During this month 80 years ago, pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart went missing while attempting to fly around the world. Despite massive search and rescue operations, she, her navigator Fred Noonan, and their Lockheed Electra airplane were never found. Earhart and Noonan were officially declared lost at sea 17 days after the flight and after a large search mission, but were they really lost?

There are a number of theories about what happened to the pilot and the navigator:

Of course, the primary narrative is that Earhart ran out of fuel somewhere over the Pacific and crash landed, sinking with her plane and navigator in the depths of the world's largest ocean.

Another theory says that Earhart, who was only the second person to ever fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, crash landed near Gardner Island, also known as Nikumaroro, part of the nation of Kiribati. Fragments of evidence suggest that a western woman may have been on the island in the 1930s, but there's no conclusive evidence that this is where Earhart met her end.

One of the most sensational conspiracy theories about Earhart's disappearance says that she and Noonan were working as spies for President Roosevelt while circumnavigating the globe. The idea is that the crash was an elaborate ruse and that the 40-year-old pilot and her navigator lived out their days in the U.S. under new identities.

New Evidence May Confirm Another Theory

History, the TV channel, is set to air a new documentary on July 9 which will feature recently revealed evidence that suggests that Earhart and Noonan may not have been lost...but captured.

People in the Marshall Islands have been long been saying that Earhart and Noonan crashed near their territory. At that time, this island state was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army; the story is that islanders who witnessed the crash landing and subsequent recovery of the travelers and their world-famous plane were told to keep their mouths shut. Rumors persisted despite the admonitions from the Japanese.

In 1987, 50 years after the Electra's disappearance, the Marshall Islands released a series of stamps commemorating Earhart's crash landing on the Mili Atoll. History is only now revealing that they may have finally recovered a vital piece of evidence that would not only confirm the record-breaking pilot crash near the Marshall Islands, but also that she, her navigator, and their plane were recovered and captured by the Japanese military.

A Detailed Investigation

A former high-ranking FBI official, Les Kinney has been combing through our National Archives for previously classified information that may help finally explain exactly what happened to Earhart.

During his research, Kinney uncovered this photo, which he says shows Noonan, recognized by his receding hairline, standing on a dock on Jaluit Island while the short-haired Earhart sits with her back to the camera nearby.

In the background of the photo is the Japanese ship Koshu Maru towing something that is almost the exact size of the Electra plane piloted by Earhart.

If this is the case, it's thought that Earhart and Noonan would have been taken by the Japanese and eventually would have died in our eventual WWII foe's custody.

It's hard to declare that a grainy photo provides any stronger evidence about what really happened to the most famous female pilot in American history, but History is making quite a fuss about this discovery. Seems like we'll have to watch the channel's feature to find out the whole story.

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