A brand new American documentary about Amelia Earhart's fate in 1937 -- when her plane disappeared and neither she nor her navigator, Fred Noonan, were seen again -- has apparently been debunked by a Japanese 'military blogger'. Both National Geographic and The Guardian newspaper report that this person Googled the photo and found that it was actually published on 10 October 1935, long before the plane's last sighting on 2 July 1937.
I am of course no military expert nor photographic witness nor connoisseur of 20th-century working boats. Nor am I even particularly interested in Amelia Earhart (it must be said that Donald Crowhurst's story -- and disappearance -- is far more engrossing and tragic). But I do have expertise about human nature. And one puzzler about the supposed Jaluit Atoll 'Earhart and Noonan' photo is the man claimed to be Noonan.
In The History Channel documentary, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, we are told that the two aviators were captured by the Japanese and likely imprisoned by them. We are also told that three facial features of the man in the photo match those of Fred Noonan: the sharp V of the receding hairline; the prominent nose; and the look of the teeth. I don't know what about the teeth was so distinctive, but what I ask is this: If your pioneering plane had been downed and your project had been demolished -- never mind whether you had been 'captured' by a suspicious and unfriendly foreign power -- would you be grinning and showing teeth? Would you be smiling for the camera? Hardly. The psychology is all wrong. We all react to distressing events in different ways, of course. But some reactions are more likely than others. And I should imagine that when Noonan and Earhart's journey ended, there were no smiles attendant on that fate.