Doubter Theories

A response to Air & Space Magazine’s article “Rebel in a Cadet,” published in Pearl Harbor 75: Honor, Remembrance, and the War in the Pacific Anniversary Edition, Winter 2016

Note: until I get the chance to check with my attorney regarding slander litigation, I am using “Mr. PHR1” (Mr. Pearl Harbor Researcher 1) instead of the antagonist’s name. I don’t need to add “litigation” costs to the price Mr. PHR1, along with Air & Space, has exacted from me…

The Smithsonian Institute’s Air & Space magazine has published an article on Interstate 37266 in their “Pearl Harbor 75 Anniversary Edition: Honor, Remembrance, and the War in the Pacific” special edition. The conclusion of the article leaves it clear that the Air & Space magazine author strongly favors Mr. PHR1’s repeatedly published position that 37266 is not the plane Cornelia Fort was flying. The Air & Space author publishes a great article on all elements of the story that concludes with Mr. PHR1’s second round of “37245 was the plane, not 37266.” Air & space brings forth no rebuttal to Mr. PHR1’s hypothesis. This completely and unjustifiably eviscerates my hypothesis and the “beyond a reasonable doubt” conclusion of my research showing that 37266 was the plane Cornelia was flying over Pearl Harbor on the “day that will live in infamy.” This web page you are on now is being published to specifically address Mr. PHR1’s ongoing and active efforts to slander the story of Interstate Cadet 37266, and this web page is a feeble effort to undo some of the damage the Air & Space article has done to this project.

The Lost Aviators of Pearl Harbor was formed to tell the story of Interstate Cadet 37266 and Cornelia Fort with a presumption of authenticity. Air & Space Magazine’s article has significantly damaged the ability for Lost Aviators to tell that story without the presumption of doubt by most people that would be interested in the story. The fact that this occurred merely a few weeks prior to the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor has made that damage unrecoverable by this small, underfunded entity trying to simply tell a great story and shine a little more light on the eight General Aviation pilots that took off the morning 7 December 1941 and found themselves in the middle of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Several of those General Aviation pilots flying and their passengers that were simply out for a lovely Sunday morning flight were killed. All of them unexpectedly became combat veterans. Due to the timing of Air & Space Magazine’s publication, it is doubtful The Lost Aviators of Pearl Harbor will ever be able to recover the lost value associated with Mr. PHR1’s slander and its publication in the broadly read Air & Space Magazine 75th Anniversary edition. Our ability to share this story with the public has been drastically decreased and sadly, it is those who might have touched The Pearl, and been inspired by the story of Cornelia Fort, that will suffer the most in the form of missed opportunity to be inspired by a great artifact and inspirational story.

The counter points to Mr. PHR1’s “Never 37266” campaign:

Round one: Primary data is most likely correct:

Mr. PHR1’s first round of denying 37266 was the plane Cornelia was flying occurred prior to publication of my research and prior to me even owning the plane.  It was the simple prima facia conclusion that Cornelia’s logbook, as primary data, was correct and that Cornelia was flying Interstate Cadet 37345 because that is what her logbook said.  My research uncovered FAA records that showed 37345 was never based in Hawaii, it was based in Long Beach and then Tucson.  More importantly, my research proved, without any doubt, that Cornelia’s logbook was flawed as she logged a sortie in 37345 several weeks before it was even built.  I think Cornelia was a very talented pilot but not so talented that she could repeatedly fly a plane in Hawaii (as her logbook shows) that wasn’t even in Hawaii, nor was it built when she first started logging flights in it.  So Mr. PHR1’s initial volley of denying the provenance of 37266 was proven wrong when I published my paper and he was not heard from for a bit.

Round two: The Smudge theory

Mr. PHR1’s second round of denying 37266 was the plane Cornelia was flying occurred after I had initially published my research in August of 2015.  This approach to denying the provenance was hinged on a plane that at least was on Oahu.  Mr. PHR1’s first “post research” denial to my conclusion came to me from indirect sources and rested on the hypothesis that Cornelia wrote in her logbook “37245” but it had gotten smudged and now looked like “37345.”  It was pretty easy to debunk the smudge hypothesis with a simple question of “Did she smudge every entry?”  I don’t believe Mr. PHR1 had even looked at all of Cornelia’s logbook so without much fanfare, and certainly no apology, Mr. PHR1, once again, went away for a bit.

