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They Tried to Destroy the Passenger Plane...

“The target is destroyed,” so said Major Gennadie Osipovich as he launched two Anab medium range air-to-air missiles in the direction of the Korean Airlines Boeing 747 flying over Russia’s Sakhalin Island carrying 269 unsuspecting passengers and crew. It was August 31, 1983.

“Not so!” said Russian General Kornukov and Lt. Col. Gerasimenko as they watched KAL 007 on their radar screen slowly descend in search of a favorable landing site.

Gerasimenko: “Turning left, right, apparently. . . it’s descending.”
Kornukov: “’Destroy it, use the [MiG] 23, destroy it,’ I said!”

“Not so!” said Lt. Col. Novoseletski, Smirnykh Air Base Chief of Staff as he first realized that KAL 007 had indeed survived.

Novoseletski: “What is happening, what is the matter, who guided him in, he locked on, why didn’t he shoot it down?”

“Not so!” says General Kornukov again when, three minutes after the missile attack, he is informed by Major Osipovich’s ground controller that not only has the airliner not been downed, it is also able to negotiate turns.

Kornukov: “I do not understand the result, why is the target flying? [obscenities], well, what is happening?”

“Not so!” says Lt. Col. Novoseletski again at twelve minutes after the attack as he futilely tries again to bring down the huge Korean passenger plane.

Novoseletski: “Get it! Get it! Go ahead, bring in the MiG 23.”
Ground Controller: “Roger. The MiG 23 is in the area. It is descending to 5000 [meters]. The order has been given. Destroy upon detection.”

And, “Not so!” say Lt. Col. Novoseletski, 21 minutes after the strike, and General Strogov, the Deputy Commander of the Soviet Far East Military District, 29 minutes after, as they order rescue missions to be sent to tiny Moneron Island (4 1/2 miles long, 3 miles wide), where the jet liner has just ditched.

Novoseletski: “Prepare whatever helicopters there are. Rescue helicopters.”
Ground Controller: “Rescue?”
Novoseletski: “Yes.”
Ground Controller: “The border guards and KGB are at Khornutovo.
Strogov: “The border guards. What ships do we now have near Moneron Island? If they are civilian, send [them] there immediately.”
Ground Controller: “Understood, Comrade General.”

In the early morning hours of August 31, 1983, a single Soviet Interceptor sent a missile in the direction of a Korean Airlines 747 jumbo jet carrying 269 passengers and crew on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Seoul, Korea. For years, it was believed that the "target" was "destroyed", as reported seconds after the attack. In a dramatic turn of events, evidence surfaced (some quite literally from the bottom of the sea) proving that KAL 007 had indeed ditched successfully off the shores of tiny Moneron Island, and that the passengers and crew were rescued to be held captive in the former Soviet Union. Here, in this book, are the unparalleled transcripts and chronicling of the whole Soviet hierarchy from the Commander of the Far East Military District down to Major Osipovich squeezing the trigger. Here are the high level, and sometimes vehement, interchanges that resulted in both the shooting down and the ordering of rescue missions involving KGB patrol boats, helicopters, and civilian trawlers around Moneron. And, here finally, is the evidence we need to bring our people home. Senator Jesse Helms to Boris Yeltsin-December 10, 1991: 

"The KAL-007 tragedy was one of the most tense incidents of the entire Cold War. . . Please provide a detailed list of the camps containing live passengers and crew, together with a map showing their location."

This air emergency, then, is probably the most dramatic and fully documented flight-gone-wrong ever.


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Last modified: March 10, 2009

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