A U.S. Navy EC-121M BEGGAR SHADOW mission, 52El09, with 31 crew members aboard (30 USN, 1 USMC), departed Atsugi, Japan, on a reconnaissance mission over the Sea of Japan, on 14 April 1969 at 2159Z. Its estimated time of arrival at the destination of Osan, Korea was 150639Z. (1)

The requirements of this mission placed the aircraft in a racetrack orbit over international waters from a point 50 NM east of Kunson, North Korea, to a point 50 NM east of Choungjin, North Korea. During this phase of the mission, it would be well within the ground-controlled intercept (GCI) radar and air defense interceptor environment of North Korea. Additionally, on the northern end of the racetrack, the EC-121M would be well within the air defense capability of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The task to be accomplished required that the BEGGAR SHADOW aircraft remain in this environment for five hours and eleven minutes. (2) During most of this period, the EC-121M would be outside the range of friendly radar and would have to rely on other means for warning of interception.(3) Due to proximity of the BEGGAR SHADOW track to the North Korean interceptor bases, and because of the speed differential of the EC-121 and MIG-21, it would have been impossible for BEGGAR SHADOW to have outrun or outdistanced a determined attack.

Warning of impending intercept, Condition 3 (150 NM), was issued at 0439 on 15 April 1969, and BEGGAR SHADOW appeared to have heeded the warning by taking up an easterly heading. (4) Condition 5 (50 NM) was first issued at l50442Z; Condition 5 was again issued at 150443Z. This was the last known transmission acknowledged by the BEGGAR SHADOW. (5)

Remaining on an easterly heading, the propeller driven EC-121M was shot down, by North Korean jets, at 0445Z on 15 April 1969, at 131° 48’E, 41° 13’N. (6)

Air Force Reaction

At 1504471, 5AF AQVON received notification from its warning center of a possible shootdown of the BEGGAR SHADOW mission.  Due to the sensitive nature of the mission, there was limited information available; however, based on the warning center information, 5AF ADVON ordered the scramble of two F-102s from Suwon AB, Korea, at 150504Z. At that time, there were eight USAF and two South Korean Air Force (ROKAF) interceptors on five-minute alert. Had they been directed to scramble, their distance relative to ~he shoot4own and speed capability would have resulted in the following time to target with 15-minute canb4lt time and normal fuel reserve: (7)

Osan              4/F-106          350 NM          30 min
Suwon           4/F-102          350 NM          41 min
Kangnung     2/F-5               2.60 NM         34 min

**See before for complete status.

The two scrambled F-102 were directed by SAF ADVON to take up CAP at the eastern end of the DMZ and await instructions. All echelons of command were alerted. PACAF headquarters received its notification at 0615Z on 15 April 1969 from its warning center. At 150553Z, two F-106s from Osan replaced the F-102s. This CAP was maintained by alternating F-102s and F-106s.

A determination as to the proper level of reaction was critical during this time frame, because it was not clear whether the possible shootdown was an isolated incident or the beginning of a higher level of aggression by North Korea, which might be continued against a search and rescue (SAR) effort or CAP forces directed into the Sea of Japan. Coordination of an early press release was considered important so that SAR activities would not be construed as aggressive action by the governments of North Korea, Communist China, USSR, or Japan.

At 150620Z, Fifth Air Force directed the scramble of the HC-130 Based at Tachikawa, Japan. (See Fig. 2 for SAR status.) It departed at 150641Z for a rendezvous with the CAP east of Kangnung, South Korea.

Action to reposition rescue forces was initiated at 150645Z. Figure 3 shows the result of this movement as of 160700Z. (8)

To extend the time on station of the fighter aircraft, coordination among Fifth Air Force, 313th Air Division, 5AF AOVON, and Thirteenth Air Force resulted in a KC-135 tanker being launched from Kadena, Okinawa, at 150745Z to rendezvous with the CAP at 3900N/l3030E.

All Korea based tactical forces were directed by 5AF to assume maximum readiness (Echo) posture at 150839Z.(9) All other SAF resources were directed to assume maximum readiness for deployment to forward operating bases at 150842Z. (10)


1. Significant Item Book, 11USN EC-121 Loss 14 Apr”, undated. (Filed in PACAF Command Center Library.)

2. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: PARPRO Escort, 220213Z Apr 69.

3. Annex I to Significant Item Book, USN EC-121 Loss, 14 Apr 69.

4. Ibid.

5. Msg, CINCPAC, subj: Recap of Significant Events, 151113Z Apr 69.

6. Ibid.

7. Msg, 5AF, 190827Z Apr 69.

8. PACAF, DOCS Status Reports.

9. Msg, SAF, subj: Assume Maximum Readiness, 150839Z Apr 69.

10. Msg, 5AF, subj: Prepare for Deployment, 150824Z Apr 69.