With detail added to her story, including her past acquaintances with Amelia Earhart and Viola Gentry, here is more about the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile:
The original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile, who Amelia Earhart and Viola Gentry both knew and had flown with in the early 1930s, looked nothing like Amelia:
In the Photos: To reiterate, the 1930 dated newspaper photo features the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile, shown between her husband, Charles James Craigmile (left) and her father, Richard Joseph O’Crowley.
Again, tragedy struck the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile’s life in 1931, when her husband of three years, Charles James Craigmile, died of a sudden illness.
After her husband died, the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile decided that she wanted to become a pilot. With Amelia’s and Viola Gentry’s encouragement, she purchased a plane in 1932, and she earned her wings in 1933. In fact, she was a pretty good pilot for awhile, and through Amelia and Viola she befriended other lady fliers that flew out of Long Island, New York’s Roosevelt and Floyd Bennett Airfields. The original Irene also relocated to Brooklyn from New Jersey, into the same apartment building where Viola Gentry lived.
An old newspaper photo of the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile, shown next to her plane in 1933.
It was no small feat for any pilot in 1933, to fly a single engine, two-seater plane to Chicago from Long Island, New York.
Just when it seemed like the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile was coming into her own as a pilot, she realized she was pregnant out of wedlock right after earning her pilot’s license in May of 1933.
The original Irene was catholic so to legitimize her child to be, she eloped to marry the child’s father, a pilot by the name of Alvin Heller, before she gave birth to their son in early 1934. Naturally, of course, the combined experiences of her new marriage and sudden parenthood constricted her piloting activities. The original Irene was scarcely seen around Floyd Bennet and Roosevelt Fields again after that. [The subject of her 1934 born son and his future parenting is addressed further down.]
Retracing her past friendships with Amelia and Viola, in 1967, a retired pilot by the name of Elmo Pickerill, recalled the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile from the early 1930s, in the following manner below. Note that the 99s women’s flying organization was formed in 1929, with Amelia Earhart and Viola Gentry as charter members, and they were still “getting it going” in the early 1930s. There is a good possibilty that the original Irene would have joined the 99s had she not become pregnant, but as fortune had it, she never did join.
Strangely, approximate to when Amelia Earhart went ‘missing’ in 1937, the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile was no longer evident. Also, as noted, in time clear photo evidence of the original Irene were removed from circulation.
Whatever became of the original Irene is not publicly known, but anymore the re-strengthened theory now states that it is possibly the case that where Amelia Earhart continued to live-on after she was declared missing during the pre-dawn era of World War Two, in due-time she was able to assume the original Irene’s leftover identity for herself to use… for the remainder of her days.
In other words, unknown to the general public, Amelia Earhart possibly did live-on after she was declared missing, and in time she replaced the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile’s person.
Any further, this idea about what became of Amelia Earhart after she went missing in 1937, exists as an potential reality to behold. The accumulated over time forensic research evidence and later achieved comparison analysis results left it to exist in an all-but incontestable manner.
More About How The Original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile became a pilot with help from Amelia Earhart & Viola Gentry
After Charles James Craigmile died of a sudden illness in 1931, his widow, the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile, who through her attorney aunt had earlier been introduced to Amelia Earhart, was cordially swept under the wings of Amelia and her well-known flying friend, Viola Gentry, to help their new friend pursue her dream of becoming a pilot:
Amelia Earhart in 1921. In 1928, when she was thirty years old she suddenly became famous. Soon after that she met the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile through Irene’s aunt, the noted attorney by the name of Irene Rutherford O’Crowley.
Above, Viola Gentry in 1927. She came to know the original Irene through Amelia Earhart. Viola Gentry was famous for her endurance flying and stunt flying.
Amelia Earhart (left) with Viola Gentry, the two good pilot friends who knew and helped the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile earn her wings. By the late 1930s, however, the original Irene was gone, and to this day it remains unclear what her ultimate fate was.
During the original Irene’s piloting days, she lived in the same Brooklyn apartment building that Viola Gentry did, as did lady pilot, Pearl Pellaton. The building was located at 316 Rutland Road, not far from the Dodger’s Ebbet’s Field. During that time period, Viola occasionally invited the original Irene to events she attended, such as the two in the 1933 newspaper mentions below, that listed both the original Irene and Pearl Pellaton accompanying Viola:
There would have been pictures taken at the events mentioned above, and likely the original Irene would have been in some of them. Today, though, locating any clear photos of the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile is difficult to do. While it seems clear enough that for a time the original Irene was an up and coming lady pilot who was friends with Amelia Earhart and Viola Gentry, and that she knew other lady pilots as well, she is never mentioned as a past flying friend in any of Amelia’s biographies, nor was
her 1930s friendship with Viola Gentry discussed in Jennifer Bean Bower’s biography of Viola Gentry — beyond Viola denying that the Irene Bolam she knew in her later life years used to be known as Amelia Earhart.
