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Open Letter to Walter Cronkite re Michel Brun's Distortions

Feb 20, 1996

Dear Mr. Cronkite:

I believe your reputation is being exploited and potentially damaged by your association with the book, "INCIDENT at SAKHALIN", by Michel Brun. Your endorsement of it, run on the back jacket, was probably based on trusting that the author was providing authentic source materials for his controversial claims. But that trust was misplaced, I believe, as the following opinions show:

Surely the enormity of Brun's accusations should have warned you to verify the material with care. Brun's "Grand Conspiracy" to cover up the 1983 Sakhalin air battle (where he claims ten American planes and thirty American airmen were lost, with an unknown but probably proportionate number of Russians lost as well) and the subsequent US or Japanese accidental downing of the Korean airliner KAL-007, begins with the US and Soviet leadership, and every one of their successor regimes (after Andropov, then Chernenko and Gorbachev, and finally Yeltsin, and after Reagan, then Bush and Clinton). Add in all the various governments of Japan, S. Korea, France, and the international bureaucracies in the United Nations and its aviation department, ICAO. Whatever their differences and disagreements may be in public, says Brun, they all are "in it together" when it comes to keeping this story from the world.

But if anybody had actually checked Brun's assertions, they would have found evidence of massive falsification, in my opinion.

Let's examine Brun's account (pp. 215 - 218 ) of the 1991 Izvestiya articles from Moscow and what they tell about the intercept operations. Compare them to translations from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which I have personally verified in the Russian originals in my archives. They deal with a Russian pilot named Osipovich, who is generally accepted as being the man who shot down KAL-007.

Brun (p. 215) writes that Osipovich is vectored out to sea toward an approaching intruder. Then, "instead of directing him toward the intruder, which was now directly in front of him, the controller switched his orders and sent him after a target that was already behind him. Osipovich banked to the left and made a U-turn, exposing his tail to the first target, and. . . went after the second aircraft."

BUT what Osipovich really told Izvestiya was as follows: he was flying out to sea on a head-on course with the intruder, but "For some reason, however, my aircraft was not vectored onto the target along the forward hemisphere. Soon they gave me a new command: 'We will vector you from the aft hemisphere'. There was nothing else to do. I turned onto the reciprocal course. And . . . I went after the intruder." There is no second target, no exposed tail, not even a bank to the "left". All those "documented details" exist only in Brun's imagination.

Brun (p. 216) comments on the air-to-ground phrases "Who's calling 805?", and says that in response to this phrase, Osipovich told Izvestiya: "Yes, that was me. . . .The voice seemed strange, though. As if someone had broken into our communications. A foreigner who spoke Russian, who had cut into our frequency to create confusion and give contradictory orders...." A footnote refers to the Jan 23, 1991 issue of Izvestiya.

Brun leaps off to say, "It wouldn't have been a Soviet pilot, but could very well have been an operator on board an RC-135 in the vicinity." But Brun is far, far off base here, since those quotes he attributes to Osipovich simply don't exist. They are nowhere in the Izvestiya series, as far as I can tell. Somebody made them up, and Brun's claim that they are in the footnoted source is false.

Brun (p. 217) quotes Osipovich as saying, "I received the order to force him to land. I took up position behind the plane and began firing warning shots. It was at this moment that he began to slow down. . . . There was extraordinary commotion coming over the radio and I couldn't get in a word. I remember there was a Mig-23 behind me that couldn't have been going too fast because he was still carrying his reserve tanks. He wouldn't stop shouting, "I see a dogfight? I see a dogfight!" I had no idea what dogfight he was talking about."

Brun has mixed, elaborated on, and reworded Osipovich's comments over a long period, including taking comments made after the shootdown had already happened. He uses this confused narrative to try to prove there were multiple firefights going on simultaneously.

What Osipovich really told Izvestiya was this: "I was already approaching the target from below. I matched speeds and started to flash him. . . . I fired four bursts, . . .But what was the sense of that! I had armor-piercing rounds, not incendiaries. And it was hardly likely that anyone would see them." But then, he adds, "Their attention was caught by my flashing [my lights]. The reaction of the pilots was unambiguous -- they quickly reduced speed." So the pilot believes it was the flashing lights, not the cannon fire, which caught the intruder's attention (and elsewhere it has been shown that the slowdown was the result of a climb to a higher cruise altitude that had been requested from Japanese air traffic controllers ten minutes earlier, not a sudden response to outside flashes).

After the missiles have hit, Osipovich told Izvestiya, ". . .an unimaginable hubbub broke out in the air. I remember that a Mig-23 was following me. He had drop tanks and could not go fast. The pilot was squealing continuously, 'I am observing air combat'." This is roughly what Brun said was said, considering the multiple translations his account has gone through, but his placement of the words BEFORE the shootdown had the result of misleading the reader.

Further, the confusion of the word "battles" has long ago been settled, in articles which Brun had read because he quotes from them and attacks other points in them. Osipovich thought the other pilot said, "Nabludayu boyikh", while the Kirkpatrick tapes at the UN interpreted the noisy phrase to be, "Nabludayu aboyikh". The first phrase means, "I see battles", the second means "I see them both" (the translation used by Kirkpatrick). The difference is a slight "uh" vowel between one long vowel and a following consonant. This is the flimsy basis for much of Brun's "reconstruction", aided by his deliberate omission of the explanation so as not to confuse his readers.


[The letter was not answered]


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