On June 1, 1937, at the age of 39, Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) boarded her twin-engine Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020 in Miami for her around-the-world flight with navigator Fred Noonan, headed for San Juan Puerto Rico. It was to be the first of 21 international stops they made before landing in Lae, New Guinea on June 29, 1937.
From Lae, they were to fly 2,556 statute miles to Holland Island on their way to Honolulu, but only two days later on July 2, Earhart and Noonan disappeared. An extensive and desperate U.S. Navy and Coast Guard search began, ending 16 days later, on July 18, 1937, after President Dwight Delano Roosevelt (D) declared the $4 million search a lost cause.
Two years later, on Jan. 5, 1939, Amelia Mary Earhart was declared legally dead by a probate court. She was the granddaughter of a former federal judge, and named after her two grandmothers Amelia Josephine Harres and Mary Wells Patton. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and died attempting to circumnavigate the world.
Some aviation experts contend that Earhart’s strange behavior during the flight from Lae, especially maintaining long periods of radio silence, could indicate that she never intended on landing at Howland where a shore party of two reporters from the Associated Press and United Press, and Interior Department personnel who prepared the landing strip for her arrival, waited.
What happened in the Electra after Earhart and Noonan left Lae, on June 29, may never be solved. But, what was solved 57 years ago, through eye witness accounts, is that Earhart and Noonan survived their crash landing and the Japanese flew them from Kwajalein Atoll to the island of Saipan, in the Mariana Islands archipelago where the Japanese headquarters was located.
Linwood McGuire Day released his exclusive report on July 1, 1960, the front-page masthead in the San Mateo Times read: "Exclusive: Amelia Earhart Mystery Is Solved.” Former Saipanese resident Josephine Blanco Akiyama was living in San Mateo at that time, and told Day that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were alive on Saipan after they crashed landed their plane.
Akiyama positively identified photographs of Earhart and Noonan from her childhood memories, 23 years earlier on Saipan. She told Day that Earhart and Noonan where killed on Saipan. The full article in the San Mateo paper was titled, "Famed Aviatrix Died on Saipan," by Linwood Day.
Mike Campbell published a second edition of his book "Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last," in which Campbell writes in Chapter V, that “Paul Briand Jr’s., 1960 book, Daughter of the Sky: The Story of Amelia Earhart, captured Akiyama’s childhood memory of the American fliers on Saipan.”
Campbell establishes San Francisco’s KCBS Radio newsman Fred Goerner as being known by students of the Earhart case as the most prolific Earhart researcher. Goerner was intrigued with Day’s article and it motivated him to interview Akiyama himself, and convinced she was telling the truth, Goerner flew to Saipan with Josephine Akiyama’s husband, Maximo Akiyama less than a month later.
After he arrives on Saipan, Goerner sought the help of three Catholic priests to translate for him, and interviewed 200 Saipanese residents and 13 corroborated Josephine Akiyama’s account of the white American woman.
Even retired Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz had something to say to Goerner about Earhart and Noonan, "Now that you’re going to Washington, Fred, I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese."
Saipan residents interviewed by Goerner and quoted in Campbell’s book include Gregorio Camacho, Jesus Boyer, Josepha Reyes Sablan, Manuel Aldan, Jose Rios Camacho and Pedro Sakisag. Similar accounts were heard from Juan Guerrero Reyes, Maria Ohashi, Francisco Tudela, Jose Baza, Jose Matsumoto (Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s brother-in-law and Goerner’s host), and Antonio Diaz who are named but not quoted in the book.
“Jesus Bacha Salas was held at the Garapan Prison between 1937 and 1944, for fighting with a Japanese soldier, and sometime in 1937, a white woman was placed in the next cell [beside Salas], but kept there only a few hours,” Goerner told Campbell.
Campbell says in the forward of his book that Thomas E. Devine, author of Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident, influenced his obsession with the Earhart story. He also says that Devine urged other U.S. veterans who were in Saipan with him, to share their experiences of Earhart and Noonan’s presence and death there. Twenty-six responded and are included in Campbell’s book, available on Amazon.