Amelia Earhart, c. 1935
July 24, 1897|
Atchison, Kansas, U.S.
|Disappeared||July 2, 1937 (aged 39)
Pacific Ocean, en route to Howland Island
|Status||Declared dead in absentia
January 5, 1939 (aged 41)
|Known for||Many early aviation records, including first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.|
|Spouse(s)||George P. Putnam|
Amelia Mary Earhart (//; July 24, 1897 – disappeared July 2, 1937) was an American aviation pioneer and author.[N 1] Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.[N 2] She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record. She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. Earhart joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and help inspire others with her love for aviation. She was also a member of the National Woman's Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.[N 3]
- 1 Early life
- 2 Aviation career and marriage
- 3 1932 transatlantic solo flight
- 4 Move to California
- 5 1937 world flight
- 6 Theories on disappearance
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Popular culture
- 9 Records and achievements
- 10 Books by Earhart
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Amelia Mary Earhart, daughter of German American Samuel "Edwin" Stanton Earhart (1867-1930)  and Amelia "Amy" Otis Earhart (1869–1962), was born in Atchison, Kansas, in the home of her maternal grandfather, Alfred Gideon Otis (1827–1912), a former federal judge, president of the Atchison Savings Bank and a leading citizen in the town. Amelia was the second child of the marriage, after an infant stillborn in August 1896. Alfred Otis had not initially favored the marriage and was not satisfied with Edwin's progress as a lawyer.
Earhart was named, according to family custom, after her two grandmothers (Amelia Josephine Harres and Mary Wells Patton). From an early age Earhart, nicknamed "Meeley" (sometimes "Millie") was the ringleader while her younger sister (two years her junior), Grace Muriel Earhart (1899–1998), nicknamed "Pidge", acted the dutiful follower. Both girls continued to answer to their childhood nicknames well into adulthood. Their upbringing was unconventional since Amy Earhart did not believe in molding her children into "nice little girls." Meanwhile their maternal grandmother disapproved of the "bloomers" worn by Amy's children and although Earhart liked the freedom they provided, she was aware other girls in the neighborhood did not wear them.
A spirit of adventure seemed to abide in the Earhart children with the pair setting off daily to explore their neighborhood.[N 4] As a child, Earhart spent long hours playing with Pidge, climbing trees, hunting rats with a rifle and "belly-slamming" her sled downhill. Although this love of the outdoors and "rough-and-tumble" play was common to many youngsters, some biographers have characterized the young Earhart as a tomboy. The girls kept "worms, moths, katydids and a tree toad" in a growing collection gathered in their outings. In 1904, with the help of her uncle, she cobbled together a home-made ramp fashioned after a roller coaster she had seen on a trip to St. Louis and secured the ramp to the roof of the family toolshed. Earhart's well-documented first flight ended dramatically. She emerged from the broken wooden box that had served as a sled with a bruised lip, torn dress and a "sensation of exhilaration." She exclaimed, "Oh, Pidge, it's just like flying!"
Although there had been some missteps in his career up to that point, in 1907 Edwin Earhart's job as a claims officer for the Rock Island Railroad led to a transfer to Des Moines, Iowa. The next year, at the age of 10, Earhart saw her first aircraft at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Her father tried to interest her and her sister in taking a flight. One look at the rickety "flivver" was enough for Earhart, who promptly asked if they could go back to the merry-go-round. She later described the biplane as "a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting."
The two sisters, Amelia and Muriel (she went by her middle name from her teens on), remained with their grandparents in Atchison, while their parents moved into new, smaller quarters in Des Moines. During this period, Earhart received a form of home-schooling together with her sister, from her mother and a governess. She later recounted that she was "exceedingly fond of reading" and spent countless hours in the large family library. In 1909, when the family was finally reunited in Des Moines, the Earhart children were enrolled in public school for the first time with Amelia Earhart entering the seventh grade at the age of 12 years.
While the family's finances seemingly improved with the acquisition of a new house and even the hiring of two servants, it soon became apparent Edwin was an alcoholic. Five years later (in 1914), he was forced to retire and although he attempted to rehabilitate himself through treatment, he was never reinstated at the Rock Island Railroad. At about this time, Earhart's grandmother Amelia Otis died suddenly, leaving a substantial estate that placed her daughter's share in trust, fearing that Edwin's drinking would drain the funds. The Otis house, and all of its contents, was auctioned; Earhart was heartbroken and later described it as the end of her childhood.
In 1915, after a long search, Earhart's father found work as a clerk at the Great Northern Railway in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Earhart entered Central High School as a junior. Edwin applied for a transfer to Springfield, Missouri, in 1915 but the current claims officer reconsidered his retirement and demanded his job back, leaving the elder Earhart with nowhere to go. Facing another calamitous move, Amy Earhart took her children to Chicago where they lived with friends. Earhart made an unusual condition in the choice of her next schooling; she canvassed nearby high schools in Chicago to find the best science program. She rejected the high school nearest her home when she complained that the chemistry lab was "just like a kitchen sink." She eventually was enrolled in Hyde Park High School but spent a miserable semester where a yearbook caption captured the essence of her unhappiness, "A.E. – the girl in brown who walks alone."
Earhart graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1916. Throughout her troubled childhood, she had continued to aspire to a future career; she kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields, including film direction and production, law, advertising, management and mechanical engineering. She began junior college at Ogontz School in Rydal, Pennsylvania but did not complete her program.[N 5]
During Christmas vacation in 1917, Earhart visited her sister in Toronto. World War I had been raging and Earhart saw the returning wounded soldiers. After receiving training as a nurse's aide from the Red Cross, she began work with the Volunteer Aid Detachment at Spadina Military Hospital. Her duties included preparing food in the kitchen for patients with special diets and handing out prescribed medication in the hospital's dispensary.
1918 Spanish flu pandemic
When the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic reached Toronto, Earhart was engaged in arduous nursing duties including night shifts at the Spadina Military Hospital. She became a patient herself, suffering from pneumonia and maxillary sinusitis. She was hospitalized in early November 1918 owing to pneumonia and discharged in December 1918, about two months after the illness had started. Her sinus-related symptoms were pain and pressure around one eye and copious mucus drainage via the nostrils and throat. In the hospital, in the pre-antibiotic era, she had painful minor operations to wash out the affected maxillary sinus, but these procedures were not successful and Earhart subsequently suffered from worsening headache attacks. Her convalescence lasted nearly a year, which she spent at her sister's home in Northampton, Massachusetts. She passed the time by reading poetry, learning to play the banjo and studying mechanics. Chronic sinusitis was to significantly affect Earhart's flying and activities in later life, and sometimes even on the airfield she was forced to wear a bandage on her cheek to cover a small drainage tube.
Early flying experiences
At about that time, with a young woman friend, Earhart visited an air fair held in conjunction with the Canadian National Exposition in Toronto. One of the highlights of the day was a flying exhibition put on by a World War I ace. The pilot overhead spotted Earhart and her friend, who were watching from an isolated clearing, and dived at them. "I am sure he said to himself, 'Watch me make them scamper,'" she said. Earhart stood her ground as the aircraft came close. "I did not understand it at the time," she said, "but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by."
By 1919 Earhart prepared to enter Smith College but changed her mind and enrolled at Columbia University, enrolling in a course in medical studies among other programs. She quit a year later to be with her parents, who had reunited in California.
In Long Beach, on December 28, 1920, Earhart and her father visited an airfield where Frank Hawks (who later gained fame as an air racer) gave her a ride that would forever change Earhart's life. "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground," she said, "I knew I had to fly." After that 10-minute flight (that cost her father $10), she immediately became determined to learn to fly. Working at a variety of jobs, including photographer, truck driver, and stenographer at the local telephone company, she managed to save $1,000 for flying lessons. Earhart had her first lessons, beginning on January 3, 1921, at Kinner Field, near Long Beach. In order to reach the airfield, Earhart had to take a bus to the end of the line, then walk four miles (6 km). Earhart's mother also provided part of the $1,000 "stake" against her "better judgement." Her teacher was Anita "Neta" Snook, a pioneer female aviator who used a surplus Curtiss JN-4 "Canuck" for training. Earhart arrived with her father and a singular request, "I want to fly. Will you teach me?"
