Amelia Mary Earhart (Atchison, Kansas, July 24, 1897 – disappeared July 2, 1937) was a United States aviation pioneer, author, and women”s rights advocate. Earhart was the first woman to receive “The Distinguished Flying Cross,” an award given for being the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. She set several other records, wrote books about her flying experiences, and was instrumental in forming organizations for women who wanted to fly.
Amelia disappeared in the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island while attempting a flight around the globe in 1937. She was pronounced dead on January 5, 1939. Her way of life, her career, and the way she disappeared fascinate people to this day.
Amelia Mary Earhart, daughter of Samuel “Edwin” Stanton Earhart (1868-1930) was born in Atchison, Kansas, in the home of her maternal grandfather, Alfred Otis, a former federal judge, president of the Atchison Savings Bank, and considered a distinguished citizen of Atchison. Alfred Otis did not approve of the marriage, nor did he find Edwin”s work as a lawyer satisfactory.
Amelia was named according to family custom, like that of her two grandmothers (Amelia Josephine Harres and Mary Wells Patton). From childhood, Amelia, nicknamed “Meeley” (sometimes “Milie”) was the boss while her sister, two years younger than her, Grace Muriel Earhart (1899-1998), nicknamed “Pidge”, acted as an obedient follower. Both girls went by their childhood nicknames as adults. Their upbringing was unconventional, as Amy Earhart did not believe in ways of molding children into “adorable children.” However, her maternal grandmother disapproved of the wearing of “Bloomers” (female attire: pants down the shins, skirt over pants, both baggy, giving an appearance of carelessness when dressing) worn by Amy”s daughters, and although Amelia liked the freedom these provided, she was aware that the neighborhood children did not wear these outfits.
A spirit of adventure seemed to be part of the Earhart family children who spent their days exploring the neighborhood looking for interesting and exciting things. As a child, Amelia would spend hours playing with Pidge, climbing trees, hunting rats with her rifle, and going down slopes with her sled. Even though her interests in rough and tough play were common for her age, some biographers said that young Amelia displayed masculine tendencies. The girls had “worms, butterflies, grasshoppers, and a tree frog” in an ever-growing collection collected on their excursions. In 1904 with the help of her uncle, Earhart built with homemade materials a ramp that simulated a roller coaster, which she had already seen in St. Louis, that descended from the roof of the tool hut. Amelia”s first documented flight ended dramatically. She emerged from inside the broken wooden box that served as her sled, quite excited, with a bleeding lip and her dress torn saying, “Oh, Pidge, it”s like I”m flying!”
Although there were some bumps in the road of her career thus far, in 1907 Edwin Earhart who was working as a foreman at the Rock Island Railroad, was transferred to Des Moines, Iowa. The following year, at the age of 11, Amelia first saw something like an airplane at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Her father encouraged her and her sister to fly in it, however one look at the old junk was enough for Amelia to ask if they couldn”t go back to the carousel. She later described the biplane as “a thing of rusted wires and wood, without any attraction.
While her parents moved to a small house in Des Moines, Amelia and Muriel (she never used the name Grace) stayed with their grandparents in Atchison. During this period, Amelia and her sister were home-schooled by their mother and a housekeeper. She later recounts that she was “a voracious reader” and spent countless hours in the family”s gigantic library. In 1909, when the family was finally reunited in Des Moines, the Earhart children entered a public school for the first time, with Amelia entering the seventh grade at age 12.
Financial situation of the family
The family finances were improving with the purchase of a new home and hiring of two servants, however, it soon became apparent that Edwin was an alcoholic. Five years later (in 1914), he was forced to retire and despite trying to rehabilitate himself through treatment, he was never able to be reinstated to his job on the Rock Island Railroad. Around this time, Amelia”s maternal grandmother Otis died suddenly, leaving her entire fortune to her daughter but in custody, fearing that Edwin would “drink” all the money. The Otis house and all its contents were sold; Amelia was very sad and later described that at that moment her childhood ended.
In 1915, after a long search, Amelia”s father was employed as an administrator on the Great Northern Railroad in St. Paul, Minnesota. Amelia went on to attend Central High School. Edwin was transferred to Springfield, Missouri in 1915, but the current foreman reconsidered his retirement and resumed his job, leaving the elder Earhart not knowing where to go. In the face of this move, Amy Earhart took her daughters to Chicago where they moved in with friends. Amelia placed an unusual condition on her choice of her next education; she examined nearby high schools in Chicago to find the best science program. She rejected the high school closest to her home because she complained that the chemistry lab was “just like a kitchen sink.” Amelia entered Hyde Park High School but spent a miserable semester, where the caption in her yearbook that year captured her innermost at the time, “A.E. – the girl in brown who walks alone.
Amelia graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1916. Throughout her troubled childhood, Amelia continued to aspire to her future career; she kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in predominantly male careers, such as: film directing and producing, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering. She started college at Ogontz School in Rydal, Pennsylvania but did not finish.
