A rebuttal of the "Earhart's bones have been found!" claims from a former Federal Investigator

An eloquent rebuttal from Les Kinney, Earhart investigator, former Federal investigator, who was featured on the History Channel Earhart program:


New evidence of Amelia Earhart? Or old evidence that's been misrepresented?

Well, here we are again.

Someone puts out a press release, the press release goes around the world, and feathers fly about Amelia Earhart.

As I just said on "Coast to Coast" - I'd love it if it were true that they found her bones at last. 

It would mean I wouldn't have her bugging me (for the past 30 years) about telling her story. But I can only report what I've been reporting since I began researching her story. 

Over 200 people claim to have seen her on Saipan after she disappeared. Their stories line up - if they were making it up, delusional, or some other reason - then we'd find some folks on islands somewhere else making the same claims. 

But there are none. I've interviewed 15 new eyewitnesses who either saw her or claim their relatives saw her - I've interviewed US Marines who claim they found her plane, claim they saw her plane flown, claim they found her briefcase (dry as a bone with passport and flight plans, over two witnesses) people who claim they guarded her plane and ultimately witnessed US forces destroy it - all of this lines up and is consistent in the reporting. So I ask you - if she was incarcerated, died on Saipan, apparently as late as 1944, how did her bones wind up in a grave on this other island FOUR YEARS EARLIER THAN SHE DIED?

Actually the find occurred back in 1940, at the time the doctor who examined these bones said they were from a male, 5'5" - but as Tighar points out, another doctor in Fiji said they were of a European female, closer to 5' 7."And to be sure, let's not forget - these "bones" do not exist. They have no "bones." The bones are long gone. This analysis is of another man's analysis! 

Where the original analysis said it must have been a male this new analysis - without photographic or forensic evidence - says he's 99% certain that it's Amelia Earhart! Wow. Wonders never cease.
From the report: "If the skeleton were available, it would presumably be a relatively straightforward task to make a positive identification, or a definitive exclusion. Unfortunately, all we have are the meager data in Hoodless’s report and a premortem record gleaned from photographs and clothing. From the information available, we can at least provide an assessment of how well the bones fit what we can reconstruct of Amelia Earhart. Because the reconstructions are now quantitative, probabilities can also be estimated." (Unless you're looking on an island she never, ever, ever, ever was on.)

So that must be Amelia!  

Well hang on a second there cowboys and cowgirls.  First we have to look at the facts.
Well we know she wasn't 5' 5" - she's a head taller than this car door.
How many people claim they saw her on Nikumaroro or the Phoenix island group?

The answer to that is zero.

However, we do have people who claim to have seen the Electra land on Mili, that pieces from that landing have been found on Mili.  

Looking at pieces of the Electra in Seattle with Dick Spink, former
NTSB investigator Jim Hayton and explorer Mike Harris
I have a former NTSB investigator on camera saying "Beyond a shadow of doubt, the pieces that were found on Mili could only have come from her Electra." He demonstrates on camera how they fit on her plane.  

Further the paint of those pieces has been compared to an actual piece of the Electra (owned by a fellow in Seattle that was "taken" off the plane before it left) and the color is the same. 

Piece that came off the Electra. Paint is the same as hers.
Jim demonstrating where it fit prefectly on his
own brake assembly from the same Electra
The wheel assembly from a rare
copy of the Electra manual. Same piece.
Then we have the over 200 islanders who claim to have seen her after the plane came down.  We have them on Mili, we have them on Majuro (a stevedore who tells that to a US Navy soldier during WWII) we have them on Jaluit - (including a Marshallese congressman, who saw her plane on the back of the Kyoshu when he was a boy,) including a young man who tended to her and Fred's wounds, (and reported that to numerous investigators) including others who claim they saw both Amelia and Fred and the plane in Jaluit.

