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Book Reviews : Another Amelia Earhart Theory Takes to the Wing

September 05, 1985|PAUL DEAN | Times Staff Writer

Amelia Earhart, The Final Story by Vincent Loomis with Jeffrey Ethell (Random House: $16:95; 150 pp., 16 pp)

Here's a book that crashes way short of its subtitle. It presents no final solution, only an offer of weak possibility based on rehashed theory. This is yet another sad leeching of a complex mystery that by depth of intrigue alone has been keeping bad authors in penny-ante royalties for almost 50 years.

First-time followers, however, could be impressed by this version of the disappearance of famed aviatrix Earhart while on a round-the-world flight in 1937.

A Crash Landing?

For we live within an era of military cover-up, the diplomatic lie and government manipulation. So why not believe that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan, unable to make radio contact with a Coast Guard cutter monitoring their transpacific leg to Howland Island, turned back to crash-land in the Marshall Islands?

Loomis claims they were then picked up by a Japanese ship, taken to Saipan and held in secret captivity as bargaining chips for military dealings to come. Noonan eventually was executed. Earhart died of dysentery. Japan clammed. Simple. Makes sense.

But old Howland hands have heard all this before. There have been books claiming that the Earhart flight was a cover for a photographic overflight of Japan's military buildup on Pacific islands. Then the pickup and capture. Some have speculated that Earhart's remains are in U.S. military keeping in Hawaii, and in the '60s, two authors identified a couple (who vehemently denied everything) living in New Jersey as Earhart and Noonan.

Nobody, it seems, wants to believe that Earhart simply wandered off course looking for boot button Howland Island, ran out of gas and crashed in the Pacific and drowned. Too dull. Certainly not the stuff of a possible miniseries.

In all fairness, Loomis does produce a Japanese-born Marshall islander who claims he treated an American couple aboard a military freighter at about the time Earhart and Noonan disappeared. But the man's recall is a ramble, he was not interviewed in his native tongue, the questioning was leading, he made no positive identification of the couple whose faces would have been an international imprint by this time, nor was there outside verification of his testimony.

U.S. Intelligence Document

Loomis' supposed piece de resistance is a U.S. intelligence document from 1949. It reports a Japanese claim (again based on hearsay and recollection) that its Navy searched for the Earhart plane in 1937. Loomis says his 1981 research proves that the Japanese did not search for Earhart, or certainly not to the extent claimed.

Deliberate lie? Dropped ball? Or incomplete military action based on confused instructions through clogged channels? And what would be significant or sinister in any of this?

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