On July 5, 1937, as the United States was searching the Pacific Ocean for Amelia Earhart’s missing airplane, the State Department got a phone call from the Japanese Embassy in Washington.
Tokyo, the embassy said, wanted to know whether it could help out.
Relations between the two countries had been deteriorating since Japan had attacked China in 1931 and were destined to end up with the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor and the calamity of World War II.
But Greg Bradsher, senior archivist at the National Archives, noted in a new blog post that the Earhart tragedy offered both countries a brief moment of cordiality, which each hoped might lead to better relations.
Earhart’s disappearance roared back into the news this week after the History Channel aired a documentary contending that she survived her last flight and was captured by the Japanese. As proof, the report touted a blurry old photograph that purportedly showed Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.
One problem: A Japanese military history blogger unearthed evidence that the photo was first published in a 1935 Japanese travelogue – two years before Earhart and Noonan set off on their…