Lauren Reid Headshot

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in the 1920s. Nearly 10 years later, she disappeared on her quest to fly around the world. Earhart, her navigator named Fred Noonan and their aircraft have never been found. Just like when any big case remains unsolved, conspiracy theorists naturally have a hay day.

Earhart’s disappearance has a few different believable theories. For one, some believe Earhart and her aircraft crashed into the ocean, ultimately leaving the pilot and her navigator subject to drowning. The fact that the pilot called into the US Coast Guard ship “Itasca” more than once, stating they were running low on fuel, evidently supports this theory. President Roosevelt launched a $4 million search expedition for Earhart, Noonan and the aircraft. The expedition did not find any debris or evidence to recover from the potential crash.

Another theory sort of runs parallel with the idea that Earhart crashed in the ocean. The aircraft’s targeted island was Howard Island, near Northern Australia. Some believe the pilot knew she was running low on fuel and landed safely on an island that was not her targeted island. This other island would’ve been, at the time, Gardner Island. Landing on the wrong island would’ve caused the two to parish as castaways. But, again, no remains of the aircraft or its occupants were ever found.

Earhart went missing the same year World War II started in China and Japan. A photo from the National Archives causes some to believe Earhart and Noonan were captured by the Japanese after crash landing in the Marshall Islands. The photo sort of looks like there could be a woman who resembles Earhart sitting on a dock. Some also believe that the man near this person resembles that of Noonan. Japanese authorities insist they never had the pilot and her navigator in custody, though.

Some theorists think Earhart had a secret life outside of trying to be the first woman to fly across the globe. The rumor is Earhart was actually a spy, and she and Noonan never had plans of landing on Howard Island. The two had actually set out to spy on the Japanese but, instead, got detected, shot down and held captive by Japanese troops.

There’s also the theory that Earhart, like Tupac, lived and resumed her life with a different identity. This theory also thinks Earhart and Noonan were captured by Japanese troops but were eventually rescued by American troops. Earhart is said to have ended up residing in New Jersey, where she lived out her days as a regular housewife known as Irene Bolam.

I’m not sure how she would’ve lived in plain sight and not been recognized. There’s also the problem that Irene Bolam already existed and even filed a lawsuit for hearing the claims of Earhart’s “new life."

I honestly think all of these theories could be possible. Though, the photo that some claim to be Earhart convinced me more than the others did, and I highly doubt Japanese officials would admit to capturing America’s beloved, most famous female pilot.

Rumor has it ... Amelia Earhart was captured by the Japanese.

Lauren Reid is a senior at UT this year majoring in journalism. She can be reached at lreid9@vols.utk.edu.

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