Relatives and friends of the passengers who disappeared when Korean Airlines Flight 007 was hit by a missile from a Soviet fighter plane in 1983 will brief reporters on February 14 in Washington, presenting evidence that the Soviet claim that all aboard died when the plane hit the ocean near Sakhalin Island is false. They will also present petitions signed by hundreds of people addressed to President Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The petitions ask the two presidents, who are now good friends, to find out what became of the 269 men, women and children aboard the plane.
Ten years ago, Senator Jesse Helms wrote to President Boris Yeltsin, pointing out that 256 of them have vanished without a trace.
The Russians found the remains of only thirteen at most. Senator Helms asked Yeltsin to explain what happened to the rest. If they were killed, why was there no trace of them and their personal belongings in the largely intact cabin when it was found? Senator Helms wanted to know what happened to those people. If they died, where are their bodies? If they survived, where are they?
We don’t yet have the answers to those questions, but the relatives and friends of those who have disappeared want President Bush and Congress to renew Senator Helm’s request for answers. They find it shocking that the Reagan, Bush-one, and Clinton administrations did nothing to find the answers to the kind of questions that Senator Helms posed. Sixty-one American citizens, including Congressman Larry McDonald, a Democrat from Georgia, nationally known for his strong anti-communist views, are among those who vanished without a trace. President Bush should heed the request of the relatives and the hundreds who have signed petitions asking him to act.
The principal presenter at the news conference will be Bert Schlossberg, a scholar living in Israel, who has spent ten years researching this case. His book, “Rescue 007, The Untold Story of KAL 007 and its Survivors,” has evidence that nearly all those aboard the plane survived. He found that the cockpit voice recorder showed that a rocket that was reported to have destroyed one engine, missed. The other rocket made a small hole in the rear of the cabin.
Radar shows the plane progressively slowed down as it descended. Schlossberg found no evidence that it broke up when it hit the water, killing all aboard. He believes it successfully ditched near Sakhalin. No big pieces of wreckage, no baggage and no bodies were found floating on the ocean. The body of one small child and many shoes washed up on the shores of Hokkaido. No life jackets were found.
The passengers evidently donned their life jackets and took off their shoes to prepare for ditching. Schlossberg says Soviet military radio intercepts show that all ships in the area were ordered to go where the plane was coming down. He says many ships arrived within 30 minutes after the plane hit the water. He believes nearly all aboard survived and the Russians imprisoned them for life. That would explain why Russia concealed vital evidence until everyone lost interest?everyone but the victims’ loved ones.