Daily Archives: 10/15/2003

Finding Amelia Earhart

Monday’s PDN had a whopper of a story: an 81 year old veteran says he knows where Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan are buried: In an overgrown patch of jungle on Tinian.

Stories of Earhart’s demise swirl around the Marianas, mostly because of one Saipanese woman’s story about how she saw Japanese authorities imprisoning an American woman in the late thirties on Saipan. No one has ever confirmed this story, and historians are skeptical. This new story is similar, though the particulars take place on Tinian, the island due south of Saipan.

According to Saint John Naftel, he was approached in 1944 by a Hawaiian laborer on Tinian. The Hawaiian told him that shortly after he arrived on Tinian in 1937, the Japanese made him bury to Americans, a man and a woman, in aviator suits. The Hawaiian showed Naftel the burial sight, but Naftel never reported it because of the war.

Naftel finally told his story to local archaeologists, and Jennings Bunn agreed to help Naftel locate the long lost burial site. The veteran arrived last weekend and located the site the Hawaiian laborer identified so many decades ago.

Frankly I have my doubts. It’s a big ocean, and the odds are that Earhart and Noonan are lying at the bottom of it. Saipan and Tinian were both well off Earhart’s route, and if she was captured by Japanese, it’s likely they took her to the military headquarters in Truk Lagoon.

Still, the story does capture my imagination. Jennings Bunn is busy securing the permits to dig on Tinian and he hopes to commence an archaeological study by the end of the year.