Eighty years ago this week, pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, and for all of those eight decades, their disappearance has been the source of plenty of speculation and rumors.
The theories surrounding the Earhart mystery include hypotheses that she became a spy for the American government, that she became the infamous Tokyo Rose, that she survived the flight and took on a new identity, and that her plane simply sank into the ocean.
But could a newly discovered photograph shed light on the truth behind her disappearance? The History Channel seems to think so, and they’re banking on it for a new special that they are broadcasting this Sunday.
The photo, found in a long-forgotten file in the National Archives, shows a woman who resembles Earhart and a man who appears to be her navigator, Fred Noonan, on a dock. The discovery is featured in a new History channel special, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” that airs Sunday.
Independent analysts told History the photo appears legitimate and undoctored. Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director for the FBI and an NBC News analyst, has studied the photo and feels confident it shows the famed pilot and her navigator.
Though Japanese officials have claimed for years that Earhart and Noonan were never in their custody, one researcher who have studied the disappearance believes the theory, and facial recognition experts are convinced that the man and woman in the photo are Noonan and Earhart.
Proponents of the theory believe that the Japanese ship Koshu took Earhart and Noonan to the island of Saipan, where they died in custody. Locals recall seeing the aviator and the wreckage of her plane, and rumors abounded about who they thought was their famous captive resident.
Josephine Blanco Akiyama, who lived on Saipan as a child, has long claimed she saw Earhart in Japanese custody.
“I didn’t even know it was a woman, I thought it was a man,” said Akiyama. “Everybody was talking about her — they were talking about in Japanese. That’s why I know that she’s a woman. They were talking about a woman flyer.”
Does the photo solve the mystery, and is there more evidence? I guess we’ll have to tune in Sunday night to find out.