During the Christmas vacations in 1917, she visited her sister in Toronto, Ontario. Amelia was outraged to see the return of wounded soldiers in the First World War and after receiving training as a Red Cross nurse, she began working in the Volunteer Aid Detachment at the “Spadina Military Hospital” in Toronto, Ontario. Her duties consisted of preparing meals for special dietary patients and taking prescribed medications from the hospital pharmacy.
Spanish Influenza Pandemic in 1918
When the Spanish Flu pandemic hit Toronto, Earhart was busy with the tough job of nursing, including night shifts at the “Spadina Military Hospital.” She contracted influenza, pneumonia and sinusitis. She had complications and was hospitalized in early November 1918 with pneumonia, being discharged in December 1918, she remained ill for approximately two months. The symptoms of her sinusitis were pain and pressure around the eyes and discharge from the nose and throat. In the hospital, in the pre-antibiotic era Amelia underwent several painful minor surgeries to clean the affected maxillary sinus, but the procedures were unsuccessful and Earhart began to suffer attacks of worsening headaches. Her convalescence lasted almost a year, which she spent resting at her sister”s home in Northampton, Massachusetts. She spent her time reading poetry, playing the banjo, and studying mechanics. Later, chronic sinusitis would significantly affect the flights and activities in Earhart”s life. On some occasions at the airfield, she would wear a bandage around her mouth that held a small drainage tube.
First flight experiences
Around this time, Earhart visited, with a young friend, an air show that was taking place in conjunction with the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. One of the highlights of the day was the aerial display of a World War I “ace”. The pilot spotted Earhart and her friend, who were watching from an isolated clearing below him, from the air, and dived toward them. “I”m sure he said to himself, “Watch me make them run” she said later. Earhart felt swept up in a mixture of excitement and fear. As the aircraft approached, something inside her awakened. “I didn”t understand until that moment, but I believe that little red plane told me something when it approached,” Amelia would later say.
In 1919 Earhart prepared to enter Smith College but changed his mind and went to Columbia University enrolling in a medical course among other subjects. He dropped out a year later, later reuniting with his family in California.
In Long Beach on December 28, 1920, she and her father visited an airfield where Frank Hawks (who later became a famous pilot) provided her with a trip that would change Amelia”s life forever. “The moment I was two or three hundred feet above the ground, I found that I needed to fly.” After the ten-minute flight, she immediately sought to learn to fly. Working various jobs, as a photographer, truck driver, and stenographer for the city telephone company, she managed to scrape together $1,000 for flying lessons. Earhart began her apprenticeship on January 3, 1921, at Kinner Field near Long Beach, but to get to the air base, Amelia would take a bus to the end point and still walk about four miles. Her teacher was Anita “Neta” Snook, one of the pioneering women in aviation and who used a heavy Canadian Curtiss JN-4 for training. Amelia approached Neta with her father and asked her, “I want to fly, will you teach me?”
Amelia”s dedication to flying required her to accept the often hard work and rudimentary conditions that accompanied the beginning of aviation training. She chose a leather jacket but knowing that the other aviators would judge her, she slept in the jacket for three nights to give the object a more “worn” look. To complete the transformation of her image, she also cut her hair in the style of other aviators. Six months later, Amelia bought “The Canary,” a second-hand, bright yellow Kinner biplane. On October 22, 1922, Earhart flew at an altitude of 14,000 feet, setting a world record for female aviators. On May 15, 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman to obtain a flying license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI).
According to the Boston Globe, she was “one of America”s finest aviators,” although this position was questioned by many pilots and aviation experts during these decades. Amelia was competent and intelligent but not a brilliant aviator, and her attitudes were considered inappropriate by some. A severe miscalculation occurred during the record breaking. Amelia spun through a cloud bank and only managed to launch close to 3,000 feet. Experienced pilots warned, “What if the clouds were thick until they touched the ground?” Amelia knew her limitations as a pilot and sought help from several instructors during her career. By 1927, “Without any serious accidents, she had accumulated almost 500 hours of solo flight – a considerable mark.”
During this period, her grandmother”s inheritance, which was now administered by her mother, gradually dwindled and was extinguished by a disastrous investment in a gypsum mine. Consequently, with no chance of recovering her investment in aviation, Earhart sold the “Canary” and bought a two-passenger “Speedster” automobile that she christened “Yellow Peril. Simultaneously, her sinus problem returned painfully and in early 1924, she was hospitalized for another surgery, which again failed. After having ventured into a few adventures, including a photo campaign, Amelia sought another direction. After her parents” divorce in 1924, she traveled with her mother across the American continent, from California to Calgary, Alberta. During this tour, Amelia underwent another surgery in Boston, Massachusetts that was more successful. After her recovery, she returned to her studies at Columbia University but was forced to abandon her studies and any future plans to attend MIT because her mother did not have the resources to meet her expenses. Soon after, she got a job as a teacher and then as a social worker in 1925 at “Denison House”, living in Medford.
