A Japanese military history buff has found library records showing a photo supposedly depicting Amelia Earhart survived a crash landing in 1937 was actually published two years before the famous aviator vanished.
The photograph in question was featured in a History Channel special and received widespread media attention. Here’s how NPR’s Laurel Wamsley described the discovery of the image:
“A former U.S. Treasury agent named Les Kinney found the photo in a box of papers from the Office of Naval Intelligence while scouring for evidence regarding Earhart’s disappearance that might have been overlooked. The undated photo was in a box marked ‘declassified.’ Its caption reads ‘PL-Marshall Islands, Jaluit Atoll, Jaluit Island. Jaluit Harbor. ONI #14381.’ ”
In the History Channel special, some analysts argued that the photo showed Earhart (sitting at the end of the dock, facing away from the camera) and her navigator Fred Noonan (on the far left of the image). They identified the ship in the background as the Koshu Maru, and argued that the Koshu Maru rescued Earhart and Noonan after they crash-landed in 1937.
But a Japanese military history blogger, who goes by @baron_yamaneko on Twitter, found evidence the photo predated Earhart’s famous disappearance. The History Channel is aware of the evidence and says it is investigating.
In an English-language post, the blogger explains that “the photograph was first published in Palau under Japanese rule in 1935, in a photo book … So the photograph was taken at least two years before Amelia Earhart disappear[ed] in 1937 and a person on the photo was not her.”
The photo book in question was digitized and published online by Japan’s National Diet Library. The publication date is listed in the traditional Japanese style as “Showa 10” — that is, 1935.
The blogger also identifies the ship in the image as the Koshu, which the Japanese seized in World War I, rather than the Koshu Maru, which was launched in 1937.
The History Channel tells NPR it 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,” spokeswoman Kirby Dixon said in a statement.