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2 say they saw Amelia Earhart on Saipan

MEMBERS of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. hosted dinner  on Tuesday evening for two individuals who said they saw Amelia Earhart on Saipan before World War II.

The two are Josephine Blanco Akiyama, who now resides in the states, and Joaquin Salas.

Akiyama, 92, said she still vividly remembes her only encounter with the American aviator.

“It was in 1937. I was 11 years old when I saw her,” Akiyama said in an interview. “I didn’t know her name.”

She said she never talked about it until she was 20 years old.

She was an assistant to a Navy dentist when she told him about her eyewitness account of Earhart’s presence on Saipan. Her story was included in Earhart’s biography, “Daughter of the Sky,” by Paul Briand Jr.  who wrote:

“In the summer of 1937 Josephine was riding her bicycle toward Tanapag Harbor. She was taking her Japanese brother-in-law, JY Mastsumoto, his lunch and was hurrying along because it was nearly 12 noon. Josephine has a special pass to the Japanese military area near the harbor. Not even Japanese civilians were admitted to the area unless they carried the proper credentials. The young girl rode up to gate, stopped her bicycle, and presented her pass. The guard allowed her into the restricted area. On the way to meet her brother-in-law, Josephine heard an airplane flying overhead. She looked up and a saw a silver two-engine plane. The plane seemed to be in trouble, for it came down low, headed out into the harbor, and belly-landed on the water.

“The plane crash-landed in the harbor. She and her brother-in-law joined the people who gathered to watch. She saw the American woman standing next to a tall man wearing a short-sleeved sport shirt, and was surprised because the woman was not dressed as a woman usually dressed. Instead of a dress, the American woman wore a man’s shirt and trousers; and instead of long hair,  she wore her hair cut short, like a man. The faces of the man and woman were white and drawn, as if they were sick.”

Josephine Blanco Akiyama poses with her Blanco family at the dinner hosted by the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc.  members led by Rep. Donald Barcinas at Fiesta Resort & Spa on Tuesday evening.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. LirioJosephine Blanco Akiyama poses with her Blanco family at the dinner hosted by the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. members led by Rep. Donald Barcinas at Fiesta Resort & Spa on Tuesday evening. Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

In an interview, Akiyama said it was only after the war when she learned that the man and woman she saw were Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan.

Joaquin Salas was also 11 years old when she saw Earhart in front of his family’s house in Chalan Kanoa.

“I saw a Japanese military truck. They were loading three people — two men and one lady. A Japanese soldier used black ribbons to tie their hands. They parked in front of our house. We were watching them,” he said, adding that it was the first and last time he saw Earhart.

“I don’t where the Japanese took them.”

Rep. Donald Barcinas, president of Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc., said Akiyama’s “testimony is a living testimony — she is a living history, and we are very proud and honored to have her here. She is in the books written about Amelia Earhart.”

Barcinas said their plan to build an Amelia Earhart monument on island has the support of the Marianas Visitor Authority, the Department of Public Lands, the Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.

He added that their non-profit organization has been receiving donations from all over the U.S. “So far, we have received $12,000,” the lawmaker said.

He said they may erect the monument at the old Japanese jail house in Garapan near the CNMI museum.

According to Wikipedia, “During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career, and disappearance continues to this day.”