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11 July 1995
trary, charged Kim two percent—about what mander of the Korean Military Advisory mortgages cost in the U.S. then.)
Group (KMAG) “to recover high ground in To the Editor:
Document #7, Stalin's telegram to Rus- North Korea occupied by [the] South Ko
sian ambassador to P’yöngyang Shtykov on rean Army.” Before dawn it launched strong Since Kathryn Weathersby chose once 30 January 1950, does not say what artillery barrages and then at 5:30 a.m., 4000 again to stigmatize my work (as “revision- Weathersby says it does, namely, it does not to 6000 North Korean border guards atist”) in the spring 1995 issue of the CWIHP “reveal so bluntly” Stalin's strategic think- tacked the salient. They routed the South Bulletin, perhaps I might be permitted a ing or his “perfect mafioso style.” Instead it
ing or his “perfect mafioso style.” Instead it Korean defenders, destroying two compacomment. The documents that she repro- shows Stalin appearing to be more interested nies of ROK soldiers and leaving hundreds duced, selectively culled from a vastly larger than at any previous point in Kim Il Sung's dead. archive and handcarried to Seoul by a Boris plans for South Korea, without a hint of what Virtual panic ensued at high levels of Yeltsin beseeching South Korea to aid the Stalin's own strategic thinking might be. Dr. the South Korean government, leading faltering Russian economy, are quite inter- Weathersby thinks the timing of this change Syngman Rhee and his favored high officers esting but in ways that she does not seem to is to be explained by Dean Acheson’s famed in the army to argue that the only way to understand.
press club speech on January 12, which is to relieve pressure on Ongjin was to drive north Document #1, a standard transcript of assume a Stalin so inexperienced as to take to Ch'orwon—which happened to be about Kim Il Sung's meeting with Stalin on 5 Acheson’s public statementof a private policy 20 miles into North Korean territory. Rhee, March 1949 widely circulated for use inside at face value (and even the public statement who was meeting with Chiang Kai-shek the Soviet government, is impressive pri- is always misread by scholars). Finally, [Jiang Jieshi] in a southern Korean port, marily for how bland it is, adding very little Stalin's request that Kim send 25,000 tons of returned to Seoul and dressed down his to the existing record. If anything it illus- lead (whether gratis or for a price is not defense minister for not having "attacked trates how distant Stalin was from the Ko- mentioned) is no more “mafioso” than the the North” after the Ongjin debacle. The rean situation, probing Kim on what kind of U.S. more or less telling South Korea that it American ambassador and the KMAG coman army he had, what kind South Korea had, would require Korea's entire annual output mander both intervened, since an attack on and whether he had utilized the “national of tungsten in the early 1950s, to make up for Ch’orwon would, in the words of the latter, bourgeoisie” to organize trade (which Kim the lost tungsten supplies of southern China. “cause heavy civil war and might spread.” indeed had done). This transcript adds vir- Documents number two through six are The South did not move against Ch’orwon, tually nothing to what has been known of considerably more interesting, but remain but attacks from both sides across the paralthis meeting, a relatively full record of which inexplicable unless placed against the back- lelon the Ongjin peninsula continued through can be found in an archive of captured North and-forth logic of the developing civil con- the end of 1949. Korean materials in Washington. But it flict on the peninsula, with full knowledge of All this is based on unimpeachable does appear to show that no secret military what the South and the U.S. were doing. The American archival documentation, some of alliance or agreement issued forth from this critical issue in these documents is not a which was reproduced in the 1949 Korea meeting, as the South long claimed. wholesale invasion of the South, but a mili- papers of the Foreign Relations of the U.S.
