The Hawaii/Hawaiian Clipper

(the name of the plane was changed from the better known Hawaii Clipper to Hawaiian Clipper for a time before the flight)

The Hawaii Clipper did not simply "disappear:" she was hi-jacked to Truk Atoll by radical officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Her fifteen crew and passengers were murdered and entombed within a slab of wet concrete on Dublon Island at Truk Atoll and, quite inexplicably, the United States Government continues to keep this secret for the Japanese government - and from the American People - as it has, since 1938. So says author Charles N. Hill in a book entitled Fix On The Rising Sun.

Fix on the Rising Sun by Charles N. Hill is more than a tale of piracy and murder. It is, as well, a "bill of indictment" which may ultimately close the books on one of the darker events in aviation history: the disappearance, on July 29, 1938, of Pan American Airways' trans-Pacific flying boat, Hawaii Clipper. And if a proper Epilogue is ever written, it will document the recovery, from a concrete tomb, of her nine crew and six passengers-the Ultimate MIA's of the War in the Pacific.

The charge of piracy is well documented and supported by evidence transmitted from the Clipper during her final flight under American colors - westbound out of Guam. An exhaustive analysis of the flying boat's last five reported positions demonstrates that her flight reports were deceptive and that her falsely reported approach to Manila was in conflict with Pan American Airways' usual flight policies. Most importantly, the analysis clearly indicates Japanese involvement in piracy by radio-deception and suggests not only the Clipper's destination, but her true position at the instant that her radio signals ended abruptly - on approach to an Imperial Japanese Navy seaplane base, at Ulithi.

As to the fate of Hawaii Clipper's nine crew and six passengers, the 1964 report, asserting that they had been entombed in a concrete slab, came from two Micronesians, known to have had close ties to the Imperial Navy's Fourth Fleet, as contractors, at Truk, in the late 1930's. (As the foundation of the Fourth Fleet naval hospital, the slab was the later site of numerous medical war crimes.) And, while this account, as related to the author by Joe Gervais (who interviewed the former Truk contractors in 1964), does not constitute "hard evidence," it surely stands, for all its wealth of detail, as consistent with the documented facts of the Clipper's loss.

Beginning with the Air Safety Board of the CAA, which left the case open in 1938, many have pursued the elusive Clipper, with limited success, and one can only speculate as to their respective reasons for eventually abandoning her. Perhaps it became apparent to each of them that there are forces, not only interested in, but actually intent upon, preventing this story from ever reaching the public eye. Most assuredly, there is reason to believe that Hawaii Clipper might unlock many doors to the past and that, beyond those doors, sixty years of history may prove to be little more than a house of cards.

If the victims of flight 103 of Pan Am's Maid of the Seas, which was destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, are deserving of the national memorial which has been dedicated to them, then, surely, the dead of PAA's Hawaii Clipper deserve, at the least, a decent burial. Then, too, it should be apparent that the only valid deterrent to international crime, whether committed by rebels - or by empires - lies not in threats of retribution under the Law, which is so often corrupted by policy, but only in the absolute assurance that Truth will not suffer silently for long, or lie buried, forever.

Although the primary aim of this book is the recovery of the fifteen Ultimate M.I.A.'s, Truth, alone, is a goal worthy of pursuit, as well, and if this quest is successful, then the Truth, unveiled at last, may serve both our peoples: the Americans - and the Japanese.

Charles N. Hill

Charles N. Hill was only seven months old when Japanese naval aviators attacked Pearl Harbor, but soon after, with one of his two uncles serving in North Africa and, later, in Italy, and the other held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese in the southern Philippines, the two concurrent wars came to serve as a very personal backdrop to his early years.

By the summer of 1945, it was customary for neighborhood boys to play "war," almost incessantly. They seldom fought the Nazis in their games, and, because he was younger and smaller than many of the boys, Charles spent most of his time, in play, as a "Jap." Late in 1945, Charles' mother received word that her brother, Major Robert Nelson, had starved to death aboard a Japanese POW maru-one of the infamous hell-ships-en route to Japan, on January 20, 1945, two and a half years after Roosevelt had ordered the surrender of the Philippines. Charles recalls that his mother's reaction to the notification of her brother's death actually terrified him. He never played a "Jap," after that, nor was the war ever discussed at his mother's table, even as it is forbidden in Japan, even today.

