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KAL 007 Revisited (Part 3)

By Bert Schlossberg
September 20, 2005

Again, Bert Schlossberg takes us through the tragic events of over 20 years ago, but this time he's armed with the one thing that can truly reinvigorate this story: new evidence. Inside, you will read heretofore-unpublished transcripts from the night of the shootdown which contain compelling evidence contrary to the popularly believed account of this disaster. Will this new evidence be powerful enough for the truth to finally surface?

The Shootdown and the Escape of KAL 007: The Transcripts

It is crucial to remember two remarkable facts when considering the entire KAL 007 affair:

1. Never has there been an occurrence such as KAL 007's, in which bodies, luggage, body parts, or fragments of human remains are all entirely absent from the surface of the water of the designated crash site, and also virtually absent from the wreckage, examined by divers, in relatively shallow water.

Shoes—some of the only articles ever recovered

2. Never has there been an attack on a passenger plane, or for that matter, any aircraft, as fully documented as the attack upon KAL 007. The attack and the actions beforehand and afterwards, were all documented by radar trackings, pilot "dialogue" of the interceptor pilot (electronic intercepts), ground controller vectoring and orders to the interceptor pilot, the functioning of the target plane (Digital Flight Data Recorder), the voice communications of the flight crew of the plane being attacked (Cockpit Voice Recorder), and the orders and conversation of the ground personnel, up and down the hierarchy, as they viewed the attack on radar screen in "real time.”

In reviewing these transcripts, we will experience these scenarios:
- The frustration of Major Osipovich at missing his best shot as KAL 007 Captain Chun Byung-in suddenly puts the jumbo jet into a steep climb.
- The tension-laden but effectively purposeful interchanges between Capt. Chun and his First Officer for minutes after missile detonation, as they attempt to regain control.
- The dismay, confusion, and aggravation of Sokol Air Force Base Commander General Kornukov as he sees that KAL 007 has not only survived the attack, but is still maneuvering, and has checked its dive and leveled out, flying at 5,000 meters.
- The ineptitude and yet, paradoxically, the decisiveness of General Strogov as he orders civilian trawlers in the area and KGB patrol boats to converge on Moneron Island to implement the rescue operation.

Because of the realism and dramatic nature of this story—because of the excitement and suspicion—we will likely be skeptical of its validity. The sense and the suspicion that this story is fiction, the urge to denounce this article as ridiculous, the inkling to think this is part of a grand screenplay prepared for Steven Spielberg, has all been anticipated. But remember that it is not. Everything herein happened in real life, and it is all documented.

Along with the transcripts, I have given my commentary, which is easily distinguishable from the transcripts themselves. The transcripts are complete, except for my deletions of what I consider to be extraneous dialogue, such as Ground Controller requests to Major Osipovich for "fuel remaining" (and Osipovich's replies) and vectoring commands. The transcripts are really compilations of a number of transcripts provided to the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization by the Russian Federation. The order of compilation is readily apparent by the material itself: all the individual sections of the transcripts have hour and minute documentation, and many transcripts also have seconds. And so we begin…

The Prelude—The Stalk

The Participants

Kornukov—General Anatoli Kornukov, Commander Sokol Air Force Base (Sakhalin). Kornukov was appointed Russia’s new Air Force Commander by Boris Yeltsin on January 22, 1998. He served in this capacity until retiring in January 2002.

Gerasimenko—Lt. Colonel, Acting Commander, 41st Fighter Regiment

Novoseletski—Lt. Colonel, Acting Chief of Staff, Fighter Division, Smirnykh Air Force Base

Titovnin—Flight controller, Fighter Division Combat Control Center

Maistrenko—Operations Duty Officer, Combat Control Center, Fighter Division

Kamenski—General Valeri Kamenski, Commander, Far East Military District Air Force

For the entire article, all times are given in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC, formerly Greenwich Mean Time, GMT).

In the air over Sakhalin, it was early in the morning of September 1, 1983.1

General Kornukov (to Military District Headquarters-Gen. Kamenski): (5:47) ...simply destroy [it] even if it is over neutral waters? Are the orders to destroy it over neutral waters? Oh, well.

General Kornukov: (6:13) Chaika (Call sign for Far East Military District Air Force).

Titovnin: Yes, sir. He (Major Osipovich in his Sukhoi 15 TM Flagon interceptor) sees [it] on the radar screen, He sees [it] on the screen, He has locked on, he is locked on, he is locked on.

Kornukov: No answer, Roger. Be ready to fire, the target is 45-50 km to the state border.

Apparently, the Russians were prepared to fire while KAL 007 was over international waters. It had previously passed through territorial airspace over Kamchatka.

Kornukov: Officer in charge at the command post, please, for report.

Titovnin: Hello.

Kornukov: Kornukov, please put Kamenski on the line. Kornukov, ... General Kornukov, put General Kamenski on.

General Kamenski: Kamenski here.

Kornukov: (6:14) Comrade General, Kornukov, good morning. I am reporting the situation. Target 60- 65
[KAL 007 "intruder"] is over Terpenie Bay [Terpenie Bay is on the east coast of Sakhalin Island. KAL 007 had thus successfully traversed Kamchatka, after entering over Petropavlovsk, and crossing the Sea of Okhotsk, it was about to enter Sakhalin's airspace.] tracking 240, 30 km from the State border, the fighter from Sokol is 6 km away. Locked on, orders were given to arm weapons. The target is not responding, to identify, he cannot identify it visually because it is still dark, but he is still locked on.

