Did Amelia Earhart really die in a crash? Newly found photo could offer new story of her fate

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There's an entire chapter in Amelia Earhart's life that history ignores, says new research: The legendary American pilot died as a castaway, not in a plane crash.

History says Amelia Earhart died in a plane crash on July 2, 1937.

But history might be wrong.

According to an upcoming special on The History Channel, an 80-year-old photo discovered buried in the National Archives might rewrite the story of Earhart’s fate.

The show, called Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, airs Sunday night. In it, retired federal agent Les Kinney reveals some of the thousands of National Archives documents and photos he searched through while trying to find an answer to the question of what happened to Earhart.

Among his discoveries was a photograph stamped with official Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) markings reading “Marshall Islands, Jaluit Atoll, Jaluit Island, Jaluit Harbor,” the History Channel says. In the photo, a ship can be seen towing a barge with an airplane on the back; on a nearby dock are several people.

According to the History Channel, Kinney argues the photo must have been taken before 1943, as U.S. air forces conducted more than 30 bombing runs on Jaluit in 1943-44. He believes the plane on the barge is the Electra, and that two of the people on the dock are Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan.

As part of the program’s investigation, Doug Carner, a digital forensic analyst, examined the photo and determined it was authentic and had not been manipulated, while Kent Gibson, another forensic analyst who specializes in facial recognition, said it was “very likely” the individuals in it are Earhart and Noonan.

Most experts believe Earhart and Noonan died in a crash after her plane ran out of fuel and disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. No trace of Earhart, Noonan, or her plane was found.

But the new History Channel report suggests Earhart may have crashed in the Marshall Islands,  was captured alive by the Japanese military, and died while under its imprisonment.