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Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Downing of KAL Flight 007 and Attendant Matters  

These questions explore issues that have come up in discussions. They deal with material that is in the book Rescue 007: The Untold Story of KAL 007 and its Survivors as well as newer information or information that was not included. This section is intended to be a living and growing part of the web site. Send us your questions and we will post answers.

Table of Contents

  1. Why did the Russians initially deny that they had shot down the civilian flight, KAL 007? Why have the Russians continued to hold the passengers to this day?
  2. What sort of interference has there been in conducting and publicizing this research?
  3. What can be said about the deviation of KAL flight 007 from its intended course?
  4. Are the "Black Box" tapes and their transcripts reliable?  How are they used?  Have they been "doctored"?
  5. What happened to KAL 007 when the missile exploded?  How do the tapes help us to understand?
  6. What can be said about how airworthy or navigable KAL 007 was after the Black Box tapes end?
  7. What do we know about the final minutes of KAL 007's flight and how do we know it?
  8. What is the "CIA Report", where did it come from and what is its value?
  9. Did KAL 007 land on Sakhalin or on the water off Moneron?
  10. What happened to the surviving passengers and crew after they were captured by the Soviets?
  11. Why would the Soviets keep the KAL 007 passengers and crew alive instead of "killing off" the evidence against them?
  12. Do any of the items belonging to the passengers which were returned by the Soviets bear on the question of passenger rescue?  What about the shoes?
  13. What happened to the baggage?
  14. Are there records of people surviving other ditching attempts?
  15. If the KAL 007 children were indeed settled in Soviet orphanages after the shootdown, as this site contends in FAQ 10, why have we not heard from them? Wouldn't they have memories of their original parents and life and wouldn't they want the world to know?

1.  Why did the Russians initially deny that they had shot down the civilian flight, KAL 007? Why have the Russians continued to hold the passengers to this day?

The answers to these questions lie in the accepted appraisal of the Cold War situation of 1983:

  1. President Reagan had already publicly castigated the USSR as the "Evil Empire."
    Ronald Reagan
  2. On December 12, 1979, Joseph Luns, Secretary General of NATO, announced that the United States would deploy both Pershing II intermediate range ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe -- only six minutes from Moscow! -- to counter the Soviet advantage in ICBMs.
  3. Yuri Andropov was trying to make the Soviet Union appear as a good, peace-loving nation to forestall NATO's missile deployment.
    Yuri Andropov
  4. If the Soviets had released the passengers right away, they would have been admitting to their culpability, which would have destroyed their "peace-loving" image.  As it turned out, their efforts did not work.  The US played the tape of the Su-15 pilot, Gennadie Osipovich, saying "the target is destroyed" at the United Nations.  NATO then deployed the Pershing II missiles in November of 1983.  They remained in Europe until Gorbachev agreed to the breakup of the Warsaw Pact.  (In December 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty that for the first time eliminated the entire class of intermediate-range missiles).
  5. In the failed coup against Gorbachev in August, 1991, fifteen plotters committed suicide, including General Pugo and Marshal Akhromeyev.  On the other hand, plotters Marshal Varrenikov and KGB head, Vladimir Kryuchkov, were imprisoned by Gorbachev but released soon thereafter.  Varrenikov was commander in chief of the army.  Kryuchkov had been head of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB at the time of the shoot-down.  These two represented elements within the Soviet military that were strongly xenophobic, anti-US and oriented towards nuclear confrontation.  These were the same ones who lead the cover-up of KAL 007 from the start.  (Varrenikov arrived on Sakhalin on September 1st to head up the first military inquest and to contain the damage.  Kryuchkov was a senior officer in the KGB and personally interrogated congressman Larry McDonald at the Lubyanka prison in Moscow shortly after the plane came down.)  Their release reflects their continuing strength.  Kryuchkov is still active, a personal friend of Russian President Putin and on the lecture circuit(!), and Varrenikov is now chairman of the Committee for Veteran's Affairs of the Russian State Duma.  To this day, they have a strong interest in maintaining the cover-up.  A recent book, War Scare: Russia and America on the Nuclear Brink by Peter Vincent Pry, Praeger Publishers, 1999, shows how these elements were active during the coup attempt against Boris Yeltsin in October, 1993, and how they continue to exist.  These elements are even more dangerous now as they are acutely aware of how weak Russia's conventional forces are today, which leaves them only the option of nuclear solutions.
  6. Russia may fear that the release of the KAL 007 passengers and crew might create a negative reaction in the US and bring an end to the American aid that Russia currently receives.
  7. Finally, IF (a big "if") the Soviets shot down KAL 007 in order to get Larry McDonald (as some believe), or if they discovered the prize they had unintentionally received was too precious to return, they could not release any of the passengers as this would force them to admit to their holding him.
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2.  What sort of interference has there been in conducting and publicizing this research?

Avraham Shifrin with
                wife EleanoraAvraham Shifrin, an émigré from the Soviet Union who established the Research Centre for Soviet Prisons, Psych-prisons and Forced-Labor Concentration Camps in Israel conducted research into the downing of KAL 007.  He encountered opposition to the public disclosure of the results of his investigation.  In 1991, he scheduled a press conference to lay out the evidence for the survival of KAL 007 and those aboard and their subsequent incarceration by the Soviets.  The day before the conference took place, persons claiming to be from the Research Centre office contacted the various media representatives invited and stated that the press conference had been cancelled.  To Shifrin's total surprise, none of the correspondents contacted came to the conference.

The time of greatest observable opposition to my work was in the middle 1990's.

Attempts to prevent South Korean media from reviewing and publicizing Centre findings were either partially or completely successful.  Three interviews with Shifrin and myself were carried out in Israel for publication in the Korean media -- the press, magazines and prime time TV.  The Korean C.I.A. yanked the TV series off the air after two shows and prevented all newspaper notice of their findings.  They failed to prevent the publication of our findings in the January 1996 issue of the Korean language magazine, Win.  The 21-page summary to the C.I.A. Report appeared in the February 1996 edition.  However, the magazine was prohibited from printing the rest of the seven part series.

Shortly before the publications, a representative of the South Korean embassy in Tel Aviv, considered by members of the local Korean expatriate community to be an agent of the Korean C.I.A., contacted me.  He requested an interview with me to which I agreed.  Our conversation lasted for close to two hours.  During the first half of the interview he tried to dissuade me of my convictions about the passenger rescue.  He spent the rest of the time trying to find out about my past and planned contacts with the Korean media.  I tried not to reveal anything while at the same time seeking to learn as much as I could about the Korean government's interest in KAL 007 this nine years after the event.  A short while later the last of our contacts with the Korean media -- a TV team -- was prevented from boarding their scheduled flight from Seoul to Tel Aviv.

There have been other indications of interference such as apparent false leads, veiled threats, etc., but I have not detailed these as they are more difficult to pin down and/or verify.

All of this opposition has only strengthened my conviction that there are governments that wish to cover up the incident.

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3.  What can be said about the deviation of KAL flight 007 from its intended course?

KAL 007's actual and planned flightpaths.  Source: www.cia.gov

Flights of this nature use a number of navigational aids, the primary one at the time being the Inertial Navigation System (INS).  The INS employs navigational "landmarks" called "way points."  The first two of these (after Anchorage) on KAL 007's flight from Anchorage to Seoul were Cairn Mountain (28 minutes into the flight) and Bethel (50 minutes into the flight).  Along the route is a range of permissible deviation from the planned route termed the "Desired Track Capture Envelope."  As long as the flight stays within this envelope, the autopilot can be captured and controlled by the INS and the plane can be brought back on track if it strays.

Shortly after takeoff, the plane was put on autopilot and the "NAV Mode" set to "Magnetic Heading" (determined by the magnetic North Pole in northeast Canada, some 1,300 miles from true north).  The plane began to deviate from its planned course about ten minutes into the flight.  No reason is given in the ICAO report for this.

There are two possible reasons why the INS had not captured the autopilot.

  1. The pilots never set the autopilot mode to INS.
  2. The pilots set the autopilot mode to INS but only after the flight had passed outside of the 7.5 nautical mile (NM) envelope.  This occurred after the Cairn Mountain way point.  At Cairn Mountain, the flight was already 6.5 miles off course but still within the envelope.  If Air Traffic Control had notified KAL 007 that they had deviated from the course, they could have still corrected the situation by switching the NAV mode from Magnetic Heading to INS.  Of all the flights that day, Anchorage Air Traffic Control failed to mark the positions of only KAL 007 and KAL 015.  Congressman McDonald was aboard KAL 007; Senators Helms and Symms and Congressman Hubbard were aboard KAL 015.  This failure of Air Traffic Control to mark down the position of KAL 007 and KAL 015 (and only those two flights) is both unfortunate and curious.

Note:  The pilots would have been assured by means of an indicator light that they had selected the autopilot for INS but they would have had no means of knowing that since they were already outside the 7.5-mile envelope, the autopilot had, in fact, not come under the control of INS.  "The lack of an indication on the flight director mode deprived the crew of a cue which might have drawn their attention to the fact that the autopilot was not being controlled by the INS."  (ICAO 1993, Pg. 43.)

The pilots would also have been able to correct "actual track" to desired track without using the INS by using Bethel's VORTAC (Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Range Tactical Air Navigation system) as a "course provider" instead of as a "reporting station" which it could not do anyway as the flight was too far off course (12.6 NM) at that point for reporting.

Anchorage's VOR was out of order from 10:17 pm, August 23, to 12:39 am, September 2.  (The crew of the flight had been warned of this fact via a Notice to Airmen or NOTAM.)  If it had not been out of order and if flight 007 had been notified, it could have used the Anchorage "radial" to correct course -- the VOR display on the plane would have read "from" instead of "to."