Kamenski: We must find out, maybe it is some civilian craft or God knows who.

Kornukov: What civilian? [It] has flown over Kamchatka! It [came] from the ocean without identification. I am giving the order to attack if it crosses the State border.

Kamenski: Go ahead now, I order…

And at another location—at Smyrnykh Air Force Base in central Sakhalin…

Lt. Col. Novoseletski: (6:12) Does he see it on the radar or not?

Titovnin: (6:13) He sees it on the screen, he sees it on the screen. He is locked on.

Novoseletski: He is locked on.

Titovnin: Locked on. Well, Roger.

Titovnin: (6:14) Hello.

Lt. Col. Maistrenko: Maistrenko!

Titovnin: Maistrenko Comrade Colonel, that is, Titovnin.

Maistrenko: (6:15) Yes.

Titovnin: The commander has given orders that if the border is violated—destroy [the target].

Maistrenko: …May [be] a passenger [aircraft]. All necessary steps must be taken to identify it.

Titovnin: Identification measures are being taken, but the pilot cannot see. It’s dark. Even now it’s still dark.

Maistrenko: Well, okay. The task is correct. If there are no lights—it cannot be a passenger [aircraft].

Maistrenko was incorrect but Osipovich had not reported at the time to his controller that he had seen KAL 007's lights. He was to acknowledge this in his Sept. 9, 1996, New York Times interview :
"'I was just next to him, on the same altitude, 150 meters to 200 meters away,' he recalled in conversations with a reporter this weekend. From the flashing lights and the configuration of the windows, he recognized the aircraft as a civilian type of plane, he said. 'I saw two rows of windows and knew that this was a Boeing,' he said. 'I knew this was a civilian plane. But for me this meant nothing. It is easy to turn a civilian type of plane into one for military use.'"

Osipovich in 1983

Titovnin: You confirm the task?

Maistrenko: Eh?

Titovnin: You confirm the task?

Maistrenko: Yes.

Titovnin: Roger.

And at yet another location…

Kornukov: (6:21) Gerasimenko!

Lt. Col. Gerasimenko: Gerasimenko here.

General Anatoli Kornukov, courstesy Pravda.

Kornukov: Gerasimenko, cut the horseplay at the command post, what is that noise there? I repeat the combat task: fire missiles, fire on target 60-65 destroy target 60-65.

Gerasimenko: Wilco.

Kornukov: Comply and get Tarasov here. Take control of the MiG 23 from Smyrnykh, call sign 163, call sign 163, he is behind the target at the moment. Destroy the target!

Gerasimenko: Task received. Destroy target 60-65 with missile fire, accept control of fighter from Smyrnykh.

Kornukov: Carry out the task, destroy [it]!

Gerasimenko: …Comrade General… Gone to attack position.

Kornukov: (6:24) Oh, [obscenities], how long [does it take him] to go to attack position, he is already getting out into neutral waters. Engage afterburner immediately. Bring in the MiG 23 as well... While you are wasting time, it will fly right out. Gerasimenko

Gerasimenko: Here.

Kornukov: So, 23 is going behind, his radar sights are engaged, draw yours off to the right immediately after the attack. Has he fired or not?

Gerasimenko: Not yet, not at all.

Kornukov: Why?

Gerasimenko: He is closing in, going on the attack. 163 is coming in, observing both.

Kornukov: Okay, Roger, understood, so bring in 163 in behind Osipovich to guarantee destruction.

Act 1—The Shootdown

The Participants

Kornukov—General Anatoli Kornukov, Commander Sokol Air Force Base (Sakhalin).

Gerasimenko—Lt. Colonel, Acting Commander, 41st Fighter Regiment.

Major Osipovich—Maj. Gennadie Osipovich, pilot of Sukhoi 15 Flagon (SU-15) interceptor, call sign 805, based at Sokol on Sakhalin.

Tarasov—Pilot of SU-15, call sign 121, flying in support position to Osipovich.

Titovnin—Flight controller, Fighter Division Combat Control Center.

In the air over Sakhalin, it was early in the morning of September 1, 1983.2

Kornukov: (18:21) Gerasimenko, cut the horseplay at the command post, what is that noise there? I repeat the combat task: fire the missiles, fire on target 60-65 [KAL 007] destroy target 60-65.

Gerasimenko: (18:22) Wilco.

Kornukov: Comply and get Tarasov here. Take control of the MiG 23 from Smyrnykh, call sign 163, call sign 163, he is behind the target at the moment. Destroy the target!

Gerasimenko: Task received. Destroy target 60-65 with missile fire, accept control of fighter from Smyrnykh.

Kornukov: Carry out the task, destroy [it]!

Flight 007 was to get a brief reprieve. As the jumbo jet climbed, its speed decreased, engine power being diverted from velocity to lift, and Osipovich’s Sukhoi 15 quickly overtook and was soon abreast of the passenger plane. Major Osipovich showed irritation as he communicated with his flight controller, Titovnin.

Osipovich: (18:22:02) The target is decreasing speed.

Osipovich: (18:22:17) I am going around it. I’m already moving in front of the target.

Titovnin: Increase speed, 805 [call sign of Osipovich’s Sukhoi].

Osipovich: (18:22:23) I have increased speed.

Titovnin: Has the target increased speed, yes?

