Amelia Earhart 75th Anniversary Prompts New Expedition

A group is launching an expedition to search for Amelia Earhart at Nikumaroro.

ByABC News
June 27, 2012, 12:33 PM

July 2, 2012— -- intro: In honor of the 75th anniversary of Amelia Earhart's disappearance, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) is setting out to search for Earhart's plane, the Electra, at Nikumaroro, an island in the western Pacific Ocean, where they believe Earhart was stranded and later died.

Seventy-five years ago on July 2, 1937, Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, mysteriously vanished somewhere over the Pacific Ocean during her attempted flight around the world. Her two-engine plane, Lockheed Electra, was never found and neither was Earhart or her navigator, Fred Noonan.

TIGHAR, with the help of FedEx, plans to travel from Honolulu today to Nikumaroro. There, they will use advanced technology to search underwater off the west coast of the island for signs of manmade objects. They hope to find wreckage of Earhart's plane

"That's what should be down there based on the research and clues we have," Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR's executive director, said. "We think it should be down there, whether it thinks so is another question."

TIGHAR's theory regarding Earhart's disappearance is one of several. Here are five of them.

quicklist: 1title: Earhart Crashed, Sanktext: This theory is probably the most obvious of them all. The default reasoning for Earhart's disappearance was that she ran out of gas somewhere near her destination, Howland Island, and crashed into the sea.

As Earhart and Noonan approached their destination, Howland Island, radio transmissions were sent between Earhart and their radio contact, the Itasca, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. At 7:42 a.m., the Itasca picked up the message, "We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet."

The Itasca tried to respond, but there was no answer. At 8:45 a.m. Earhart reported, "We are running north and south." Nothing further was heard from Earhart. Many believe Earhart's plane ran out of gas and crashed in the ocean shortly after the last transmission.

media: 16663004

quicklist: 2title: Earhart Was a Spy Captured by Japantext: There are many theories circulating about Earhart's being sent to Japan as a spy for the United States. One theory is that Earhart was simply asked by President Roosevelt to keep her eyes open as she flew over enemy territory to see what infrastructure they had.

Randall Brink, author of "Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart," insists in his book that Earhart was a spy. He writes about interviewing a technician who told him, "I recall that I was directed to cut two 16-to-18-inch-diameter holes for the cameras, which were to be mounted in the lower aft fuselage bay and would be electrically operated.

Gillespie said, "There is no evidence that that's what happened. There are lots and lots of stories that people tell. Anecdotal recollections, witness testimony, old memories. Most of them conflict with each other and they all have one thing in common: there's no evidence to back them up."

media: 16672170

quicklist: 3title: Earhart Was Japanese Propagandist Tokyo Rose text: This theory is another version of Earhart's being captured by the Japanese. Some believe after being captured, the pilot became Tokyo Rose, the Japanese propagandist. During World War II, Tokyo Rose was an English-speaking female broadcaster whose broadcasts were meant to lower the morale of Allied forces. The stories consisted of stories for servicemen about infidelity back at home and false reports of battle outcomes, all mixed with a few pop songs to keep sailors and soldiers listening.

In response to rumors that Earhart was Tokyo Rose, her husband, book publisher George Palmer Putnam, was flown to China for the purpose of hearing Tokyo Rose's voice. Afterward, Putnam said he would stake his life that it was not his wife's voice.

"Again, total absence of evidence," Gillespie said. "There were many Tokyo Roses. That was well investigated after the war. Amelia Earhart is Tokyo Rose? No."

media: 16672288

quicklist: 4title: Earhart Returned to the U.S. Under a New Name text: One of the oddest theories is that Earhart returned to the United States under a new name. This theory came about after the 1970 book, "Amelia Earhart Lives" by Joe Klaas, claimed Earhart was living in the United States as Irene Bolham. Throughout the book, Klaas reported former Air Force Maj. Joseph Gervais' claims that he saw Bolham at a party and "just knew" she was really Earhart. Gervais said that he saw Bolham wearing similar decorations to those that had been given to Earhart including a medallion and a ribbon.

The theory should have died after Bolham sued Klaas, his associate Joe Gervais, and McGraw-Hill for defamation and McGraw-Hill pulled the book from shelves. But 33 years later, another book, "Amelia Earhart Survives" by Col. Rollin Reineck, came out in 2003 making the same claim.