TIME People

Why the Official Search for Amelia Earhart Was Abandoned

Amelia Earhart
Seattle Times/JR Partner/Getty Images Studio portrait of Earhart, 1928.

The search for the famed aviator, who went missing in 1937, has resumed

It’s been decades since Amelia Earhart’s last broadcast was received in early July of 1937, and interest in finding out what happened to her has never fully disappeared. That fact was highlighted on Tuesday by news that the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is undertaking a new mission to the South Pacific island where she is suspected to have crash-landed.

But, although the group has said there’s evidence the search will be in the right place, the hunt for Earhart is notorious for frustrating those it captivates—starting with the very first people who tried to solve the mystery.

Earhart had set off from Miami on June 1, accompanied by navigator Fred Noonan, aiming to fly around the world. They had made it a good chunk of the way within the first month, but public interest was sparing. Though Earhart was the most famous female pilot in the world, circumnavigation was no longer such a shocking feat and there was no scientific knowledge to be gained from the flight.

On July 1 they took off from New Guinea, headed across the open ocean bound for Howland Island, more than 1,500 mi. southwest of Hawaii. “With typical stunt flyer’s negligence, Miss Earhart did not bother to reveal her position along the way,” TIME noted the following week. Eventually that vessel picked up a message saying that she was low on gas but could not yet sight the island. That was the last they heard from her.

Initial rescue teams were hopeful—her plane should have floated—but a freak storm struck just as the U.S. Navy was setting out to look for her. Stray radio signals that seemed to be an SOS from her were picked up as far away as Wyoming, but there was no way to know where they were coming from or if they were the real thing.

The following week, coverage of the disappearance had lost some of its initial optimism. “Last week the likelihood was approaching sad certainty that Amelia Earhart Putnam had made headlines for the last time,” TIME noted. Investigation had revealed that the position-update oversight wasn’t the only evidence that Earhart had gotten cocky. Her plane was not equipped with the best navigational tools available, and Earhart had decided that attaching a trailing antenna to it, which would have allowed the Coast Guard ship to ping her craft in order to narrow down the search, would be “too much bother.”

Given mounting evidence of at worst hubris and at best terrible planning, it was getting hard to ignore the cost of looking for her. The Navy had turned out to conduct the search, and TIME reported that it was costing $250,000 a day—and endangering the lives of the searchers—even as the possibility was decreasing of finding either Earhart or Noonan alive.

Finally, the headline in the last issue of TIME that July made the situation clear: “Search Abandoned.”

While its commanders gritted their teeth and hoped fervently for no mishaps, 60 of the aircraft carrier Lexington’s complement of 62 planes took the air near the point where the International Date Line crosses the Equator. Later the searching force was cut to 42 planes. One day the Lexington’s 1,500 sailors roasted under a fierce sun and the aviators smeared their faces with protective grease; another day, tropical squalls sent planes scurrying back to the ship. At week’s end, having swept an area roughly the size of Texas, the Lexington pointed home for San Diego.

And it wasn’t just the search that was being abandoned; the whole culture of celebrity aviation was coming to an end. Congress was considering making it illegal for the Navy to spend money on search-and-rescue for flights that were of neither scientific nor commercial value, and government aviation officials were cracking down on permissions for daring flights. “From now on no individual will be permitted to take off on any ocean or round-the-world flight that smacks of a stunt,” TIME quoted the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, John Monroe Johnson.

In January of 1939, Amelia Earhart was officially declared dead. Still, there was no way to stop private groups from looking for her—a hunt that continues to this day.

TIME Baseball

The Disappointing Reason Babe Ruth Left Baseball

Hulton Archive / Getty Images Babe Ruth wearing his New York Yankees uniform and cap, circa 1935

The Great Bambino announced his retirement on June 2, 1935

Every baseball fan—well, except for that kid from The Sandlot—knows that Babe Ruth was one of the sport’s all-time greats.

But at a time when beloved players embark on season-long farewell tours to mark their departure from the sport, Ruth’s retirement—exactly 80 years ago, on June 2, 1935—came not with a great bang-bino, but rather with a whimper.

Shortly before that year’s season began, Ruth had accepted an offer from the Boston Braves to leave the New York Yankees. In addition to playing for Boston, Ruth would serve as a vice president and assistant manager of the organization, and would also take home a percentage of profits on top of a $25,000 salary.

But things quickly soured once Ruth arrived in Beantown. On June 2, about half-way through the season, he announced that he was done for good. As TIME reported the following week:

“Judge Fuchs is a double-crosser. His word is no good. He doesn’t keep his promises. I don’t want another damn thing from him—the dirty double-crosser.”