Earhart's commitment to flying required her to accept the frequently hard work and rudimentary conditions that accompanied early aviation training. She chose a leather jacket, but aware that other aviators would be judging her, she slept in it for three nights to give the jacket a "worn" look. To complete her image transformation, she also cropped her hair short in the style of other female flyers. Six months later, Earhart purchased a secondhand bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane which she nicknamed "The Canary." On October 22, 1922, Earhart flew the Airster to an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,300 m), setting a world record for female pilots. On May 15, 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license (#6017) by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI).
Aviation career and marriage
Throughout this period, her grandmother's inheritance, which was now administered by her mother, was constantly depleted until it finally ran out following a disastrous investment in a failed gypsum mine. Consequently, with no immediate prospects for recouping her investment in flying, Earhart sold the "Canary" as well as a second Kinner and bought a yellow Kissel "Speedster" two-passenger automobile, which she named the "Yellow Peril." Simultaneously, Earhart experienced an exacerbation of her old sinus problem as her pain worsened and in early 1924, she was hospitalized for another sinus operation, which was again unsuccessful. After trying her hand at a number of unusual ventures including setting up a photography company, Earhart set out in a new direction. Following her parents' divorce in 1924, she drove her mother in the "Yellow Peril" on a transcontinental trip from California with stops throughout the West and even a jaunt up to Calgary, Alberta. The meandering tour eventually brought the pair to Boston, Massachusetts, where Earhart underwent another sinus procedure, this operation being more successful. After recuperation, she returned for several months to Columbia University but was forced to abandon her studies and any further plans for enrolling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology because her mother could no longer afford the tuition fees and associated costs. Soon after, she found employment first as a teacher, then as a social worker in 1925 at Denison House, living in Medford, Massachusetts.
When Earhart lived in Medford, she maintained her interest in aviation, becoming a member of the American Aeronautical Society's Boston chapter and was eventually elected its vice president. She flew out of Dennison Airport (later the Naval Air Station Squantum) in Quincy, Massachusetts, and helped finance its operation by investing a small sum of money. Earhart also flew the first official flight out of Dennison Airport in 1927. As well as acting as a sales representative for Kinner aircraft in the Boston area, Earhart wrote local newspaper columns promoting flying and as her local celebrity grew, she laid out the plans for an organization devoted to female flyers.
1928 transatlantic flight
After Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, Amy Phipps Guest, (1873–1959), expressed interest in being the first woman to fly (or be flown) across the Atlantic Ocean. After deciding the trip was too perilous for her to undertake, she offered to sponsor the project, suggesting they find "another girl with the right image." While at work one afternoon in April 1928, Earhart got a phone call from Capt. Hilton H. Railey, who asked her, "Would you like to fly the Atlantic?"
The project coordinators (including book publisher and publicist George P. Putnam) interviewed Earhart and asked her to accompany pilot Wilmer Stultz and copilot/mechanic Louis Gordon on the flight, nominally as a passenger, but with the added duty of keeping the flight log. The team departed Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland in a Fokker F.VIIb/3m on June 17, 1928, landing at Burry Port (near Llanelli), Wales, United Kingdom, exactly 20 hours and 40 minutes later. Since most of the flight was on "instruments" and Earhart had no training for this type of flying, she did not pilot the aircraft. When interviewed after landing, she said, "Stultz did all the flying—had to. I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes." She added, "...maybe someday I'll try it alone."
While in England, Earhart is reported as receiving a rousing welcome on June 19, 1928, when landing at Woolston in Southampton, England. She flew the Avro Avian 594 Avian III, SN: R3/AV/101 owned by Lady Mary Heath and later purchased the aircraft and had it shipped back to the United States (where it was assigned "unlicensed aircraft identification mark" 7083).
When the Stultz, Gordon and Earhart flight crew returned to the United States, they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York followed by a reception with President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.
Trading on her physical resemblance to Lindbergh, whom the press had dubbed "Lucky Lindy," some newspapers and magazines began referring to Earhart as "Lady Lindy."[N 6] The United Press was more grandiloquent; to them, Earhart was the reigning "Queen of the Air." Immediately after her return to the United States, she undertook an exhausting lecture tour (1928–1929). Meanwhile, Putnam had undertaken to heavily promote her in a campaign including publishing a book she authored, a series of new lecture tours and using pictures of her in mass market endorsements for products including luggage, Lucky Strike cigarettes (this caused image problems for her, with McCall's magazine retracting an offer) and women's clothing and sportswear. The money that she made with "Lucky Strike" had been earmarked for a $1,500 donation to Commander Richard Byrd's imminent South Pole expedition.
The marketing campaign by both Earhart and Putnam was successful in establishing the Earhart mystique in the public psyche. Rather than simply endorsing the products, Earhart actively became involved in the promotions, especially in women's fashions. For a number of years she had sewn her own clothes, but the "active living" lines that were sold in 50 stores such as Macy's in metropolitan areas were an expression of a new Earhart image. Her concept of simple, natural lines matched with wrinkle-proof, washable materials was the embodiment of a sleek, purposeful but feminine "A.E." (the familiar name she went by with family and friends). The luggage line that she promoted (marketed as Modernaire Earhart Luggage) also bore her unmistakable stamp.
A wide range of promotional items would appear bearing the Earhart name.
The celebrity endorsements would help Earhart finance her flying. Accepting a position as associate editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, she turned this forum into an opportunity to campaign for greater public acceptance of aviation, especially focusing on the role of women entering the field. In 1929, Earhart was among the first aviators to promote commercial air travel through the development of a passenger airline service; along with Charles Lindbergh, she represented Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) and invested time and money in setting up the first regional shuttle service between New York and Washington, DC. (TAT later became TWA). She was a Vice President of National Airways, which conducted the flying operations of the Boston-Maine Airways and several other airlines in the northeast. By 1940, it had become Northeast Airlines.
Although Earhart had gained fame for her transatlantic flight, she endeavored to set an "untarnished" record of her own. Shortly after her return, piloting Avian 7083, she set off on her first long solo flight which occurred just as her name was coming into the national spotlight. By making the trip in August 1928, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. Gradually her piloting skills and professionalism grew, as acknowledged by experienced professional pilots who flew with her. General Leigh Wade flew with Earhart in 1929: "She was a born flier, with a delicate touch on the stick."
Earhart subsequently made her first attempt at competitive air racing in 1929 during the first Santa Monica-to-Cleveland Women's Air Derby (later nicknamed the "Powder Puff Derby" by Will Rogers). During the race, at the last intermediate stop before the finish in Cleveland, Earhart and her friend Ruth Nichols were tied for first place. Nichols was to take off right before Earhart, but her aircraft hit a tractor at the end of the runway and flipped over. Instead of taking off, Earhart ran to the wrecked aircraft and dragged her friend out. Only when she was sure that Nichols was uninjured did Earhart take off for Cleveland but due to the time lost, she finished third. Her courageous act was symbolic of Earhart's selflessness; typically, she rarely referred to the incident in later years.
In 1930, Earhart became an official of the National Aeronautic Association where she actively promoted the establishment of separate women's records and was instrumental in the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) accepting a similar international standard. In 1931, flying a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro, she set a world altitude record of 18,415 feet (5,613 m) in a borrowed company machine. While to a reader today it might seem that Earhart was engaged in flying "stunts," she was, with other female flyers, crucial to making the American public "air minded" and convincing them that "aviation was no longer just for daredevils and supermen."
During this period, Earhart became involved with The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots providing moral support and advancing the cause of women in aviation. She had called a meeting of female pilots in 1929 following the Women's Air Derby. She suggested the name based on the number of the charter members; she later became the organization's first president in 1930. Earhart was a vigorous advocate for female pilots and when the 1934 Bendix Trophy Race banned women, she openly refused to fly screen actress Mary Pickford to Cleveland to open the races.
