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Echoes of 1983 Plane Crash in Malaysia Airlines News

Today’s reports of a passenger plane crashing and possibly being shot down over Ukraine calls to mind another tragic incident: the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 after it flew over Soviet airspace on September 1, 1983.

On September 5, 1983, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation and powerfully admonished the Soviet Union for their role in shooting down the plane:

“Despite the savagery of their crime, the universal reaction against it, and the evidence of their complicity, the Soviets still refuse to tell the truth. They have persistently refused to admit that their pilot fired on the Korean aircraft. Indeed, they've not even told their own people that a plane was shot down.

They have spun a confused tale of tracking the plane by radar until it just mysteriously disappeared from their radar screens, but no one fired a shot of any kind. But then they coupled this with charges that it was a spy plane sent by us and that their planes fired tracer bullets past the plane as a warning that it was in Soviet airspace.”

The incident further impaired the tense relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, but after investigations were completed, most came away thinking the incident was a horrible misunderstanding. On September 11, 1983, Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) was a guest on Meet the Press and faced questions about what Congress should do in the aftermath of the Korean jet incident. His answer is still a popular one: possible sanctions against the Soviet Union. Take a look: