Amelia Earhart photo proved false

Not Amelia Earhart
The now-debunked photo. Photo credit: National Archive

A photo alleging to have shown famed aviator Amelia Earhart in Japanese custody was published two years before she went missing, it has been discovered.

The image, which a History Channel documentary said was found in the US National Archives, was said to have shown Ms Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, on on a dock in the Marshall Islands, surrounded by Japanese.

The documentary said facial recognition experts had verified it was likely Ms Earhart and Mr Noonan, who vanished in the Pacific whilst trying to fly around the globe in 1937.

But an eagle-eyed blogger in Tokyo found the photograph in the Japanese national library - in a book published in October 1935.

"I have never believed the theory that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, so I decided to find out for myself," Kota Yamano, a military history blogger, told the Guardian.

"I was sure that the same photo must be on record in Japan."

He searched for the name of the atoll in an online database, and found the image right away.

"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."

Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.
Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. Photo credit: Getty

Another expert told the Guardian the photo appeared to be from the late 1920s or early 1930s, based on "the Marshallese visual background, lack of Japanese flags flying on any vessels but one, and the age configuration of the steam-driven steel vessels".