By the time flight 007 reached way point Bethel, it was 12.6 NM off course.  Continuing on its magnetic north heading, rather than the desired tracked set by its Inertial Navigation System (INS), KAL 007 would continue its deviation -- 60 nautical miles (NM) off course at waypoint NABIE, 100 NM at waypoint NUKKS, and 160 NM at waypoin NEEVA -- until it would enter Soviet territory just north of Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula and then into harm's way over Sakhalin Island.

Normally, aircraft departing Anchorage for the Far East would be "tracking out", that is, using the Anchorage VOR radial for navigation along the desired track.  Knowing that the Anchorage VOR was out should have increased the pilots' sense of the importance of verifying their position by using the radial from the VOR(TAC) at the next (and last) continental navigation station--the "gateway" station at the small fishing village of Bethel, Alaska.

At 49 minutes after take-off, the pilot was reporting to be on course and at Bethel, "007, Bethel at forty-niner." But, in reality, they were far off course.  For at 50 minutes after take-off, U.S. Air Force radar at King Salmon, Alaska had tracked KAL 007 at a full 12.6 nautical miles north of where it should have been (Bethel)--exceeding by more than six times, its permissible "leeway" drift from the course set by the INS.

In order for the INS (calibrated to true north) to capture the autopilot and keep it on the desired track, the autopilot had to be set to "INS."  The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) shows that the INS never captured the autopilot.  KAL 007 flew at a "constant magnetic heading" of 245 or 246 degrees for the entire flight.  If the INS had captured the autopilot, the magnetic heading would not have been constant but would have changed with each leg of the desired track since the waypoints were not in a straight line.

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4.  Are the "Black Box" tapes and their transcripts reliable?  How are they used?  Have they been "doctored"?

ICAO subcontracted BEA (Bureau Enquetes-Accidents) of France to examine and analyze the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and their tapes.

The Soviets had these tapes in their possession for nine years, during which time they denied having them.  When strong evidence to the contrary came to light, President Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Republic admitted having the tapes and turned them over to the United Nations.  Concerning the possibility of Soviet tampering with the tapes during this period, Timothy Maier of Insight Magazine has this to say:

Even though portions of the tapes were unintelligible, they were never technically analyzed to determine if there were erasure gaps because the technology to do so didn't exist at the time they were provided to ICAO in 1993.  Experts tell Insight that Intelligent Devices, a Washington sound-extraction company currently seeking to review the 18-and-one-half minute gap on the Nixon tapes, might be able to extract voices from the KAL 007 tapes if Congress were to request it.  (Insight Magazine, April 2001)

There are evidences of possible manipulation -- evidences that need to be further examined.  (BEA may still retain the original tapes or copies of them.)

  1. As Gary Lesser, spokesman for Boeing Co., explains, "As long as there is one engine running, both recorders would still operate until the plane hits the water."  The engines were operating normally, as twice reported by the co-pilot on the portions of the CVR tape transcribed and released.  Since the recording "stopped" while the plane was still in flight, 104 seconds after missile detonation, we may ask if there is any evidence of erasure, deletion, splicing or additions to the tapes.
  2. The Sundstrand DFDR's 800 ft. tape recorded 27 hours of KAL flights from Seoul to Anchorage, Anchorage to JFK airport in New York City, JFK to Anchorage and KAL flight 007 from Anchorage on its way to Seoul.  There were splice joints that ICAO could explain only on the basis of breaks due to a high speed impact.  "Spliced joints were found at approximately 108, 440, 442, and 463 ft. from the beginning of the tape.  The middle two were spaced at a distance corresponding to the length of the tape between the two reels and the last data was recorded between these two joints.  It was not unusual for the tape to break as a result of high speed impacts, near where it left the reels."  (ICAO Report, 1993, pg. 30, paragraph  However, if the recorder had not met with a high speed impact, as we contend, then these splices require another explanation.  In addition, we need to point out - it can no longer be maintained that the black boxes stopped simultaneously due to a "high speed impact" as the time of stoppage was 104 seconds after missile detonation (18:26:02) while the Russian military transcripts appended to the 1993 ICAO report now show us that KAL 007 continued its journey after missile detonation at least until 1835 GMT, and the Russian radar trackings have KAL 007 continuing its flight in wide descending spirals over Moneron Island at least until 1838 GMT.
  3. The Collins Cockpit Voice Recorder loop tape requires further present-day state-of-the-art examination.  The loop contains its full one-half-hour of recording.  If the Soviets had deleted most of the post-detonation flight from the end of the tape, they must have added the amount deleted to the "beginning" of the loop -- that portion prior to the detonation.  ICAO concluded that during the first nine minutes of casual conversation between Captain Chun and his First Officer, unusual background noise was also recorded.  "Intermittently through the first seven minutes forty-five seconds of recordings some unusual sounds occurred which were identified as keyed continuous wave semi-automatic Morse code tone.  Due to the poor quality of the recorded signal and the limited activity no read-out or user identification was possible."  (ICAO Report, 1993, pg. 25, paragraph  Though apparently Morse code, what is unusual and unidentifiable at such a critical juncture ought to be further examined for clarification.  The Soviets falsified and re-recorded their own audiotape of their interceptor pilot and ground controller communications during the shoot down using an electric shaver in the background to simulate radio static!  (This information comes from the Izvestia 1991 series on KAL 007 as reported in the Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report", pg. 69)

In short, for the following reasons, the doctoring of the tapes by the Soviets is highly likely:

  1. Both components of the black box (CVR and DFDR) were operating after the missile detonation.
  2. There is no evidence of impairment of the electrical system (High Frequency broadcast by KAL 007 to Japanese ground control after detonation of missile and all four engines reported to be operating normally.)
  3. Both recorders "stopped" minutes prior to any conjectured aerial mishap (substantiated by both radar trackings and military real-time communications.)
  4. Both recorders, with electric lines on opposite sites of the fuselage and with separate points of attachments to their respective instruments, "stopped working" at precisely the same second.

Since present-day technology may decipher what 1993 technology could not and since ICAO's final report is both politicized and minimalist (the wording of the final report is the product of voting by the various national representatives to the ICAO -- Russia, the U.S., etc. -- in contrast to the non-politically oriented wording of the technical committee reports) we ought to have another go at these tapes.  That the recorder with its tape had not met with a high-speed impact at the time the tape stopped - 1 minute and 44 seconds after missile detonation - is abundantly evidenced by both Soviet ground-to-ground communications and radar trackings showing KAL 007's flight, both of which show that, far from terminating at a high-speed impact at this time (or any time), KAL 007 continued for at least over another 10 minutes (1838 GMT).  And this at a decelerating rate.

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5.  What happened to KAL 007 when the missile exploded?  How do the tapes help us to understand?

In a symphony, each instrument has its own individual "story line", yet there is one overriding theme that includes them all.  So it is with the Symphony in DFDR.  Each line of the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) graph tells us a coherent story and with all together, a saga whose theme is Escape From Destruction!

Each instrument playing its own line takes us more deeply into the understanding of just how KAL 007 escaped destruction.  The instruments:

  1. Every word spoken by Pilot-in-Command, Chun Byung-In, Co-Pilot and First Officer, Son Dong-Hui, and Flight Engineer, Kim Eui-Dong, recorded for us by the Cockpit Voice Recorder.
  2. The condition of sixteen parameters picked up by sensors reporting the different functions of the aircraft recorded for us by the Digital Flight Data Recorder.  

For this discussion, refer to the two graphs, Plot 1 and Plot 2 (prepared by Laboratoire BEA).  The times appear in four-second intervals at the bottom of each chart.

At 18:26:02 (06:26:02 Sakhalin time), Maj. Osipovich's ANAB radar-guided air-to-air missile explodes 50 meters behind and slightly to the right of KAL 007's tail.

The nose begins to pitch up immediately (Plot 1, line 2) to be followed by a more gradual increase in altitude (Plot 1, line 1).  These changes appear on the crew's instruments.  They may also have sensed them.  Immediately upon missile detonation, the jumbo jet begins to experience buffeting (yawing) as the dual channel yaw damper is damaged (Plot 2, line 6).  Yawing would not have occurred if either No. 1 or No. 2 hydraulic systems were fully operational.  What does not happen that should have happened is that the control column (Plot 1, line 3) does not thrust forward upon impact (it should have done so, as the plane was on autopilot -- plot 2, line 8 -- to bring down the plane to its former altitude of 35,000 feet).  This failure of the autopilot to correct the rise in altitude indicates that hydraulic system No. 3, which operates the autopilot actuator, a system controlling the plane's elevators, was damaged or out.  KAL 007's airspeed (Plot 1, line 4) and acceleration rate (Plot 1, line 5) both begin to decrease as the plane begins to climb.

At 18:26:06, Capt. Chun yells out, "What happened?"  First Officer Son responds, "What?"  Two seconds later, Chun yells, "Retard throttles."  Son responds, "Engines normal, sir."  (This indicates that Maj. Osipovich's heat seeking missile has missed its mark.)  KAL 007 continues its climb (it will do so until it reaches 38,250 ft. in altitude -- Plot 1, line 1) when at twenty seconds after missile detonation a click is heard in the cabin -- which is identified as the "automatic pilot disconnect warning" sound.  Pilot or co-pilot has disconnected the autopilot and is now manually thrusting the control column forward (Plot 1, line 3) in order to bring down the plane.  But we see that though the autopilot has been turned "off" (Plot 2, line 8), manual mode will not kick in for another twenty seconds (Plot 2, line 9).  This failure of manual to engage upon being commanded indicates again, failure in hydraulic systems No. 1 and No. 2.  But there is progress, of sorts!  Though still rising in altitude, with the thrusting forward of the control column, KAL 007's nose begins to come down.  That is, pitch is being corrected (Plot 1, line 2).  Nevertheless, Capt. Chun absorbed with the danger of the rising altitude, calls out, "Altitude is going up!... Altitude is going up!" (18:26:22 and 18:26:24)  But immediately another problem presents itself.

