SAN DIEGO (KSWB) — A long-lost letter recovered by a San Diego man is now considered the last known correspondence from trailblazing aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator before their disappearance.
It has been nearly 84 years since Earhart and her partner, Captain Fred J. Noonan, went missing during their historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe, and the case remains one of history’s great mysteries. Despite numerous extensive search missions, very little confirmed evidence of the pilots and their Lockheed Electra plane were ever found.
But now new clues have emerged: decades-old letters in the hands of a San Diego man. Hunter Person says he first learned of the correspondence when he was just a teenager, after his mother discovered them tucked away in his grandfather’s old roll desk 40 years ago. She explained that Noonan had been a close family friend and that they had exchanged letters for years, starting when she was just 15 years old.
The four pieces of mail, handwritten by Noonan as he traveled with Earhart, came from a span of three years between 1935 and 1937, when Hunter’s mother Beverly was just a teen.
“It was exciting finding it after all those years, because it was kind of lost for a while,” Person said.
Motivated to learn more about the letters, Person recently decided to share them publicly for the first time, bringing them to experts with the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
In all of the letters, Noonan provides fascinating insights on his historic trips made alongside the female flyer. But one 17-page letter is of particular interest to Earhart enthusiasts..
“It’s an exciting letter, it tells the whole trip, and the last postmark was from Bandung, Java,” Person said.
It’s postmarked June 23, 1937 and mailed from the Grand Hotel in Indonesia. Just eight days later on July 2, the duo issued a radio call from somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and then vanished.
Experts say it stands as one of the few, if not only, firsthand accounts of the ill-fated flights.
“This is the last great unfound mystery,” Jim Kidrick, with the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “They found the Bismark, the German battleship, they found the Titanic, and other things in the world, but this is a mystery everyone would like to solve.”
Kidrick says it’s the last known letter written prior to the aviators disappearing. It contains specific details, dates, locations and weather challenges from the fateful flight.
“(There’s) nothing like this,” Kidrick said. “This is like someone’s journal. This is like a diary, you know, it’s a reveal that we just never expected. I never expected to ever read something like this — ever.”
Now Person says it’s important that his mother’s letters end up in the right hands. He hasn’t decided yet who will get the historic pieces — perhaps a collector or museum for display — but they’ve already generated plenty of interest.
Either way, he hopes one day they could finally help provide some answers to what may have happened to Earhart and her trusted navigator all those years ago.