The reminiscences of Chief Radioman Leo G. Bellarts on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart on his watch, 2 July 1937, Howland Island

By David M. Bellarts, USAF (Ret.) with David K. Bowman, USNR (Ret.)

“She was so loud that I ran up to the bridge expecting to see her coming in for a landing”, Leo G. Bellarts, Chief Radioman (CRM) on the Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) ITASCA, later reminisced about the transmission he received at 0843 in the morning aboard the ship.

Chief Radioman Leo Bellarts monitored this transmission in the radio shack of the ITASCA, anchored off the northeast shore of Howland Island on 2 July 1937. Although it was not required, Bellarts had conscientiously been on duty since 2:00 a.m. He was a man who took his duties seriously. The following isn’t about any theories concerning what happened to Amelia Earhart, but what the ITASCA’s chief radioman remembered about that fateful day.

But first, some background on Chief Radioman Bellarts.


As a youngster living in Portland, Oregon, Leo Bellarts learned in the attic of his home Morse code and how to build a working radio. He applied for and received an amateur radio license with call sign W7RD, which he allowed to lapse while in the Coast Guard. After retiring from the Coast Guard he was issued a replacement license with call sign W7RF.

During these early years his only ambition was to become a Coast Guard radioman. When he became of age he entered the Coast Guard on 6 October 1924 as a Seaman Second Class, 24 days later after initial indoctrination he was promoted to Third Class Radioman. During his indoctrination he requested the call sign of AC, but another radioman, Alton Case already had it. They didn’t like LB, his initials, it was too long to send as Morse code. So he selected DC instead, which is DAH DIT DIT, DAH DIT DAH DIT.

By January 1928, Bellarts had been promoted to First Class Radioman. In early 1931 he was promoted to Chief Radioman. When the Coast Guard took over the lighthouse at Point Vincent, California, Chief Bellarts was assigned as the first Commanding Officer and served from Jan. 1934 through Nov. 1935. Then in November 1940 he was promoted to Radio Electrician Warrant Officer.

In 1941 Bellarts’ commanding officer told him that he was going to be promoted to the rank of Ensign. Bellarts really didn’t want to be an Ensign, but to be promoted to Chief Warrant Officer. His commanding officer told him that if he didn’t want to be promoted to Ensign he would go back in rank to being a Chief Radioman. He then skipped Chief Warrant Officer and was promoted to Ensign on 1 December 1941, Lieutenant (JG), on 15 June 1942, and Lieutenant on 1 March 1943. His approved promotion to Lieutenant Commander was precluded by his retirement on medical disability, which was approved affective on 1 February 1946. While in the Coast Guard, Lieutenant Bellarts served on the following ships: USS SNOHOMISH, USCGC ALGONQUIN, USCGC HAIDA, USCGC TAHOE, USS SHOSHONE, USCGS SHAWNEE, USCGC ITASCA, USCGC NORTHLAND, USCGC BIBB and USCGC INGHAM.

During World War II, Lieutenant Bellarts was assigned as the Staff Communications Officer for LST Group 7, which landed at Lae, Finschafen and Buna, New Guinea in 1943. After retiring from the Coast Guard, Lieutenant Bellarts became the Deputy Director and chief radio officer for the Snohomish County Civil Defense Office in Everett, Washington.


On a stormy day in June 1928, the tri-motor Fokker seaplane Friendship dipped down out of a leaden sky to land in the bay near Burry Port, Wales. The airship taxied through the pouring rain to a nearby buoy and cut its engines. A moment later, one of the crewmen, Louis “Slim” Gordon, opened a door in the fuselage, hopped out, and moored the airship to the buoy.

At the controls of the airship was Wilmer Stultz, and in the passenger compartment was a woman, who up until that flight, had been a recreational aviator and a social worker in Boston. On that rainy morning, she was catapulted to international celebrity. She was Amelia Earhart.

