Crickets and Corrections

In the wake of the revelation that the photo at the heart of the July 9th History Channel documentary “Amelia Earhart – the Lost Evidence” is from a travel book printed two years before Earhart disappeared, the network canceled scheduled re-broadcasts of the show and withdrew it from streaming and pay-per-view platforms.

“HISTORY has a team of investigators exploring the latest developments about Amelia Earhart  and we will be transparent in our findings. Ultimately, historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers.”

It has now been more than a month and no findings have been announced. No information has come to light to question the veracity of the book’s publication date. Skeptics have suggested that, because The Life Line of the Sea, My South Sea Memoir is string-bound, it is not a “real book” and pages may have been added after the original 1935 publication date. The National Diet of Japan Library (equivalent of the U.S. Library of Congress) certainly considers it to be a real book, and both the Library Stamp and the copyright page confirm that the book was printed in “Showa Ten” (1935).

Official stamp of the NationalDiet of Japan Library.
Copyright page.

As a service to the History Channel team of investigators, whoever they may be, TIGHAR is pleased to offer an additional correction to information presented in the documentary. Early in the show, former FBI investigator Shawn Henry shows F-16 pilot Dan Hampton a slide of what Henry says is “the index page of all the records relating to Amelia Earhart that were submitted to the National Archives.” He zooms in on one paragraph which Hampton reads aloud:

“This file consists of 170 pages of correspondence and reports relating to the flight of Amelia Earhart and also includes a report dated January 7, 1939 that Earhart was a prisoner in the Marshall Islands.”

But that’s not what the paragraph says. Hampton left out a key phrase. It is not a report that Earhart was a prisoner in the Marshall Islands. It is a report on information that Earhart was a prisoner in the Marshall Islands. Whether the report found the information credible is not mentioned. The report itself is not shown. Henry had earlier said that many documents relating to Earhart are missing.

So where is this January 7, 1939 report and what does it say? Is there a government report, now missing, confirming that Earhart was a prisoner of the Japanese? Actually, the report is right where the National Archives index page says it is, in Record Group 38. It is even featured on the National Archive website page of Records Relating to Amelia Earhart.

It’s a two and a half page communication, apparently from an intelligence officer attached to the American Embassy in Paris. He says he was allowed, by the Chief of the Far Eastern Section of the French Foreign Office, to read papers found in a bottle discovered washed up on the coast of France. The writer of the papers in the bottle, who did not sign the papers nor otherwise identify himself, claimed that his yacht was sunk and his crew of 3 Maoris killed when he “disembarked on Mila [sic] Atoll.” He was imprisoned on Jaluit where he saw “Amelia Earhart and her mechanic as well as several other European prisoners held on charges of spying on large fortifications erected on the atoll.” He says Earhart and her companion were “picked up by a Japanese hydroplane and will serve as hostages.” The writer of the message further claimed that he was subsequently forced to serve as a “stokehold” on an unnamed Japanese ship bound for Europe where he hoped to escape (apparently accounting for why the bottle washed up on the coast of France).

The unlikely location of the bottle’s discovery, the failure to name the Japanese ship, and especially the failure of the supposedly desperate prisoner to identify himself, reveal this to be one of the many hoaxes perpetrated in the aftermath of Earhart’s disappearance.

The report about the bizarre tale was classified “Confidential” at the time and there seems to have been no follow-up by U.S. authorities. It was declassified in 1977.

The History Channel’s team of investigators needs to investigate why the producers of the documentary so grossly misrepresented this document, creating the false impression that the U.S. government had proof that Earhart had been captured by the Japanese. We take the History Channel at their word that they will be transparent in their findings.

The information in this posting was developed with help from contributing members of the TIGHAR Amelia Earhart Search Forum. Special thanks goes to Matt Revington, TIGHAResearcher #4155R; Karen Hoy, TIGHAResearcher #2610RC; Greg Daspit, TIGHAResearcher #3971R, and Dan Brown, TIGHAResearcher #2408R.