|By Bert Schlossberg|
August 26, 2008
September 1st marks the 25th anniversary of the KAL 007 tragedy. To mark this historic date, we present a piece by Bert Schlossberg, who still dedicates much of his life to investigating this unsolved disaster. Airliners.net salutes Schlossberg’s dedication, his strong will, and his tireless efforts, as he continues to attempt to unravel the details of this Cold War conflict.
Twenty five years have gone by with little thought for Congressman Larry McDonald, 22 children under the age of 12 years, and the rest of the 269 passengers and crew of Boeing 747 Korean Airlines Flight 007, shot down by the Soviets just west of Sakhalin Island in the international waters of the Tatar Straits on Sept. 1, 1983. A first in the documented history of air flight occurred—a designated crash site at sea with a declaration of "no survivors," but also with no bodies, body parts or tissues, and no luggage on the surface of the sea, and none of the above under the sea, according to both the Soviet civilian divers in their Izvestia interviews of 1991, and the Commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet Search operation Admiral Walter Piotti.
KAL 007 Passengers
Captain Mikhail Igorevich Girs, Commander of Soviet submersible Tinro II:
“Submergence 10 October. Aircraft pieces, wing spars, pieces of aircraft skin, wiring, and clothing. But—no people. The impression is that all of this has been dragged here by a trawl rather than falling down from the sky…”
Diver Viyacheslav Popov:
“I will confess that we felt great relief when we found out that there were no bodies at the bottom. Not only no bodies; there were also no suitcases or large bags."
Where did all the people go? Where did all the luggage go?
An explanation soon came, but with it a deepening mystery with every new facet of what turned out to be a Soviet deception of such magnitude that even now it is hard to fathom. With the opening of Russia's doors in the early 1990's, former Soviet military men, some of them stationed on the Siberian coast opposite Sakhalin, one of them becoming a citizen of Israel, told the story of having tracked KAL 007 on radar to a safe water landing. Others who remained in the Soviet Union concurred and added to this story. Russian boats had come alongside the jumbo jet, disembarked the passengers and taken them to the coast. KAL 007 was pulled a short distance, sunk or allowed to sink, and then exploded under water. Later, stories began to emerge from informants and from the Soviet civilian divers themselves. Trawlers had come, and with the help of Military divers, preceding the civilian divers, the wreckage was moved and scattered to simulate a plane having come down from above.
All this while the Soviet Fleet under command of Admiral Siderov pretended to be searching for KAL 007 and its Black Box. The pretence was successful. In the effort to convince the combined U.S., Japanese, and South Korean search effort that they had not located and gutted and evacuated the occupants of KAL 007, the Soviets confronted the allied vessels in dangerous ways, as if the search for KAL 007 and the much vaunted Black Box really mattered to them—the Petropavlovsk missile cruiser and a destroyer radar locking on to our vessels. Nuclear-armed Backfire bomber overflights, criss-crossing and cutting off, attempting to send an armed boarding party onto a Japanese auxiliary vessel, and attempting to ram brave south Korean Sailors who refused to abandon their search station (thwarted by constant interpositions of the U.S.S. Sterrett), setting false "pingers" in various innocuous locations to lead the US naval vessels on a goose chase. The Russian ruse worked—until it all began to unravel starting at the beginning of the 1990's.
Senator Jesse Helms, then the ranking member of the Minority Staff (Republican) of the committee on Foreign Relations requested the CIA to verify the reports coming from Israel. The important points within those reports were partially but essentially verified and the Republican Staff Study (draft) of 1991 was produced with these concluding words, “KAL 007 PROBABLY DITCHED SUCCESSFULLY, THERE MAY HAVE BEEN SURVIVORS, THE SOVIETS HAVE BEEN LYING MASSIVELY, AND DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS NEED TO BE MADE TO RETURN THE POSSIBLE SURVIVORS.”
According to Rear Admiral Bud Nance, director under Helms for the Minority Staff of the Committee, the CIA-verified information coming from Israel was the basis for Senator Helms writing to Boris Yeltsin on December 10, 1991 requesting information about location of camps of survivors, particularly information on the fate of Congressman Larry McDonald, all Soviet military communications related to the shootdown itself, radar trackings, etc. Amazingly, all the documentation was supplied by Yeltsin—but not a word about survivors! And yet the Soviet deception was fast unraveling:
Congressman Larry McDonald
March 24, 1992 - Soviet Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov admitted on Russian television that he had ordered an all-out effort to retrieve the black boxes in order to "prevent the United States from finding them and to save the Soviet Union from a flurry of international accusations for destroying a civilian airliner".
Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov
June, 1992 - Yeltsin revealed the existence of a KGB memo reporting the existence of documents related to KAL 007.