A few months before, the young, boyish woman with tousled hair, had been asked to an interview by George Palmer Putnam, the wealthy and powerful head of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, publishers. An athletic adventurer, writer and promoter, Putnam had been asked by a wealthy New England socialite to find a woman to fly across the Atlantic in the aircraft she had purchased from Admiral Richard Byrd. She had initially planned to make the flight herself, to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, but had been pressured by her worried family out of the flight.

A masterful promoter, George Palmer Putnam, or “GP” as he liked to be called, immediately seized upon the young Amelia Earhart at their first meeting. Earhart was tall, slim and had a remarkable physical likeness to recent aviation hero Charles “Lucky Lindy” Lindbergh. Putnam instantly christened her “Lady Lindy”, a nickname which Earhart deplored.

When asked if she wanted to make the flight, Earhart unhesitatingly jumped for it, as she was plucky, adventurous, and ambitious. She knew an opportunity when she saw one. As she said later, “You don’t turn down an opportunity like that!”

The rest was history. Immediately after the flight of the Friendship, commemorative medals were struck and sold, and the young aviatrix embarked upon a number of product endorsements.

At the same time, GP hustled his young protégéé off to his luxurious estate, Rocknoll, in Rye, NY, so that she would have the privacy and peace to write an account of her famous flight. This she did, and before the end of 1928, “20 Hours, 40 Minutes” was published. To this day, it is an important historical source and a sought after collectible.

Earhart then embarked upon a lucrative and busy lecture tour to discuss her new book. Upon her return to New York, she was appointed Aviation Editor for Cosmopolitan Magazine. By then, in 1929, she was all the rage.

Dissatisfied with being just a passenger on the first Transatlantic flight, Earhart determined to pilot the Atlantic Ocean herself and spent the next four years in preparing for this. Preparations were set back by a crash during a practice flight in Norfolk, Virginia in 1930, which necessitated lengthy repairs that weren’t completed until 1931. Shortly after the Norfolk crash, GP obtained a divorce from his wife, Dorothy, and the following February, in 1931, he and Earhart were married in a quiet ceremony.

In the spring of 1932, the aviatrix took off from Newfoundland and successfully crossed the Atlantic in 15 hours, 18 minutes, landing in a pasture in Londonderry, Ireland. Earhart was now the first woman to successfully pilot the Atlantic.

Over the next five years, under GP’s guidance, Earhart set more aviation records, participated in various aviation events, continued to tour the lecture circuit, was the spokesperson for a multitude of products, and lent her name to several businesses. One of them was a line of women’s clothing, which she personally designed. Another was a high quality line of luggage that continued be manufactured for years after her disappearance.

Additionally, Earhart became actively involved in establishing commercial air routes and founding airlines. But beyond that, Earhart was an ardent feminist, who eschewed the conventional female role and forged a new one for herself. On her passport, under “occupation”, she had entered, “flyer”. And whenever she was on an airfield, she habitually wore custom tailored gabardine slacks, an open throated man’s sport shirt with a knotted silk scarf, and a leather-flying jacket. They became her trademarks. She was one of the most talked-about, fashionable, admired, beloved, and emulated women of the 1930s. She was an icon. Her name was a household word. Even the press referred to her more often as not as just “Amelia.” Everyone knew whom they were talking about.

During her brief career, she was always thinking about the next flight, as it was her flights that kept her in the public eye and kept her career going. During her preparations for the round-the-world flight, she told a friend, “I think I’ve only got one more good flight left in me”. That remark turned out to be more prescient than Earhart could know.


“KHAQQ calling ITASCA” Amelia Earhart’s 8:00 a.m. transmission began in worried tones. “We received your signals but are unable to get a minimum. Please take a bearing on us and answer on 3105 kilocycles in voice.”

