Eighty years after her disappearance and death, the life and tragic ending of Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) continues to incite curiosity not only among researchers but the general public in the United States. She is remembered as one of aviation’s true female pioneers and her ill-fated trip with navigator Fred Noonan (1893-1937) in July, 1937, is considered one of history’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Similar to the deaths of John F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa, myths, half-truths , conspiracy theories and fabrications have plagued the investigations into their final moments. Officially, their disappearance remains unsolved but there are many who believe that the U.S. Government knows far more than it is willing to admit.
Mike Campbell invested many years of his life researching the case and the result is this compendium that examines the case in what could be considered the most thorough account to date. One more than one occasion, focus had shifted to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific as the place were Earhart’s plane met its end. Although no irrefutable and conclusive proof has been provided by researchers such as Ric Gillespie of TIGHAR, the islands continue to be a point of focus. From start to finish, Campbell leaves no stone un-turned. Far from a crack pot conspirator, he supplements his words with statements from natives of the island of Saipan, military personnel present in the Marianas during World War II, Earhart’s mother and an examination of the actions of the U.S. Government. And it is this island that forms the crux of the book shedding light on overlooked parts of the story that have been forgotten or ignored over time.
To be fair, Campbell never says he has a smoking gun. He does have a theory which holds considerable weight throughout the book. In his final analysis, he believes many of the answers lie with Washington to reveal what President Roosevelt and the military really knew about the fate of Earhart’s plane. Roosevelt is long gone and unable to shed light on the matter. But even if he were alive, we can only guess as to how much he would actually tell us. But what is paramount are disturbing questions that arise towards the end of the book. Did Washington know where Earhart’s plane was? And if it was known, why was it withheld from the public? Was it to pacify Japan or protect vital national security secrets about U.S. intelligence gathering operations as the world inched closer to war? And did the military conceal what it knew to protect the image of President Roosevelt? Pearl Harbor would occur until several years later in 1941, but even in 1937, the Japanese military had been causing destruction across China, nearly destroying the cities of Shanghai and Nanking. Was it is this Japanese army that Earhart and Noonan encountered as they possibly landed at Milli Atoll before being transported to the island of Saipan? And why are several years of decoded Japanese communications surrounding 1937, missing from the national archives?
I admit that I love a good conspiracy but am ambivalent enough to avoid atrociously absurd theories. And Earhart’s story is filled with far too many extreme conspiracy theories which have only served to make a difficult case even more astounding. Campbell presents a compelling thesis and the support it receives from the statements of Saipan natives and former soldiers serves to arouse an even darker cloud over Earhart’s last flight. Campbell brilliantly debunks many rumors in order to give us the most accurate picture possible. And that picture results in more questions than answers. From the beginning, the book pulled me as I dived deep into the last moments of her life. Curiously though, as I read the section regarding her radio communications and lack thereof with the Itasca, I began to understand the many factors at play which doomed the flight from the beginning. In fact, many pilots today would probably tell you they would never attempt such a flight with such primitive radio equipment. However, hindsight is always 20/20 and I am sure that she had lived, she would have had endless stories about the flight that was intended to change the course of history for aviation. Regardless, she is one of America’s greatest aviators.
Some will read the book and write it off as another theory without sufficient evidence. But if we take the time to fully digest the staggering amount of research and effort put into the book, we can see that Campbell has gone to great lengths to get the story right and give us an idea of what could have very well have happened to the famed aviatrix. And perhaps one day, Washington may tell us more than we have heard for eighty years. If you are interested in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or already familiar with it and seeking to clear up any confusion you may have, this is a great addition to any library.