Forum logo A letter supposedly written by Fred Noonan was recently found in a bottle and has been publicized as the “Noonan Document.” Is it authentic?

It is our opinion that the letter known as the Noonan Document is a hoax, and not a very good one at that.

The most obvious discrepancy is the handwriting. Existing copies of sentences (as opposed to navigational notations) known to have been written by Noonan are all in a casual but legible cursive hand and are written in pen. Photos of Noonan taken during the world flight show him with a Parker pen in his shirt pocket (identifiable by the characteristic arrow motif of the clip). The letter found in the bottle is crudely printed in pencil. The two styles could hardly be more different.

Several factual errors also betray the hoax. For example, the reference to “the starboard gas tank” shows that the hoaxer was unaware that the Electra had three fuel tanks in each wing plus another six tanks in the cabin. A ditching should not have ruptured any of the wing tanks, but even if it did, the effect would be insignificant and would certainly not cause the aircraft to sink. Also, the good luck bracelet he says he just saw was left in New Guinea.

Equally as damning as the factual errors is the melodramatic tone of the letter. Noonan was an educated professional whose only known comment about Amelia was made in a note he wrote to his wife during the world flight. He said he liked Amelia because she worked as hard as a man. It is inconceivable that the worshipful, vaguely prurient sentimentalities expressed in the letter in the bottle could have been written by Noonan. I’d sooner believe that Chuck Yeager speaks in iambic pentameter.

We have expressed these opinions to Mr. Tennant along with other critical points that we can’t discuss here without violating the nondisclosure agreement. We have advised him to make the letter public because it has no value other than as an interesting example of the sort of fiction that the Earhart disappearance has inspired over the years.

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