Although he had been technically relieved of his radio watch, for the next 43 minutes, Chief Bellarts tried desperately to get a fix on Amelia Earhart, and reach the aviatrix, but to no avail. Periodically broadcasting the letter “A” in Morse code, interspersed with voice transmissions, Bellarts could get no acknowledgement from Earhart.

Then, at 0843, another transmission came through, this time in tones of near panic:

“KHAQQ to ITASCA. We are on the line 157-337. Will repeat message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles, wait. We are running on line, listening on 6210 kilocycles.”

The signal strength registered at a “5”, the highest, and Bellarts later reminisced that “She was so loud that I ran up to the bridge expecting to see her coming in for a landing”. To Bellarts’ astonishment, the sky over the cutter was empty. No further messages were received by the ITASCA from Amelia Earhart.


The radio crew aboard the ITASCA consisted of RM3/C Galten, call sign (BG); RM3/C O’Hare, call sign (TO); RM3/C Thompson, call sign unknown; and CRM Bellarts, call sign (DC). In the radio shack there were two sets of radios. Radio position #1 was to handle all ship’s business (incoming and outgoing messages only), the operators assigned to this radio being Galten and O’Hare. Radio position #2 was to handle only Earhart traffic and was operated by Bellarts and Galten. Thompson was designated as relief operator for both positions.

Another Radio Operator, RM2/C Cipriani, was added to the crew in Hawaii to assist with radio operations. Upon arriving at Howland Island, Cipriani was assigned by CRM Bellarts to operate the direction finder (D/F) on Howland Island, due to Cipriani’s being unfamiliar with the ship and its equipment. This D/F was a high frequency unit that was installed on Howland for the purpose of taking Earhart bearings. CRM Bellarts felt that someone had to learn how to operate the D/F so Cipriani was the likely candidate.

Cipriani’s assignment to Howland was for the purpose of operating the D/F and to maintain a log. This has caused some controversy over the years. Department of Interior radio operator Yau Fai Lum, call letters K6GNW, was one of four “colonists” already assigned to Howland. On the ITASCA traveling to their assignments on another island were radio operators Ah Kin Leong, call letters K6ODC) and Henry Lau, call letters K6GAS. The Howland radio log was maintained from 2-13 July with all on/off duty periods of the above personnel recorded. However, in 1990 both Lum and Leong vigorously denied that they ever assisted Cipriani during the search and according to Lum, Cipriani, Leong and Lau returned to the ITASCA just prior to the search with the landing crew. Lum also stated that he never met Cipriani and that the Howland Log was counterfeit. (RILEY, John P., “The Earhart Tragedy: Old Mystery, New Hypothesis,” John P. Riley, Naval History Magazine, August 2000)

Chief Bellarts disputes Lum’s and Leong’s statements for the following reasons. To his knowledge, Cirpriani, Leong and Lau had not returned to the ITASCA. As Leading Chief of the Radio Department, the return of these three men to the ITASCA could not have escaped his attention. Certainly not over a period of 16 days. Moreover, if Cipriani, Leong and Lau had returned to the ITASCA, there would have been nobody to communicate with the ship using the portable radio on Howland Island. Chief Bellarts later reminisced, “We left him on the beach, we wanted him to stay with his equipment and we sailed”. Chief Bellarts, LT Sutter (radio officer) and Captain Thompson would not accept a bogus radio log, thus putting their careers on the line. According to the ITASCA Deck Log, crew members who stayed on Howland during the search returned to the ship on 18 July. Another item to support Chief Bellarts’ view is a Naval Message sent to Navy Headquarters on 17 July by the ITASCA. It stated that they had to pick up a coast guard radioman and extra Interior Department personnel on Howland Island and then, being released from the Earhart search, they would proceed to Honolulu.