For a while Earhart was engaged to Samuel Chapman, a chemical engineer from Boston, breaking off her engagement on November 23, 1928. During the same period, Earhart and Putnam had spent a great deal of time together, leading to intimacy. George P. Putnam, who was known as GP, was divorced in 1929 and sought out Earhart, proposing to her six times before she finally agreed.[N 7] After substantial hesitation on her part, they married on February 7, 1931, in Putnam's mother's house in Noank, Connecticut. Earhart referred to her marriage as a "partnership" with "dual control." In a letter written to Putnam and hand delivered to him on the day of the wedding, she wrote, "I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil [sic] code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly."[N 8]
Earhart's ideas on marriage were liberal for the time as she believed in equal responsibilities for both "breadwinners" and pointedly kept her own name rather than being referred to as Mrs. Putnam. When The New York Times, per the rules of its stylebook, insisted on referring to her as Mrs. Putnam, she laughed it off. GP also learned quite soon that he would be called "Mr. Earhart." There was no honeymoon for the newlyweds as Earhart was involved in a nine-day cross-country tour promoting autogyros and the tour sponsor, Beech-Nut chewing gum. Although Earhart and Putnam had no children, he had two sons by his previous marriage to Dorothy Binney (1888–1982), a chemical heiress whose father's company, Binney & Smith, invented Crayola crayons: the explorer and writer David Binney Putnam (1913–1992) and George Palmer Putnam, Jr. (born 1921). Earhart was especially fond of David who frequently visited his father at their family home in Rye, New York. George had contracted polio shortly after his parents' separation and was unable to visit as often.
1932 transatlantic solo flight
At the age of 34, on the morning of May 20, 1932, Earhart set off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland with the latest copy of a local newspaper (the dated copy was intended to confirm the date of the flight). She intended to fly to Paris in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B to emulate Charles Lindbergh's solo flight.[N 9] Her technical advisor for the flight was famed Norwegian American aviator Bernt Balchen who helped prepare her aircraft. He also played the role of "decoy" for the press as he was ostensibly preparing Earhart's Vega for his own Arctic flight.[N 10] After a flight lasting 14 hours, 56 minutes during which she contended with strong northerly winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems, Earhart landed in a pasture at Culmore, north of Derry, Northern Ireland. The landing was witnessed by Cecil King and T. Sawyer. When a farm hand asked, "Have you flown far?" Earhart replied, "From America." The site now is the home of a small museum, the Amelia Earhart Centre.
As the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic, Earhart received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover. As her fame grew, she developed friendships with many people in high offices, most notably Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady from 1933 to 1945. Roosevelt shared many of Earhart's interests and passions, especially women's causes. After flying with Earhart, Roosevelt obtained a student permit but did not pursue her plans to learn to fly. The two friends communicated frequently throughout their lives.[N 11] Another famous flyer, Jacqueline Cochran, considered Earhart's greatest rival by both media and the public, also became a confidante and friend during this period.
Other solo flights
On January 11, 1935, Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California. Although this transoceanic flight had been attempted by many others, most notably by the unfortunate participants in the 1927 Dole Air Race which had reversed the route, her trailblazing flight had been mainly routine, with no mechanical breakdowns. In her final hours, she even relaxed and listened to "the broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera from New York."
That year, once more flying her faithful Vega which Earhart had tagged "old Bessie, the fire horse,"[N 12] she soloed from Los Angeles to Mexico City on April 19. The next record attempt was a nonstop flight from Mexico City to New York. Setting off on May 8, her flight was uneventful although the large crowds that greeted her at Newark, New Jersey, were a concern as she had to be careful not to taxi into the throng.
Earhart again participated in long-distance air racing, placing fifth in the 1935 Bendix Trophy Race, the best result she could manage considering that her stock Lockheed Vega topping out at 195 mph (314 km/h) was outclassed by purpose-built air racers which reached more than 300 mph (480 km/h). The race had been a particularly difficult one as one competitor, Cecil Allen, died in a fiery takeoff mishap and rival Jacqueline Cochran was forced to retire due to mechanical problems, the "blinding fog", and violent thunderstorms that plagued the race.
Between 1930 and 1935, Earhart had set seven women's speed and distance aviation records in a variety of aircraft including the Kinner Airster, Lockheed Vega, and Pitcairn Autogiro. By 1935, recognizing the limitations of her "lovely red Vega" in long, transoceanic flights, Earhart contemplated, in her own words, a new "prize... one flight which I most wanted to attempt – a circumnavigation of the globe as near its waistline as could be." For the new venture, she would need a new aircraft.
Move to California
While Earhart was away on a speaking tour in late November 1934, a fire broke out at the Putnam residence in Rye destroying many family treasures and Earhart's personal mementos. As Putnam had already sold his interest in the New York based publishing company to his cousin, Palmer, following the fire the couple decided to move to the West Coast where Putnam took up his new position as head of the editorial board of Paramount Pictures in North Hollywood.[N 13] While speaking in California in late 1934, Earhart had contacted Hollywood "stunt" pilot Paul Mantz in order to improve her flying, focusing especially on long-distance flying in her Vega and wanted to move closer to him.
At Earhart's urging, Putnam purchased a small house in June 1935 adjacent to the clubhouse of the Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake, a San Fernando Valley celebrity enclave community nestled between the Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures studio complexes where they had earlier rented a temporary residence. Earhart and Putnam would not move in immediately, however, as they decided to very considerably remodel and enlarge the existing small structure to meet their needs, thus delaying their occupation of their new home for some months.
In September 1935, Earhart and Mantz formally established a business partnership they had been considering since late 1934 by creating the short-lived Earhart-Mantz Flying School which Mantz controlled and operated through his aviation company, United Air Services, located at the Burbank Airport about five miles from Earhart's Toluca Lake home. Putnam handled publicity for the school which primarily taught instrument flying using Link Trainers.
1937 world flight
Earhart joined the faculty of Purdue University in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics.[N 14] Early in 1936, Earhart started to plan a round-the-world flight. Not the first to circle the globe, it would be the longest at 29,000 miles (47,000 km), following a grueling equatorial route. With financing from Purdue,[N 15] in July 1936, a Lockheed Electra 10E was built at Lockheed Aircraft Company to her specifications which included extensive modifications to the fuselage to incorporate a large fuel tank. Earhart dubbed the twin engine monoplane airliner her "flying laboratory" and hangared it at Mantz's United Air Services located just across the airfield from Lockheed's Burbank, California plant in which it had been built.
Although the Electra was publicized as a "flying laboratory", little useful science was planned and the flight was arranged around Earhart's intention to circumnavigate the globe along with gathering raw material and public attention for her next book. Her first choice as navigator was Captain Harry Manning, who had been the captain of the President Roosevelt, the ship that had brought Earhart back from Europe in 1928.
Through contacts in the Los Angeles aviation community, Fred Noonan was subsequently chosen as a second navigator because there were significant additional factors which had to be dealt with while using celestial navigation for aircraft. He had vast experience in both marine (he was a licensed ship's captain) and flight navigation. Noonan had recently left Pan Am, where he established most of the company's China Clipper seaplane routes across the Pacific. Noonan had also been responsible for training Pan American's navigators for the route between San Francisco and Manila.[N 16] The original plans were for Noonan to navigate from Hawaii to Howland Island, a particularly difficult portion of the flight; then Manning would continue with Earhart to Australia and she would proceed on her own for the remainder of the project.
On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1937, Earhart and her crew flew the first leg from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to Earhart and Noonan, Harry Manning and Mantz (who was acting as Earhart's technical advisor) were on board. Due to lubrication and galling problems with the propeller hubs' variable pitch mechanisms, the aircraft needed servicing in Hawaii. Ultimately, the Electra ended up at the United States Navy's Luke Field on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The flight resumed three days later from Luke Field with Earhart, Noonan and Manning on board. During the takeoff run, Earhart ground-looped, circumstances of which remain controversial. Some witnesses at Luke Field including the Associated Press journalist on the scene said they saw a tire blow. Earhart thought either the Electra's right tire had blown and/or the right landing gear had collapsed. Some sources, including Mantz, cited pilot error.
With the aircraft severely damaged, the flight was called off and the aircraft was shipped by sea to the Lockheed Burbank facility for repairs.
