KAL 007: The Russian Explanations for the Missing Bodies

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Russian Explanations for the Missing Passengers and Crew of KAL 007

Unlike any other passenger plane crash at sea, KAL 007's alleged crash produced no bodies at all (nor body parts or tissues)—and no luggage at all — at the supposed “crash” site. The amazed puzzlement at this fact has been noted by such diverse personages as the Russian divers at the scene and Gen. Vladimir Kamenski, the “Strategic” Soviet general responsible for the shootdown.[1]

Russian commentators have been pained in their attempts to explain the virtual disappearance of KAL 007's 269 passengers and crew from the scene of what they claim is the underwater wreckage.

There are five theories that the Soviets have contrived.

1. The Military spy plane theory The earliest was that there were no bodies found because KAL 007 had but a small complement of military personnel and no civilian passengers. This first version of the spy plane theory was by and large discarded by September 9, 1983, when Marshal Nicolay Ogarkov, U.S.S.R. Chief of General Staff and First Deputy Defense Minister, conceded that there had been civilian passengers aboard KAL 007. In his press conference of September 9, 1983, as quoted by Moscow Radio of the same date, Ogarkov stated, “It has been proved irrefutably that the intrusion of the plane of the South Korean Airlines into Soviet airspace was a deliberately, thoroughly planned intelligence operation. It was directed from certain centers in the territory of the United States and Japan. A civilian plane was chosen for its deliberately, disregarding or, possibly, counting on loss of human life.”The anguish of thousands of relatives and friends of the victims of KAL 007 had also discredited this non-civilian passenger theory from the start.

2. The Pulverization theory The second theory maintains that there were no bodies because they were thoroughly pulverized either in a midair explosion or a catastrophic crash at sea. A thorough pulverization of bodies is untenable, never having occurred before or since. The crew of the space shuttle Challenger is more the rule. At an even slightly higher altitude than KAL 007, the Challenger did have a cataclysmic midair explosion and did have a subsequent catastrophic crash into the sea. Yet, all the bodies were not only recovered but also identifiable, however smashed. Subsequent to KAL 007's downing, midair explosions and subsequent crashes at sea of other Boeing 747 jumbo jets did occur. The aftermath of these latter incidents are illuminating for our understanding of what occurred with KAL 007. Many bodies were immediately recovered at the latter crash sites and all were identified! This last point is telling, as a full eight days after the shoot-down just two partial bodies and 11 small body parts and tissues would be washed up not at the supposed crash site, but at the Hokkaido Japan shore—all unidentifiable. These few small body parts in themselves, therefore, serve to support the contention of passenger and crew rescue, a mute but horrific testimony of how far the Soviets might go to cover up passenger rescue. It is not inconceivable that the people represented by these 13 body parts were killed for the purpose of Soviet cover-up. Most devastating to any passenger pulverization theory, though, from examination of the Black Box tapes handed over by the Russian Federation to the United Nations in 1993, it is clear that KAL 007, in fact, did not explode on missile impact and a crash at sea merely postulated—wrongly.

3. The Crab theory The third theory for the virtual disappearance of 269 people from the site of the alleged crash is truly ludicrous but is included here as it is suggested by Soviet correspondent Andrey Illesh in his book, The Mystery of Korean Boeing 747. This theory proposes that the bodies were eaten by giant crabs. There is even a picture of one of those crabs that supposedly populate the sea bottom where KAL 007 finally came to rest. But what of the bones? How did these crabs dispose of them?! The crab theory has been persistent and been echoed by the Soviet interceptor pilot Gennadie Osipovich himself (though evidently not with full conviction).

“…I heard that they had found the ‘Boeing’ when I was still on Sakhalin. And even investigated it. But no one saw people there. I, however, explain that by the fact that there are crabs in the sea off Sakhalin that immediately devour everything... I did hear that they found only a hand in a black glove. Perhaps it was the hand of the pilot of the aircraft that I shot down. You know, even now I cannot really believe that there were passengers on board. You cannot write off everyone to the crabs... Surely something would be left?... Nevertheless, I am a supporter of the old version: It was a spy plane. In any event, it was not happenstance that it flew towards us.” ''' (Izvestia, Feb. 8, 1991, pg. 7)

Professor William Newman, marine biologist, explains why the crab (or any other sea creature) theory is untenable:

“Even if we proceed from the supposition that crustaceans, or sharks, or something else fell upon the flesh, the skeletons should have remained. In many cases, skeletons were found on the sea or ocean floor, which had sat there for many years and,even decades [It is to be noted that Russian Civilian divers found that the passenger bodies were absent beginning from first dive on Sept. 7 - just two weeks after the shootdown. B.S.]. In addition, the crustaceans would not have touched bones.” (ibid.)