Earhart maintained her interest in aviation, became a member of the “American Aeronautical Society of Boston, later being elected vice president. She invested a small sum in Dennison Airport, later serving as a sales representative for Kinner airplanes in Boston. She wrote for the local newspaper promoting aviation, and initiating the project of an organization for female pilots.
1928 Transatlantic flight
After Charles Lindbergh”s solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, Amy Phipps Guest, an American socialite (1873-1959), expressed interest in becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean. However, realizing that the journey would be too dangerous, she offered to sponsor the project, seeking “another girl with the same fiber.” During an afternoon at work in April 1928, Earhart received a phone call from publicist Hilton H. Railey, who asked, “Would you like to fly over the Atlantic?”
The project coordinators (including writer and publicist George P. Putnam) interviewed Amelia and informed her that she would be joined by pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot
While in England, Earhart flew the Avro Avian 594 Avian III, SN: R3
When the crew (Stultz, Gordon and Earhart) returned to the United States, they were greeted by a public parade in New York City and then welcomed by US President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.
Referring to her physical resemblance to Lindbergh, whom the press called “Lucky Lindy,” some newspapers and magazines started referring to Amelia as “Lady Lindy. The “United Press” went further and to them, Earhart reigned as the “Queen of the Ares.” Soon after her return to the United States, Amelia undertook an exhaustive lecture tour (1928-1929), and meanwhile Putnam undertook a heavy campaign to promote her, including the publication of a book by her, a series of lectures and the use of her image on mass products such as: luggage, “Lucky Strike” cigarettes (it brought problems for her image with McCall”s stores, which withdrew their sponsorship) and women”s and sportswear. Of the money she earned from “Lucky Strike”, $1,500 was donated to the then impending expedition to the South Pole of Commander Richard Byrd.
Amelia not only promoted the products, but became actively involved in the campaigns, especially those for women”s fashion. For years she sewed her own clothes, and now her line of clothes “for those who lead an active life” was sold in 50 stores like Macy”s in metropolitan areas: a new image of Earhart was emerging. The concept “A.E.” (the affectionate nickname her relatives and friends called her) consisted of simple, natural lines that did not crease, incorporating washable materials, practical but without losing femininity. Her luggage line (“New Earhart Luggage”) also held an unmistakable line. It ensured that the production had to be compatible with the demand of the flights, and it is still produced today. A large number of promotional items featured Earhart”s image and likewise, modern equivalents are still being produced today. The marketing campaign produced by G.P. Putnam was successful in creating affinity between Earhart”s image and the public.
Celebrity status helped Amelia finance her flight. By accepting the position of associate editor of “Cosmopolitan” magazine, she saw the opportunity to garner public acceptance for aviation, especially promoting the entry of women into this field. In 1929, Earhart was among the first pilots to promote flight through commercial airline service; like Charles Lindbergh, she represented Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT, later TWA), and invested time and money creating the first regional travel service between New York and Washington, DC. She was vice president of National Airways, conducting air operations for Boston-Maine Airways and several other airlines in the northeastern United States. In 1940 Northeast Airlines was founded.
Although she became famous with her transatlantic flight, Earhart wanted to have an “exemplary” record all her own. Soon after returning from piloting Avian “7 083,” she embarked on her first long solo flight, which took place just as her name was beginning to be in the national spotlight. Making the trip in August 1928, Earhart became the first woman to make a solo round-trip flight across the North American continent. Gradually her level of piloting and professionalism matured, as recognized by the experienced professional pilots who flew with her. General Leigh Wade flew with Earhart in 1929: “She was born to fly, with a delicate touch on the stick.
Subsequently, she made her first foray into an air racing competition in 1929 during the first “Santa Monica-to-Cleveland Women”s Air Derby” (nicknamed the “Powder Puff Derby” by Will Rogers), coming in third place. In 1930, Earhart became an officer of the “National Aeronautic Association” where she actively worked to establish the separation of women”s records and was “instrumental” in the acceptance of a similar international standard by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). In 1931, flying a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro, she broke the world altitude record of 18,415 feet (5,613 m) on a piece of equipment on loan from the company. To today”s reader, it may seem that Earhart was only performing “exhibition” flights, but she was, together with other aviators, crucial in convincing Americans that “aviation was not only for madmen and supermen.
During this period, Earhart became involved with “The Ninety-Nines,” an organization of women pilots who gave moral support and supported the cause of women in aviation. She had called a meeting in 1929 after the “Women”s Air Derby.” She suggested the name based on the number of constituent members; she became the organization”s first president in 1930. Amelia advocated vigorously for women pilots and when in 1934 the “Bendix Trophy” race banned women, she refused to fly actress Mary Pickford to Cleveland for the race”s opening.
