Oops: New photo of captured "Amelia Earhart" was apparently published in Japanese travel guide in ... 1935

A somewhat relevant detail, as Earhart went missing in, er, 1937.

C’mon, it can’t be this easy, can it? A two-hour blockbuster History Channel special and a thousand credulous news stories based on a new photo of Amelia Earhart “proving” that she made it to the Marshall Islands after she disappeared…

…and all someone had to do to blow it up was google “Jaluit Atoll”? What?

Kota Yamano, a military history blogger who unearthed the Japanese photograph, said it took him just 30 minutes to effectively debunk the documentary’s central claim

Yamano ran an online search using the keyword “Jaluit atoll” and a decade-long timeframe starting in 1930.

“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” he said. “I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”

As luck would have it, the book containing the photo has been digitized and uploaded to the Japanese National Diet’s archives. Here’s the photo, plain as day, at the Diet site. There’s no question it’s the same picture as the one touted by the History Channel. The only question is the date, a crucial but conspicuously missing detail in the copy of the photo uncovered in 2012 in America’s own national archives. The Daily Mail reported last week that it had found its own copy of the photo in an envelope of pictures taken on Jaluit Atoll after 1940, making it highly unlikely — although not impossible — that that’s Earhart in the photo.

Page 113 of the Japanese travel book, though, lists the year of publication as 1935, which would, of course, make it thoroughly impossible that that’s her. And she’s not the only example of misidentification in the photo, apparently. It was supposedly the Japanese ship Koshu Maru that transported Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan from Jaluit to Saipan, per the new theory of what happened to her after she crashed. But the same Japanese blogger who found the photo in the Diet archives “identifi[ed] the ship in the image as the Koshu, which the Japanese seized in World War I, rather than the Koshu Maru, which was launched in 1937.” Oops.

Well, History Channel?

Unless the date of publication on the travelogue is inexplicably wrong, I don’t know what else is left to say. And even if it is wrong and the book was published after 1935, good luck explaining how the Japanese government allowed a secret photo of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan into a travelogue about Jaluit Atoll. One final wrinkle: Les Kinney, the retired U.S. Treasury agent who found a copy of the photo in the national archives, claims that he discovered it in a “formerly top secret” folder that had been “misfiled.” Similarly, the History Channel’s investigative team reportedly concluded that the photo was taken by someone who was spying on the Japanese for the United States in the Marshall Islands. How did these guys misfire that badly about the origins of a pic that was published in a Japanese tourist guide?