But reading was not forbidden, so Charles immersed himself in a study of the war, at one time owning a library of four thousand volumes, half of it pertaining to the Pacific War. The catharsis washed away his learned hatred and replaced it with a more objective interest. In 1974, he became intrigued by the Klass/Gervais book, Amelia Earhart Lives, and began his own pursuit of the lady whom he then regarded as a victim of the Japanese. Today, he knows that the Japanese were her victims, but his pursuit of Earhart continues, and the 1938 Clipper hi-jacking, he believes, will eventually open a "back door" into the "imagination-staggering" saga of the woman whom he is convinced was "twice a traitor."

But his quest has not been without hazard or adversity. In November, 1989, Charles was invited to speak at Purdue University, at a symposium of the Amelia Earhart Research Consortium, a shortlived organization of the best informed private Earhart researchers in the U.S. Upon his arrival at Purdue, Charles learned, to his surprise, that Joe Gervais, of all researchers, was not scheduled to attend. Contacted by phone, Joe firmly told Charles, "Pack your bags and get out of Purdue," and explained that the "silent partner" of the AERC was a C.I.A. operative and that the symposium was serving as a C.I.A. "sting" operation, aimed at determining who knew what about Amelia Earhart. Charles thought that Joe's charge was too bizarre to be true, and so he foolishly ignored Joe's warning.

Two weeks later, Charles was advised by his employers that he had been declared to be a "security risk" and that he would have to be terminated as soon as he had completed a then-current project. Since then, both he and his wife have found it nearly impossible to secure regular employment, yet, the idea that they might be victims of a U.S. Government blacklist seemed as absurd as Gervais' claim of a C.I.A sting against Earhart researchers. But, in 1996, the former "silent partner" of the AERC advised Charles that he had been employed by the C.I.A. in 1989 and that the symposium had, indeed, served as a covert C.I.A. operation: the blacklist was quite real and continues to be-an oppressive reality.

Charles was graduated, in 1972, cum Laude, with Honors in English, from the University of Cincinnati, but draws upon Coast Guard electronics training, whenever he can, for his livelihood. He lives with his wife, Carol, and their sons, Ian and Charles, in the shadows of the American Dream, hoping, eventually, to complete his next book, Twice a Traitor.

An excerpt from the book Fix On The Rising Sun is offered below and then a comment by its author.

At 5:39am, in the blue-gray dawn of July 29, 1938, Pan American Airways' trans-Pacific flying boat, Hawaii Clipper, one of but three hard-pressed Martin M-130's, cast off from the terminal slip at Sumay, Guam. She was four days' flying out of Alameda, bound for Cavite on Manila Bay; then on to China, to end Trip 229 at Hong Kong, seven days out. Embarked aboard her that Friday morning were nine crew, six passengers, a moderate load of 2550 gallons of gasoline and 1138 pounds of cargo - and two stowaways. At 6:08am, just before sunrise, after what some observers thought was an unusually long take-off, she lifted from the waters of Apra Harbor, leaving Guam behind - forever.

She settled quickly into the routine of flight, and, as her passengers steeled themselves to another twelve tedious hours in the air, the expanded crew began the watch cycle, each logging time for growth with the flourishing airline. The Flight Radio Officer began the departure sequence, sending back reports, in Morse, every half-hour, in return for course confirmation from Sumay's Radio Direction Finder. Beyond mid-flight, as the Philippine stations, Radio Panay and the Makati RDF, signed on for the arrival sequence at Cavite, Radio Sumay would stand down and, signal reception permitting, serve as a monitor.

Not long after takeoff, in the ennui born of droning engines and high altitude, the two stowaways made their move. Undaunted by the odds against them, their daring plan was to convince PAA, through a brilliant trick of radio-deception, that the Clipper had come to grief in flight-on course to Cavite-even as she flew on to Ulithi and, thence, to Truk, Japan's vaunted Gibraltar of the Pacific. If they failed, then Hawaii Clipper would be intercepted farther along her route, and they, too, would die, along with the Americans.