Chun (18:26:25):  Speed brake is coming out!

Son (18:26:26):  What?  What?  

Chun (18:26:29):  Check it out!

But, according to the DFDR, the speed brake was not coming out.  The pilots immediately return to the main problem.

Son (18:26:33):  I am not able to drop altitude -- now unable.

Chun (18:26:38):  Altitude is going up.

Chun (18:26:40):  This is not working.  This is not working.

And here, a change takes place.

If we could perceive what tapes cannot reveal, we would identify -- and identify with -- the transition from utter despair to jubilation through to quiet confidence and determination.

At 18:26:41, Capt. Chun apparently orders First Officer Son to again disengage the autopilot "manually."  Son appears to do so at the same time he despairingly says, "cannot do manually" (18:26:42) and a second later reiterates, "not working manually also."  But, at that moment two things happen.  The sound of the autopilot disconnect warning is heard once again and the autopilot kicks in to the desired manual mode (Plot 2, line 9).  Capt. Chun is once again in control.

At 18:26:45, First Officer Son again reports, "Engines are normal, sir."  Once again, there is confirmation that the heat-seeking missile failed to hit its mark.

Though Capt. Chun does not move the control column any more forward than it already is (Plot 1, line 3), the altitude (Plot 1, line 1) begins to come down and is now in line with the pitch (Plot 1, line 2).  Both airspeed (Plot 1, line 4) and acceleration (Plot 1, line 5) increase rapidly as KAL 007 begins a quick descent.

Still in descent, Capt. Chun and Flight Engineer, Kim Eui-Dong blurt out (one second apart):

Kim (18:36:50):  Is it power compression?

Chun (18:36:51):  Is that right?

Kim (18:36:52):  All or both.

Chun (18:36:53):  Is that right?

For the next nine seconds there is silence, but Capt. Chun will be at the height of activity.  As KAL 007 reaches its peak of acceleration and descends to slightly under pre-missile altitude, Capt. Chun brings the nose up for about eight seconds (Plot 1, line 2), acceleration decreases markedly and then levels out at pre-missile rate.

Prior to the eight-second pull-up, First Officer Son is on the High Frequency Radio No. 1 calling Tokyo Air Traffic Control Center (Plot 2, line 7):

Son (18:26:57):  Tokyo Radio, Korean Air Zero Zero Seven

Tokyo (18:27:02):  Korean Air Zero Zero Seven, Tokyo

Son (18:27:04):  Roger, Korean Air Zero Zero Seven... (unreadable) Ah, we (are experiencing)...

Chun, interjecting (18:27:09):  ALL COMPRESSION

Son (18:27:10):  Rapid compressions.  Descend to one zero thousand.

As First Officer Son's call to Tokyo concludes, Capt. Chun begins his gradual descent, which will eventually take KAL 007 to a water-ditching off the shores of tiny Moneron Island.

Though yawing has continued through to the end of the tape and, presumably, to the end of the flight, all the other major parameters indicate that KAL 007 exhibits a good measure of airworthiness and control.  The dive has been stopped and the jumbo jet is in a slight descent.  Pitch is in line with the angle of descent.  "Indicated Air Speed" (IAS, Plot 1, line 4) has returned almost exactly to what it was prior to missile detonation (310 knots), after rapid acceleration in dive, and rapid deceleration at the end of the eight-second pull-up, KAL 007 is now at steady, normal acceleration -- as it was prior to missile detonation -- and the autopilot, now in the command position off, is operating as it should with Capt. Chun in manual control.  But there is work to do at hand.  From the flight deck (the transcript does not identify the voices):

18:27:20:  Now... We have to set this

18:27:23:  speed

18:27:26:  Stand by, stand by, stand by, set!

KAL 007, with its flight crew of three, 240 passengers including 22 children, 20 cabin attendants, and 6 "deadheaders" (repositioning flight personnel), has escaped destruction!

Note:  Maintaining control of KAL 007 with three of its four hydraulic systems damaged or out might well have been difficult but by no means impossible.  Appendix E (in Rescue 007) contains the transcript of an aircraft being flown eighteen miles with all hydraulics out.

G. Norris and M. Wagner in Boeing (MBT Publishing, Osceolo, WI 1998) explain (pg. 128) the safety benefits of multiple redundant hydraulic systems for the 747 and give an example.

The explanation -- "The hydraulics provided actuation for all the primary flight controls; all secondary flight controls (except leading edge flaps); and landing gear retraction, extension, gear steering, and wheel braking.  Systems 1 and 4 could be used for all purposes [KAL 007's hydraulic system no. 4 was undamaged], while systems 2 and 3 were normally used for flight control only... System 4 also had a third electrical power source.  Each primary flight control axis received power from all four hydraulic systems."

The example -- In July of 1971, Pan Am's flagship aircraft, a Boeing 747, registered N747PA, hit a light gantry upon take-off from San Francisco International Airport.  The crew had misjudged the speed of the aircraft and the length of the runway.  As the plane pulled up sharply in an attempt to clear it, the rear end of the fuselage came down on the gantry.  The aircraft continued to take off and with the gantry stuck in its cargo area and with three of the hydraulic systems destroyed.  The jumbo jet circled the airport and made a safe landing -- still with the gantry stuck through its cargo area and only one hydraulic system operational.

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6.  What can be said about how airworthy or navigable KAL 007 was after the Black Box tapes end?

The Black Box tapes handed over by the Russians end one minute and forty-four seconds after missile detonation. It is clear from the available tape that the plane did escape destruction and regained a good measure of control. We know from Soviet and Japanese radar trackings that the flight lasted at least an additional ten minutes or so. We also have Soviet ground-to-ground communications from this period. These sources together confirm to us that KAL 007 was airworthy, under control and able to navigate accurately.

  1. After missile detonation, KAL 007 made a turn to the north. Gen. Kornukov was surprised, apparently, that the jumbo jet had not only survived the attack and was able to maneuver, but that it turned north, deeper into Soviet territory rather than west to international waters.

    Lt. Col. Gerasimenko (6:28):  The target has turned to the north.

    Gen. Kornukov:  The target turned to the north?

    Gerasimenko:  Affirmative.

    Kornukov:  Bring the [MiG] 23 in to destroy it!
  2. When KAL 007 had descended to 5000 meters (16,400 ft.), the altitude at which crew and passengers could breath without assistance, it slowed down and continued in level flight for four minutes. (Rescue 007, pg. 54)
  4. It is clear that KAL 007 ended these four minutes of level flight at 5000 meters to begin a spiral descent precisely over Moneron Island. (Soviet efforts at deception would later try to make it seem that the flight crashed either 11 miles north in Soviet waters or 22 miles north in international waters. (Rescue 007, Appendix B, pg. 131ff.)  Please review these points:
    • The exact point in time at which the spiral descent began is startling. It also destroys any assumptions that the plane was out of control, not to mention cart wheeling uncontrollably to its demise.
    • The Tatar Strait is a body of water bounded on the north and west by the Soviet mainland and on the east by 590-mile-long Sakhalin Island. To the south is the Sea of Japan. In this whole body of water, there is one tiny little island-Moneron. It is about 25 miles west of Sakhalin and some 125 miles from the mainland. The nearest land besides these is the small Japanese island of Rebun about 53 miles to the south.
    • On September 1, 1983, at 18:36 GMT, as reported in the ICAO report, the cloud cover was full at an altitude of 2000 meters. This prevented the Soviet fighter planes from finding the jumbo jet once it had descended into the clouds. It was also night, not quite two hours before dawn.

    For KAL 007 to descend, after four minutes of level flight, from 5000 meters to precisely the one and only spot where a water-landing could be effected close enough to a land mass to provide safety, through clouds, at night, demonstrates a very high degree of airworthiness and navigability as well as a good knowledge of the area. 

Thus, any idea that KAL 007 was destroyed by missile impact or at any time in its twelve-minute descent to the surface of the Tatar Strait is untenable and contrary to all evidence.

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7.  What do we know about the final minutes of KAL 007's flight and how do we know it?

Records exist covering the flight of KAL 007 for a total of twelve minutes after it was attacked. At the time of the attack, the plane was cruising at an altitude of about 35,000 feet. Immediately upon impact, the nose pitched up and the plane rose to an altitude of 38,250 feet. Capt. Chun was able to turn off the autopilot and regain control of the aircraft bringing it back down to the cruising altitude of about 35,000 feet. This took 1 minute and 13 seconds (see Question 5 in this FAQ). Three minutes after being hit, the plane was at 30,000 feet (Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report", pg. 45, based on Japanese Self Defense Force radar, Wakkanai, Hokkaido, Japan). The Captain then began a rapid emergency descent to 16,400 feet (reported as 5000 meters in the ICAO 1993 report) where passengers and crew could breathe without assistance. This descent lasted for two minutes. There is some uncertainty about the progress of KAL 007's descent for the next four minutes. One source indicates that the plane descended slowly to 5,000 ft., then began circling and descending more slowly to 1,000 ft over the final three minutes before disappearing. Other sources indicate that Capt. Chun leveled the aircraft's flight at 16,400 ft. and flew for at least four minutes of level flight before beginning a spiral descent that lasted until the plane went off the Soviet radar screens. During the four-minute period, the plane was heading from Sakhalin to Moneron Island.

Though not all sources cover the full twelve minutes, they all agree in presenting the composite picture that KAL 007 flew for twelve minutes from the moment of attack until it disappeared from the radar screens and that the speed of descent decreased (rather than increasing) which, along with the flight pattern, demonstrates that the aircraft was under control for the entire period. It finally circled Moneron, the only landmass, a tiny island, in the entire Tatar Strait; the only place a water ditching could be effected with the greatest possibility of survival once Sakhalin had been left behind.