When Cipriani finally returned to the ITASCA on 18 July, he brought the D/F back on board. During the trip back to Hawaii Chief Bellarts took the unit apart and discovered that the wires were all tangled and broken off at the terminals. The D/F was operated by rotating a loop in an oscillating (side to side) manner to try to determine the direction of a radio signal. The oscillating movement was necessary because there were wires attached to the underside of the loop, which would break if the loop was rotated continuously in either direction. Later models had slip rings added to prevent wires from breaking. After repairing the D/F, Chief Bellarts said nothing about it. He knew Cipriani hadn’t received any training on how to run the device and it would have served no purpose to get him in trouble. The D/F was an experimental model and came from the Navy and was loaned to the ITASCA by District Radio Electrician H.M. Anthony, in Honolulu. It was a small unit, less than one watt in power and used dry batteries, just small enough that it could be carried under one arm and didn’t weight as much as a small TV set.


Sometime during the search, items were being taken out of the radio shack. The Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Baker ordered Chief Bellarts to lock up the Earhart log plus any other information he deemed pertinent. But, sometime prior to this the original 3 pages of the Earhart Log were retyped and were added to the other official logs/messages that were turned over to the Coast Guard upon completion of the cruise. These were later submitted to the National Archives in Washington D.C.. The major problem is that this retype made two typing errors: (1) at 0818. GA WID 3105 was omitted, and (2) at 0843, AS was typed instead of S5 (Radio Strength level 5) as on the original log.

Chief Bellarts kept the first three pages of the Earhart Flight Log plus other messages and pertinent information under lock and key. Upon arriving at his homeport (San Diego, California) Chief Bellarts removed these documents thinking that there would be some type of investigation by higher authority and he would be called to testify. But this never happened. Thus, these papers, including the three pages of the original Earhart Flight Log, remained in his possession until his death in 1974. His two sons, Leo Jr. and David Bellarts donated these papers and other items concerning Amelia Earhart in 1975 to the National Archives in Washington D.C.


While the crew of the ITASCA waited for Earhart they designed an envelope with a cachet showing the ITASCA, Earhart and Howland Island. Only a few of these covers are known to exist to this day making them, in Dave Bellarts’ opinion, the second rarest Earhart cover in existence next only to the second round the world attempt cover.


The following statements were recorded/written by Leo G. Bellarts concerning various aspects and events which happened on the ITASCA during its cruise to Howland Island and Amelia Earhart’s attempt to circle the globe.

Lae Radio Connection: “We had no contact between the ITASCA and Lae, New Guinea. We couldn’t work that distance, their frequencies were different than ours, and we didn’t pay any attention to Lae. We figured we would be briefed through the regular channels.”

Earhart’s Voice: “The last time we heard her voice it was so loud and clear that you could hear her outside the radio shack. We heard her quite a few times, but that last time, it sounded as if she would have broken out in a scream if she hadn’t stopped talking. She was just about ready to break into tears and go into hysterics, that’s exactly the way I’d describe her voice, I’ll never forget it”.

Killing Birds: “Just prior to Fred Goerner’s book (The Search for Amelia Earhart) came out, I had a conversation with him and thinking he would not put what I told him in his book I related the story of the birds on Howland Island. We went ashore and killed hundreds of them. The reason was the concern that they might fly into the propellers of Earhart’s plane”.

ITASCA Radio Operators: “During the flight, the ITASCA radio operators were getting disgusted with her for not staying on schedule and just hanging up after just a few words. She apparently didn’t listen for us at all. She’d call, come on and just say, the weather’s overcast and then just hang it up, not go ahead. She never tried to establish contact until the last – the last quart of gas she had. At the very last she was coming in so loud (S5 radio strength) that I actually went outside the radio shack, we had people all over the deck thinking she was going to fly right down into our rigging. We could have gotten her on 500KC – all she had to do is hold down the key and we could have taken a bearing on her from the ship’s directional finder”. The ITASCA radiomen were using a CGR-32-1 type receiver.