Andrew Bryce met a stevedore on Majuro in WWII who claimed he
transported the plane from Mili for the Japanese

All eyewitnesses. All saw Amelia or heard the
Japanese talking about her capture.
Then we have eyewitnesses who claim to see her come ashore on Saipan, claim to have tended to her wounds in the hospital, claim to have seen her incarcerated, claim to have heard of Fred Noonan's torture and execution, and her being incarcerated for a number of years in a cell in Garapan, Saipan. Or this fellow, who claimed he saw her on Saipan in USA Today.

Saipan vet saw the Electra in a hanger at Aslito. "It was the
most famous plane in the world, it was missing for 7 years when I saw it.
We all knew what it was, and we all talked about it." Doug Bryce.

Decoded the messages for his Marine commander that said "We
have found Earhart's Electra June 1944 Alsito airfield. Guarded
the Electra for 24 hours, decoded the message they were going to fly it,
then decoded the message and watched as it was destroyed.
Also watched it being destroyed, and corroborates
Naber's story of Navy brass trying to gain entrance to
see the plane.  Quoted Nabers although he'd never met him,
and I interviewed him a month later.
Bob Wallack, interviewed by Connie Chung, found her
briefcase in a safe "dry as a bone." He corroborated what
Nabers said, as he turned over the briefcase to Naber's commanding
officer.  Nabers saw the same briefcase, and described the
same one that Wallack found.  Wallack kept her passport and briefcase for two weeks
before turning it over to Lewis Wallace, Marine corps Lt.Col (and Naber's boss)

Further we have the 12 GIs who claim they found the plane in a hangar on Aslito airfield, claim they recovered her briefcase, claim they found a photo book with her picture in it, claim that they saw the plane flown, then burned and destroyed.
Former congressman whose father saw AE and FN
coming ashore,the same day that others saw them.
As a boy of 12 saw her in captivity. Quoted as saying "The first
European woman you've ever seen, dressed like a man and her hands
tied behind her back? Not something you forget." His story
corroborated by another Saipanese man the same day.
This man's mother worked in the hospital,came home
in 1937 said "I treated an american woman pilot today" and told him not
to tell anyone for fear of retribution by the Japanese.
This man's father saw Amelia in prison in the cell
next to his brother, this man's uncle.

This woman was 16 years old when she saw Amelia and Fred
come ashore in Saipan.  She corroborated the same details that
the other man's father told him. Japanese ordered them to
"lower their heads" but neither he nor she would do so. Her report
is what alerted CBS newsman Fred Goerner to the story in 1963.

Are all of these people lying?  

Well, let's ask the simple question; if they're all lying, why aren't their lying islanders on other islands?  Why isn't there one sighting of her on any other island in the Marshalls or the Marianas or the Gilberts or the Phoenix islands?  Why would so many concoct one story to fit only one scenario?

But then we have this conclusion from the scientist looking at this skeleton's bones.  I have no doubt that the scientist did his best work in examining these bones.  However, the problem I have is his conclusion.  What he concludes is that the bones are of a European woman who is taller than the 5' 5" - two inches taller than the previous conclusion, that these bones come from a European woman. That does not mean it was Amelia, because there's no evidence she was on this island. But there's a detail in the report that shows where else these bones might have come from.  

Who owned the Phoenix islands?  History tells us "The name Phoenix for this group of islands seems to have been settled on in the 1840s, after an island of that name within the group. Phoenix Island was probably named after one of the many whaleships of that name plying these waters in the early 19th century."

So there were ships "plying these waters" as early as 1840. The island in question, once called "Gardner" "was once the headquarters for the British colonial officer heading up the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme, Gerald Gallagher. Gallagher constructed a village on the western end of the atoll, with wide coral-paved streets, a parade ground, cooperative store, administrative center and residence, and radio shack." Let's see. A shop on the island with storefronts. Sounds popular.