We believe that KAL 007 did, indeed, level off at 5000 meters (16,400 ft.) and did maintain level flight until it had reached Moneron Island where it descended in a wide spiral.

The various pertinent sources are quoted below (all times given are Greenwich Mean Time-Zulu. Missile detonation occurred at 18:26:02.):

  1. "After this fast, 5 minute spiral descent, but still consistent with standard flight procedure in the circumstances, KAL-007 then remained airborne for at least about 7 more minutes, en route to a location in Soviet territorial waters between Moneron Island and Sakhalin Island. KAL-007 was thus airborne for a total post-attack flight time of at least 12 minutes. Moreover, KAL-007's altitude after a total of 9 minutes of flight was about 5,000 feet.

    "The original U.S. special intelligence raw data, as publicly reported in the U.S. statement to the United Nations Security Council on September 1, 1983 by U.S. Ambassador Charles Lichenstein, stated: 'At 1830 hours [after 4 minutes], the Korean aircraft was reported by radar at an altitude of 5,000 meters...

    "Moreover, also on September 1, Secretary of State George Shultz also stated more fully: 'At 1826 hours the Soviet pilot reported that he fired a missile and the target was destroyed. At 1830 hours [or 4 minutes later] the Korean aircraft was reported by radar 5,000 meters [16,400 feet]. At 1838 hours [12 minutes after being hit] the Korean plane disappeared from the radar screen.'" 

    Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report", pg. 43 (quoted exact, including bracketed comments and underlining) (Note: the statement of 18:30 hours was later corrected to 18:31 hours.)
  2. Concerning KAL 007's ability to level out at 5000 meters and maintain a level flight of 4 to 5 minutes, from transcripts included with the 1993 ICAO Report Information Paper No. 1, pg. 134-135:
    Gen. Kornukov (18:32):  Tell the 23 [MiG]... afterburner. Open fire, destroy the target, then land at home base.

    Lt. Col. Gerasimenko (acting commander, 41st Fighter Regiment, viewing radar):  Roger

    Kornukov:  Altitude... What is the altitude of our fighter and the altitude of the target?

    Quickly. The altitude of the target and the altitude of the fighter!


    Why don't you say anything? Gerasimenko!


    Gerasimenko (18:33):  Gerasimenko. Altitude of target is 5,000.

    Kornukov:  5,000 already?

    Gerasimenko (18:34):  Affirmative, turning left, right, apparently it is descending.
  3. "The last plotted radar position of the target was 18:35 hours at 5,000 meters." (ICAO 1993, pg. 53, para. 2.15.8)
  4. Concerning the location of KAL 007's descent, precisely over the island of Moneron, from transcripts included with the 1993 ICAO Report:
    Gen. Kornukov (18:36):  ...you know the range, where the target is. It is over Moneron... 
    (ICAO, 1993, Information Paper No. 1, pg. 136.)

    Lt. Col. Novoseletsky (commander, Smirykh Air Force Base) (18:39):  So, the task. They say it has violated the State border again now?

    Flight Controller Titovnin:  Well, it is the area of Moneron, of course, over our territory.

    Lt. Col. Novosletsky:  Get it! Get it! Go ahead, bring in the MiG 23
    (ICAO, 1993, Information Paper No. 1, pg. 90.)

    Gen. Strogov (18:55):  What ships do we have near Moneron Island, if [they are] civilians, sent (sic.) [them] there immediately
    (ICAO, 1993, Information Paper No. 1, pg. 96.)
  5. "The geographic coordinates, showing where KAL-007 was hit, where it then went, and where it disappeared from Soviet radars, are known from special intelligence with a fair degree of precision, and these points have been plotted on U.S. Intelligence maps. For example, at 9 minutes after being hit, and at an altitude of 5,000 feet, KAL-007's last tracked location, it was located approximately at co-ordinates 4617N-14115E. The special intelligence showing Soviet radar tracks indicate a flight path from Sakhalin Island toward Moneron Island, approaching from the North headed toward the south, and a ditching or crash site probably inside Soviet territorial waters, reportedly 2.6 kilometers North of Moneron Island, according to the June, 1991 NSA re-analysis." [This location would allow for the final 3 minutes to be spent circling around Moneron.] Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report", pg. 46-47 (Note: "special intelligence" refers to electronic intercepts.) 
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8.  What is the "CIA Report", where did it come from and what is its value?

The "CIA Report" is a study that appears to have been prepared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican Staff at the request of Senator Jesse Helms in June 1991. It is based on information from a variety of sources including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. We think it may have been given to the CIA and then leaked to the head of the opposition party in the South Korean National Assembly, Sonn Se-Il. He produced it during a legislative session demanding that further investigations into the fate of those aboard KAL 007 be investigated. The following is a further discussion of this document and the information it contains.

Avraham Shifrin was an Israeli émigré from the Soviet Union and an investigator researching Soviet prison and labor camps with many contacts in the USSR. He had also been a personal friend of Congressman Larry McDonald, a passenger aboard KAL 007. Shifrin testified on Soviet labor camps numerous times before both US Senate and House committees.

In June, 1990, through sources in the Soviet Union, Shifrin began to receive evidence that the flight of KAL 007 did not end with the death of all aboard, that the people and baggage had been taken by the KGB and that the Black Boxes from the plane had been salvaged-all of which had been initially, and later again denied vehemently by Soviet authorities.

As he began to acquire more information, Shifrin contacted Senator Jesse Helms, ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He informed Senator Helms that eyewitnesses had seen the plane land and the passengers taken and that the black boxes had been retrieved. Helms immediately had his staff begin looking into this. Shifrin thought that during these initial discussions, word of this leaked out and got into the hands of the Soviets. The Soviet newspaper, Izvestia, immediately began its own investigation. Beginning in December 1990, Izvestia published a series of articles on "The Mystery of KAL-007" that extended well into the following year.

In January 1991, Helms sent staff-member David Sullivan to Jerusalem to meet with Shifrin and see what evidence he had to show. In May, Sullivan returned with Dr. James P. Lucier, Minority Staff Director for the Committee and Victor Fedei. According to Timothy Maier, in an article titled "KAL 007 Mystery", published in Insight Magazine, April, 16, 2001, Fedei (or Fediay) was a senior defense-intelligence analyst. Shifrin turned over to the three of them his notes and information on KAL 007. Maier states that in June 1991, the following month, Senator Helms ordered that a study of the evidence be conducted and a report made. Sullivan informed Shifrin that his material had been turned over to the CIA.

Members of Helms' staff, with access to information from the CIA and the NSA, prepared the report drawing on Shifrin's material, information in the earlier articles in the Izvestia series, information from the CIA and "special intelligence", electronic intercepts from the NSA. The CIA was able to corroborate some of Shifrin's material and added additional information not previously revealed. According to Maier, the FBI later determined that Victor Fedei was the author of the report. In personal correspondence to this author, Maier stated that there were several authors. We think that all three of those who visited Shifrin had a hand in its preparation. Fedei died in 1992 and the others will not speak for the record about the report.

Based on information received from Shifrin and presented in the study, Senator Helms wrote to Russian President Boris Yeltsin on December 10, 1991 asking for specific information on KAL 007. (More on this below.) Within a few weeks of this writing, something happened that caused Helms to drop this subject and all efforts to investigate it ceased. Lucier was dismissed and Admiral Bud Nance was installed in his place as Minority Staff Director. Lucier, who is very active in conservative causes and a senior editor for Insight Magazine, will not discuss this topic or his years on Helms' staff with anyone. On Feb. 11, 1992, Nance wrote to Shifrin, informing him that his materials had been turned over to the CIA and would be kept confidential. He also enclosed a copy of the letter that Helms sent to Yeltsin.

It appears that the report, along with the other materials from Shifrin, remained with the CIA and was never released formally. At some point, an unknown person gave a "cleaned up" (see below) copy of the report to the head of the opposition party in the South Korean National Assembly, Mr. Sonn Se-Il. Sonn produced, quite dramatically, the report during a session of the National Assembly, explaining that it was a CIA Top Secret Report on KAL 007 that demonstrated that the plane ditched safely on the waters off the island of Moneron and that all aboard had been taken captive and might still be alive. This happened on October 26, 1992 and caused quite a sensation in the international press at the time.

Maier, in his Insight Magazine article, suggests that the report was taken by the CIA (perhaps included in the materials turned over to the CIA as reported by Admiral Nance) and was then leaked to Sonn by someone who was frustrated with the lack of action.

Marjorie Provan, producer of the conservative television program, "Focus on the Issues", a personal friend of Congressman McDonald, who had had Shifrin on her show, read about the report in the press and telephoned Assemblyman Sonn who sent her a copy. She then passed a copy on to Shifrin who studied and published an "Analysis of the Top Secret Codeworded CIA Report" in March 1993. His copy of the report and his analysis are included in the various sources used by Bert Schlossberg when he wrote Rescue 007: The Untold Story of KAL 007 and Its Survivors.

The report, as we have it, is 78 pages, typewritten, accompanied by six pages of charts, showing the debris fields from other Boeing 747 crashes, and a proposed public statement. It refers to three Annexes that are not included.

There is a cover sheet with a rubber stamp giving the seal of the CIA, name and address of the CIA's Office of Congressional Affairs and a box with TO: followed by a blank. The title page carries the line "SENSITIVE RESTRICTED ACCESS." The next line begins with UNITED STATES." This is followed by a space where words have been deleted, most likely the name of the organization that produced the report or for which it was prepared.

Throughout the report, any reference to the study or the group preparing it is deleted with one exception. Every page, beginning with the title page (but not including the debris field charts at the end), again, with one exception, bears the rubber stamp TOP SECRET/CODEWORD. The one exception is page 43, which was apparently overlooked when the report was being cleaned up prior to release to Sonn Se-Il. The last sentence of the next-to-the-last paragraph reads as follows: "This June, 1991 National Security Agency re-analysis was requested for use in this Republican Staff Study."

