The Shootdown of KAL-007

On 1 September 1983, Soviet air defense forces shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a Boeing 747, over Sakhalin Island; 269 persons died. Numerous "Why?" questions continue to haunt the incident, but the central question -- Why was the plane where it was? -- remains unanswered. The incident activated both hard-core conspiracy buffs and more serious researchers into a frenzy of efforts to find U.S. intelligence at fault. Even Russian President Yeltsin's act of officially acknowledging Soviet blame for shooting down the civilian airliner has not completely closed the door to debate.

Allardyce, Robert W., and James Gollin. Technical Analysis: Korean Air Lines Flight 007, August 31, 1983. [U.S.]: R.W. Allardyce and J. Gollin, 1991.

See also, James Gollin and Robert W. Allardyce, Desired Track: The Tragic Flight of KAL Flight 007, 2 vols. (Findley, OH: American Vision Publishing, 1994).

Bamford, James. "The Last Flight of KAL 007: How the U.S. Knew So Much About What Happened." Washington Post Magazine, 8 Jan. 1984, 4-7.

Brun, Michel. Tr., Robert Bononno. Incident at Sakhalin: The True Mission of KAL Flight 007. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995.

According to Hopkins, I&NS 11.4, Brun argues that it was not the Korean 747 that overflew the Soviet Union; rather, there were dozens of U.S. and Japanese military planes involved in overflights. In the ensuing aerial battle with the Soviets, a Japanese plane shot down KAL-007 when it was misidentified as a Soviet bomber. What "evidence" that the author presents for this thesis is either wrong or made up. The reviewer finds it unsettling that "many uninformed readers" will take this account "as a serious and legitimate explanation" of the events surrounding the demise of KAL-007.

Clubb, Oliver. KAL 007: The Hidden Story. Sag Harbor, NY: Permanent Press, 1985. Sag Harbor, NY: Second Chance Press, 1992.

Miller, IJI&C 1.1, notes that the author's approach is to show the presence of an extremely strong motive for U.S. intelligence to undertake such an operation as well as the available means to implement the motive. Clubb "states the conclusion" that the 007 flight was planned by U.S. intelligence "clearly and emphatically." Surveillant 2.6 finds that later evidence has not supported the author's "charges that the U.S. bears a major responsibility for that ... unnecessary loss of life." Recent events "change the facts of this flight. Yeltsin gave the South Korean government the black box from the downed plane, and accepted full responsibility (and expressed regret) for the tragedy."

Dallin, Alexander. Black Box: KAL 007 and the Superpowers. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985.

Miller, IJI&C 1.1: Dallin "attempts to reconstruct the incident. In addition, he reviews various hypotheses regarding the Soviet Air Defense Command and 'insofar as it is relevant,' agencies of the United States. Finally he deduces some lessons concerning the behavior patterns of the two superpowers in the managing of international crises.... [He] essentially conclude[s] that the 007 flight was planned by U.S. intelligence ... [but] is quite circumspect and cautious."

Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene. Editors. "Yeltsin Releases Documents [on KAL-007 Shootdown]." 11, no. 5 (1992): 1-2.

Gollin, James.

1. "Stirring Up the Past: KAL Flight 007." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 7, no. 4 (Winter 1994): 445-463.

The author reports on his and Robert W. Allardyce's research which forms the basis for the book Desired Track. He concludes that "the Korean airliner, until the last few minutes of its flight, was on a preplanned flight plan that was designed to take it into Soviet airspace." He follows that conclusion with the assumption of an intelligence-collection mission. This is a provocative finding, with the main points behind it well laid out in the article. The big problem is that even the Russians do not agree with him.

2. And Robert W. Allardyce. Desired Track: The Tragic Flight of KAL Flight 007. 2 vols. Findley, OH: American Vision Publishing, 1994.

