Korean Airlines 007

Almost 20 years ago, the Soviets shot down flt 007, a 747 with all souls lost on board.

I remember at the time there were accusations that it was deliberately off course on purpose and spying. I think the “official” response was that it was simply off course due to a malfunction or something like that. IIRC, the Soviets at the time insisted that the Jumbo ignored several warnings.

Has it ever been resolved “why” exactly, it was shot down? Was it an honest “mistake” by the Soviets?

Last I heard it was all a big mistake. As often happens in these tradgedies it is a confluenece of bizzare events that causes the disaster.

Consider that it is VERY unlikely the US would use a commercial jet for spying. The US has all sorts of dedicated spy equipment including satellites, planes, subs, listening posts and so on. How a commercial 747 is expected to do better is hard to fathom.

In the case of KAL-007 a few things seem to have occured. Not long before the 747 arrived on the scene an American spy plane had been in the vicinity of a Russian missile facility to do exactly that…spy. The American spy plane was not a high flying jet ala the U2 or SR-71 but a conventional commercial jet converted for military use. As such it would look similar in size and flight profile to a 747 on radar.

KAL-007 arrived a short time later and got a bit lost and strayed into Russian airspace completely by accident…they did not have too far to stray. The Russians responded and presumably the pursing Mig came in from below so it could not identify the distinctive 747 hump and shot down what was supposedly a spy plane.

I saw a documentary on television, and what Whack-a-Mole said was their conclusion, too.
Or. . .

For an alternate version of history, read the well-researched book “Shootdown,” which shows that their was a planned conspiracy behind it.

This site by CU tells you why there aren’t firm GQ SDMB-type answers – i.e. both sides are (as of May 2000) still withholding info.


Short answer: the plane crossed into Soviet airspace and was shot down as an “honest mistake.”

The facts from crashdatabase.com:
Date: 09/01/1983
Location: Sakhalin Island, Russia
Airline: Korean Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 747-200B
Registration: HL-7442
Fatalities/No. Aboard: 269:269
Details: On a flight from Alaska to South Korea, the airliner drifted off course and twice penetrated Soviet airspace. During the second penetration, the airliner was shot down by a Russian Su-15 Air Force fighter with air-to-air missiles. The aircraft crashed into international waters in the Sea of Japan. U.S. Representative from Georgia Lawrence McDonald killed.

From the attorneys who represented the victims:
A Soviet fighter shot down a Korean Airlines 747 in 1983. How do you prove that there was “willful misconduct” by the airline? This was the questioned that plagued the attorneys involved with the case. This is the standard that must be proven in order to recover full damages. Attorneys from our network were appointed to the committee that tried the case. Through thorough investigation, they were able to prove that a series of errors were made by the pilots during the flight. As a result, they won a verdict of willful misconduct against the airline.

From a lengthy article on the crash at http://www.rescue007.org/kaminski_article.htm :
For the Soviet military the accident with the Korean plane had little consequence. Osipovich was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner and the officer on duty for operations on the night of the accident was decorated with the Order of the Red Star. Other participants of the accident received bonus to their salaries. KGB destroyed all the documents and materials relevant to the accident. All that remained was a few tapes of communications between the ground control and the intercepting pilots.

Here’s another take on it.

I know nothing about American Free Press, and vouch for none of it.


Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who is probably still best known for breaking the story of the My Lai atrocity, wrote a book on the subject called The Target Is Destroyed. He concluded that the Soviets made an honest mistake.

Larry Flynt thought there was a conspiracy, but on the other side; he had the idea that KAL 007 deliberately went off course to provoke a reaction. IIRC, it had been anyone’s intention to get the plane shot down. Flynt seemed to think it was significant that a right-wing Congressman was aboard the plane. Flynt also claimed to know that this Congressman was in on the attempt to kill him which led to his being crippled for life, but he does not seem to have ever offered any real proof.