From this one sentence, we learn that the report was a study of the matter prepared by Republican Staff, which would be the minority staff of the Committee on Foreign Relations. We also learn, as corroborated elsewhere, that the National Security Agency (NSA) was willing to reexamine its highly classified findings concerning KAL 007. This, along with other materials used in the report, indicates that the authors had access to top secret NSA materials as well as CIA information.

The report is similar in nature, albeit in draft form, to other studies produced by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican Staff such as the report of May 23, 1991 titled, "An Examination of U. S. Policy Toward POW/MIAs."

Regardless of its official standing, this report, this "Republican Staff Study", is extremely important in that it presents material from Avraham Shifrin's research along with other information from CIA and NSA sources as well as an analysis of statements in the early Izvestia articles, which, taken together, make a very strong case for the ditching of KAL 007 near Moneron and the survival of passengers and crew. The author(s) clearly believed this to be true and called for diplomatic action to gain answers to the questions raised.

On December 10, 1991, within a few months of the completion of the report, Senator Helms wrote to Boris Yeltsin a letter striking in its acceptance of and reliance on the material in the report. In the letter, he asks "that the government of the Russian Republic gain access to the files of the former KGB and of the Ministry of Defense in order to resolve the attached questions." The questions include asking for depositions of the eye witnesses who saw the plane land, the exact location of the landing, transcripts of all military radio transmission related to the entire flight of KAL 007, the names of surviving passengers and crew, a list of luggage and other items removed from the plane, copies of reports of the Soviet search and rescue efforts, detailed information on the fate of U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald and information on camps where surviving members of the passengers and crew are being held.

Six months later, on June 17, 1992, Yeltsin revealed the existence of a memo from the KGB to the Communist Party Central Committee reporting the existence of documents pertaining to KAL 007. The memo included the startling statement, "These documents are so well hidden that it is doubtful that our children... those who come after us will be able to find them." (The Washington Times 6/18/1992)

Three months after this, Yeltsin officially admitted the existence of the Black Boxes. Shifrin was the first person ever to reveal this fact publicly, to be corroborated later by the Izvestia articles and the Staff Study.

By December 1992, the Russian government had promised to turn over to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, a United Nations agency) transcripts of all electronic communications related to the flight of KAL 007. These transcripts were eventually published in the ICAO report of May 28, 1993 and are quoted extensively in Rescue 007.

Thus, we see a transmission of information from clandestine Soviet sources to Avraham Shifrin and from him to Senator Jesse Helms and his staff. Subsequent to Shifrin's first conversation with Helms' staff, information apparently leaks to Izvestia, which, very quickly, launches a journalistic investigation corroborating some of Shifrin's revelations and adding additional information. (Much of the material in these articles is quite likely "disinformation" intended to confuse the situation as new revelations were becoming known; nevertheless, with careful analysis, the articles are useable.) Information in these sources-Shifrin's material and the early Izvestia articles-is included in the Republican Staff Study along with additional corroborating material and new information from the CIA and NSA. On the basis of this information, Helms writes Yeltsin. Within a year, Yeltsin complies with a substantial portion of the requests that Helms makes. However, the Russians maintain to this day that there were no survivors, yet they provide no information to substantiate this claim while ignoring the evidence that suggests otherwise. They do not offer any credible explanation of the lack of bodies, life jackets and luggage.

Because some of the material in the report has been proven by subsequent events and because there has been no authoritative explanation or evidence to support denials of other information in it, we believe this report to be extremely valuable and largely factual. We want to see any substantial evidence that exists that does undermine the assertions made either in the study or based on its evidence. Until such material is produced, we continue to call for a full investigation into all aspects of the case of KAL 007 with an emphasis on finding out exactly what happened to the passengers.

The State Department's dismissal of the possibility of survivors is particularly hollow. State Dept. spokesman Richard Boucher was quoted on October 27, 1992-the day following Sonn Se-Il's bombshell revelation-as stating, "President Yeltsin replied that there had been no survivors, and we have no reason to doubt the Russian government's statement." (The Washington Times, 10/27/1992)

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9.  Did KAL 007 land on Sakhalin or on the water off Moneron?

Among those who are convinced that KAL 007 landed safely and that the passengers were rescued and luggage removed, there are two theories as to where the plane landed. Both theories and locations have a measure of support. We believe that the plane ditched on the water off the tiny island of Moneron but will present the pros and cons of each position. The final result, in either case, is the same as far as we are concerned-the passengers and crew were taken captive and were not killed in the destruction of the plane.

It has been pointed out that the earliest reports of politically controversial events are often the most accurate. These are the reports that become public before those who have a vested interest in a specific viewpoint have the chance to begin efforts to control or "spin" the reportage. The very first reports about the downing of KAL 007 all stated that the plane landed on the large Soviet island of Sakhalin, home to several military and commercial airfields. These reports are amply documented in three articles written by Robert W. Lee for The New American magazine. He has a copy of a tape recording of FAA spokesman, Duty Officer Orville Brockman, notifying Congressman Larry McDonald's press aide Tommy Toles that the plane was tracked to a landing on Sakhalin by Japanese Self-Defense Force radar. Those who have listened to this tape also comment on the tone as being very matter-of-fact which lends credence to the idea that the spokesman believed his report to be true and was simply passing on factual information rather than participating in any false reporting. Other accounts include an article in the New York Times of September 1, 1983-the first article on the shootdown by that paper-stating that early reports said the plane was forced down and landed on Sakhalin and that all aboard were believed to be safe, and the very first UPI wire story, dateline Seoul, Sept. 1, 1983 giving much the same information. These reports came, according to the article, from Korean Foreign Ministry officials based on US CIA reports to them. The President of Korean Airlines also traveled to Japan on his way to Sakhalin to meet the passengers and crew, apparently believing them to be alive.  On the other hand, Fred Smith, Congressman McDonald's administrative assistant, doubted these first reports and went to the Pentagon for verification.  There he learned that the plane had been shot down. (From personal correspondence with the authors.)

It is also logical that the pilot of a stricken aircraft, especially if he continued to have a measure of control over it, would look for the nearest and best place to land. This would certainly be a regular runway rather than the open sea under cloudy skies in the dark.

The problem with this view is that there is no other evidence to support it and some of the early reporters later recanted; whereas, there is considerable evidence from a variety of sources to support the contention that the plane landed on the water off Moneron. None of the reports of a landing on Sakhalin specify an airfield or designate any specific landing site. It is conceivable that "Sakhalin" may have been used to refer to the general area of the large island and that it was passed along as being more precise than it really was meant to be.


Moneron Island
Moneron Island
In regards to a water landing off Moneron, there are a variety of sources, both official and unofficial, that supports this. We consider it highly unlikely that they would (or could) conspire to present a common false message.
  1. CIA/NSA sources as reported in the Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report": There are several "special intelligence" or NSA reports included in this study referring to radar tracking of the flight and the behavior of Soviet Air Force planes.

    These reports include the information that KAL 007 descended from an altitude of over 30,000 feet to 1,000 feet in a period of twelve minutes in a constantly decelerating rate of speed. When the plane went off Soviet radars it was dropping at an average rate of 22.2 feet per second.

    The following excerpt relates to the flight path:
    The geographic coordinates, showing where KAL-007 was hit, where it then went, and where it disappeared from Soviet radars, are known from special intelligence with a fair degree of precision, and these points have been potted on U.S. Intelligence maps. For example, at 9 minutes after being hit, and at an altitude of 5,000 feet, KAL-007's last tracked location, it was located approximately at co-ordinates 4617N-14115E. The special intelligence showing radar tracks indicates a flight path from Sakhalin Island toward Moneron Island, approaching from the North headed toward the South, and a ditching or crash site probably inside Soviet territorial waters, reportedly 2.6 kilometers North of Moneron Island, according to the June, 1991 NSA re-analysis. (Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report" ppg. 46-47) 

    The following excerpt relates to the location of the site:
    According to special intelligence, one of Pilot Osipovich's wingmen reported abut 15 minutes after KAL-007 disappeared from Soviet radar that he was making "reference point circles." This fact suggests that this interceptor was circling over the probable ditching site or crash site of KAL-007, so that Soviet air defense radars could more precisely locate the point.

    Soviet interceptors circled Moneron Island, according to special intelligence... (Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report", pg. 54)
  2. Soviet transcripts in the ICAO report: The transcripts of Soviet ground communications appended to the 1993 ICAO report and presented by Schlossberg in Chapter Three of Rescue 007, "Lost Over Moneron", make it abundantly clear that the Soviet military authorities knew the plane had gone off radar over Moneron after turning around the island. Within minutes of the plane disappearing from their screens two different rescue operations were ordered. Smirnykh Air Base Fighter Division Acting Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Novoseletski called for rescue helicopters to be sent to the area and Deputy Commander of the Far East Military District Gen. Strogov called for all ships in the vicinity of Moneron to be sent to the island immediately, both Border Guard and civilian ships.
  3. Eye witnesses as reported in the Republican Staff Study /"CIA Report": There are two significant reports recorded in the Republican Staff Study. The first, on page 47, states simply that Japanese fisherman in the area testified that KAL 007 circled Moneron Island. The second report is quoted here in full:
    The recent émigrés provide new information that KAL-007 actually ditched successfully in Soviet territorial waters between Moneron Island and Sakhalin Island, and reportedly that many passengers, including Congressman Larry McDonald, may have survived. The ditched plane was reportedly recovered largely intact by KGB Border Guard boats under the command of KGB General Romanenkov, and it was stripped of all its surviving passengers and their luggage. The émigrés also report that a Soviet helicopter pilot saw KAL-007 in one piece on the surface of the ocean. It was then towed to Soviet territorial waters near Moneron, and deliberately sunk in shallow waters inside Soviet territorial limits.