For a time she was engaged to Samuel Chapman, a Boston chemical engineer, breaking off the engagement on November 23, 1928. In the meantime Earhart and Putnam became quite close, spending long periods together. George Putnam, known as GP, divorced in 1929 and proposed to Amelia six times until she accepted his proposal. After much hesitation on Earhart”s part, they were married on February 7, 1931, at Putnam”s mother”s home in Noank, Connecticut. Earhart refers to their marriage as an “association” with “double control.” In a letter written to Putnam and hand-delivered to him on their wedding day, she wrote, “I want you to understand that I will not hold you to any medieval code of fidelity to me and that neither will I consider myself bound to you in that way.”
Amelia”s ideas about marriage were liberal for that time, as she believed in equal responsibilities on both sides and kept her own name instead of being called Mrs. Putnam. When “The New York Times,” by the rules of its style book, insisted on referring to her as Mrs. Putnam, Amelia laughed. GP also soon learned that he should be called “Mr. Earhart.” There was no honeymoon for the newlyweds as Amelia was involved in a nine-day crossing in order to promote autogiros, and the promoter of the tour, “Beechnut Gum”. Although Earhart and Putnam had no children, he had two sons from his previous marriage to Dorothy Binney (1888-1982), heiress to the Binney & Smith chemical company, inventors of the Crayola craions (crayons): explorer and writer David Binney Putnam (1913-1992) and George Palmer Putnam, Jr. Amelia had special affection for David who often visited his father at his new home in Rye, New York. George had contracted polio shortly after his parents” separation and could not visit as often.
A few years later, a fire occurred at Putnam”s home in Rye, and before it could be contained, it destroyed family treasures, including many of Earhart”s memorabilia. After the incident, GP and AE decided to move to the west coast, as Putnam had already sold his position in the advertising company to his cousin Palmer, settling in North Hollywood, which brought GP closer to Paramount Pictures and his new position as head of editing for that film company.
Transatlantic “solo flight” from 1932
At age 34, on the morning of May 20, 1932, Earhart departed Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, with the most recent copy of the local newspaper (the newspaper copy was intended to confirm the date of the flight). She intended to fly to Paris in her Lockheed Vega 5b replicating Charles Lindbergh”s solo flight. Her technical flight advisor was the famous aviator Bernt Balchen who helped prepare her aircraft. He also played the role of “bait” for the press as he was preparing Earhart”s Vega for his own Arctic flight. After a 14 hour and 56 minute flight during which she faced strong northerly winds, ice, and mechanical problems, Earhart landed in a pasture in Culmore, north of Derry, Northern Ireland. When the farmer asked her, “Did you fly in from far away?” Amelia replied, “From America.”” The site is now home to a small museum, the “Amelia Earhart Centre”.
As the first woman to make a solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic, Earhart received the “Distinguished Flying Cross” from the United States Congress, the “Knight”s Cross” of the Legion of Honor from the French government, and the “Gold Medal” from the National Geographic Society at the hands of President Herbert Hoover. As her fame grew, she became friends with several personalities with important public positions, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, the “First Lady.” Roosevelt shared many mutual interests and passions with Earhart, especially women”s causes. After flying with Earhart, Roosevelt obtained a student permit, but did not pursue her plans to learn to fly. The two friends kept in frequent contact throughout their lives. Another famous aviator, Jacqueline Cochran, whom the public considered Amelia”s greatest rival, also became her close friend during this period.
Other solo flights
On January 11, 1935, Earhart became the first person to make a solo flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California. Although this flight had been attempted by the unfortunate participants in the 1927 “Dole Air Race” who took the inverted route, her pioneering flight was the only direct one without mechanical problems. In the final hours, she relaxed by listening to the “broadcast of New York”s Metropolitan Opera”.
That same year, again flying her trusty Vega that she called “old Bessie the fire horse,” Earhart flew solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City on April 19. The next record achieved was a nonstop flight from Mexico City to New York City. She departed on May 8, on a flight that was quiet the entire way, only on arrival was there a major concern, as a crowd was waiting for her, and she had to be careful not to land on top of it.
Earhart again participated in long-distance air races, coming fifth in 1935 in the Bendix Trophy Race, the best result she could achieve, considering that her Lockheed Vega reached a maximum of 195 mph (314 km
Between 1930 and 1935, Amelia set seven speed and distance records for women in various aircraft: Kinner Airster, Lockheed Vega and Pitcairn Autogiro. In 1935, recognizing the limitations of her “beloved red Vega” on long transoceanic flights, Amelia thought up, in her own words, a new “prize: a flight I would very much like to attempt – the circumnavigation of the globe as close to her waistline as I could.” For this new adventure, she would need a new aircraft.
