Frequently Asked Question #6
Why the focus on the C-130 60528 shootdown in the book?
A. 60528 was the first American recon plane to be shot down and end up crashing on Soviet soil. Except for Gary Powers' U-2 that crashed near Sverdlovsk, Russia on May 1, 1960, all other downed U.S. recon aircraft crashed in international waters outside Soviet territory.
B. The Soviet government denied that their MiGs shot down the C-130, claiming that it "fell" deep inside Soviet territory. (In most other instances, the Russians readily admitted attacking American planes, claiming that they had violated Soviet airspace).
C. Only six of the 17-man crew were ever accounted for. The Soviets returned six bodies and denied any knowledge of the remaining eleven. Four of the six were identified and provided services according to family preferences. The two unidentified remains were interred with honor at Arlington National Cemetery in February 1959. The families waited 39 years (until Sept 1997) before the U.S. government admitted that the crew had been engaged in important reconnaissance work. Up to that point, the families had been told nothing of consequence due to the sensitive classified nature of the mission.
D. Five months after the shootdown, President Eisenhower authorized the public release of a tape recording of intercepted Russian pilot conversations as the MiG pilots took turns firing on and destroying the C-130. A transcript of the pilot communications is included in the book.
E. Under an agreement between President Bush Sr. and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992, the Russian government declassified and made available Soviet documents on the shootdown of this and other recon missions, making it possible to recreate extensive details on the shootdown. There are more facts available on this shootdown than on any of the other similar U.S.-Soviet air incidents. The declassified Soviet documents include decision memoranda from the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee describing discussions with the U.S. government, detailed reports about what the Soviet leaders knew and when, and gun-camera photos taken by the Soviet MiG pilots during the shootdown. Gun-camera photos have not been located in Soviet archives for any other shootdown incident. A U.S. Army excavation team excavated the crash site in Armenia in 1993, recovering minute bone fragments, military identification tags (dog tags) for some of the missing crew members and other crash evidence. Ultimately, all six sets of remains were identified and honored, and although not positively accounted for, the eleven MIAs are believe to have perished (to have been cremated) in a raging inferno that burned unabated for hours at the crash site.
F. Having flown recon missions with the same squadron and on the same C-130 recon fleet, the authors have written The Price of Vigilance to honor the seventeen lost men and their families.