While the Electra was being repaired Earhart and Putnam secured additional funds and prepared for a second attempt. This time flying west to east, the second attempt began with an unpublicized flight from Oakland to Miami, Florida, and after arriving there Earhart publicly announced her plans to circumnavigate the globe. The flight's opposite direction was partly the result of changes in global wind and weather patterns along the planned route since the earlier attempt. On this second flight, Fred Noonan was Earhart's only crew member. The pair departed Miami on June 1 and after numerous stops in South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, arrived at Lae, New Guinea, on June 29, 1937. At this stage about 22,000 miles (35,000 km) of the journey had been completed. The remaining 7,000 miles (11,000 km) would be over the Pacific.
|Date||Departure City||Arrival City||Nautical
|May 20, 1937||Oakland, California||Burbank, California||283|
|May 21, 1937||Burbank, California||Tucson, Arizona||393|
|May 22, 1937||Tucson, Arizona||New Orleans, Louisiana||1070|
|May 23, 1937||New Orleans, Louisiana||Miami, Florida||586|
|June 1, 1937||Miami, Florida||San Juan, Puerto Rico||908|
|June 2, 1937||San Juan, Puerto Rico||Caripito, Venezuela||492||out of Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport|
|June 3, 1937||Caripito, Venezuela||Paramaribo, Surinam||610|
|June 4, 1937||Paramaribo, Surinam||Fortaleza, Brazil||1142|
|June 5, 1937||Fortaleza, Brazil||Natal, Brazil||235|
|June 7, 1937||Natal, Brazil||Saint-Louis, Senegal||1727||Transatlantic flight|
|June 8, 1937||Saint-Louis, Senegal||Dakar, Senegal||100|
|June 10, 1937||Dakar, Senegal||Gao, French Sudan||1016|
|June 11, 1937||Gao, French Sudan||Fort-Lamy, F.E. Africa||910|
|June 12, 1937||Fort-Lamy, F.E. Africa||El Fasher, Sudan||610|
|June 13, 1937||El Fasher, Sudan||Khartoum, Sudan||437|
|June 13, 1937||Khartoum, Sudan||Massawa, Ethiopia||400|
|June 14, 1937||Massawa, Ethiopia||Assab, Italian Eritria||241|
|June 15, 1937||Assab, Italian Eritria||Karachi, India||1627||first ever non-stop flight from the Red Sea to India|
|June 17, 1937||Karachi, India||Calcutta, India||1178|
|June 18, 1937||Calcutta, India||Akyab, Burma||291|
|June 19, 1937||Akyab, Burma||Rangoon, Burma||268|
|June 20, 1937||Rangoon, Burma||Bangkok, Siam||315|
|June 20, 1937||Bangkok, Siam||Singapore, Straits Settlements||780|
|June 21, 1937||Singapore, Straits Settlements||Bandoeng, Dutch East Indies||541|
|June 25, 1937||Bandoeng, Dutch East Indies||Surabaya, Dutch East Indies||310||delayed due to monsoon|
|June 25, 1937||Surabaya, Dutch East Indies||Bandoeng, Dutch East Indies||310||returned for repairs, Earhart ill with dysentery|
|June 26, 1937||Bandoeng, Dutch East Indies||Surabaya, Dutch East Indies||310|
|June 27, 1937||Surabaya, Dutch East Indies||Koepang, Dutch East Indies||668|
|June 28, 1937||Koepang, Dutch East Indies||Darwin, Australia||445||direction finder repaired, parachutes removed and sent home|
|June 29, 1937||Darwin, Australia||Lae, Papua New Guinea||1012|
|July 2, 1937||Lae, Papua New Guinea||Howland Island||2556||did not arrive|
|July 3, 1937||Howland Island||Honolulu, Oahu||1900||planned leg|
|July 4, 1937||Honolulu, Oahu||Oakland, California||2400||planned leg|
Departure from Lae
On July 2, 1937, midnight GMT, Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae in the heavily loaded Electra. Their intended destination was Howland Island, a flat sliver of land 6,500 ft (2,000 m) long and 1,600 ft (500 m) wide, 10 ft (3 m) high and 2,556 miles (4,113 km) away. Their last known position report was near the Nukumanu Islands, about 800 miles (1,300 km) into the flight. The USCGC Itasca was on station at Howland, assigned to communicate with Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10E and guide them to the island once they arrived in the vicinity.
Final approach to Howland Island
Through a series of misunderstandings or errors (the details of which are still controversial), the final approach to Howland Island using radio navigation was not successful. Fred Noonan had earlier written about problems affecting the accuracy of radio direction finding in navigation.[N 17] Another cited cause of possible confusion was that the Itasca and Earhart planned their communication schedule using time systems set a half hour apart, with Earhart using Greenwich Civil Time (GCT) and the Itasca under a Naval time zone designation system.
Some sources have noted Earhart's apparent lack of understanding of her direction-finding system, which had recently fitted to the aircraft just prior to the flight. The system was equipped with a new receiver from Bendix that operated on five wavelength "bands", marked 1 to 5. The loop antenna was equipped with a tuneable loading coil that changed the effective length of the antenna to allow it to work efficiently at different wavelengths. The tuner on the antenna was also marked with five settings, 1 to 5, but, critically, these were not the same frequency bands as the corresponding bands on the radio. The two were close enough for settings 1,2 and 3, but the higher frequency settings, 4 and 5, were entirely different. Earhart's only training on the system was a brief introduction by Joe Gurr at the Lockheed factory, and the topic had not come up. A card displaying the band settings of the antenna was mounted so it was not visible. Gurr explained that higher frequency bands would offer better accuracy and longer range,
Motion picture evidence from Lae suggests that an antenna mounted underneath the fuselage may have been torn off from the fuel-heavy Electra during taxi or takeoff from Lae's turf runway, though no antenna was reported found at Lae. Don Dwiggins, in his biography of Paul Mantz (who assisted Earhart and Noonan in their flight planning), noted that the aviators had cut off their long-wire antenna, due to the annoyance of having to crank it back into the aircraft after each use.
During Earhart and Noonan's approach to Howland Island the Itasca received strong and clear voice transmissions from Earhart identifying as KHAQQ but she apparently was unable to hear voice transmissions from the ship. Signals from the ship would also be used for direction finding, implying that the aircraft's direction finder was also not functional.
The first calls, routine reports stating the weather as cloudy and overcast, were received at 2:45 and just before 5 am on July 2. These calls were broken up by static, but at this point the aircraft would still be a long distance from Howland.
At 6:14 am another call was received stating the aircraft was within 200 miles (320 km), and requested that the ship use its direction finder to provide a bearing for the aircraft. Earhart began whistling into the microphone to provide a continual signal for them to home in on. It was at this point that the radio operators on the Itasca realized that their RDF system could not tune in the aircraft's 3015 kHz frequency; radioman Leo Bellarts later commented that he "was sitting there sweating blood because I couldn't do a darn thing about it." A similar call asking for a bearing was received at 6:45 am, when Earhart estimated they were 100 miles (160 km) out.
At 7:42 am Earhart radioed "We must be on you, but cannot see you—but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet." Her 7:58 am transmission said she couldn't hear the Itasca and asked them to send voice signals so she could try to take a radio bearing. This transmission was reported by the Itasca as the loudest possible signal, indicating Earhart and Noonan were in the immediate area. They couldn't send voice at the frequency she asked for, so Morse code signals were sent instead. Earhart acknowledged receiving these but said she was unable to determine their direction.
In her last known transmission at 8:43 am Earhart broadcast "We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait." However, a few moments later she was back on the same frequency (3105 kHz) with a transmission which was logged as a "questionable": "We are running on line north and south." Earhart's transmissions seemed to indicate she and Noonan believed they had reached Howland's charted position, which was incorrect by about five nautical miles (10 km). The Itasca used her oil-fired boilers to generate smoke for a period of time but the fliers apparently did not see it. The many scattered clouds in the area around Howland Island have also been cited as a problem: their dark shadows on the ocean surface may have been almost indistinguishable from the island's subdued and very flat profile.