4. The Decompression theory The fourth explanation is provided us by Izvestiya correspondents Shalnev and Illesh through the mouth of Mikhail Igorevich Girs, Captain of the Tinro 2 submersible, interviewed for the Izvestiya series of articles on KAL 007. In the May 31, 1991 edition, Capt. Girs provides this fourth explanation—the passengers were sucked out of the aircraft, leaving their clothes behind! (Izvestiya, May 28, 1991, p. 8.) Igorevich's words are included to demonstrate how esoteric the theories become when once the simple conclusion that the passengers were rescued is precluded. Igorevich, nevertheless, provides unintended support for the contention of passenger rescue by the very information he supplies to illustrate the paucity of passenger remains.

“Something else was inexplicable to us—zipped up clothes. For instance, a coat, slacks, shorts, a sweater with zippers—the items were different, but, zipped up. And nothing inside. We came to this conclusion then: Most likely, the passengers had been pulled out of the plane by decompression, and they fell in a completely different place from where we found the debris. They had been spread out over a much larger area. The current also did its work.” (Izvestiya, May 28, 1991)

Needless to say, this “much larger area” has never been located!

The latest reference to the decompression theory of the missing bodies is mentioned by Lieutenant General Valeri Kamenski, m ost recently 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 in an article dated March 15, 2001, in the Ukrainian weekly, “Facti I Kommentari”, General Kamenski spoke about the mystery. “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.”

5. The Soviet naval diver removal of passengers theory. This theory rests on the fact that when the Soviet civilian divers first went down to the wreck just 2 weeks after the shootdown, the finds they encountered were contrary to an aircraft having fallen from the sky, and corresponded more to "secondary placement" of the wreckage, and removal of the occupants of KAL 007, both passengers and aircrew, by the Soviet navy who they claim had been at work prior to them, both as divers, and in the use of trawlers.

“The first submergence was on 15 September, two weeks after the aircraft had been shot down. As we learned then, before us the trawlers had done some ‘work’ in the designated quadrant. It is hard to understand what sense the military saw in the trawling operation. First drag everything haphazardly around the bottom by the trawls, and then send in the submersibles?...It is clear that things should have been done in the reverse order.”[38]

Captain Mikhail Igorevich Girs: "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…"[36]

This was one of the theories expressed in the original izvestia series of 1990,91, and the later interview of Civilian diver Vadim Kondrabaev (later reprinted in English by Roy's Russian Aircraft Review). Russian deep sea diver Vadim Kondrabaev, one of the civilian divers brought to explore the wreckage of KAL 007 in 1983 gave an interview to the Russian magazine Itogi published on October 1, 2000. He points out that after he and the other civilian divers were brought to Sakhalin on September 10, 1983, they were kept there until "the end of September." "...They literally forgot about us for several days." When they did get to the wreckage, they were surprised to find neither bodies nor luggage. "...of the people who supposedly were on board, something should have remained. We worked beneath the water almost a month for 5 hours a day and didn't find one suitcase, not even a handle from them. After all there is baggage on any air trip. We either were able to work on the remains, which already had been filtered by the special services, or, what I also do not discount, there were no passengers at all on the airplane, and they stuffed the cabin with rubbish. ...It is quite possible that several mini submarines with military divers went down to the Boeing even before us and collected everything, and scattered the remaining parts of the destroyed liner about or left them there where they were needed, and afterwards called us as a smoke screen."[39]

The underlying current in all these theories is the irrepressible need to explain or explain away one salient fact—there ought to have been bodies but there were not!

The fact of the mysterious disappearance of the passengers’ and crew's bodies, as well as the non-appearance of luggage (or any other cargo area item) among the 1,020 fragments of flotsam and debris which were retrieved, combined with the following listing of indicators that KAL 007 was a good measure of control after missile detonation, do much for the contention that KAL 007 could well have made a successful controlled water landing of the coast of Moneron Island:

  • Sufficient oxygen for pilot alertness
  • All engines were operating normally
  • Electrical system was operative. (Otherwise, the plane's radio and engines would not have operated)
  • Demonstrated pilot ability to decrease speed of KAL 007 in its downward phase. (If he would not have been able to do so, the aircraft would continue to increase its downward acceleration—only to collide with the water in from 2 to 2-1/2 minutes. KAL 007's flight lasted at least 12 minutes)
  • KAL 007 was able to regain its pre-missile hit altitude almost exactly. (It is highly unlikely that KAL 007 regained exact altitude after its arc by chance)
  • KAL 007 was able to regain its pre-missile hit rate of forward acceleration.
  • Captain Chun was able to bring KAL 007's nose (pitch) to the plane's exact level of flight
  • KAL 007 was able to maneuver turns
  • Kal 007 was able to level out at 5,000 meters (16.424 ft.) and maintain that altitude for over 4 minutes and then make a spiral descent over the only land mass in the whole Tatar Straits, tiny (4 1/2 long by 3 1/2 mile wide) Moneron Island, being tracked in this descent by Soviet radar (until curvature of the earth intervened) until it was 1,000 ft. above sea level
  • Captain and/or crew were able to occupy themselves with preparing the passengers for emergency sea landing and rescue.
  • KAL 007 was able to descend in spirals and circle

See also