Supposed Photo of Amelia Earhart Predates Disappearance

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July 11, 2017

A photo that some researchers concluded showed missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan in Japanese hands appears in a travelogue published two years before their disappearance.

Earhart and Noonan were on an intended round-the-world flight on July 2, 1937 when they disappeared, many say without a trace. Among the theories surrounding the fact of the flyers and their plane is that they were taken prisoner and then killed by Japanese forces, who had control of many parts of the Pacific Ocean in the 1930s. (One purported reason for their seizure was that they supposedly were on a spy mission for the U.S. Government.) 

Another theory is that Earhart and Noonan never reached their intended destination, tiny Howland Island, but instead survived a desperate landing attempt and made it to equally tiny Nikumaroro Island, where they eventually died of starvation.

It is the seized-by-the-Japanese theory that has been in sharp focus in recent days, as a a result of a well publicized television special run by the U.S.-based History Channel that focused on a photograph recently unearthed in the National Archives. A former federal agent, Les Kinney, suspected that the photograph, which shows several people on a dock and was stamped Jaluit atoll, depicted Earhart and Noonan. The atoll, which is in the Marshall Islands, was at that time controlled by Japanese military forces. The TV special employed facial recognition experts who used facial recognition software to lend credence to the investigator's assertions, and two experts confirmed a likely match, based on known information about the facial characteristics of Earhart and Noonan.

The photo that Kinney found was not dated. Based on research, Kinney said that he believed the photo to have been taken in July 1937, the same month and year in which Earhart and Noonan disappeared.

Responding to all of that publicity about the photograph was a Japanese military history blogger, who consulted the archives of Japan's national library, the National Diet Library, and found the same photo, in a South Seas travelogue published in 1935, in Japanese-controlled Palau. Page 99 of the book shows the photo.

The blogger, Kota Yamano, posted his findings on Twitter. Yamano said that he had conducted an online search of the National Diet Library database and that he found the photo without difficulty.

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