This document certainly does not pro- tary operation to seize the Ongjin Peninsula, and which I treated at length in my 1990 vide evidence for Dr. Weathersby's asser- which juts southward from the 38th parallel book. When we now look at both sides of the tion that the meeting was “revealing in a on Korea's west coast, reachable from the parallel with the help of Soviet materials, we most intimate way [of] the nature of the South only by sea or by an overland route see how similar the Russians were in seeking relationship” between the USSR and the through North Korean territory. This is where to restrain hotheaded Korean leaders, inDPRK or that North Korea was “utterly the Korean War conventionally dated from cluding the two chiefs of state. Indeed, two dependent” on the USSR. The captured 25 June 1950 began, and where fighting key Russian Embassy officials seeking to archive has large numbers of documents on between the South and North began on 4 restrain Kim used language almost identical Korean-Soviet trade, negotiations over vari- May 1949—in a battle probably started by to that which John Foster Dulles used with ous exchanges, and proof that some pre- the South, according to the most reliable Rhee in his June 1950 discussions in Seoul cious Korean minerals, like gold and mona- accounts.
(both, upon hearing Kim or Rhee declaim zite (when refined, useful for a thorium According to these Soviet documents, their desire to attack the other side, “tried to atomic bomb) were indeed transferred in Kim Il Sung first broached the idea of an switch the discussion to a general theme,” to large quantities to Russia. (I covered this operation against Ongjin to Shtykov on 12 quote from document #6). We see that Kim briefly in my Origins of the Korean War, August 1949. This came on the heels of the Il Sung, like southern leaders, wanted to bite volume 2 [Princeton University Press, 1990), biggest Ongjin battle of 1949, initiated on off a chunk of exposed territory or grab a pp. 151-2, 340-45.) These voluminous ma- August 4 by the North to dislodge South small city—all of Kaesong for example, terials still do not prove North Korea's utter Korean army units holding Unp’a Mountain, which is bisected by the 38th parallel, or dependency on the USSR, especially when a salient above the 38th parallel which the Haeju city just above the parallel on Ongjin, contrasted to South Korea, which had half South had aggressed against in a previous which southern commanders wanted to ocits annual budget and five-sixths of its im- battle and the summit of which commanded cupy in 1949-50. ports in the 1950s provided virtually gratis much of the terrain to the north. The North The Soviet documents also demonstrate by the United States. (Stalin, to the con- sought, in the words of the American com- the hardwon, learned logic of this civil war
by late 1949, namely, that both sides under- “rise up” to greet northern troops (Origins, half-century-old documents?) And even stood that their big power guarantors would 1990, pp. 456-57). Kim Il Sung trumped up when we have every document the Soviets not help them if they launched an unpro- these charges in show trials in 1953, and then ever produced, we will still need the South voked general attack—or even an assault on had Pak and his close allies executed. Mean- Korean archives, the North Korean archives, Ongjin or Ch'orwon. Document #6, a tele- while Kim told Shtykov in January 1950 that the Chinese archives on both sides of the gram from the Russian ambassador to Mos- "partisans will not decide the question. The Taiwan straits, and the American intellicow in January 1950, shows Kim Il Sung people of the south know that we have a gence, signals and cryptography archives, impatient that the South “is still not instigat- good army.” South Korean “liberation” was before we will be able to argue on truly solid ing an attack,” thus to justify his own, and to come courtesy of, and only of, the Korean ground the question we ought all try to the Russians in P’yôngyang tell him once Peoples Army.
