June 23, 1955 Incident (St. Lawrence Island) : Note from the United States Government to the Soviet Government, July 7, 1955(1)

The United States Government acknowledges receipt of the memorandum of the Soviet Government transmitted by the Soviet Foreign Minister, Mr. Molotov, to the Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles, on June 25,(2) regarding the shooting down of a United States naval aircraft by Soviet military jet-propelled aircraft on June 23.

The facts in possession of the United States Government do not accord with the statements set forth in the Soviet memorandum under acknowledgment. The United States plane, of propeller type, was on a routine daylight shipping surveillance flight, of a regular and wellknown character. Such flights have been made at more or less regular intervals for some time past. The plane was on its regular route, which involved, at one point, flying over international waters in the channel between the United States (St. Lawrence Island) and the Soviet Union.

Carefully verified information discloses: that the United States plane was at no time nearer the Soviet Union than the approximate middle of the above-mentioned channel and was always well over international waters; that it did not at any time fire on the attacking Soviet aircraft; that no warning of any sort was given by the Soviet fighters before they opened fire on the United States plane.

The United States Government notes the statement of the Soviet Government that due to weather conditions, the possibility of error on the part of the Soviet planes existed in regard to this incident. It is presumed that this possibility of error refers to the geographic position and not the identity of the United States aircraft since it was flying in a clear area above broken lower cloud strata at the time it was attacked.

Taking into account the regret expressed by the Soviet Government; its offer of compensation for damages to the plane and crew by the payment of 50 percent thereof; and, in particular, the statement in the Soviet memorandum that strict orders have been issued by the Soviet Government to its military authorities to refrain from any future action of this character, the Government of the United States is prepared, for the reasons herein mentioned, to regard the Soviet memorandum as providing an acceptable basis for the disposal of this particular incident; noting at the same time, however, that the United States plane acted throughout in a correct and blameless manner in pursuance of its peaceful mission and was in fact attacked over international waters.

In conclusion, the United States Government expresses the hope that the Soviet Government will indeed in the future take all necessary measures to avoid repetition of this and like incidents, a repetition which, if it occurred, would inevitably have a harmful effect upon the relations of our two nations, relations which the United States, for its part, desires to see improved.

(1) Department of State Bulletin, July 18, 1955, pp. 100-101. The note was transmitted to the Soviet Foreign Ministry by the American Embassy at Moscow. See also Secretary Dulles' remarks of June 28, 1955; ibid., July 11, 1955, pp. 50, 52-53. Back

(2) Department of State Bulletin, July 18, 1955, pp. 101-102. Back

American Foreign Policy 1950-1955
Basic Documents Volumes I and II
Department of State Publication 6446
General Foreign Policy Series 117
Washington, DC : U.S. Government Printing Office, 1957

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