From 1932, the below Akron, Ohio newspaper photo featured Amelia Earhart (outlined in white), and Viola Gentry (outlined in gray) shown next to the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile, (outlined in black.) Reprinted from today’s available newspaper archive, when enlarged, the original Irene’s facial image is the only one in the group with no distinguishable features:
Viola Gentry, who maintained throughout the war years that Amelia was still alive after she went missing in 1937, would have been highly listed among the individuals who continued to know Amelia after she assumed the original Irene’s leftover identity. As mentioned, the same would have gone for Amelia’s sister, Muriel. However, neither ever acknowledged that their later-life friend, ‘Irene’ used to be Amelia. Instead, both strongly contested it whenever they were asked.
Below is an excerpt from Jennifer Bean Bower’s 2015 biography of Viola Gentry, The Flying Cashier, where a 1941 interview Viola gave to Maybelle Manning was recalled. While reading these words, know that Viola maintained that throughout the war years her missing friend, Amelia, was still alive, and that right after the war ended, Irene stopped talking about Amelia:
ANOTHER VIOLA GENTRY CONNECTION
There may have been more to the McGraw-Hill publishing controversies that took place in 1971, and their relationship to Amelia Earhart’s old ‘missing person’ case than was realized at the time, and once again, where so, Viola Gentry figured in.
That one of the most reputable publishing houses in the world would issue consecutive books that dialed in on the life of Howard Hughes, and then quickly withdraw them both, is somewhat odd in itself. The first book was Amelia Earhart Lives, that threaded a theorized level of involvement Howard Hughes possibly had in covering for Amelia after she went missing. (Read about the ‘Irene Bolam versus McGraw-Hill’s Amelia Earhart Lives book lawsuit’ further down.) Hughes, a great pilot himself, was a known 1930s acquaintance of Amelia’s, but he was never consulted by Joe Klaas, the author of Amelia Earhart Lives, and the book was withdrawn by McGraw-Hill in early 1971, shortly after it was published. Next, throughout 1971, Clifford Irving wrote a supposedly authorized by Howard Hughes ‘autobiography’ that was set to be published by McGraw-Hill at the end of the year. Once again, however, Clifford Irving did not consult with Hughes, and he was charged with perpetrating a hoax after Hughes objected to his book and claimed he’d never met Irving. This led to pressed copies of the book being
burned by McGraw-Hill before they made it into circulation, and to some jail time for Irving as well. Interestingly enough, Joe Klaas was never challenged by Howard Hughes at all, nor was he fined or convicted of any crime, and neither was Joseph A. Gervais, whose ten year investigation Amelia Earhart Lives was largely about.
The Amelia Earhart medal displayed below, was presented to Howard Hughes by Viola Gentry two years before it was claimed that the former Amelia Earhart was first recognized for who she used to be by Joe Gervais. Perhaps not so ironically, it was Viola Gentry who introduced the post-1940 only Irene to Joseph A. Gervais the day before the photograph of Viola and the post-1940 Irene’s husband, Guy Bolam, was taken:
Photos: Viola Gentry and Guy Bolam, on August 9, 1965, outside of the Sea Spray Inn of East Hampton, Long Island. The original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile was long gone by then. Viola had known her, just as she knew the new post-1940 only Irene O’Crowley Craigmile, who had married Guy Bolam in 1958, and who some claimed had previously been known as her famous flying friend, Amelia Earhart. (Photo taken by the post-1940 Irene, Mrs. Guy Bolam.)
Knowing how close Viola Gentry had been to both Amelia Earhart and to the original Irene O’Crowley Craigmile, it would be incomprehensible to entertain the idea that after 1940, Viola’s 1930s friend, the original Irene Craigmile, could have suddenly morphed into an older-version, doppelganger-like twin of Viola’s famous friend, Amelia Earhart, who had gone missing years before. As it turned out, the original Irene was gone by the end of the 1930s, and for lack of a better explanation, it basically appeared to be the case that Amelia Earhart had continued to live-on, and in time took the original Irene’s name for herself to be known by from the 1940s on.
In the Video Above: Amelia Earhart, age 39… digitally transitions into… Mrs. Guy Bolam in 1965
Amelia Earhart, age 36
…digitally transitions into…
…Mrs. Guy Bolam in 1977
“It’s sad, in a way, how the profound greatness of Amelia Earhart’s person became lost in the so-called mystery of her disappearance. Here, for a brief moment let’s again look back at the outcome of Amelia’s loss through words generated by the White House nine months after she was declared missing:
FROM THE WHITEHOUSE
“The White House never did reveal what it knew about Amelia Earhart’s world flight outcome, and by now it is certain that the general public was diverted away from being able to comprehend what really happened.
Today, people seem to have forgotten that Amelia’s 1937 disappearance was a major controversy that ended up being systemically swept under the rug of official history by the U.S. federal government. It may even be the case that the exercise of it was already in the works in September of 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.