    But General Romanenko [sic] reportedly did not know what to do with the survivors and their luggage, and he forgot to retrieve the black boxes. He was reportedly disciplined by Ogarkov, relieved, and sent to the Gulag himself, because he made mistakes and knew too much. (Republican Staff Study/"CIA Report", pg 75)
  4. Russian émigré report to Bert Schlossberg-from Rescue 007
    The morning of August 9, 1991, Exie and I entered the crowded lobby of the Jerusalem Hilton. We had come to meet Reuben V., a former map maker assigned to Soviet Air Defense battery-Military unit 1845. This was the radar unit that, according to Shifrin, had tracked KAL 007 to a safe water landing...

    Reuben, in such ways, conveyed to us the following story: On September 1, 1983, his commanding officer, while yet a lieutenant on night duty serving at Military Unit 1845 located on Soviet Gavan (the east coast of Russia across from Sakhalin Island), had photographed his radar screen which had been following the flight of KAL 007 for several minutes prior to its being shot down. After missile impact, the radar had continued tracking the jumbo jet for over 12 minutes-until it had descended to Point Zero [1,000 ft.-the lowest level radar could track]. The name of Reuben's superior officer was Ryzhkov. Ryzhkov and the whole of Military Unit 1845 were part of the underground staff headquarters located at Komsomolsk-na-amure.

    Ryzhkov told Reuben he was certain that KAL 007 had landed safely. Nor was his the only radar station that had followed the flight of the stricken passenger plane to point zero. Another of these was the radar station at Yedinka, designated as Air Defense unit 2212 PT6. Reuben drew a map of Soviet Gavan on hotel stationary and placed Yedinka southwest of unit 1845 and on the coast. Ryzhkov told Reuben that he had used three rolls of film, each containing 36 exposures, in photographing his radar screen. (Independent confirmation that the radar screen was photographed has been received recently in the Soviet Top Secret Memos published here for the first time in English. See Memo number four.)  These rolls, the lieutenant said, were later confiscated by the KGB. All personnel at Unit 1845 as well as at the other radar stations were commanded to maintain silence concerning the tracking of KAL 007. Everyone understood that the penalty for disobeying this order would be death or exile. 

    "Why would anyone tell you all this?" I asked him. "Especially in light of the penalties?"

    "He was drunk," Reuben told us. "And he was bitter. They had humiliated him-he had been passed over for promotion while others involved in the incident went up a grade. And when he inquired of the KGB why this was so, they told him that it was because he had failed to load the camera. But Ryzhkov knew better." (Rescue 007 ppg. 42-44)
  5. Japanese radar showing KAL 007 to have flown past and west of Sakhalin as reported in the ICAO report:

    At 23:30 hours [UTC or Greenwich Mean Time] JMSA [Japanese Maritime Safety Agency] received information from JDA [Japanese Defense Agency] that an aircraft had been observed on radar about 100 NM northeast of Wakkanai, moving in a southwesterly direction. This contact was last observed by the JDA Wakkanai radar surveillance station at 18:29 hours. Following receipt of the above information, JMSA dispatched two patrol vessels to the area west of Sakhalin Island and prepared two aircraft for take-off at Wakkanai Airport. Between 06:10 and 14:30 hours, JMSA dispatched eight additional patrol vessels to the waters west of Sakhalin Island. (ICAO 1993 paragraph 1.11.5, pg. 17)

    While this does not point directly to Moneron, it clearly shows a flight in that direction beyond Sakhalin and a search effort in the waters between Sakhalin and Moneron or even waters west of Moneron itself.
  6. Izvestia articles: The Izvestia articles contain mutually contradictory material and testimony and, as such, are considered reliable only to the extent that they agree with other sources. That being said, there is a reference to KAL 007 circling twice around Moneron before descending to (as thought by the author) a crash landing.

The main problem with a water landing off of Moneron is the extreme difficulty of accomplishing such a feat.  Yet, airline pilots do receive training for this eventuality and procedures for ditching passenger aircraft are provided on all airlines.  While reports of airliners ditching at sea are rare, it has happened with passengers, in all cases, surviving.  (See Aircraft Ditchings for further information.)  Additionally, KAL 007 pilot Chun Byung-In, a colonel in the Korean Air Force, was a seasoned veteran, highly skilled in flying large aircraft. Because of his skill, he had seen service as pilot on the Korean presidential aircraft flying Korea’s president to the US in 1982. If landing the Boeing 747 on the sea could be done, Captain Chun could have done it.

At the time of landing, it was dark and there was full cloud cover at 2,000 meters.

In addition to this, we have received a second hand report that a US Air Force service man stationed near Wakkanai, Japan at the time of the shoot down, stated that the area in question is visible from the hills near there. He claims that no rescue operations were observed. However, there is a problem with this in that Moneron is about 45 nautical miles from Wakkanai (54 statute miles, 86 kilometers). The nearby islands of Rebun and Rishiri have peaks over 1,700 meters (over 5,000 feet) high but the peak on Hokkaido nearest to Wakkanai is about 15 miles inland and only reaches 427 meters (Planet Earth Macmillan World Atlas).  We do not know where the US observation posts, referred to by the Airman, are located but, if they are on Hokkaido near Wakkanai, they would not be high enough to see to Moneron. As of this writing, we have not been able to determine if there are hills near Wakkanai that are high enough for this observation. If anyone reading this knows about this, please convey the information to us.

In addition to the difficulty of landing, the plane would have to remain afloat long enough for passengers and baggage to be removed. Baggage in the cargo hold could not be removed while the plane was afloat. We believe that all baggage was removed. This could be accomplished by divers after the plane sank by opening the cargo doors under water. Another possibility is that this particular plane was outfitted with a special cargo container on the main deck so that the below-deck area could be used for other purposes. Korean Airlines did this with at least sixteen of their aircraft. We are unable to determine whether or not this particular plane was so equipped.

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10.  What happened to the surviving passengers and crew after they were captured by the Soviets?

Our knowledge of the whereabouts of members of passengers and crew of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, shot down on August 31, 1983, is based primarily on information received by the Research Centre for Prisons, Psychprisons and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR.  This research center was established by the late Avraham Shifrin, an Israeli who had, himself, spent time in the Soviet prison camp system.  As a major in the Red Army and prosecutor for the Krasnodar Region, northeast of the Crimea, he was responsible for sending many to the Gulags.  After he himself was convicted on charges of spying for the US and Israel, he was sentenced to ten years on the harshest of prisons; then seven years of exile in Kazakhstan.  Mr. Shifrin maintained an extensive network of contacts within the Soviet Union and its successor states.  Much of the information that we have was obtained at great personal risk by his contacts.

The Centre’s investigations in 1989 to 1991 determined that the passengers and crew of KAL 007 were taken, upon rescue, to the KGB Coast Guard base on Sakhalin.  Within a few days (by September 4, 1983), everyone was taken to the KGB base at Sovetskaja Gavan on the Siberian mainland opposite Sakhalin, roughly 600 miles north of Vladivostok.  Here the men, women and children were divided into separate groups.  The men and women were taken by train to Tynda on the Baikal-Amur Railway about 800 miles inland where at least some were put to forced labor.  The male adults were, at some point, distributed to a number of different camps throughout Siberia some of which were camps that also held American POWs and other foreign prisoners.  These camps are identified as camps for foreigners by their total isolation and the lack of villages around them.  Normally, when prisoners are released from prison camps they are required to continue living in exile near the prison.  Their families join them and villages grow up around the camps.  Foreign prisoners are not released; there are no villages around their prisons.

Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald, Democrat, 7th District, Georgia, was separated from the rest of the passengers and taken by special air transport to Moscow on or about Sept. 8, 1983.  A special KGB guard unit was brought from Khabarovsk to accompany him.  The KGB had a fleet of special aircraft, the 910xx series that was used exclusively for transporting high profile prisoners, VIPs, and others requiring the strictest security.  These were used for even very short trips rather than using overland transportation.

The child passengers were kept in Sovetskaja Gavan in a specially established isolated temporary orphanage until the end of October.  They were then gradually transferred to various orphanages in Vladivostok, Omsk and Barnaul, both near Novosibirsk, and Kazakhstan based on their racial identity.  The intent was to assimilate them into the predominant racial populations in these areas.

Congressman McDonald

Congressman Larry McDonaldUpon arrival in Moscow, McDonald was taken to the Lubyanka KGB prison where he was given the designation, “Prisoner Number 3.”  While at the Lubyanka, he was kept in isolation, taken from his cell only for questioning.  (The halls of Lubyanka are carpeted so that the footsteps of those being led away for questioning cannot be heard in the cells.  Everyone is kept under constant observation through peepholes.  Those who are allowed a bit of exercise are taken to small fenced in exercise yards on the roofs of the prison high above and invisible from the streets below.)  He was interrogated several times by the head of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov.  (Kryuchkov was a member of the core group, the “Gang of Eight”, who sought to seize power from Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991.  He was arrested when the coup failed but was later released. He attended the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin—at Mr. Putin’s personal invitation—in 2000.  Mr. Kryuchkov is now an internationally known lecturer.)

Following a number of questionings, Mr. McDonald was moved to the Lefortovo KGB prison also in Moscow for continued interrogation over a period of several months.  In Lefortovo, prisoners were kept in cells that were artificially cooled to near freezing temperatures.  These cells were about 1.5 meters on a side or roughly 4.5 feet.  The dirt floors were submerged in water so that the prisoners either stood or lay down in mud.  There might be a slanted bench against which the prisoner could lean with his feet against the opposite wall.

After a time in Lefortovo, Mr. McDonald was then moved to a “dacha” (summer house) in Sukhanova near Moscow where the interrogations continued.  Mr. Shifrin’s sources indicated that they had strong reason to believe that, while in Sukhanova, McDonald was interrogated under drugs that may have eventually resulted in identity loss.  He was brought eventually to a prison in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, the region where the Soviets had important nuclear missile test ranges and similar installations.  He may have been brought to this area to be interrogated by experts there as part of the effort to find out what he could say about the US nuclear program and what he knew about the Soviet program. 