With these and more unprintable comments, George Herman Ruth last week resigned from the Boston Braves with whom he signed a contract last February to perform as baseball player, assistant manager and vice president. His reasons: personal differences with the Braves’ president, Judge Emil Fuchs, climaxed by Judge Fuchs’s refusal to allow him to attend a party on board the S.S. Normandie (see p. 20) which Babe Ruth thought would be “a great thing for baseball.” Judge Fuchs’s reply: an unconditional release for Ruth, an offer to sell the team which he says has cost him $2,000,000.

Ruth never again played professional baseball.

TIME Lindsey Graham

How Lindsey Graham First Earned a Reputation for Bucking the GOP

Lindsey Graham
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images Lindsey Graham, R-SC, looks on before the start of a hearing on body cameras in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 19, 2015, in Washington, DC.

He's known for reaching across the aisle

With his decision to announce his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has drawn the eyes of politics-watchers to his record of bucking his party on select issues.

In recent years, that has meant speaking out about the risks of climate change, backing President Obama’s Supreme Court nominations and supporting immigration reform. But that contrarianism dates back to one of his early defining moments in politics: the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent impeachment trial of President Clinton.

A former military lawyer, Graham was elected to the House of Representatives amid the 1990s tide of Newt Gingrich-led, small-government fervor. Though he often focused on issues like tax cuts in his early years in the House, he soon found himself drawing national attention for his attitude toward getting rid of Gingrich. When several GOP Congressmen attempted in mid-1997 to get themselves a new Speaker, Graham was identified by TIME as “a rebel leader”—but taking sides against Gingrich didn’t mean defying the party. Rather, he told the magazine he wanted to get across that “being conservative and mean are not synonymous.”

That tension between Graham and Gingrich continued into 1998, as the impeachment trial neared.

Graham, along with Mary Bono of California, was cited as one of two Republicans who might vote with Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in order to prevent the vote from moving to the full House. He famously asked the rhetorical question “Is this Watergate or Peyton Place?” while dissecting the charges. Graham ended up voting for three of the four articles of impeachment, but even so he was the only Republican on the committee not to vote “aye” on all four. (The one he voted against was Article II, one of the perjury charges.)

In the end, TIME’s Margaret Carlson posited that his indecision about the vote came, perhaps, with ulterior motives. “Representative Lindsey Graham‘s early turn as Hamlet turned out to be a search for an unoccupied spot on the opinion spectrum that might land him on Meet the Press,” she wrote. “He found a ‘legal technicality’ that allowed him to vote against one article, earning him the valuable CONSERVATIVE BUCKS HIS PARTY headline in the New York Times.”

Whatever the motive, the reputation stuck.

TIME White House

See President Kennedy in a Home Movie from 1961

One man from Virginia shares a very special heirloom

Steve Smirco’s father, Edwin, always liked to take home movies. Birthday parties, first communions, holidays—name the event, and odds are he was there with his camera.

So when he made each of his children a gift of a compilation of those taped moments, the present was not out of character. The first volume of the gift covered the 1960s. “There was a section in there that he had taken when our family was stationed overseas in Paris,” Smirco, a 57-year-old fitness-center manager from Fredericksburg, Va., recalls. “It just so happened that President Kennedy came in at the time that we were in Paris as well.”

Naturally, Smirco’s father—who was an Army officer at the time—brought his camera to cover that moment as well. When Smirco got his tape of childhood family moments, it included a glimpse of the young president. That footage, which Smirco provided first to TIME, is presented here.

The moment it shows was part of a European tour that Kennedy undertook during his first year in office. The Bay of Pigs disaster, which wounded Kennedy’s standing on the world stage, hung heavy over the trip. But at least one leg of the tour was easy: winning over the people of Paris. The City of Light–where the President was to meet with Charles de Gaulle to discuss arming France with nuclear weapons, among other topics—was his first stop. And as TIME reported, the First Lady made an instant connection with her admirers abroad. (“I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris,” the President was heard to joke.)

It was exactly 54 years ago this week, on June 2, 1961, that Smirco’s father decided to head down to the headquarters of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and see if he could catch a glimpse of the visiting President, bringing his new camera and wearing his street clothes rather than his Army uniform. Smirco says that every time he’s shown the footage to someone who was alive at the time, that person’s eyes have lit up as he or she recalls the era. “It just stirs up really pleasant memories in peoples’ minds of this young president and what he could have been,” Smirco says.

That lot includes his father, now 79. In addition to conjuring warm memories, the video is also a reminder of a missed opportunity. Though Kennedy was standing right in front of Edwin Smirco and extended a hand for a shake, he didn’t get the chance for that contact. He was, he later told his son, too busy trying to get a good shot.

