KAL 007: Timeline of Events, Russian Regime changes, and Investigations

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August 31, 1983

*Ronald Reagan President, Uri Andropov General Secretary and Premier.

  • Korean Air Lines Flight 007 departs from John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City with final destination being Kimpo International Airport, Seoul, Korea. The plane, a Boeing 747 wide-body passenger liner stopped in Anchorage, Alaska for refueling. At the same time, companion flight KAL 015, carrying Senator Jesse Helms, Senator Steven Simms, and Congressman Carroll Hubbard, Jr. of Kentucky, stopped over. Senator Helms sent word to invite Congressman McDonald, a passenger on KAL 007 to join his group. Word came back that McDonald was sleeping and did not wish to be disturbed.

September 1, 1983

  • KAL 007 shot down by Soviet fighters. Initial reports, based on message from pilot monitored in Narita, Japan, and other sources, was that plane landed safely on Sakhalin. US Secretary of State George P. Shultz announced that plane took 12 minutes to disappear off radar screens.

*The first Soviet aerial (helicopter) and naval (KGB vessels and associated civilian trawlers) mission, within 1/2 hour of shootdown, to 4 1/2 mile by 3 1/2 mile Moneron Island within Soviet waters, the location of Soviet tracking of KAL 007 in its spiral descent. (See Soviet transcripts [1] for orders and logistics)*Soviet denials of knowledge of shootdown, then denials of whereabouts of plane

  • The next day, reports would indicate that plane had been totally destroyed.
  • Marshal Valentin I.Verennikov heading secret State Commission despatched to Sakhalin to head Soviet damage control and cover-up

September 5, 1983

September 9, 1983

  • Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov Moscow press conference denying knowledge of where KAL 007 went down.

September 15, 1983

  • First of Soviet Civilian divers (flown from Murmansk and Svestapol) down to sunken KAL 007 reporting no bodies, no luggage, and appearance of plane as having been dragged there by trawls rather than fallen from sky. They suggest that Soviet military divers had gotten there before them.

September 26, 1983

  • A delegation of seven Japanese and American officials arriving aboard the Japanese patrol boat Tsugaru, meet a six-man Soviet delegation at the port of Nevelsk on Sakhalin Island. KGB Major General A. I. Romanenko, the Commander of the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands frontier guard, heads the Soviet delegation. Hands over footwear representing 198 of the 269 passengers and crew of KAL 007. Romanenko disappears. Soviet embassy in East Berlin later says committed suicide. Name expunged from KGB computers. U.S. intelligence cited in Committee on Foreign Relations Minority Staff Study of 1991 says sent to Gulag because of Black Box oversights. Probably executed.

September - November, 1983

  • Task Force 71 of U.S. 7th Fleet under Command of Rear Admiral Walter T. Piotti, with South Korean and Japanese vessels effect futile Search and Rescue/Salvage Operations in International Waters north of Moneron, being prevented by Soviets from entering Soviet territorial waters. Piotti concludes in After Action Report, "Had TF [task force] 71 been permitted to search without restriction imposed by claimed territorial waters, the aircraft stood a good chance of having been found. No wreckage of KAL 007 was found. However, the operation established, with a 95% or above confidence level, that the wreckage, or any significant portion of the aircraft, does not lie within the probability area outside the 12 NM area claimed by the Soviets as their territorial limit.”

November – December 1983

  • Five top secret memos [2] from head of KGB Chebrikov, Defense Minister Ustinov, and Soviet technical experts who have deciphered black box are sent to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov describing the contents of the Black Boxes retrieved by the Soviets and their efforts to deceive the West. "The fact that the recorders are in possession of the USSR shall be kept secret. As far as we are aware neither the US nor Japan has any information on the flight recorders. We have made necessary efforts in order to prevent any disclosure of the information in future. ...Simulated search efforts in the Sea of Japan are being performed by our vessels at present in order to disinform the US and Japan. These activities will be discontinued in accordance with a specific plan"

August 29, 1988

  • What Happened to Flight 007? by Robert W. Lee published in The New American. The article asks questions about initial reports that KAL 007 landed on Sakhalin, the absence of luggage or bodies, the paucity of debris and related issues—calls for thorough investigation and raises the issue of the possibility of the survival of those aboard.