forget, namely, “who started the Korean again that he cannot attack Ongjin without Finally, what is absolutely fascinating civil war?” risking general civil war. Meanwhile Rhee about documents two through six is Kim Il and his advisors (some of whom were Ameri- Sung's basic conception of a Korean War, Sincerely yours, cans with cabinet-level portfolios in the ROK originated at least by August 1949: namely, government) had gotten the message (espe- attack the cul de sac of Ongjin (which no Bruce Cumings cially through OSS and CIA operative sane blitzkreig commander would do prePreston Goodfellow) that the US would only cisely because it is a cul de sac), move 1. The armistice did not end discussions of seizing back Seoul in the case of an unprovoked and eastward and grab Kaesong, and then see Ongjin and Kaesông, however. According to American unequivocal attack from the North. Thus the what happens. At a minimum this would
intelligence reports in February 1955, Syngman Rhee
had held “meetings in which Rhee told Korean military 1950 logic for both sides was to see who establish a much more secure defense of
and civilian leaders to prepare for military actions would be stupid enough to move first, with P’yôngyang, which was quite vulnerable against north Korea,” and in October came reports Kim itching to invade and hoping for a clear from Ongjin and Kaesong. At maximum, it saying that he had ordered plans for the retaking of southern provocation, and hotheads in the might open Seoul to his forces. That is, if the
Kaesông and the Ongjin Peninsula. This never hap
pened, probably because the U.S. once again prevented South hoping to provoke an “unprovoked" southern army collapses, move on to Seoul
Rhee from doing it. See declassified information cited assault, thus to get American help—for that and occupy it in a few days. And here we see in Donald S. MacDonald, U.S.-Korean Relations from was the only way the South could hope to the significance of the collapse of the ROK Liberation to Self-Reliance (Boulder, Colorado:
Westview Press, 1992), 23-24, 80. win. What better way for both sides to begin 2nd and 7th divisions, 25-27 June 1950, than to do it in isolated, remote Ongjin, with which opened the historic invasion corrider no foreign observers present along the paral- and placed the Korean People's Army in lel?
Seoul on the 27th, and why some people K. Weathersby responds: Other items in these documents also with intimate knowledge of the Korean civil bear comment. They make clear that well conflict have speculated that these divisions Professor Cumings attempts to before the war Kim already had begun play- may have harbored a fifth column (Origins, downplay the significance of the Russian ing Moscow off against Beijing, for ex- 1990, pp. 572-73, 582-85). Kim did not by
documents by asserting, first of all, that the ample letting Shtykov overhear him say, at any means get what he wanted out of the
documents on the decision-making behind an apparently drunken luncheon on 19 Janu- Korean War, but, rest his soul, he got his
the North Korean attack on South Korea in ary 1950, that if the Russians wouldn't help minimum demand: Kaesong and Ongjin re
June 1950 published in the previous issue of him unify the country, “Mao Zedong is his main firmly on the other side of the 1953
the Bulletin were “selectively culled from a friend and will always help Korea.” In demilitarized zone.... 1
vastly larger archive.” In fact, the collection general this document underscores my point Readers of this Bulletin may not be as
from the Presidential Archive declassified that the victory of the Chinese revolution interested in the details of Korean history as
in preparation for Yeltsin's presentation of a had an enormous refractory effect on North I am. But they make the point that Korean
portion of them to South Korea includes the Korea (Origins, 1990, pp. 369-71), and that history is made first and foremost by Kore
great majority of what that archive contains, North Korea's China connection was a trump ans, which is something that much of the
as can be ascertained from looking at the card Kim could play to create some breath- Korean War literature (from all sides) still
“Delo” and page numbers. The important ing room for his regime between the two fails to grasp. The Soviet documents also
gaps in that collection are from April-June communist giants. The documents also show show that they are merely documents, that is,
1950 and October 1950, not from the earlier that Kim's timing for an invasion was deeply evidence that remains to be interpreted with
period. influenced by his desire to get large numbers all the intelligence, hindsight, imagination
Cumings also writes that these docuof Korean soldiers back from China, where and care that the historian can muster. Fur
ments were “handcarried to Seoul by a Boris they had been fighting for years with Mao's thermore these documents are highly selec
Yeltsin beseeching South Korea to aid the forces (Origins, 1990, pp. 451-53). tive, drawn from one portion of one section
faltering Russian economy.” Actually, These documents put to rest forever, in of one archive, and proferred to a Seoul still
Yeltsin presented them to President Kim my view, P’yöngyang's canard that it was socked into the Korean civil struggle by a
Young Sam while the latter was in Moscow. Pak Hon-yong, the southern communist mendicant from Moscow. (Can we imagine Furthermore, Yeltsin's government's ecoleader, who argued for war in 1950 and the reverse? An American president curry
nomic reasons for wishing to improve relafoolishly thought the southern people would ing favor in P’yôngyang with a handful of
tions with South Korea are only relevant to our discussion if this motivation led the testing him and reinforcing his vulnerability limited military operation on the Ongjin Russian declassification commission to ex- by making him expose himself through his peninsula. As the Soviet documents show, clude certain documents, presumably ones replies to such questions.