Round three: A simple sortie logging mistake:

Then, and again from indirect sources, I was presented with Mr. PHR1’s next line of attack (roughly in July of 2016) which was “I have a picture of 37245 on Hawaii and the picture shows a large “3” on the side so Cornelia just mistakenly wrote 37345 when she meant 37245.”  I have spent significant effort debunking this theory and am sure that my response has gotten back to Mr. PHR1 yet he continues to push it as apparently he can think of nowhere else to go to once again pursue his agenda of denying 37266 its provenance.  Unfortunately, and to the great detriment of the project, this is the hypothesis which Air & Space Magazine closes their article “Rebel in a Cadet” with, clearly leaving the reader with the impression that the conclusion of my research is incorrect.  The counter points to this hypothesis were discussed with the Air & Space author so it is particularly disappointing to have him close his article with no mention that there even are counter points to Mr. PHR1’s latest effort.

Debunking “a simple logging error” as printed in the Air & Space article “Rebel in a Cadet”:

Fundamentally, Mr. PHR1 denies the provenance of 37266 on the fundamental premise that the verbal legend on Hawaii that attaches Cornelia’s flight to 37266 is wrong, and her logbook, maybe with minor errors, is correct.  If we assume that the logbook is valid, there are still at least three simple counter points which show the “she mistakenly logged 37345 when she flew 37245” hypothesis is incorrect.  Those counter points are best presented as questions. 

First, did Cornelia make the same mistake every time she flew an Interstate Cadet and never notice that she was flying 37245 and logging 37345?  She logged 37345 many times during the period she was flying on Hawaii between 29 September 1941 and 7 December.  That she repeatedly made this annotation error is possible but extremely unlikely. 

Second, if Ole Andrew owned several Interstate Cadets so that he had to number them, why does Cornelia fly only one of those several Cadets for every one of her sorties on Hawaii?  On every one of her Interstate Cadet sorties she logged 37345.  It is possible she flew only one of several Cadets available but it is highly unlikely.  This point alone should make it clear to Mr. PHR1 and Air & Space magazine that something is amiss with Cornelia’s logbook. 

The third question needs a little background and support from my research into the FAA records and is this: if the logbook is valid, how did Cornelia fly 37245 when it was grounded with a broken wing spar, then when it was grounded with a tailwheel broken off? 

To review the background pertaining to that question, the following summation of the FAA record of 37245, along with the insights and conclusion I draw from those records, is from my published research. Bold type and underlines are “as printed” in Addendum 8 of the published research:

1) Registration NC37245 / Serial Number 88

  1. Original Application for Airworthiness by Andrew Flying Service: 31 May 41.
  2. Aircraft accident 15 July 41
    1. Aircraft nosed over by prop wash of another large aircraft when student taxied behind without heed. Rt wing main spar cracked. Returned to service 24 Oct 41.
  3. Tail wheel broke off on rough field. Returned to service 4 Dec 41.
  4. One record for weight and balance filed 29 Dec 41: no mention of any damage.
    1. Similar piece of paperwork filed for 29 Nov 41 may indicate that the December paperwork was dated incorrectly.
  5. Next inspection record is 30 Nov 45:
    1. Mentions “Major Overhaul” of engine
    2. Has “Good” in the aircraft remarks section.
      1. No mention of aircraft damage commensurate with strafing
    3. Final remark is “Aircraft has been in storage since start of war.”
    4. This is the last inspection record scanned in file from FAA
    5. Aircraft registration cancelled by Andrew Flying Service 19 May 55
  6. Record of repair in 1945 reflects an aircraft without damage commensurate with being strafed. Aircraft simply came out of storage and was returned to flying status. That is reasonable indication that the aircraft was not the one Cornelia was flying.