Osipovich: (18:22:29) No, it is decreasing speed.

Titovnin: 805, open fire on target.

Osipovich: (18:22:42) It should have been earlier. How can I chase it? I’m already abeam of the target.

For a look into Osipovich's state of mind at this point in his pursuit of KAL 007, click here. These were his thoughts given at an interview with "Izvestiya" newspaper eight years after the shootdown.

Titovnin: Roger, if possible, take up a position for attack.

Osipovich: (18:22:55) Now I have to fall back a bit from the target.

Osipovich’s irritation with his controller reflects the fact that, in contrast with the freedom of initiative given to an American pilot in combat, a Soviet pilot must be “vectored” and commanded for almost every move he makes. KAL 007 leveled off at 18:23 at 35,000 feet. Now it would have only three minutes of flying time before Osipovich’s “Anab” medium range air-to-air missile would come streaking toward it from the rear. And, it was now General Kornukov’s turn to exhibit irritation and concern. From his communication to Gerasimenko, it is clear that KAL 007 was shot down by the Soviets not because it posed a threat to them, but because it was escaping.

Kornukov: Oh, [obscenities] how long does it take him to get into attack position, he is already getting out into neutral waters. Engage afterburner immediately. Bring in the MiG 23 as well... While you are wasting time it will fly right out.

With back-up from the MiG 23 (call sign 163), and at a distance of eight kilometers, Major Osipovich executes what he believes will be the destruction of KAL 007 (he has distanced himself from the target so that his interceptor will not be struck by fragments of the exploding passenger plane). Here again we can jump into Osipovich’s mind at this crucial juncture of the pursuit of flight 007. Click here for more of his thoughts from the aforementioned 1991 “Izvestiya” interview.

Titovnin: 805, try to destroy the target with cannons.

Osipovich: (18:22:37) I am dropping back. Now I will try a rocket.

Titovnin: Roger.

MiG 23 (163): (18:23:49) Twelve kilometers to the target. I see both [the Soviet interceptor piloted by Osipovich and KAL 007].

Titovnin: 805, approach target and destroy target.

Osipovich: (18:24:22) Roger, I am in lock-on.

Titovnin: 805, are you closing on the target?

Osipovich: (18:25:11) I am closing on the target, am in lock-on. Distance to target is eight kilometers.

Titovnin: Afterburner.

Titovnin: AFTERBURNER, 805!

Osipovich: (18:25:16) I have already switched it on.

Titovnin: Launch!

Sukhoi TM 15 Flagon

[Click here to read “What happened to KAL 007 when the missile exploded?”—a fascinating look (and listen) into the cockpit of KAL 007, and into the unfolding drama leading to escape from destruction.]

Osipovich: (18:26:20) I have executed the launch.

Osipovich: (18:26:22) The target is destroyed.

Titovnin: Break off attack to the right, heading 360.

Osipovich: (18:26:27) I am breaking off attack.

In 1996, Osipovich would reverse his previous denials that he knew that the “target” he had downed was a civilian passenger plane: “I saw two rows of windows and knew that this was a Boeing. I knew this was a civilian plane. But for me this meant nothing. It is easy to turn a civilian type of plane into one for military use.”3

Act 2. Escape from Destruction

The Participants

Kornukov—General Anatoli Kornukov, Commander Sokol Air Force Base (Sakhalin).

Gerasimenko—Lt. Colonel, Acting Commander, 41st Fighter Regiment.

Novoseletski—Lt. Colonel, Acting Chief of Staff, Fighter Division, Smirnykh Air Force Base.

Osipovich—Maj. Gennadie Osipovich, pilot of Sukhoi 15 Flagon (SU-15) interceptor, call sign 805, based at Sokol on Sakhalin.

Titovnin—Flight controller, Fighter Division Combat Control Center.

In the air over Sakhalin, it was early in the morning of September 1, 1983.4

Major Osipovich, returning to Sokol Air Base on Sakhalin, believed his mission was accomplished. But quite a different conclusion was being drawn by several Soviet radar command posts. Within seconds, and for minutes after—after Osipovich had given his report—KAL 007 could clearly be seen still flying, rather than disappearing from the screen, as would have been the case if there had been a midair explosion. Furthermore, according to the Digital Flight Data Recorder tape, the jumbo jet was actually climbing.

General Anatoli Kornukov

Kornukov: (18:26) Do you see the target on the screen?

Gerasimenko: We can see [it] for the moment.

Kornukov: Did he fire both missiles or one?

Gerasimenko: Both missiles…

Kornukov: Bring in the MiG 23.

Kornukov: Gerasimenko!

Gerasimenko: Yes.

Kornukov: (18:27) This is the task… Bring the MiG 23 in to destroy the target.

Gerasimenko: Yes, Sir.

Kornukov: Gerasimenko.

Gerasimenko: 163 [designation for MiG 23] has been ordered to engage afterburner. We are bringing him to attack position.

Kornukov: Roger. Did Osipovich see the missiles explode? Hello?

Gerasimenko: He fired two missiles.

Kornukov: Ask him, ask him yourself, get on channel 3 and ask Osipovich, did he or did he not see the explosions.

Gerasimenko: Right away.