he was correct to conclude that something that would present the Soviet role in the Cumings also argues that this transcript was up on Ongjin. However, he stops his Korean War in an unfavorable light. As is does not provide evidence for my assertion account before the punch line. In 1949 Kim apparent from the documents published in that North Korea was utterly dependent on did raise the possibility of a limited operathis issue as well as the previous issue of the the Soviet Union. Of course it doesn't-it tion to seize Ongjin, but the Soviet leaderBulletin, unflattering documents have not would have been ridiculous to claim that it ship rejected the plan. In early 1950 Stalin been excluded; these records are, in fact, did. What I wrote was that “the thousands of changed his mind, and, as the article in this remarkably frank.
pages of documents on post-war Korea in the issue details, in April and May Soviet and Cumings disparages the usefulness of Russian Foreign Ministry archive” show “in North Korean military leaders together the transcript of the first meeting between exhaustive detail” that “in the years prior to worked out a plan for a full-scale offensive Kim Il Sung and Stalin by describing it as a and during the Korean War, North Korea against South Korea. Cumings is right that “standard transcript...widely circulated for was utterly dependent economically on the leaders of both sides hoped to gain their use inside the Soviet government” which Soviet Union,” a subject I address further in patron's support for a war by provoking an “adds virtually nothing to what has been my essay in this issue of the CWIHP Bulletin. assault by the other side and that “the 1950 known of this meeting.” With regard to this Cumings adds that the collection of docu- logic for both sides was to see who would be assertion, it must be pointed out that Cumings ments captured by UN forces in Pyongyang stupid enough to move first.” But the end of has no knowledge of the circulation of this in the fall of 1950, which is housed in the the story is that the Soviet Union eventually transcript within the Soviet government, National Archives in Washington, reveal decided to support its client's plan for miliand neither does any other scholar. Further- considerable trade between the DPRK and tary reunification while the United States more, nothing was “widely circulated" the USSR, but “still do not prove North did not. Thus, though Cumings is right that within the Soviet government; in the Soviet Korea's utter dependency on the USSR.” Korean history is made first and foremost by context this claim simply makes no sense. With regard to this argument, it must be Koreans, the war of 1950-53 was not a In addition, the account of Kim's meeting pointed out that the collection of captured purely Korean product. with Stalin provided in the captured docu- documents consists of documents that the Of course it's true, as Cumings notes, ments is limited to a report of the trip Kim Il North Koreans left behind when they with- that we must examine the archives from all Sung presented to a party assembly, in which drew from Pyongyang in the face of the U.S./ the major actors in the war before we can he described the agreements reached, the UN advance into North Korea. They thus fully understand this unusually complex “friendly atmosphere” of the talks, the sites include only those documents that were not conflict. The Cold War International Histhe delegation visited, etc. Obviously, an considered important enough either to evacu- tory Project is facilitating just such a actual transcript of the meeting with Stalin ate or destroy. This is why there is nothing in multiarchival investigation, beginning with provides a much more substantial piece of that collection about the planning of the June a close comparison of the Chinese and Rushistorical evidence.
