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The search for graves in 2004 was not an official TIGHAR project, but members of TIGHAR participated and filed regular reports about their work.

St. John Naftel (born 1902), a resident of Montgomery, Alabama, was a Marine gunner on Tinian after it was taken from the Japanese in 1944. He said he was shown a set of graves where Earhart and Noonan had been buried after being executed. In 2003 he returned to the island accompanied by then-U.S. Navy archaeologist Jennings Bunn and pointed out the site. Bunn, now retired, put together an excavation project, funded out of his own pocket and staffed by volunteers, obtained a permit from the Northern Marianas Historic Preservation Office, and conducted a search for the graves.