Gas is running low: “Remember hearing Earhart say “we must be on you but cannot see you, but gas is running low”. She didn’t say she’s running low on gas or anything, but “gas is running low”. This is recorded on the original log, but on the log being maintained by O’Hare he wrote that she only had ½ hour of gas. This should never have been recorded, due to O’Hare’s job was not to handle Earhart traffic but only other traffic coming into the ITASCA. It was not O’Hare’s responsibility and he did it for some unknown reason”.

Weather: “As to the weather, there were puffy clouds to the NW but plenty of blue in between them. Other than that, it was a very clear day. The prevailing winds were easterly, toward Howland Island”.

Press Reporters: There were two pressmen (AP & UP San Francisco) on board. “One of the reporters gave me a message to be sent to his home office at UP San Francisco but failed to put UPSF at the top of the message, so it was sent to all the major news agencies in the open. The reporter got fired when we returned to Hawaii. Here it was the biggest news story of his life and he forgot to sent it to his own news organization”.

Smoke: “I was actually on the bridge at the time and overheard them say, “Make smoke”. I tell you when they make smoke, they can lay down a smoke screen like you can’t believe”.


“Earhart stated: ‘Want bearing on 3105 KCS on hour, will whistle in mike’. That came in at 0614 hrs. She said on the hour and here it was 14 minutes after the hour. One minute later she comes on an said we’re about 200 miles out approximately and she was not whistling. I put down whistle, because she said she was whistling, actually it was audible sound (yells). That’s what she was doing. As to the log I didn’t put the word approximately in the correct spot. She said she was approximately 200 miles out and I just typed about 200 miles out approximately. I reversed the English on her”.

Spy Possibility: “When Earhart left Lae, where was she at and where was she at daytime. It’s a physical impossibility that she was on a cloak and dagger mission. Because she would be flying over Saipan, Truk or any other island at night. In those days they couldn’t take pictures at night. When it was daytime she was practically out, east of the Gilberts. The Coast Guard radio operators were not in on any spy mission. If she was flying at 1,000 feet over Truk she would have got knocked down before she got 1,000 feet away by some Zero on her tail”. In the Harry Balfour letter he stated that prior to Earhart’s departure he went into the plane and couldn’t see any cameras. “If there were supposed to be 26 of them I failed to see where they were hidden and I didn’t see even one camera let alone 26 of them”. He also stated that the mechanic for New Guinea Airways at the time said Earhart’s plane had no special engines and that they were the same as our Lockheed.

USS SHOSHONE: “The U.S. Navy ship SHOSHONE was supposed to go down to Howland originally, but they had an accident and had to turn around. The ITASCA substituted for the USS SHOSHONE, and COMHAWSEC (Commander Hawaii Section) supplied all the information that the USS SHOSHONE had concerning the Earhart flight to the ITASCA”.

USS ONTARIO: “The U.S. Navy tug ONTARIO was a weather ship stationed halfway between Lae and Howland. They were supposed to send out N’s in Morse code on 400 KC’s for Earhart to hone in on. Earhart knew she would be flying over the ONTARIO at night. As for the reason the ONTARIO didn’t hear Earhart, was very simple. The receivers aboard that ship could not receive on her frequency. The USS ONTARIO and USS SWAN were small tugs and were one-radioman ships, maintaining only schedules for weather through Navy radio Samoa or Honolulu. The equipment aboard the ONTARIO was low frequency rigs and could not operate on anything above 500 KCS for transmitting and could not receive above 3000 KCS”.

USS SWAN: “The U.S. Navy tug SWAN was halfway between Howland and Hawaii. Earhart wanted the SWAN to transmit on 900 KC’s or 9,000 KC. Earhart wasn’t sure when she would be flying over the SWAN in daytime or during the night. So they would use 900 KC’s at night and 9,000 KC’s during daytime. The SWAN was out of the picture because they had the same type of radios as the ONTARIO”.

