Remembering Aviator Amelia Earhart on Her Birthday (07/24/1897)

The record-setting aviator has remained a fixture in the public's imagination.

Published July 24, 2021

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Aviator Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 and in 1932, she became the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic ocean. On July 1937, however, Earhart achieved fame for an unfortunate reason.

Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in theirLockheed Electra plane, while attempting a global flight. Despite extensive efforts to find them, they were never found, nor was any wreckage from their plane. Earhart was officially declared dead in 1939.

Despite disappearing more than eight decades ago, Earhart has remained a pop culture fixture. She has also remained the focal point of conspiracy theories, some of them more bizarre than others.

Officially, the position of the U.S. has been that Earhart and Noonan ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean while trying to reach tiny Howland Island to land and refuel.

Some believe that Earhart was captured by the Japanese government after landing in the Marshall Islands, with some pointing to a photograph taken in the 1930s that allegedly showed both Earhart and her plane there. In another theory, some speculated she took on the identity of "Tokyo Rose," a propagandist who made English-language broadcasts intended to demoralize Allied forces during World War II. There was no evidence for this narrative.

But Ric Gillespie, author of the book "Finding Amelia" and executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, told the BBC in 2017 that there is no evidence supporting the claim that a photograph shows Earhart in Japanese custody.

Another theory is that Earhart and Noonan successfully landed on Nikumaroro, another tiny island southeast of Howland, but both died there as rescuers failed to find them in time. Per National Geographic, tantalizing clues, including human remains and airplane parts, were discovered on the island by a British exploration party in 1937.

Another unfounded theory was that Earhart survived and returned to the U.S., but assumed a new identity, namely "Irene Bolham." This theory, put forward by book author Joe Klaas, was false, as ABC News reported:

The theory should have died after Bolham sued Klaas, his associate Joe Gervais, and McGraw-Hill for defamation and McGraw-Hill pulled the book from shelves. But 33 years later, another book, "Amelia Earhart Survives" by Col. Rollin Reineck, came out in 2003 making the same claim.

Stranger theories about Earhart's disappearance attribute it to an alien abduction and even more bizarre, the idea that she was saved by a race of people that live inside the Earth.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more