First Sign of Trouble
The world flight was heavily reported but mostly uneventful until Earhart arrived in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Pictures show an exhausted Amelia; Noonan might have slid back into the bottle. Whatever the facts, and they are maddeningly sketchy, Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae for a flight into a historical void. After more than 20 hours of flying toward a refueling stop on tiny Howland Island, Earhart and Noonan turned from celebrities into a decades-longcaM. se celebre. Amid spotty radio reception and a navigation-obscuring overcast, Earhart and Noonan disappeared without a trace. A search began that was so large and so drawn out as to take on a life of its own in the minds of Earhart mystery buffs. Many accused President Roosevelt and some of his advisors of using the search as a fig leaf for spying on the Japanese on behalf of China, a U. S. ally.
Fred Noonan was one of the world’s finest navigators, but he was also a hard drinker with a taste for risk. Could he have been to blame for the death of Amelia Earhart?