As shown in the FAA records, aircraft 37245 was not airworthy from 15 July 1941 to 24 October 1941.  Cornelia’s logbook has multiple sorties logged in her logbook between her first flight on Oahu on 29 September 1941, to the day 37245 was returned to airworthy status four weeks later.  All of those logged Interstate sorties logged Interstate 37345.  37245 was also not airworthy for a few days after the tailwheel broke off on a soft field landing in late November.  It returned to airworthy status on 4 December 1941.  According to her logbook, Cornelia flew Interstate Sorties during that time period also.  On each of those sorties, when she logged an Interstate sortie, she again logged 37345.

Even if we give any weight to the hypothesis that “she logged 37345 because 37245 had a “3” on the side” and accept that mistake as reasonable, we would have to accept that mistake for every Interstate sortie her logbook says she flew on Hawaii because every sortie says 37345, then we have to explain how 37245 was flown when it wasn’t airworthy.

Once again, Mr. PHR1’s denial hypothesis is easily proved invalid.  Sadly, the author at Air & Space magazine chose to make the last words of his article Mr. PHR1’s latest denial hypothesis and leave the counter points to the hypothesis out even though the author and I specifically discussed Mr. PHR1’s hypothesis and its counter points shortly after I flew him in The Pearl.  It seems odd to me that an author that flew from DC to Skagit-Bayview Airport to get a ride on a Pearl Harbor aircraft would write such a wonderfully glowing article about The Pearl and Cornelia that then concludes by eviscerating the conclusion of my research that establishes the beyond a reasonable doubt proof that 37266 was airborne over Pearl Harbor with Cornelia Fort as the Instructor pilot.  I enjoyed my time with the author and had categorized him as a friend.  Betrayal by a friend is always the most bitter.         

Et tu Brute?

A post script on Mr. PHR1:

Mr PHR1 has an agenda.  He is a researcher who charges for his Hawaii research.  He wants to be known as “Mr. Pearl Harbor Research” so he can charge more for his research.  That is a pretty clear agenda that in principal, I have no problem with.  I believe in paying professionals for professional work.  When I first bought 37266 from Kent Pietsch, Mr. PHR1 offered his services for an undisclosed fee.  I do not oppose people getting paid for their professional services but at that time, I told him that I wanted to get my arms around the general story first before I started spending money on the researchers.  I also told him I intended to spend money on researchers because I was already pretty busy with other business aspects of my life so I would have little time to commit to the research of Interstate Cadet 37266.  Fundamentally, I was too busy to deal with the research so I planned to pay for at least portions of it.  In the beginning, I was generally under the assumption that the logbook would be the driving piece of evidence disproving the verbal legend that Cornelia was flying 37266 so I generally assumed that 37266 was not the plane Cornelia was flying.  A notarized statement from a prior owner was the primary piece of information saying 37266 was Cornelia’s plane.  So I started out as a “Logbook is primary data, believe primary data first” guy.  I needed a glimmer of hope that 37266 was the plane in question before I was willing to hire and pay for the professional researchers.  My expectation was I would be hiring Mr. PHR1 probably as the lead researcher if there was that glimmer of hope.  After our initial conversation, Mr. PHR1 continued to publish that 37266 was not the plane Cornelia was flying, and even went on an active campaign to tell that to everyone, so my desire to hire him rapidly waned.  My agenda, born in stubbornness, became “not one dime from my pocket for Mr. PHR1.”  And I proved the provenance of one of the Great Pearl Harbor Attack artifacts without him, thus decreasing his claim to “Mr. Pearl Harbor Researcher,” which in turn decreases his ability to charge, and he is pissed.  So he has exacted his revenge, tit for tat, by stealing many dimes from my pocket in lost value and missed opportunity.  I must commend him on his success there.  And it seems Mr. PHR1 continues to effectively seek his revenge with the backing of the Smithsonian now.  My only solace is that Mr. PHR1 has yet to receive the dimes he stole from me.  His agenda and my response has resulted simply in a Mutually assured destruction in value for both parties.  And my stubbornness makes me OK with that since I didn’t pick the fight.  And my general response to Mr. PHR1’s agenda and tactics continues to be a fairly standard fighter pilot response which I will not publish here in the interest of limiting the publishing of profanity… 

I am who I am.  I am not who I am not.  Fights on.