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Amelia Earhart: the Truth At Last (2nd Edition)

13 November 2019

Amelia Earhart: the Truth At Last (Propaganda versus Fact in the Disappearance of America’s First Lady of Flight), Mike Campbell, 2016, ISBN 978-1-62006-668-3, 370 pp.

Amelia Earhart: the Truth At Last (Propaganda versus Fact in the Disappearance of America’s First Lady of Flight by Mike Campbell

Campbell’s book satisfies on three counts:

  • It seems all the facts pertaining to this unfortunate mystery are laid out clearly and in chronological order
  • The book unwraps long held theories point by point—helping to clear the way towards Campbell’s conclusion
  • The author’s conclusion is well thought out and logical as well as intriguing—well worth its read

Mike Campbell’s writing as well as his investigation work is welcome as both are highly professional. At times sarcasm and opinion are interjected within but the facts are clear enough and make for a read more interesting than a pure report—there are 370 pages of information so this type of writing promotes continuity making for an easier read.

Amelia Earhart: the Truth At Last is thoroughly cited and referenced with pertinent appendices. Verifying Campbell’s work is quite easy because of this. Especially informative are the descriptions of the preparations as well as the 16 days of search by the U.S. Navy for Earhart and Noonan—including the addition of two major assets in the aircraft carrier USS Lexington and the battleship USS Colorado with its three Corsair floatplanes. These two ships alone quickly placed a multitude of aircraft into favorable weather for SAR operatIons. It seems that if Earhart and Noonan put down on land the wreck would have been easily as well as quickly found. Campbell also notes the documentation of the weather to the northwest as heavily clouded which the aviators would have been flying through.

Since Earhart and Noonan failed to spot the USCGC Itasca (placed there as a navigation aid/picket ship near their destination of Howland Island) and in turn were not spotted by the ship’s lookouts—it is hard not to agree with Campbell that this is NW area is where the aircraft went down. The oil fired signal smoke from the ship was not observed by Earhart in likelihood since she did not report such a siting (Itasca was in clear weather). Not specifically mentioned, but if the aircraft did make an island or atoll it in itself provided enough flammable material for easily making smoke as a signal to be observed by SAR parties. Therefore, Campbell makes the reasonable supposition of a forced landing onto the water.

At this point the book becomes highly interesting as Campbell analyzes the various theories, dispatching most of them, in detail. Perhaps most notably TIGHAR’s search to the southeast near the island of Nikumaroro (Gardner Island back in the day) as an obvious error. Thankfully, Robert Ballard’s searching (as of 2019, two years after the book’s publication) there will solve that question conclusively.

An added and welcome facet to the author’s work is his delving into the personalities of the witnesses and theorizers. This is vital to verbally, not physically, based information. Motivation and how individuals interpret events is vital in these types of investigations lacking hard fact. Campbell also does an excellent job separating fact from emotive appeals to give objective assessments. It is tempting to hold to emotional and tantalizing remembrances as they appeal most to story listeners as well as story tellers…politicians thrive on this basic human trait…kudos to Campbell for not falling into the age old trap.

Tantalizing examples explored and debased are:

  • Seeing the aircraft in 1944 after seven years disappearance (and in apparently in excellent condition)—then saving a note about the N number in a wallet only to have the wallet stolen that very night. As if the note was evidentiary and its loss part of a dark conspiracy.
  • The investigation of a grave purportedly holding the bones of a caucasian woman who had been blindfolded prior to her execution in 1944 and then the unceremonious dumping of the body into a prepared grave, blindfold first however—followed by an attempted grave excavation finding the blindfold without unearthing any bones decades later (the blindfold should have been beneath any skeletal remains).

Campbell also delves into the bios, personalities and abilities of Amelia Earhart—and of Fred Noonan but to a lesser extent. He notes Earhart’s poor generally radio expertise as well as her incredible decision to turn the opposite direction from that recommended by Noonan on an earlier transatlantic flight. Why a pilot would ignore Noonan is not fathomable given his premier accomplishments navigating Pan Am’s clippers across the Pacific Ocean. Campbell also readily dispels Putman’s (Earhart’s publicist husband) attempt to smear Noonan’s character to infer the loss was his error alone due to alcoholism.

A curious question is left unanswered in that the radio message received near the end of the flight which stated the aircraft was flying along the 157/337 line of longitude. Flying back and forth along such a line is good practice when lost and seeking help via radio communication—in keeping with not getting further lost. Howland Island lies on 176.6 degrees west longitude—quite far off from 157° W longitude and the point of this discrepancy was not and, to be fair likely, cannot be addressed. Yet much is made of this message as it is the last confirmed fact in the mystery.

He also goes quite well into the theory of a U.S. government cover up as to these aviators’ fates and his arguments are intriguing. In the end Campbell, of course, does not solve the mystery of Earhart and Noonan’s disappearance. He does go through the facts, statements and accounts in detail and concludes with an implicit train of logic that is more than reasonable to accept as excellent argument. Admirably, he also gives the reader the tools for their own investigation.

Mike Campbell maintains a website regarding the loss of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan here and Amelia Earhart: the Truth At Last will bring you to his book.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick Veronico permalink
    15 November 2019 02:24

    Great and interesting review that helps set the potential of this book apart from the plethora of Earhart theory books. I believe Earhart’s loss was one of the most written-about subjects of the 20th Century. Looking forward to checking out this book.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      15 November 2019 08:45

      I take your point…the Earhart mystery has been written about plenty. This book has great strength with its citations and description of events leading to the end of the flight. I

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