1969 EC-121 Shootdown
 
	To: Korean-War-List  
	Subject: 1969 EC-121 Shootdown 
	From: "Matthew M. Aid"  
	Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2001 19:44:54 -0400 
	Reply-To: KOREAN-WAR-L@listproc.cc.ku.edu 
	Sender: owner-KOREAN-WAR-L@listproc.cc.ku.edu 
 
Dear One and All: 

Here is a quick summary of the 1969 EC-121 shootdown by the North Koreans. 

Matthew Aid     

On Monday, April 14, 1969 at 5:00 PM EST (1544Z), a Navy EC-121M 
reconnaissance aircraft (PR-21/BuNo 135749) of Fleet Air Reconnaissance 
Squadron One (VQ-1) with a crew of 31, including nine Naval Security Group 
(NAVSECGRU) and Marine linguists, took off from Atsugi Naval Air Station, 
Japan on a routine Beggar Shadow SIGINT collection mission over the Sea of 
Japan. The EC-121M had been directed to proceed to a point off the Musu 
Peninsula, where the aircraft was to orbit for several hours along a 120-mile 
long "track," then land at Osan Air Base in South Korea. The aircraft 
commander had been ordered not to come any closer than 50 nautical miles 
to the North Korean coastline. This particular route had been flown by VQ-1 
EC-121Ms for two years without incident, and the mission had been graded as 
being "minimal risk." More than 190 similar missions had been previously 
flow by Navy and Air Force reconnaissance aircraft off North Korea's east 
coast during the first three months of 1969, all without incident. Six hours 
after takeoff, the crew of the EC-121M transmitted a routine radio-teletype 
activity report at 11:00 PM EST, then disappeared off USAF radar screens at 
11:50 PM EST, 90 miles southeast of the North Korean port of Chongjin.The 
EC-121M mission had been monitored from the ground by Air Force radar 
sites in Japan and South Korea, as well as by the USAFSS 6918th Security 
Squadron at Hakata, Japan and Detachment 1, 6922nd Security Wing at Osan 
Air Base, Korea (USA-31), which followed the flight by intercepting North 
Korean air defense radar tracking transmissions. Air Force radars and 
USAFSS COMINT intercept operators in Korea had detected two NKAF MiGs flying 
towards the unarmed EC-121 prior the plane's disappearance. In addition, 
the intercept operators at the USAFSS listening post at Osan, South Korea, 
who were copying North Korean voice and morse air defense radio traffic, 
tracked the flight path of the EC-121 aircraft as well as the intercept 
course of the North Korean fighters. The NAVSECGRU listening post at 
Kamiseya in Japan was also intercepting Russian PVO radar tracking of the 
EC-121M mission, giving NSA two sources of information as to the flight path 
of the aircraft. The USAFSS listening post at Osan attempted to warn the 
aircraft's commander by transmitting a mission abort signal at 11:46 PM EST. 
But the MiGs caught up with the slow flying aircraft as it turned for home 
90 miles southeast of the North Korean port city of Chongjin, and the MiGs 
shot the EC-121 down at 11:47 PM EST. All 31 crewmembers were killed, 
including nine NAVSECGRU cryptologists. The bodies of only two of the crew 
were ever recovered. The USAFSS listening post at Osan (SIGAD USA-31) issued 
a CRITIC message on the incident at 5:44 AM GMT on April 15, 1969.  President 
Nixon order an immediate halt of all aerial reconnaissance missions in the 
Sea of Japan, but rescinded his order three days later, this time ordering 
that all peripheral reconnaissance missions off North Korea be accompanied 
by fighter escorts. According to one source, an NSA review of COMINT 
intercepts of North Korean Air Force ground-to-air radio traffic from the 
USAFSS listening post at Osan showed that the shootdown had resulted from a 
command and control error between the North Korean ground controller and the 
fighter pilot. Other NSA intercepts showed that the Soviets were shocked 
by the North Korean action, so much so that Russian warships were sent to 
the crash site to help American ships search for survivors. President Nixon's 
revelation that NSA had successfully monitored both the North Korean and 
Russian air defense tracking nets caused both nations to immediately change 
all of their radio frequencies, operating procedures and crypto systems 
in use at the time. It took NSA's cryptologists months to get back to the 
point where they were prior to Nixon's press conference.