1950 attack and no records of high-level sian sources. Nonetheless, certain imporAs for Cumings' conclusion that the correspondence between Pyongyang and tant questions about the war have been retranscript reveals “how distant Stalin was Moscow. It is not sound reasoning to argue solved by the Russian archival sources; to from the Korean situation,” it would be that something was not the case if it is not pretend otherwise is simply dishonest. possible to interpret Stalin's remarks in this documented in this collection. way if one had no knowledge of Soviet/ The captured documents are a very rich North Korean relations and no knowledge source of information on many aspects of the of Stalin's style with subordinates. Perhaps history of North Korea that are little illumiI should have been more explicit. Stalin was nated in the Soviet documents, such as polivery well informed about events in North tics at the village level, economic records of Korea. The ranking Soviet official in North individual factories, and party personnel rosKorea was General T.F. Shtykov, one of ters. But to get the big picture we must turn Stalin's “own men,” who had direct access to the Russian documents. And to get a to Stalin, reporting to him outside the nor- complete picture, we must examine both sets mal channels of the Foreign Ministry and of records, a laborious undertaking which a General Staff. Throughout 1949 and 1950 handful of scholars from South Korea has Shtykov regularly communicated with Stalin begun. about the situation in Korea, particularly With regard to Cumings' disagreement about the U.S. military presence in the South, of my reading of Stalin's telegram of 30 the opposition movement in the South, and January 1950, I refer readers to my article in the actions of the U.S.-backed government the present issue of the Bulletin. Cumings in Seoul. Stalin's request to Kim to provide goes on to discuss documents #2-6, recounthim with information on such topics was a ing the reasons why he concluded in his 1990 familiar style of dealing with subordinates, volume that the war of June 1950 began as a
SOVIET INTERROGATION OF ministers, stated:
such activities secret—as“weather” or “trainU.S. POWS IN THE KOREAN WAR
Representatives of the MGB of ing” missions. the USSR and China came from
These flights, which actually began beby Laurence Jolidon
Peking to conduct further prisoner fore the outbreak of the Korean War and
interrogations, in order to gain more continued for years afterward, were themThe extensive, covert involvement of precise information on spy centers, selves responsible for the loss of approxiSoviet intelligence in the interrogation of landing strips and flights over the mately 140 U.S. pilots and crewmen shot American prisoners throughout the Korean territory of the Soviet Union.
down over or near Soviet territory. Except in War has been laid bare thanks to a trove of
The interrogations will continue rare cases these men were never publicly long-secret military documents unearthed in Pekton [Pyoktong].
acknowledged by the U.S. government and by the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on While seemingly cursory and matter- the very existence of their missions was missing Americans in the former Soviet of-fact, this document had several important routinely disavowed. Union. implications.
Just as routinely, the Soviets denied Despite accounts in the debriefings of First, it contradicted previous Russian finding or capturing any survivors of these repatriated U.S. POWs—and even brief assurances that Soviet officials had not been shootdowns. They were secret casualties in mentions in the Western press during and involved in the interrogation of American a secret war. So long as the U.S. and the immediately following the war—that Rus- POWs.
USSR remained superpower enemies, to sians had questioned U.S. POWs, Soviet Even after veterans of the Soviet mili- publicly seek their whereabouts would vioofficials steadfastly maintained for decades tary intelligence service had told the Joint late their secret status. that it never happened.
Commission of their personal involvement But the interrogations referred to in the The Kremlin's obvious interest in the in numerous interrogations, the Russian side 26 November 1952 message were primarily details of American weapons, strategy and had insisted that the rules under which So- those conducted on Americans taken prismorale in the Far East—as early-Cold War viet forces operated in the Korean War the- oner in hostile action in the Korean War. In indicators of what to expect once the battle ater forbade such acts.
the case of U.S. aviators, they included men for world supremacy that most assumed As proof, they cited message traffic to shot down over or otherwise forced to ditch would eventually occur in Europe was Soviet posts in the war theater dating from or parachute in Manchuria. joined—had never gone that far, Stalin and January 1951, and repeated as a standing By UN Command edict, U.S. planes his successors argued.
order throughout the war, that “our transla- were forbidden to enter Chinese air space. Moscow's leaders hid behind the fic- tors are categorically forbidden to interro- This stipulation was frequently breached by tion that the Soviet Union, while lending gate American and British POWs, or prison- U.S. pilots, although it was customary for moral and logistical support to the troops of any other nationality.”
official military records to mask this fact in North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and air The Ignatyev-Malenkov message, on
after-action reports. protection along the Manchurian border for its face, was either a reversal of that policy Secondly, the 26 November 1952 mesthe sanctuary it had recently ceded to the or—as some American analysts believed- sage to the Soviet advisor in North Korea is new Chinese ruler, Mao Zedong, had prima- a clue that the “categorically forbidden” an important clue to the dynamics of the rily been a neutral, disinterested party in order was only for public consumption. covert war the Soviets were then conducting Korea.