Earhart joined the Purdue University faculty in 1935 as a visiting member, advising women on careers and as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics. In July 1936, she received a Purdue-funded Lockheed 10E Electra and began her project of flying around the world. While not the first flight to circle the globe, it would be the longest with 47,000 km of travel, following an equatorial route. Although the Electra was presented as a “flying laboratory,” very little science was used and the flight seems to have been planned around Earhart”s intention to circumnavigate the globe in a manner while raising material and publicity for his new book. Her first choice for navigator was Captain Harry Manning who had been captain of the President Roosevelt, the ship that brought Amelia back from Europe in 1928.
Through contacts in the Los Angeles aviation community, Fred Noonan was chosen as the second flight navigator. There were several significant additional factors that had to be taken into account during celestial navigation in airplanes. Noonan had recently left Pan Am where he had been in charge of designing most of the seaplane routes across the Pacific. He was also responsible for training the navigators on the route between San Francisco and Manila. The original plan was for Noonan to sail from Hawaii to Howland Island, one of the most difficult parts of the route; from there Manning would continue with Earhart to Australia and she would continue alone the rest of the way.
On St. Patrick”s Day, March 17, 1937, they made the first leg of the flight from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. Along with Earhart and Noonan, Harry Manning and Paul Mantz (who acted as Earhart”s technical advisor) were on board. Because of lubrication problems and problems with the propellers, the aircraft required maintenance in Hawaii. The Electra ended up staying at Luke Field Naval Base on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The flight resumed three days later from Luke Field with Earhart, Noonan and Manning on board, and during takeoff, Earhart spun out. The circumstances for the occurrence remain controversial. Some witnesses who were at Luke Field including journalists from the Press Association, said they saw a tire explode. Earhart thought that the right tire may have exploded and
Because the plane was severely damaged, the flight was canceled and it was shipped by sea to the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California for repairs.
While the Electra was being repaired, Earhart and Putnam secured additional funds and prepared for a second attempt. Now flying west to east, the second attempt would begin with an unadvertised flight from Oakland to Miami, Florida and upon arrival, Earhart made the public announcement of his plans to fly around the globe. The change in flight direction was caused by weather and wind changes along the planned route from the first attempt. Fred Noonan was Earhart”s only crew member on the second flight. They departed Miami on June 1 and after several stopovers in South America, Africa, India, and Southwest Asia, arrived in Lae, New Guinea on June 29, 1937. At this point the voyage had completed about 22 000 miles (35 000 km). There remained 7,000 miles (11,000 km) over the Pacific.
Departure from Lae
On July 2, 1937 (midnight GMT) Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae in the heavily loaded Electra. Their destination was Howland Island, a thin strip of land 2 000 m long and 500 m wide, 3 m high and 4 113 km away. Their last reported position was near the Nukumanu Islands, about 1 300 km after takeoff. The US Coast Guard “cutter” Itasca was at Howland station, where it would communicate with Earhart”s Lockheed Electra 10E guiding them to the island once they were close.
Final approach to Howland Island
Through a series of misunderstandings or errors (the details of which remain controversial), the final approach to Howland Island using radio navigation was unsuccessful. Fred Noonan had previously written about problems affecting the reliability necessary for radio navigation. Some sources noted an apparent difficulty by Earhart in understanding the operation of the Bendix antenna, a modern technology at that time. Another possible cause of confusion was that the cutter “Itasca” and Earhart planned their communication using time systems half an hour apart (Earhart using Greenwich (GCT) and the “Itasca”, a naval time zone designation system).
Footage from Lae suggests that an antenna installed under the fuselage of the Electra, which was heavy and full of fuel, may have become disconnected during taxiing or takeoff from the Lae grass runway. In his biography of Paul Mantz (who helped with Earhart and Noonan”s flight plan), writer Don Dwiggins mentions that the pilots cut the long antenna wire because of the hassle of having to put it back on the plane with each use.
During Earhart and Noonan”s approach to Howland Island, the Itasca received loud and clear, transmissions from Earhart identifying herself as King How Able Queen Queen Queen(KHAQQ), but she apparently could not hear the ship”s transmissions. At 07:42 Earhart modulated “We should be over you, but we can”t see you – we are running out of fuel. We are not receiving your radio transmissions. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” Her transmission at 07:58 said that she could not hear the Itasca and requested that they send voice signals, so that she could find a radio heading (this transmission was reported by the Itasca as having the strongest possible signal, which indicated that Earhart and Noonan were in close area). The “Itasca” was unable to send a voice signal on the frequency she indicated, so she began transmitting in Morse code. Earhart received the code, but could not determine its direction.
In his last transmission at 08:43 Earhart transmitted “We are aligned at 157 337. We will repeat that message. We will repeat that message at 6,210 kilocycles. Stand by.” However, a few moments later, she returned to the same frequency (3 105 kHz) with a transmission that was perceived as “questionable”: “We are going on the north and south line. Earhart”s transmissions seem to indicate that she and Noonan believed they had reached the position of Howland Island indicated on the maps, which was incorrect by about five nautical miles (10 km). The Itasca used its oil-fired boilers to generate smoke for a time, however apparently the pilots did not see it. Too many clouds in the area around Howland Island may have caused a viewing error: the shadows reflected on the ocean surface could be indistinguishable from the reduced and very flat profile of the island.
