No attempt was made to contact the airliner via radio. The Soviet pilots failed to follow "ICAO standards and recommended practices related to the interception of civil aircraft," the ICAO report said.
Soviet command gave Osipovitch his instructions. "My orders were to destroy the intruder," Osipovitch remembered. "I fulfilled my mission."
When news of the shoot-down reached Washington and Moscow -- both reacted with outrage.
Reagan called the attack a "massacre" and a "crime against humanity" with "absolutely no justification -- legal or moral."
Soviet leader Yuri Andropov accused Washington of a despicable setup: a "sophisticated provocation masterminded by the U.S. special services with the use of a South Korean plane."
During the following months, Moscow cast a shroud of secrecy over the crash site off Sakahlin Island, never revealing whether it had found the plane's wreckage, flight data recorders, survivors or bodies. Victims' families were forced to grieve without burying their loved ones.
Unwilling to surrender, a handful of family members formed an advocacy group -- the first of its kind. Alice Ephraimson-Abt's father was among them.
As a kind of living memorial to Flight 007, Hans Ephraimson-Abt and his colleagues formed the American Association for Families of KAL 007 Victims, which pushed and worked with government bureaucrats around the world to learn all the details surrounding the disaster -- with limited success.
Then, something amazing happened: the Cold War ended.
Somehow, the world had made it through.
The breakup of the Soviet Union opened doors to KAL 007's data.
In 1992, during a top-level meeting in Moscow, Russia finally released the cockpit voice recorder transcript. It was 10 p.m. in a dimly lit meeting room of the Presidential Hotel when an interpreter for the U.S. ambassador translated the Russian transcript into English for Ephraimson-Abt and other delegates.
For the first time, Alice's father would know how his daughter and the 268 others had perished.
Slowly -- word-by-word -- he learned a terrible truth: the plane wasn't destroyed in the air.
Missile fragments "hit the back of the plane destroying three of its four hydraulic systems, severing some cables" and punching holes in the aircraft's walls, said Ephraimson-Apt, citing a Boeing report to the ICAO. "No perceptible cabin pressure was lost and all four engines continued to operate."
The damaged plane continued flying for 12 minutes -- spiraling toward the ocean below -- until it "crashed into the sea with most passengers smashed into pieces or drowning," Ephraimson-Apt said.
"That was -- emotionally -- a rather hard thing to take."
Questions breed suspicion
Thirty years later, almost all the important questions surrounding the crash have been answered, said Ephraimson-Abt. "What is not resolved is what happened to the bodies of our loved ones. The Russians to this day claim they haven't recovered any bodies."
So what happened to the bodies?
That simple question triggers intense debate among Flight 007 conspiracy theorists. Some believe the lack of bodies indicates that the Soviets somehow rescued Rep. McDonald and other passengers -- and then imprisoned them for years. That's the theory explored in the 2001 book, "Rescue 007," by Bert Schlossberg, a son-in-law of one of the victims. The book cites witnesses who reported seeing passengers housed in Siberian prisons.
"A lot of people wanted to believe that -- for their loved ones -- but I don't think there's any veracity to it," said attorney Juanita Madole, who represented 100 Flight 007 victims and their families for decades.
Another theory said the Soviets intentionally destroyed any bodies they found because they wanted to hide evidence of the incident. "That's just speculation," Madole said. "People like to speculate. It makes it more intriguing."
The whereabouts of the bodies of Flight 007 stands as a Cold War mystery that may never be entirely solved.