ITASCA Radio Frequencies: “The primary radio by voice transmission was to be 7500, 3105, 6210 and 500 KCS by key. The ITASCA radio personnel did not know that Earhart couldn’t send out on 500 KC’s. This was due to her leaving her trailing antenna in Miami. From what we learned after the flight, I am afraid that Earhart was careless in not informing the ITASCA that she was unable to transmit on 500 KCS. Do not know if she knew that the ITASCA had borrowed a 3105 KCS D/F to be placed on Howland Island or not”.

ITASCA Directional Finder: “I went up to the bridge just for insurance to operate the D/F. We had no idea in the world that she couldn’t use 500 KC. So I went up there and started it up and was standing by just in case. I was right there and if she’d come in I’d have her in 30 seconds. Actually, that D/F was my pride and joy because I’ve had a awful lot of experience on the ship board type. Earhart was not alerted to the fact a special D/F had been set up aboard the ITASCA because there was none. No D/F was aboard during her flight that would cover her frequency of 3105 or 6210 KCS. The only D/F was a standard low frequency finder capable of taking bearings of broadcast stations and frequencies below 500 KCS”.

The 157-337 Message: “The 157-337 message regarding a position of the Earhart plane was taken as a sunline position, of course not complete. Actually, I believe that she became so upset that she failed to send the entire message, which would have given the ITASCA something to go on in the search. As a result, we could only assume that she crashed somewhere before arriving at Howland. She certainly did not pass overhead at 1000 feet without seeing the large smoke screen the ITASCA was laying”.

Saipan Theory: “How did Earhart and Noonan reach Saipan? To me, there is only one answer, if there is an answer. They may have reached Saipan but certainly NOT on the Electra she flew from Lae. The only possibility as far as I’m concerned is that they crashed very close to Howland island and were fortunate (?) enough to land near a Japanese fishing boat or other Japanese vessel which was in the vicinity. To all know information, no Japanese vessels were anywhere near Howland during that time. Considering the strength of her signals, she was certainly not near enough to any island (except Baker) that she could have possibly landed on. It must have been a sea crash. The Marshalls, Gilberts or Phoenix groups are definitely ruled out in my book. Howland was some 1,200 miles southeast of Saipan. I still contend that for Earhart’s plane to have crashed on or near Saipan it would have had to go off course right after leaving Lae, New Guinea. If she had been near Saipan we could not have received her messages with steadily greater strength. She was coming closer to us all the time. In those days the closer you got the louder you became. I even flipped on the louder speaker so others in the radio shack could listen. She came over so loud.”

Sending A’s: “As for the length of time we sent “A’s” on 7.5 megacycles, we were advised that she wanted signals on the 7.5 frequency for her homing station. She apparently did not use them and doubt that she even attempted”.

Gun Batteries for the D/F on Howland: “I was not aware the batteries ran down during the night. In fact that is incorrect. Don’t recall exactly which gun battery we used, but they were all OK until after she apparently “went in”. Some one is guessing and they haven’t guessed the correct answer, which will remain with me”.

Earhart’s Radio: “The people stating that the Earhart radio was not functioning properly make such statements on pure guess work. Amelia never stated that our signals were too weak for a minimum but “We received your signals but unable to get minimum please take a bearing on us” etc. No mention was made of weak signals or the reason she could not obtain a bearing. There are several reasons why she was unable to obtain a radio bearing. Too great signal, too weak a signal, fading, night effect (which there were none), and other causes. As far as we knew on the ITASCA, Earhart encountered no equipment failure–at least she reported none. Actually, in this case, I believe that our signals were too strong. Some people have stated that the Earhart radio could not be heard more than 50 to 100 miles. In my opinion this is someone talking about something they know nothing about. A 50-watt transmitter airborne will certainly transmit dependably to 500 miles under normal conditions. During nighttime hours, this distance could be multiplied several times under favorable skip conditions. I did not notice any skip conditions during her flight and believe that her signals were copied “ground wave” as they continually build up to the time of her final transmission when she was very loud and could be easily copied on the ship’s loud speaker. This would not have been true under skip conditions”.

