Jennings Bunn, former curator of the Navy’s Maritime Museum on Guam, is set to begin an archaeological dig on Tinian this week. Based on a story from a WWII veteran stationed on the island in 1944, he hopes to uncover evidence of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. The duo disappeared in 1937 during a round the world flight attempt and were never found. Speculation about their fate includes a variety of stories, from plunging into the sea to crash landing on remote islets in the Pacific. One of the more persistent stories is that Earhart and Noonan were spies for the War Department, secretly observing Japanese military buildup in the Pacific before the war. Supporters of this story mentioned stories of Earhart being in the Marianas in the late thirties, especially Saipan.
About a year ago Saint John Naftel, an 82 year old veteran, came forward with his story. Naftel was stationed on Tinian in 1944, shortly after the island was liberated by US forces. Naftel befriended a Hawaiian laborer enslaved by the Japanese. The Hawaiian showed him a couple of graves that he dug for a woman and a man, and he recognized the woman as the one that was trying to fly around the world. Last October Naftel visited Tinian with Bunn and they located the site of the graves. After a year of wrangling permits from the CNMI and securing funding, Bunn is set to begin his quest this coming Friday.
While I am pretty skeptical of his chances, it would be amazing if he actually found something. One of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century would be solved. So good luck, Jennings Bunn, may you find Earhart and lay this mystery to rest.