Saturday marked 35 years since the shoot down of a Korean Air Lines passenger flight by the Soviet Union.
On Saturday, at the Mason County Public Library, Director Steve Parrott discussed the shoot down of the plane and how it nearly resulted in World War III.
Parrott, who served in the US Air Force, was stationed in Japan at the time and remembered the event well.
“It was a KAL flight 007 Boeing 747,” he said. “It was a pretty big aircraft. There were 269 people on board. It started at JFK in New York. It stopped in Anchorage, Alaska for refuel and was headed to Seoul, South Korea. After leaving Anchorage, it was supposed to follow one track, but somehow got on a different track that took them more Northwest than it was supposed to be.”
According to Parrott, a fighter with the Soviet Union shot the plane down near Moneron Island, just west of Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Japan. It was reported that all 269 people aboard the plane were killed, though Parrott does not believe that was entirely true.
Parrott said there were a lot of different stories released about the shoot down afterward.
“They said they tried to lead it to the nearest airfield,” he said. “Information was released the day after the shoot down, but there was no mention of the plane being shot down. I worked with a lady who was actually born in Moscow and now lives in the United States. She’s very grateful to live in the US and one day when we were talking, she told me, ‘everything they tell you over there is a lie.’”
According to Parrott, it was an incident that brought the US closer to World War III than “most Americans realize.”
After the plane was shot down, the Soviet Union did not acknowledge that it happened until five days later. However, reports released nine years later showed search and rescue efforts had been ordered after the attack.
“South Korea had a lot going on with their own government at the time and the US and Japan took over the investigation of the KAL007 flight,” Parrott said. “They searched for any signs of the plane that had slowly descended after being hit by the missiles, but nothing was found. If a plane hit the Sea of Japan and disintegrated, there would still be some signs of clothing or luggage floating.”
Many years later, the Soviet Union released pieces of clothing to family members of those who had been on board the flight.
“One woman received her son’s shoes,” he said. “She said she knew it was his shoes because he had splattered paint on them. The clothing sent to the families had all been cleaned.”
Parrott said the reason he still talks about the shoot down is because he wants to remember the people who were on board the flight and he hopes, one day, that all of the information about the shoot down and what happened to the people on board will be released.
“I’m a conspiracy theorist,” he said. “I don’t entirely believe that all of the people on board died. If the plane landed safely and the people on board were taken hostage, one of the first things the Soviets would have done would be to take away their shoes and put them in uniforms and in camps. There were children on board that plane and today, they would be adults, if they were still alive.”
Parrott said he also sees a lot of parallels between the Cold War and what is happening today with Russia.
“It’s a lot like what is happening today with Russia and the tension between the two countries,” he said.