  • Avraham Shifrin starts investigating the incident through the Israeli Research Centre for Prisons, Psychprisons and Forced Labor Concentration Camps of the USSR. Shifrin, former Major in Red Army and Criminal Investigator for Krasnodar region of Crimea, oversees network of informers within the Soviet Union which he established after he himself was put into the Gulag and then exiled to Siberia for spying in behalf of the U.S. and Israel. Informants develop contacts for KAL 007

May 20, 1989

  • Soviet Air Force Captain Alexander Zuyev defects to the West from the Soviet Union. He has information related to the shooting down of KAL 007.

June 1990

  • Top KGB official sends letter to Avraham Shifrin containing names of top KGB-GRU officers and institutes involved in a secret KAL 007 commission.

November 1990

  • Avraham Shifrin informs Senator Jesse Helms that eyewitnesses had seen KAL 007 land and passengers evacuated, and that Black Boxes had been retrieved. That new immigrants to Israel report KAL 007 tracked to safe water landing, that plane sunk after passengers deboarded and scattered to simulate aircraft having fallen.

December 1990 - Early 1991

  • Russian journal Izvestia publishes two series of articles [3] concerning KAL 007. These articles report that Soviet divers who explored the submerged Boeing 747 were surprised to find neither bodies nor luggage and wreckage of plane scattered in secondary placement. This is consistent with Shifrin's contention that the passengers had been rescued.

January 16, 1991

  • Memo from David Sullivan to Senator Helms informing of some of Shifrin's sources - including defecting KGB official, and top Soviet scientist currently in the U.S.

May 1991

  • Avraham Shifrin transfers results of 2-year investigation to office of Senator Jesse Helms. Helms’ aids, Staff Director Dr. James P. Lucier, Staff Assistant David Sullivan and Senior Analyst Victor Fedei, visit Shifrin and receive access to all his information.

June, 1991

  • Helms’ aid, David Sullivan, informs Shifrin that materials were turned over to CIA.
  • Helms orders report [4] to be prepared. Republican Staff Study prepared drawing on Shifrin's material and information from US intelligence sources, CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency. Report kept secret until late 1992. Report concludes,"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.”
  • Senator Bill Bradley writes Gorbachev asking for full record of Soviet findings to be shared publicly.

July 11, 1991

  • Avraham Shifrin, Executive Director, Research Center for Prisons, Psychiatric Prisons and Forced-Labor Camps of the USSR, publishes, in reaction to the inaction of the U.S., first press release on KAL 007. [5]

December 5, 1991

  • Senator Helms, writes to Boris Yeltsin concerning U.S. servicemen who were POWs or MIAs. "The status of thousands and thousands of American servicemen who are held by Soviet and other Communist forces, and who were never repatriated after every major war this century, is of grave concern to the American people." Yeltsin would address issue on June 15, 1881 while being interviewed aboard his presidential jet on his way to the United States, "Our archives have shown that it is true — some of them were transferred to the territory of the U.S.S.R. and were kept in labor camps... We can only surmise that some of them may still be alive.

December 10, 1991

  • Senator Jesse Helms writes second time to Boris Yeltsin, now concerning KAL 007. In his letter [6] , Helms asks for answers to specific questions based on Shifrin’s material and the Republican Staff Study [7]. Included in interrogatories are request for information of Cong. Larry McDonald, location of camps where passengers are kept, and all related military communications of shoot down and aftermath.

"From Soviet reports of the incident, please provide

a) A list of the names of any living passengers and crew members from the airplane;

b) A list of missing passengers and crew;

c) A list of dead passengers and crew;

d) A list and explanation of what happened to the bodies of any dead passengers and crew;

Please provide detailed information on the fate of U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald.”

And finally, Helms would add:

"1. How many KAL-007 family members and crew are being held in Soviet camps?

2. Please provide a detailed list of the camps containing live passengers and crew, together with a map showing their location"

On 6 November 1991, Yeltsin issued a decree banning the Communist Party throughout the RSFSR.

In early December 1991, Ukraine voted for independence from the Soviet Union. A week later, on 8 December, Yeltsin meets with Ukrainian president and the leader of Belarus announce the dissolution of the Soviet Union and future establishing of a voluntary Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

On 24 December, the Russian Federation took the Soviet Union's seat in the United Nations. The next day, Christmas Day, President Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union ceased to exist

February 11, 1992

  • Letter [8] of Rear Admiral Bud Nance, Staff Director under Sen. Helms, establishing the Israeli research verified by CIA to be basis for Helms letter to Yeltsin.