Read more about Kennedy’s 1961 visit to Paris, here in the TIME Vault: Grand Tour

TIME politics

How a Scandal Made Dennis Hastert the Speaker of the House

US Representative Dennis Hastert (C), R-IL, speaks
Stephen Jaffe—AFP/Getty Images Representative Dennis Hastert (C), R-IL, speaks to the media after receiving the nomination for Speaker of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in January of 1999

The politician now faces charges for money misconduct

Prosecutors announced on Thursday that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was charged with crimes related to bank-transaction reporting and with lying to the FBI. It’s an ignominious turn in the politician’s story, but not his first brush with scandal.

In fact, it was a scandal—one of a very different sort, involving a different person, but a scandal nonetheless—that got him into the Speaker’s seat in the first place.

Hastert officially became speaker at the beginning of 1999, following the tenure of Newt Gingrich. But Hastert was not the first choice to do so. Rather, Bob Livingston, a veteran Congressman from Louisiana who had been a visible figure in 1998’s House preoccupation with the scandal involving President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, had been chosen by his colleagues for that seat.

At the same time, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt issued a challenge: seeing as Congress was so upset about the President’s personal life, he placed an ad in the Washington Post offering $1 million to any woman who presented evidence that she had had an affair with a high-ranking government official. When several people came forward about Livingston, the Speaker-elect in December 1998 made an announcement to the world: “I have on occasion strayed from my marriage.”

“Livingston gave no details, which left Hustler publisher Larry Flynt to spread around whatever he pleased,” TIME reported. “With no sign of proof, Flynt claimed four women had told his staff about past liaisons with Livingston. Flynt said he has a tape of Newt Gingrich’s erstwhile successor engaging in ‘raunchy’ phone sex.”

Hastert, somewhat reluctantly, stepped up.”[Before] he had even decided he wanted the post, Hastert was already the front runner,” TIME reported. “Outgoing speaker Gingrich, whom Livingston had informed the night before, was buttonholing members on the floor. [Majority Whip Tom] DeLay was harnessing his network of 64 vote counters on behalf of Hastert, who happens to be his chief deputy. Within five hours of Livingston’s announcement, the race was won. ‘It’s over,’ said a senior Republican aide. ‘Denny was the hardest one to convince.'”

Hastert ended up serving in that position until 2007.

Read the full story from 1998, here in the TIME Vault: The Speaker Who Never Was

TIME technology

How TIME Explained the Way Computers Work

The Computer Society
The Feb. 20, 1978, cover of TIME

You don't need a Turing Machine to understand it

When Alan Turing submitted his paper On Computable Numbers to the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society on this day, May 28, in 1936, he could not have guessed that it would lead not only to the computer as we know it today, but also nearly all of the gadgets and devices that are so crucial a part of our lives.

The paper demonstrated that a so-called Turing Machine could perform solvable computations, a proof that is commonly seen as one of the original stepping stones toward the existence of modern computers. Though Turing, who died in 1954, never got to see a smartphone, his paper remains the touchstone behind the technology.

For a 1978 cover story about “The Computer Society,” TIME broke down how computers work in easy(-ish)-to understand terms, thus explaining why Turing mattered so much:

In the decimal system, each digit of a number read from right to left is understood to be multiplied by a progressively higher power of 10. Thus the number 4,932 consists of 2 multiplied by 1, plus 3 multiplied by 10, plus 9 multiplied by 10 X 10, plus 4 multiplied by 10 X 10 X 10. In the binary system, each digit of a number, again read from right to left, is multiplied by a progressively higher power of 2. Thus the binary number 11010 equals 0 times 1, plus 1 times 2, plus 0 times 2 X 2, plus 1 times 2 X 2 X 2, plus 1 times 2 X 2 X 2 X 2–for a total of 26 (see chart).

Working with long strings of 1s and 0s would be cumbersome for humans–but it is a snap for a digital computer. Composed mostly of parts that are essentially on-off switches, the machines are perfectly suited for binary computation. When a switch is open, it corresponds to the binary digit 0; when it is closed, it stands for the digit 1. Indeed, the first modern digital computer completed by Bell Labs scientists in 1939 employed electromechanical switches called relays, which opened and closed like an old-fashioned Morse telegraph key. Vacuum tubes and transistors can also be used as switching devices and can be turned off and on at a much faster pace.

