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And so, the Sea of Japan. Along side - Moneron Island, the entrance to the Tartar Straits. According to observers, the weather was good that autumn with clear skies, blue green waters, and few storms.
But the mass of ships on the water was completely out of place for this area.
The best way to observe what was taking place on the surface of the ocean was from the air, which was also unusually crowded.
I will have to edit this witness' story in order to conceal his job. This pensioner, a participant in the search, insisted on it. (I encountered this refusal to be named in print many times during my investigation. Secrecy is secrecy, and it is maintained by the only way we know - by fear. Alas, successfully).
"By the way, I made no promises to keep silent, with the exception of general one. But it's hard for me to remember what is a military secret and what is not. I am a pensioner, but then they took away the pension of even such people as Kalugin. I cannot afford such bravery."
Now about the "Boeing." I was pulled from work sometime before 5 September. The base had no pilots trained for over water flights, so I got the assignment to work for the government investigation commission. For 20 days in a row, my job was to provide transportation and to search for floating debris...
I flew a helicopter. But teams also walked along the shore, picking up whatever the sea brought in.
During the search, every thing that could fly did fly. Dozens of aircraft and helicopters; Air Force, naval aviation, and whatever could be sent from the mainland... Then in international waters, there were Japanese ships (their patrols boats were equipped for helicopters), American ships, and apparently even British ships. You wouldn't believe how many, more that a hundred.
One day I saw several South Korean ships covered with flowers. They were having some kind of funeral on the water.
There were times, when foreign ships entered our territorial waters. You can't draw any clear cut border on the water. There was one American frigate in particular that was always doing this. I came upon this frigate in the fog and was barely able to avoid it. I saw people in the cabin. Of course, they could have shot me down too. Once I almost collided with an "Orion" - a large aircraft like an IL-18, specially designed for sea patrols.
I repeat, I flew every day. My job was to carry the commission from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Nevelsk. They gave me new assignments, patrolling. Everything they found, they returned to Nevelsk.
(There was a special staff even on the large anti-submarine ship, the "Petropavlovsk." According to Izvestia's information, there were two Rear Admirals among the leaders. However, I will note that there were many different secret staffs set up during that period. Another important point, in addition to the Air Force headquarters representatives, there were other specialists from the Ministry of Aviation Industry sent TDY to the staff located in the town of Nevelsk. It's easy to explain these last by the fact that various instruments from the downed "Boeing" were brought there. They had to be sifted in order to determine if there was any reconnaissance equipment on what was officially a spy plane. Author).
"One of the members of the commission was almost always on board with me", continues the anonymous speaker, "We either tried to find wreckage ourselves or directed cutters. The beach was swept clean by border patrols. Every thing that was found in the water or on the land was logged, stuffed in sacks and put on board my helicopter. Therefore, I know, what was found - nothing of note.
Now I want to put forth my idea. I do not think that the "Boeing" was making a reconnaissance flight. They could have made a quick dash in a fighter and it would have never been caught. They don't catch everyone. Also in those days, you would hear stories such as one about a pilot who refused to shoot down that "Boeing." If that were true, that was something, which not many would do. But I am talking about this as a possible direction for your investigation, since there were such rumors... (Our paper's investigation did not confirm such information. Author).
There were helicopters and aircraft flying around, the beach was being swept by border troops, and dozens of ships were sailing in the search area. Among them were a bunch of fishing boats from Kamchatka, from the Primorskij Kraj and from Sakhalin. Just how did they turn up there. Stanislav Glukhov and the captains of some fishing boats try to answer these questions.
Nikolaj Sergeevich Antonov, the captain of the Kholmsk Ocean Fishing Base:
"I arrived at the search area 5 or 6 days after the crash of the "Boeing." You could say by accident. They were sending me to the BMRT "Karenga", a large sea going trawler", recalled the captain. There were already a lot of ships there, military a fishing boats. There were 15 to 20 fishing boats. The cast trawling nets and combed the area. The soil was heavy and the nets broke. Well there never had been any fish caught in this place... The crews who were pulled off a fishing trip and sent to the search area, were paid what they would have received for an average catch. Those who were sent from ports, were paid 100 percent of their salary. However, there were no rumors about the fishermen...
On the surface, everything looked like an ordinary fishing expedition with daily reports to "Dalryb" on the catch, but it was in fact a cover operation. While appearing to be fishing, we were keeping foreigners, American and Japanese ships, away from the search area. Especially after we finally stumbled upon the "Boeing." It was a deception, that we were just peaceful fishermen... Thus we trolled around the "Mirchink", which was anchored directly about the aircraft... The most important thing was who would be first to find where the "Boeing" lay, we or the Americans and the Japanese. So we did not allow their ships closer to the "Mirchink" than a half a mile.
Ivan Varfolomeevich Shajdurov, Captain:
"They sent me to take part in the "fishing" in the search area and made me the chief of the expedition. Of course there were no fish there and no way there could be. They sent ships there from "KamchatRybProm"(2), "PrimorRybProm"(3), from the fishing fleet out of Nakhodka, and us from "SakhalinRybPromovskie(4)." When I took over the expedition, the fishing fleet and small ships at least had already departed. They were not supposed to drop anchor within these three square miles. The problem facing us was to create an atmosphere, so that our partners, rather the enemy, could not wind up inside the circle, where the drilling ship, "Mikhail Mirchink" was working. So we patrolled around it.
I spent a month there. On 10 November, the expedition was disbanded. Everyone knew, of course, that everything was finished, the work had been completed. The "Mirchink" weighed anchor and left... But they kept us there for another three or four days. We acted like we were working... But the "Mirchink" had been anchored directly over the fuselage of the "Boeing" all this time...
Of course fishermen were not the only ones protecting the "Mirchink" from foreign eyes. There were plenty of military ships around this drilling ship also. Here is what a former sailor from the rescue ship, SS-83 Ali Bichurin, has to say.
Seven years ago I was serving in the navy on Kamchatka. Two weeks after the incident, I don't remember the date, our rescue ship was sent to the Sea of Japan. We were not counting the days then. We still had two years to serve.
In the search area, we would either drift or circle the drilling ship, in order to block the path of foreign vessels. According to international conventions, during underwater work, the ship was supposed to fly a special blue and which flag "Alpha" from the mast, which required caution, careful passage and in general requiring passing ship to go around this zone, in order to safe guard the people under the water. However, the Americans and Japanese constantly tried to enter the search area.
Once we were scared by an American ship, which was traveling fast in heavy fog with no lights and almost plowed into our rescue ship. The watch sounded the alarm and we rushed to the deck and saw some huge ship quickly bearing down on us from the side. The only light I could see was on the bridge of the American ship. Then it began working backward and after 10 or 15 meters, it was departing at full speed. Our commander sent a message to the command staff aboard the large anti submarine ship, "Petropavlovsk", about this incident.
One time we saw a bright orange object along side. We pulled it in with a boat hook and it turned out to be a radio buoy. It was about a meter long with an antenna on top and a hydroaccoustical gadget at the bottom. I don't know who owned the radio buoy or where he was.
...Yes, the "Mirchink", was unquestionably the center around which revolved major events. At that time, as the auxiliary staff patrolled and drifted around the drilling ship, the people who were to become the main actors, were sending telegrams home. With a request, send money immediately! These people, who had been so quickly and confusingly snatched from the Barents Sea by a military helicopter, had been sent to a dormitory, and forgotten about for a long time.
(2) Kamchatka Fishing Industry
(3) Primorskij Rajon Fishing Industry
(4) Sakhalin Fishing Industry
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