Lieutenant Cooper: “Lieutenant Cooper of the U.S. Army was aboard the ITASCA for two reasons that I know of. Lieutenant Cooper was assigned the duty of surveying the airfield and placing the required markers, flags, etc. He was also available for any technical assistance that Earhart might require after landing on Howland. Memory tells me he had two enlisted assistants”.


After Lieutenant Bellarts retired, Mr. Fred Goerner, who wrote “The Search for Amelia Earhart”, interviewed him. This resulted in letters and other telephone conversations for over ten years. Another author, Mr. Elgin Long who wrote “Amelia Earhart, Mystery Solved” interviewed Lieutenant Bellarts in 1973 at his home in Everett, Washington. It was recorded on tape and later copied on CD’s. Mr. Don Dwiggins, who wrote “Hollywood Pilot”, about Earhart’s technical advisor pilot Paul Mantz, exchanged several letters with Bellarts concerning Earhart’s flight.

Also, Chief Bellarts corresponded with Harry Balfour, the radio operator at Lae. In one letter to Chief Bellarts, Balfour stated that Amelia handed her facility book plus a lot of papers along with her pistol and ammunition to him prior to her takeoff for Howland Island. Inside her facility book were all her radiograms concerning her communication arrangements with the ITASCA and suggested frequencies to be used. Bellarts later stated: “… this could be the reason she didn’t keep her scheduled times with the ITASCA”. Balfour also wrote that he had the same opinion as Bellarts, that she went down out of fuel short of Howland.

At the present time there are three files concerning Amelia Earhart at the National Archives in Washington D.C., these files are Microfilm publication #197, Amelia Earhart, U.S. Navy and Army records; Microfilm publication #272, Amelia Earhart, U.S. Coast Guard Records; and Records Group 200 – National Archives Gift Collection – Leo G. Bellarts – RE; Amelia Earhart.

It should be noted that the three original pages of the Amelia Earhart Flight Log for the ITASCA are in the Bellarts microfilm and not the U.S. Coast Guard microfilm. In the U.S. Coast Guard microfilm are the three pages that were retyped and should not be used for reference by researchers.


During the summer of 1953, my brother, Leo G Bellarts Jr., a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, was aboard their training ship Eagle. When walking across the quarterdeck, Captain Carl G. Bowman. The commanding officer recognized the “Bellarts” name stenciled on Leo’s jumper and asked if he was related to a radioman named “Bellarts”. Leo responded, “Yes sir, he’s my father”. Captain Bowman replied “A hard nosed bastard, but a damned good radioman”. Later, while visiting his father, Leo related Captain Bowman’s remark. Lieutenant Bellarts laughed, commenting that it was a great compliment as “Captain Bowman was also a hard nosed bastard, but a damned good officer”

During Dave Bellarts’ many conversations with his father, Lieutenant Bellarts told his son that he had his 15 minutes of fame, but it was spread out over many years. Lieutenant Bellarts would be very surprised to know how many authors, researchers and collectors (Dave Bellarts is one himself) of Earhart memorabilia there are today.

His fifteen minutes continue.


David Bellarts served in the U.S. Naval Reserve, the U.S. Army, and finally the U.S. Air Force, for a total of 28 years, retiring in 1979 with the rank of Master Sergeant. In his retirement, he is an avid collector of Earhart and Coast Guard memorabilia.

David Bowman served for 25 years in the U.S. Naval Reserve, seeing duty in the hostile fire area in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. He retired in 1991 with the rank of Yeoman First Class. He holds two BA degrees, one in business and the other in archaeology, and is the author of the recently published book “LEGERDEMAIN: Deceit, Misdirection and Political Sleight of Hand in the Disappearance of Amelia Earhart”. LEGERDEMAIN is the first comprehensive treatment on the disappearance of the famed aviatrix.