But how does the computer make sense out of the binary numbers represented by its open and closed switches? At the heart of the answer is the work of two other gifted Englishmen. One of them was the 19th century mathematician George Boole, who devised a system of algebra, or mathematical logic, that can reliably determine if a statement is true or false. The other was Alan Turing, who pointed out in the 1930s that, with Boolean algebra, only three logical functions are needed to process these “trues” and “falses”–or, in computer terms, 1s and 0s. The functions are called AND, OR and NOT, and their operation can readily be duplicated by simple electronic circuitry containing only a few transistors, resistors and capacitors. In computer parlance, they are called logic gates (because they pass on information only according to the rules built into them). Incredible as it may seem, such gates can, in the proper combinations, perform all the computer’s high-speed prestidigitations.

The simplest and most common combination of the gates is the half-adder, which is designed to add two 1s, a 1 and a 0, or two 0s. If other half-adders are linked to the circuit, producing a series of what computer designers call full adders, the additions can be carried over to other columns for tallying up ever higher numbers. Indeed, by using only addition, the computer can perform the three other arithmetic functions.

Read the full story from 1978, here in the TIME Vault: The Numbers Game

TIME technology

The Teenage Pilot Who Could Have Caused a Global Crisis

Mathias Rust
Sovfot / UIG / Getty Images Mathias Rust, a west german teenager who landed a Cessna sports plane in Red Square on May 28, 1987, on trial for invading Soviet air space.

Mathias Rust caused a stir with a Cold War stunt

It’s been a rough couple of months for drone enthusiasts in the U.S. capital. In January, a drone manufacturer decided to disable its devices within the boundaries of downtown Washington, D.C., after a remote-controlled drone crashed on the White House lawn. And yet, earlier this month, another man was arrested for trying to use a drone too near President Obama’s residence.

This drone dilemma may seem like a singularly modern problem—after all, the world is only just confronting how to maintain safety and privacy in a world where anyone can operate one of the aircraft. And yet, these ill-fated aviators have a precursor who predates the availability of recreational drones.

His name is Mathias Rust, and it was on May 28, 1987, that he landed a plane in Moscow’s Red Square. His story, as reported by TIME the following week, sounds like the Cold War, pre-drone version of the stories that have come out of Washington in recent months:

Tourists and Muscovites strolling through Red Square that evening looked up to see a small single-engine plane coming in low from the south. It circled the great plaza, barely clearing the red brick walls of the Kremlin and buzzing the Lenin Mausoleum before finally touching down. At about 7:30 p.m. the little craft came to rest on the cobblestones behind onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral. Bystanders scattered. Police gaped in astonishment. Official black sedans sped to the spot.

Out of the plane, a blue-and-white Cessna Skyhawk 172, stepped Mathias Rust, 19, a computer operator and amateur pilot from Hamburg, West Germany. While the authorities debated what to do with him, Rust coolly signed autographs for the crowd, adding the words HAMBURG-MOSCOW. Shortly afterward he was taken away by police. Said a 24-year-old Muscovite who saw the pilot step from his craft: ”People did not know what had happened. Something this unusual does not happen every day.”

But, while drone landings at the White House have so far been perceived as stunts or mistakes, Rust’s flight had larger implications.

Until that day, the world thought that Russia’s tightly guarded airspace was effectively impregnable. That a teenager was able to fly hundreds of miles from Helsinki to Moscow without encountering that defense revealed that the Soviet military did not have as tight a hold on air security as had been believed. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Iron Curtain, Rust’s West German compatriots worried that his stunt, which seemed funny at first, might imperil the fragile relationships at the heart of the Cold War.

Rust himself said that he decided to undertake the flight in order to speak to Russians—but that summer he got more than he bargained for, when he was charged with crimes including “malicious hooliganism” and eventually sentenced to four years in a labor camp, of which he served about one.

“Rust again told reporters that his flight across 500 miles of tightly defended Soviet airspace had been part of a campaign for improved East-West relations. ”It was worth my freedom, my liberty,'” TIME noted on the occasion of his early release. “He admitted, however, that it was ‘not responsible’ and that he would not do it again.”

Read the full story from 1987, here in the TIME Vault: Welcome to Moscow

TIME politics

Rick Santorum’s Role in the Republican Renewal

rick santorum pennsylvania iowa republican
Charlie Neibergall—AP Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, on May 16, 2015, in Des Moines.

The 2016 contender came into the public eye during one of his party's most pivotal moments

Rick Santorum, in announcing on Wednesday that he would try for the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential race, joins a crowded field of political contenders.

But it won’t be the first time that the former Pennsylvania Senator and 2012 also-ran has made a splash as part of a large group.