According to United States electronic intelligence intercepts, Osipovich was asked at 18:27, “805, did you launch one missile or both?” Osipovich replied, “I launched both.” But within two minutes of impact, concern about the airliner’s survival had spread to other command posts. At 18:28, when, according to the Soviet and Japanese radar sightings and the Digital Flight Data Recorder, KAL 007 was about to begin its five minute accelerated descent to attain normal breathing altitude, Lt. Col. Novoseletski, the Commander of Smirnykh Air Base, expresses that concern to Titovnin, Maj. Osipovich’s ground controller.

Novoseletski: (18:28) Titovnin, well, what is happening?

Titovnin: Nothing for the moment.

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

Titovnin: They fired. They fired. We are now waiting for the result, Comrade Colonel.

At 18:28, General Kornukov has been made aware not only of KAL 007’s survival, but also of its maneuverability.

Gerasimenko: The target turned to the north.

Kornukov: The target turned to the north?

Gerasimenko: Affirmative.

Kornukov: Bring the 23 [MiG] in to destroy it!

By 18:29, General Kornukov is furious over the failure to down KAL 007, and he lashes out at Lt. Col. Gerasimenko. His speech and his thoughts have become confused.

Gerasimenko: Comrade right turn.

Kornukov: Well, I understand, I do not understand the result, why is the target flying? Missiles were fired. Why is the target flying? [obscenities] Well, what is happening?

Gerasimenko: Yes.

Kornukov: Well, I am asking, give the order to the Controller, what is wrong with you there? Have you lost your tongues?

Gerasimenko: Comrade General, I gave the order to the Chief of Staff, the Chief of Staff to the Controller, and the Controller is giving the order to…

Kornukov: (18:30) Well, how long does it take for this information to get through, well, what, [you] cannot ask the results of firing the missiles, where, what, did [he] not understand or what?

The transcripts indicate that from 18:30 to 18:34 there is mounting concern at the failure to down KAL 007. But, beginning at 18:34, another concern begins to dominate at the various command posts—KAL 007 has disappeared from the radar scopes! Neither do the interceptors have visual or radar contact with the jumbo jet. That this was not caused by any midair mishap in the flight of KAL 007 is clear from Soviet radar trackings other than those reported in the annexed telecommunications—trackings that record KAL 007’s flight as lasting at least until 18:38. It is these other trackings which were the basis of United States State Department and United Nations assertions that KAL 007 was in the air for at least 12 minutes after it had been rocketed.

Kornukov (18:32): Tell 23 [MiG 23]...Afterburner. Open fire. Destroy the target, then land at home base.

Gerasimenko: Roger.

Kornukov: Altitude...what is 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 is 5,000.

Kornukov: 5,000 already?

Gerasimenko (18:34): Affirmative, turning left, right, apparently it is descending.

This little discussion about KAL 007's altitude, coupled with the previously published radar tracking, solves the mystery of KAL 007's "slow fall" from an altitude of 33,000 ft. to the surface of the sea. What should have taken from two to two and-a-half minutes took over 12 minutes, precisely because KAL 007 did not fall. After Capt. Chun had regained control and had begun a graduated descent, KAL 007 leveled off at 5,000 meters (16,424 ft) and flew at that altitude for over four minutes (18:31-18:35) until it was "over Moneron" and then began it's slow and decelerating spiral descent. Compare with the truly falling Chinese Airlines 747 on Feb. 20, 1985. This aircraft fell 32,000 ft.—from 41,000 ft. to 9,000 ft.—falling about 267 ft, per second. The fall took slightly less than 2 minutes!

At 18:34, then, eight minutes after missile impact, “attack” radar has lost contact with Flight 007, never again to regain it. KAL 007 is at this time at 16,400 feet altitude (5,000 meters).

Kornukov: Destroy it, use the 23 to destroy it, I said!

Gerasimenko: Roger, destroy it.

Kornukov: Well, where is the fighter, how far from the target?

Gerasimenko: Comrade General, they cannot see the target.

Kornukov: They cannot see the target?

For a full two minutes, radar station after radar station, responding to queries, verify that they are no longer tracking KAL 007. Then, at 18:36, ten minutes after missile impact, we are informed by General Kornukov exactly where KAL 007 is located. It is located over the island of Moneron.

Moneron Island

Kornukov: (18:36) Oh [obscenities] well you know the range where the target is, it is over Moneron. Moneron Island

KAL 007 had passed from Soviet territory over Sakhalin Island, where it had been rocketed, and had entered into international waters only to once again enter Soviet territory as it approached Moneron Island. There is no doubt that Soviet commanders knew exactly where Flight 007 was and, in effect, any “search” operation they would conduct could only be a rescue operation.

Titovnin: (18:38) They lost the target, Comrade Colonel, in the area of Moneron.

Novoseletski: In the area of Moneron?

Titovnin: The pilots do not see it, neither the one nor the other. The radio forces have reported. RTF has reported that after the launch, the target entered a right turn over Moneron.

Novoseletski: Uh-huh.

Titovnin: Descending. And lost over Moneron…

Novoseletski: So, the task. They say it has violated the State border again now?

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

Novoseletski: Get it! Get it! Go ahead bring in the MiG 23.

Titovnin: Roger. The MiG 23 is in that area. It is descending to 5,000 [meters]. The order has been given. Destroy upon detection.

