Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Amelia Earhart" Season 1 Episode 15

The episode "Amelia Earhart" first aired on June 1, 1977 . It was direct by H.G. Stark and written and produced by Alex Pomasanoff.

I remember seeing this episode at one point as a child. This, along with some books in my school's library, all sparked my initial interest in Amelia Earhart. I always loved the idea of the mystery- what could have happened to her?

Nimoy starts out at the height of Earhart's popularity. In 1932 she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. We quickly get to see some video of her speaking to a crowd just after her record breaking voyage.

Nimoy likes to sing her praises. Her bravery and stamina are not in doubt. Earhart's accomplishments are admirable. Nimoy tells us of her marriage and her successful flight from Hawaii to California in 1935, becoming the first person to do so. After this success Earhart announced her plans to fly around the world. They do a nice job showing some video footage of Earhart, revealing that she hopes her fame and success will encourage other women to fly. In June of 1937, Earhart made final preparations to take off with navigator Fred Noonan in her attempt to fly around the world. We are told that she disappeared without a trace on the final leg of her trip, less than 7,000 miles from the end. Nimoy tells us about the rumors and conspiracy theories  that sprang up in the days and weeks following her disappearance. Of the many theories, the possibility that she was shot down by the Japanese and maybe even an American spy are the most scintillating.

Nimoy tells us about the film Flight for Freedom, that was made just a few years after the disappearance. The film tells of an aviator, just like Earhart, who is recruited by the military to purposely ditch her plane in order to give the US an excuse to send a bunch of ships to that part of the Pacific and scout it out in the event of a potential war with Japan. This film led many to assume this is what happened to Earhart. Now we meet retired Air Force Major Joseph Gervais who has spent a good deal of time investigating what happened to Earhart. It's clear that he believes Earhart was on a mission authorized by FDR to find photographic evidence the Japanese had violated a treaty. He believes she was shot down and ended up landing on Hull Island. Gervais claims to have met a Japanese soldier who told him an American female pilot was interrogated in 1937 and taken to Japan as apolitical prisoner. He claims she was held for 8 years and was secretly taken away before the US occupation of Japan. He believes she was smuggled out as a nun and assumed a new identity in New Jersey.

Gervais believes that Earhart became known as Irene Bolam. He says he met her in 1965. Bolam denies it. We see video of Bolam denying it and she is adamant. Very interesting!

(Irene Bolam)
A little research by e reveals, that Gervais worked with author Joe Klaas to writhe book Amelia Earhart Lives in 1970. In the book, these claims are made. Bolam sued and go the publisher to stop publishing the book. I'm not convinced that Bolam is Earhart.I think Nimoy is skeptical too, as they don't spend much time on this. Nimoy attempts to reconstruct the last moments before Earhart disappeared. A man named Captain Long has done the research for this reconstruction. He concludes a series of small errors caused them to miss the island, forcing them to ditch into the sea. He thinks he knows the exact location where the plane went into the sea. Long believes the plane is on the ocean floor and is hoping to advance technology to find it.

Nimoy goes back to the events that happened after the disappearance and details the search and rescue mission that was employed to find her. Next we are introduced to newsman Fred Goerner. His research is based on the radio communications after her disappearance. Goerner belives she was captured and held on the island of Saipan by the Japanese. Goerner even finds supposed eye witnesses who told him where she was buried. He hasn't been able to find proof.

Unlike Gervais, Goerner believes she died while in custody. "In at least some sense, Amelia Earhart is alive. For in the memory of her courage, her passion, her dedication to an ideal, she still touches many of us." Nimoy concludes reminding us that until proof is found, investigation and speculation will continue. So the search goes on! In 2014 wreckage was found and claimed to be from Earhart's planes, though doubts remain.

Good episode! Just the right amount of history and mystery. I loved the part with Irene Bolam. It was a bit creepy and well done, though I don't believe she is Earhart.

You can watch this episode "Amelia Earhart" below.

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