S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Amelia Earhart Died on Saipan Scenario Fiction

The airways and television were abuzz about the “new” photograph that purports to show Earhart and Noonan on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands in Japanese custody. At 8:00 PM, Sunday, 9 July 2017, the History Channel broadcasted a two-hour show claiming that this photograph solves the mysterious disappearance of the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

As a longtime aficionado of the Earhart mystery, I can categorically assert that Earhart and Noonan are not in this picture.Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 5.41.01 PM.png

The following comments are courtesy of TIGHAR.

  • If the flyers were in Japanese custody, where are the Japanese soldiers? Where are the weapons?
    • No one is guarding anyone.
  • Earhart’s hair was much shorter than the hair of the person sitting on the dock who is purportedly Earhart.
  • On the around-the-world flight, Earhart wore a dark, long-sleeved shirt.
    • The woman on the dock is wearing a white shirt.
  • Noonan wore dark trousers and a dark shirt.
    • The man purported to be Noonan wears a wears a white outfit.
  • The man purported to be Noonan has a receding hairline on the right side of his face.
    • Noonan’s receding hairline was on his left side.

***

There is no concrete evidence that Amelia Earhart landed in the Marshal Islands, was captured by the Japanese, taken to Saipan, and died there. NONE. The apocryphal evidence is not enough to make a convincing, provable argument.

The Japanese capture theory is that Earhart crash-landed on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 767 nautical miles NNW of Howland Island—her destination. She and Noonan were picked up by natives. The Japanese found them, took them prisoner as spies found within their very tightly controlled “Bamboo Curtain,” a vast area in the central Pacific that included the Marianas, Marshalls, Carolines, and other islands (taken from the Germans in WWI). The Japanese took the flyers to Jaluit Island on a Japanese ship towing the Electra on a barge. A few days later, the flyers were on Saipan and imprisoned. Noonan was executed (he was a Navy Reserve lieutenant commander). Earhart died of some disease. It’s a great tale. Until some undisputable evidence is proffered, the Saipan scenario remains a fable.

There are no Japanese records. No USA records. No Marshall Island records. No documents. No photographs. No bones that would pass a DNA test. No verifiable parts of her Electra. No eyewitness testimony that’s credible (taken under oath and in the proper setting). Several islanders had averred that they saw Earhart and Noonan in the islands. The islanders tended to tell the questioners what they believed the questioners wanted to hear. Several American G.I.s told researchers about their experiences related to Earhart and Noonan on Saipan. However, not one produced concrete evidence. Accordingly, there is no irrefutable evidence that Earhart died on Saipan while in Japanese custody. None whatsoever. Not even a smidgen.

Actual facts about Amelia Earhart’s flight from Lae, New Guinea, en route to Howland Island:

  • On 2 July 1937, at 1000 hours, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed Lae, New Guinea, with 1,100 standard US gallons of fuel on board.
    • Destination was Howland Island—2,223 nautical miles to the east.
    • Anchored off Howland Island was her guard ship, the USCG Itasca.
    • On average, the twin-engine Electra consumed about 38 US gallons per hour, including takeoff, the climb to altitude, descent, etc.
  • I’ve computed (all factors considered) that her ground speed was about 117 knots from Lae to near Howland.
  • 0720 hours, 2 July, Amelia Earhart transmitted, “We must be on you, but we cannot see you but gas is running low….” (She had crossed the International Date Line.)
    • Her radio transmitter had only 50 watts of power.
    • On board the USCG Itasca the signal strength of the 0720 message was #5, the highest level: loud and clear.
  • Chief Petty Officer Radioman Leo Bellart, USN, senior radio operator on board the Itasca, estimated that the Electra was about 100 nm to 150 nm from Howland.
  • Her flight time from Lae to near Howland was about 19.6 hours.
  • Earhart’s fuel reserve would have been about 88 gallons if she had arrived at Howland Island. That is about 2.3 hours flight time, or 264 nautical miles.

It was physically impossible for Amelia Earhart to fly to Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands—767 nm distant.