Moneron. To have been located over Moneron is to have been pinpointed. Moneron is a small, rocky island in the Tartar Straits, approximately 4 1/2 miles long (north-south axis) and 3 miles wide. It is located about 41 nautical miles west-southwest of Sakhalin’s port city of Nevelsk, and about 26 miles due west of Sakhalin’s nearest coastal point. According to eyewitness testimony contained in the 1991 Izvestiya series on KAL 007, as well as eyewitness accounts reported by Japanese fishermen, KAL 007 made two turns around Moneron Island. (Republican Staff Study/“CIA” Report, pg. 49) These turns might have been made while the aircraft was still descending—that is, KAL 007 was spiraling—or they might have been made while the aircraft was at constant altitude—that is, circling. In either case, the circumference of KAL 007’s flight path could not have been much greater than the four-mile length of the island itself, because the aircraft’s circling could only have been in anticipation of and preparatory to landing close enough to Moneron to ensure rescue. This is especially forceful as we remember that KAL 007 was located by the Soviets as being “over Moneron” and “descending.”

These transcripts clearly support the following conclusions:

1). The “search” missions sent out by the Soviets could only have been rescue missions.

2). The United States and Japanese Search and Rescue operations in international waters at least a full twelve and a half miles north of Moneron at its nearest point and encompassing a full 225 square mile area could only be futile (as, indeed, they proved to be).

3). The main Russian salvage operations, at coordinates 46º 33’ 32” N - 141º 19’ 41” E, in international waters, a full 17 nautical miles north of Moneron Island, could only have been diversionary.

NOTE: The futile U.S. and Japanese search and rescue operation was performed under coordinates provided on September 8th by Vladimir Pavlov, Soviet ambassador to Japan. That this information, as well as the Soviets’ own search and rescue operation, was part of the Soviet deception and was diversionary in intent, is now proven by publication of the Soviet “Top Secret Memo” dated November 1983 from KGB Head V. Chebrikov and Defense Minister D. Ustinov to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov. This memo stated, “Simulated search efforts are being performed by our vessels at present to disinform the U.S. and Japan. These activities will be discontinued in accordance with a specific plan.” The Soviet simulated search operation continued on into November, whereas, in actuality, the first of the Soviet civilian divers - those from Svestapol - had performed their first dive to KAL 007 on September 15! Furthermore, these civilian divers report that Soviet naval divers had gone down even earlier than they!

Act 3. The Rescue Missions

The Participants

Kornukov—General Anatoli Kornukov, Commander Sokol Air Force Base (Sakhalin).

Gerasimenko—Lt. Colonel, Acting Commander, 41st Fighter Regiment.

Novoseletski—Lt. Colonel, Acting Chief of Staff, Fighter Division, Smirnykh Air Force Base.

Titovnin—Flight controller, Fighter Division Combat Control Center.

Strogov—General, Deputy Commander, Far East Military District.

Kamenski—General Valeri Kamenski, Commander, Far East Military District.

In the air over Sakhalin, it was early in the morning of September 1, 1983.5

To KAL 007’s true position—Moneron Island itself—there were, indeed, at least two Soviet rescue operations sent out within minutes of KAL 007’s downing. These missions are documented in the Russian ground-to-ground telecommunications transcripts, and in view of the specificity of KAL 007’s location, there is no reason to doubt their success. The first mission involved rescue helicopters, border guards and the KGB, and was ordered at 18:47, just 21 minutes after missile impact and nine minutes after KAL 007 had reached point zero altitude (importantly, point zero refers to when it went below radar—not when it landed or impacted).

Novoseletski: (18:47) You don’t have the sunrise there yet?

Titovnin: No, it will be in about thirty minutes.

Novoseletski: Prepare whatever helicopters there are. Rescue helicopters.

Click for large version
Click here for full size photo!

Mi-8 multi-purpose copter, the type used for rescue missions.
Photo © G. Tonelotto

Titovnin: Rescue.

Novoseletski: Yes. And there will probably be a task set for the area where the target was lost.

Titovnin: Roger. Is this to be done through your SAR [Search and Rescue]?

Novoseletski: Eh?

Titovnin: Assign the task to Chaika through your SAR, Comrade Colonel, Khomutovo [Civilian and military airport at Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City in southern Sakhalin] does not come under us and neither does Novoaleksandrovska. We have nothing here.

Novoseletski: Very well.

Titovnin: Novoaleksandrovska must be brought to readiness and Khomutovo. The border guards and KGB are at Khomutovo.

“Chaika” is the call sign of the Far East Military District (FEMD) Air Force Command Post. Consequently, this first documented rescue mission could only be affected by order of the FEMD, which was second in jurisdiction to the Soviet Far East Military Theatre of Operations. Neither the shooting down nor the rescue of Flight 007 was, therefore, a local decision.

Apparently, neither Smirnykh Air Force Base in central Sakhalin (under the Tactical Air Command, and where the MiG23 that ordered to guarantee destruction of KAL 007 was based) nor Sokol Air Force base in southern Sakhalin (under the Air Defense Command, where Osipovich and his SU-15 were based) had any available rescue helicopters. Therefore, the jurisdictional step up to the Far East Military District Air Force was required to bring the out-of-jurisdiction Khomutovo Air Base into action. Khomutovo was the civilian and military airbase at Yuzhno (Southern) Sakhalinsk City.

The second mission involved the civilian ships in the vicinity of Moneron as well as the border guards. This mission was ordered at 18:55; just 29 minutes after missile impact and 17 minutes after KAL 007 had reached point zero altitude.