Early in 1987, former NSA agent, Jerry Mooney, testified before Congress about the “Moscow Bound” program and the importance of Karaganda as a center of the Soviet nuclear program and an area where certain highly-skilled American POWs with technical knowledge were brought.  Following his testimony, the world press focused on this area.  In an apparent attempt to keep McDonald’s presence there secret, he was moved in mid-1987, by special transport, to a small prison near the town of Temir-Tau, also in Kazakhstan.  (The wardens of this prison identified him from a photograph that had been computer-aged to show what he would have looked like at the time.  It also showed a scar that runs from his left nostril to the left end of his lip.)

Computer-aged photo of Larry
Computer-aged photo of Larry McDonald which was shown to wardens of Kazakhstan's Temir Tau prison.

Here he was given special treatment but was not allowed to communicate with anyone.  In the summer of 1990, he was taken to the transportation prison in Karaganda.  Here, as an unknown prisoner whose file is sealed by the KGB, he remained.  As of 1995, all efforts to obtain additional information from the Karaganda prison have failed.  The congressman’s present location is unknown—it may be there or he may have been moved since then.

Child Passengers
Efforts to track down the children of KAL 007 have been very difficult.  Many of the youngest ones were probably adopted into local families.  Some information was obtained about two young Caucasian sisters, we believe they were the Grenfell children, Stacey and Noelle, ages 3 and 5, of Rochester, NY.  It appears that they were placed in an orphanage in Vladivostok until 1990.  The older child, at about 12, was sent to Medical School 3, a type of vocational high school, associated with the city hospital in Khabarovsk for training.  The girl in question, whom we think is Noelle, graduated from there three years later then was taken elsewhere and her file removed from the school and hospital.  At this point, her trail was lost.  This information came from the director of the school.

A Female Passenger
Sources provided information on one young Oriental woman who was set to work felling timber in the area of Tynda, Siberia.  Prior to 1985, she lost her left arm below the elbow in a work accident.  Subsequently, she was sent across the vast Siberian landmass to the extremely isolated village of Nakhodka on the Tazovskaya Guba (Inlet) above the Arctic Circle where she remained until sometime in the late summer of 1991 or 1992.  By this time, she was married and had several children.  This village consists of some 20-30 houses occupied by local fishermen and a few Russian exiles.  The villagers live in sub-human conditions with almost no contact with the outside world.  Winter lasts for most of the year and half the year is spent in Arctic darkness.  The conditions are so gruesome that the villagers—few of whom speak Russian—care for nothing but survival and vodka.

The villagers of Nakhodka thought that the woman was of indigenous Nenets origin because of her Oriental features.  She did not mix with and was generally unknown to them.  They were aware that she had been removed by men in authority.  This may have been because the KGB had become aware of efforts by Avraham Shifrin and his Research Institute to locate the woman.  He had tried to get his people to this village a year earlier, before she was moved, but promised funding to support the effort did not come through.  By the time he was able to raise the necessary funds and recruit volunteers for this very dangerous mission, the woman was gone.

An important point to note is that, even when prisoners were released for whatever reason, they were often sent to isolated villages such as Nakhodka.  While apparently having freedom of movement, there was no escape from the pervasive KGB scrutiny.  The Soviet KGB used local informants to control residents of such villages.  The informants were in turn controlled by threats to the safety of family members who were taken into custody for just this purpose—to serve as “leverage.”  The KGB would select trusted members of the community to be their informants.  They would then test them by having someone utter anti-Soviet remarks in their presence.  When an informant did not report such a remark to his KGB “handler”, he would be informed that members of his family would be deprived of food.  If it happened again, they would be shot.  Shifrin considered the ingenuity of the KGB to be both “diabolical and 100 per cent effective.”

Even though the name has changed, the KGB is still as pervasive and powerful as ever, even though it may keep a lower profile.  Russian President Vladimir Putin was with the KGB before entering into politics.

Male Adult Passengers
Sources indicate that most of the male passengers and crew were taken to a series of three ultra-secret prison camps in the dense taiga region along the Amur river near the village of Zapokrovsk not far from the Chinese border.  These are the same camps where American POWs were known to have been located.  They are quite extensive.  In the winter, smoke can be seen rising from 80-90 smoke stacks—each barracks has two or three stoves, some 30 or more barrack houses.  Unfortunately, all efforts to get to the camps and identify passengers visually failed because of the intense security in the area.

Additional camps were in the area of Cita, headquarters of the Far East Theater of Operations of the Soviet military, at Nercinsk, Nercinski Zavod and other locations.

At the time, there were also three other ultra-secret camps for foreign prisoners on Roger’s Bay, Wrangell Island in the Arctic Ocean.  Mr. Shifrin had reason to believe that some of the passengers and, especially the crew, may have been taken to Wrangell because of their aeronautical training.  These camps have since been abandoned and all inmates moved elsewhere.

This is the extent of our current knowledge concerning the locations where the passengers and crew of KAL 007 were taken after being rescued from the downed plane. 

If anyone reading this has additional knowledge pertaining to possible locations of our prisoners please contact us at info@rescue007.org.  Thank you, very much.

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11.  Why would the Soviets keep the KAL 007 passengers and crew alive instead of "killing off" the evidence against them?

[For a full understanding of the answer to this question, please refer also to FAQ #1.]

The fate of the passengers and crew of KAL 007 needs to be viewed in the context of the Soviet Union's dealings generally with captured foreign nationals. There are the motives that are fairly well known to people that are knowledgeable about American POW/MIA issues:

  1. The Soviets used captured foreigners as "bargaining chips" for western political concessions, western recognition of satellite regimes, and return of apprehended espionage agents.
  2. The Soviets used captured foreigners for gaining (extorting) economic "credit" from the west.
  3. Captured foreigners were used to supplement the slave labor work force for a failed economic approach - Communism.  (In fact, it has recently been revealed that the Russians continue to use foreign slave labor in camps located in the same area where we believe KAL 007 survivors were/are kept.  See KAL 007 Survivors and the Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the Russian Federation.)
  4. Since the execution of KGB head Laventry Beria and his lieutenants - Colonel Kabulov, et al - in 1953, it had become clear that today's jailors and their supporters would be the jailed of tomorrow. Thus the fear of retribution diminished the practice of execution (as well as the most severe torments) among political prisoners.
  5. Glasnost, and the opening of the books of the KGB and the Soviet repressive state system in general, would place the perpetuators of the killings of KAL 007 passengers and crew at great risk. This danger would inhibit their execution.
  6. And finally, a still Biblically oriented America, a society still formed by the Christian concept of mercy may find it difficult to understand the Soviet-period-formed mentality that captured peoples are not simply to be "let go" to return to their homes or necessarily killed. They must be punished or required as conquered peoples to work it off - for life. This "working" is not so much for economic benefit to the conqueror but because the conquered have it coming to them and it is for the vindication of the victorious.  To illustrate - Secretary of State under President Truman, James F. Byrnes, was told in London in September of 1945 by Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Molotov (in reaction to the US's policy of simply demobilizing the Japanese Army and sending them home), "They [the Japanese] should be held as prisoners of war. We [the Allies] should do what the Red Army was doing with the Japanese it had taken in Manchuria [about 500,000] - make them work..."
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12.  Do any of the items belonging to the passengers which were returned by the Soviets bear on the question of passenger rescue?  What about the shoes?

On Monday, September 26, 1983, a delegation of seven Japanese and American officials arriving aboard the Japanese patrol boat Tsugaru, met a six-man Soviet delegation at the port of Nevelsk on Sakhalin Island.  KGB Major General A. I. Romanenko, the Commander of the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands frontier guard, headed the Soviet delegation.*  Romanenko handed over to the Americans and Japanese, among other things, single and paired footwear.  With footwear that the Japanese also retrieved, the total came to 213 men's, women's and children's dress shoes, sandals, and sports shoes.  The Soviets said that all that they had retrieved, they had found floating in the water or washed up on the shores of Sakhalin and Moneron islands.

Family members of KAL 007 passengers would later state that these shoes were actually worn by their loved ones for the flight on that fateful night.  Sonia Munder had no difficulty recognizing the sneakers of her children, one of Christian age 14 and one of Lisi age 17, by the intricate way her children laced them.  (Sonia confirmed to me personally that her children were wearing these shoes when they boarded the flight).  Another mother says, "I recognized them just like that.  You see, there are all kinds of inconspicuous marks which strangers do not notice.  This is how I recognized them.  My daughter loved to wear them."  And yet, another mother (and maybe it takes a mother!), Nan Oldham identified her son, John's, sneakers from a photo in Life magazine of 55 of the 213 shoes -- apparently, a random array on display those first days at Chitose Air Force Base in Japan.  "We saw photos of his shoes in a magazine," says Nan, "We followed up through KAL and a few weeks later, a package arrived.  His shoes were inside: size 11 sneakers with cream white paint."  John Oldham had taken his seat in row 31 of KAL 007 wearing those cream white paint spattered sneakers.  He had just come from painting his suburban Washington, D.C., family home.

From an examination of the shoes in the photo of Life magazine, pairing the sets and counting them with the single shoes, and relating them to the whole, it turns out that the total amount of shoes retrieved account for 198 of the 269 people of KAL 007 - or almost 74% of the total.