(In the course of the Russian-American behind the lines in Korea. But just as Soviet Communist Party dialog on this subject through the meetings Rather than simply sitting back and archival documents made public in the past of the Joint Commission, the Russian posi- waiting for the reports of POW interrogafew years have drawn a clear, intentional tion shifted several times. Some Russian tions to be sent through channels, from the and decision-making connection between members of the commission admitted reluc- prison camps that were ostensibly under the Stalin's hand and the North Korean inva- tantly that one favored method of interrogat- control of the Chinese army, the Soviets sion, documents from Soviet military files ing American POWs was to have the Rus- were taking the initiative to monitor and have deepened our knowledge of what be- sians' questions put to the prisoners by Chi- direct the process more directly. came in effect an extensive, bold, yet largely nese interrogators while the Soviets sat, un- This speaks to the apparent competition covert intelligence war conducted by the seen, in an adjacent room. Testimony taken for access to the most valuable POWSSoviets north of the 38th parallel.
by the commission also made clear that in documented in wartime accounts of UN One key document, obtained in April some cases the Soviets carefully chose Rus- prisoners—among the three Communist al1994 by investigators from the Pentagon's sian officers of Asiatic cast to do the interro- lies in the war. POW/MIA Affairs Office working under gating.)
By the fall and winter of 1952, for the aegis of the Joint Commission, came While Americans are not specifically instance, the Chinese had capitalized on the from files at the Soviet military archives in mentioned in the Ignatyev-Malenkov mes- capture on Manchurian territory of a number Podolsk.
sage, the reference to “flights over the terri- of U.S. aviators by charging them with “war The two-paragraph message, dated 26 tory of the Soviet Union” could pertain only crimes,” including the much-disputed alleNovember 1952, from S. Ignatyev, the chief to American reconnaissance flights, dis- gation of waging “germ warfare” by dropSoviet military advisor in North Korea, to guised in public statements by U.S. authori- ping infected plants and insects while overG.M. Malenkov, one of Stalin's principal ties—who had their own reasons for keeping flying Chinese territory.
The statement that “interrogations will Captain Charles McDonough was the incident—has been resolved through the continue in Pekton (Pyoktong)," a city on taken prisoner.
Joint Commission's efforts. the North Korean side of the Yalu near the
Under interrogation he said:
But investigations into other cases, parborder with China, could be read as a sign
The aircraft was shot down at ticularly those related to the testimony of that the Soviets wished to make it clear that an altitude of 30,000 feet.
live Russian witnesses, are continuing; and the prisoners—and the intelligence gained
The crew numbering 3 persons together, the Senate committee and the Joint from their interrogations—should be shared. bailed out on parachutes. The navi- Commission did become a catalyst for bring
A later Soviet document, acquired by gator having landed ran off, where ing to light some of the Soviet Union's most the American side of the commission in the radio operator disappeared to he closely-held secrets regarding the treatment early 1995, also appears to lift any previous did not see. The captive himself of Americans in Russian hands. prohibition against Soviet involvement with was burned and is in a critical con
One clear lesson was that the main tarAmerican POWs—if the prohibition ever dition.
gets of the Soviet’s intelligence war during existed. Sent on 29 January 1953, and A second cable, dated the following day, Korea were American POWs—and that the addressed to three top Soviet leaders includ- added this:
most prized among them were the pilots and ing Lavrenti Beria, then head of the MGB,
I am informing you that the pi- crews of the innovative units of the U.S. Far the message read:
lot from the shot down B-45 aircraft East Air Force. Of men flying the F-86, the “The minister of public security of died en route and the interrogation most advanced U.S. fighter of the Korean China, having reported on 27 January 1953 was not finished.