Hi-jacked! - not that it wasn't an admitted risk: Japan was then at war with China, and PAA's Clippers had pierced the Japanese naval buffer in the Mandates. First Officer Mark Walker, a Navy Reserve carrier pilot, had mastered the Pacific, along with others, at no risk - or cost - to the U.S. Navy. And passenger Ted Wyman, also a Navy Reserve officer, was off to China as a vice president (for export) of Curtiss-Wright, whose Hawks already fought for China and whose P-40's would later fight with the Flying Tigers. It was the dawn of the Pacific War, and Pan American Clippers flew the dawn patrol.

Yet this was no act of war, but an act of piracy, committed on and over the high seas against a duly registered American merchant vessel - wings and all! As with all acts of piracy, the victims were a liability, and none would live to tell the tale, but these "pirates" were no petty buccaneers serving under the Jolly Roger. Few but officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy would have dared so much. Fewer still would have jeopardized both flag and nation but fanatic, middle-rank aviators of the Imperial Navy's hostile Fleet Faction, whose flag was Togo's provocative Rising Sun with Rays and whose nation would soon be forced to conspire in this: the first, and, perhaps the worst, of all airline hi-jackings.

And all for what? For a suitcase, filled with U.S. Gold Certificates? For an end to a study of Asian "germs," carried to America on the winds? For Japanese air superiority, assured over China? For an engine, to be copied for the Zero? For a new war plan, altered from a military land war against the Soviet Union, to a naval air war against the United States? For glory? Oh, yes - for all of these.

But, if the Japanese "pirates" were brilliant, the American navigator was inspired. Compelled to plot two routes, one true, to Ulithi, and one false, to Cavite (both routes indistinguishable at the Makati RDF), the Clipper's Second Officer, George M. Davis, reconfigured three of his last four precisely calculated - but false - positions, to pass the word to anyone who might re-plot the route. Substituted for the Japanese-approved false positions by FRO William McCarty, as he transmitted the deceptive flight reports, the reconfigured positions were at odds with other known flight parameters and clearly invalid as elements of Davis' dead-reckoned navigation. Instead, they established three intersecting lines, each fixed precisely on a major seaplane landing area in the Japanese Mandates. By simple extension from general practices of standard navigation, these three lines of position constituted a running fix, of sorts, on three seaplane bases of the Imperial Japanese Navy, providing a clear message, for anyone who got the message, as to what had happened, who was responsible and just where the big PAA flying boat was actually headed - literally, a Fix on the Rising Sun.

Yet, even if Pan American Airways and the U.S. Navy seemed not to "get the message," it still exists for us to read, today. And of the ultimate fate of these travelers, a trace may yet remain: on Dublon Island, at Truk Atoll in the Caroline Islands (now the Federated States of Micronesia), lies a weathered slab of concrete, poured in the late summer of 1938 - all that still remains of the Imperial Navy's infamous Fourth Fleet hospital. The Japanese consider this site of medical war crimes atrocities to be a shrine, and many unknowing tourists have stood upon it and contemplated the countless thousands who died in the bitter Pacific War. But there is nothing to remind the visitors of fifteen who were murdered at the dawn of that war and who lie beneath their very feet, sealed in the concrete, it is said, "with no marks of death upon them," truly-the ultimate M.I.A.'s.

My book, Fix on the Rising Sun, the account of the hi-jacking, to Truk Atoll, of China Clipper's sister-ship, Hawaii Clipper, should be featured on this fine web site*, along with the listing of Ronald Jackson's excellent book, China Clipper, which originally sparked this author's interest in the loss of the Hawaii Clipper. The book may be ordered, in a paper bound edition, from Barnes & Noble (on-line and bookstores),, as well as from the original publisher, 1stBooks, at E-mails to my new address,, are welcome.


*the author is commenting about another website from which I obtained this material.

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