Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, November 13th

Look and See

Hunt or Search?
Here is a brief synopsis of The Hunt For Amelia Earhart, as promised a couple of weeks ago. The book will hit the newsstands this month. Please think about this mission in the context of yesterday’s Veterans Day Celebration.

The book recounts the eyewitness accounts of seven persons involved in the hunt and uses previously unpublished photos to illustrate points and to give a very interesting historical setting. I find the superb photos and maps alone to be a reason to read and learn from this book.

During the hunt nine ships, 66 aircraft, and 3,000 US Navy and US Coast Guard men searched 260,000 square miles of open sea plus 24 islands within a 600 mile range of Earhart's target: Howland Island. The book contains the accounts of sailors, flyers and newsmen who in their early 20s were risking their lives on the Earhart Search. Two of these men are still alive and can still be contacted. At the risk of their own lives, the crews of these vessels spent more than two weeks carefully searching this huge area.

Three, six-day searches were conducted with three key ships in charge of the operation: The US Coast Guard Cutter Itasca, the battleship USS Colorado, and the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. There are eyewitness accounts from crewmembers aboard each of these ships. Many other ships were also involved.

The USCGC Itasca normally carried a compliment of 96 men, but during the Earhart search 141 were on board. The Itasca Chief Radio man, Leo Bellarts’ interview is found in the book. With the ships USS Ontario, the USS Swan, the HMS Achilles, and the MV Moorby involved, the USCGC Itasca led the search for the first 5 days. The book contains eyewitness accounts from three of these ships, plus personal memoirs of men on the other two. Together they searched 16 of the 24 islands plus 50,000 square miles of open sea.

Plowing the seas in rain filled squalls, the men of these ships search for Earhart day and night. Refueling during the search with the USS Colorado, the men of the two ships met briefly, only to part and spend much of their time alone at sea. The Itasca and Swan searched the far off Gilbert islands meeting with the natives that live there on isolated atolls.

The USS Colorado with over 1,000 men aboard also had three pontoon planes that were launched for eight flights, searching reefs and 8 islands. The USS Colorado led the search for the next six days, refueling other ships. The book has the eyewitness account of radioman and spotter Dick Beckham; he flew over Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, the same island that has been searched repeatedly for years for the missing Earhart.

Each pilot and spotter was launched from a 65 foot long catapult as their plane was literally thrown off the ship with an explosive charge. Flying for four hours, they returned only when their fuel was exhausted, landing in the waters of the Pacific. The mother ship then hauled the plane back aboard by crane, only to relaunch it again after refueling.

The USS Lexington normally carried over 1,000 men but during the search had an additional 200 cadets aboard who were on the ship for a training exercise. Over 60 aircraft were on the Lexington, with fuel to carry them all on 12 flying searches, each four hours in duration. Three destroyers were on plane guard duty, in the chance that a plane might fall into the sea. The book contains interviews with two cadets and the Fireman who stood on the deck and watched the planes came in, two of which crashed upon landing.

More than 40 planes were in the air each time, and covered a swath 80 miles wide. Each plane flew a search pattern of over 90 miles, turned and did it again and again until their fuel was exhausted. There was nothing but open sea for over 30 miles but a single rescue destroyer. Occasionally, a plane had to abort its landing as the wind and rain make it too difficult to land on the deck of the Lexington.

That is a general recap, the details are intriguing. At the end of 16½ days, nothing was found: no plane, no wreckage, and no survivors. The Earhart Search, officially over, received orders to send the ships home…”Yet Earhart is picked up in her floating aircraft” -- by whom?

The US Navy always referred to the ‘Earhart Search’; the book title is The Hunt For Amelia Earhart, but in the words of the compiling editor and author, Douglas Westfall, "You search for what you want to keep, you hunt for what you want to catch". To find the book try

Please note that while I am personally intrigued with this book, and recommend you read it too, I am not affiliated with the publisher nor do I receive any remuneration for offering this review.
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Needs to take a step back
According to the Houghton Mifflin Dictionary an ombudsman is: “A man who investigates complaints and mediates fair settlements, especially between aggrieved parties such as consumers or students and an institution or organization.”
Ours here on Saipan, issued and paid by the US federal government to ‘ombud’ labor disputes, seems to be nothing of the kind. By his public statements and actions he seems to be on a one sided Labor-is-always-right crusade. His unswerving advocacy is such that he becomes easy prey for reg savvy workers who play him, and the labor regulations like a cheap violin.

His heartfelt search for good worker conditions and reasonable treatment deserves praise, but where is the fair and balanced part of his job description come in? Have you ever heard of an employer going to the ombudsman with complaints of deceitful workers and getting relief? Maybe he does provide that service, but he must keep it a well-hidden secret. From written accounts it seems he is more interested in the labor favored slam-dunk than in mediating a fair settlement. Maybe if he took a step or two outside his usual work-a-day world and looked with fresh eyes at the overall picture, his sharp wit and innate sense of fair play would come back to the fore. Or maybe he just needs a better PR man.
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Quote of the week:
If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. Pearl S. Buck (1892 – 1973)

…And in the tongue-in-cheek Department: Have you read the Koran? Do you know what these poor dupes are being promised in the afterlife as a reward for flying jetliners into office buildings? Fresh fruit, chilled water, cushy lawn furniture…and dark-eyed teenage girls. Would someone at the US Information Agency please inform these people that in America they can get all this stuff at Wal-Mart any time they want?! John Alejandro King (The Covert Comic)

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