Artifacts

Former Soviet Pilot Viktor Belenko's Military Identity Document

Artifact Details

An ID booklet belonging to Viktor I. Belenko with his personal information and photo.

Soviet Lt. Viktor I. Belenko carried two personal items – this military identity document and a knee-pad notebook with flight data – on his dramatic flight to freedom in a MiG‑25 Foxbat fighter from the USSR to Japan in 1976.

Born in 1947, Belenko was a fighter pilot with the Soviet Air Defense Forces based at Chuguyevka near the eastern perimeter of the Soviet Union.  He became an instant celebrity when he successfully defected to the West by flying his Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat jet fighter across the Sea of Japan to Hakodate, Japan, on 6 September 1976.  Western military and civilian experts welcomed the resulting opportunity to get a firsthand look at the aircraft and to debrief its pilot.

Concerned about its relations with the Soviet Union, the Japanese Government limited US access to the MiG before it was disassembled and returned to the USSR in 30 crates.  Belenko, however, stayed in the West.  After the US Government granted him asylum, CIA played a central role in organizing months of debriefings.  Belenko became an American citizen by an act of Congress when President Jimmy Carter signed a private bill into law.

Belenko cooperated with author John Barron to produce a well-received biography, MiG Pilot, The Final Escape of Lieutenant Belenko, which was published in 1980.