(That at least one Soviet naval rescue mission had been ordered even before KAL007 had reached the surface of the waters off Moneron is attested by the following quote, taken from the Izvestia testimony of a Soviet Naval Specialist who had been involved in the rescue mission: “When we learned that the aircraft had been attacked, and that weapons had been used, we began to analyse when it might possibly come down. Ships were ordered to the anticipated area [emphasis added]. Several ships headed there at once at full speed...”).

Gen. Strogov: (18:54) Hello… Hello, Titovnin… You s... [obscenities] I’ll lock you up in the guardhouse. Why don’t you pick up the phone?

Titovnin: Comrade General, everyone was busy here.

Strogov: You have nothing there to be busy with. Busy! What kind of nonsense is that? So, where is Kornukov?

Titovnin: Kornukov is here.

Strogov: Put him on the phone.

Titovnin: One minute. He is reporting to Kamenski, Comrade General.

Here is clear evidence that the shoot-down of KAL 007 and the rescue of its passengers were not decisions made by local commanders but emanated from the highest echelons of the Soviet military.

Strogov: (18:55) So, what you need to do now. Contact these ... [obscenities], these sailors, these, what do you ... [obscenities]?

Titovnin: Border guards?

Strogov: Huh?

Titovnin: Border guards?

Strogov: Well, the civilian sailors.

Titovnin: Understood.

Strogov: The border guards. What ships do we now have near Moneron Island, if they are civilians, send [them] there immediately.

Titovnin: Understood, Comrade General.

Note the consistency of Strogov’s site identification with Kornukov’s. Both generals simply specify it as “Moneron.” Ships that are already “near Moneron” are sent to Moneron itself. This transcript puts the lie to the Soviet claims, from Day One and on, that they did not know where the plane went down, as well as exposing the Soviet deception in staging their search and rescue operations in various parts of international waters. Among the first proponents of this lie was Marshal Nicolay Ogarkov, U.S.S.R. Chief of General Staff, when he stated on September 9, 1983, at a press conference, “We could not give the precise answer about the spot where it [KAL 007] fell because we ourselves did not know the spot in the first place.”6

General Ivan Moseivich Tretyak. Used with permission www.peoples.ru

This second of the documented, authorized rescue missions was also authorized by highest authority. General Strogov was directly subordinate to General Ivan Moseivich Tretyak, the Commander of the Far East Military District. It was with General Tretyak that General Vladimir L. Govrov, the Commander of the Far East Theatre of Operations had come into agreement that the “intruder” aircraft must be shot down.

Among the ground-to-ground communications appended to the 1993 ICAO Report, the following conversation (unidentified speakers) is recorded at 18:45:

Weapons were used, weapons authorized at the highest level. Ivan Moiseivich authorized it. Hello, hello.

Say again.

I cannot hear you clearly now.

He gave the order. Hello, hello, hello.

Yes, yes.

Ivan Moseivich gave the order, Tretyak.

Roger, roger.

Weapons were used at his order.

The Republican Staff Study/CIA Report entitled “sensitive special intelligence” (NSA intercepts) revealed the following:

About four hours after the shoot-down, Soviet Air Defense command posts reported that Soviet pilots were saying that a civilian passenger plane had been shot down instead of a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance plane, and they (the command posts) were expressing regret, both that they had not downed the RC-135 and that now the Americans would accuse them of killing Americans. The Study asks how, while flying overhead, could Soviet pilots conclude that Americans were among the passengers? They might conclude from seeing the aircraft’s distinctive hump as the plane floated on the water that it was a passenger plane that was shot down, as in 1983 there were no military versions of the Boeing 747. They might have seen the distinctive bird emblem on the tail of the aircraft—the symbol in use then by Korean Air Lines—but this would not indicate the nationalities of the passengers. The Study concluded that the only way Soviet pilots could have known that Americans had been killed was if they had heard that information on their radios during the time that the rescue was actually taking place.

Click for large version
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The aircraft's distinctive hump and livery would indicate a commercial plane, but not the nationality of its passengers.
Photo © Frank C. Duarte

“Thus the only way that Soviet pilots could possibly have identified the nationality of some of the KAL 007 passengers as Americans, from the air, would have been from possible emergency radio communications which U. S. Intelligence did not intercept, from either the stricken airliner ditched at sea, or from its life rafts, or from Soviet rescue boats.”7


In the years gone by since the shootdown, the vicissitudes of Soviet and Russian Federation political systems have left their mark on the lives of the Soviet participants—some as expected, and some with startling surprise!

Major Gennadie Osipovich, the pilot of the Sukhoi 15 interceptor which shot down KAL 007, retired and still a confirmed Communist, lives on a small farm in the Caucasus and raises strawberries. He receives a small pension equivalent to $150 a month, and occasionally speaks in front of local groups about the shootdown. He says of himself, “I am a lucky man!”

Air Force Marshall Petr Semenovich Kirsanov was demoted for his responsibility in the Soviet defense flap over Kamchatka (KAL 007 was allowed to pass over Kamchatka and over the Sea of Okhotsk before it was shot down over Sakhalin).

