Amelia Earhart found: Photo suggests aviator survived final flight, died a Japanese captive

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 Amelia Earhart
Renowned U.S. pilot Amelia Earhart is pictured in this 1928 photograph released on March 20, 2012. Scientists on March 20, 2012 announced a new search to resolve the disappearance of Earhart, saying fresh evidence from a remote Pacific island may reveal the fate of Earhart, who vanished in 1937 while attempting to circle the globe. Reuters/Library of Congress/Handout

Aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan have been missing for decades after they departed to circle the Earth on July 2, 1937. In 1939, the US government declared that her plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, but her body was never found. Eighty years since the disappearance, a newly discovered photograph from the US national archives has given new credence to what happened to Earhart.

Some experts claim the image shows the pioneering aviator, her airplane and Noonan in the Marshall Islands in 1937. The photo suggests they had actually survived the crash. An independent analyst said the image appears undoctored and legitimate. The recent discovery was featured in a History channel special "Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.”

Forensic analyst Kent Gibson told History it was “very likely” the people in the photograph were Earhart and Noonan. “When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” former FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry told NBC News.

Retired government investigator Les Kinney said the image “clearly indicates that Earhart was captured by the Japanese.” But Japanese authorities have claimed they do not have any record of her being in their custody.

The investigative team behind the History special believes that evidence that Earhart and Noonan survived the ordeal has been found. A US spy may have taken the photograph, which was discovered by former US Treasury Agent Les Kinney in 2012.

But not everyone is convinced. “Finding Amelia” author Ric Gillespie said the claim was “ridiculous.”

Another forensic breakthrough suggested Earhart may have died a castaway on an island in modern-day Kiribati. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) arrived at the idea after a closer look at a partial skeleton found on Nikumaroro.

British official Gerald Gallagher found the partial human remains. He initially thought it belonged to Earhart. But a British doctor later confirmed it was not Earhart’s as it belonged to a man. It was forgotten until TIGHAR said in 1998 that it discovered the original British files documenting measurements of the skeleton. According to Mashable, forensic anthropologist Karen Burns and Richard Jantz determined at that time that the shape of the recovered bones "appears consistent with a female of Earhart's height and ethnic origin.”

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