March 21, 1992

  • Russia 1 TV reveals that Russian Defense Ministry has black boxes. (Korea Times, March 24, 1992).

March 24, 1992

  • Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov acknowledges on Russian T.V.that he ordered all out effort to retrieve Black Boxes "in order to prevent the U.S. from finding them and to save the Soviet Union from a flurry of international accusations for destroying a civilian airliner."

May 27, 1992

Yeltsin acknowledges that plague that killed and maimed humans and livestock in Sverdlosk on April 2, 1979, contrary to Soviet assertions being caused by a cattle plague, was in reality caused by an Anthrax leak from a military biological facility operating in violation of a U.S. Soviet treaty.

June 17, 1992

  • Boris Yeltsin reveals existence of KGB memo reporting the existence of documents related to KAL 007. Speaking in Washington, Yeltsin said, "It was a memorandum from (the) KGB to the Central Committee of the Communist Party where it says that such a tragedy has taken place, and so on and so forth, and that there are documents which would clarify the entire picture. And the next line then says these documents are so well concealed that it is doubtful that our children will be able to find them, those who come after us will be able to find them." (UPI, Washington, June 17, 1992).

August 15, 1992

  • Washington Times reports that the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. played tapes of U.S. intercepts of cockpit voice recordings from Soviet search and rescue aircraft picked up about four hours after KAL 007 was shot down. These recordings reveal the fact that the Soviets knew they had shot down a Boeing 747 with American passengers aboard and that two Soviet interceptors circled Moneron Island for about 90 minutes after the shoot-down trying to pinpoint the point of impact/landing. See KAL 007 on the Water: a sighting

September 11, 1992

  • Yeltsin acknowledges, for the first time, the existence of the Black Boxes. He also promises to turn over to the South Korean Government a transcript of the flight recorder contents as found in KGB files.

October 14, 1992

  • Delegation from the American Association of Families of the Victims of KAL 007 in Moscow receive partial transcripts form Black Box tapes but not tapes themselves.

October 16, 1992

  • The five top secret memos that were sent to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov in November - December 1983 are released by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and published in Izvestia issue #228.

October 26, 1992

  • Sonn Se Il, head of Korean opposition party, reveals existence of the Republican Staff Study “CIA Report” which indicates the survival of the plane and those aboard. Reuters News Service publishes summary of report

October 27, 1992

  • U.S. State Department dismisses any possibility of survivors. Spokesman Richard Boucher states, “President Yeltsin replied that there had been no survivors, and we have no reason to doubt the Russian government’s statement.”

November 20, 1992

  • Yeltsin hands over black boxes and tapes to Korean President Roh Tae Woo (FDR tape is missing)

December 18, 1992

  • ICAO votes to reopen KAL 007 investigation taking into account newly released information.

January 3, 1993

  • Capt. Alexander Zuyev appears on CBS “60 Minutes” revealing that arctic gales knocked out radars on Kamchatka ten days before KAL 007 flight. This was the reason that the plane was not intercepted earlier. Full radar coverage would have enabled Soviet pilots to identify the plane as a civilian airliner and force it to land on Kamchatka. Prevented from speaking publicly by US authorities until January 1993. Died in light plane accident June 10, 2001

January 8, 1993

  • Russia turns over FDR tapes to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). (Korea Times January 10, 1993)

May 28, 1993

  • Second ICAO Report presented to Secretary General, United Nations.


  • Formation of the International Committee for the Rescue of KAL 007 Survivors.[9]

May 2001

  • Rescue 007: The Untold Story of KAL 007 and Its Survivors [10] by Bert Schlossberg published. Copies sent to all members of US Senate and many Congressmen as well as members of the media. About 600 copies sent out.

March 15, 2002

Lt. General Valeri Kamenski, the Chief of Staff and Commander of Ukrainian Defense Forces, Formally Commander of Soviet Far East Military District Air Defense, and "strategic" commander of the shootdown acknowledges, "“It is still a mystery what happened to the bodies of the crew and passengers on the plane"[11]

September 1, 2003

  • Mikhail Prozumentshchikov, Deputy Director of the Russian State Archives of Recent History publishes a statement [12] in RIA Novosti admitting that the Soviets both knew where KAL flight 007 had come down and were intentionally trying to keep the Americans, Japanese and others away from the site. As similar deceptions had not accompanied other aircraft downings, this indicates a strong motivation from the very beginning to keep this "crash" hidden.

See also