Whether any post-loss radio signals were received from Earhart and Noonan remains controversial. If transmissions were received from the Electra, most if not all were weak and hopelessly garbled. Earhart's voice transmissions to Howland were on 3105 kHz, a frequency restricted to aviation use in the United States by the FCC.[N 18] This frequency was not thought to be fit for broadcasts over great distances. When Earhart was at cruising altitude and midway between Lae and Howland (over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from each) neither station heard her scheduled transmission at 0815 GCT. Moreover, the 50-watt transmitter used by Earhart was attached to a less-than-optimum-length V-type antenna.[N 19]
The last voice transmission received on Howland Island from Earhart indicated she and Noonan were flying along a line of position (taken from a "sun line" running on 157–337 degrees) which Noonan would have calculated and drawn on a chart as passing through Howland.[N 20] After all contact was lost with Howland Island, attempts were made to reach the flyers with both voice and Morse code transmissions. Operators across the Pacific and the United States may have heard signals from the downed Electra but these were unintelligible or weak.[N 21]
Some of these reports of transmissions were later determined to be hoaxes but others were deemed authentic. Bearings taken by Pan American Airways stations suggested signals originating from several locations, including Gardner Island. It was noted at the time that if these signals were from Earhart and Noonan, they must have been on land with the aircraft since water would have otherwise shorted out the Electra's electrical system.[N 22][N 23] Sporadic signals were reported for four or five days after the disappearance but none yielded any understandable information.[N 24] The captain of the USS Colorado later said "There was no doubt many stations were calling the Earhart plane on the plane's frequency, some by voice and others by signals. All of these added to the confusion and doubtfulness of the authenticity of the reports."
Beginning approximately one hour after Earhart's last recorded message, the USCGC Itasca undertook an ultimately unsuccessful search north and west of Howland Island based on initial assumptions about transmissions from the aircraft. The United States Navy soon joined the search and over a period of about three days sent available resources to the search area in the vicinity of Howland Island. The initial search by the Itasca involved running up the 157/337 line of position to the NNW from Howland Island. The Itasca then searched the area to the immediate NE of the island, corresponding to the area, yet wider than the area searched to the NW. Based on bearings of several supposed Earhart radio transmissions, some of the search efforts were directed to a specific position on a line of 281 degrees (approximately northwest) from Howland Island without evidence of the flyers. Four days after Earhart's last verified radio transmission, on July 6, 1937, the captain of the battleship Colorado received orders from the Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District to take over all naval and coast guard units to coordinate search efforts.
Later search efforts were directed to the Phoenix Islands south of Howland Island. A week after the disappearance, naval aircraft from the Colorado flew over several islands in the group including Gardner Island (now called Nikumaroro), which had been uninhabited for over 40 years. The subsequent report on Gardner read: "Here signs of recent habitation were clearly visible but repeated circling and zooming failed to elicit any answering wave from possible inhabitants and it was finally taken for granted that none were there... At the western end of the island a tramp steamer (of about 4000 tons)... lay high and almost dry head onto the coral beach with her back broken in two places. The lagoon at Gardner looked sufficiently deep and certainly large enough so that a seaplane or even an airboat could have landed or takenoff [sic] in any direction with little if any difficulty. Given a chance, it is believed that Miss Earhart could have landed her aircraft in this lagoon and swum or waded ashore."[N 25] They also found that Gardner's shape and size as recorded on charts were wholly inaccurate. Other Navy search efforts were again directed north, west and southwest of Howland Island, based on a possibility the Electra had ditched in the ocean, was afloat, or that the aviators were in an emergency raft.
The official search efforts lasted until July 19, 1937. At $4 million, the air and sea search by the Navy and Coast Guard was the most costly and intensive in U.S. history up to that time but search and rescue techniques during the era were rudimentary and some of the search was based on erroneous assumptions and flawed information. Official reporting of the search effort was influenced by individuals wary about how their roles in looking for an American hero might be reported by the press.[N 26] Despite an unprecedented search by the United States Navy and Coast Guard no physical evidence of Earhart, Noonan or the Electra 10E was found. The aircraft carrier USS Lexington, the Colorado, and the Itasca (and even two Japanese ships, the oceanographic survey vessel Koshu and auxiliary seaplane tender Kamoi) searched for six–seven days each, covering 150,000 square miles (390,000 km2).
Immediately after the end of the official search, Putnam financed a private search by local authorities of nearby Pacific islands and waters, concentrating on the Gilberts. In late July 1937, Putnam chartered two small boats and while he remained in the United States, directed a search of the Phoenix Islands, Christmas (Kiritimati) Island, Fanning (Tabuaeran) Island, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands, but no trace of the Electra or its occupants was found.
Back in the United States, Putnam acted to become the trustee of Earhart's estate so that he could pay for the searches and related bills. In probate court in Los Angeles, Putnam requested to have the "declared death in absentia" seven-year waiting period waived so that he could manage Earhart's finances. As a result, Earhart was declared legally dead on January 5, 1939.
Theories on disappearance
Many theories emerged after the disappearance of Earhart and Noonan. Two possibilities concerning the flyers' fate have prevailed among researchers and historians.
Crash and sink theory
Many researchers believe the Electra ran out of fuel and that Earhart and Noonan ditched at sea. Navigator and aeronautical engineer Elgen Long and his wife Marie K. Long devoted 35 years of exhaustive research to the "crash and sink" theory, which is the most widely accepted explanation for the disappearance. Capt. Laurance F. Safford, USN, who was responsible for the interwar Mid Pacific Strategic Direction Finding Net, and the decoding of the Japanese PURPLE cipher messages for the attack on Pearl Harbor, began a lengthy analysis of the Earhart flight during the 1970s. His research included the intricate radio transmission documentation. Safford came to the conclusion, "poor planning, worse execution." Rear Admiral Richard R. Black, USN, who was in administrative charge of the Howland Island airstrip and was present in the radio room on the Itasca, asserted in 1982 that "the Electra went into the sea about 10 am, July 2, 1937 not far from Howland". British aviation historian Roy Nesbit interpreted evidence in contemporary accounts and Putnam's correspondence and concluded Earhart's Electra was not fully fueled at Lae. William L. Polhemous, the navigator on Ann Pellegreno's 1967 flight which followed Earhart and Noonan's original flight path, studied navigational tables for July 2, 1937 and thought Noonan may have miscalculated the "single line approach" intended to "hit" Howland.
David Jourdan, a former Navy submariner and ocean engineer specializing in deep-sea recoveries, has claimed any transmissions attributed to Gardner Island were false. Through his company Nauticos he extensively searched a 1,200-square-mile (3,100 km2) quadrant north and west of Howland Island during two deep-sea sonar expeditions (2002 and 2006, total cost $4.5 million) and found nothing. The search locations were derived from the line of position (157–337) broadcast by Earhart on July 2, 1937. Nevertheless, Elgen Long's interpretations have led Jourdan to conclude, "The analysis of all the data we have – the fuel analysis, the radio calls, other things – tells me she went into the water off Howland." Earhart's stepson George Palmer Putnam Jr. has been quoted as saying he believes "the plane just ran out of gas." Susan Butler, author of the "definitive" Earhart biography East to the Dawn, says she thinks the aircraft went into the ocean out of sight of Howland Island and rests on the seafloor at a depth of 17,000 feet (5 km). Tom D. Crouch, Senior Curator of the National Air and Space Museum, has said the Earhart/Noonan Electra is "18,000 ft. down" and may even yield a range of artifacts that could rival the finds of the Titanic, adding, "... the mystery is part of what keeps us interested. In part, we remember her because she's our favorite missing person."
Gardner Island hypothesis
Immediately after Earhart and Noonan's disappearance, the U.S. Navy, Paul Mantz, and Earhart's mother (who convinced G.P. Putnam to undertake a search in the Phoenix Group) all expressed belief the flight had ended in the Phoenix Islands, now part of the Republic of Kiribati, some 350 miles (560 km) southeast of Howland Island. Ultimately, Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro), larger than Howland and much more visible from the air, was identified as a viable location for landing an aircraft running out of fuel.
In 1988, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) began an investigation of the Earhart/Noonan disappearance and since then has sent ten research expeditions to Gardner Island/Nikumaroro. They have suggested Earhart and Noonan may have flown without further radio transmissions for two and a half hours along the line of position Earhart noted in her last transmission received at Howland, then found then-uninhabited Gardner Island, landed the Electra on an extensive reef flat near the wreck of a large freighter (the SS Norwich City) on the northwest side of the atoll, and ultimately perished.
During World War II, US Coast Guard LORAN Unit 92, a radio navigation station built in the summer and fall of 1944, and operational from mid-November 1944 until mid-May 1945, was located on Gardner Island's southeast end. Dozens of U.S. Coast Guard personnel were involved in its construction and operation, but were mostly forbidden from leaving the small base or having contact with the Gilbertese colonists then on the island, and found no artifacts known to relate to Earhart.