Whether any post-loss radio signals were received by Earhart and Noonan, no one knows. If transmissions were received by the Electra, most, if not all, will have been weak and truncated. Earhart”s transmissions to Howland were on 3 105 kHz, a frequency restricted for aeronautical use in the US by the FCC. This frequency was not thought to be appropriate for transmissions over great distances. When Earhart was at “cruising” altitude and halfway between Lae and Howland (over 1,000 miles from each location) no station heard his transmission at 0815 GCT. In addition, the 50 watt transmitter used by Earhart was coupled to a V-type antenna smaller than the optimal size.
The last transmission received from Earhart at Howland Island indicated that she and Noonan were flying a position line (calculated from a “sun line” at 157-337 degrees) and that Noonan must have calculated and drawn on a chart passing Howland. After the loss of contact with Howland Island, attempts were made to contact the pilots via radio transmissions and Morse code. Operators in the Pacific Ocean and the United States may have received signals from the Electra, but they were unintelligible or weak.
Some of these transmissions were just noise, but others were considered authentic. Directions calculated by Pan American Airways stations suggested that the signals originated from several locations, including Gardner Island. It was noted at the time that if these signals were from Noonan and Earhart, they would have to be over land along with the plane, otherwise water would have short-circuited the Electra”s electrical system. Sporadic signals were reported for four or five days after the disappearance, but none with clarity of information. The captain of the battleship USS Colorado later said that “There was no doubt that several stations were trying to contact Earhart”s plane over the aeronautical frequency, some by voice others by signals. All of this concurred to confuse and cast doubt on the authenticity of the reports.”
Approximately one hour after Earhart”s last recorded message, the USCG Itasca undertook a search, which would prove unsuccessful, north and west of Howland Island, based on the initial assumption about the aircraft”s transmissions. The United States Navy soon joined the search and over the course of three days, dispatched available resources to search the areas near Howland Island. The initial search for the Itasca covered position line 157
Later, the search was directed to the Phoenix Islands, south of Howland Island. A week after the disappearance, an aircraft departing from Colorado flew over a group of several islands, including Gardner Island, which had been uninhabited for over 40 years. The subsequent report stated, “There were signs of recent habitation clearly visible there, but after repeated circling, we got no response of any kind from the possible inhabitants, and therefore deduced that there was no one there. At the western end of the island we see a tramp steamer (of about 4,000 tons). Its bow rests high and dry on the coral beach, broken in two places. Gardner”s lagoon looks deep enough and certainly wide enough that a seaplane or even an airboat could land or take off in either direction with a minimum of difficulty. If the opportunity arose, we believe that Miss Earhart could land her aircraft in this lagoon and have swum out and docked on land.” It was also found that Gardner”s size and dimension, as recorded on maps, were totally inaccurate. Further Navy searches were again directed to the north, west and southwest of Howland Island, based on the possibility that the Electra had tied up in the ocean and was floating, or that the pilots were in the emergency raft.
The search continued until July 19, 1937. About $4 million was spent, and the Navy and Coast Guard operation was one of the most costly and intense in history up to that time, but the search and rescue techniques of that time were rudimentary and some of the searches were based on wrong assumptions and inaccurate information. Official reports on the search efforts were influenced by individuals concerned about how their roles in the search efforts for an American hero might be presented by the press. Despite the unprecedented search by the United States Navy and Coast Guard, no physical evidence of Earhart, Noonan or the Electra 10E was found. The US Navy aircraft carrier Lexington and the battleship Colorado, the Itasca (and even two Japanese ships: the oceanographic ship Koshu and the auxiliary hydravian transport Kamoi) searched for 67 days, covering 388,499.81 square kilometers.
Immediately after the official completion of the search, G.P. Putnam funded a private search by local authorities of islands and nearby Pacific waters, concentrating on the Gilbert Islands. Finally in July 1937 Putnam chartered two small boats and, while remaining in the United States, directed a search of the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Tabuaeran, Gilbert Islands, and Marshall Islands, but no trace of the Electra or its occupants was found.
Many theories have arisen following the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan. Two possibilities regarding the pilots” fate prevail among investigators and historians.