When Santorum first made national news, it was in 1994, as an upstart Congressman going to bat for Senator Harris Wofford’s seat. In covering the race, TIME cast Santorum as a barometer of the nation’s stance toward issues that stretched far beyond the state’s borders:

A party that opposes the President unyieldingly, he reasons, gets a nice, sharp profile. It could work, for instance, on health-care reform, one battle most Americans tell pollsters they are are no longer sure they want the President to win. That the issue, once a sure plus for Democrats, is now a more complicated blessing is evident in Pennsylania, where Democratic Senator Harris Wofford is in a tricky race against Rick Santorum, a Republican Congressman who promises to protect voters from government interference in their health-care decisions. It was Wofford’s surprise victory three years ago over Dick Thornburgh, after a campaign that made health-care reform an issue, that first alerted politicians to its potential. But while Wofford is far ahead of Santorum in fund raising this year, their contest is a toss-up. ”Health care is a significant factor that has energized a lot of people who are nonpolitical,” says Santorum, with the clear implication that this time the newcomers are his.

As we now know, of course, Santorum was right.

That was the year of Newt Gingrich’s ascension, and when election time rolled around, the Republican Party’s midterm gains were immense. As TIME put it, “voters angrily revoked the Democrats’ 40-year lease on the Congress,” as the G.O.P. picked up seats in both houses of Congress and in gubernatorial seats across the country. Representative Toby Roth of Wisconsin put it even more strongly: “[This] was more than an election. It was a revolution.”

Santorum’s conservative appeal to voters carried the day in Pennsylvania, just as his colleagues found success in other states. The political sea change of 1994 continues to reverberate throughout the political world—and Santorum’s latest try for the presidency is only one way of many.

Read the full cover story, here in the TIME Vault: G.O.P. Stampede

TIME architecture

See Majestic Photos of the Chrysler Building Under Construction

The building opened to the public 85 years ago, on May 27, 1930

Not all new skyscrapers make news. But the birth of the Chrysler Building, in 1928, immediately commanded attention, as TIME reported:

Walter Percy Chrysler has just gained the head of the third greatest motor company by the Chrysler-Dodge merger. He is less individualistic than Mr. Ford, yet is mighty proud of his success and reputation. Last week he started selling mortgage bonds (through S. W. Strauss & Co.) on what will be the tallest building—in Manhattan or the world. It will contain 68 stories, and be 808 ft. high. It will, of course, be called the Chrysler Building and is Mr. Chrysler’s personal venture.

The completed building surpassed expectations, measuring 1,046 ft. and change.

“A great gesture towards a fortune built by automobiles is the Chrysler Building,” TIME reported shortly after it officially opened to the public 85 years ago, on May 27, 1930. “Oldtime Manhattanites recalled last week that 50 years ago its site was a goat pasture.”

Its opening ceremony drew the presence of many of New York City’s dignitaries—including Alfred Emanuel Smith, whose corporation was at that very moment constructing the Empire State Building, which would shortly knock the Chrysler from its place of honor.

TIME Autos

See Photos of the Ford Model T During Its Decades of Dominance

Production of the Tin Lizzie officially stopped in May of 1927

For years, Henry and Edsel Ford had been denying that the day was approaching. Asked whether they were working on a new model of car, after nearly two decades of producing the famous Model T, they kept mum. But, as TIME noted back then, “in the U. S. motor industry it is considered unpolitic for a manufacturer to say that he will do this or that. When he can produce, he talks.”

That changed in late May of 1927, the day that saw the creation of the last-ever, first-ever mass-market car. Over the nearly two decades since it had first been introduced in 1908, it had evolved somewhat—as can be seen in these photos—but it had never lost its signature look. Even though it took a little longer for the actual last Model T in the world to be produced, as various factories wound down those operations, the official date of production of the last Model T at the landmark Highland Park plant was May 26, 1927, according to Ford.

The end of an era came shortly after the company churned out its 15 millionth car, an event that was, TIME noted, celebrated in the only way that would be appropriate: by driving.

Besides being thus frank last week, Mr. Ford, hale again after his motor car accident two months ago…, went with his son Edsel to the Ford assembling plant; watched the 15,000,000th Ford car being completed. Father and son mounted to the seat, Edsel at the wheel, and drove to the Ford museum. There Mr. Ford took the driver’s seat of the first motor car that he ever manufactured, a two-cylinder contraption that he made and sold in 1903. He tinkled the doorbell that served Ford Car No. 1 as signal, and he and Edsel were off in their separate vehicles for a brief tour of the museum neighborhood.

Read more, from 1927, here in the TIME Vault: New Fords

A Ford Advertisement for Model T Automobile, circa 1909.
Fotosearch—Getty ImagesA Ford Advertisement for Model T Automobile, circa 1909.

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