According to Hopkins, I&NS 11.4, the authors "offer the arguable but ultimately unsatisfying claim that the KAL 747 ... could not have flown the errant course accepted by the International Civil Aviation Organization." They, then. "leap beyond the bounds of their data" to conclude that "because the Korean airliner was off course it must have flown 'a preplanned course designed to take it into Soviet airspace.'" In their presentation, the authors "selectively distort their evidence to prove their own theories."

Gordon, Michael R. "Ex-Soviet Pilot Still Insists KAL-007 Was Spying." New York Times, 9 Dec. 1996, A6 (N).

The author interviews retired Lt. Col. Gennadi Osipovich, the Soviet pilot who shot down KAL-007 on 1 September 1983. Osipovich states that he knew he was dealing with a civilian plane, not an RC-135, but insists that the jet was on a spy mission and did not have civilian passengers aboard.

Haslam, Jonathan. "The KAL Shootdown (1983) and the State of Soviet Air Defence." Intelligence and National Security 3, no. 4 (Oct. 1988): 128-133.

"[I]t might be no exaggeration to describe [the Soviet air defense system] as the agricultural sector of the Soviet armed forces."

Hersh, Seymour M. The Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It. New York: Random House, 1986. New York: Vintage Books, 1987. [pb]

In a contemporaneous comment, Horton, IJI&C 1.4, thought that conspiracy buffs would be "disappointed." However, Hersh "does strain himself ... in his effort to explain this brutal action." The Target Is Destroyed is "worth reading for the account of the handling in Washington of the information on the flight and the shootdown." Macartney, Intelligencer 10.1, calls this book "one of the best books ever written on intelligence. It is particularly good on SIGINT, the culture within the Intelligence Community, Cold War attitudes, and, most useful, the nexus between intelligence information and policy outcomes."

Johnson, Richard W. Shootdown: Flight 007 and the American Connection. New York: Viking, 1986. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. [pb]

Maertens, IJI&C 1.2: "Johnson thinks the aircraft was on an intelligence mission for the U.S. government ... [and is] determined not to let facts or logic get in the way of his theory." The reviewer "counted 105 factual or technical errors ... in the first chapter alone." The book is "based on misinformation and unsupported assertion" and shows "ideological biases." The author has "manipulated and distorted the evidence beyond recognition."

Korean Overseas Information Service. Massacre in the Sky: The Soviet Downing of a KAL Passenger Plane. Seoul, Korea: Korean Overseas Information Service, [1983].

Lawrence, Ken. "The Korean Spy Plane: Flight 007 Aptly Named." Covert Action Information Bulletin 20 (Winter 1984): 40-42.

This piece of non-research lacks any substantive basis for its near hysterical presentation.

Maertens, Thomas R.

1. "'Shootdown' Shotdown." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 1, no. 2 (1986): 137-145.

This review article of Johnson's Shootdown is better than the book itself. Maertens supports the strong conclusion that "Johnson has manipulated and distorted the evidence beyond recognition."

2. "Tragedy of Errors." Foreign Service Journal 62 (Sep. 1985): 24-31. [Petersen]

Miller, David W. "007's Analysis of KAL's Flight 007." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 1, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 109-119.

The author is a Columbia University mathematician and a World War II Signal Corps cryptanalyst. The article here is an ostensibly comparative review of Dallin's Black Box and Clubb's KAL Flight 007. The review is as interesting as either of the two books. Miller takes a probabilistic approach to the issue and concludes, as erroneously as both Dallin and Clubb, that the flight was U.S. intelligence mission.

Sayle, Murray. "Closing the File on Flight 007." The New Yorker, 13 Dec. 1997, 90-102.

Sayle's article includes transcripts of Soviet Air Force radio traffic and material from the plane's black box.

Twining, David T. "The KAL Incident." Military Intelligence 10, no. 3 (1984): 7-9.

Young, Marilyn J., and Michael K. Launer. Flights of Fancy, Flight of Doom: KAL 007 and Soviet-American Rhetoric. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988.

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