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KAL #007 - What Really Happened?

Updated on January 12, 2017
stevarino profile image

Blessed with a Physician Father and Schoolteacher Mother, I acquired the gift of learning at an early age. The passion has grown ever since!

The Cold War

Anyone living between 1947 and 1991 has been deeply or at least somewhat affected by the strategic "chess match" between the Eastern Bloc (USSR and the Warsaw Pact) and the Western Bloc (USA and NATO) resulting from the final disposition of Nazi Germany at the conclusion of the Second World War.

Though the Cold War officially ended during the George H. W. Bush administration, the July 17th, 2014 shooting down over Ukraine of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 with it's 298 passengers and crew, is reminiscent of an incident 3 decades earlier.

Soviet Su-15 Flagon Interceptor
Soviet Su-15 Flagon Interceptor | Source

It was the first of September 1983 when Korean Airlines Flight 007 carrying 269 passengers and crewmen, including US Congressman Larry P. McDonald, was shot down over the Sea of Japan by Soviet military aircraft while on it's last leg of a regularly scheduled New York City to Seoul flight.

The Soviet fighter pilot that recorded the kill was following behind KAL 007, repeatedly flashing his signal lights and sending warning communications, then fired 520 rounds of warning shots alongside the passenger jet before issuing the 2 fatal missiles as he was ordered.

US Response

The following day, President Ronald Reagan blasted the Kremlin in a televised address charging "murder in the air!" Though it was claimed by the Soviets that Reagan denounced the USSR as "the evil empire", that statement was actually made in an address 5 months earlier.

Soviet Response

Initially, the USSR denied everything, then vehemently justified the attack. According to Soviet authorities, an Orion aircraft and an E-3A AWACS aircraft had passed through the area immediately before the Boeing 747 and there was also a US frigate in the area.

Cover Up?

Events of this kind are always subject to claims of conspiracy and this one is no exception.

That the NTSB was taken out of the investigation and authority passed on to the International Civil Aviation Board and all information from the airport at Anchorage directed to the State Department in Washington, D.C. is a pointed indication that the US government was controlling the flow of things.

Kal 007-The Cover Up
Kal 007-The Cover Up
Presenting important new evidence indicating a serious government cover-up, this controversial book should make front-page headlines and reopen investigati on into that fatal flight and the responsibility that our government must bear for its role in the tragedy.

Also is the fact that the tracking of the flight, which was under multiple surveillance facilities including United States Air Force radar stations at Cape Newenham and Cape Romanzoff in Alaska, the LORANS-C navigational system and NORAD, failed to give notification to the pilots of KAL 007 of its navigational error.

Search for the wreckage of KAL 007 produced little debris and virtually no bodies. Forensic technologists were eventually able to pinpoint the wreckage site by using computer models emulating the currents and tides in relation to the few items that washed ashore along northern coastlines of Japan, but even then, very little was found.

Nearly 10 years later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian authorities turned over the black box of KAL 007 proving that the Soviets arrived at the crash site and "cleansed" the scene well before the arrival of western investigators.

Conclusions, or lack thereof

Why KAL 007 flew off course by 200 miles has yet to be determined, but it has been agreed upon by analysts as well as US and Soviet officials that it was a tragic misunderstanding.

It has been widely speculated that the passenger plane veered near to the course of a US spy plane, a theory that has been generally accepted even in the states - ala Gary Powers and the U2 embarrassment of 1960.

Could it be that the Soviets fired upon the passenger plane as a message to the US?

Perhaps it was a mistake, believing the Boeing 747 to be the vaguely similar AWACS, a revamped Boeing 707, now documented as having been in close proximity at the time.

Nevertheless, the USSR fired or demoted several of it's Far East air defense officials.

As with any high profile news item, it loses its luster in the eyes of the public over a fairly short period of time, No concrete conclusion ever really came together with this event - it just faded into obscurity.

Day of the cobra: The true story of KAL flight 007
Day of the cobra: The true story of KAL flight 007
To the memory of the 269 victims of Korea Airlines Flight 007, to their living relatives and loved ones, and to the nation of South Korea whose ordeal throughout its history may be as well understood by those who read this work as it was by KAL 007's most famous victim, Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald this book is respectfully dedicated.


One common theory is that the US was using the airliner to bait the Soviet Union into a public relations showdown. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, who was on a sister flight right behind KAL 007, is quoted as saying; “This is the best chance we ever had to paint those bastards into a corner.”

Another, is that the Soviets over-reacted to the situation due to Arctic gales disrupting their communications stations, explaining the lack of detection of the intruding aircraft for several hours.

One of the original theories, was that the flight was being monitored by Space Shuttle Challenger as well as a reconnaissance satellite, and was investigating recent Soviet technological installations in the area.

The Russians have always maintained that the US was using the civilian aircraft to conduct espionage operations. How else would the world's most sophisticated civilian aircraft, equipped with state of the art navigation control equipment, go hundreds of kilometers astray? They also point out that the flight added 5 tons of additional fuel at the expense of cargo and delayed takeoff from Anchorage to synchronize its timing with passing satellites. They state that the evidence today supports their explanations more than ever before.

Many books have been published over the last 30 years with a wide range of explanations and "what ifs".

Though the incident still remains a mystery, it is in my opinion that somewhere outside of the Eastern and Western explanations of what happened over Sakhalin on September 1, 1983, lies the truth. And it is doubtful that that truth will ever be fully revealed. It was basically, 269 pawns taken during the game between the 2 reigning world masters.

KAL 007 as HL7442, shown with the "I love New York" design it had on the day of the shoot-down.
KAL 007 as HL7442, shown with the "I love New York" design it had on the day of the shoot-down. | Source


The KAL 007 incident marked the most tense period in US/Soviet relations since the Cuban Missile Crisis 21 years prior, which was most likely the nearest this planet has ever come to total nuclear warfare.

The United States is certainly not without its share of causing "collateral damage". During the Persian Gulf conflict five years later, US missile cruiser Vincennes fired two missiles into Iran Air Flight 655 with it's 290 passengers and crew, mistaking it for incoming attack aircraft.

© 2014 Steve Dowell


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