55. Editorial Note

On September 2, an unarmed U.S. Air Force C–130 transport airplane on a roundtrip flight from Adana to Trabzon and Van, Turkey, with a crew of 17 on board, was reported as missing along the Soviet-Turkish border. In Goodpaster’s memorandum for the record, prepared on September 9, which summarized his discussions with General Thomas D. White, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, President Eisenhower, and Secretary of State Dulles on the missing aircraft, Goodpaster wrote:

“On the evening of 2 September General White told me he had just received information indicating that a C–130 equipped for electronic reconnaissance had apparently been shot down somewhere along the Turkish-Soviet border earlier that day. He said the report was inexplicable, in that the course of the plane as planned was never closer than 85 miles to the Soviet border. He phoned me the next day, indicating that while there was no further public information, a C–130 was unreported. He sent General Walsh over, with a report indicating that the aircraft had been off course, had crossed the Soviet border (possibly lured by a false radio beacon) and that it had been shot down.

General White said that he had taken several steps to tighten up further the conduct and supervision of such reconnaissance flights. He sent over copies of instructions aimed at assuring that the aircraft do not, even through navigation error, leave friendly territory. At his request, I reported the matter to the President and the Secretary of State in Newport on 4 September, and discussed it further with the President on 6 September. He thought the instructions were about all that could be done, but stressed the necessity of command emphasis and supervision. I so informed General White.” (Eisenhower Library, Project Clean Up, Intelligence Matters)

Major General James H. Walsh, USAF, was Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Air Force. Neither the report on the decoy theory nor the instructions on future flights, both mentioned in Goodpaster’s memorandum, has been found.

For text of the Department of State announcement, dated September 6, of the missing plane and the U.S. note delivered to the Soviet Foreign Ministry on September 6 requesting any information on the plane and its crew, see Department of State Bulletin, September 29, 1958, page 505. [text not declassified]

The United States based much of its subsequent protests to the Soviet Union on information derived from telegram 845 from Ankara, September 9. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/9–958)

A Soviet note of September 12, transmitted in telegram 580 from Moscow, September 12, indicated that the wreckage of an airplane and the remains of six crew members had been found well inside Soviet territory. (Ibid., 761.5411/9–1258) The queries of charge Richard H. Davis [Page 187] to Soviet authorities about the other eleven missing crew members and requests for permission of U.S. personnel to visit the crash site were transmitted in telegram 579 from Moscow, September 12. (Ibid.) For text of the Department of State statement of September 12, summarizing the September 12 Soviet note, see Department of State Bulletin, October 6, 1958, page 531. For text of the U.S. note of September 13, claiming that Soviet fighter aircraft had intercepted and shot down the C–130 and requesting a visit to the crash scene by U.S. technical experts to investigate the circumstances of the crash and to identify and arrange for transportation of the remains of the victims out of the Soviet Union, see ibid., page 533. For text of the September 19 Soviet note, which reiterated that only six bodies had been found, denied any knowledge of the other eleven, repeated its charges of an intentional violation by the plane of Soviet air space, rejected U.S. charges that Soviet aircraft had shot down the C–130, and offered to arrange for the transfer of the remains of the six bodies to U.S. authorities, see ibid., February 23, 1959, page 270. For text of the U.S. note of September 21 and the Department of State announcement of September 23 indicating agreement with the Soviet Union on the transfer of the remains of the six crew members to U.S. officials, see ibid., October 20, 1958, page 618. Six coffins and bodies along with personal effects were transferred to U.S. authorities on September 24. (Telegram 1048 from Ankara, September 26; Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/9–2658)

