Exploring The Lost Evidence

Eighty years after the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, new evidence may prove a shocking theory—that Earhart and Noonan were captured alive by the Japanese, and that the U.S. government knew she was in the custody of a foreign power, and may have covered it up.

Newly Discovered Amelia Earhart Photo

This photo may hold the key

Retired federal agent Les Kinney scoured the National Archives for records related to the Earhart case, uncovering a photo from the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) which the investigators believe shows Earhart and Noonan alive on a dock in the Marshall Islands after they disappeared. The photo also shows a Japanese ship towing a barge with an airplane on the back, which evidence may be Earhart’s Electra.

After the first airing of “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” questions began to surface about the date of the dock photo. Since then HISTORY’s researchers have been working to translate and analyze the new information, including a rare string-bound book that appears to contain the same photo. Ultimately historical accuracy is what is most important. We’ll continue to follow the evidence in an effort to get to the truth. 

Commemorative Stamps, Marshall Islands

Do these 30-year-old stamps corroborate the story?

These commemorative stamps were issued in 1987 by the government of the Marshall Islands to observe what people of the region believe was the 50th Anniversary of the crash landing of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, just off of Mili Atoll. The stamps were designed with the input from many Marshallese eyewitnesses to the events of July 1937.

The ship in the lower right corner stamp, which witnesses claimed took away Earhart, Noonan and their damaged plane, is the same Japanese ship that appears in the recently discovered dock photo of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan—a photo that no one knew even existed until its recent discovery by researcher Les Kinney. The ship was positively identified as the Koshu from documents created by the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, which were also recovered by Les Kinney in the U.S. National Archives

Amelia Earhart, Japanese diplomatic message, Les Kinney National Archives

Did America know?

These two Japanese communiques were also found in the National Archives by Les Kinney. They’re dated July 5, 1937, just three days after Earhart and Noonan disappeared. One of the documents—written in secret Japanese diplomatic code which was later decrypted by the U.S. Navy—states “since it is believed that she went down in the Marshall Islands…”

At the time these messages were sent, U.S. search efforts were focused on Earhart’s intended target, Howland Island, almost 800 miles away from the Marshall Islands. This implies that the Japanese were most likely tracking Earhart’s flight and had a much better idea as to where she had actually crashed. The fact that they were housed at the National Archives also implies the United States may have had knowledge of Earhart’s capture by the Japanese, but have kept information about her true fate classified for 80 years.

Metal piece at pima, Dick Spink

Is this part of Earhart's plane?

The metal piece held on the left in this photo was found below the surface of Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands, in 2015. This photo shows that it’s a visual match to the rolled aluminum trim edge around the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra L-10. This was the same model of plane that Earhart flew on her ill-fated mission.

The location of this crucial piece of evidence was revealed to Dick Spink by the son of an eyewitness who saw a twin engine plane crashing onto the reef next to Mili in July 1937. The witness also told his son that the plane was dragged along the beach and then brought to Jaluit—the location of the dock in the newly-discovered photo. The investigative team traveled to Mili Atoll, where they interviewed the eyewitness’ son, and they also conducted tests to determine that the metal pieces are consistent with aircraft metal and that it could have come from Earhart’s plane.

Searching for Amelia

Could this be Amelia Earhart’s gravesite?

The investigators went to Saipan to conduct the first large-scale excavation.