Korean Airlines Flight 007

views updated


KOREAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 007. Originating in New York, Korean Airlines flight 007 left Anchorage, Alaska, for Seoul just before 3:30 a.m. on 31 August 1983. A few minutes after takeoff, it deviated from its assigned course, taking the 747 into Soviet airspace and over a major Soviet military installation. Five hours into the flight, two missiles fired from a Soviet interceptor struck the plane, sending it into the sea west of Sakhalin Island. All 269 people on board, including 61 Americans, died. Soviet authorities took nearly a week to admit their fighter had downed the civilian aircraft. The Soviet claim that KAL 007 was a spy plane caused a chorus of condemnations in the United Nations. Arms limitation talks in Geneva stalled. The West subsequently boycotted flights into and out of the Soviet Union. For years, the Soviet Union refused to accept any blame and kept U.S. investigators from the crash site. Later explanations pointed either to mistaken identity or pilot incompetence. Korean Air Lines, which paid pilots a bonus to arrive on time and "any way they can," was also deemed guilty. A final theory alleged that the jet wandered into a Soviet-American air battle and was destroyed. Still a mystery, the destruction of KAL 007 worsened escalating tensions in the Cold War.


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

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

Hersh, Seymour M. "The Target Is Destroyed": What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew about It. New York: Random House 1986.

Johnson, Richard W. Shootdown: Flight 007 and the American Connection. New York: Viking, 1986.

Bruce J.Evensen

James I.Matray