The following is a simple Monte Carlo Simulation regarding the fuel needed for an Earhart flight from near Howland to Mili Atoll. All numbers are within 10% to 15% error.

  • Continuing with Earhart’s standard fuel consumption rate (38 gal/hr), it would take her 6.6 hours flight time to reach Mili Atoll. (767 nm ÷ 117 knots = 6.6 hours)
  • Such a flight requires 250 gallons of fuel. (6.6 hours x 38 gal per hour)
  • Fuel remaining in the Electra when near Howland would be 88 gal

Amelia Earhart did not have enough fuel to reach Mili Atoll.

Also, I wonder if she were physically and mentally able to complete a flight of an additional 6.6 hours to Mili Atoll—a total of 25.6 continuous hours in flight. When close to Howland, she had been flying for about 19 hours. On this around-the-world flight, Earhart had been flying off and on for forty-four exhausting days, covering 21,000 nautical miles by the time she had arrived at Lae, New Guinea.

I’m working on an extensive, opinion-neutral monograph that explores the five most publicized scenarios that purport to explain Earhart’s mysterious disappearance, and that evaluates dispassionately their credibility.

For background, I’ve attached the Bamboo Curtain scenario that’s in my monograph.

The Japanese Mandated Islands

Background. To understand the keen interest in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, it’s essential to set the world’s political stage, including the festering issues that would lead to World War II in the Pacific in December 1941.

World War I began 28 July 1914 in Europe, the Mideast, China, and the Pacific islands. Japan declared war on Germany and captured the German Treaty Ports in China: Tsingtao, Hankow, and Tientsin, for example. The Imperial Japanese Navy pursued the German East Asiatic Squadron into the German Pacific Island Colonies—the Marshall Islands, Carolines, Marianas, Solomon, New Britain, and many other island groups. The Japanese Admiralty chose not to pursue the German fleet further. Rather, the Japanese navy occupied these islands. These former German colonies are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls lying about two thousand miles astride the Central Pacific, from Saipan to Guadalcanal.

In 1920, the League of Nations mandated these former German Pacific Colonies to the Empire of Japan with the proviso that Japan would not annex or militarize them, would keep shipping lanes open for all maritime traffic, and would “administer these territories as a sacred trust to develop them for the benefit of the native peoples.”

In February 1933, Japan left the League of Nations and sealed this vast area of the Central and Southern Pacific within the “Bamboo Curtain,” protecting it from all intrusions. The Imperial Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in preparation for the upcoming war with the Occidentals.

The United States Navy knew to a near certainty that a Pacific war with the Empire of Japan was inevitable. Officials were seriously concerned by their lack of intelligence from inside the Bamboo Curtain.

FIN

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 6.06.00 PMPlease visit my website to see information about my book titled Aviators, Adventurers, and AssassinsThe lead novella is Amelia. It is the log of a naval intelligence officer researching the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan (navigator), and her Lockheed Electra model 10E aeroplane. His findings change the history of World War II.

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4 thoughts on “Amelia Earhart Died on Saipan Scenario Fiction

  1. Excellent write up. And I completely agree. I eyerolled the second I first saw this photograph.

    While I understand it’s fun for people to make things more mysterious than they really are, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. We know that at that point she was tired and likely not making the best PIC decisions. She ran out of fuel. She SAID she was running out of fuel. End of story.

    I hate that so much focus is put on her death when her life was far more interesting.

  2. Not sure if you saw this yet, but it’s been proven that the photograph was published in a japanese travel guide book in 1935… two years before Amelia went missing! https://www.theguardian.com/us-news…lia-earhart-was-taken-prisoner-by-japan#img-2

  3. Many thanks for your cogent comments re. A/E. I remember clearly where I was when we heard over the radio that she was lost. I was at my friend’s eighth birthday party–same age as I. Since that 2 July day in 1937, I’ve wondered what the truth was. To that end, I suspect that we’ll never know.

    I am working on a serious monograph in which I review in depth the five most often discussed scenarios that attempt to explain her fate. I will evaluate the credibility of each.

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