With a colleague in the Marshall Islands, I’ve listened to new stories that suggest she was captured by Japanese troops when her Electra plane crashed on a remote atoll in the build up to the second world war – then taken to Saipan island where she died.
Heard it all before?
I’d heard various accounts about the couple’s fate, some of which sounds credible, other reasonings, well, not so reasonable.
The long-held theory is that she simply ran out of fuel in bad weather while trying to fly to Howland island and crashed on the uninhabited Gardner Island, now known as Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati.
But descendants of islanders living on Mili atoll, in the Marshall Islands hundreds of miles from her previously held crash site, insist they have learned of an alternative fate.
Descendants and friends of ‘eye witnesses’ claim to have seen Amelia and Noonan on a Japanese tramp steamer after their plane came down on a tiny uninhabited island attached to Mili atoll.
The aircraft, with a wing missing, was loaded onto a barge, which then hauled it onto the Koshu Naru ship, where Amelia and Noonan were being held. A friend of the late Bilimon Amram has recalled how his pal told of helping a Japanese doctor to treat Noonan’s injured leg.
That friend, Charles Domnick, told my colleague Karen Earnshaw, that Amelia and Noonan were sitting on the deck of the Japanese ship as Noonan waited for medical attention.
Bilimon Amran has since died, but his friend Charles recalled how Bilimon insisted that he had seen Amelia on the vessel.
‘I know what I saw – and I saw the lady,’ Bilimon is said to have told his friend.
According to other research, the two fliers were taken to Saipan, south of Japan, where, suspected of being spies as the second world war was brewing, Noonan was executed and Amelia died of dysentery.
Believable or not, this new account adds to the intrigue about the couple’s fate that has flowed on down through the decades.
Currently, researchers in the United States are examining pieces of metal found on Mili atoll to try to establish if any of the parts are from Amelia’s Electra aircraft.
If any of the pieces are confirmed as being from the plane, then the discovery will certainly add credence to the claims that they were captured by the Japanese.
Of course, it has to be wondered why the Japanese haven’t by now owned up to the couple being captured. Then again, would they want it known that they were responsible for a US hero’s demise?