TIGHAR's research has produced a range of documented archaeological and anecdotal evidence supporting this hypothesis. For example, in 1940, Gerald Gallagher, a British colonial officer and licensed pilot, radioed his superiors to inform them that he had found a "skeleton ... possibly that of a woman," along with an old-fashioned sextant box, under a tree on the island's southeast corner. He was ordered to send the remains to Fiji, where in 1941, British colonial authorities took detailed measurements of the bones and concluded they were from a male about 5 ft 5 in tall. In 1998, however, an analysis of the measurement data by forensic anthropologists did not confirm the original findings, concluding instead, that the skeleton had belonged to a "tall white female of northern European ancestry." The bones themselves were misplaced in Fiji long ago and have not been found.
Artifacts discovered by TIGHAR on Nikumaroro have included improvised tools, an aluminum panel (possibly from an Electra), an oddly cut piece of clear Plexiglas the same thickness and curvature of an Electra window and a size 9 Cat's Paw heel dating from the 1930s which resembles Earhart's footwear in world flight photos.[N 27] The evidence remains circumstantial, but Earhart's surviving stepson, George Putnam Jr., has expressed support for TIGHAR's research.
In 2007, a TIGHAR expedition visited Nikumaroro searching for unambiguously identifiable aircraft artifacts and DNA. The group included engineers, technical experts, archaeologists, anthropologists, and researchers. They found artifacts of uncertain origin on the weather-ravaged atoll, including bronze bearings which may have belonged to Earhart's aircraft and a zipper pull which might have come from her flight suit. In 2010, the research group said it had found bones that appeared to be part of a human finger. Subsequent DNA testing at the University of Oklahoma proved inconclusive as to whether the bone fragments were from a human or from a sea turtle.
In July 2012, TIGHAR conducted an underwater expedition off the northwest reef of Nikumaroro, using sonar mapping. Some of the sonar images suggested a possible wreckage site, although Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, cautioned that most of the Electra's parts would likely have disintegrated after 75 years in sea water. Nevertheless, in May 2013, TIGHAR announced that professional analysis of a 32-foot (9.8 m) anomaly in the sonar images showed what could possibly be the aircraft.
Myths, legends and claims
The unresolved circumstances of Earhart's disappearance, along with her fame, attracted a great body of other claims relating to her last flight, all of which have been generally dismissed for lack of verifiable evidence. Several unsupported theories have become well known in popular culture.
Spies for FDR
A World War II-era movie called Flight for Freedom (1943) starring Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray furthered a myth that Earhart was spying on the Japanese in the Pacific at the request of the Franklin Roosevelt administration.[N 28] By 1949, both the United Press and U.S. Army Intelligence had concluded this rumor was groundless. Jackie Cochran, another pioneering aviator and one of Earhart's friends, made a postwar search of numerous files in Japan and was convinced the Japanese were not involved in Earhart's disappearance.
In 1966, CBS Correspondent Fred Goerner published a book claiming Earhart and Noonan were captured and executed when their aircraft crashed on the island of Saipan, part of the Mariana Islands archipelago, while it was under Japanese occupation.[N 29][N 30] In 2009, an Earhart relative stated that the pair died in Japanese custody, citing unnamed witnesses including Japanese troops and Saipan natives. He said that the Japanese cut the valuable Lockheed aircraft into scrap and threw the pieces into the ocean.
Thomas E. Devine (who served in a postal Army unit) wrote Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident which includes a letter from the daughter of a Japanese police official who claimed her father was responsible for Earhart's execution.
Former U.S. Marine Robert Wallack claimed he and other Marines opened a safe on Saipan and found Earhart's briefcase. Former U.S. Marine Earskin J. Nabers claimed that while serving as a wireless operator on Saipan in 1944, he decoded a message from naval officials which said Earhart's aircraft had been found at the airfield in the village of As Lito, that he was later ordered to guard the aircraft, and then witnessed its destruction. In 1990, the NBC-TV series Unsolved Mysteries broadcast an interview with a Saipanese woman who claimed to have witnessed Earhart and Noonan's execution by Japanese soldiers. No independent confirmation or support has ever emerged for any of these claims. Purported photographs of Earhart during her captivity have been identified as either fraudulent or having been taken before her final flight.
Since the end of World War II, a location on Tinian, which is five miles (eight km) southwest of Saipan, had been rumoured to be the grave of the two aviators. In 2004, a scientifically supported archaeological dig at the site failed to turn up any bones.
Tokyo Rose rumor
A rumor which claimed that Earhart had made propaganda radio broadcasts as one of the many women compelled to serve as Tokyo Rose was investigated closely by George Putnam. According to several biographies of Earhart, Putnam investigated this rumor personally but after listening to many recordings of numerous Tokyo Roses, he did not recognize her voice among them.
The theory that Earhart may have turned back mid-flight has been posited. She would then have tried to reach the airfield at Rabaul, New Britain (northeast of mainland Papua New Guinea), approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km) from Howland.
In 1990, Donald Angwin, a veteran of the Australian Army's World War II campaign in New Britain, contacted researchers to suggest that a wrecked aircraft he had witnessed in jungle about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Rabaul, on April 17, 1945, may have been Earhart's Electra. Angwin, who was a corporal in the 11th Battalion at the time, reported that he and other members of a forward patrol on Japanese-occupied New Britain had found a wrecked twin-engined, unpainted all-metal aircraft. The soldiers recorded a rough position on a map, along with serial numbers seen on the wreckage. While the map was located in the possession of another veteran in 1993, subsequent searches of the area indicated failed to find a wreck.
While Angwin died in 2001, David Billings, an Australian aircraft engineer, has continued to investigate his theory. Billings claims that the serial numbers written on the map, "600H/P S3HI C/N1055", represent:
- a 600 hp (450 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1340-S3H1 model engine and;
- "Constructor's Number 1055", an airframe identifier.
These would be consistent with a Lockheed Electra 10E, such as that flown by Earhart, although they do not contain enough information to identify the wreck in question as NR16020.
Pacific Wrecks, a website that documents World War II-era aircraft crash sites, notes that no Electra has been reported lost in or around Papua New Guinea. Gillespie wrote that the 2,000-mile (3,200 km) distance from Earhart's last known position to New Britain was impossible for the aircraft to fly, requiring more than 13 hours of flight when there was only 4 hours of fuel remaining.
Assuming another identity
In November 2006, the National Geographic Channel aired episode two of the Undiscovered History series about a claim that Earhart survived the world flight, moved to New Jersey, changed her name, remarried and became Irene Craigmile Bolam. This claim had originally been raised in the book Amelia Earhart Lives (1970) by author Joe Klaas, based on the research of Major Joseph Gervais. Irene Bolam, who had been a banker in New York during the 1940s, denied being Earhart, filed a lawsuit requesting $1.5 million in damages and submitted a lengthy affidavit in which she refuted the claims. The book's publisher, McGraw-Hill, withdrew the book from the market shortly after it was released and court records indicate that they made an out-of-court settlement with her. Subsequently, Bolam's personal life history was thoroughly documented by researchers, eliminating any possibility she was Earhart. Kevin Richlin, a professional criminal forensic expert hired by National Geographic, studied photographs of both women and cited many measurable facial differences between Earhart and Bolam.
Earhart was a widely known international celebrity during her lifetime. Her shyly charismatic appeal, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and goal-oriented career along with the circumstances of her disappearance at a comparatively early age have driven her lasting fame in popular culture. Hundreds of articles and scores of books have been written about her life which is often cited as a motivational tale, especially for girls. Earhart is generally regarded as a feminist icon.
Earhart's accomplishments in aviation inspired a generation of female aviators, including the more than 1,000 women pilots of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who ferried military aircraft, towed gliders, flew target practice aircraft, and served as transport pilots during World War II.
The home where Earhart was born is now the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum and is maintained by The Ninety-Nines, an international group of female pilots of whom Earhart was the first elected president.
A small section of Earhart's Lockheed Electra starboard engine nacelle recovered in the aftermath of the Hawaii crash has been confirmed as authentic and is now regarded as a control piece that will help to authenticate possible future discoveries. The evaluation of the scrap of metal was featured on an episode of History Detectives on Season 7 in 2009.
