Eyewitness Josephine Blanco Akiyama dead at 95

Josephine Blanco Akiyama, a name that needs no introduction to anyone interested in the history of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, and inarguably the most important and well known of the original Saipan eyewitnesses, died at 95 of a heart attack on Jan. 8 at her home in Foster City, Calif. 

Earlier today, Josephine’s son, Ed, sent me the news:

Hi Mike,

I am sending you this message to inform you that my mother passed away peacefully at home on Saturday January 8, 2022.  She was 95 years old . . . and suffered a heart attack.

She and I enjoyed reading your newsletters and the many comments by your readers and supporters.  Of course, like many, she had her own opinions and viewpoints.

If you do write of her passing, please be kind but concise of her contributions to the Amelia Earhart story and legacy.

Thanks for the many newsletters that have been a joy for my mother to read and to discuss with me.

. . . I once told her that “fate” chose her to let the world know of AE.  The rest is history.

Best Regards,


Josephine Blanco circa 1960, the most important and influential of the Saipan witnesses.  Few photos of Josephine are available.  She never sought fame, money or publicity for sharing her momentous story with Paul Briand Jr, the San Mateo Times and Fred Goerner, just for starters. 

Josephine’s childhood sighting of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan at Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor in the summer of 1937, first revealed in Paul Briand Jr.’s 1960 book Daughter of the Sky, ignited the true modern search for America’s First Lady of Flight. 

She returned to Saipan in October 2018 and was honored at an Oct. 9 reception dinner by Marie Castro and other members of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. (AEMMI).  The event was also attended by reporters from the Marianas VarietySaipan Tribune and Saipan’s KSPN2 News.

Josephine, appearing well at 92, who’s lived in the San Mateo, California area since 1957, said she still “still vividly remembers her only encounter with the American aviator,” Lyn C. Lirio wrote in her Marianas Variety story Oct. 11, headlined, 2 say they saw Amelia Earhart on Saipan.” 

Josephine Blanco Akiyama (second from left sitting) with family and friends at the reception dinner hosted by Amelia Earhart Memorial Monument Inc. AEMMI members including Marie Castro and then-Rep. Donald Barcinas were on hand at Fiesta Resort & Spa on Oct. 9, 2018.  (Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio.)

Here’s Josephine’s obituary, courtesy of the Sneider & Sullivan & O’Connell’s Funeral Home, in San Mateo, Calif.  Visitation, for anyone in the area who’s interested in paying their respects to this great lady, will be Sunday, Jan. 30 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the funeral home.

Josephine Blanco Akiyama passed away peacefully on Saturday January 8, 2022 at her home with family and friends by her side.  She was loved by her family and will live in the hearts of her countless relatives and friends.  She loved life and brought joy to all she met.

She was born on the island of Saipan located in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific. She was the youngest daughter of Juan T. Blanco and Antonia Blas Blanco.  Her parents, three brothers and six sisters all survived the hostilities and battles of World War II, between the Empire of Japan and the United States of America.

In 1937, as a young 11-year-old, she witnessed the landing and capture of two flyers which later were identified as Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.  After hostilities ended on Saipan in 1945, she worked as a Dental Assistant at a U.S. Naval Medical station located in Garapan, Saipan.  General inquiries about an American flyer on Saipan by Naval staff officers revealed her eyewitness account of the plane landing and subsequent event of 1937.

Josephine Blanco Akiyama, left, the first and arguably most important of all the eyewitnesses to the presence of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan on Saipan in 1937, and Marie S. Castro answer a few questions at the Amelia Earhart Memorial Committee’s reception for Josephine at the Garapan Fiesta Resort and Spa Oct. 9, 2018.

In 1956, she moved and relocated with her husband, Max R. Akiyama, and son to California where they settled in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She worked at Mills Hospital in San Mateo and later open her own business, Josephine’s Beauty Salon, in which she enjoyed over thirty years of success.

She is survived by her loving son Edward B. Akiyama and daughter-in-law Donna H. Akiyama of Concord, Calif.  Her generous and good-natured sprit will be missed by all who knew and loved her.

For much more about Josephine Blanco Akiyama’s life and legacy, please click here.

Requiescat in Pace.

7 responses

  1. Thank you for letting us know-Mike. Josephine lived in San Mateo, which is what we call here in the SF Bay area, the peninsula..not far from where i live. I did not wish to bother her, but when I became acquainted with you and your blog, I often thought of maybe going to see her and have a chat..now too late. Rest in peace, Josephine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rest in Peace, Josephine.


  3. William H. Trail | Reply

    Greetings to All:

    Sad news indeed as Josephine was one of the last living links to AE, and a witness to the truth. My sincere condolences to Josephine’s family.

    May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

    All best,


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stuart R Brownstein | Reply

    Rest In Peace, my dearest Josie, you will never be forgotten !


  5. What a great loss to the Amelia Earhart community. Thank you, Mike, for posting this notice and her obituary. May she Rest In Peace.


  6. This is VERY SAD news, to learn of Josephine Blanco’s passing. Profound Sympathy for *HER & *FAMILY. She was a *BRIGHT LIGHT that shown on Amelia Earhart and brought us all closer to the *TRUTH. Had it not been for her chance sighting of Amelia and her years later interview with Fred Goerner, we would still be wondering & questioning? That she expelled and drew us closer to the harsher reality of Amelia’s captivity & death. A *TRUTH the government of Japan & U.S. continue to hide……….

    Had Josephine known at age 11, what a *HISTORICAL IMPACT this would become in her life and to those she informed of this *TRUTH, she wouldn’t have believed it. God chose her, to be this living *witness for us all. God Bless *You/Josephine and *ANGEL on EARTH she will always be……….

    Doug Mills/Michigan


  7. Her role was to connect Saipan to NorCal, unlike many others. WWII history fades now, but her contribution should not.


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