On this date in 1937, Amelia Earhart was reported missing near Howland Island over the Pacific. We have never definitively discovered what happened to her, though there are theories.
One theory is that she simply crashed in the ocean. In March-April 2002, Nauticos, a Hanover, Maryland, company that performs deep-ocean searches and other ocean research services, attempted to find Earhart’s plane using a deep-sea sonar system to search 630 square miles of ocean surrounding Howland Island. They planned to return this year to continue searching. Maybe they’re working on it right now. You know, I never thought they’d find the Titantic, and I remember seeing it on the news when it happened. I think they have a shot at finding that plane if it’s on the ocean floor.
A second theory is that she landed somewhere else and lived the rest of her days as a castaway. An organization called The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) believes that once Earhart knew she was low on fuel, she headed in the direction of the Phoenix Islands, 350 miles away. The group believes she may have landed on Nikumaroro, formerly known as Gardner Island. TIGHAR found reports of a plane crash there before 1939 and of two castaways, a man and a woman, who fit the descriptions of Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan. The group has also found one piece of equipment known as a dado, used to separated crew from passengers in an airplane, that might be part of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra, but this cannot be proven, as no Electras have survived with their dados intact. If there were reports of her being a castaway, however, why was she never rescued? Seems like if there were actual reports, they would argue against that theory.
A third theory is that Earhart was taken hostage by the Japanese after heading not for Howland, but for the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands. Proponents of this theory disagree as to Earhart’s ultimate fate. Some believe she was killed in Saipan. Others believe she returned to the U.S. under an assumed name. In fact, some believe she became a woman named Ilene Craigmile, married Guy Bolam, and died in New Jersey in 1982.
Rollin C. Reineck, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, has written a book, Amelia Earhart Survived (curiously unavailable at Amazon). Reineck insists that if Earhart was unable to find Howland, “Plan B was to cut off communications and head for the Marshall Islands and ditch her airplane there.” In the event that Earhart had to resort to Plan B, the U.S. military was supposed to rescue Earhart while at the same time perform reconnaissance on Japanese pre-war intelligence efforts. The plan went badly, Earhart was captured, and later forced to assume a different name. Why? According to Reineck, because if the American public had known Earhart was on this special mission, they would have been so incensed with FDR for putting her in harm’s way that he’d have faced impeachment.
Also on this date in 1881, President James Garfield was shot at the Baltimore & Potomac train station by Charles Guiteau, a “mentally disturbed” man who had been stalking the president for some time. Guiteau wrote a speech (described as “deranged”) while Garfield was running for office and gave it to Garfield. Garfield never read the speech, but Guiteau later claimed it was “instrumental” in getting Garfield elected and demanded to be made Ambassador to France. He began to hang around the White House, even meeting Garfield once, harassing the secretary of state daily about the Ambassadorship. When he was rejected, he decided to shoot Garfield. He checked out the prisons in the Washington, D.C. area and found them suitable “accommodations.” Though clearly insane, he was tried for murder (I’m not sure about the insanity defense myself, but that’s another story). He acted as his own attorney, screaming constantly and at times even dancing around the courtroom. In his closing argument, he declared God had told him to kill Garfield. When the jury convicted him, he told they were “all low, consummate jackasses!” He was hanged on June 30, 1882. While on the gallows, Guiteau said, “I am going to the Lordy, I am so glad.”
Was there a saying about the truth and fiction?