Two notable memorial flights by female aviators subsequently followed Earhart's original circumnavigational route.
- In 1967, Ann Dearing Holtgren Pellegreno and a crew of three successfully flew a similar aircraft (a Lockheed 10A Electra) to complete a world flight that closely mirrored Earhart's flight plan. On the 30th anniversary of her disappearance, Pellegreno dropped a wreath in Earhart's honor over tiny Howland Island and returned to Oakland, completing the 28,000-mile (45,000 km) commemorative flight on July 7, 1967.
- In 1997, on the 60th anniversary of Earhart's world flight, San Antonio businesswoman Linda Finch retraced the final flight path flying the same make and model of aircraft as Earhart, a restored 1935 Lockheed Electra 10E. Finch touched down in 18 countries before finishing the trip two and a half months later when she arrived back at Oakland Airport on May 28, 1997.
In 2001, another commemorative flight retraced the route undertaken by Earhart in her August 1928 transcontinental record flight. Dr. Carlene Mendieta flew an original Avro Avian, the same type that was used in 1928.
Countless other tributes and memorials have been made in Amelia Earhart's name, including a 2012 tribute from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at a State Department event celebrating Earhart and the United States’ ties to its Pacific neighbors, noting: "Earhart ... created a legacy that resonates today for anyone, girls and boys, who dreams of the stars." The following list is not considered definitive, but serves also to give significant examples of tributes and honors.
- Amelia Earhart Centre And Wildlife Sanctuary was established at the site of her 1932 landing in Northern Ireland, Ballyarnet Country Park, Derry.
- The "Earhart Tree" on Banyan Drive in Hilo, Hawaii, was planted by Earhart in 1935.
- The Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship Awards were established in 1938.
- Earhart Light (also known as the Amelia Earhart Light), a navigational day beacon on Howland Island (has not been maintained and is crumbling).
- The Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarships (established in 1939 by The Ninety-Nines), provides scholarships to women for advanced pilot certificates and ratings, jet type ratings, college degrees and technical training.
- The Purdue University Amelia Earhart Scholarship, first awarded in 1940, is based on academic merit and leadership and is open to juniors and seniors enrolled in any school at the West Lafayette campus. After being discontinued in the 1970s, a donor resurrected the award in 1999.
- In 1942, a United States Liberty ship named SS Amelia Earhart was launched. It was wrecked in 1948.
- Amelia Earhart Field (1947), formerly Masters Field and Miami Municipal Airport, after closure in 1959, the Amelia Earhart Regional Park was dedicated in an area of undeveloped federal government land located north and west of the former Miami Municipal Airport and immediately south of Opa-locka Airport.
- Amelia Earhart Airport (1958), located in Atchison, Kansas.
- Amelia Earhart Commemorative Stamp (8¢ airmail postage) was issued in 1963 by the United States Postmaster-General.
- The Civil Air Patrol Amelia Earhart Award (since 1964) is awarded to cadets who have completed the first 11 achievements of the cadet program along with receipt of the General Billy Mitchell Award.
- Amelia Earhart Residence Hall opened in 1964 as a residence hall for women at Purdue University and became coed in 2002. An eight-foot sculpture of Earhart, by Ernest Shelton, was placed in front of the Earhart Hall Dining Court in 2009.
- Member of National Women's Hall of Fame (1973).
- Crittenton Women's Union (Boston) Amelia Earhart Award recognizes a woman who continues Earhart's pioneering spirit and who has significantly contributed to the expansion of opportunities for women. (since 1982)
- Earhart Corona, a corona on Venus was named by the (IAU) in 1982.
- The Amelia Earhart Birthplace, Atchison, Kansas (a museum and historic site, owned and maintained by The Ninety-Nines since 1984).
- UCI Irvine Amelia Earhart Award (since 1990).
- Member of Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1992).
- 3895 Earhart, a minor planet discovered in 1987, was named in 1995 after her, by its discoverer, Carolyn S. Shoemaker.
- Earhart Foundation, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Established in 1995, the foundation funds research and scholarship through a network of 50 "Earhart professors" across the United States.
- Amelia Earhart Festival (annual event since 1996), located in Atchison, Kansas.
- Amelia Earhart Pioneering Achievement Award, Atchison, Kansas: Since 1996, the Cloud L. Cray Foundation provides a $10,000 women's scholarship to the educational institution of the honoree's choice.
- Amelia Earhart Earthwork in Warnock Lake Park, Atchison, Kansas. Stan Herd created the 1-acre (4,000 m2) landscape mural in 1997 from permanent plantings and stone to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Earhart's birth. Located at and best viewed from the air.
- Amelia Earhart Bridge (1997), located in Atchison, Kansas.
- Greater Miami Aviation Association Amelia Earhart Award for outstanding achievement (2006); first recipient: noted flyer Patricia "Patty" Wagstaff.
- On December 6, 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted Earhart into the California Hall of Fame located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts.
- USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) was named in her honor in May 2007.
- Amelia Earhart full size bronze statue was placed at the Spirit of Flight Center located in Lafayette, Colorado in 2008.
- The Amelia Earhart General Aviation Terminal, a satellite terminal at Boston's Logan Airport (formerly used by American Eagle, now unused)
- Amelia Earhart Dam on the Mystic River in eastern Massachusetts.
- Schools named after Earhart are found throughout the United States including the Amelia Earhart Elementary School, in Alameda, California, Amelia Earhart Elementary School, in Hialeah, Florida, Amelia Earhart Middle School, Riverside, California and Amelia Earhart International Baccalaureate World School, in Indio, California.
- Amelia Earhart Hotel, located in Wiesbaden, Germany, originally used as a hotel for women, then as temporary military housing is now operated as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District Headquarters with offices for the Army Contracting Agency and the Defense Contract Management Agency.
- Amelia Earhart Road, located in Oklahoma City (headquarters of The Ninety-Nines), Oklahoma.
- Earhart Road, located next to the Oakland International Airport North Field in Oakland, California.
- Amelia Earhart Playhouse, at Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
- Tio commemmorate her first transatlantic flight, on the Millennium Coastal Path at Pwll, Burry Port, South Wales is a blue plaque sponsored by Llanelli Community Heritage.
Earhart's life has spurred the imaginations of many writers and others; the following examples are given although many other mentions have also occurred in contemporary or current media:
- "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight", by "Yodelling Cowboy" Red River Dave McEnery, is thought to be the first song ever performed on commercial television (at the 1939 World's Fair). He recorded it in 1941 and it was subsequently covered by artists including Kinky Friedman and the Country Gentlemen.
- The 1943 Rosalind Russell film Flight for Freedom derived from a treatment, "Stand by to Die", was a fictionalized treatment of Earhart's life.
- Possibly the first tribute album dedicated to the legend of Earhart was by Plainsong, In Search of Amelia Earhart, Elektra K42120, released in 1972. Both the album and the Press Pak released by Elektra are highly prized by collectors and have reached cult status.
- Patti Smith published two poems dedicated to Earhart: "Amelia Earhart I" and "Amelia Earhart II" in her 1972 poetry collection Seventh Heaven.
- Singer Joni Mitchell's song "Amelia" appears on her 1976 album Hejira and also features in the video of her 1980 live album Shadows and Light (1980) with clips of Earhart. Commenting on the origins of the song, which interweaves the story of a desert journey with aspects of Earhart's disappearance, Mitchell said: "I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another ... sort of reflecting on the cost of being a woman and having something you must do." 
- In the "Rare Objects" episode of "Rod Serling's Night Gallery" in 1972, Amelia Earhart is seen among a set of missing persons who are assembled by a unique collector of human beings played by Raymond Massey.
- "In Search of: Amelia Earhart," (1976) was episode 16 of the 1976–1982 In Search Of series; this episode spurred a number of popular documentaries that followed.
- A 1976 television bio production titled Amelia Earhart starring Susan Clark and John Forsythe included flying by Hollywood stunt pilot Frank Tallman whose late partner in Tallmantz Aviation, Paul Mantz, had tutored Earhart in the 1930s.
- William Katz's 1980 novel Ghostflight features Amelia Earhart's reappearance after being captured by nazis, and subjected to age-prolonging treatment.
- Clive Cussler's 1992 novel Sahara mentions that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were executed on Saipan and their remains returned and hidden near Washington DC.