Accident and Sink Theory
Many investigators believe that the Electra ran out of fuel and Earhart and Noonan fell into the sea. Navigator and aeronautical engineer Elgen Long and his wife Marie K. Long have invested 35 years in exhaustive research into the “accident and sinking” theory, which is the most accepted theory for the disappearance. Captain Laurance F. Safford, of the US Navy, who was responsible during the interwar period for the “Mid Pacific Strategic Direction Finding Net” and for decoding the Japanese cipher messages in PURPLE during the attack on Pearl Harbor, began a lengthy analysis of Earhart”s flight during the 1970s, including the intricate documentation of the radio transmission, and came to the conclusion “bad planning, worse execution”. Rear Admiral Richard R. Black, U.S. Navy who was administratively in charge of Howland Island and was present in the radio room of the Itasca stated in 1982 that “the Electra entered the sea about 10:00 on July 2, 1937 not far from Howland.” British aviation historian Roy Nesbit reviewed the evidence from contemporary accounts and Putnam”s correspondence, and concluded that Earhart”s Electra had not been completely filled with fuel at Lae. William L. Polhemous, the navigator on Ann Pellegreno”s 1967 flight that followed Earhart and Noonan”s original flight plan, studied the July 2, 1937 navigation charts and found that Noonan may have erred in his calculations of the “approach line” predicted to “reach” Howland.
David Jourdain, a former Navy submarine captain and ocean engineer specializing in deep sea salvage, proclaimed that any transmission attributed to Gardner Island was false. Through his company “Nauticos,” he searched extensively in a 1,200 square mile quadrant north and west of Howland Island during two $4.5 million deep-sea sonar expeditions (2002, 2006) and found nothing. The places searched were based on the position line (157-337) transmitted by Earhart on July 2, 1937. However, Elgen Long”s interpretations led Jourdan to conclude that “the analysis of all the data we have – the fuel analysis, radio transmissions and others – tells me that she fell overboard off Howland.” Earhart”s stepson, George Palmer Putnam Jr. believed that “the plane simply crashed for lack of fuel.” Thomas Crouch, senior curator of the “National Air and Space Museum” said that Earhart”s Electra
Gardner Island Hypothesis
Immediately after Earhart and Noonan disappeared, the U.S. Navy, Paul Mantz, and Earhart”s mother (who convinced G.P. Putnam to undertake a search of the Gardner Group) believed that the flight ended in the Phoenix Islands (now part of Kiribati), about 350 miles southeast of Howland Island.
The Gardner Island hypothesis has been characterized as the “most confirmed” explanation of Earhart”s disappearance. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has suggested that Earhart and Noonan may have flown without further radio transmissions for two and a half hours along the position line recorded by Earhart in his last transmission received in Howland, reached the then uninhabited Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro) in the Phoenix group, landed on a wide plain near a large wrecked freighter, and finally perished.
TIGHAR”s research has produced extensive archaeological documentation and evidence to support this hypothesis. For example, in 1940, Gerald Gallagher, a British career officer (also a licensed pilot) radioed his superiors that he had found a “skeleton possibly of a woman,” with an ancient sextant case, under a tree in the southeastern part of the island. He was ordered to send the remains to Fiji where in 1941 British colonial authorities took detailed measurements of the bones and concluded that they were those of a full-bodied man. However, in 1998 an analysis of these measurements by forensic anthropologists indicated that the skeleton belonged to a “tall, white woman of North European descent.” The bones disappeared in Fiji long ago.
Artifacts found by TIGHAR at Nikumaroro included improvised tools, an aluminum panel (possibly from the Electra), a piece of acrylic glass that had exactly the size and curvature of the window of an Electra, and a size 9 heel dating from 1930 that resembles the shoes worn by Earhart in the world flight photos. The evidence remains circumstantial but Earhart”s stepson, George Putnam, Jr. has enthused about TIGHAR”s research.
A 15-member TIGHAR expedition visited Nikumaroro from July 21 to August 2, 2007, searching for artifacts and DNA with unmistakably identifiable. The group included engineers, environmentalists, archaeologists, a boat builder, a doctor, and a cameraman. They reported finding new artifacts still of uncertain origin on the weathered atoll, including bronze bearings that may have belonged to the aircraft and a zipper that may have fallen from her flight suit.
Myths, urban legends and unsubstantiated theses
Due to Amelia Earhart”s fame, the unclear circumstances of her disappearance generated several speculations about her last flight, hypotheses that were all dismissed by the absence of evidence. Several conspiracy theories are well known in popular culture.
A World War II-era film called Flight for Freedom (1943), starring Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray, promoted the myth that Earhart was spying on the Japanese in the Pacific at the request of Franklin Roosevelt”s administration. In 1949, United Press and U.S. Army Intelligence concluded that these rumors were unfounded. Jackie Cochran (herself an aviation pioneer and one of Earhart”s friends) did research after the war in numerous files in Japan and became convinced that the Japanese were not involved in Earhart”s disappearance.
In 1966, CBS correspondent Fred Goerner published a book in which he makes the accusation that Earhart and Noonan were captured and executed when their aircraft crashed on Saipan Island, which is part of the Mariana Islands archipelago while under Japanese rule.
Thomas E. Devine (who served in the Army mail unit) wrote Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident which included a letter from the daughter of a Japanese police officer who claimed that her father had been responsible for Earhart”s execution.