War era, a disproportionate several dozen to our advisor on this decision of the TSK These two cables—both sent to Marshal failed to appear among the ranks of the KPK [the Central Committee of the Chinese Stepan Krasovskiy, chief of the Soviet
Stepan Krasovskiy, chief of the Soviet gen- repatriated U.S. POWs when prisoners were Communist Party), requested that our advi- eral staff in Moscow—were found in the exchanged in 1953. sor help the Chinese investigators organize Soviet military archives in Podolsk by civil- The documents on American POWs the interrogation of the prisoners of war and ian Russian researchers working under the from Soviet military archives, taken together oversee their work. The MGB advisor was direction of Dr. Paul Cole, then with the with the testimony of Soviet veterans of ordered by us to render such help.” Rand Corp. Cole's project was authorized Korea and now-declassified papers from
A second document that illustrates the under a Pentagon contract with Rand to search U.S. archives, clearly point to Soviet cominvolvement of Soviet military intelligence for information in Soviet archives dealing
for information in Soviet archives dealing plicity in the disappearance and probable in the interrogation of American POWs in with Americans missing after World War II, death of dozens, if not hundreds, of those Korea deals with the 4 December 1950 the Korean War and Cold War.
POWs who were not repatriated. shootdown of a USAF RB-45 reconnais- The cables in the McDonough-Lovell Soviet military data dealing with Amerisance plane.
RB-45 case were made available to the Ameri- can prisoners in Korea began making its way None of the four men aboard the plane- can side of the Joint Commission within a to U.S. authorities and private researchers in the pilot, Capt. Charles McDonough, two short time after Cole learned of them in the the winter of 1991-92, as the administration other crewmen, and Col. John R. Lovell, a fall of 1992 and ultimately became a part of of Mikhail Gorbachev was giving way to his top-ranking Air Force intelligence officer the large repository of Joint Commission rival, Boris Yeltsin. believed to be on a mission from the Penta- documents that comprises the results of the During what many would later characgon—made it back to the U.S. commission's efforts.
terize as a brief "window of opportunity,” Thus, like the Cold War spy flights, the After being translated, documents re- when a mood of genuine reform and openRB-45 case was wrapped not only in the ceived from the Russian side of the commis- ness about past misdeeds seemed to emanate difficulties of unraveling any MIA case sion, along with transcribed minutes of the from Moscow, government and private refrom the tangles of the Korean War but also Joint Commission's regular meetings (usu- searchers seeking answers about U.S. POWs in the sensitivity that attaches to intelligence ally three times a year), are placed on file at and MIAs attempted to turn the moment to missions and personnel. the Library of Congress.
their advantage. The key document discovered so far in Besides filling gaps in the world's ex- A number of interested parties in the the RB-45 case revealed not only that at panding knowledge of Soviet behavior and U.S. government—the State Department, least one of those aboard was captured alive, policies, the still-growing collection of docu
policies, the still-growing collection of docu- Pentagon, National Archives, Library of but also that Soviet interest and involve- ments, summaries of papers, lists and trans- Congress—decided on a unified approach to ment in the case was high.
lations now available to scholars and the gaining access to files related to missing A cable dated 17 December 1950, stated general public may ultimately help resolve a
general public may ultimately help resolve a Americans, and supported the creation of
significant number of American MIA cases. the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission. Each An aircraft shot down on 12-4
To date, the Joint Commission's record agency or department appointed a represen50 of the B-45 type fell in a region on that score has been modest. Only one tative to the commission, whose co-chair70 km to the east of Andun (Man- actual Cold War MIA case—a U.S. fighter men were former U.S. ambassador to Moschuria). The aircraft caught fire in pilot whose remains were retrieved from an cow Malcolm Toon for the U.S. and the late the air and upon falling to the earth uninhabited coastal island in the Russian Far Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov, a historian and burned up completely. The crew East after a Russian man who took part in the military adviser to Yeltsin, for the Russians. bailed out on parachutes. The pilot original burial came forward with details of The commission began its work in rela