Amelia Earhart: Inspiration and Mystery

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Book Review: Amelia Earthart, Young Air Pioneer

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Part 5: Her Legacy

Three main theories as to the disappearance have emerged:

  • Earhart and Noonan never found the island, the plane ran out of gas, they crashed in the ocean, and died. The Pacific Ocean is vast, and a plane that crashed into the ocean might still be buried in deep water. Because the ocean is so big, even the massive searches that were carried out might have missed the plane.
  • Earhart and Noonan managed to land the plane somewhere else but didn't (or couldn't) report their position. Recent searches of islands in the area have turned up evidence that seems to suggest something like this, but nothing conclusive has been found. If they did land on a deserted island, they might very well have lived out their lives there. If they did make it back to civilization, they did not announce themselves to the world.
  • Earhart and Noonan were captured by enemies of the United States. The year was 1937. World War II had not yet begun, but Japan and the U.S. weren't exactly on friendly terms, especially over possessions in the Pacific. Japan had invaded China and countries in Southeast Asia. Amelia Earhart was famous. Capturing a famous American would be good public relations for Japan or another country that wanted to embarrass or damage the public reputation of the U.S. As part of this explanation for their disappearance, many people advance the theory that Earhart and Noonan were spies of the U.S. Government and were on a spying mission. That possibility makes their capture all the more likely.

The simple fact is that they were never found.

Wherever they ended up, no one currently knows. Some people believe that they re-entered society but not publicly. The owners of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, in her hometown of Atchison, like to tell the story of an older woman who took "the official house tour" many years ago and asked questions suggesting that she knew a great deal about Amelia's life, perhaps moreso than anyone else.

If they did survive, then why they didn't simply announce that they had not finished their flight and returned to America to try again isn't known.

The mystery surrounding Amelia's strange disappearance swirls to this day. Expeditions to search the Pacific Ocean around Howland Island continue with some frequency to this day. An answer might yet be found. Or perhaps not.

Where and how she died does nothing to tarnish Amelia Earhart's position in the history books. She was a famous person, one of the most recognized names of the 20th Century in America. She was a pioneering aviator and a strong advocate of a woman's right to do anything she wanted to do. She was an expert pilot and a bold, courageous person. She inspired many women to become pilots and many girls to break down barriers.

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