October 16, 1992- The release by Yeltsin and publication in Izvestia of the Oct, 1983 of Top Secret Memos from head of KGB Victor Chebrikov and Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov to General Secretary of the Soviet Union Yuri Andropov informing him that the Black Boxes were now in their possession, recommending that they not be released as they cannot confirm an U.S. intelligence mission for KAL 007, and that the Soviet fleet was simulating a search for KAL 007 to disinform the U.S. and allies.
Victor Chebrikov, KGB head
Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Soviet Union
November, 1992 - Boris Yeltsin hands the two Black Box containers to Korean President TohTae-Woo, but not the tapes themselves.
January 8, 1993 - The tapes which Russia had all these years denied having retreived were finally handed to the Intrernational Civil Aviation Organization of the United Nations.
September 1, 2003 - Deputy Director of the State Archives of Recent History of the Russian Federation acknowledges that Soviets had searched for KAL 007 and the black box all along knowing where they were, confirming the simulated Soviet search effort.
The tapes that were handed over by the Russians reveal the following astonishing fact: Not only did KAL007 not fall, plunge, cartwheel out of control to its destruction in the waters below, but it attained its pre missile attack altitude, began a gradual descent, and the maintained a level flight at 16,000 ft. for almost five minutes until it reached the only landmass in the whole Tatar Staits, tiny Moneron Island off Sakhalin Island, and then began a slow spiral descent finally going low enough (1,000 ft.) to disappear from the radar screens—because of the curvature of the earth, not because it had been destroyed in an explosion.
The military communications handed over by Yeltsin per Helms’ request tell the rest: within a few minutes, missions involving rescue helicopters from Sakhalin, KGB patrol boats and other vessels, and the civilian trawlers then in the vicinity were ordered to the last location on Soviet radar for KAL 007—tiny Moneron Island, within the Soviet territorial waters precisely denied by the Russians to Commander Walter Piotti in the combined allied search for the jumbo jet.
But what of the passengers and crew of KAL 007? There has been no confirmed death of any of them, and to our sorrow, reports which cry for evaluation and action by our government were being released up until the mid 1990s, causing grave concerns and heartache for any who have known and loved them.
We believe Larry McDonald was taken to Lubyanka Central KGB prison for interrogation, then to Leforto prison, also in Moscow, then to Suchanova "dacha" where he was interrogatied under drugs, then to Karaganda transit prison in Kazakhastan, and then to Temir Tau prison, also in Kazakhastan. There is some evidence that child Noelle Ann Grenfell (age 5 at the time of the shootdown) was placed in a medical technical secondary school in Khabarovsk at the age of 12 after being separated from her younger sister Stacy. There are other reports.
Senator Jesse Helms: "I’ll never forget that night when
that plane was just beside ours at Anchorage airport
with two little girls and their parents. I taught them,
among other things, to say I love you in deaf language,
and the last thing they did when they turned the corner
was stick up their little hands and tell me they loved me.
I’ll never forget that.
A computer-aged photo of Larry McDonald
which was shown to wardens of
Kazakhstan's Temir Tau prison.
Where is the brave Senator or Congressman, or just one who is doing his duty, who will fight for these people, because of their plight, or for Larry McDonald, because he is a collegue, or because he is incensed that the U.S. had been so tricked and trampled on, despised and mocked, because of conscience, or because of God? Where is an aroused citizenry of America, that surely would know how to act, or learn how to act, or get others to act, to bring home these unfortunate people to a land and a people which was once theirs?
*The tracking of Larry McDonald http://www.rescue007.org/faq.htm#10
*Child passenger Noelle Ann Grenfell http://www.rescue007.org/grenfells.htm
*Russian ramming attempt of South Korean sailors and station http://www.conservapedia.com/KAL_007/_Russian_Ram_attempt
*The Russian Deception of the U.S. 7the Fleet http://www.rescue007.org/ruse.htm
*The real-time Photo Essay of the Soviet Naval harrassment of U/S/ Search operation http://www.rescue007.org/photo_essay.htm
*Complete 1991 draft Republican Staff of Committee on Foreign Relations Study on KAL 007 http://www.rescue007.org/republican_staff_study.htm
* History and background of the 1991 Republican Staff report http://www.rescue007.org/faq.htm#8
* Excellent all around article onf KAL 007 http://www.conservapedia.com/Korean_Airlines_Flight_007
Bert Schlossberg is the International Director of the International Committee for the Rescue of KAL 007 Survivors, http://www.Rescue007.org. His wife, Exie, lost her father, Alfredo Cruz, and her cousin, Edith Cruz, both of whom were aboard KAL 007. Bert and Exie welcome all email responses about this article and about this incident, from pertinent to personal.