did the new “evidence.”

Nate has looked into this and thinks the blogger is legit, and the debunking is likely the real thing, not a Japanese government-engineered hoax, to save face. But I maintain the latter is a possibility.

And despite the Loch-Ness-Monster-is-Real approach of the “documentary” from History Channel, the Saipan theory is more than just a theory – it’s the basis of a Nate Heller book! And most likely true.

Speaking of Nate Heller, Better Dead just won something that I had almost nothing to do with, but which nonetheless pleases me very much – a “Best Cover” award!

And, for those who are wondering, I will spend much of the second half of this year working on a new Heller novel. The Better Dead mass market paperback won’t be released until the next hardcover comes out (which I have to write first).

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Here’s another one of those movies-you-didn’t-know-were-from-comics articles, with nice M.A.C. mentions.


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4 Responses to “Nate Heller’s Girl Amy”

  1. Thomas Zappe says:

    The ratio of information/commercials is one of the reasons I record these first and watch/fast forward later. It seemed to me that the only thing not known previously [especially to those of us who read FLYING BLIND] was the photo, which I think was pretty convincing. Otherwise this was all ground which you have mapped out some years back.

    I would take it as a public service if you were to simply re-tell the entire history of the world [getting the book of Genesis straightened out would be useful] so that we can all move forward with a renewed sense of clarity.

    If you can get this done before the 2018 elections, I would consider it a personal favor.

  2. Thomas Zappe says:

    And some thoughts about why the Japanese government might not have ‘fessed up about Ms Amy.

    Max and I were born in the same year, 1948. He up in the Muscatine, IA area and myself farther downriver in St. Louis, MO. It still has a large German population, but in those days and earlier the Krauts [of which I am one] were all over the place. My one grandfather worked for Anheuser Busch and participated in various German beer drinking and singing societies around town before WWII. The other one came over on the boat from Germany around the turn of the century, opened up a butcher shop in the Gaslight Square area [catering strictly to the Carriage Trade, thank you] and brought over other Germanic types to work for next to nothing for however many years and then set them up in their own business. This is the way things were done in those days.

    Lots of Germans around town.

    My father had a friend named Eric who did his undergraduate work in the old country under Werner von Braun [who later did a lot of work with Walt Disney telling us little ones about how we need a space program]. Eric knew a lot about how to make things fly, so after the unpleasantries had settled down and he had the chance to surrender to the Americans, he was brought over to work for the MacDonnall Douglas corporation here in St. Louis where was supplied with a well paying job, a wife and general all around acceptance. This is the way things were done in those days.

    On the other hand, sometime back in the 1970’s I bought a Yamaha alto sax and was criticized for doing so with comments like “Don’t you remember what those Japs did to us at Pearl Harbor?”

    If the Japanese government did not want to bring up Ms Amy, I am not surprised.

    This is the way things were done in those days.

  3. Max Allan Collins says:

    I watched the “documentary” off-air, but waited till it had been on forty minutes so I could skip through the endless commercials.

    Thanks for that lovely follow-up, Tom. My son said he thought it was perhaps time for me to get over Pearl Harbor. Since his grandfather was on deck when a Jap Zero strafed it, I have a different opinion…just as I doubt the Japanese are over Hiroshima. That war began with one country’s atrocity and ended with our country’s atrocity.

    So while I was tongue-in-cheek above, I do believe it’s possible that the Japanese government would still be covering this incident up.

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