U.S. Marine Robert Wallack claims that along with other soldiers, he opened a safe on Saipan where they found Earhart”s briefcase. U.S. Marine Earskin J. Nabers said that while serving as a radio operator on Saipan in 1944, he had decoded a message from Marine officials that Earhart”s plane had been found at the Aslito flight field, that he was later ordered to guard the plane and witnessed its destruction. In 1990 the NBC-TV TV series, “Unsolved Mysteries” televised an interview with a Saipanese woman who claimed to have witnessed the execution of Earhart and Noonan by Japanese soldiers. No confirmation or proof of these “theses” has emerged. Supposed photographs of Earhart in captivity have been identified as either fraudulent or predating his ultimate flight.
Since the end of World War II, there have been rumors about a site on Tinian, which is 8 km southwest of Saipan, that was supposed to be the grave of two pilots. In 2004 an archaeological dig found no bones.
One rumor said that Earhart was advertising on radio stations being one of the many women compelled to work as Tokyo Rose these rumors were personally investigated by George Putnam. According to several Earhart biographies, Putnam personally investigated this rumor after listening to several recordings of Tokyo Roses and he did not recognize Amelia”s voice on any of them.
David Billings, an Australian aeronautical engineer, stated that a map which contained notes consistent with the engine number of Earhart”s plane and the construction number of its fuselage. It originated from a World War II Australian patrol based in New Britain off the coast of New Guinea and indicates a crash 64 km southwest of Rabaul. Billings speculated that Earhart veered off course to Howland and tried to reach Rabaul to get fuel. Ground searches conducted were unsuccessful.
In November 2006, the National Geographic Channel aired two episodes of the Undiscovered History series about the rumor that Earhart survived the world flight and moved to New Jersey under a new name, got married, and changed her name to Irene Craigmile Bolam. This rumor was originally raised in the book Amelia Earhart Lives (1970) by Joe Klaas. Irene Bolam was a New York banker during the 1940s, denying she was Earhart, filed a lawsuit seeking $1.5 million for damages, and submitted an extensive affidavit refuting the rumors. The book”s publisher, McGraw-Hill, quickly withdrew the book from the market, and court records show that an out-of-court settlement was made with Bolam. Soon after, Bolam”s personal life was thoroughly documented by researchers, eliminating any possibility that she was Earhart. Kevin Richland, a professional criminal forensic expert hired by National Geographic, studied photos of both women and cited several differences in facial measurements between Earhart and Bolam.
According to the History Channel, a new photograph, found in the US government archives in 2017, suggests that Earhart was reportedly captured by Japanese military forces, at the time at war with the US, then landed at sea, dying in the Marshall Islands as a prisoner of war.
Amelia Earhart was an internationally known celebrity during her lifetime. Her charismatic shyness, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and defined professional goals, plus the circumstances of her disappearance at a young age, made her famous in popular culture. Hundreds of articles and books have been written about her life, and she is often cited as a motivational stimulus, especially for women. Earhart is often remembered as an icon.
Amelia Earhart was successful and heavy as a writer and served as an aeronautical editor at Cosmopolitan magazine from 1928 to 1930. She wrote articles, newspaper columns, essays, and published two books based on her life experiences as a pilot:
Two notable memorial flights made by female pilots who followed Earhart”s entire original circumnavigation route.
In 2001, another commemorative flight retraced the route taken by Amelia Earhart on her transcontinental flight in August 1928. Dr. Carlene Mendieta flew in an Avro Avian, the same type used in 1928.
The life of Amelia Earhart has stimulated the imagination of many writers and others:
- Amelia Earhart
- Amelia Earhart
- Morey 1995, p. 11. Citação: “She was a pioneer in aviation. she led the way so that others could follow and go on to even greater achievements.” e citação: “Charles Kuralt said on CBS television program Sunday Morning, referring to Earhart, ”Trailblazers prepare the rest of us for the future.””
- Amelia Earhart // Encyclopædia Britannica (англ.)
- ^ Goldstein e Dillon, p. 145.
- ^ Il suo lavoro alla Purdue venne descritto a Edward C. Elliott, il presidente dell”università.
- ^ La Purdue University creò l”Amelia Earhart Fund for Aeronautical Research, di 50.000 dollari, per finanziare l”acquisto del monoplano bimotore Lockheed Electra L10, vedi Goldstein e Dillon, p. 150.
- ^ Long, p. 159.
- Disparue le 2 juillet 1937 et déclarée officiellement morte le 5 janvier 1939.
- (en) « Amelia Earhart | Biography, Disappearance, & Facts », sur Encyclopedia Britannica (consulté le 24 janvier 2020)
- a et b (en-US) « Amelia Earhart », sur Biography (consulté le 24 janvier 2020)
- (en) History com Editors, « Amelia Earhart », sur HISTORY (consulté le 24 janvier 2020)