- The documentary Amelia Earhart: The Price of Courage (1993) from American Experience.
- Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (1994) starring Diane Keaton, Rutger Hauer and Bruce Dern was initially released as TV movie and subsequently released as a theatrical feature.
- I Was Amelia Earhart (1996) is a faux autobiography by Jane Mendelsohn in which "Earhart" tells the story of what happened to her in 1937, complete with heavy doses of romance with her navigator.
- Amelia And Eleanor Go For A Ride (1999) is a children's picture book written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick. It tells the story of the impromptu flight taken by Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The 37's" (first aired 1995), Earhart, portrayed by Sharon Lawrence, was one of many humans abducted by an alien race in 1937, only to be found in cryo-stasis on a planet on the other side of the galaxy.
- Academy Award nominee Amy Adams portrayed Earhart in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009).
- In Amelia (2009), Earhart is portrayed by Hilary Swank, who also served as co-executive producer of the biopic.
- In 2011, the Great Canadian Theatre Company hosted a musical play titled Amelia: The Girl Who Wants To Fly.
- Google honored Earhart on her 115th birthday anniversary by putting up a doodle on its site on July 24, 2012.
Records and achievements
- Woman's world altitude record: 14,000 ft (1922)
- First woman to fly the Atlantic (1928)
- Speed records for 100 km (and with 500 lb (230 kg) cargo) (1931)
- First woman to fly an autogyro (1931)
- Altitude record for autogyros: 15,000 ft (1931)
- First person to cross the U.S. in an autogyro (1932)
- First woman to fly the Atlantic solo (1932)
- First person to fly the Atlantic twice (1932)
- First woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross (1932)
- First woman to fly nonstop, coast-to-coast across the U.S. (1933)
- Woman's speed transcontinental record (1933)
- First person to fly solo between Honolulu, Hawaii and Oakland, California (1935)
- First person to fly solo from Los Angeles, California to Mexico City, Mexico (1935)
- First person to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City, Mexico to Newark, New Jersey (1935)
- Speed record for east-to-west flight from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii (1937)
Books by Earhart
Earhart was a successful and heavily promoted writer who served as aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine from 1928 to 1930. She wrote magazine articles, newspaper columns, essays and published two books based upon her experiences as a flyer during her lifetime:
- 20 Hrs., 40 Min. (1928) was a journal of her experiences as the first woman passenger on a transatlantic flight.
- The Fun of It (1932) was a memoir of her flying experiences and an essay on women in aviation.
- Last Flight (1937) featured the periodic journal entries she sent back to the United States during her world flight attempt, published in newspapers in the weeks prior to her final departure from New Guinea. Compiled by her husband GP Putnam after she disappeared over the Pacific, many historians consider this book to be only partially Earhart's original work.
- Charles Kuralt said on CBS television program Sunday Morning, referring to Earhart: "She was a pioneer in aviation... she led the way so that others could follow and go on to even greater achievements," further stating, "trailblazers prepare the rest of us for the future."
- Earhart set several records, being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, first as a passenger and later, as a solo pilot; the period term for a female pilot was "aviatrix", and is still in use.
- Quote: "She vanished nearly 60 years ago, but fascination with Amelia Earhart continues through each new generation."
- Quote: "...the judge nevertheless adored his brave and intelligent granddaughter and in her [Earhart's] love of adventure, she seemed to have inherited his pioneering spirit."
- Although a good student, Earhart cut short her time at Ogontz when she became a nursing assistant in Canada.
- Putnam himself may have coined the term "Lady Lindy."
- Quote: "Amelia eventually said yes – or rather nodded yes – to GP's sixth proposal of marriage.
- Quote: "It was pencilled longhand... a slip or two in spelling meticulously corrected." The later typewritten note has the word medieval incorrectly spelled. The original note has some slight variances in the header, use of commas and the salutation but is spelled correctly.
- Earhart's Vega 5B was her third, after trading in two Vega 1s at the Lockheed Aircraft Company's Burbank plant.
- Bernt Balchen had been instrumental in other transatlantic and Arctic record-breaking flights during that period.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt was not in favor of his wife becoming a pilot. Eleanor Roosevelt would later feature prominently in another aviation-related cause when she took a famous flight with a young Black aviator that helped establish the credentials of the "Tuskegee Airmen".
- "Old Bessie" started out as a Vega 5 built in 1928 as c/n 36, but was modified with a replacement fuselage to become a 5B.
- Amelia preferred the more benign weather of the west coast for flying and based her later years' operation from California rather than the east coast.
- Her job at Purdue was outlined by Edward C. Elliott, the President of Purdue University.
- Purdue University established the Amelia Earhart Fund for Aeronautical Research at $50,000 to fund the purchase of the Lockheed Electra 10E.
- Noonan also navigated the China Clipper on its first flight to Manila, departing Alameda under the command of Captain Ed Musick, on November 22, 1935.
- Noonan, Fred. Memo to Operations Manager, Pacific Division, Pan American Airlines, April 29, 1935: "The inaccuracies of direction finding bearings can be very definitely cataloged: twilight effects, faint signals, wide splits of minima and inaccurate calibration."
- Quote: "Frequencies between 2,504 to 3,497.5 kc were allocated to "Coastal harbor, government, aviation, fixed, miscellaneous."
- The height of the antenna is important, a horizontally polarized antenna operating at a small fraction of its wavelength above the ground will be less efficient than that same antenna operating at cruising altitude.
- Safford disputes a "sun line" theory and proposes that Noonan asked Earhart to fly 157–337 magnetic or to fly at right angles to the original track on north–south courses.
- A teenager in the northeastern United States claims to have heard post-loss transmissions from Earhart and Noonan but modern analysis has shown there was an extremely low probability of any signal from Amelia Earhart being received in the United States on a harmonic of a frequency she could transmit upon.
- The essential components were all mounted low, including the generator, batteries, dynamotor and transmitter.
- In order to operate the radio for any length of time, the aircraft would have had to be standing more or less upright on its landing gear with the right engine running in order to charge the 50-watt transmitter's battery, which would have consumed six gallons of fuel per hour.
- The first two days were marked by rumors and misinformation regarding radio transmission capabilities of the Lockheed Model 10 Electra that were finally resolved by the aircraft company.
- Memo from Senior Aviator, USS Colorado, to The Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, "Aircraft Search of Earhart Plane." Their commander Capt Friedell made no note of "recent habitation" in his official summary.
- FDR himself had to respond to accusations that the search was justified.
- According to records, Noonan was 6 ft (1.8 m) tall and Earhart was 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) and wore a size 6 shoe according to her sister.
- Some authors have speculated that Earhart and Noonan were shot down by Japanese aircraft as she was thought to be spying on Japanese territory so America could supposedly plan an attack.
- Goerner's book was immediately challenged, but the Time Magazine article on it does include a quote from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who allegedly told Goerner in March 1965: "I want to tell you Earhart and her navigator did go down in the Marshalls and were picked up by the Japanese."
- Goerner disclosed in his book that Nimitz refused permission to be quoted.
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- Moolman, Valerie. Women Aloft (The Epic of Flight series). Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1981. ISBN 0-8094-3287-0.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amelia Earhart.|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Amelia Earhart|
- "George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers," Purdue University Libraries
- Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum
- Amelia Earhart's Flight Across America: Rediscovering a Legend
- Amelia Earhart Official Web site
- Amelia Earhart: On The Future Of Women In Flying (listen online) on YouTube
- Museum of Women Pilots
- Amelia Earhart Memorial flight Recreation
- Amelia Earhart interview following the 1932 transatlantic flight on YouTube
- General Correspondence: Earhart, Amelia, 1932–1934, The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers at the Library of Congress
- Speech by Amelia Earhart from the collection American English Dialect Recordings, Library of Congress
- CG cutter Itasca and the search for Earhart
- FBI file on Amelia Earhart
- Booknotes interview with Susan Butler on East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart, December 14, 1997.
- Skeptoid #295: Finding Amelia Earhart at Skeptoid
- Amelia Earhart Collection of Papers, Memorabilia and Artifacts The world's largest collection of Earhart photographs, artifacts and correspondence. More than 600 photos are now online
- Papers, 1835–1977. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
- Amelia Earhart—An American Experience documentary