Further: "Although shelled and bombed a few times during World War II, neither Kanton nor any of the Phoenix Islands was ever occupied by Japanese forces. Between 1938 and 1940, in an effort to reduce overcrowding on the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme colonised the previously uninhabited Orona (Hull), Manra (Sydney), and Nikumaroro (Gardner) islands. By 1963, however, the three settlements had failed and the entire population was moved to the Solomon Islands."

IN THE REPORT BELOW, GALLAGHER SAYS THE BODY HE FOUND IN 1940 LOOKED ABOUT "FOUR YEARS OLD." If that was correct, hmm... shall we do the math? She disappeared in 1937. He found a four year old grave in 1940.  The Phoenix Islands Settlement Scheme (mentioned above) colonized Nikumaroro with a new population of people.  Could they have been one of those people?  

According to this report, no, because this body is "european" in origin.  (I.e. Caucasian)

So there were a gaggle of people living in these islands, specifically repopulating Gardner.  The question is - were any of them European females? Well, let's just look at the history of these islands by looking at their cemeteries of this and other islands:  

This cemetery in Majuro (Marshalls) is about to be
claimed by the ocean.

Cemetery on Kirabati (Phoenix) The names are often
European descendants, from the colonists
who populated the islands.
Some European names in this cemetery on Nikumaroro.
There are many in the old cemeteries of Saipan, Tinian and other
islands in the Marianas.  Europeans were like insects; everywhere.
Pics from the old cemetery on Saipan. Many
German names and Spanish names up until 1939
when this cemetery was moved.
European heritage, European parents, but native islanders
with European last names.
In other words - many of these descendants have European (German or Spanish) ancestors.  Last time I looked, a skeleton doesn't know what the color of someone's skin is. But there's more:

In the original finding, they claimed that alongside the bones they found a  a "shoe," a bottle of Benedictine, and a sextant. (The shoe, claimed to be a woman's shoe in the report, was proven to be a man's shoe size 9 by the New York Times back in the 1980's.) Tighar tried to claim she "wore men's shoes."  Whatever. The discussion of the bones has been a bone of contention for some time

Here's what the article concludes: 

"To address the question of whether the Nikumaroro bones match estimates of Amelia Earhart’s bone lengths, I compare Earhart’s bone lengths with the Nikumaroro bones using Mahalanobis distance. This analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample. This strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to Amelia Earhart.

Literally saying that he's found that these bones are likely to be that of a European woman - but there's no reason to assume that European woman would be Amelia. 

Here's why these other objects found are important. These islands were owned by Europeans since the 1840's. The Marshalls were ruled by the Germans until World War I.

Saipan, which I'm most familiar with, was ruled by Spain, sold Germany, then turned over to Japan (in 1914) then after the war became part of the United States. 

"Ferdinand Magellan was the first known European to visit the Mariana Islands and in 1521 he named the archipelago ‘Islas de los Ladrones’ (Islands of the Thieves) as a result of cultural misunderstandings. Over the next 40 years Spanish merchant ships passed through the region while exploring possible trade routes. During this early exploration period only one vessel is recorded lost in the Mariana Islands; in 1522 the caravel Santa Margarita was wrecked somewhere in the general vicinity of the ‘Ladrones’ (Brunal-Perry et al., 2009: 99)."

So let's not pretend that because a European skeleton is found on Nikumaroro it means it has to be Amelia's. First we'd have to prove some other connection to the body, or why a European woman might have been on this island.  Could it be that a descendant of a European father and an island mother died with this sextant box and a bottle of Benedictine?

 -By the way... a "Benedictine Bottle" is an odd tasting liqueur made by French Monks since the 16th century, it was common into the 19th century. Amelia didn't drink alcohol and Fred didn't carry around bottles of Liqueur - whisky perhaps - but not some fancy French monk "liqueurs."