General Romanenko, KGB Coast Guard Commander of Sakhalin and the Kuriles, who also had headed the Soviet delegation at Nevelsk, Sakhalin which handed over to US and Japanese officials some of the personal effects of the KAL 007 passengers, (details here) was demoted, exiled, and/or executed—most probably for his oversights related to passenger and black box disposition. The following facts support this hypothesis:
1. Informants of the Israeli Research Centre for Prisons, Psych-Prisons, and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR report that Romanenko’s name no longer appears in KGB computers. Once in a name is never deleted. Transfers, promotions, demotions, and deaths are entered but names are never deleted.
2. The Republican Staff Study reports that Intelligence sources suggest that General Romanenko himself was sent to the Gulag.
3. Hans Ephraimson, the head of the American Association for Families of KAL 007 Victims reports that when he was at the Soviet embassy in East Berlin, he had been informed by embassy officials that the man he had been enquiring about (although he hadn’t been), General Romanenko, had committed suicide. “Suicides” were often a euphemism for state executions.

Marshall Valentin I. Varennikov, who had arrived at Sakhalin Island within 24 hours of the shootdown in order to head the Secret State Commission and its cover-up, rose to become Deputy Defense Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces before his imprisonment (and subsequent release) for the part he played in the August 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev. In 1994, the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared him not guilty. On December 17, 1995, he was elected deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Convocation. In January of 1996, he became Chairman of the Committee of the State Duma Veteran’s Affairs.

General Ivan Moiseevich Tretyak (Commander of the Far East Military District) and General Vladimir L. Govrov (Commander of the Far East Theater of Operations) were both promoted to the Ministry of Defense in Moscow—the former as Deputy Minister of Defense and Commander in Chief of Soviet Air Defense Forces (1991) and the latter as Deputy Minister of Defense for Civil Defense. These are the two most senior military commanders known to have made the decision to destroy KAL 007.

Valery Vladimirovich Ryzhkov, on-duty commander of Radio-Technical Battalion 1845, which had tracked KAL 007’s flight to what he believed to be a safe water landing, and who was so bitter about being passed over for promotion while others in his unit had received promotions (details here), was finally granted that promotion and made commander of the command post of Radio-Technical Battalion 2213 in Mariinskoe Settlement on the Amur river of the Soviet Primorsky (Maritime) opposite Sakhalin.

Lieutenant General Valeri Kamensky, Commander of Soviet Far East Military District Air Defense Forces and “strategic” commander of the shoot down, made a lateral positional move at the breakup of the Soviet Union. He became Chief of Staff and Commander of the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces. It was on his watch that another civilian passenger plane was shot down—the Siber Air Tupolev 154 carrying 78 new immigrants to Israel on a flight from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk. It was shot down over the Black Sea. In an interview prior to this latest shoot down, General Kamensky, commenting on the shoot down of KAL 007 opined that it could not happen again nowadays. But it did!

But the big winner in the long run (that is, the one who made the biggest jump) was General Anatoli Kornukov, commander of Sokol Air Force Base—the base from which Colonel Gennadie Osipovich’s Sukhoi 15 took off in its fateful mission. As told in the words of the International Herald Tribune:

“Russian Who Doomed 007. New Air Chief Ordered ‘83 Downing of KAL Flight.
MOSCOW — The Russian Air Force acknowledged Friday that its new chief was the commander who ordered a pilot to shoot down a South Korean jet liner off Sakhalin
Island in 1983, killing all 269 people aboard…”8

General Kornukov, who had retained his position even when, in 1976, a pilot under his command had defected to Japan with his MiG 25—the most advanced Soviet fighter of the time—also survived the KAL 007 incident, eventually attaining the highest appointment possible in his field of service—commander of the entire Russian Air Force. (In January of 2002, General Korukov resigned as Commander of the Russian Air Force and now advises the Russian Federation in matters of missile defense and defense against aerial hijacker terrorist attacks against Russian cities. Against the terrorist threat from the air, he believes Russia unprepared considering the Russian air defense commanders often absentee, "passing the buck", and lacking coordination. His "hardliner" stance concerning aerial intrusion generally over Russian soil continues his attitude of over 20 years ago in the downing of KAL 007. A current example of this hardliner stance, as reported in Pravda of March 31, 2004:"Former commander of Russian Air Force, General Anatoly Kornukov calls Russian authorities to be tough in dealing with NATO aircraft which would appear near Russian borders after Baltic countries" joining the alliance, the Russia Journal said. NATO gained seven new allies [on] new Russian borders. "Because of NATO expanding we should apply tough policy, including tough measures to NATO aircrafts. If an aircraft violated the state border, it must be shot down. International law allows this", said General Kornukov. "To begin with, the Baltic states should be reminded that good-neighbor relations have nothing to do with military aircrafts barraging along the neighboring country borders. They are flying not just for pleasure, they are likely to be well-armed".)

Of the many international newspapers that recorded Kornukov’s new position, few, if any, noted the fact, so clearly evident in the Russian communiqué’s appended to the 1993 ICAO report, that Kornukov was but the low general on the totem pole, while those above him who had given Kornukov the order for the shoot down, some, by abdication to his will, were all, apparently, exonerated. These were, in ascending order of their ranks at the time, General Valeri Kamenski—Commander of the Far East Military District Air Force, General Strogov—Deputy Commander of the Far East Military District, General Ivan Moiseevich Tretyak—Commander of the Far East Military District, and General Vladimir L. Govrov—Commander of the Far East Theater of Operations.

But there were other participants intimately involved with the shootdown of KAL 007 - the 269 passengers and crew. What about them? And where are they now?

Alfredo Cruz, Exie's father

Edith Cruz, Exie's cousin


1 The following is quoted from Rescue 007, pages 152 to 155 (with minor corrections and additions). The Russian transcripts are from the 1993 ICAO report. Commentary is by Bert Schlossberg.