The Soviets retrieved the shoes of some portion of this 74% of the flight's passengers, yet claimed not to have found one single body, not one person.  This adds great weight to the question "Where are the bodies?"  Either the shoes were on the bodies and removed by the Soviets (or the Japanese), or they were removed by the wearers and retrieved by the Soviets (or Japanese).  Why were these shoes loose?  Were they taken off in preparation for the landing or were they simply removed during the course of the flight?  In either case, the one great question remains.  Is it really possible for so many shoes to be found and not one single person found to wear them?  And if we should negate that the shoes were taken off in preparation for a ditching - that there was no time to do so, or the aircraft was in an exploded and too disintegrated condition to do so, then another question arises - If the non appearance of bodies is explained by their flesh being eaten by crabs, and, contrary to expert opinion, bones eaten by sea creatures, is it really credible, that not one of the 213 items of footwear had a foot, or a toe or a toe bone within it?

* Note - Gen. Romanenko would meet a bad end due (according to the Republican Staff Report) to his handling of KAL 007 matters.  The Republican Staff Study reports that he was probably sent to the Gulag himself.  The Israeli Research Centre for Prisons, Psych-Prisons, and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR, resting on informant information reported, independently and prior to the Staff Study, that Romanenko's name no longer appears in KGB computers.  (Once in, a person is noted as reassigned, deceased, retired, etc., but never deleted.  It is as if Gen. Romanenko never existed).  And finally, Hans Ephraimson-Abt, the head of the US families of the victims association, reports that while he was in East Germany at the Soviet embassy, he was informed by embassy officials that Gen. Romanenko, whom he had come to enquire about (he had not!), had committed suicide.  Of course, each in its own time, could have been true.

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13.  What happened to the baggage?

If, as we believe, KAL 007 ditched successfully off of Moneron (see FAQ 9), it could have been possible to remove carry-on baggage in the passenger compartment -- the plane would have had to remain afloat long enough for passengers and baggage to be removed.  Baggage in the cargo hold could not have been removed while the plane was afloat.  Based on eye-witness reports relayed to us by the Research Centre for Prisons, Psychprisons and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR and reports of divers, we believe that all baggage was removed.  This could be accomplished by divers after the plane sank by opening the cargo doors under water.  Another possibility is that this particular plane was outfitted with a special cargo container on the main deck so that the below-deck area could be used for other purposes.  Korean Air Lines did this with at least sixteen of their aircraft.  We are unable to determine whether or not this particular plane was so equipped.

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14.  Are there records of people surviving other ditching attempts?

A number of intentional passenger (cargo) airliner ditchings have been documented.  The following figures show survival rates for passengers and crew:

  •  US Airways Flight 1549, Airbus A320, New York City to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, 15 January 2009, made a controlled safe water ditching into the Hudson River after losing thrust in both engines due to bird strike at about 3000 feet altitude three minutes into the flight; 155 passengers and crew made an orderly evacuation as a NYC fireboat towed the floating aircraft with passengers standing on the wing, 100% survival rate
  •  Tuninter Air, Flt. 1153, August 6, 2005, of the coast of Sicily, 39 occupants, 23 survivors, 59% survival rate
  •  Miami Air Lease Convair CV-340, December 4, 2004, Mall lake, Florida, 2 occupants, 2 survivors, 100% survival rate
  •  Ethiopian Air Lines 767, November 23, 1996, off the Comoros Islands, 175 occupants, 45 survivors, 26% survival rate
  •  Though not a passenger plane, still relevant - Columbian AF C 130 Hercules, October 1982, en route between the Azores and Bermuda stayed afloat for 2 days!
  •  ALM DC9, May 2, 1970, the Caribbean, 63 occupants, 40 survivors, 63% survival rate
  •  Aeroflot Tupolev 124, October, 1963, Neva river, 52 occupants, 52 survivors, 100% survival rate
  •  Flying Tiger's Super H Constellation passenger aircraft with a crew of 8 and 68 U.S. military (paratrooper) passengers.  Sept. 28, 1962.  Aircraft ditched in the North Atlantic about 500 miles west of Shannon, Ireland, after losing three engines on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  Forty-five of the passengers and 3 crew were rescued, with 23 passengers and 5 crew members being lost in the storm-swept  seas.  All passengers successfully evacuated the airplane.  Those who were lost succumbed in the rough seas. 100% survival rate for landing and evacuation.
  •  Pan Am Flt. 943 Stratocruiser "Sovereign of the Skies", October 16, 1956, in the Pacific between Honolulu and San Francisco, 30 passengers and crew, 30 survivors, 100% survival rate
  •  Northwest Orient Airlines Flt. 2, Boeing Stratocruiser, April 2, 1956, ditched in 430 feet Puget Sound, 38 passengers, all survived the ditching but 4 could not recover the freezing waters, 87% survival rate

Until now, there has never been an instance of a passenger plane water ditching in which there have not been any survivors!

For additional information see the Ditchings page.


Based on reports that had come to the Israeli Research Centre for Prisons, Psychprisons, and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR, we believe that the passengers and crew, with their luggage, were boarded onto Soviet boats and ships and abducted. We believe these boats and ships to be both the coastal patrol boats under command of KGB General Romanenko and the civilian trawlers ordered to the rescue by Deputy Commander of the Far East Military District, General Strogov at 6:54 - just 16 minutes after KAL007 had descended to 1,000 feet, the altitude under which Soviet radar could not track. (See Story Section -- Escape From Destruction). We believe, in accordance with the statement to Izvestia by Commander of the Soviet Pacific Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Vasilyevich Siderov, that "small boats" had already arrived at the site 27 minutes after KAL's set down ("crash", according to the Admiral - who also maintains that there were no bodies in the water). Furthermore, according to reports to Izvestia by amazed Soviet divers who had visited KAL 007 underwater just 2 weeks after the downing, no bodies were found on board or anywhere else (See KAL 007, The U.S. 7th Fleet, and the Great Russian Ruse). And according to the Soviet official claims, there were no bodies found on the surface of the water at "impact" site (though the Soviets did return 213 fished out footwear - representing 74% of the 269 occupants of KAL 007! See FAQ 12 - Do any of the items belonging to the passengers which were returned by the Soviets bear on the question of passenger rescue? What about the shoes?).

If, contrary to our belief, the passengers and crew of KAL 007 had not been rescued and abducted, and if, as in fact, there were no bodies found on top of the surface of the sea or found under the surface of the sea within KAL 007's wreckage, then there should have been live people, if not in KAL 007's own life rafts, then floating in the waters off Moneron Island until the arrival of the Soviet "small boats" - within one half hour. This is supported by the following survival manual survival rates for persons able to swim or who are wearing life jackets or who have use of some floating support, in waters of 50 degrees - the temperature of the waters off Moneron Island that morning:

Up to 50 minutes - Practically 100% survival
Up to 3 1/2 hours - 50 % survival
Past 3 1/2 hours - Acceleratingly, down to 0% survival (figures are survival manual figures referred to in the Republican Staff Study)

But there were no people, living or dead found on or under the waters.  Where, then, are our people?

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15.  If the KAL 007 children were indeed settled in Soviet orphanages after the shootdown, as this site contends in FAQ 10, why have we not heard from them? Wouldn't they have memories of their original parents and life and wouldn't they want the world to know?

I [Bert Schlossberg] have often thought of the state of children's' minds and early memories as they grow older and when and how we could hear from them as they attempt to communicate to the world their apprehensions of their true identities. I have not fully succeeded to my satisfaction. Nevertheless, some light does come and it is generally through the experiences of Avraham Shifrin, the Israeli researcher into KAL 007 who passed away in 1998.

Avraham Shifrin, as a Red Army Major and prosecutor for the Krasnodar Black Sea region, sent many people to the Gulags - by his own admission - until he himself was convicted for spying for the US and Israel. After many years in several gulags and exile and after acquiring intimate knowledge of Soviet practices, he shared with us the following:

There were 22 children under 12 years of age aboard KAL 007. This is relatively not a large number - though every one is precious to someone and no mere statistic. Avraham said that the usual practice in the Soviet Union when having captured foreign national children, which did occur, was to disperse them in populations that bore their physical characteristics to be brought up in orphanges and other institutions as well as families. Most of the children of KAL 007, being of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino parentage, would have been sent to the "oriental republics" along the Sino-Soviet border. Thus the children of KAL 007 would not be unique in that respect.

But that did not mean the KAL 007 children were free. In the Soviet Union and also in the Russian Federation, at least until the late 90's, there existed the phenomenon of fully closed cities as well as partially closed villages and towns. These towns and areas, in the earlier days, were fully guarded and controlled with little hope of unmonitored entry or exit for, in some cases, their considerable civilian populations, and it is therefore possible that the children, now grown up, would have many memories to share to the world - but with no access to do so. It is hard for us in the open West to conceive of all this (we are familiar with closed and guarded "military reserves", but not civilian population centers) - but that is the way it was in the USSR. There is also the possibility that these children, because of the special circumstances related to their capture, abduction, what have you, would be segregated out from all other types of captive populations and kept alive totally isolated.

Even the very young ones, of course, would have glimmers and apprehensions of the past and I suppose the younger they would be the more freedom they would be allowed. Of course, there would come a time when there would be new relations formed and new lives entered into and less and less motivation to "go against" what now existed for them.

Perhaps, the recent examples of the kidnapped Japanese who were able, at different ages, of course, to begin new lives with their "host" North Korean captors without the rest of the world hearing about it from them or anyone else can illustrate for us the psychosocial and physical forces available to a totalitarian dictatorship over its weak and disadvantaged subjects - from whatever sources.

There is also a lot to learn from the normal psychological "silencers". A victim of child abuse rarely will feel free enough and strong enough to expose the abusing parent - in that direction is no safety. A social worker in the field of child neglect and abuse, as I was for a number of years, will tend to suspect the "loved and defended parent" almost as much, or sometimes more, than the parent that seems on the surface the uncaring and menacing one. There may be a lot to lose for a young child to suddenly begin talking about his early memories. Shifrin believed that the survivors would be monitored at all times - no matter their differing growths in awareness and circumstances.

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This FAQ is the work of Bert Schlossberg and Ben Torrey.


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Last modified: March 10, 2009

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