  • In 1510, the Benedictine monk Don Bernardo Vincelli created the recipe for this French liqueur, which calls for 27 plants and spices. The three main ingredients are Angelica, Hyssop and Lemon Balm.
  • There are only three people on earth who know the complete recipe for making the spirit.
  • Benedictine is aged for up to 17 months before bottling.
  • The brand was first imported to the United States in 1888.

The sextant found with the bones and the bottle was commonly used by sailors prior to 1918 - where did I get that detail? From Tighar's own site:

A sextant is used in sailing for the most part.  And if it was found on Nikumaroro, chances are it came from a sailor.  AE didn't have a 1918 sextant aboard the Electra either way.

The point being - whether it's a male or female is irrelevant when one looks at the objects in light of the history of the region. Germany sent missionaries, Spain created churches (all the prayerbooks circa 1940 are in Spanish) and Europeans are still there - in the tombstones present on Saipan, Tinian and other islands, as well as those in the Marshalls. Europeans mated with islanders and had children. This idea that "no one has ever been to this island before" is something perpetrated by people who want to profit from their findings.

Besides the fact that there is forensic evidence the Electra landed on Mili atoll (see the History Channel program), I've examined the pieces myself, compared the color of the paint to a piece of her plane owned by a man in Seattle, I've got an interview with an NTSB investigator who proves on camera that the pieces found on Mili belonged to her plane. 

Eyewitnesses saw her transported to Saipan, eyewitnesses saw her on Saipan. Over 200 saw her there, and if someone has a problem with believing what islanders say (even though no other islanders say that from any other island in the Pacific) then I strongly urge them to look up the word "racism" in the dictionary: 

  1. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.

    • the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Somehow these fellows have a blind spot when it comes to the actual history of the place, the actual history of the people who lived there, and the actual people who claim that they or their ancestors saw her "land" on Mili, saw her arrested, and saw her taken to Saipan, where she was seen by many more. 

Plus there are the above veterans and U.S. Marines who claim they found her briefcase, found the Electra and watched it destroyed and buried by US forces. Not a theory or belief - but just reporting accurately what people actually have said about her and what happened.

If indeed, this fellow has proven these bones to be that of a European woman who is 5'7" - the Benedictine bottle, and the sextant would put her as someone who was aboard a Spanish ship in the 19th century who either after a wreck or some other reason made it to that island.  If it was Amelia, what would she be doing with a sextant from the first World War? What would she be doing with a bottle of Benedictine? Something neither she nor Fred drank.

From "the Bottle of Benedictine Found on Nikumaroro" on wikipedia.

(There's a photograph of a 1930's bottle with the caption "It is most likely representative of the bottle found on Gardner Island." Hello? There's no date on the bottle, and it could have come from any time period.) 

"When the skull was found and buried in April, 1940, it seems that there was a bottle nearby. Teng Koata apparently took the bottle with him to Tarawa before Gallagher began the "thorough search" suggested by his superiors. Although the bottle was recovered from Koata, it apparently was not shipped to Suva with the other things collected on Niku.

Telegram from Gallagher to the Acting Administrative Officer, Central Gilbert Islands District, Tarawa. Transcript
September 23, 1940
Please obtain from Koata (Native Magistrate Gardner on way to Central Hospital) a certain bottle alleged to have been found near skull discovered on Gardner Island. Grateful you retain bottle in safe place for present and ask Koata not to talk about skull which is just possibly that of Amelia Earhardt. [sic] Gallagher.

Here's the contents of Gallagher wrote in 1940:

"Some months ago working party on Gardner
discovered human skull – this was buried and I only recently heard about it. Thorough search has now produced more bones ( including lower jaw ) part of a shoe a bottle and a sextant box. I would appear that
(a) Skeleton is possibly that of a woman,
(b) Shoe was a womans and probably size 10,
(c) Sextant box has two numbers on it
 3500 ( stencilled ) and 1542 – sextant
 being old fashioned and probably painted
 over with black enamel.