2 The following is quoted from Rescue 007, pages 22 to 26. The Russian transcripts are from the 1993 ICAO report. Osipovich’s communications to his ground controller, Titovnin, was also captured by the US National Security Agency and were played by the US in the UN Security Council right after the attack, much to the chagrin of the Russian delegates. Commentary is by Bert Schlossberg.

3New York Times interview, September 9, 1996.

4The following is quoted from Rescue 007, pages 58 to 65 (with minor corrections). The Russian transcripts are from the 1993 ICAO report. Commentary is by Bert Schlossberg.

5The following is quoted from Rescue 007, pages 65 to 68 (with minor corrections and additions). The Russian transcripts are from the 1993 ICAO report. Commentary is by Bert Schlossberg.


7Republican Staff Study/CIA Report, pg. 47. Text excerpted from Rescue 007, by Bert Schlossberg, pages 114-115.

8International Herald Tribune (AP), 24-25 January 1998.

Written by
Bert Schlossberg

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.

3 User Comments:
Username: BSchlossberg [User Info]
Posted 2006-03-27 19:27:22 and read 32768 times.

People have wondered about the subsequent doings of the key Soviet participants in the shootdown. The doings of Gen. Kornukov are contained in this article above. Here is what the Committee for the Rescue has on his superior, General Valeri Kamenski:

"Lieutenant General Valeri Kamenski, presently Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander of the Ukrainian Air Force and formerly Chief of Staff of the Soviet Far East Military District Air Defense Force, indicated in a recent interview that “it is still a mystery what happened to the bodies of the crew and passengers of KAL 007.”

Kamenski was directly involved in the 1983 shootdown of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on August 31, 1983.

Prior to this interview, Russian and Soviet sources had implied that there was no mystery about the fact that no bodies were found following the destruction of the plane. Various reasons had always been given for this such as the bodies being consumed by giant crabs (bones and all!), being pulverized upon crashing into the ocean (every air tragedy since then, including the space shuttle Challenger, has produced many intact bodies) or sucked out of the plane by explosive decompression (sucked out to where—a space warp?).

In an article dated March 15, 2001, in the Ukrainian weekly, “Facti I Kommentari”, General Kamenski spoke about the mystery. To quote from the article, “It is still a mystery what happened to the bodies of the crew and passengers on the plane. According to one theory, right after the rocket’s detonation, the nose and tail section of the jumbo fell off [completely hypothetical and contradicted by the recovered Black Box tapes] and the mid fuselage became a sort of wind tunnel so the people were swept through it and scattered over the surface of the ocean. Yet in this case, some of the bodies were [ought—ed.] to have been found during the search operations in the area. The question of what actually happened to the people has not been given a distinct answer.”

Kamenski, direct superior to General Kornukov, “tactical” commander during the shootdown, may have been the one to order the jumbo jet shot down over international waters. In transcripts turned over by the Russian government to the United Nations, Gen. Kornukov is recorded as responding at 5:53am Sakhalin time “…simply destroy [it] even if it is over neutral waters? Are the orders to destroy it over neutral waters? Oh, well.”

In a more recent situation, Kamenski’s Ukrainian Air Defense Force has admitted to shooting down, over the Black Sea, the Siberian Air Tupolev 154 carrying Ukrainian and Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel with the loss of all 78 passengers and crew. The plane was on its way from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk when shot down." Shortly before this latest incident, in the interview mentioned above, Gen. Kamenski intimated that a shootdown such as that of KAL 007 could never happen nowadays...but it did, and once again, under his command! Here are his words of explanation why it would not happen nowadays - "We keep in the 24-hours contact with the neighboring states to clear out in real time any situation that may occur. None of our neighbors is involved in reconnaissance missions or air rides preparation against Ukraine. Our task is to protect our state borders not from our neighbors but in good co-operation with them."

Username: BSchlossberg [User Info]
Posted 2006-04-21 15:18:57 and read 32768 times.

This from a US intelligence serviceman on the real time monitoring of the shootdown -

"I spent 12 years in the US Army. I was a intelligence intercept operator. I was on active duty when this event occured.

One of the most chilling times in my life happened that day. I was on duty doing the normal things we all did. Then on one of the systems that monitors wordly affairs some information started coming in. It was this incident.

Myself and others went to this system to monitor what was going on. It was a tele-type system. It was the actual intercepted comms of this situation. It was being translated real time into english. We were plotting where it was happening and receiving the Russian pilots every word about the final intercept and eventual outcome.

I was only 20yrs old and thought this is gonna cause WW3. Just prior to the shot down the Russians knew it was a Commercial aircraft. So saying they didnt know and willing killed innocent people is something that is debatable. The fact is that other a/c had been in the area and this IMHO was the undoing of this whole situation.

Hearing the pilot say he was at a certain altitude below the target for max kill, then seeing over the tele-type "I have lock, missle off". Then seconds later, "Target Destroyed". Its a feeling and situation I never wanted to feel again...
I cringe everyday thinking about my three daughters and the kids they will bear in the future. Look at the world now, see it in 10-15yrs. I sure hope it changes and fast."


Username: BSchlossberg [User Info]
Posted 2007-02-21 15:17:49 and read 32768 times.

Please post any comments to this article (arrticle 3) to the comments for the last article (article 6) in the KAL 007 series. Thank you!
Bert Schlossberg

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