Nagasaki, Japan. Special to The Spoof. As he lay on his death bed last week in a cheap, assisted-living facility in a suburb of Nagasaki, Haruto Tanaka broke his silence about a mystery that has consumed much of the western world and Japan for over 80 years. To the surprise of everyone, including his eight children, the 80-year-old retired air traffic controller revealed that his mother was the legendary aviatrix, Amelia Earhart.
Earhart, piloting a Lockheed Electra on a round-the-world flight in the summer of 1937, disappeared in the Pacific on July 2. The plane was never found, despite an intensive search by the U.S. navy and coastguard. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were presumed dead.
But Tanaka recounted a different ending. Speaking with great difficulty, in a voice not much louder than a whisper, he recounted how a navigation error, common in such circumstances, took the plane hundreds of miles off-course. Noonan eventually recalculated their location as close to Japanese-governed Saipan, hundreds of miles from their Howland Island destination. Earhart, almost out of fuel, managed to reach an outlying, uninhabited island, and crash-landed there.
Noonan died in the crash, and Earhart's injuries were severe, but not considered life threatening. She was cared for by a naval medic over a period of several months. Despite her repeated requests to contact American authorities in Japan or the U.S., she was held incommunicado for nearly a year.
However, a romantic relationship developed between her and the medic. She became pregnant, and a son was born slightly more than a year after her crash. The child bore the last name of his father, and was given a common Japanese first name, but the parents agreed that the son's middle name should reflect his mother's name. Hence, Amelio was his middle name.
Within a few weeks after the birth of her son, Earhart's condition deteriorated, and she died, suddenly. The Japanese navy ordered the medic to swear to secrecy regarding the Earhart crash and the birth of her child. He only spoke of it once, when their son reached his 21st birthday, presenting the young man with the Longines watch his mother wore at the time of the crash. That was the only tangible evidence of his relationship to Earhart.
The elder Tanaka never spoke of Earhart again, and the son maintained the pledge to secrecy his father had taken. Only on his death bed did he relate the tale as reported above.
Japanese authorities and historians have not refuted Tanaka's tale. Americans, who have posited numerous theories about the fate of Earhart and Noonan, are skeptical. Haruto Amelio Tanaka, however, died convinced that he was the famed flier's son.