It was on Sept. 1, 1983 that we learned a Soviet jet fighter had fired on a civilian airplane off the coast of Siberia, reportedly killing all 269 passengers and crew, including U.S. Representative Larry McDonald (D-Ga.). At the time, McDonald was known as one of the most active anti-Communists in the U.S. Congress. He served in many national and international organizations, including being chairman of the John Birch Society.
Four days after the attack on Korean Airlines Flight 007, President Ronald Reagan delivered a strongly-worded speech on national television, during which he called the attack “a crime against humanity.” Reagan used the word “massacre” six times to describe the assault and proclaimed, “This was the Soviet Union against the world and moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere.”
Despite the President’s tough talk, however, the U.S. took no meaningful action against the Soviets — not even when Soviet ships and planes harassed Japanese and American search-and-rescue efforts in the Sea of Japan.
Today, 27 years after the attack on KAL 007, mystery still surrounds the event and the fate of the passengers. If the plane did not plummet into the sea, but took 10-12 minutes to descend, did it land safely in Soviet territory? Were there any survivors? If so, what happened to them? Why did the plane stray off course in the first place? And why did the Soviets react so furiously, even murderously, to it? We still do not know the answers.
— Chip Wood