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Exclusive interview: Amelia Earhart producer on evidence suggesting aviator died in Japanese custody

Amelia Earhart in footage from The Lost Evidence.
Amelia Earhart in footage from The Lost Evidence. Pic credit: History

The disappearance of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan on July 2, 1937, is considered one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the last century.

A new History special, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, alleges that the American government knew that the famous aviator was actually captured by the Japanese and died in their custody.

The documentary’s executive producer Gary Tarpinian, president of Morningstar Entertainment, spoke to Monsters and Critics about the groundbreaking show currently making headlines.

A team of investigators from Tarpinian’s production company and History Channel uncovered an eye-witness and a never-before-seen photo which together allegedly reveal Earhart and Noonan were in fact seen alive and in Japanese custody after surviving a crash-landing in the Pacific.

It’s thought the full photo taken in the Marshall Islands, pictured below, could also show the pair’s plane being towed by a Japanese vessel.

The production team also unearthed plane parts in the Marshall Islands consistent with the aircraft that Earhart was flying in 1937.

Based on that and other new evidence, the team behind the documentary suggest that American officials knew about Earhart and Noonan’s demise, but wanted to cover it up.

In the two-hour special, former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry takes us on a journey through witnesses and historical records which ultimately suggest Earhart perished in Japanese custody on the island of Saipan.

Here we speak to executive producer Tarpinian about the documentary and what it shows.

Monsters and Critics: How did you get wind of the new evidence?

Gary Tarpinian: When I learned that a researcher claimed to have a photo of Amelia Earhart after she had supposedly been lost at sea, I just had to check it out for myself.

Then two of the top digital photo analysts in the country — who have both testified in hundreds of legal cases — told us that the photo was real and had not been manipulated or ‘Photoshopped’.

M&C: What were the tell-tale indicators?

GT: They believed the only two Caucasians in the photo were Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. We wouldn’t stop until History finally agreed to let us tell this incredible story.

M&C: This is pretty damning about how the government allegedly manipulates the truth. Can you speak to that, or is this less nefarious than we think it is?

GT: Here’s what we do know: Despite the largest naval search in history up to that time, no trace of Earhart or her plane were ever found, and yet, after only two weeks the Navy declared her ‘lost at sea’.

But the reason the Navy didn’t find her was that they were looking in the wrong spot!

Earhart was nowhere near Howland Island, her refueling destination when she crash landed.

She was hundreds of miles away in the Marshall Islands, which at the time was controlled by Japan and off limits to America and the Navy searchers.

M&C: What does the photo reveal to researchers who feel that it is her and Fred in the picture?

GT: Our photo proves that Earhart was in the Marshall Islands and under the custody of the Japanese.

We also have evidence that the US knew she had been captured by the Japanese in the form of the Navy’s own ‘Office of Naval Intelligence’ report.

We can only speculate what happened next but there are eyewitness accounts, including one that is featured in our program with perhaps the last living person who saw Earhart with her own eyes — 91-year-old Josephine Blanco Akiyama, at that place Earhart where she most likely died in Japanese custody.

M&C: Who was the person who did all the legwork finding this image?

GT: The researcher was U.S. Treasury Agent Les Kinney. He had collected more than 10,000 documents associated with the Earhart mystery.

He believes numerous documents — anything that directly discusses Earhart as a Japanese prisoner — have been purged from government files to hide the fact that the U.S. Government knew that Earhart was a prisoner shortly after her disappearance in 1937, and did nothing in response.

The index [pictured below] refers to a document that we could not find in the US National Archives that we believe was purged.

That missing document is reported to be ‘a report, dated January 7, 1939 on information that Earhart was a prisoner in the Marshall Islands’.

That report is listed on a National Archives reference page as part of the 170-pages of documents that ONI released to the Archives.

We can verify that this ‘January 7, 1939 report’ IS MISSING and is no longer available in the public files.

M&C: What was the biggest driver for you to produce this special?

GT: Our greatest motivation for telling this story is that we believe Amelia Earhart was a great American and a great woman and we owed it to her to let the world know what really happened to her.

Sadly, she may have been the first prisoner of war and casualty of World War II — four years before America even entered the war!

Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence premieres tonight, Sunday, July 9 at 9/8c on HISTORY.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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