The Kansas City Star
Three researchers spent two weeks recently in the Marshall Islands
trying to confirm an old photograph that appears to show an Electra
sitting on a beach.
As of the middle of August, Amelia Earhart Society president Bill Prymak of Colorado had not heard from the team.
Many society members believe this decades-old tale: Earhart and Noonan crashed near Mili Atoll in the Marshalls (possibly after being shot down) and were picked up by a Japanese fishing boat or ship and taken to another island, where Noonan received medical treatment for cuts. Then they were taken to Saipan and imprisoned.
Witnesses reported seeing the plane, with a broken wing, in a sling on the back of a ship. Descriptions of the injured man, however, include a pencil-thin mustache, and Noonan had no mustache.
Some researchers believe the Japanese eventually killed Noonan and Earhart. Others think Earhart, and perhaps Noonan, returned to the United States under new names after the war.
How Earhart supposedly reached the Marshalls is debated.
Some say she agreed to spy on the Japanese for President Franklin Roosevelt, who was a friend. Others say U.S. officials asked her to use the Marshalls as a contingency landing spot. That way, the Navy could search the islands to see whether the Japanese were fortifying them during the pre-World War II years. Japan turned down U.S. search requests in 1937.
Researchers now have made at least ten expeditions to the Marshalls and Saipan seeking evidence, Prymak said. Together, they have interviewed about 50 witnesses who place Earhart and Noonan in those locations.
Yet her plane has not been found.
"That's the reason I haven't written a book yet," Prymak said. "I can't. I don't have the final chapter."
Others didn't wait. One book claimed Earhart returned to the United States under a new name, and it identified a woman who supposedly was Earhart. The woman, now deceased, denied it. Kleppner calls that theory "absurd."