Bones look more than four years old to me
but there seems to be very slight chance that this
may be remains of Amelia Earhardt. If United States authorities find that above evidence fits into general description, perhaps they could supply some dental information as many teeth are intact. Am holding latest finds for present but have not exhumed skull. There is no local indication that this discovery is related to wrekc of the “Norwich City”.  Gallagher.

Telegram from the Administrative Officer, Central Gilbert Islands District, Tarawa to Gallagher. Transcript September 30, 1940
Your telegram 23rd September. Koata has handed to me one benedictine bottle. A.O.C.G.I.D.
Gallagher in a telegram on October 6, 1940, says that there was "no indication of contents" found in the bottle, if any.

Cf. Bones Chronology.

Floyd Kilts was told that "beside the body was a cognac bottle with fresh water in it for drinking."

Let's just break this down for a second. Gallagher says he finds a skeleton, says it looks like a woman.  He says the shoe was probably size 10 and there was a sextant box. The sextant is reported to be from before 1918. (According to Tighar research) 

Alongside of that, he hears later there was an empty bottle of Benedictine that was "filled with water."

Just like the scientist examining the bones that he has never seen, Gallagher is talking about a bottle he never saw.

Further, in reply to some questions, Gallagher offered:  (a) Skeleton was not buried – skull was buried after discovery by natives (coconut crabs had scattered many bones), (b) (located) 100 feet from high water ordinary springs, (c) ("Was body buried?" Improbable, (d) ("What's the condition of the shoe?") Only part of sole remains, (f) Appears to have been stoutish walking shoe or heavy sandal, (g) “Benedictine” bottle but no indication of contents, There are indications that person was alive when cast ashore – fire, birds killed, etc., 

Okay, this was all covered back in 1988, this was all debunked decades ago. Now we have a scientist who claims that the bones "match that of a Caucasian female." Not sure how these are related whatsoever to Amelia, but it's the source of why these guys have been scouring this island for 30 years and have never found any other evidence. 

If they found a bottle of buttermilk, (her favorite) I'd have to think twice about whether it was hers or not.  

Or some other compelling clue - but nothing, zero, gives this any credibility to this conclusion whatsoever.  But nice to see Amelia's photograph whenever I do see it.
This webpage examines the eyewitness accounts and other evidence that shows Amelia and Fred were arrested and taken to Saipan. There were over 200 individuals who claimed they saw her, this site examines who they were, and what they heard or saw. It includes details of evidence the Electra was found on Saipan, interviews with people who saw her and the Electra before and after they were taken to Saipan. Interviews with over two dozen Saipanese who claim they saw her there and over a dozen US Marines who claim they found the Electra, her passport, briefcase and other details.



Eyewitness Accounts: Published


Pg 40. “Glancing out on the runway ramp.. an area not the main part of Aslito Field, but an extended arm of the airstrip at the southwest corner… Near an embankment was (AE’s plane). (LATER) .. a muffled explosion at Aslito Field erupted into a large flash fire… I crouched and crawled toward the airfield. When I could see what was burning, I was aghast! The twin engine plane was engulfed in flames! I could not see anyone by the light of the fire… in July 1944.”


Goerner gathers dozens of eyewitnesses to Earhart’s incarceration and second hand info about her execution.


Amelia reveals she did not know Morse code (and neither did Fred Noonan)



South African journalist gathers numerous eyewitnesses at Mili, Majuro and Jaluit. There is footage of these interviews, but it exists somewhere in Miami – still trying to locate the negative.


Elgen shows how the original plan devised by radio man Harry Manning was adhered to by the Coast Guard Itasca – they didn’t know Manning got off the plane in Hawaii and wasn’t on the electra. So 90% of all their communication was in Morse code – something neither AE or FN knew.


