Today, Amelia Earhart is remembered for her mysterious death, but she became famous for her solo flight across the Atlantic. The mishaps and perils of the flight only increased her fame.
After the end of World War I, the old world collapsed and what we understand as modernity emerged. Women left their intended roles as mothers and wives in droves. At the same time, society was gripped by an enthusiasm for technology and speed. Young women took the wheel of automobiles, explored the world and conquered the cockpits of airplanes. There were female pioneers in almost every country. In Germany, people still remember Hitler’s female test pilots. Melitta von Stauffenberg testing Hitler’s dive bombers. And Hannah Reitsch, who ended up in a suicidal operation on the street “Unter den Linden” in Berlin in 1945 and wanted to fly Hitler out of the burning city. In the USSR, Marina Raskova set flight records in the 1930s. During the war, she persuaded Stalin to raise three all-women air regiments and send them to the front. The “White Rose of Stalingrad” – Lidiya Litvyak – scored 13 own and four group kills in over 150 enemy flights against the Luftwaffe before falling in August 1943.
The most famous of all female pilots
But no pilot became as famous as the American Amelia Earhart. This is due to the iconographic appearance of the woman with the characteristic short-haired head. Because she was a media star. And above all, her mysterious death. Earhart wanted to circumnavigate the world. But their plane, a Lockheed Electra, never got there. The machine disappeared over the Pacific, and legends have circulated about its death ever since.
Amelia Earhart secured her place in aviation history a few years earlier. On May 20, 1932, she crossed the Atlantic in a Lockheed Vega 5B. Five years after Charles Lindbergh, she was the first woman to attempt a solo flight across the Atlantic. Four years earlier she had made the flight as a passenger. Like a “sack of potatoes,” she scoffed.
Amelia Earhart had been one thing above all else: brave, not to say foolhardy. Earhart knew no fear. Once the decision has been made to do something, only persistence helps, fears are just paper tigers, she judged. She discovered her love for airplanes during the First World War. In 1922 she received her pilot’s license – a sensation at the time.
Her flight from Newfoundland to Paris everything else went smoothly. It could easily have happened that Earhart would not have reached his goal. Like all solo flyers, she struggled with fatigue. Fire broke out, fuel leaked and ice formed on the wings. With great difficulty she reached Europe – but ended up in Northern Ireland near Derry instead of Paris. Still, she wrote, “After midnight the moon set and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the charm of flight is the charm of beauty.”
A media star
This did not detract from her fame; on the contrary, the danger made her a star. She once remarked that the fame of a downed pilot is far greater than that of a man in a crash. Not realizing how aptly she anticipated her afterlife. Amelia Earhart was not a loner, she used her fame to stand up for women’s rights. “One of my most common fears is that girls, especially those whose desires are not routine, are not getting a fair chance… This has been passed down through generations, a legacy of ancient customs. The corollary of this is that women are raised to be shy. “
After the flight across the Atlantic, there could only be one step up: a flight around the world, of course in stages and not alone. Her navigator, Fred Noonan, accompanied her. Noonan said she was the only female aviator he would venture on such an expedition with. Not only is she a good companion and pilot, but she can also endure hardship and work like a man. But the two never returned to the United States, and the machine disappeared over the Pacific. Of course she was wanted but never found.
Shortly before her disappearance, she noted: “Not much more than a month ago, I was standing on the other side of the Pacific, looking west. Tonight, I was looking east across the Pacific. In these fast-moving days that have intervened, the whole world is passed us on this vast ocean. I shall be glad when the perils of navigating it are behind us.”
Disappeared into infinity
Countless legends surround her death. Also because a company has set itself the task of finding the crash site and Earhart’s body and it is apparently part of the business model to announce new sensations (Starved and thirsty – mystery about the death of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart)
Countless amateur detectives dedicate themselves to the search. For example, one presented a photo that should show Earhart and Noonan in Japanese territory with the Electra in the background. There was indeed a certain resemblance, but the investigator failed to notice that his photographic evidence came from a book that had been printed well before the flight (Investigator’s error – alleged photographic evidence does not show Earhart)
Many theses, few facts
The society for tracking Earhart (International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR)) was sure that she could land on the beach of Nikumaroro Island and died of thirst there. When, despite all efforts, no traces could be found on the island, the theory persisted that the sea had washed away all objects and that the bodies of the dead had been eaten by giant crabs and the bones scattered (Death of the Aviation Pioneer – Amelia Earhart was killed by giant crabs eaten). It is more likely that Earhart and Noonan have disappeared without a trace even today. And that will probably only change if parts of their Electra should still be found.
Until then, the film “Amelia” (2009) remains worth seeing. Hilary Swank captures the iconographic look of the pilot confusingly well.
Joni Mitchel meditated on her and sang:
A spirit of aviation Was she swallowed by the sky Or the sea. Like me she had a dream of flying As Icarus rose On beautiful foolish arms