Deep Sea 129

This Ain’t Hell has a look back at a time when the Cold War between the US and North Korea heated up with tragic consequences.

We call the period between the end of World War II and the end of the Soviet Union the “Cold War”.  And in truth, it wasn’t an all-out, no-holds-barred global fight like World War II.

But it wasn’t always particularly “cold”, either


Deep Sea 129 took off at approximately 0700 local time from NAS Atsugi, Japan.  Because the mission was deemed “minimal risk”, it flew its mission over the Sea of Japan unescorted – as had close to 200 other reconnaissance missions earlier that year.

The crew were experienced; they’d flown similar missions before. They arrived on-station and began flying slow, repetitive “racetrack” patterns over the Sea of Japan.

The mission proceeded normally for several hours.  Their orders were to remain a minimum of 50 NM off the coast of North Korea.  Those orders were followed.

Though they were flying unescorted, Deep Sea 129 was neither forgotten nor completely neglected.  They – and the tactical situation – were being closely monitored by USAF assets in South Korea.  Early warning radars were tracking their location, as well as North Korean air activity.  USAF monitoring stations were also tracking North Korean voice and Morse code nets associated with air defense operations.  In addition, a NAVSECGRU listening post in Japan was apparently intercepting Russian air defense radar communications relating to the mission, providing second source information regarding Deep Sea 129’s location.

Deep Sea 129 submitted a routine report via teletype at approximately 1300 local time.  It continued its mission.

However 26 minutes previously – at approximately 1234 local – USAF and Army Security Agency assets had detected the takeoff of two North Korean MiG-17 aircraft.  Under the assumption that these MiG-17s might be responding to Deep Sea 129, the MiGs were tracked.

Radar contact with these two MiG-17s was temporarily lost at approximately 1322.  They were reacquired on radar again at 1337, heading in the direction of Deep Sea 129 on what appeared to be an intercept course.


Read the whole thing.

3 thoughts on “Deep Sea 129”

  1. My father rode in that particular WV when he was stationed at NAVSECGRU Kami Seya in the early 1960s. We have pictures of it on the flightline in the family archives. Maybe we should send them to the National Cryptologic Museum.

    He lost some friends and co-workers in the shootdown.

    1. Again, South Korea might not appreciate the thousands of artillery rounds and rockets received in reply. The bulk of US forces were fairly busy in Vietnam.

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