The U.S. Government continued to press Soviet authorities concerning the fate of the eleven missing crew members but failed to elicit any information. For text of a U.S. note of October 3, see Department of State Bulletin, October 27, 1958, pages 659–660. For an account of the conversation between ERIC JOHNSTON and Khrushchev on the C–130 incident on October 6, see Document 56. For text of a Soviet note of October 16 on this case, which also charged another violation of Soviet air space by a U.S. military aircraft, see Department of State Bulletin, February 23, 1959, page 271. For text of a U.S. note of November 8, see ibid., December 1, 1958, page 885. For text of Robert Murphy’s representation on the C–130 incident to Soviet Ambassador Menshikov on November 13, a chronology on the matter, a translation of a tape-recorded conversation among Soviet fighter pilots participating in the alleged attack on the C–130, and translation of two articles from Sovetskaya Aviatsiya (Soviet Aviation), all of which were released to the press on February 5, 1959, see ibid., February 23, 1959, pages 263–269.

Discussion of possible countermoves to Soviet attacks on U.S. aircraft is in Document 58.

On January 6, 1959, Vice President Richard M. Nixon took up the question of the eleven missing crew members with First Deputy Premier Anastas I. Mikoyan, who visited the United States January 4–20, [Page 188] 1959. Secretary of State Dulles raised it again with Mikoyan on January 16, 1959. For text of their representations, see Department of State Bulletin, February 23, 1959, pages 262–263. For texts of Department of State press releases of February 5, 6, and 7 reviewing the entire issue, see ibid., pages 262 and 269–270. Summary of a TASS statement of February 17 reacting to the February 5 press release was transmitted in telegram 1628 from Moscow, February 17. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/2–1759) The translation of an Izvestia article of February 18 by M. Mikhailov charging that the evidence presented in the Department of State press announcement of February 5 was a “crude forgery” was transmitted in despatch 484 from Moscow, February 20. (Ibid., 761.5411/2–2059)

On May 4, Ambassador Thompson met with Khrushchev concerning the eleven missing crew members and left an aide-memoire which indicated that President Eisenhower had instructed him to bring this matter to Khrushchev’s personal attention. A draft text of this aide-memoire, which the President approved on April 3 with minor changes, is attached to a memorandum from Herter to the President, April 2. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Dulles-Herter Series) The aide-memoire was then transmitted in telegram 1602 to Moscow, April 3. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/4–359) For Thompson’s summary of his interview with Khrushchev, see Document 73. A translation of the Soviet reply to the aide-memoire, handed to Thompson on May 25, was transmitted in telegram 2371 from Moscow, May 25. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/5–2559) For the brief statement by Press Secretary James C. Hagerty on April 4, see Department of State Bulletin, May 25, 1959, page 743.

At the end of his visit to the Soviet Union July 23–August 2, 1959, Vice President Nixon wrote a letter to Khrushchev concerning the missing crewmen. A copy of this August 1 letter is attached to a memorandum from Richard H. Davis to John A. Calhoun, August 26. (Department of State, Central Files, 761.5411/8–2659) A translation of Khrushchev’s reply to Nixon, August 22, is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1416.

President Eisenhower did not raise the matter with Khrushchev during his visit to the United States September 15–28, 1959, but he wrote Khrushchev on October 1 expressing “the deep concern” of the families of the eleven missing men and making a personal appeal for information about them. Text of Eisenhower’s letter was transmitted in telegram 904 to Moscow, October 1. (Ibid., Central Files, 761.5411/10–159) A translation of Khrushchev’s reply, October 10, is ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204.

On October 21, 1959, Secretary Christian A. Herter wrote a memorandum to the President saying that because Khrushchev’s letter of October [Page 189] 10 provided nothing new, it was “highly unlikely that we shall ever be given further information about the fate of the eleven men.” He suggested that the families of the missing men receive a personal message of sympathy from the President, and he enclosed a suggested message and names and addresses of the next of kin. (Eisenhower Library, Staff Secretary Records, International Series) Text of Eisenhower’s letters to the families of the missing airmen has not been found, but a memorandum from James Carson of S/S-RO to Stephen Winship of EUR, December 1, 1959, notes that Eisenhower sent such letters on October 29. (Ibid., Central Files, 761.5411/11–3059)