EC-121 Shootdown

DPRK Downing of U.S. EC-121
April 15, 1969
See More About America’s Response and Its Relevance Today Here
For Source Documents, See Below

USN EC-121 — Similar to Downed Plane

[See more here on the nuclear option in this incident, plus why President Nixon later said about this incident and the communists' strategy to: "Probe with bayonets. If you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw. I had feared in our handling of the EC-121 incident in 1969 the Communists may have thought they encountered mush."]

The information on this page is excerpted from U.S. and North Korean government information. About the incident:

U.S. Navy summary: “While flying a patrol mission over the Sea of Japan, this aircraft (BuNo 135749) was attacked 90 miles off the coast of Korea by North Korean fighters. All 31 crewmen were lost during the attack. Two bodies and some wreckage were recovered by search vessels.”

North Korean Version: “At the end of the 1960s, the air force of the KPA smashed U.S. large spy plane ‘EC-121’ into smithereens in the air to demonstrate its power again.” (Aug 2010, KCNA)

North Korea has claimed the EC-121 was in its territorial airspace when attacked but offered no evidence to refute the USG’s assertion the plane was actually in international airspace. Pyongyang continues to brag about the shoot down in its officials statements.

“Search and rescue efforts were initiated shortly after the loss of the aircraft on 15 April 1969 and continued until 20 April 1969. The effort, consisting of air and surface units, resulted in the recovery of the remains of two of the persons aboard the aircraft, LTJG Joseph R. Ribar and AT1 Richard C. Sweeny USN. Both remains were clothed in normal flight gear. The remaining 29 members of the EC-121 crew were carried ¬∑in a missing status. On 21 Aprii 1969 a Board of Investigation was convened to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the loss of the EC-121 aircraft and the personnel onboard, the conduct of the search and rescue efforts and to perform the duties of an inquest. The Board of Investigation’s findings were as follows:

a. That the EC-121 was shot down in flight over neutral waters off the coast of North Korea.

b. The nature of the debris,recovered pointed to either inflight or water impact disintegration of the aircraft.

c. That, as the two bodies recovered were not equipped with life jackets or exposure suits, the Board implied that the crew did not have sufficient time to don survival equipment.

Based on the findings of the Board of Investigation and pursuant to the provisions of the Missing Persons Act of Title 37 USCA, the status of the remaining 29 crewmembers of the EC-121 was changed from missing to dead by the Secretary of the Navy on 30 April 1969. DIA has not received any information that any crewmembers survived the crash and were subsequently captured.”

(Defense Intelligence Agency response to April 1981 letter from Congressman concerning questions of Ms. Eileen L. Taylor, chairwoman of the Flying Pueblo Comrnittee.* KorCon note: In the past we requested a copy of the Navy investigation of the EC-121 shoot down under the Freedom of Information Act. The Navy told us it could not find it.) *If anyone is in touch with Ms. Eileen Taylor and/or other members of the Flying Pueblo Committee, please ask her/them to contact us at producer (at)

See the Congressional investigation of the EC-121 and Pueblo incidents here.

North Korea Statements on EC-121 Shoot Down

“At the end of the 1960s, the air force of the KPA smashed U.S. large spy plane ‘EC-121’ into smithereens in the air to demonstrate its power again.” (Aug 2010, KCNA)

Invincible Might of KPA Air Force

Pyongyang, November 29, 2012 (KCNA) — The people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea celebrate the Day of Air Men on Thursday. On November 29 of 1945, President Kim Il Sung organized the flying corps of new Korea after its liberation from the Japanese colonial rule.
Visiting the Sinuiju branch of the Korean Aviation Association at that time, the President made a historic speech titled “Let Us Create the Air Force of the New Korea” to indicate the tasks and ways for building the Juche-based air force.

Since then, the air force of the DPRK has displayed its invincible might under the guidance of the brilliant commanders of Mt. Paektu.

In the period of the Fatherland Liberation War (June 1950-July 1953), the young Air and Anti-Air Force of the Korean People’s Army created a lot of myths, unprecedented in the world history of air force, in the showdown with the U.S. air force boasting of “air supremacy”. The KPA pilots demolished the south Korean air force only in three days after the start of the war, while defeating the U.S. air pirates. They shot down more than 2 500 war planes of the enemy during the war.

The KPA air force frustrated U.S. aerial provocations on many occasions after the war. In the 1960s, it shot down the U.S. “EC-121”, that intruded into the DPRK’s airspace, killing 30 odd airmen aboard it. In 2010, a KPA airplane drove out the U.S. “RC-135” of the DPRK airspace.

A number of DPRK heroes were registered in the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force.

In his inspection tour of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force Command in May this year, Marshal Kim Jong Un highly praised the unit for its enormous contributions to developing the nation’s air force. And he stressed that the KPA air force could be developed into an invincible one thanks to the distinguished military idea and wise leadership of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.

Distraught Villager Restrained Trying to Eat Heart from Dead NK Soldier Seven Members of this Man’s Family Killed by NK Team

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