Believers of the Japanese theory include the director of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas, and a pilot who retraced Earhart's around-the-world flight for the 30th anniversary in 1967.
Proponents cite as supporting evidence a 1949 interview that Earhart's mother, Amy Otis Earhart, gave the Los Angeles Times. She said: "Amelia did not die in the ocean. She died in Japan," and "I am sure there was a government mission involved in the flight, for Amelia explained there were some things she could not tell me."
The Japanese and U.S. governments denied the Earhart rumors.
Twice in recent years, Japanese television crews have visited Earhart's 80-year-old stepson at his Florida home to ask about his famous stepmother. They dislike being accused of imprisoning or killing Earhart, he said.
Earhart's sister, Muriel Morrissey, called the Japanese rumors false when she co-wrote an Earhart biography in the 1980s. Morrissey died in 1998.
Earhart's niece also discounts the theory.
"There's never been substantial support for that," Kleppner said. "There have been a great many conflicting stories."
There's one sure way to end the dispute: Find the plane.
"It's got to be out there," Prymak said. "One of us will find it."
Copyright 2001 The Kansas City Star
What Happened to Amelia Earhart?
Theory 1: She plunged into the sea at the place where she made her last radio contact. Go>>
Theory 2: She had a contingency plan, and would have made sure she had enough fuel to find another runway. She made land, but died on an uninhabited island. Go>>
Theory 3: She somehow made it to the Marshall Islands where she was photographed sitting on a beach. She was arrested by the Japanese who may have executed her for being a spy. Or she may have returned to the United States after the war under a new name.
Return to the beginning of this series, the day Amelia Earhart disappeared, includes a sidebar about her life. Go>>