The facts of Amelia Earhart’s loss continued to be obfuscated throughout the war years and they were exponentially ignored by official historians after the war was over. Indeed, the effort to muddle the truth about Amelia Earhart’s final flight ending was something that continued into the 1960s, until finally, it was determined that people in general had been conditioned enough to accept that Amelia simply crashed and sank at unknown Pacific Ocean coordinates, just prior to completing her infamous world flight. Of course, solid information now states that Amelia’s world flight ending did not happen that way.
Heeding to the many dictates of government institutions and offshoot cottage industries that managed to keep the curious stupefied about Amelia Earhart, non-truths are all the public continues to recognize about Amelia Earhart’s disappearance at this space in time. And that’s a shame. Basically, for decades gone by the citizenry of the United States has been spoon fed falsehoods about Amelia Earhart’s world flight outcome, to include by at least a few people who felt they were doing it for the better good of Amelia’s heroic legacy in the eyes of the body public. Anymore, though, it is obvious that Amelia did manage to live-on after she was declared missing, and the idea that she became known as one of three Twentieth Century women attributed to the same Irene O’Crowley Craigmile identity, lives on stronger than ever.” Tod Swindell
ABOUT PROTECTING EARHART
The Protecting Earhart MSS and Forensic Analysis [1997-2020; copyright registrations: TXu 1-915-926 & TXu 2-061-539] mark one Investigative Journalist’s comprehensive forensic research evaluation combined with a human comparison analysis.
After meeting some World War Two veterans who insisted that Amelia Earhart privately lived well beyond the war years, Writer-filmmaker, Tod Swindell, developed a consuming interest in the facts attributed to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and missing person case, that led him to orchestrate a comprehensive forensic research study that featured an in-depth ‘Amelia to Irene’ comparison analysis, the first one ever done.
The complete Study was inspired by the original findings of Joseph A. Gervais [of the ‘Operation Earhart’ investigation Gervais conducted from 1960 to 1970] and a long time collaborator of his, Author Randall Brink. The study features over ten-thousand pages of rare documents, analytical text, photographs, human physical and character trait comparisons, maps, charts, and past-obscured, but once again revisited investigative research findings.
The condensed Protecting Earhart MSS features 415 total pages; 110 of which exclusively exhibit logistical and visual elements drawn from the overall ‘Amelia to Irene’ Comparison Analysis. From a layman’s viewpoint, the Study results appear to exhibit Amelia Earhart’s ongoing existence after World War Two with the re-purposed name of, ‘Irene O’Crowley Craigmile’ applied to her person. (Surname of ‘Bolam’ added by marriage in 1958.) It also examined the post-World War Two, ‘let’s move on‘ logic that left the general public out of the loop of the complexities that surrounded Amelia’s 1937 disappearance. Simply put, a year and a half after she was declared ‘missing‘ in 1937, Amelia Earhart was declared ‘dead in absentia‘ in 1939, a declaration that has never changed.
The intention to keep the name ‘Amelia Earhart’ exclusively associated with a dead person no matter what, evidently came into strong focus during the final days of World War Two. The controversy over the post-1940 only Irene was most notably exposed by a close friend and confidant of the post-1940 Irene’s, former Seton Hall College President, Monsignor James Francis Kelley. In the 1980s and 1990s, Monsignor Kelley admitted to select individuals that his friend, Irene, actually did used to be known as Amelia Earhart, and that he had helped her to become Irene Craigmile during the final days of World War Two. Non-believers insisted that the well-known monsignor was ‘senile’ and his mental condition caused him to fabricate his statements about his friend, Irene. People who knew Monsignor Kelley well, however, remarked that the monsignor was ‘quite lucid’ when he described to them what he did about Amelia Earhart quietly living on and becoming known as ‘Irene’.
When regarded seriously, what would have theoretically been Amelia Earhart’s post-loss FWPP (Federal Witness Protection Program) that allowed her to become the new Irene O’Crowley Craigmile from the 1940s on, would have been something most likely put in place under the omniscient guise of the federal government’s long time FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI’s ‘Amelia Earhart’ file contents from the World War Two years, that included Mr. Hoover’s signatures, indicated an awareness that he had gleaned pertaining to indications of Amelia Earhart’s ongoing existence during the war years under the auspice of Japan. Mr. Hoover was still the Director of the FBI when the ‘did Amelia become known as Irene’ assertion first surfaced in 1970, and he was sure to remain silent about it, where otherwise he would have been expected to weigh-in with an FBI opinion. Hindsight also reveals that no one from the Federal Government of the United States offered an official opinion at all toward the Amelia-Irene matter after the controversy surfaced, and it remained that way ever since.
Importantly as well, the 1970 claim stating that Amelia lived-on and became known as ‘Irene’ from the 1940s on, was never disproved.
The complete Study is available for review on a selective basis. The portions displayed here are revealing of the overall Amelia-Irene congruence controversy.
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