PG 32. Robert Sosbe, 1st battalion 20th Marines, 4th marine division) Sosbe said he saw the Electra before and during its destruction) “on or about D+5 after our infantry had captured Alsito, the night before, then were driven off, only to capture it again, our Co was called up to fill a gap between our infantry and the 27th Army infantry. The trucks carrying us stopped off the opposite side of the runway from the hangars and tower about 3 to 5 hundred yds. This two engine airplane was pulled from the hangar to off the runway where it was engulfed in flames from one end to the other. I can still remember exactly the way it burned, how the frame and ribs because it was visible. It was about half dark. It burned approximately 15-30 minutes.”

Same page: a letter from Earskine Nabers: “I am seeking Marines who were placed on duty at Aslito to guard a padlocked hangar containing AE’s plane. The hangar was not one of those located along the runway. It was located near what may have been a Japanese administration building, and an unfinished hangar at the tarmac, in the southwest corner of the airfield.

The follow up letter (pg 33)

…”we had to get Col. Clarence R Wallace to sign all the messages that came through the message center.) Hq 8th moved back to bivouac area. I was dropped off at the Hangar for guard duty at the main road that went by west side of hangar. The road that went out to hangar, I was placed on the right side, just as it left the main road….

Pg 34 The best I can recall the plane was pulled on the field by a jeep.. the plane was facing north after the plane was parked and jeep moved. A plane came over real low and on the next pass he strafed the plane and it went up in a huge fireball. (We were sitting on the west side of the airfield about one hundred yards from the plane. We were on higher ground. As far as I remember, the (men) that pulled the plane on the field and us guys from H & S 8th were the only ones there.”

Pg 36 Marine Capt Earl Ford of Fallbrook, CA, artillery master sgt with 2nd Marines. Interview 6-7-88 by Paul Cook. “The aircraft was about 100 yards (from me) maybe less. We all saw it. No way we could miss it. A civilian twin engine. No way it was military. American aircraft in civil registration… some officers were saying it was Amelia’s… it had only two windows on the side, back here.”

Arthur Nash, Air Corps Corps, P47 group on Aslito. Claims he saw the plane on July 4, 1944 (book says 1945, must be a misprint based on following) pg 40:

“After landing on Isley.. at 2:30 pm, Japanese soldiers were running around the airstrip, one killed himself in the cockpit of a P47D with a grenade…” I slept fairly well (in the hangar) and (in the morning) wandered over to a large hole in the hangar wall facing the other hangar. The hangar floor and the area between the hangars was littered with debris, displace with siding from the hangars, maybe 65 yards apart, but close enough to get a good look at a familiar aircraft outside the other hangar. My eyesight was acute and what I saw was Amelia Earhart’s airplane!... the next morning I went over to see it but it was gone.”

Jerrell Chatham, 1st platoon, I company, 3rd regiment, 2nd marine deivions: “I was driving trucks .. on Saipan… when we went ashore I saw the hangar where Amelia Earhart’s plane was stored, I also saw the plane in the air. They told us not to go close to the airplane hangar and we did not…”

Pg 44: Howard Ferris, US Marines: “Sent to Saipan for guard dutey… an old hangar structure at end of a runway. This hangar was not large,.. small trees in front of big doors.. (then he recounts the same Marine argument that Devine and Nabers recount – where some Navy brass attempted to get in, but a Marine (Nabers) refused them entry.)” Howard was not present at the fire, but one of his buddies was. The buddy said a truck arrived with many gas cans and the guards saturated the entire hangar.. and it burned totally.

Pg 50 Robert Sowash, 23rd regiment 4th Marines Division: “I saw a plane in a building that was not a military plane.. I remember other Marines saying it was the same as Earhart’s. Later the place was cordoned off..”

Pete Leblanc, 121st Naval CB’s, 4th Marine division: “some of our guys were sneaking over towards the airfield to try and see (AE’s plane). We heard there were guards there. Then it was burned up later.”


Over 200 eyewitnesses as gathered by all the different authors with the various reports of her landing on Mili, being brought to Jaluit and incarcerated in Garapan prison.